February 16, 2010

Mount Mansfield, VT

Stowe, VT
An interesting Vermont place, sprawling Stowe along Mountain Road and its offshoots with accommodations, restaraunts, and boutiques reminded me of Mammoth, CA: a lot of people and a lot of cars, with New England architecture. This is a holiday week and the locals tell me midweek is usually very quiet. And, Stowe with its working farms in the valley, hardwood forests and brooks is Vermont and not California.

California-like sunshine and groomers were the ticket for the morning. My base plan included a one-ride lift ticket with a backside adventure on the Teardrop Trail, but the resort no longer offers single ride tickets unless you're registered to stay at the stone hut near the top of Stowe's Forerunner chair. So for $89, I rode the lifts until the crowd created a 10 minute wait at the highspeed quad. There was no line at the old Lookout Double fixed chair two-seater.

Enjoying the sunny skies and clean, calm air, and having invested in a holiday-priced lift ticket, a few runs felt right. On one lift ride, I had the pleasure of chatting with a particularly interesting couple. The gentleman's story included skiing Stowe since 1950; his goggles had built-in corrective lenses, and his demeanor reminded me of the cartoon character, Mr. Magoo. He was hard of hearing and not shy about expressing his opinion.

His female companion, seated between us, was quite pleasant and assisted in translation among the males. She explained that he felt so strongly because a friend's son had been rescued on the backside of Mansfield... The gentleman wanted me to clearly understand that only fools go to the backside, and he has never been there and would never go there, and that I would be on my own if I went there. Later, I felt a little guilty about my baiting response, "No, I don't expect to be on my own back there, I expect the Government of Vermont to save me if I become lost." I meant it as a joke, but when taken seriously, I allowed my prior sentiment to remain unknown.

He wanted to know my name, so that he would know it was me when he read about a fool getting rescued on the backside of Mount Mansfield. We chuckled. In parting, he wished me luck in a friendly way, and I smiled and thanked him for the advice.

I really only scratched the scritchy surface of Stowe's lift-served area. The snow was beautiful off trail in the tight trees (and not scritchy) where untracked lines were plentiful, and the groomers were nice courdoroy, a little scritchy, with a few hard icy spots. At noon, I departed the front side for a backside adventure.

After a 15-minute skin up a communications tower road from the top of the Forerunner Chair, and one false start, I found the Teardrop. In spite of some tracks that lead to the Teardrop, I started a descent down a POWDER line that cliffed out. Realizing I was lost in the VT BC, and wondering about my karma for letting Mr. Magoo believe I really expected a government bailout, but not desiring to be a newsworthy rescue story, I backtracked a painstakingly steep climb in deep snow to the tower road (it was a sweet 500 ft vertical with a few 3-5 ft drops), and finally found the Teardrop. The false start was almost worth it, but I wouldn't recommend it. A local probably could link that false start line with other trails, but not being a local and finding cliffs beyond my huckability, backtracking the steep powder line was my decision. Later study of the maps revealed that I was descending totally separate drainage with a terminus a few miles from the Teardrop terminus.

Good snow, bad route

Old Teardrop is a narrow hiking trail at the top where it shares the Long Trail route. After following the tracked trail for a quarter mile, or so, several tracks cut skier's right through the glades. Noting the untracked lines, I followed and enjoyed an untracked steep evergreen forest line for 800 ft vertical where it popped out on the CCC Road, a hiking and skiing trail. Lower angle, powder paradise in a widely spaced hardwood forest was available below the CCC Road. After crossing the W.B. Trail, I skinned back to the CCC Road, skied it down to its junction with the Old Teardrop, and skinned Old Teardrop back to the "Nose" road. Finally arriving back at the lifts at 4:30 p.m., I found them deserted - last chair was 4:00 p.m. Enjoying a sojourn down the empty groomers with several forays into the liftside glades was icing on the cake.

CCC Road

Top of the Teardrop

1 comment:

Dante said...

Continues to look great Jack, I'm almost feeling homesick, though I can tell you I certainly don't miss those long lift lines. Seems like you've learned the secret that all the characters ride the lifts with charachter.