Is it spring already? After a stellar January with enough snow to drive the depth at the WCAX snowstake up to the highest level recorded since the sport of stake-watching debuted in 1954, the first week in February has been a little different.
In fact, after it appeared Stowe completely dodged the annual January thaw, the midweek temperatures nearly reached 50 degrees. Climate change? Certainly, an article in The New York Times last Sunday titled “Why Can’t Rich People Save Winter?” suggests that may be the case.
Around these parts, however, the evidence is less clear.
Your Scribe was working at the UVM Winter Carnival on Friday and Saturday and, driving up the road at 7:30 a.m., he was seeing a reading on his car’s temperature sensor of minus 14 degrees. The next morning, a warming trend was underway and the noontime reading of 10 degrees felt like a thaw had begun. Sunday saw another 10-degree increase and race crew members were unzipping jackets.
Still, none of this seems unusual if you have lived through decades of northern Vermont winters.
The skiing, however, remained really enjoyable. There were plenty of bumps to be had, if bumps are your thing. The best lines continued to be in the gladed areas. Whether you wanted the moderately steep routes like those in Tres Amigos or perhaps the Goat Woods or you preferred more moderately pitched areas like Chapel Woods and the Christiana Glades, the snow was plentiful and the surface soft.
There were reports coming back from people who skied some of the most remote lines around the region, including those that you had to hike or skin up to reach, that they were getting some of the most enjoyable descents in many years.
Does any of this mean anything in the global picture? Probably not, but if your focus is purely local, winter still seems to be hanging around for a while.
The Scribe would add one small note of caution to his tale. It does seem that, as much snow as has fallen up in the higher elevations, down in the valleys of Stowe and Waterbury the snowpack is not particularly thick.
There have been at least half a dozen short warm spells with cold rain instead of snow, and these do seem to take their toll on the lower-elevation meadows and banks. You can even, as you drive up Harlow Hill, see south- and west-facing surfaces where brown is peeking through from underneath the white.
Skiers seem happy
The Scribe, as alluded to above, spent Friday to Sunday working three days of races on Main Street. These are a big deal to stage, and it does not leave much time or energy to travel across the street to sample the fare available on Mansfield.
However, each day shortly after noon, skiers and riders start to appear at the Sensation Quad, seeking some variety and perhaps shorter lift lines. The Scribe, generally sliding into empty seats as he kept making his loops, was querying the other occupants of the chair as to what they were finding on the Mountain and in three days not one person had anything negative to report.
This is not to say that everyone on the other side was happy, but the ones coming over to Spruce all seemed quite pleased with an experience that for most was a first-time visit to Stowe.
Having skied four out of five days and needing an off day to recover both from time on snow and a highly stimulating Super Bowl Sunday, and with warm and possibly wet weather predicted for Monday, The Scribe opted out of skiing. Tuesday of course is ski bum race day and rest in advance of that is sensible — unless of course it is snowing.
No race this week
He headed up the Mountain Road Tuesday morning, race skis in the car, only to learn that the day’s race had been postponed due to excessive softness on the Slalom Hill. He decided to bag skiing, though intermittent sunshine and soft snow were enticing prospects. This week’s opportunities to get some work done would be short, since he is taking a short ski trip to three ski areas — all in Vermont. Thursday your Scribe skis Killington, Friday it is Pico — one of the oldest areas in the state with a great history, where he has never skied — and Saturday visiting Cochran’s for a race.
Stay tuned for reports on his Vermont ski vacation. Apologies also to the hosts of this week’s ski bum party — which of course was not canceled — because The Scribe was not in attendance to file his report on what was certainly another fun event. Next week there will be two races and for the Scribe two parties to remember.
Kim Brown, a ski bum by winter and a hacker by summer, lives in Waterbury Center with his very understanding family.