Stowe, VT 11NOV2007


To head right to the pictures and data plots from the day, go to:


Last Sunday, I decided to head out and take advantage of all the new snow that had fallen during the week in Vermont’s higher elevations.  The day was predicted to be crystal clear and seasonably cold, which seemed like a perfect day for some earned turns.  I briefly contemplated a trip to the Sugarbush area, but the conditions that Jimpin’ Jimmy had shown in the pictures from his Mansfield trip on Friday looked too nice to pass up.  Although not as cold as Saturday morning at the house, our low temperature on Sunday morning was still a reasonably chilly 26.6 F.  I headed out some time after 9:00 A.M.  The Waterbury area was still at 32 F, and I was getting a reading of 31 F during most of my drive to Mt. Mansfield.  As soon as the mountain came into view, it was obvious that the snow there was holding strong.  You could see white essentially to the bottom of Mansfield’s trails, however the bottom half of Spruce’s south-facing terrain had melted out.  The first signs of snow along my driving route were at around 1,400’ in shaded areas near the bottom of the Toll Road.

Once at the mountain, I could see that snow was being made over near the quad, so I wasn’t too interested in heading over there for the ascent.  I was shooting to hike/skin up Nosedive anyway, since its exposure really seems to help it hold plenty of snow at the fringes of the season.  I pulled into the gondola parking area and found about three or four other cars in the lot, with patchy snow on the nearby slopes at around 1,600’.  In terms of gear, I’d decided to use my old Atomic Betacarves for the day’s skiing.  Long ago they were my carving ski, but it looks as though they’ve finally descended to the status of “rock” skis, or at least grass skis.  My plan was to ski down as far as possible (which looked like it was going to be basically back to the base) and I find it’s just a lot more fun to do it on a pair of skis that you’re really not worried about.  I don’t really have a pair of skins sized for my Betacarves, and when I tried the skins from my CMH fats, the skins were too wide to even fit between the brakes.  Fortunately, it turns out that our “guest” skins were a pretty good fit with regard to dimensions.  They’re actually sized for 180 cm skis, but the tail clip has enough adjustment to go another 10 cm or so and it ultimately looked to create a pretty bomb-proof setup.

I made the short trip from the parking lot to the bottom of Nosedive, and while it was mostly bare earth on the trip across, as soon as I got to the bottom of Nosedive proper (~1,600)  there was consistent snow.  It was fairly thin cover (~1 inch) with some earth and a lot of grass showing, but it was definitely skiable and even skinnable if you weren’t too picky.  I was feeling the flow of the hiking however, and decided that I’d hold off on the skinning until the walking became more difficult or an obvious skin track developed.  The bulk of the trail was skier packed snow, as there had been a lot of hiking/skiing traffic in recent days.  At around 2,500’, I found what appeared to be the start of a skin track, so I took the skis off the pack and started skinning.  The skin track wasn’t very consistent, and it was at times riddled with the post holes of hikers, but the rest of the trail was so packed that it was still easy traveling off track.

At around 3,000’, the snowpack became more substantial, and for a while there was a rather consistent skin track along the climber’s right of the trail.  Another person on skins came up behind me and we exchanged a brief greeting as he passed.  As I soon found when he stopped in a sunny spot of one of Nosedive’s switchbacks, it was SkiVT-Ler Evan Osler.  As he mentioned in his report from the day, he was out with Mr. Rogers for a ski.  We chatted a bit, and based on what Evan had seen while at Mad River Glen, he said that Stowe seemed to have more snow.  We talked about routes, and I mentioned that I was planning on the Toll Road.  That seemed to be one of their thoughts as well, and they eventually combined it with a descent of the man made snow over near the quad.  As I finished my snack, Evan and Mr. Rogers headed on up the Nosedive switchbacks.

Any semblance of a skin track pretty much broke down in the switchbacks area of the trail, as the highly-traveled areas were a hodge-podge of skier and hiker-packed snow.  The surrounding parts of Nosedive looked quite powdery, with 6-12 inches of snow, but unfortunately they were mostly populated with 24 inches of weeds and brush.  At the top of Nosedive, I took a quick look around, and then headed up the Toll Road.  I stopped for some pictures at the stake, which showed a snowpack depth of about 6-7 inches.  I tested the depth of the unconsolidated snow along the edges of the road with my measurement ski pole, and the readings ranged between 6 and 9 inches.  Farther up the Toll Road, I met Evan and Mr. Rogers coming down, and it looked like they were having fun.  I continued on up and eventually topped out near the Mt. Mansfield Summit Station (3,850’).

Up in the summit station area I took a break to enjoy the scene.  The weather was spectacular, the sky was totally clear and there wasn’t even any wind.  There were places with close to a foot of fluffy snow up near the summit station, and the very top layer of snow had turned into rather large, plate-like crystals.  I’m guessing it was something like surface hoar that had formed in the preceding days of weather.  I saw several hikers in the area, and they all kept asking me where the other members of their party went because they couldn’t keep track of them.  One hiker would come by and ask me where another one had gone, and no sooner did that one go off looking but the other one would snow up.  I tried to help with their inquiries, but I wasn’t really paying attention to all their comings and goings; it was sort of like a scene out of some situation comedy.  Upon seeing my skis, more than one of the hikers commented that they should have brought theirs up.  That seems like a no-brainer to me when there’s been a foot of snow in the past few days.  There was a bit of a haze obscuring the view of the White Mountains to the east, but I was able to cut right through it with my polarized sunglasses if I tilted my head about 45 degrees to the right.  I tried to use my sunglasses in front of my camera to get a picture, but they ended up being far too small and just blocking the view.  It would have been a good day to have a circular polarizing filter. 

I began my descent down Toll Road, and was glad for the fairly mellow pitch because my Betacarves were feeling a bit long.  It’s funny to think that 190 cm is feeling long on my feet these days after what I grew up skiing, but that’s the way things have gone.  The fluffy snow off to the sides of the trail provided some nice powder turns.  I didn’t want to deal with the snow guns, so I continued my descent by heading back down Nosedive knowing I’d be able to ski it to the bottom.  In the upper switchback area, I stuck generally to the packed snow areas, but it wasn’t at all smooth due to all the hiking it had seen.  I checked out a couple of the untracked areas off to the sides to see how they skied.  The snow was actually quite fluffy and deep, but the tall grass and other vegetation were just a bit too much for me to make really enjoyable turns.  At the last switchback, I saw a snowboarder ascending the main part of the trail, so I decided to stay out of his way and take the first little bypass option.  I figured it would be a bit of an adventure.  There were 1-2 feet of fluffy snow in there, unfortunately over essentially zero base.  The huge rocks, pitch, and narrowness of the chute basically made it survival skiing/side-slipping, but I made a couple of decent jump turns and it was fun to be in deep snow again.

I merged back onto Nosedive and started making turns on the packed surface.  My legs were pretty cooked from my first skin of the season, and it was definitely more work to ski the packed surface than an equivalent one with powder.  Somehow though, about halfway down, my legs got their groove on with the somewhat foreign Betacarves, and everything really clicked.  Without concern for avoiding the occasional rock, I was free to just carve up the slope and it was a lot of fun.  The snow got thinner toward the bottom, but I was easily able to ski right to the bottom of Nosedive as I’d suspected, and then I took off my skis to walk across to the car.

Unlike when I’d arrived, there were now 30-40 cars in the parking lot, and groups of skiers could be seen heading up Gondolier.  I snapped a few pictures and headed out.  I actually did a double take on the way out as I passed by the Stowe Mountain Lodge; there must have been a couple dozen of those snorkel lifts on the west side of the structure where they were doing exterior work.  I had to get a picture because I’d never seen anything quite like it.  The temperature had remained pretty cool during the day, as even on the way home it was still just in the mid-30s F in the valley.  The Avocet recorded 2,390’ of descent, and the Suunto recorded 2,464’ of descent for a difference of 3.0%, and the GPS data indicated a descent of 2,336’.


Some pictures and data plots from the day can be found at:




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