Embracing Opportunity: Photos from a Vermont winter

All photography by Shem Roose


Winter 2017 was a wild rollercoaster here in Vermont. The year prior rocked riders with with record low snowfall and warm spells, so despite best efforts, expectations were high for something amazing, or at least normal. I can’t say we achieved the later, but the former? Yeah, maybe. I rode powder in October, and by December the word on the street was we’d stacked a base depth that was as good or better than all of last winter. With high-elevation crevices and rocks slathered, our crew and many others ferreted out the lines that we couldn’t even touch last time around.

“If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes”

Every time around, you hear the grizzled New Englander’s refrain about the “January Thaw” being “good for the base.” Mark Twain famously noted, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes,” but even Twain might have lost his marbles when the mercury dances above freezing for days and days on end, in January. In short, temperatures soared, snow melted and morale dropped. Then, just in time, a February system rolled in, resetting the dirty and barren landscape, and reloading favorite zones with pliant and slashable blankets of powder.

This was from a day exploring a crazy high elevation temperature inversion event with Jesse Huffman, Nathanael Asaro and Tomas Ruprecht. The rest of Vermont was hunkered under a blanket of clouds, an apt metaphor for the general vibe on the day of Trump’s inauguration. With no expectations, we all drove to the mountain and rode the lift up, surprised to find the top fifth of the the mountain in the sun. After hiking the summit our crew was awed to see Vermont’s highest peaks thrust like islands in a sea of gray.

But by the mid-March, we’d weathered yet another thaw, with hope running as thin as the withering snowpack. And of course, just when people were dusting off mountain bikes and talking about switching out their snow tires, another massive storm inundated the state. It happened again, just in time for April Fools day to be a banner outing for riders that had held off on tire rotations, and held out for one more chance to run their favorite tree stash at full speed.

Going to such extremes can drive some folks crazy. Yet, for others it just hones the commitment to getting after it when the getting is good, whether that means hiking under a bluebird sky or chasing frozen waves in a snowstorm. By now I think you get the gist of what Shem Roose was documenting this year. So now go enjoy his images of shredders making do and making good on a crazy, crazy winter.

Already humbled by the view, our crew really didn’t have massive shred expectations. But when we dropped in, the conditions didn’t disappoint. Tomas Ruprecht’s toeside style brought perspective to an already crazy day.

Nathanael Asaro dropped his skate-influenced style to his favorite wintertime canvas.

Hiking and exploring in Vermont calls for a certain amount of spontaneity— you never know what, or who, you’ll run into. We bumped into Jesse Curran on the bootpack and his playful and poppy approach was a welcome addition to the day.

Vermont has a small but sassy stash of freeride zones if you know where, and when, to go looking. Jesse Huffman capitalizing on epic December snow totals and connecting slash to chute.

December brought banner early season conditions. The combination of still-prominent natural features with powder stacked into the high elevation nooks and crannies was just what riders like Ralph Kucharek needed to get sendy.

With the first few face shots of the season bagged by October, John Murphy was more than ready to start chucking buckets. Mid season snap and release.

When the snowpack is solid and the storms start pounding, there’s nowhere better to be than in the trees with your friends and the stillness of newly fallen snow. Ralph Kucharek, John Murphy and Tomas Ruprecht taking in a quiet moment before the powder whoops echoed through the hardwoods.

By mid-winter Vermont was ready to unlock all of her best secrets. Ralph Kucharek caught in the transition between turning and burning.

The storms that slathered the state in February brought some seriously playful snow conditions. Somewhere between surfing and skateboarding, these days were so deep Ralph Kucharek couldn’t tell the difference between takeoff and landing.

With crazy amounts of powder and hungry riders lighting up the tried and true lines, this winter called for some lateral thinking. John Murphy walked off the beaten path to find this rocky popper.

By March, the snow had fallen in stacks and piles— it was simply stuck, to everything, a rolling, white on white blanket that invited power boat style flotation, and riders like Jesse Huffman to toggle between planning and pillaging.

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See also: Free It If You Can: PowderJet Snowboards poach Vermont’s ski-only resort, Mad River Glen

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