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1997-05-31 Mansfield Spring Trek: Photos and story
1997-05-31 Mansfield Spring Trek: Photos and story

May 31, 1997

Mount Mansfield Spring Skiing Trek

Earn Yur Turns!

I spent Memorial Day weekend immersed in helping my friend move and planting tomatoes and other mundane funless pursuits. Come Saturday, I was jonesing big time to hit the Mountain.

I arrived in the gondola parking lot around noon, armed with backpack, telemark boots, and skis. I headed up the Nosedive trail to see what I could see.

What I saw was a slow transition of seasons, in reverse. It felt downright spring-like in the parking lot, at 1500 feet or so. But by 2000 feet, it was clear that the local ecosystem was at least two weeks if not more behind the Champlain Valley. While back home the birch trees were in full leaf, here they were just starting to bud.

I started to pass the first remnants of snowmaking at around 2500 feet, and starting feeling the first chills as clouds slid past the sun. Patches of natural snow were soon seen in the woods. By 3000 feet, the north facing woods of Old Nosedive were looking mighty good, with near wall to wall cover. The second through third turns of Upper Nosedive were pretty well covered, as was what looked like all of Nosedive bypass. If I had had an earlier start to the day, I might have lingered to sample the offerings: it looked like you ski Nosedive Bypass down to Rim Rock to at least Cliff Trail, and maybe more -- all au naturel!

But time was short, as was my breath, so I continued on up -- only to discover a band of Canadians hikers in shorts and Tees, standing upon the gravel of the Toll Road. I was expecting to see a ribbon of white ascending to the summit, but they have apparently plowed the road -- and opened it! Got some strange looks from a custom pick-em-up with Florida plates as it slid on past me en route to the summit.

Despite the desecration of Sacred Snow on the Toll Road proper, there appeared to be plenty of the Holy Stuff on either side, so up I went, eyeing the trees above me. Coverage above 3500 feet seemed pretty complete. I stopped for some photos of the stake -- now reading fifty something -- for the archives, and then kept on truckin'.

Finally arrived at the Summit Station, elevation 3830 feet, and a reasonably full parking lot. Doesn't seem fair that these people drove up listening to their awful pop music on their stereos: the view of the summit, still swaddled in snow, was the sort of view you should have to earn. Even with the plowing, the final ascent up the Toll Road was other worldy. Seemed like I had stepped well back in time -- not just into winter, but to an ancient Ice Age.

At the summit, I started south for a dozen yards along the Long Trail, and then slipped off to the left of the trail and out underneath the cliffs of the Nose. With a nod towards the distant homes of my erstwhile companions Marc G and Jonathan K, I headed out to explore the Booger Snowfields.

This can't be June, I thought. While there was less snow covering the dwarf pine trees than really needed for a perfect Booger run, there was still way far too much more snow than there is any explanation for. I strap on my telemark boards for the first time in what, over five months? and head on down.

No doubt about it, at no point did I ever make a good turn. But they were fun turns, to be sure! Skied on down through the snowfield to almost the Toll Road, and then veered right to follow the road just inside the trees, all the way down to the Upper Nosedive Extension above the Octogon. A bunny trail, to be sure -- I saw the bunny to prove it!

Had to walk down 10 feet, then up to the Quad unloading station, and then down just a little ways until the snow reappeared on Lord, just about where the Quad comes over the crest of the summit. Skied right on down Lord to the Liftline/National corner, and doubled back to Liftline. Missed a turn where the snow narrows to about 2 feet and woke myself up with a hard body slam into the cat track as I discovered the difference between skiing on snow and skiing on gravel.

Liftline was just wonderful all the way down to the first Midway intersection. Another 75 feet of walking, and then right on down the last steep pitch to the second intersection at 2000 feet.

Yahoo! I did not do a single telemark turn (well, maybe on Lord) the whole way, and I don't care. I seemed to be cranking out some pretty solid Christianna turns, so what the heck -- it was sweet, nonetheless. Eighteen hundred feet of vertical pay back for a 2300' climb -- that's a pretty good ratio.

The final hike down to the car was sheer torture. Tele boots are not meant for downhill hiking. Go figure.

I swear, this was positively the last time I go skiing this season. Finis. No, really.

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Last modified May 23 2002 08:06 PM

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