Picture and data plots are embedded in this report, but also available at:
After our snowstorm at the end of October, the first half of November didn’t offer much in terms of natural snowfall, but a small event did deliver up to 8 inches for some of Vermont’s higher peaks on November 10th. That storm hadn’t matched the accumulations that we’d seen from the one at the end of October, but it did get the natural snow skiing going again. There was also some cold weather that allowed the local resorts to get their snowmaking under way, although some warm days put a stop to that and pushed both the man-made and natural snow lines up the mountains. Thanks to the snowmaking, I suspected that Stowe would at least have some skiable snow low enough in elevation to be reachable by Ty. I actually didn’t know what Ty’s limits were in terms of the distance and vertical he could hike for skiing, but back on our previous Stowe outing on November 1st, he’d hiked about 400 feet of vertical and 2 miles of distance. I figured he could do at least that much since he’d managed it with energy to spare, so we headed to Mt. Mansfield to find out.
We left the house (495’) at around 11:30 A.M. to a temperature of 47 F, mostly cloudy skies, and a few sprinkles. With no snow visible in any of the valleys, it was again one of those situations where I wondered if we were even going to be able to ski, but as soon as we were in Waterbury Center we got a glimpse of Mt. Mansfield and could see that there was plenty of white up high on the mountain. Aside from the few sprinkles we saw, there was little if any precipitation as we traveled through Waterbury Center, until we got to Moscow (680’). I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, as I could have sworn I saw a few flakes passing through Moscow, but when I looked at the thermometers in my car, both of them were reading a steady 44 degrees F. That felt a little warm to be seeing real snow, but it was in fact snow I’d seen because within a few minutes those flakes were followed by countless others and it was legitimately snowing. The temperature remained steady at 44 F, and there was very light snow, until we started to gain elevation (>1,000’) during that last stretch to the mountain. By the time we’d reach the base area elevations (~1,500’) the temperature had dropped to around 40 F and the snow was coming down in a light and steady manner.
We stopped over and parked briefly above the Stowe Mountain Lodge to get a view of the Mansfield trails and assess the snow situation. On Stowe’s website, they indicated that they had made snow down North Slope as low as Crossover (~2,000’), and from what we could see that was as low as the snow went. The snow in the 2,000’ – 2,400’ elevation range was only patches left over from snowmaking whales, although coverage was clearly more continuous as soon as one hit the ~2,400’ mark on North Slope and headed off to climber’s right. It was clearly going to take a bit of climbing just to get to where the patches of snow began, so I left the decision entirely up to Ty. I actually suspected that he would be intimidated by the amount of hiking he’d have to do to get to the snow, and I was primed and ready to head home. But as you can imagine (or I probably wouldn’t have written this report), and to my surprise, he decided that he wanted to go for it. So we did.
After gearing up with our ski boots on, our poles in hand, and two sets of skis on my pack, we began our ascent. We hiked up North Slope amidst a starting temperature of 40 F, minimal wind, and flakes coming down. It was actually quite a pleasure hiking up the grassy surface of the trail while watching the lazy flakes wind their way to the ground. It felt far too warm for it to be snowing, but it was, and we enjoyed it. We saw a hiker come down the trail clothed in plenty of orange for hunting season, and then met a boy and a woman who were coming down from the hike as well. The woman was from Florida and had never seen snow in her life before, so she had a big snowball that she was carrying down, and had the hood of her coat stuffed with more. She was heading back to Florida the next day, but at least she’d had the chance to see snow both on the ground and in the air.
To keep Ty focused on the hike, we at first counted the little snow gun units that we passed as we ascended the grassy lower elevations of North Slope, and then took a break when we reached the first patch of snow (~2,000’), which was very nice corn. Above that, we began to count each snow patch, and we had some debate about how to split them up. Patch 3 was a rather small one that was clearly separated from the larger mass above it (see image), but Ty insisted that patch #4 was actually patches 4 and 5. I tried to get him to see reason, as there was clearly continuous snow between the two, but he said it just wasn’t enough continuity to constitute a single patch. He’s off his rocker I tell you ;). Anyway, we had a lot of fun with that and it kept his focus on getting to more skiable snow. Before long, we were cresting toward what ended up being patch #14 (by “Ty’s” numbering) and we knew that were getting close to the more continuous coverage. We saw some snowboarders descending from the higher elevations, and they were just switching from riding to walking at that point.
Up to that part of our ascent, snow continued to fall at temperatures above 32 F, and the falling snow was only sticking to the patches of old snow, not to the grass. But, up above that elevation (~2,400’) the temperature started to approach the freezing mark, and snow was beginning to stick everywhere. We hiked up through snow patches 14 through 16 (we agreed on the numbering easily) before finally stopping at the top of patch 16 at an elevation of mark ~2,700’. Fortunately, the last few patches provided nearly continuous snow with just short stretches (perhaps a few dozen feet) of grass between them. There was plenty of snow for skiing up there, but my thermometer was reading 31 F, and coincident with that the snow was starting to firm up. I think we both could have convinced ourselves to go higher, as Ty seemed to have some energy to spare, but with the temperature dropping and the snow simply getting harder as we ascended, it didn’t seem to be worth it.
The snow hadn’t totally hardened when we finally started our descent, but it was well on its way from corn to frozen granular due to the falling temperatures. Thus the skiing was nothing too spectacular, although it was at least decent for making a few early season turns. There was a big kicker in the middle of patch 16, and Ty decided that he was going to hit it despite the conditions. He landed OK, but I think the hardening snow threw him for a loop and he and his gear eventually wound up disassembled. After skiing down through the mostly continuous area of snow, we hit the North Slope corner and I asked Ty if he wanted to ski any of the smaller patches below. I even offered to carry his skis for him in between the patches, but he said the patches were just too small. Apparently Ty doesn’t have quite enough Dana Dorsett in him. Right around 2:00 P.M. while we were walking back down among the grass and snow patches, we heard noises coming from the snowmaking lines and we could tell that they had just pressurized them. While we descended, the snow that was falling (a lot of graupel in there too) was sticking at all elevations down to the base area, and the temperatures were in the mid 30s F. My GPS odometer recorded a distance of 1.66 miles for the round trip, a bottom elevation of 1,505’ and a top elevation of 2,688’ for a difference of 1,183’. The vertical descents recorded by the altimeters for the trip were surprisingly disparate, with 1,510’ recorded on the Avocet and 1,316’ recorded on the Suunto for a difference of 13.7%. So I’d say Ty managed somewhere in the range of 1,200’+ of vertical ascent for the outing, with a couple miles of distance, which might be the biggest hike he’s done for skiing. I carried his skis for him, but at this point I’d prefer he doesn’t have that limiting his range so we’ve got the potential for more turns. He also maintained a positive attitude for the whole outing, which was good because I’d say his mental state has the potential to limit him much more than the physical part at this point.
Back down near the Stowe Village it was still snowing, and when we got back to the house at around 3:30 P.M. it was roughly 40 F. My wife said that it had actually snowed at the house not too long after we’d left. With the approach of the incoming cold front, it was getting noticeably windier, but the cold air that was rushing in was going to set the resorts up for a great stretch for snowmaking as they prepared for their opening days.
Pictures and data plots from the day are also available at
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