Our first multi-day tour of the year, the Southern 4-Day Tour, recently took place in Southern Vermont. With 27 people registered, our tour coordinators had a lot of coordinating to do. Fortunately, they are superstars and everything went quite well. Our friend and tour participant Lee Adams took time out of her busy schedule to share with us some highlights from her experience. Keep on reading below to see how things went!
On day-one of the 2015 Southern 4-Day Tour, twenty joyful participants skied south from the Healdville trailhead happy to be skiing after a somewhat frustrating start to the 2014/2015 backcountry ski season. There were new faces and familiar ones and roughly half of the skiers were end-to-enders. Our S4DT co-coordinators (Bill Herrington and Steve Fernandes) were also the day leaders for day-one. Their decision to ski north to south was wise. We skinned up the lovely newish trail on the northwest flank of Ludlow Mountain finding the snow cover “just enough”; in CTA parlance, rocks and stumps were exposed on the steepest sections. Snow began falling about an hour into the tour and continued throughout much of the day, almost to whiteout at times; more joy! It was quite cold so our lunch stop and group photo was quick. We finished the day on snowmobile trails – some of which were remarkably scenic and untraveled – with the benefit of several inches of new snow.
With morning temperatures below zero on day-two, the twenty-four skiers who left Buttermilk Falls, the southern trailhead for Section 10, wasted no time getting started. The immediate, precipitous climb was made even more warming when one of our day leaders (again, the tour co-coordinators were also our day leaders) decided to herringbone straight up the hillside, cutting switchbacks. The back half of the group wisely took the trail. Soon we made our way up the power line which held both bulletproof expanses of icy crust and powder pockets. Once we turned into the woods, however, we found beautiful, consistent snow conditions despite open stream crossings. There was a thick, unyielding crust for a base with + 6 inches of fluffy, dry powder on the surface. Still below 10 degrees, the group became spread out because everyone kept moving to stay warm. Recent maintenance of the side trail invited us to ski down through the trees to Tiny Pond where we gathered the group again for lunch. Skiers left the brief lunch stop in small groups to finish Section 10 anticipating downhill excitement. On the way down, looping excursions into the trees were irresistible and fabulous. We arrived at the northern trailhead at Nineveh Four Corners early in the afternoon, almost disappointed that the skiing for day-two was over. We gathered that evening at the Fernandes’ home for food, spirits, videos, singing (in French and English) and lots of warm conversation. Thank you, Bernadette and Steve.
Day-three exceeded expectations. We organized at the old Harry’s which is no longer there and sent half of the group to start at Tin Shanty which is no longer there. The key-swapping groups were buttressed by two cars at the bailout on Old Plymouth Road. As predicted, the exceedingly cold temperatures gave way to unseasonably warm ones; large fat flakes that began at about 11AM soon turned pasty and then just wet. The clumping was extraordinary. All key swaps were executed successfully just northwest of the height of land between Bear Mountain and Round Top. By late afternoon and soaking wet, both groups made their way to the trailheads where the fun did not end. Rain had become freezing rain and the roads at the trailheads were treacherous. A few skiers who hastily stepped out of their bindings found themselves abruptly seated in the icy road. A bright spot was when one driver found his hybrid vehicle thoughtfully warmed-up – having been left running all day at the trailhead. Cars and trucks were stranded and strewn about; only 4-wheel drive vehicles could move. After calls to 911 and an in-person visit to the Mt. Holly DPW by our day leader (Bill Michaels), the roads were treated and the skiers in 2-wheel drive vehicles made their way to hot showers and dry clothes. It was a successful day albeit physically challenging and dispiriting to see the beautiful, light backcountry snow turned to heavy mash.
First light on day-four revealed a beautiful thick blanket of new snow. Upon closer inspection, however, the snow was clearly the heavy wet stuff known in some parts as “Sierra cement”. Even though the ski resorts reported a foot of new snow at elevation, only one participant desired to ski. The leaders not only agreed to lead but changed the route to accommodate the one remaining skier, a dogged Section bagger. Our tour co-coordinators, Steve and Bill, the day leader (Pete Lane) and the Section bagger, managed the gnarly Section 12N in heavy, new snow breaking all the way and despite encountering significant storm damage.
All in all, the 2015 Southern 4-Day Tour was a great success and a delightful first CTA multi-day tour of the season.