Great day to earn turns in the Vermont backcountry

Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 05:25 PM

In the Vermont backcountry, what goes up...
...must come down!

With temperatures in the “balmy” 20s and the sun trying to come out, it was a good day to hit the backcountry and earn some turns. 

The Skimeister and I headed for Underhill, Vermont, on the west side of Mt. Mansfield. We parked at the Stevensville trailhead— a popular trailhead where parking often gets tight — and we put climbing skins on our skis. Here you can ski up to Nebraska Notch or the Overland Trail (also called the Underhill Trail by longtime skiers of this area). We had our sights set on the Overland Trail and noted that many others had been on this trail since the last snowfall. It was a wide, well-packed start to the tour.

While Mt. Mansfield looked to be experiencing snowfall during our drive to the trailhead, once we got there the sun came out. What a treat to wear sunglasses and to not wear a neckwarmer today!

We soon came upon a fork in the trail and noted that most people bore right to go up the shoulder of Dewey Mountain. It looked like a super-highway. But we would bear left to stay on the red-blazed Overland Trail. We climbed to a saddle at 2,660 feet and the Devil's Dishpan — a rocky hole under a cliff. It was difficult to take in the view into Stowe's Ranch Camp Valley from the saddle because the old overlook has not been maintained. But we could get a few peeks including seeing Mt. Mansfield's forehead.

We donned helmets, layers and dry mittens at the saddle. It's always strange for me for a few minutes after I take off the skins. I have to remind myself that my skis are going to slide. Soon they were sliding down in between trees and hobblebush. The snow conditions have held up well; the top layer of snow was powder and not too fast and not too slow. We did find a few wind-packed areas. (It was windy up in the saddle.)

We kept an eye on the trail and found our lines to the left or right. We even crossed the Long Trail (white blazes). During our tour we saw snowshoers, many skiers on alpine touring gear, a couple guys on alpine skis and someone on fat tele skis. We had mid-weight telemark gear on.

We had fun despite a couple of snowy falls (me) and an unplanned dip into a damp spot next to the trail (Skimeister). He was glad he had brought a scraper. All-in-all this was about a 3.6-mile tour round-trip with a 1,260-foot elevation gain. It was great fun to be in the backcountry today! Hope you were out on the snow, too!

Filed in: Backcountry skiing, Mt. Mansfield

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