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| | |-+  January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Vermont
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Author Topic: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Vermont  (Read 3301 times)
MW88888888
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January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Vermont
« on: 01/29/06, 03:01 PM »

Day 30
1-25-06
The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Vermont
5" new, 30" - 40" base
Vertical: highpoint 3,100' to the Mt Mansfield Touring Center 1,000' = 2,100' VF



Built in June of 1933 by Vermont Forester, Perry Merrill (a popular run off the Gondola is named after him), and the famed CCC, The Bruce is the quintessential backcountry ski run in Vermont.  Some CCC trails have better snow (the Bruce faces south for much of its length), some have steeper sections, but none have the ease of access, length and jolly good ski terrain all mixed into one.  Catch the Bruce on a powder day, and you can almost hear the decades of laughter still ringing in the birch glades lining the trail.    

I had only skied the line a couple times, and always at the end of a ski day at Stowe, where you can leave the top of the Quad and with the right nose, poke your way into the top just beyond the Stone Hut.  After 3.5 miles and 2,600 VF you arrived at the Mt Mansfield touring center on the Mountain Road, where a prearranged car would be waiting for you or you would need to catch the $1.00 shuttle back up to the Stowe base area.  For this descent my father and I planned to climb it from the base and experience the trail as the Masters had done it 70 years earlier.  We'd climb until we felt like skiing, and enjoy the solitude of the Vermont forest.

We arrived at the closed touring center at 7:30 am and parked in the empty lot next to the first employee to arrive, the trail groomer, who was tackling the blessed 5" of new powder that once again blanketed the trail system.  A leisurely snow was falling and would fall all day, adding to the approx. 13" of snow that had fallen from the start of the storm cycle on Sunday.  Conditions in the BC were thin, at least at low elevations, but the ski trail would be marvelous skiing with the 3 foot base and all the new snow, especially as we gained altitude.  Dad was my partner for the ski, and he had never been up or down the trail, only looked at it many times from his x-country ski loop, which we would use to access the trail from the Touring Center.      

The Old Man is a cautious, deliberate individual and he decided to forgo a ski descent of the actual Bruce Trail in favor of just climbing it so he could judge the terrain for a future bid.  He was a damn good skier, but had never ventured 'off piste' and he feared hurting himself in the middle of no where, let alone ski with a heavy pack - all new experiences for a 66 year old dog.  For myself, I was honored to be witnessing the genesis a new passion in the Old One; I could see the buzz of excitement running through him as the wonder of a new goal enveloped him.  Skiing backcountry terrain is addictive, and I knew I was loading the syringe.  We were going to see if you can truly teach an old dog new tricks. Or, at least, we'd have a lot of laughs trying.

We followed the snowmobile trail out into the Cross Country trail system, I on my AT set up and Dad on his skinny skis.  He had his snowshoes strapped to his backpack for the Bruce and we chatted away up the 1.5 miles of groomed x-country trail.

As we neared the Bruce we saw we were not the first in the woods that morning, but were following the deep tracks of a moose that had walked up the trail earlier, the newly falling snow filling in his fresh tracks.  Second tracks behind a Moose - only in Vermont!  

Soon enough, we hit the unmaintained Bruce trail, and could see the open streams of the bottom still required tricky crossings, so Dad changed out of his x-country skis and into his snowshoes.  After the tricky bottom section the trail soon widened and we could see the remnants of tracks from skiers who had skied the trail the day before, obviously having enjoyed powder on the moderate joy ride.  After a couple hundred vertical of white birch forest, my personal favorite of all forests, we entered the tricky, steep, winding section of the middle and upper part of the trail, now lined with spruce and stunted hardwood and unforgiving dwarf pines.

Slowly we climbed, chatting away about everything and nothing, enjoying breaking trail and plotting our descent.  At 11:30 am we called the ball, a short 1/2 mile traverse to the Nosedive and some 500 VF of cruising from the top.  After 4 hours and 2,000 VF of relentless climbing, Dad decided he'd had enough.  I totally didn't mind as 'the business' was below us, and I wanted to be sure he enjoyed the descent as much as I would - the top section would need to wait until another time.  After libations and fuel were consumed we took off down the way we had come.

The upper sections were tricky skiing, some 15 feet wide and twisting, with little room for error and lots of trees to remind you to keep it together.  There was one obvious crux pitch, a narrow 35 degree chute that soon widened to a nice run out and powder field, and Dad decided to ride this section down on his butt.  Hands held high in the air and snowshoes pushing powder out in front of him, he smiled with glee at the impromptu ride, and I congratulated him on a descent with style.  

The rhythm of the descent was slow and methodical; I would ski ahead until just within sight distance and stop, plot the next turns ahead and savor the turns behind, as I waited for Dad to snowshoe down to me.  

At the intersection of the Overland trail we noticed strange striations on the young hardwood trees, like bear claw marks or moose rubbing their felt off their antlers, we couldn't really decide which.  Only certain trees were affected and I planned on investigating later this arboreal phenomenon.

Lower down we were startled by the one skier we would see all day on the Bruce, a single, helmeted lad who cheerily complemented me on my turns higher up the trail as he skied by, and then he was gone, once again we had the trail to ourselves.

At the switch out where Dad changed from snowshoes back to skis, we were glad to have no complications and we cruised and skated our way back out to the car arriving at 1 pm.

'That was great!' Dad said as we got back to the car, 'With a little more snow and a little work on my jump turn I should be able to do it from the top.'
'Yeah, Dad, and remember: there is no dishonor in side slipping in the backcountry.' 
'Or sliding down on my ass!' he said, and we both laughed.

I can't wait to return.
« Last Edit: 01/29/06, 03:55 PM by MW88888888 » Logged
peteyboy
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #1 on: 01/29/06, 03:36 PM »

I've gratefully followed trip reports for several years on TAY but never replied to a report.  Although I'm seven years removed from the homeland of the north-central Green Mountains, the Bruce Trail (as well as the Teardrop, Cotton Brook, The Chin and other romps through the birches) will always hold a special place in my backcountry skiing heart as the place I (and countless other relocated refugees) first fell in love with skiing under my own power, with good friends, away from anyone else and surrounded by the quiet beauty of the mountains the way they've always been.  Thanks for taking us all back home.
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kuharicm
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #2 on: 01/30/06, 07:19 AM »

What a great report! Thanks.

Reminds me of my good old days nearly (or really) missing ski races and such while skiing Tuckerbrook at Cannon or various hiking trails at Wildcat or Waterville... :-)
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Salal
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #3 on: 01/30/06, 01:49 PM »

Nice...Makes me miss the birches!!!!!!
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ski_photomatt
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #4 on: 01/30/06, 02:33 PM »

Sweet, thanks for the stoke.  I have vivid memories of skiing the front four at Stowe as a wide-eyed kid, dreams of Warren Miller and Scott Schmidt dancing in my head.  It's about time I re-visited those mountains and learned what the real skiing was about.
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Jerm
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #5 on: 01/31/06, 05:17 AM »

When I was at UVM I would occasionally cruise up to Mansfield just to get last run down Bruce. Any run that spits you out at a bar is pretty special. Especially when there is a few inches of pow on a faster/harder surface, the ~4 miles from Stone Hut to the Matterhorn just fly by. On deeper days, bang a left at a little arrow tacked to a tree and dive down Bruce Waterfall, a sweet old landslide scar into a wide open streambed. I can still the remember the day I discovered it, alone, late in the day, with wall to wall freshies.

If it werent for the 130" base up at the pass this stuff would be getting me depressed.
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peteyboy
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #6 on: 01/31/06, 04:09 PM »

Obviously, there are a lot of us out here who cut our backcountry teeth in Vermont and other Northern New England parts.  The addiction led us here, to the gluttony of deep winters and the fun hog paradise of 8 to 12 month seasons, the high alpine of the Cascades  and ridiculously long runs.  Sure, I haven't forgotten how maddening it was to get 18 inches of super cold, dry powder followed by a hour of rain then plunging temperatures to lock it up (hell, I'm here now because of it).  But when it's good there (further name-dropping: A1A, Hell Brook, Planet Marshmallow, Preacher, The Nose, innumerable shots on Camel's Hump and off Mad River, Smug's to Spruce), it's great.  I tip my Magic Hat to the barkeaters.
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lumenation
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Re: January 25, 2006, The Bruce, Mt Mansfield, Ver
« Reply #7 on: 02/03/06, 11:39 AM »

I have some fond memories of my time at UVM and days at Stowe. Not to mention Mad River, Jay Peak, Sugarbush and the annual pilgrimage to Tucks... Can't say the skiing compares to out here, but I had some good days in VT.
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