Unofficial Opening Weekend at Stowe

By:  Greg
November 30, 2009


A little over 2 weeks ago, Lionel posted this in his blog: “Timing-wise I’ve basically plotted turkey day as a pattern shift day and these models agree that sometime soon we’ll see a shift to a colder pattern.” He then spotted a fairly substantial upslope event being signaled in the models and wrote about it in this post a few days later. Our resident expert of upslope events, Scott Braaten concured with Lionel’s judgement, and after watching the signal mature, decided that something was seriously brewing. He played it cool for a little bit, and then in the last few moments before the storm, he called it: “Northern Greens including Jay Peak, Smuggs, Stowe, Bolton… 12-24” above 2,000ft…4-12” from 1,000ft-2,000ft.” Meanwhile Lionel kept updating us as to the latest goings on as the forecast became a “nowcast”, and urged everyone to get ready to follow the weather action as it rolled into town on the weather dashboard.

The peanut gallery had it’s doubts, and even our own team thought that perhaps we had gone too big… Were we all seeing the GFS, ECWF and EURO models through rose coloured lenses just because we had suffered through one of the worst November’s on record? Or were we a credible weather and ski team helping everyone get the information they need to find the snow they want?

Short answer:

[youtube]emUVrkBMcvI[/youtube]

Long answer:
On Saturday morning, after following this storm for over a week, we got to the upper gondola lot at Stowe Mountain Resort at about 545 am to find 4″ of wet slush soaking my shoes and a stiff north wind whipping the premises. Boots on 555am, big rain drops falling with a few flakes. Is this worth it? Sit in car eat hard boiled egg or two and finish coffee. Another big wind rocks the car and splashes the windshield. We’re here… let’s do this… LEROY JENKINS! Let’s unofficially open Stowe Mountain Resort a week ahead of schedule!

620am: about 600 feet up Nosedive trail temperature is noticeably cooler, and the slush turns to dry wind affected snow. I am pushing in with my skis about 2 inches per step now rather than digging into grass. I probe with my pole and it’s at least a foot, and I haven’t even reached the National/Nosedive junction. This was a good decision.

7am we meet Allen and Ben at the lowest Nosedive switchback (i.e. the intersection with Bypass trail) and help Ben find a lost ski. Sam shows up right on cue, and his buddy Dave begins the party.


Light was low. Snow was deep. Pole probes went to the upper shaft of my flicklock poles set to 135 cm. A smarter person than I could figure out what that was. I’d say between 15 and 18 inches is a good overall estimate for above 3000 feet. Pockets of 20+ inches no doubt existed. The winds were so high though, it was hard to tell if we were just skiing drift in, or actual snow fall. The stake will clue us all in no doubt tonight. Bottom line though: everything was buried and life was good. Sam:

We descended a bit, and then made our way to the Gondola side of Stowe. Ben and I ran up top and skied all of Chin Clip while wires were crossed, and every one else did a Switchback descent and then an ascent to the second Chin Clip exit. Red jackets and Kinco Gloves are huge this year…. dorks….
null

Ben on Chin Clip:

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Read about the author:   Greg
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31 Comments

  1. bushman
    wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 5:33 pm  
    1

    great photos and notes. wondered how badly skis/boards were gouged by rocks andlack of base esp on goat and other steep, choppy trails. were you using “rock skis?” good stuff. thanks

    • Greg
      wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 8:11 pm  
      2

      There was no problem with rocks and lack of base on upper mountain. We were mostly skiing drifts on the Front Four trails today. These tended to be deep and VERY dense.

  2. Chris
    wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 5:34 pm  
    3

    Well done! Wish i got up there earlier and found you guys..

    • Greg
      wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 8:10 pm  
      4

      Just emailed you… sorry about that man. Next time FOR SURE. I’ll be better with phone business in the future. CALL ME… I suck at texting

  3. Adrian
    wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 6:16 pm  
    5

    Wow, this is awesome! Way to get after it! Glad to see something finally happening on the EC.

    Now I just can’t wait to be back up in the NE to get some myself!

  4. Anonymous
    wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 8:41 pm  
    6

    Nice – thanks for sharing.

  5. MICKY O
    wrote on November 28th, 2009 at 9:02 pm  
  6. Keith
    wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 4:14 pm  
    8

    great pics. awesome effort. winner

  7. Zeke
    wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 6:16 pm  
    9

    Great photos guys! Can’t wait to get up there myself….

  8. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 8:41 pm  
    10

    March 16-21, 1981: My father and I take a ski trip to Stowe. Greek Peak’s mighty “Olympian” ski trail had prepared us well for National and Liftline, but what about Goat and Starr? Alas, we would not find out, as they were closed . . . which they would be for every subsequent visit of mine to Stowe over the years, whether competing in the Sugar Slalom or coaching at the UVM carnival, plus a random ski outing or two.

    But this time, both Goat and Starr were in excellent condition, and thanks to the support of famousinternetskiers.com partners, I was able to summon up the courage to face one of the scariest ski trails not only at all of Stowe, or all of Vermont, or all of New England, or all of North America, but of the entire world!

    I was so happy that after skiing I called my 80-year-old father with the good news.

    A few random responses to some of the comments in the TR:

    “Jonathan getting it started on National. Tell me he doesn’t look like Dick Durrance!”
    I’d still put my money of Dick:

    Or on KC – I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever been passed by a chick, outside of the racing scene.

    “This kid’s name was actually Max Hammer. He liked ruts too.”
    This guy had to be seen to be believed. He had mounted some Diamirs on a pair of (very) old Rossignol 4G gs skis. (I had a pair of these in 1989.) He made high-speed SuperG turns down everything.
    Two years ago, almost to the day, he won a Nor-Am super combined with points of 12.47.
    It’s one thing to be around former elite racers like Ben and Greg, but Max was something else altogether.

    “Jonathan was already on his 5th lap (did you break 10K feet?)”
    At 9,260′ at the top of Starr, I was tempted to add a little mini lap to crack 10k, but even I am able to resist the pull of mathematical goals … sometimes. (Combined with the prior day’s 7,000′ that must be some sort of PR for most vertical within 25 hours, or probably around 15,000′ for 24 hours, but keeping track of something like is even a little too contrived for me.)

  9. Greg Louie
    wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 9:15 pm  
    11

    Nice pictures, guys and girls! Good to see Jonathan recovered from H1N1, too!

  10. Andyzee
    wrote on November 29th, 2009 at 10:45 pm  
  11. Darin
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 12:55 am  
    13

    Glad to see there is some snow finally falling on the EC, Early season has been killer here is Whistler but seeing those beauty pics of Vermont still makes me homesick after 15 years. Keep em coming

  12. edscoville
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 7:43 am  
    14

    What is your opinion of the dynafits?

    • Greg
      wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 11:34 am  
      15

      I want another pair (my third)! Best thing ever.

  13. Greg
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 11:35 am  
    16

    FYI I just coagulated both days into one TR. Sorry if it causes any confusion. I also moved everyone’s posts here.

  14. Lionel Hutz
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 1:51 pm  
    17

    Love it Greg.
    As a member of the weather team I’m happy I was able to help you have some fun! Now…if it would only last.

  15. Joanne
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 2:00 pm  
    18

    Great photographic reportage as usual boys!

    Looks like you had the same type of snowfall that we had at the hill I cannot publicly admit to going to on Saturday. A good 16-18″ of thick snow everywhere… rock skis were not required! Good first day of skinning too.

  16. Harvey44
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 2:27 pm  
    19

    The pics are just killer. My favorite has got to be TEO on Goat. KC Rockin Starr is a very close second.

  17. Josh M. / Dromond
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 2:33 pm  
    20

    Looks like you all had an awesome time! I love the second photo and the first one of Jonathan. It was real in the Whites as well.

    cheers

    • Greg
      wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 6:54 pm  
      21

      Mind if I ask where you were schralping? We were “this” close to heading over. Prolly be over there sometime this week

  18. MadPatSki
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 2:36 pm  
    22

    Excellent!!! As many people hiking the hill this weekend. Jay was pretty sweet. We had to pass the border with borderguard questioning our sanity, remove fallen tree across 242, fight strong winds and hike in deep snow (DAMN BUENOS AIRES TAXI DRIVER!!!), but it was definitely worth it.

    • Greg
      wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 6:54 pm  
      23

      SWEET! I want to get up to Jay soon and play around. Did you hear any word on opening day?

    • Canadian hiker
      wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 10:14 pm  
      24

      Same thing for me. Going to Jay Peak and Crossing the border was hell.

      border guard: Why are you heading to the US?
      Me: Skiing Jay Peak?
      borderguard: Why it’s closed?

      I just wanted to answer: Yes but there is snow. Just let me go but I didn’t.
      He check the trunk, open my bag and asked a shitload of question that they don’t asked usually. Being alone certainly didn’t help

      Totally worth it. Did two laps. Figured I have to buy skins

  19. Josh M. / Dromond
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 7:53 pm  
    25

    Greg,

    Probably not where you would be headed, I skied Wildcat. The pessimist in me says that the trails there may or may not be wind-facked by now. They were moving in that direction when I left on Saturday, but who knows. On the other hand, who knows what filled in on Washington. I’m a panzy so I will leave the checking to you. Here’s my x-post from TGR:

    The storm exceeded my expectations at Wildcat. I drove up from Maine just hoping for a few turns but reading the report from MW this morning of 18″ of snowfall got my hopes up. The snow line began only a couple miles before Pinkham notch, but by the ski area parking lot there was a 5″ layer of super heavy, wet snow. I was able to easily skin from the car. I followed two skin tracks up. The wind quickly picked up as elevation rose and was moving the snow around in a serious way. I never thought that I would miss skinning on frosty grass with 40mph wind gusts trying to rip my face off – but it was really awesome to be up there. I guesstimated that maybe 14″ had fallen near the summit, but depths where all over the place from 0″ and very rimey grass (which was surprisingly good for skinning) to 24″+ drifts. I passed two telemarkers struggling through a slabby section and someone on Fritschis near the top who was pretty stoked but had frozen hands and didn’t stop for long. Amazing, even with a wind near the summit that was almost strong enough to knock you over, the skiing was quite good. I would say it was 40% good, silky smooth consolidated pow turns, 40% too-slabby wind effect and 20% wind scoured side-stepping over grass, rocks and other crap. Even down low with the thin snow it was heavy enough that it was easy to float over the nonexistent base.

    On the second run the snow conditions were deteriorating noticeably and my own turns in the windpack were getting increasingly wobbly so I decided to quit while ahead. As I cruised up to the lodge I noticed a crust forming on the wet snow down there. It looks like I got really lucky with the timing on this one. What a gift. Thanksgiving weekend is saved!

  20. ml242
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 9:03 pm  
    26

    the pics are in midseason form, NICE!

  21. nic
    wrote on November 30th, 2009 at 9:09 pm  
    27

    Greg, according to the Jay website, they will open Saturday the 5th or friday the 4th if everything lines out. They would be stupid not opening, considering the snow there was of there saturday

  22. jumpin jimmy
    wrote on December 2nd, 2009 at 4:04 pm  
    28

    sweet photos! Keep em coming…

  23. Harvey44
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 1:56 am  
    29

    I ALWAYS root for the guy with a job. GO SAM!

    • Greg
      wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 10:15 am  
      30

      I’m rooting for him too… but just for the record: We’re all working stiffs :D

      point being: see you ALL on the hill!

  24. David
    wrote on December 4th, 2009 at 3:13 am  
    31

    @ Sam’s new photos. Those woods are great! I know just where that ramp is, too. Wilderness is definitely the place to be at Bolton.

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