Good ski conditions over the last several weeks have only improved in this latest stretch of winter. Some snow has fallen on most days and, heading into this past weekend, locals and visitors alike were blessed with what may have been the heaviest snowstorm of the season.
Rumors of a Nor’easter began circulating early last week, something referenced in last week’s column by your Scribe. The projection was that perhaps as much as 6 inches would arrive on Thursday, then there would be a lull and perhaps even a bit of the nasty wet stuff, then snow would return in far greater quantity sometime Friday.
For the most part that is what happened, though total accumulation came in a few inches below the 18 inches that had been predicted for higher elevations in the northern part of the Green Mountains.
For the few diehards who were on the hill Thursday, it was fun, but for most of the weekday crowd, the anticipation was that Friday would prove to be the “can’t miss” day. As things played out, that was definitely the winning strategy.
Things had been a little weird on Thursday night as a gentle drizzle played havoc with roads and added a layer of crust to the newly fallen snow. But by midday, 6 inches had taken away such mundane worries.
Your Scribe had planned to take a few late afternoon runs — there is no substitute for skiing late afternoon in a storm. Early birds are worn out and, as the day grows darker, only the hard core or the late starters remain.
Turns out there was only one problem: The Mountain Road had been shut down. Now, if one were to believe the rumor mill, the cause of the closure could be only one thing — someone driving an SUV with out-of-state plates and no snow tires had done something stupid and tied up one or more lanes.
In fact, that was not the case at all. Instead a tree, overly burdened by ice from the previous night’s frozen sleet and fresh snow, had come down onto the road and caused the snafu.
Eventually, the problem was solved, and The Scribe headed up for what would prove to be his only run of the day. It was an awfully enjoyable trip down Hayride and into the lower glades.
Then came the opportunity to sit in a long traffic jam that reached from the Matterhorn all the way into the resort parking lots. You see all those tired skiers and riders who had planned to vacate the premises late afternoon found themselves with no escape route.
In case no one has noticed, in the winter, Stowe, kind of like Alta, sits at the end of a blind canyon — one way in, one way out — unless you want to skin up and over to Smugglers’ Notch Resort on the opposite side of Spruce.
Sitting in a warm car and enjoying good tunes is really a small price to pay for a powder run or two. Mindful of these recent adventures, The Scribe and Ms. Scribe hatched a plan for a dawn departure the next morning, since obviously with over a foot of new snow — in some spots more like 15 inches — they would not be the only people headed up to the hill in the early hours.
Leaving Waterbury Center before 6:30 led to a very smooth drive and by 7 a.m. they were booting up at Midway. Then came a gliding traverse toward the Quad, which would begin taking people up at 7:30. Interestingly it seems that 300 to 400 people had gotten there even earlier.
No matter; there was plenty of softness to go around, though untracked got chewed up pretty much in those first few minutes. The Scribe braved the crowds for one more run and then he headed off via the Over Easy Gondola to sunny Spruce, which proved to be a very good call. It was extremely sunny, there was some untracked snow to be found, especially along the edges of Main Street, and no lift lines at all.
Seven runs followed, including some powder stashes wrestled out of the trees, but nothing was better than Spruce Line’s lower section. None of this terrain quite comes up to the demanding standard set by the Front Four double-blacks, but as far as enjoyability goes, it is hard to beat soft snow, sunshine and virtually empty trails.
The tale of the winter as told by the WCAX snowstake continues to be an interesting one. It is a bit of a stretch to say it has been a great winter so far, but remarkably, according to the long history of Mansfield snowfall, the reading that reached 60 inches on Friday night put the year slightly — ever so slightly — above average.
Five feet of snow is definitely enough to create pretty decent conditions everywhere, but particularly in the woods. Skiing the trees comes with no guarantees for the simple reason that, every time it snows and the cover deepens, taller obstacles are now buried just below the surface. Beware the snow stakes and mogul mice that can grab a wayward tip, but it also means that more and more route choices exist.
Weekly slip and slide
Snow flurries continued to dust the hill Monday after Sunday’s brief arctic stretch disappeared into the past. On Tuesday, as the ski bums gathered for the weekly race, they found a hill soft and perhaps a tad treacherous if you were not on your best game.
In fact, as the race played out during the day, spectators watching from the bottom saw more than one skier or rider whose path unexpectedly diverged from the course and into either the other course or occasionally the protective fencing cordoning off the Slalom Hill.
The contest for fastest skier of the week has turned interesting as the perennial top dog, Dustin Martin of the Whitetails, continues his quest to become a telemark racer of note. That has left the door wide open for the closely bunched group that has been nipping at his heels.
For the second time in as many weeks, FUBAR’s Shawn Rowe has been the fastest, but by a very slim margin. Nate Hazard of Metropolitan Music was only 0.07 back, with Spencer Brown of A.J.’s in third place.
Another FUBAR skier, Karl Lipsky, was fourth. Morgan’s Monsters picked up Stephanie Abrell this week, the only woman ever to win the ski bum race, and in her return, she demonstrated she has lost little speed, capturing the fifth slot just ahead of Quinton Tyler of Pinnacle-Friends of the Devil.
Beth Stram of Miso Fast and Catherine Ferguson of Sunset Grille Way to Fast were next among the women in 26th and 27th place, followed by Deb Martin of Whitetails, Audrey Bernstein of Miso Fast and Alison Brown of A.J.’s.
Pete Hussey continued to dominate the telemark category, easily beating Tim Griffin, skiing this week for Women of Winter, aka WoW. Met Music’s Oliver Fosterfell was fastest man on a snowboard while Christine Savell of Pigs on Ice took honors for women riders.
Post-race celebration was hosted by Idletyme, which outdid itself with the quality, quantity and variety of the food put out for the ski and board bums gathered for the festivities.
When the results were made public, it was the Sunset Grille Way to Fast quartet — Brian Braden, Sean Burke, Catherine Ferguson and Sam Hallet — who hoisted the Smugglers Bowl. Running Late — Allarie Sullivan, Samantha Johnston, Zach Jameson and Amanda Queiroz — took second, followed by The Hollow Heads — Peter Penndorf, Tom Foltz, Oliver Slesar and Bob Marks.
Next week, due to the President’s Week crowds, the racers will have no contest. They reconvene on Feb. 25.
Kim Brown, a ski bum by winter and a hacker by summer, lives in Waterbury Center with his very understanding family. Email letters to email@example.com.