A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

On a normal year, Mt Mansfield is the powder stash of Vermont. This year it was one of our few remaining hopes. Eleven of us met up for the AMC trip. We all introduced ourselves as addicted skiers willing to brave dreadful forecasts to find some snow.

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The fields were bare surrounding the meet up point on Mountain Road. I wasn’t worried yet. The fields have been bare other years yet we found snow on the Teardrop. This time, we had no such luck. There was no snow at the usual plow turn around. We passed the bottom of the Teardrop and there was maybe an inch of snow. We drove all the way up to the gate right below the Underhill State Park summer campground. Above the gate, just barely enough snow to skin on covered the well maintained road. Thor opted to carry his skis on his back. The rest of us skinned. Here and there taller gravel poked through the white snow. I concluded I needed to decided before skiing back down if I wanted an excuse to buy new skis, or wanted to keep my current ones.

Starting up the steep part

Starting up the steep part

Slowly, slowly the snow deepened as we climbed. By the time we turned across the hill on the old CCC road, I no longer feared for my skis. We peered down at the lower half of the Teardrop. It looked good, but the group consensus was it wasn’t worth the long walk out farther down. The upper Teardrop was well traveled with half an inch of fresh powder on top an icy crust. Tyson headed up to check if it was skinnable or if we needed microspikes. He ended up side stepping. A few more people tried skinning up and slipped back down. Two people used ski crampons and made good progress. And Thor hiked up easily. I had trouble skinning. My skins are a few millimeters too skinny for my skis. Usually they are ok because the snow conforms to the ski. With the hard snow, I had to keep my skis exactly flat on the snow. Any time I tried to edge a little, my skis slipped out from underneath of me, sending me sliding back down the hill. I wasn’t the only one having problems. As we went along, more people gave up skinning and just carried their skis.

Lake Champlain in the background

Lake Champlain in the background

Higher up, the trail narrows down and levels off. Here, the icy crust softened and disappeared. Whatever storm left the ice lower must have snowed up top. We ate lunch at a sunny corner in the trail and everyone put their skis on. The rest of the skin up was uneventful. The Toll Road was groomed with fresh corduroy and the weather was nice. So we all decided to quickly ski up to the top of the Nose.

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The top has good views of Vermont and into Canada. Would have been better with more snow. A bunch of the trip participants were local. They had skied together before with She Jumps. Yet, none of them had skied the Teardrop before. They had great fun pointing out all the landmarks.

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Then it was time to ski down. The top of the road was icy. Then we had a brief run of corduroy. Back in the trees, the snow was fine, but there wasn’t enough of it. Little saplings poked up everywhere catching at skis. I was pretty annoyed at my skiing skills. A bunch of other folks kept their skins on rather than practice falling leaf turns or fir tree side slips. Back at the lunch spot we regrouped and everyone removed skins. The rest of the trail down to the CCC road was reasonably skiable. The summertime trail maintainers must keep the brush down better. And it’s maintained as a wider ski trail. There were still a few spots where the saplings encroached on the trail, or the trail turned to an icy overflow.

The CCC road out was nice skiing. The water bars had iced over so you could ski over them. One of the AT skiers with Dynafit bindings tried releasing her heals and telemarking. It kind of worked, except for the water bar ditches.

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Skiing down from there, the road worsened. I think some of the snow melted since the morning. Everyone had their own tolerance for scrapes on their skis, but we had all given up skiing before we reached the cars. At least one person face planted from suddenly stopping on rocks. Luckily we had no injuries.

Afterward, we retired to the Parkside Cafe in Richmond for dinner. Nicole’s skis were so bad she dropped them off at the express tuning shop for repairs on the way.

Trip info: best guide book Goodman Guide.
Maps: open street maps
Trip leaders: Casey in training, Tyson leader, Nik co-leader.