All Time: The Fall White

A November storm that dropped three feet of snow in Vermont

Rob Fox gets a November face shot at Jay Peak. PHOTO: Tim Fater/Ski the East

Rob Fox gets a November face shot at Jay Peak. PHOTO: Tim Fater/Ski the East

WORDS: Tim Fater

It’s 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 degrees outside, and I’m standing next to my car in a blizzard. The winds are strong and I can barely see the base of the mountain a few hundred feet away. Damn, it’s cold, I think to myself. The lifts at Jay Peak, Vermont hang still. The ski resort isn’t slated to open for another two weeks. My friend Rob Fox, Jay Peak local Ashley Maxfield, and I slap on our skins and a few minutes later we’re trudging through the deep snow, alone in our ascent.

Flash back to the day before in Boston—my email inbox and cell phone lit up all day long with rumors of snow piling up in Vermont. I checked the weather for the hundredth time. Same story: temperatures in the teens, wind, mountain snow showers. This wasn’t a Nor’easter, no blockbuster storm. Feet? In early November? My phone rings. A friend-of-a-friend who just finished skiing Stowe says two feet. He heard there’s even more at Jay Peak.

It’s not unusual for a storm to drop a foot or so before the lifts start spinning here in New England. Over the past ten years, I’ve chased many early-season storms and have had a handful of decent days, but this one would prove to be different. Northerly winds, moisture, and cold temperatures mixed to create this system. Unlike the typical headline-grabbing early season storms, this one came with little fanfare. Just like that, winter arrived.

White is a good color for fall in Vermont. PHOTO: Tim Fater/Ski the East

White’s a good color for fall in Vermont. PHOTO: Tim Fater/Ski the East

Snow started accumulating the weekend prior, with Northern Vermont seeing five to 10 inches a day. No mountain fared better than Jay Peak, an infamous over-achiever during these weather patterns. When the blizzard finally receded on Wednesday morning, the mountain was covered with three feet of fresh.

We climbed through heavy snow and biting wind. All signs of autumn were gone. Because the snow came slow and steady over six days, each layer had time to settle. A firm base covered all the brown and green and the storm left two feet of windblown powder in its wake.

An hour later, Rob, Ashley, and I reached the entrance to Valhalla, a gladed trail draping the shoulder of Jay Peak’s craggy summit. We crossed the rope and passed a dangling closed sign to reach a chute-like entrance to a trail chock full of untouched snow. I slid down the first few hundred feet conservatively and sank thigh-deep into the snow without hitting bottom.

We looked at each other in disbelief. Mid-February is leaner than this. Is it really November? I set up with my camera and took photos of Ashley skiing her first line. With each turn, snow billowed over her shoulder. And so began an all-time November day.

Jay Peak local Ashley Maxfield and three feet of fresh snow in Vermont. PHOTO: Tim Fater/Ski the East

Jay Peak local Ashley Maxfield and three feet of fresh snow in Vermont. PHOTO: Tim Fater/Ski the East

Posted In: Backcountry, Places, Stories


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  • Shredthegnarpow

    I love that this mag preaches safety and awareness, and then comes a great article about feet of snow in the East and fans “crossed the rope” and “passed a dangling closed sign” and proceeded into “a chute like entrance”. Which is it Powder, safety? Or untracked snow?

    • Tim Kelley NECN

      Those signs are like the saloon doors in a western ghost town.. relics of a time long ago (May).. Nothing to do with reality of the day.

      • guywhoagrees

        i agree

    • Robert Fox

      Don’t worry, we did dug a pit, dropped a cornice, and used the new Avatech snow profiler to make sure the slope was safe.

    • Guest

      I was being plenty safe, right before I dropped into POW up to my stomach. Avalanche?! When’s the last time somebody was hurt in an avalanche inbounds in Vermont ?

    • J. Rando

      @shredthegnarpow:disqus There are closed signs all over most resorts before they officially open, and that includes all the resorts out West that are open to uphill travel. Not much of a skier, are ya?

  • Greg Petrics

    All-time? PHHHBBBTTTT Nov 2005 and 2006 > 2013

    this one has been sick tho fo sho

    • Ride or Die

      2005/2006 to 2013 = 8 years. I agree 2005/2006 were awesome, but those conditions returning for the first time in 8 years falls into the All-time category. Vermont is not Jackson. Either way – so jealous!

      • Greg Petrics

        Maybe you’re right. It just ticks me off when “some of [the] noisiest authorities insist[] on [snow events] being received …. in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

  • Tim Kelley NECN

    How The?
    What The?
    Had to see it to believe it. You guys know how to live!

  • Guest

    What an ill week! Safety?! When’s the last time someone was killed in an avalanche inbounds in an Eastern Resort? Never…besides I was getting plenty safe in the shack up top.

  • Shredthegnarpow

    Thats a fine attitude for The East, I guess. But please leave it there. PS. If its not steep enough to slide, than how can it be steep enough to ski waist deep snow?

    • Ashley A Maxfield

      I guess you have never skied on the East huh??

    • J. Rando

      Can it, ace. Your previous comment shows you’re clearly out of your depth.

    • yeahyeah

      it’s called humidity.

  • thinkthank

    Shredthegnarpow you’re a kook.

  • Doug Phillips

    You guys scored the goods – just dirty.

  • Shredthegnarpow

    I guess I must have struck a cord with all the “City” folk who drive themselves to the mountains every weekend. Keep calling yourselves “mountain men” in those hills you think are mountains. Here out ‘west’, we take safety a little more seriously as we have actual mountains. Good luck with the rest of your East Coast ski season…….should be icy!

    • J. Rando

      Please don’t speak for the West. I can assure you that none of us needs or wants your support, let alone to be associated with your wack-ass, ignorant attitude in any way. Also, I’m pretty certain that there are some gents in Vermont’s “hills” who qualify as mountain men much more than any douche who sits around claiming on the Internet and calling himself @shredthegnarpow:disqus.

      • Shredthegnarpow

        That sounds like “transplant” talk. Which east coast city did you leave for the “west”?

  • Turns

    Ignorant. Bubby. I have lived in the east skied Jay and have skied the west. Pow and friends are irrelevant of location. It’s not deep every time I ski, but it is between friends. Think about the last time You spent time laughing with good friends. Pow is pow dumb a. It’s the gift. So are our experiences that make life beautiful. Figure out your faults and stop spreading the little tiny ideas in your head.

  • jon

    you can skin up jay when it is not open?


    @shredthegnarpow:disqus, “you mad bro?” Avalanches at Jay Peak??? Have some humble soup you loser.

  • David

    I think shreadthegnarpow has some growing up to do with his judgemental comments lack of knowledge of the area an the fact that us eastern skiers can rip everywhere on the planet.
    Shreadthegnarpow sounds like a jelious entitled spoiled rich kid ( dude you need to find some zen in your life )
    Maybe you should come out east and ski with us city kids here at Jay and try your luck at Madriver Glenn.
    Either way is rather ski on what you call ice than go out west and ski with a so called skier like you.

  • Shedthebadartitude

    Shredthefnarpow….where out west exactly do you live? You sound like a DB from LA who gleans their feeble knowledge of the outdoors reading homoerotic rag mags like Men’s Life while sipping decaf latte mocha chinos in artsy-fartsy coffee houses. Or maybe your a DB NY’er, who moved to Aspen cuz it’s the only place you can still wear all black and can hang with pseudo-German/French poser dudes cheek kissing each other in shiny Prada skiwear talking about how “rad” the bunny slope was this morning as you kept crossing your tips and running into 4 year olds ripping circles around you. Grow up fool! Lighten up too! I have nothing against you, I just take a little offense when someone makes foolish comments about stuff they don’t know. I mean honestly….it sounds like the deepest snow you’ve ever seen is the big pile bulldozed up in the middle of the parking lot at your local shopping mall. Try and relax. Funny thing is, the world needs idiots like you….otherwise what would we have to laugh at when we are riding the lifts?

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