The (Other) Stowe Derby
Ben wasn’t worried though, and assured everyone that the top of the Toll Road trail was just ahead. Before too long though he started to get nervous too… The terrain was quickly becoming more like a black diamond; maybe even double black diamond :-o !!!!
GULP… I don’ know how anyone does this on cross country skis.
Soon after this point we were all freaking out. The clinometer was showing 48°, and if this was Toll Road, it was far and away the most challenging green circle any of us had ever encountered. Our lucky stars must have been shining exceedingly brightly though: despite the gentle ascent promised in the guide book we had a rope, and we all brought ice tools and crampons. As we pushed up the steep and deep snow, red flags started going off left and right. Then suddenly we all heard that unmistakable and terrifying “WHUMP!” My head shot left in time to catch a glimpse of a shallow slab cracking and propagating several tens of meters across the climb. The hardened sludge from the big snow storm on Wednesday February 24th acted as the bed layer for the ten-or-so wind loaded centimeters. We all took strong stances and dug in as the snow came down just to our left. We were in a strong position, and were prepared for the contingency but there were those below us who may not have been so well positioned. “AVALANCHE!!!” I yelled as the snow thundered down the mountain. As the dust settled, we took count, and were relieved that everyone was healthy and accounted for. A temporarily missing ski was the only casualty. As we clung to our stances no one could believe what had just occurred. The only thing that was certain: If this was Toll Road, the Stowe Ski Patrol needed to do some SERIOUS avalanche control work to get this slope ready before the Stowe Derby could be run safely.
(the crown was approximately 12-16 cm deep, 10-15 m wide)
For several minutes we were forced to hang tight and not trigger any of the hangfire that remained, while below us the missing ski was recovered. In those tense moments we discussed our constantly evolving plan. Should we continue the race or not? Whatever we decided, a significant, but manageable slab remained hanging to the climbers left, and before we could do anything with the slope it needed to be cleared. Ben devised a plan of using ice chunks to trigger the slab, and before long we managed to flush the remainder of the hangfire. With the course clear, we pushed on, and shortly thereafter summited what we assumed was the Toll Road trail. We poked around in earnest, but despite our best efforts we couldn’t find any trail signs marking the way of the race. Nevertheless, we decided this must be it, and we all put away our implements of ascent, and were relieved that we could finally don our implements of descent. And, so began the Famous Internet Skiers’ version of the Stowe Derby.
The Curmudgeon quickly took the lead due to the lightening speed with which he is able to changeover from skin to ride mode!
Around the tree and into the chute he goes!
Read about the author: The F.I.S.