Earlier this morning, when it was a balmy 49 degrees and raining (for the 2nd day in a row), I felt the need to hunt down some snow. A reliable source, Mr. Marc Gilbertson, told me tales about weekend crust skiing on the toll road at Stowe, and it sounded almost too good to be true. However, I needed to do something for training today, and hiking up Mt. Mansfield sounded more exciting than my other options, even if there was no snow at the top.
When I parked at the base of the toll road, the mountain was entirely fogged in and I couldn’t see the upper trails at all. I felt a little foolish hiking by other people carrying my skis. I wasn’t expecting nice crust skiing, not with the warm rain, but what if there was no snow at all? At least cross country skis are light and easy to carry.
As I hiked up, I relived memories of racing the Stowe Derby. In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Stowe Derby is a screaming ski race down Mt. Mansfield’s toll road , followed by about 10 km of rolling and flatter terrain into the village of Stowe. Most people choose to race in cross country skis. There are numerous hairpin corners where entire waves of people go flying off the course; there are steep open slopes that turn into sheet ice because too many people snowplow; and halfway down the course is a small Mountain Chapel. I often wonder how many people attend services there.
After about 40 minutes of hiking, I rounded a bend, and low and behold! there was my snow. On a trail adjacent to the toll road, mounds of man-made snow blanketed an entire slope. The mounds left near the snowguns were at least 7 feet deep, and the trail probably averaged about 3 feet. I changed into ski boots and started to herringbone. Near the top, a trails crew was out building rails and jumps. They told me I was going the wrong way. Who in their right mind skis up a mountain? In the heavy fog, I almost got run over by a pistonbully out smoothing the slope. Good news for all you diehards- Stowe opens tomorrow! They have one full length run with excellent snow cover. Winter’s coming.
Unfortunately the natural snow has melted and the toll road itself is not ski-able. The remaining snowy terrain is pretty steep and does not lend itself to cross country training. However, that doesn’t mean we should pass up the opportunity for a little herringbone and downhill practice. I felt awesome to ski down.
Next up I’m going to check out conditions at Jay Peak. However, I’m going to expect lots of snow and plan accordingly. That means bringing poles with snow baskets, not rollerski tips that sink down all the way to the pole grips.