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 Powder and packed powder.  Those were the road conditions on
our trip up in the morning.  The trip home at the end of the
day was packed powder, hardpack, (and slush where the state
trucks has salted and sanded). :)

 Weekends are usually cross-country ski days for my roommate
and me, with good snow, we head out on local logging roads and
woods with no crowds or trail fees.  With this year's snow
drought, we've had to travel.  New Year's day, the Trapp Family
Lodge touring center was very nice, although there were noticable
crowds in the afternoon.
 Yesterday, on Sunday, January 16th, we went to The Highland Lodge
( url is www.thehighlandlodge.com ) and hit the jackpot.
 They are located approximately in the center of a triangle the
corners of which are Montpelier, St. Johnsbury, and Jay Peak.
 It started snowing a little before dawn Sunday and we got on I-91
a little after 8 AM, I was able to travel at near the speed limit
up to the Route 2 exit at St. J. and then heading east on Rt. 2 to
Rt. 15 to Rt. 16 to Greensboro the roads became progressively deeper
and steeper.  The town roads as we arrived had an unplowed
4 to 6 inches.
 Before the storm there was about a 1 to 16 inch base on their trails,
the result of several small storms, which with drifting and
shifting, meant that most of the underlying lumps amd rough spots
in the terrain were smoothed over.
 The trail system at Highland Lodge (30 miles) is mostly on private
land, with a mixture of woods trails and many open meadows/farm fields.
There is also an ungroomed connector with the Craftsbury touring
center trail for the ambitious.
 The upper reaches of their system is about 600 feet above the lodge
and had 2 to 4 more inches snow than the lodge.  On some of the open
meadows up high, I was getting an easy 8 to 10 inch measurement with
a random pole stab in the snow - and it was still snowing hard.

 It was a fun day at a touring center.  Climbing up the packed trails
(which always had a few inches of new, despite the efforts of the
snowmobile towed groomers) (in this case, the fields drift a lot, and
it is a good idea to try to pack down the surface before last nights
howling winds scoured things out).
 So after many pleasant climbs, there were many open field schusses
down with snow flying up to our knees.
 They have a wonderful sitdown lunch Thursday-Sunday with decadent
desserts if you are so inclined, as well as being an overnight lodge
(with a ($97 per person rate for room, breakfast, gourmet dinner,
and trail fees (off-peak - 15 to 20% more peak periods))).  If you
want to park your car and cross-country ski for a few days, this may
be the place for you.  Crowds ?  There were perhaps 20 cars parked
at the touring center at the most.

 P.S. From this morning's www.snocountry.com reports,
it looks like Burke, Bretton Woods, and Balsams/Wilderness
were reporting the most new snow of all the VT/NH ski
areas with each reporting over a foot.

  - Randy
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