VTah Part III — The Most Unreliable Great Snow on Earth!

December 14, 2009

Last week, the weather guys observed a sneaky band of lake effect snow sliding off Lake Ontario and into New England. Although it was not clear beforehand, this storm had the potential to deliver VTah Part III (remember Part I & Part II?). With raging cold winds out of the southwest, and a Great Lake warmer than a ski bum’s hot tub (trick question: real ski bum’s don’t have hot tubs), the band was being referred to in forecast discussions and weather prognostication as if it were “a great beast,” a “once in a decade event,” and some even referred to it as a “magic carpet capable of temporarily transporting an entire mountain thousands of miles west to every skier’s holy land: Utah.” (Or maybe we just made that last part up, but bear with us.) Mad River Glen was the final destination of this band of unpredictable, unreliable, really freaking good snow.

Some may say this was just luck. Some may say this was just chance. But then there are others who know about “the connection.” For those who are uninitiated, the ridge at the head of the Mad River, VT and the peaks at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT share a bond. On the surface one might think that the only thing they have in common is an extra line in the skier’s responsibility code: “Thou shalt not snowboard here.” Ask any one of your friends who eat-sleeps-breaths skiing though, and they will tell you that the connection is much deeper than just a clause. They may not be able to put their finger on it, but eventually every skier who has been to both Mad River Glen Cooperative and Alta Ski Lifts Company figures it out. After this monster band of lake effect snow pummeled General Stark Mountain for hours upon hours and moved Mad River Glen to Utah for a morning, we finally understood.

Looking back on it, we got really really lucky. Although our weather team had been forecasting a significant lake effect snow event somewhere between Jay Peak Resort and the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, it was impossible to know exactly where it would hit. The slightest shift in the winds can move a lake effect band, which has traveled hundreds of miles east across the entire length of New York State, tens of miles off course north or south. We took a shot in the dark and agreed to meet at the base of Mad River Glen as early as possible. Greg and K_C were on a traditional work/ski schedule, and got a true dawn patrol start with the intention of getting to work by 8:30. Meanwhile Sam had to be in by 10, and so decided to meet up with them for a run before going to punch the clock. Finally, Allen was coming off a night shift making snow at Cochran’s Ski Area, and so he was completely unencumbered, and ready for as much skiing as his legs would provide.

Hiking up in the pre-dawn grey.

Only a few had come before.

Greg and Kristin got to the top first, and got the rare privilege of un-hurried first tracks down Chute.


Truly, a great way to start a work day.

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Read about the author:   The F.I.S.
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: A Day Fit for Kings


  1. Lionel Hutz
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 10:32 am  
    • monkfish
      wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 11:53 am  

      I need more thumbs.

    • MadPatSki
      wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 5:15 pm  

      Three thumbs up!!! Oh wait, that 3rd one isn’t a thumb!!! :O

  2. Porter
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 10:49 am  

    Headed out to test the teleconnectors between MRG and the lift company as we speak.

  3. Adrian
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 10:55 am  

    Wow. Makes me wonder what the hell I was doing at Stowe. As always, awesome pics.

  4. milton
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 11:34 am  

    Great TR guys, keep up the good work….or, uh lack of work as it were.

  5. Brian
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 12:13 pm  
  6. Bill
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 12:15 pm  

    Epic. Best skiing blog post I’ve seen in a long time!

  7. Scott
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 2:55 pm  

    Sick guys. Just sick.

  8. Rick
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 3:18 pm  
  9. powhounddd
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 3:28 pm  

    Nice. Fall 09 is officially redeemed.

    • Greg
      wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 3:30 pm  

      I couldn’t agree more! What’s truly amazing to me though is that we have 7 honest to god good-times trips already this season! Viva la winter

    • Scott
      wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 6:00 pm  

      Definitely… just think what the status of VT skiing was a week ago. One or two snowmaking trails open at most areas and now 7 days later its wide open. Amazing how mother nature can switch things around so quickly.

  10. TheBEast
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 4:53 pm  
  11. rogerk
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 6:01 pm  

    Uggggh. I so wanted to call in sick Friday, and foolishly decided to wait til things were better!

  12. Josh Bushwacker
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 6:32 pm  

    sweet guys!!! hope to run into you guys at stowe some day!

  13. Micky O
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 6:38 pm  
  14. JToots
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 7:59 pm  
  15. zack
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 8:08 pm  

    That day was so sick i was there too one of the better days that i have had there

  16. billski
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 9:32 pm  
  17. wpetrics
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 10:04 pm  

    Micro weather forcasting is fun and pays off.

  18. Huff2ski
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 11:22 pm  

    Hey, was everything open? What can i plan for next weekend?

    • Greg
      wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:28 pm  

      Hey Huff,

      We were actually there the day before the mountain officially opened, so I guess in a sense nothing was open. However the next day they opened all of their terrain. I have no idea what is open now. You should check their website to see what’s up. Or call them. The front office there is pretty friendly.

  19. Dingus McCracken
    wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 11:27 pm  

    Arrrgggh!!! After a lifetime on the East Coast, I moved to Denver to be closer to the slopes. Now the Front Range has nothing but man-made crap snow and not a trace of powder in sight, and MRG gets pummeled. Life is not fair.

  20. billski
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:25 am  

    What resort, other than MRG would be so stoked about your turns-earned trip report? They posted a link to it on their Facebook page. Stupendous!

  21. ZAAB
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:46 am  

    I am just going to off-myself…plain and simple jealousy.

    I just cannot imagine how the photographer had the self-control to stop mid-run and take pictures.

    SICK! I am going to go die now. Nice work, gents.

    • Greg
      wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:26 pm  


  22. Josh M. / Dromond
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 10:34 am  

    Looks like an incredible day. The funny part is, at 6am that morning I was trying to decide between Pico and MRG. Luckily Pico was good, but holy shit!!!

    • Greg
      wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:27 pm  

      How’d Pico ride? I love Pico.

      Where are you located Josh? I’m so confused… for some reason I always think you’re a Mainer. Want to hit Pico some Tuesday/Wednesday?

  23. Matt River
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 11:26 am  

    The photo above ‘now you know why its called Paradise’ looks like a Japanese print. Beautiful. We worked the sloppy seconds on Saturday morning when the lifts were turning, and there was still plenty of pow to go around,. Even some of the mellower woods lines were skiing sweet.

    • Greg
      wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:25 pm  

      Thanks Matt! It’s funny you mentioned the similarity to Japanese art. I actually am a casual fan of the Japanese art, and have always enjoyed finding posters of Japanese wood blocks… especially the snowy scene ones. I personally also really am enchanted by the Japanese winter, and it is my dream to head there, and get the entire experience documented. A relatively low elevation range with DEEP snow and dense windy forests is definitely where I feel most at home, and I really hope to some day go over there and experience the whole thing. In the meantime I have to get my fill skiing around here, and occasionally recreating the feel as best I can with the Vermont hardwoods. Check out a few of the shots in the Labyrinth TR. I was also going for a Japanese wood block feel in a few of those, and I’d like to get your opinion. Thanks for checking in!

  24. SkiCowboy
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 12:33 pm  

    I think you meant skibrokeback.com instead of Alta.

  25. kath montstream
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 6:28 pm  

    simply outstanding, the text with photos and video. It has also made me extremely envious; like, what was I doing that day? I don’t even have to cut work and I apprarently was clueless to the winter wonderland just down the road. Kudos.

    • Greg
      wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 9:26 pm  

      Sorry to hear you missed it Kath. Next time stay ahead of the snow squalls (so you can be submerged underneath them) with our weather section.

  26. arewolfe
    wrote on December 15th, 2009 at 8:23 pm  

    That was phenomenal.

  27. Akhil
    wrote on December 16th, 2009 at 9:18 am  

    I was watching your turns from my deck! Too sick to ski that day, but glad to see all the pics. Speaking of, great camera work!!!

  28. Ryan
    wrote on December 16th, 2009 at 1:28 pm  

    Why do I work in Boston again?!

  29. Nigam
    wrote on December 16th, 2009 at 9:25 pm  

    Exciting pictures Ethan! You are welcome to ski in my home country: Nepal, where the Mt. Everest is situated.

    • Sam
      wrote on December 16th, 2009 at 10:19 pm  

      Allen and I are actually headed to Gulmarg, in Kashmir this winter. Funny you should bring up skiing in the Himalayas.

  30. Matt French
    wrote on December 16th, 2009 at 10:40 pm  

    I am so monumentally bummed out by this article. I can’t believe my eyes. I nearly crapped myself when I saw the date on the video. Literally. I was about a breath away from taking a day off of work to go up north and get in some early turns. I decided it wouldn’t be worth it this early in the season. and I managed to somehow miss out on one of the greatest days of skiing the right coast ever. devastating…

  31. Thomas
    wrote on December 17th, 2009 at 4:35 pm  

    Great post and great images. Come out to Utah, and leave Vtah behind.

  32. Paul
    wrote on December 19th, 2009 at 6:00 pm  

    The black and white image in Paradise is fantastic, unworldly, ahh just great.

  33. eastcoastrider17
    wrote on December 12th, 2011 at 9:16 pm  

    Man, you guys nailed that snow track! Lake effect is super unpredictable. Here in Syracuse NY we get a ton of it each year, and some days we have the most epic pow days. But it litterally comes down to the very last minute if we get it or not. But man, that storm found its way to VTah! You guys are beyond lucky

    • Greg
      wrote on December 12th, 2011 at 9:18 pm  

      heh heh… yep… we got SUPER lucky (as I hope we emphasized in the TR)

      those LES bands love to flail around… hard to pin them down once they get over here in VT… even harder to get one to stay in one spot for more than 20 minutes…

      this one was a real treat for sure…

      glad you’re finding some fun stuff digging around in FIS. thanks for stopping by!

  34. Harvey44
    wrote on January 2nd, 2012 at 2:13 pm  

    Wow fantastic! Dig the video. Sorry I missed it the first time. ;0

    • Greg
      wrote on January 2nd, 2012 at 8:13 pm  

      ha! yeah… things lurk on FIS… good thing we’re open 24/7/365

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