Summary: Based on ten seasons of my data from the past two decades, on average, tree skiing in Northern Vermont appears to begin in the first half of December (mean date = less than or equal to Dec 9th) with approximately 2 to 3 feet (mean = 28.2 inches) of snow at the stake on Mt. Mansfield.
Details of the analysis are below
J.Spin wrote:Just off the top of my head I consider the entirety of January, February, and March to be virtually a lock in terms of tree skiing availability around here during an average season, with December and April being the fringe months that you can often get.
The quote above was just my gut feeling about the availability of tree skiing around here, but since I don’t have a great memory for those sorts of dates, I went to my daily trip reports to get some actual data. I skimmed through my daily reports at the beginning of the seasons that I’ve documented, and found the first outing in which I skied in the trees, or at least commented that the tree skiing looked fine if I didn’t ski them due to other constraints (time, available equipment, abilities of friends, etc.). These are probably not “ultra conservative” dates for the start of the tree skiing season around here, but they are likely a touch on the conservative side for me because although I usually find time to ski each week unless the conditions are poor, I generally don’t ski every day. So, in some cases the tree skiing may have started up to a week before I actually got out to do some of it myself. Where do these dates stand with regard to the when the average tree skier around here is going to start skiing the trees? I’m not sure, but my dates are certainly not ultra aggressive/liberal. I generally don’t like to head into the trees if I have to worry about damaging my skis there, but let’s say the dates are somewhere in the average to aggressive range for the start of tree skiing season.
Some notes about the data: There are actually only 10 seasons in which I was living in Vermont and have a complete documentation of my ski outings, so those are the only ones I used for calculations of when tree skiing started. I did add data from a few other seasons for reference and completeness, but those data are marked with an asterisk and not included. The ’95-‘96 data are not complete because some of the early SkiVT-L archives were lost (but based on the fact that Castlerock’s Rumble trail was open on January 7th, the trees must have been skiable by that point), and the ’01-’02 through ’05-’06 data aren’t entirely useful because we lived in Montana and didn’t ski Vermont until the holiday period. For reference, the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake on the day of the report is included in parentheses to the right of each entry, and to provide a more qualitative idea of what the skiing was like, each date is a link to the text report (which should have a link to any images if they are available). I’ve also added a relevant quote from each report.
’94-’95: *Jan 7, 1995
Sugarbush: “Checking at that critical point on the lift, Rumble=Open, Ooooh baby.”
’95-’96: Dec 2, 1995
Sugarbush: “Oh yeah, the Exterminator/Bravo/Elbow woods were abound with people suckin' up the freshies and after this weekend's snow, they should be even better.”
’96-’97: Nov 27, 1996
Stowe: “Plenty of trees with freshies for those that want them.”
“97-’98: Nov 29, 1997
Stowe: “I checked out a few woods, and some are ready; but a lot of the small trees are still sticking out (Toll House woods, Triple woods) so it was kind of a "that's enough for now sort of feeling".”
’98-’99: Dec 20, 1998
Jay Peak: “From what I noticed in my short jaunts into the Jet/Haynes woods though, much of the natural cover is skiable.”
’99-’00: Nov 18, 1999
Sugarbush: “I realized that I was now in the realm of the new gladed trail known as "Deeper Sleeper", so I hung a right onto Sleeper Road, and before I knew it, I was face to face with an untracked, unroped glade!”
’00-’01: Dec 20, 2000
Sugarbush: “So, I turned right, into the woods, to check them out. The woods had great snow, a foot (the combination of Sunday / Tuesday) of powder over the firm base.”
’01-’02: *Montana (Dec 29, 2001
Sugarbush: Likely no tree skiing
’02-’03: *Montana (Ty Due, No VT Trip)
’03-’04: *Montana (Dec 26, 2003
Sugarbush: “Then we all disappeared into the untracked Hot Shot woods. The base was certainly deep enough to cover up most of the underbrush because my line took me all the way to the bottom before I knew what hit me.”
’04-’05: *Montana (Dec 27, 2004
Jay Peak: Beyond Beaver Pond - “Coverage was good in general, partly due to the impenetrable base, but areas of rock and sticks were evident in the steep ledgy areas.”
’05-’06: *Montana (Dec 24, 2005
Bolton Valley: “Like the lift line under the new quad, the woods needed a bit more coverage, but you could certainly hop in with your rock skis and get some fluffy turns.”
’06-’07: Dec 30, 2006
Bolton Valley: “I spied a connection into a more thickly gladed/wooded trail to the skier’s right (this may have been part of the “Upper Glades” trail), and it seemed devoid of any recent tracks. It was very tempting to dive in there and catch a fresh line, but Ty had already started down the run we were on and I didn’t want to lose him. I’m hopeful others got the chance to expand the skiing into that area and ski all the fresh lines. I was still blown away that all that terrain was open with such great coverage.”
’07-’08: Dec 4, 2007
Bolton Valley: “As we approached the lower mountain, Quinn directed us toward the Glades area, and eventually we ventured into the open lines off to the right of the formal Glades trail. Quinn mentioned that it was called “something” Woods, but I can’t recall that exact name.”
’08-’09: Dec 14, 2008
Bolton Valley: “We didn’t hit any expert terrain with the boys, but we did end up going off piste and hit some advanced terrain when Ty noticed that some of the Forest area was open. The snow in there was excellent, with packed powder and powder available. There were a few objects poking around that might grab your skis, but coverage was mostly there, and that was on the lower half of the main mountain.”
’09-’10: Dec 19, 2009
Bolton Valley: “It was opening day for the Wilderness Chair, so I took the opportunity to catch the lift assist and check out the condition of the powder off the back side. In line with what I’ve been hearing, there is excellent snow out there, especially up high. I explored some new lines on the south side of the bowl below Paradise Pass, and generally found 8 to 14 inches of powder over the base.”
Average date for the start of tree skiing: Dec 9
Average depth of snow at the Mt. Mansfield stake on that date: 28.2 inches
- The reports come from a reasonable selection of resorts in the northern half of Vermont: Jay Peak, Stowe, Bolton Valley, and Sugarbush.
- Most of the references were to off-piste trees, although a couple references were to more formal gladed runs.
- As I somewhat expected, I don’t obey the 40” rule with regard to when I start skiing the trees around here; on average I appear to start when the snowpack is about a foot shy of that mark.
- In my previous post, I mentioned that I considered December to be a fringe month with regard to availability of tree skiing, although based on my average tree skiing start date of December 9th, it is much less fringe than I thought.
- My feeling that “the entirety of January, February, and March are virtually a lock in terms of tree skiing availability” seems to be generally on track, at least with regard to the front end of gaining sufficient coverage for the terrain in the trees. In all of the 10 seasons for which I have sufficient data, the tree skiing started up in November or December; none of them were even in January. The fact that the closest to a January start to tree skiing was December 30, 2006, in a season with an extraordinarily poor start featuring very low snowfall in both November and December, suggests that having to wait until January for tree skiing should be very infrequent.
- Even with my previous analysis and plot of the snow depths at the Mt. Mansfield stake (32 to 40 inches) during the Christmas-New Year’s holiday period, I was still somewhat surprised by what my tree skiing dates suggest in terms of what to expect for off piste skiing during the holidays. While off piste holiday skiing may not be guaranteed, it should be expected, at least in terms of coverage. Indeed, tree skiing was provided in three out of the four seasons in which we came to Vermont for the holidays when we lived in Montana. For some reason I cannot find the full report for our December 2001 trip to confirm that we didn’t ski off piste (perhaps I never got around to writing it) but based on E’s short report and the fact that there were only 18 inches at the Mt. Mansfield stake, I suspect that tree skiing was not practical.
- The Thanksgiving period was another surprise. I remember snowboarding in the trees with Dave off Stowe’s Mansfield triple chair during one Thanksgiving period, and thinking how unique that was. Before working up this analysis, if I’d been asked how many times tree skiing was available by Thanksgiving around here, I would probably said “once that I can remember”, but apparently it’s a little more frequent than that. Of course it depends on exactly when Thanksgiving falls, but three of the tree skiing starts in my list above were at the end of November, and I believe the one I actually remember with Dave is prior to any of those listed, so it’s not as rare as I thought.
- As far as the back end of the season goes, I have not done an analysis of my own tree skiing in that period, but it’s a lot different than the front end. Whether the season has been fantastic or a total dud, the skiing usually finishes up within the same timeframe that spans a couple of weeks. Obviously there is room for debate on exactly when the tree skiing ends, but again based on the stake data, there should be some
tree skiing available through the end of the month.
- In terms of how this season rates with regard to tree skiing from my perspective, it started on Dec 19 vs. and average of Dec 9, so certainly not way above average in that regard. Of course the date alone does not speak to the quality of the skiing.
Last edited by J.Spin
on Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.