Deep Thoughts

In 2014/15, Vermont got more snow than just about anywhere in the country. Here’s a look back at the winter that wouldn’t quit and a toast to the coming season.

By Evan Johnson

There is nothing like waking to the muffled sounds of a world newly buried in snow. I call it “snow silence” and I can recognize it immediately.

It came the Tuesday morning after a busy MLK weekend. This storm was a gift to Vermonters, blanketing the Green Mountains in 10 inches overnight.

I threw my skis in the car. The storm could not have been more perfectly timed; the lot at Sugarbush was a ghost town and in 10 minutes I was on the lift.

As my world was reduced to contours or suggestions of its former self, I contemplated my deadline-driven day-to-day existence. Then I realized I had just one hour to enjoy an exercise of hedonism before heading to a press conference.

The first blasts of wind restored me to my senses. After storms, the cold doesn’t just plaster you in the face, it tries to force its way inside you; testing the seams of your jacket, boring into your eyes and nose and chilling your chest with every inhalation. Through gold-tinted goggles, I watched the remaining shroud of clouds peel from the summit of Mount Ellen to the north.

At the top of Lincoln Peak I looked down at 2,400 vertical feet of untouched snow and was immediately overwhelmed. I had just under an hour to ski as much as I could: where to start? After the briefest moment’s contemplation, the fall line on Ripcord was the natural choice.

The minutes passed in that serene silence as I blasted through turns. At the bottom, I hopped on again for round two. Halfway up, the wind picked up, stopping the lift for several precious minutes. With dwindling time, I flew down through another endless powder run to the lodge. I had just enough time to change out of ski pants. I burst through the door to my meeting wild-eyed, breathing hard and grinning ear-to-ear like a maniac.

No one was there. A few minutes later, John Atkinson, Sugarbush’ s official snow reporter, arrived to lead the meeting. He was still wearing his ski boots, dripping melting snow all over the carpet.

If there were a prize awarded for “best winter,” Vermont would have claimed first for the season we had last year. Ranking far ahead of its western cousins, Vermont’s 19 alpine ski resorts logged the most snow in the continental United States, averaging 240 inches per resort and attracted more skier visits than any state except Colorado.

Jay Peak led the way with 357 total inches over the season. Killington Resort supplemented over 200 inches of the natural stuff with an expanded snowmaking, bringing base depths on Superstar to 30 feet— enough to keep skiers and riders hiking to the trail into summer.

If you don’t take our word for it, take the story of Stowe-based ski legend Jay Bowen, who skied just about every day from late October until the Fourth of July, all over the country. His top location for all of those months? Vermont, which for a guy who has skied for Teton Gravity Research and Warren Miller films, that’s saying something. Presently he’s skiing in South America, giving him 11 straight months on snow.

Looking forward, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its official outlook for the 2015-2016 winter, predicting what could be the strongest El Nino event in 50 years. For now, Vermont is predicted to have an average snowfall, but if the polar vortex returns, the Northeast may have another winner on the way.

It’s still a few weeks yet before the temperatures dip and we start to keep an eye on the forecasts. For the sake of nostalgia and as a way to get ready for the winter around the corner, here’s an illustrated tour of the epic winter of 2014/15.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.