To the Top and Back

By:  Sam
December 3, 2009

This fall, much to my chagrin, I’ve been a forty hour a week, working stiff like just about everyone else. This schedule, combined with one of the worst early seasons in recent memory has provided me frustratingly little opportunity to get out and ski. This most recent storm though, just before blanketing Stowe in a thick layer of white, first deposited a coating of snow on Mt. Washington. Add a stiff West wind to the equation, and you have a recipe for a hefty layer of the good stuff on Eastern aspects of the Whites. Allen and I cut out of work yesterday to go see just how much snow had come down, and whether it was skiable.

– The views of the mountains on my drive over from VT were great, but the clouds indicated high winds up high.

We started skinning right from the parking lot, and, based on the amount of snow visible in Huntington Ravine, we decided to head over to see how our old friend Diagonal was looking. This time of year, the trail up isn’t the usual cruiser skin track that it is in the spring though.

– exSTREAM skinning… Get it? Ok that’s enough corny humor for today.

Our friend Rich quit his real job, and is the winter caretaker of the Harvard Cabin this season. We stopped by to say hi and get a conditions report. His report was that no one had been up recently, which wasn’t particularly encouraging, but we decided to head up anyway.

– Rich, settling into his winter home.

The views got better, but the trail got rougher as we closed in on our favorite spot in the Whites.

– Looks a little rougher than usual, but the gullies could still hold promise.

– Allen, getting seriously sick of climbing over and through downed trees on the way in.

– Ok, this is getting a little ridiculous now.

– Really? This trail is so much better later in the season…

– A quick look at the pinnacle for all the ice climbers out there.

– Allen was very happy to be done with the obstacle course portion of our day.

– As was I.

– Diagonal didn’t look bad at all!

– and it’s always an enjoyable climb.

– Allen leading up.

It got a little thin at one point though.
– Allen, negotiating the challenges of an early season climb.

– Climbing out of Diagonal.

Though Diagonal looked great for skiing, it didn’t feel very good. There were two layers of wind deposited snow in the chute. Though the top layer was probably manageable, the dramatic variation in the depth of the second layer was kind of sketchy. With the tiny margin for error that Diagonal affords, we decided to play it safe and head over to Tuckerman’s by way of the summit instead.

– Allen heading up with clouds settling in.

– The alpine garden, featuring surprisingly good early season coverage.


– The crazy wind effected snow made this one of the more visually interesting climbs I’ve ever had.

– Heading up to the space station.

– Time to head down.

– After climbing rime for a thousand feet, we were a little surprised to find creamy wind buff on the south side of the cone. Sometimes this mountain surprises you in good ways.

– The low light of early winter made for a visually stunning descent of the cone. EDIT: This is a stitched together photo made from two frames of a sequence of Allen skiing by, we didn’t come across another skier with a red coat while we were up there.

Our original plan called for a descent of Left Gully, as previous reports had shown it looking creamy and fat. We however, were lazy, and didn’t want to hike all the way over to Left gully. Instead we took a chance on the lip.

– Allen, schwacking into the top of the lip. You know it’s very early in the year when the top of the lip isn’t at all obvious.

Tux looks totally different in the winter than it does in the summer, but we hoped that by following the approximate path of the tux trail down, we’d find a skiable path through the cliffs and ice.

– Allen, committing to the lip.

– We debated whether it was sketchier to ski the lip this time of year, when it’s all ice and no fall zones, or in the spring when you have people falling all around you as you climb up. We decided the spring was probably much more dangerous.

– Allen, through the first of several chokes.

– Maybe we should have skied diagonal?

– No, this will go.

– See?

– Allen, finishing off what we thought would be the hardest part of the day.


– And on down to the floor.

It felt GREAT to get out into some real mountains again. Skiing grass in VT will help curb cravings for real skiing, but it’s no substitute for the atmosphere, technical challenge, and thrill of a proper day in the mountains. Sadly the weather is changing as I write this, and by tomorrow all that snow will likely be locked up under a thick layer of ice.

I mentioned that we thought that the lip would be the hardest part of the day, that honor however goes to the John Sherburne Ski Trail. Marginal cover, tall grass, and our desperate need to get our boots off after a long day made the trail seem ten times longer than it usually does. Even a less than perfect Sherby couldn’t suck the fun out of the day though, and as I look out my bedroom window to a rain soaked, 55 degree, Burlington, I’m even more glad that Allen and I went up to check out the Alpine yesterday.

Read about the author:   Sam
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: A Trifecta


  1. JerseyJosh
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 2:10 pm  

    Man, sweet stuff boys. Keep it up so I can continue to ski vicariously.

  2. Chris Nelson
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 3:05 pm  

    Nice pics Sam, looks a little sketchy though…

  3. jumpin jimmy
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 3:26 pm  

    Kudos again. Thanks for sharing

  4. Greg
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 3:31 pm  

    SA-WEET! So mad I had to teach yesterday. I guess I’m psyched that yesterday was the last day of teaching for several weeks… but at the expense of missing an epic day? Too close to call!

  5. Harvey44
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 3:42 pm  

    More pictures. Please.

  6. Skimtwashington
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

    Diagonal looked like better snow!LOOKED… but it looks like you released some slab on the lip. This isn’t the same ‘safe’ runout like in spring if you slip here on the lip. There’s some hard bumps of rock and ice in parts…NO FALL SKIING…indeed(to some kind of degree) But skiing the lip on This early…fantastic Kids! Kudos! There’s a new breed of skiers over the past decade or so-and You are that strain..Great job! Wonder what left gully would have been like? Now go out and scare the voyeurs some more guys…..

  7. Sam
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 4:02 pm  

    Here is a recent photo from that shows what the lip looked like when we were up there.

  8. K_C
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 4:26 pm  

    Nice pics sam, that’s quite a slab that let loose (it appears that was intentional) You guys must have been afraid though, I thought avys could smell fear and only then do they attack?

    • Sam
      wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 5:25 pm  

      it was really just a tiny pocket and only a few inches deep. It was expected and intentional. It’s not that I was afraid of it, quite the contrary, it was afraid of getting slayed, so it broke loose and ran down the hill.

  9. Joanne
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 5:17 pm  

    You guys rock! I couldn’t see myself negotiating a run down the headwall / over the lip, so that’s why I ended up in Left Gully yesterday.

    I agree with you that “descending” the Sherby (I have trouble calling what I did skiing!) was the hardest part of the day!

  10. Joanne
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 5:30 pm  

    Here’s a photo of the Lip area that I took on Wed morning:(hope this html code works!)

  11. Joanne
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 5:30 pm  
  12. Greg
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 5:58 pm  

    just include the actual hyperlink to the photo (it must reside elsewhere on line… we don’t support attachments just yet), and i can embed it for you Joanne

  13. MICKY O
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 6:21 pm  

    Everytime there is a post on this site, you guys seem to deliver. Keep on shredding.


  14. byates1
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 7:19 pm  

    having done plenty of stupid things in the not so distant past..

    i can feel comfortable saying, that was stupid.

    gives meaning to the Fledgling Internet Shitshow:)

    nice work, i need partners for long days in the adk this winter..

    • Sam
      wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 7:31 pm  

      not sure how to take that, but thanks, I think ? :)

      Where are you based out of? I seem to remember a cool TR from up in Maine from you. You can contact us through the links in our profiles if you wanna hook up for a trip sometime.

  15. TEO
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 7:47 pm  

    Well, it’s not quite as scary as Goat, but nicely done boys. Keep up the fine work.

  16. Brian
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 8:16 pm  

    Great report, nice work!

  17. Andyzee
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 8:34 pm  
  18. powhounddd
    wrote on December 3rd, 2009 at 10:45 pm  

    Hats off shredly sirs, you are, as the title implies, indeed Famous Internet Skiers.
    Awesome TR keeps the spirits up, as the rain and green grass in Montreal make it feel more like Vancouver

  19. Joanne
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 12:01 pm  

    Third try at including my photo of the Lip from Wed morning:

    • Greg
      wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 12:45 pm  

      got it fixed for you… just so you know, you should copy and paste the little bit of code above the comment box, and replace with the location of your photo. don’t change ANYTHING else… in particular don’t delete the quotations.

  20. whitewoodchuck
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 12:41 pm  

    Stunning TR, kudos to both for their fabulous story telling & pictures – not to mention pulling off the adventure in the first place! Between your TRs and great weather pieces you youngsters at FIS have truly impressed a jaded old goat – maybe you young pups aren’t so bad after all :) (at least most of you seem to have adopted the sensible proposition that snow play is best done with 2 planks underfoot.)

    • Greg
      wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 12:49 pm  

      thanks whitewoodchuck! always good to hear from our elder shredders. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’re always interested in learning, adopting and expanding (if possible) upon those who have schussed before us. This sport is not without history–history which would be stupid to ignore.

  21. MadPatSki
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 1:37 pm  


    Nice work guys. :)

  22. whitewoodchuck
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 2:40 pm  


    Kudos to you as well for your 11/30 TR from Stowe – got all hot and bothered from the first pic on, and it only got better! Love the shot looking down Goat.

    Based on what I see here & in the EC Roll Call thread @ TGR your generation is certainly expanding upon what us old guys and gals have done before you (and continue to do) – play hard!

  23. surf88
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 3:06 pm  

    Amazing how fast everything filled in. The lip looks like it was providing some pucker.

  24. Harvey44
    wrote on December 6th, 2009 at 11:43 pm  

    Not to hijack this (thread?) ..but the TEO on Goat shot is EXTRA classic BECAUSE TEO is on teles. That shot is taken right at moment when, you just got your back leg around and you’re like…. holy $hit! OK maybe TEO wasn’t thinking that, but I would be.

    Way to represent TEO.


  25. Peter
    wrote on June 17th, 2010 at 6:36 pm  

    Freakin’ awesome stuff! Thanks!

Please consider visiting our sponsors.

Leave a Reply

(no login required)

Check for email notifications of new comments (valid email required)        

Stay in touch: Click here to follow us on Twitter. Click here to subscribe for updates to be delivered via RSS. Click here to become a fan on Facebook. Click here to read and share real time weather observations. Learn more over at the account. It's awesome. We promise!