Yet another spring weekend without corn snow. The disturbing trend continues. While last weekend’s full on winter days at Smuggs were both excellent, I am getting really desperate for a nice warm spring corn day. And skiing aside, mentally some warmth and sunshine would do my psyche some good.
My original plan was Mount Washington. But the weather did not cooperative with summit temperatures dipping into the single digits Saturday night and the wind honking into the 60+ MPH range. While Sunday was clear and sunny, it was not optimal for great skiing nor going for a summit. I changed plans from NH’s highest peak to VT’s highest peak, hoping for alpine skiing above the trails and corn bumps below.
I am no fan of Stowe Mountain Resort but I do love Mount Mansfield. The resort has some great trails among its wide and homogenized so called classics; it truly is the best and most all encompassing ski area in the east. The trails can be epic when the conditions are right (and the ample amount of powder hounds aren’t out in force) and there is an enormous amount of tree skiing. But Stowe lacks the character and temperament of the far superior ski area across the notch. But take a hike above treeline and Mansfield offers some of the best skiing in the east for the least amount of effort.
So I try to get atop Mansfield’s ridge line at least once a season. Few other ski areas can offer a true alpine experience for such minimal effort. I am selective of my Mansfield days preferring a warm and sunny day in the spring time before everything starts to melt. This year I timed it pretty well though the snow was far from ideal due to delayed warming.
After two false starts, my season finally begins. The allure of an epic 26 hour road trip to West Virginia was considerable (especially after seeing the incredible reports). But with snow on the way, guns prepped to blow, and a potential storm on the horizon, I decided to stay put. Driving halfway to Florida for skiing would have been quite an adventure but I couldn’t justify it with things looking so good locally.
Instead of driving all day Saturday to ski Sunday, I drove on Sunday to ski on Sunday, returning to my own bed at night. And tomorrow, I’ll do the same but with lift assistance. The next day, I’ll recuperate and watch the storm come in and then repeat the process with better results.
As you can see, there are some pretty ugly developments happening at Stowe lately. You might also notice that the snow coverage isn’t that good either.
The development at Spruce Peak continues on its absurd scale. The new Spruce “Camp” Base Lodge feels more like a sterilized hotel lobby than a ski lodge. The faux wood benches and chairs are uncomfortable and lack practicality. Clearly this was a lodge designed by AIG big wigs without any input from skiers and riders. This seems weird to say but even the bathrooms took me out of the skiing mentality and put me into a city ambiance.
Adding financial insult to aesthetic injury, I had to pony up $5.00 for my “Evolution” card even though I already prepaid for a voucher. Unlike most other excessive ski resorts, Mount Mansfield’s terrain is worth dealing with the pomp. I made like an egg and crossed over to the Gondola. Due to the sun, I planned to take full advantage of the shade of the enclosed cabins.
Having only skied Stowe nine times (and almost half of those being pre/post-operation earned turns), I had yet to take the full measure of the Mount Mansfield. Despite that short coming of first hand experience and personal knowledge, I have seen enough of the potential first hand and the online reports second hand to endorse Stowe as the best overall mountain in the East. I can now backup that endorsement through first hand experience following my tenth day there.
Spring sprung early in New England with perfect sugaring weather this weekend. While I hope spring retreats at least one last time (and hopefully more) before spring skiing overtakes winter skiing for the remainder of the season, I can not say that I did not enjoy the heck out of today.
After much back and forth trying to determine where would be the best location today given the weather and snow conditions, I made the last minute decision to ski Stowe after I was already on the road. Mom used to always ask me where I was going when taking my road bike out for a spin. “I’ll find out when I get there” was my usual response. Call it a life philosophy, haphazard circumstance style, a wink to determinism but with a tongue stuck out at the same time.