This past Friday, Tawny and I headed over to New Hampshire for a trip up Mt. Washington into Tuckerman Ravine. On Wednesday and Thursday the weather report wasn’t looking so optimistic. They had snow and cold temps with high winds. But, knowing that Mt. Washington has rapid weather changes, we decided to risk it and head over anyway.
Boy am I glad we did. We awoke to temps in the 30’s in Pinkham Notch with only a light wind. We headed over for breakfast and to take a look at the daily avalanche report. It hadn’t been updated before or after breakfast, but we decided that there would be something good and stable to ski on so we packed up our gear and waited for our friends to arrive.
About 9:00, the rest of our crowd showed up. Conveniently, the avy report had been updated and things looked good. Low risk in most areas with a moderate risk in the middle part of the bowl. We made some last minute gear adjustments and started up the trail with a few dozen other folks around us. The lower part of the Tuckerman Ravine trail had snow on it, but we all remained on foot for a while with the expectation that we would encounter enough rocky areas that skinning wouldn’t be a good option yet. That proved to be a good call, but after about 45 minutes of hiking two of our members switched over to skins.
Our first views of the ravine were beautiful. It looked almost devoid of people, but plenty of folks were hiking up Hillman’s highway. While snacking, we discussed our options. Hillmans was obviously a popular choice, but more and more people were headed into the ravine so we decided to head up as well to see how things looked in person.
Yep, that’ll do. It’s pretty obvious which snow was expected to be stable and which was considered a moderate risk.
First run: We headed up right gully following a crowd of folks that were headed up to the upper snowfields by way of a bushwhack. We didn’t wand to head up that high, so we kicked off a shelf and started to transition. Did I mention that only two of our group had skied here before? You forget what it’s like to make your first steep slope transition until you do it with a group of people who have never done it before.
The ride down was beautiful. The new snow was thick without being grabby. The old snow was corning up perfectly.
Second run: The left side of center bowl was al old snow and had a good boot pack up it, so we gave it a shot. Most folks were staying out of the new snow in center bowl, but a few had made some big turns and long traverses and it appeared stable. Still, we mostly stuck to the corn off to lookers left of the boot ladder.
Third run, we hiked part way back up right gully for a few final turns before heading down. It was hard to leave on such a perfect day.
The Sherburne trail was well covered at the top. We skied down to turn 5, according to the guide that was putting up the rope, and even that required a little grass skiing.
All in all, it was about as perfect an experience as you can have on Mt. Washington. Great weather, great snow and great company.
Here are a few quick photos from a backcountry excursion with Tawny. For those that aren’t in the area, Vermont just got crushed with our first big storm of the year. This isn’t to say we haven’t had snow, but 18″ in Burlington had been hard to come by this year. There were a couple good days of skiing Thursday and Friday and then the temperatures rose into the 30’s which gave us some mixed precipitation on Saturday. At higher elevations it may have all been snow, but below 2,000 feet or so it definitely included some rain. We decided to head out and see what the snow was like anyway.
Picking a spot that had a quick approach and easy exit should the snow prove to be too crusty, we were happy to see 3-5″ of new snow on the ground. We followed a group of five in from the trail head but were happy when their tracks peeled off right where we wanted to go left. Up we went weaving in and out of a skin track laid down on Friday or Saturday. At times the old skin track was helpful and at times the icy crust made for difficult travel so we broke trail in fresh snow.
The wind was brisk and while the sun was out, it still wasn’t all that warm. We quickly changed over (well, as quickly as you can with a split board) and headed down hill. The new snow skied beautifully, but you had to stay on top of things to prevent getting thrown by the crusty, thick snow below.
It was a great day skiing made even better by the fact that I could spend it with my wife.
Since moving into Burlington again, I ride my bicycle just about everywhere. The Burlington Bike Path (aka the Burlington Recreation Path, aka The Island Line Trail) is a regular part of my day for at least some of my commuting. When it’s nice out, I’ll often add a few miles to my commute and get some extra exercise. All this time, I’ve ridden past the old, faded “Cycle the City” signs posted on the bike path and side streets without a second glance. So, when Local Motion announced that they were hosting a guided tour of the path to celebrate its 15th year, I thought it would be good to join in on the fun.
About 150 people showed up at Maglianero Cafe for some refreshments before at 10:00 ride. The group broke up into 4-5 smaller tours (Kid friendly, less talking, more talking) and we were on our way. Tawny and I joined the “more talking” tour with Chapin and I’m glad we did.
The first stop on our tour was the Burlington Waterfront Park. I had remembered playing here as a kid in the 80’s, but I don’t remember the area before it was turned into a park. I mostly remember that my parents thought it was great to have access to all of this waterfront land. Chapin gave us some of the history of the railroads and the transition from a rail yard into real centerpiece of Burlington.
Next stop, Leddy Park where we heard about the “string of pearls” plan and the dueling chainsaws.
In Ethan Allen Park, you have to stop at the tower and take a look out over the city. Especially if it’s warm, sunny, and clear.
In the Intervale, we stopped at the Ethan Allen Homestead to learn about Ethan Allen’s large family (and small house) as well as his belief that the Intervale contained “the best farmland [he had] ever seen.” We’re pretty luck that this farmland is still in use and provides vegetables to many residents in the city.
We continued through the Intervale and up past the old dump. I’ve passed this hill regularly and never knew it was a dump — it just looks like a nice grassy hill. I’ve actually been meaning to come back here to take some portraits because it has some interesting sight lines. Maybe I’ll leave out the fact that we’re going to a dump to take photos until after we’re done with the shoot.
The Cycle the City loop goes right past Old Spokes Home, which was kind enough to host a refreshment table staffed by The Skinny Pancake.
If you’re going on the loop, stop by this shop to go see the museum of old bikes. They’ve got some hanging in the main showroom and a bunch more upstairs. While you’re there, browse around for your next steed. They have a collection of new and used bikes for just about every use.
Past the half-way point, we stopped at Mary Fletcher’s house (not pictured.) She’s responsible for starting Burlington’s hospital — the first in Vermont — which opened in 1879.
After a stop on the UVM green to learn about John Dewey and Ira Allen, we continue on to our last stop. A house that has been reclaimed by the university from a fraternity and is undergoing renovations. It turns out, the owners of this house were involved in the Burlington cycling club and would throw parties that would begin with a ride and end with a long dinner party.
In order to keep with tradition, after the tour ended back at Maglianero Cafe, we ventured up to Church Street for lunch and a beer at Halvorson’s.
It’s hard to argue with 75°F, sunshine, no wind, and low humidity. Thanks for the great tour, Chapin!
2013 Stowe Derby photos are available online and indexed by bib number. Find yourself,order a print to relish the day. Or find a friend and order a print to mock their crash!
Another Stowe Derby is in the books. Congratulations to everyone involved! We were lucky enough to get some snow in the week prior to the race and conditions were nearly perfect. Warm weather on race day even made it a pleasure to stand on a mountain side for hours at a time!
My day starts with checking in and heading over to the short course start. This year, the scenery was beautiful as the first few hundred yards of the course came through the tree-lined Stowe Recreation Path. The fresh snow on the branches makes for an ideal backdrop.
While I’m shooting the start, Tawny gets settled near the end of the course. Some years, this vantage point provides a beautiful mountain backdrop, but this year we were socked in up on the hill. You can’t win them all!
After shooting the start of the short course, I head to the top of the mountain and get settled on turn one. The mountain was really quiet this year and I could clearly hear the “boop, boop, boop, boop, beep!” of the starting bell. Many of the first racers came flying around the first corner with apparent ease. You have my admiration.
Others had some trouble navigating the ice down the center, the powdery ruts along the outside, or the divots from prior competitors’ falls. You have my sympathy.
I think the photo below is my favorite position. I seem to capture one of these every year. This one scores a perfect 10.
As usual, spirits were high and most of the people that fell popped right back up with smiles on their faces. I especially liked the tutu troop’s costumes this year! A fun splash of color on a grey day.
In preparation for the classical start, I headed down the toll road a little ways to one of the more popular corners. When I arrived, it looked like many more people went over the edge than normal, but the patroller on scene said he felt it was about normal. Stowe Ski Patrol did a great job at padding the trees and saplings in the landing zone, though, and even coached skiers through extracting themselves from a difficult position. Props to them.
The classic skiers seemed to have it dialed through the corner.
Well… some did, but if you didn’t clean this corner don’t feel bad — you’re in good company.
This is Ray. He suffered some equipment issues… he broke the duckbill off of his boot while warming up at the start! Never the less, and with the assistance of a little electrical tape provided by a liftie, he started and finished the race. (Did I mention he’s skiing on his grandfather’s Bonna 1800 skis?)
Back in near the finish, skiers always round this corner and start looking for the finish. You’re almost there!
More equipment failures, apparently. This is dedication, though. He’s not walking to the finish, he was running when he passed Tawny and running when he arrived at the finish line about 1k later. How long did you run?
The nice part about being down here is that people will wander about and sometime stay to chat for a few minutes. Some people are just out to walk the dogs and others are in town on vacation, only learning of the Stowe Derby from their waitress at breakfast.
Hey wait – I recognize you!
When the action is over on the mountain, I head to the finish to catch some relieved looks as people round the last corner and cross the finish line. This guy had a mob of kids pushing him to the finish.
Careful! Just a few more yards! (He stayed upright)
See you all next year!
If you’re looking for photos of yourself, you can find them at http://benjamindbloom.com/stowederby. You can search by your bib number or just browse the whole pile of photos.
Hug Your Farmer returned, last Thursday, with a tribute to 50 years of the Rolling Stones. A who’s who of musicians rallied to raise money for The Vermont New Farmer Project, which provides assistance to the next generation of Vermont farmers. Thanks for a great night of music! I’m already looking forward to the next one.
(UPDATE: Links to videos at the end of this post)
Brian Cadoret was at the event and, as he often does, he’s posted a few recordings of the show: