I will update nearly everytime I go skiing (resort and nelsap skins),
1. Full reports are available at Alpine Zone.com
2. Typical season ranges from October to June/July (Tuckermans)
Mansfield/Stowe: Clip, Skinning up to Hourglass
I am no fan of Stowe Mountain Resort but I do love Mount Mansfield. The resort has some great trails among its wide and homogenized so called classics; it truly is the best and most all encompassing ski area in the east. The trails can be epic when the conditions are right (and the ample amount of powder hounds aren’t out in force) and there is an enormous amount of tree skiing. But Stowe lacks the character and temperament of the far superior ski area across the notch. But take a hike above treeline and Mansfield offers some of the best skiing in the east for the least amount of effort.
So I try to get atop Mansfield’s ridge line at least once a season. Few other ski areas can offer a true alpine experience for such minimal effort. I am selective of my Mansfield days preferring a warm and sunny day in the spring time before everything starts to melt. This year I timed it pretty well though the snow was far from ideal due to delayed warming.
Spring had sprung at the base but winter was still in effect up high. The previous day saw a surprise few inches on the summit despite the generally firm surfaces down low. I got a late start but not late enough so I scraped my planned full day sidecountry itinerary and got things started on Chin Clip where I found pre-prime bumps, starting to soften but were still not quite there. Over on Goat, conditions were even firmer due to the lack of sunlight.
I grabbed lunch then returned to Chin Clip where the bumps were now prime. Chin Clip is one of the best spring bump trails in the east. The sun hits the snow just right, the trail curves and winds, and the bumps are well spaced with good lines. I could lap Chin Clip all day when the spring conditions are great. But my eyes kept looking higher up and I deemed that the early afternoon sun had finally had its way with the summit. Up I went.
(Picture of me deleted)
Aside from my being out of shape and dreadfully slow, the climb was beautiful and uneventful. I came out of the gully to an amazing alpine setting with expansive views in all directions. Whiteface shown majestically in the west, the Presidentials, Franconia Ridge, Kinsman Ridge, and Moosilauke all were brightly lit in the east, and Camel’s Hump and Sugarbush stood out in the south. After a brief pause to take it all in, I continued onto the Chin where I rested and enjoyed the views.
My line of choice was Mansfield’s timepiece where a large group was slowly taking turns descending. The long delay in the large group below caused me some trepidation; I am hardly in my best form and I began to wonder if there was enough snow still down there despite the Stake being above average depth for this time of year. After the large group got through and I had my fill of the view, I clicked in and started down one of the east’s hairiest sidecountry descents.
I soon found the reason for the large group’s slow progress. The choke was less than a ski width wide making for spicy turning. I recalled this line being extremely tight but this seemed a little tighter than I remembered. But my skis were 6cm shorter the last time I skied it. I didn’t feel confident in my jump turn abilities with both my tips and tails kissing granite nor did I feel confident in slaloming the granite via a straight line, so I shamefully side stepped down a short ways until I was comfortable initiating a jump turn.
Judging by the side stepped snow, I can at least take pride that I made a lot more turns than the previous group. Once I nailed one jump turn, I knew I was home free. The line shifts to the right after a massive granite wall, then left after another, and then the apron spills forth. It was a touch more interesting than I had expected but still quite the descent. Nothing I wanted to repeat that afternoon, though.
I navigated to a brook that is a devil’s delight and dropped into one of the best sidecountry lines in the east, easily rivaling some of my favorite steep drainages at Cannon (which is high praise). The snow was generally in the shade so snow conditions were far from spring corn. Higher up conditions were occasionally still powdery. But lower down, the snow was firm and occasionally teeth chattering. Everything in between in the sun was pure gold. Regardless of snow conditions, this is a line that I can’t get enough of. I need to ski this more often; perhaps propelled to the summit under my own power instead of lift assisted for the full effect.
What more can I say? At 2800 vertical feet of unrelenting pitch starting off with a super steep and tight chute, this is one of the best top to bottom descents in the east. I can’t think of another line that has the combination of that much unrelenting pitch and vertical. Some may be steeper, some maybe longer, some may have more vertical, some may have a longer hairy section. But this has it all wrapped into one with a top to bottom average gradient that is steeper than many ski area’s steepest gradient. And it is just scratching the surface of what that area has to offer.