Spruce Peak, Stowe 11/16/99 - Powder!

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Spruce Peak, Stowe 11/16/99 - Powder!

Postby Matt Duffy » Mon Apr 17, 2000 1:21 pm

<I>(Note from the Administrator: This report was originally posted on 11/16/99. Due to our move to new servers, the date and time attributed to this post is incorrect.)</I> <BR> <BR>Mark Renson, this one's for you. <BR> <BR>Powder. Deep Powder, of the bottomless variety. <BR> <BR>I left my place in Milton where it was snowing lightly with a slight dusting on the ground. 15 minutes later I was driving through Cambridge in a fierce, horizontal snowstorm on very slick roads. Approaching Jeffersonville, the unplowed road got downright nasty. My Jeep fishtailed, I swore at other drivers and had an adventure just getting up Rt 108 to Smugglers Notch. Winter is here in full force. <BR> <BR>I pulled in and parked next to 108, not far from the barricade and sign that says "ROAD CLOSED". The temp at the bottom of the hill in Jeff' was 31 degrees, but it was more like 25 up here. The wind was whipping and swirling, carrying occasional little "snow tornados" with it. Up beyond the barricade, I was snowshoeing in snow that averaged about 8 inches deep. There were some pretty big drifts to trudge through along the way, as well as windblown hardpack and even occasional patches of asphalt showing through. <BR> <BR>Rounding the last corner and climbing the last hill on this winding snow-way to the top of the Notch, I came upon a fallen tree in the middle of the road. Hard at work was a howling, gale force wind screaming over the Notch from the other side. It was pelting my face with snow and almost blew me backwards a number of times. Big snow tornados were everywhere, swirling about and funneling up to 15 feet in the air. What was falling from the sky mixed with what was flying up from the ground, making it impossible to discern the rate of snowfall. Snow on the road averaged about a foot deep here with drifts and snow whales covering the entire road and facing every which direction. It almost resembled a mogul field topped with powder. From the distance behind me echoed a faint droning whine that steadily grew bigger and louder. Before long, 4 snowmobiles came buzzing along and each of their pilots waved as they zipped by. One after another, they reminded me that winter fever is very contagious. <BR> <BR>What is normally a 45 minute hike up Sterling Pond Trail took me about 2 1/2 hours. I had forgotten just how much work it is to ascend in deep powder. Hard to say exactly how much snow had fallen, but for the most part I was climbing on about 1 1/2 to 2 feet of powder. There were occasional segments of the trail with less than 6 inches, but far more often I labored in upwards of 3 feet of the stuff. Nearing the connection with Snuffy's Trail (The on-piste connector of Smuggs and Stowe), trees creaked and swayed behind the force of the shrieking wind. The final pitch up Sterling Pond Trail was a grueling last push up through 3 feet of snow. Stepping down from the deep snow in the shelter of the trees onto the wind scoured ice of Snuffy's was like jumping into a wind tunnel. It was tremendously forceful <BR>up here. I had to lean forward into it just to keep balance. It would have been impossible to stand up on that ice without the "claws" of my snowshoes digging into it. Intermittently there was snow blanketing the trail and blowing about in horizontal squalls. The last hill and corner going up Snuffy's was engulfed in extreme weather. I normally hate the "ex" word, but it sure fits the bill here. There were deep drifts all over the place and the wind surged in an extensive shrieking, frigid white 'sandstorm'. Snow fell sideways, billowing up in swirling clouds, instantly covering me head to toe. It was a long and complete whiteout with a continuous flowing stream of white "dust" speeding along the surface, making my feet invisible. <BR> <BR>Finally, I came to Upper Smugglers (a trail on Stowe's Spruce Peak), and it was back to wind scoured ice. I crunched on up through this final(finally!) bit of ascent and toward the Ski Patrol shack. Just then, there was another surge in the wind that almost blew me over sideways as I tried to get in the door. My skis were duct taped together at the tips and stuck up over my head. I forgot this initially and slammed them against the wall above the door as I attempted to enter. I was utterly exhausted. Bent over at the waist, I walked through the door; tried to stand up and slammed the skis against the ceiling. At this point I let go of my poles, dropped to my knees and quickly undid the straps, letting my pack thud loudly to the floor. The door was still open and slamming repeatedly against wall. I ended this annoying nuisance by pushing it shut with both hands and all of my strength. I was cold, I was wet and I was drained. But I was there! I had made it through it all, which made me smile as I flopped to the couch and laid back with legs and arms outstretched, ahhhhhhhh! <BR> <BR>The very top chute of the Birthday Bowls was windcrust with rocks, logs and stumps poking through. I thought better of trying to be aggressive on this very steep section in such poor condition. I sidestepped down about <BR>40-50 feet until the last bit of the chute. It was from here that the euphoria began. I hopped 90 degrees and pointed 'em straight over the last bare rock, into a gorgeous sea of white. Carrying much speed over the first roller and plunging into the next manicured chute, I yelled out a yeeha and I knew right then that all the effort was more than worth it. There was <BR>bottomless powder and I had the secure feeling that I could just go off without worrying about rocks or stumps. With each turn on the steeps, <BR>gravity pulled my skis under with face shots galore. Transitions between turns meant coming back up near the surface with gravity defiance: Floating weightlessly near the top before dive-bombing back down into the next rooster-tailing turn. It was just incredible snow! It was fun to let the skis run and nearly hydroplane on top, gaining speed into wide open places before whooshing back down below the surface in wide, deliberate turns. I was on my fat hourglass Elans which are just perfect for that sort of thing. <BR> <BR>Afterward, I was pushing and gliding on the snowmobile tracks in the middle of Rt 108. I passed an oncoming Nordic skier and his dog and said hello. He said hi with a weird look on his face and turned his head to get a better look at me as I went by. I got down to the barricade, where there were now several cars parked, and took off my skis. There were several <BR>people getting their nordic gear ready, and a few people unloading snowmobiles. They all looked at me funny as I walked by with skis flung over my shoulder. When I got to my Jeep, the reflection in the window told me why I got all those looks. I was covered head to toe in a gleaming layer of white. Can mid November actually be this good? Was it a dream? Nah, couldn't of been a dream- my body is aching all over. It feels sooo good!
Matt Duffy
 
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Joined: Fri Jul 27, 2007 7:52 pm

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