The skiers returned from Montana to Craftsbury last week, on Tuesday, a day that also marked the beginning of a week of falling trees. Tuesday morning or afternoon (I’m guessing, since I wasn’t actually here) it started to snow, and by the time we landed in Burlington at about 5pm, there was a thick coat of slushy wet slop on the ground with more falling. During the drive to Craftsbury the precipitation turned decidedly more solid, but still wet and heavy, huge flakes and clumps of snow. All of us were relieved to make it safely to Craftsbury, and we settled back into our house and fell asleep amid a continuation of the storm.
The next morning I remember waking up a bit of rain/sleet on the window, and noises of wind, but nonetheless a beautiful wintery landscape, complete with snow-pasted trees and deep banks of white. As we prepared for a morning ski, an email message came through from Pepa informing us that there were many branches knocked down onto the trail and it would be great if we could help pick up some of them while out skiing. From our house, nothing seemed particularly out of place, though the trees had an above average amount of snow coating branches and trunks. However as soon as a few of my teammates and I entered the woods on our skis, it became apparent what the storm had been like – branches all over the place, big clumps of small sticks protruding from the middle of the trails like pins in a pincushion, and larger branches strewn about, and an occasional entire tree across the trail. The groomers were only able to take the machines around a few of the small core-trail loops, and even that I’m sure took considerable clearing. Beyond the few short loops of freshly groomed trails, all hands were on deck cleaning up the rest of trails. Kaitlynn and I skied a few of the core trail loops, and then ventured out onto Ruthie’s Run, which took a record-long time to ski around, between the constant pick-up-sticks and ungroomed 8+ inches of snow with an icy and grabby top crust. We counted big trees down on just Ruthie’s out and back trails – chainsaw-worthy trees – and our count reached 12 by the end, in addition to at least 15 small trees (actually mostly tree-tops), and at least 10 bent-over trees that would need to be cut or helped to straighten.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the bit of wind that accompanied the original storm that caused most of the problems – it was the weight of the heavy, wet snow that coated all the trees. Because Day One of major tree clean-up was followed by Day Two, and beyond… It seemed from reports that easily as many trees fell the night after the storm as the night of the storm – collapsing under the weight of the snow, tipped over the edge of their breaking points by more snow that continued to fall. We’ve had intermittent power outages at the Outdoor Center and the GRP houses since Tuesday night. On the second major clean-up day, I joined the crew out on the trails for the afternoon, dragging branches and trees and picking up countless sticks. Ruthie’s Run had been completely cleared the day before, but we spent 3 hours with 7 people out clearing it again.
Thanks a ton to the grooming crew including Keith, Lucas, DJ, Eric Schulz, Eric Hanson and all of the GRP athletes and everyone else who put in hours and hours clearing the trails and making them skiable again so quickly! And for operating the generators when needed and keeping the Outdoor Center going!
The rate of trees falling seems to be finally declining, and hopefully we’re nearing the end of power outages too, here a week after the storm. It’s still wise to be a little bit extra cautious on the trails when rounding blind corners, you never know what might have fallen down since the last time you skied the trails!