The Stowe Microburst Fallout // Ski Industry News
Here’s a little something from our own backyard- this past Summer a Microburst hit Mount Mansfield right here in Stowe, VT. A lot of you probably heard about it this past Summer when it first occurred, but seeing as there’s finally starting to be some snow in the woods here, there’s a new relevance.
For those not yet familiar with the term, a Microburst is a powerful weather event that generates extreme winds within a small area. Specifically, a Microburst is a column air that sinks extremely rapidly. Imagine holding one end of a straw about a half inch from your hand, and blowing into it as hard as you can. That’s basically what a Microburst is on a tiny scale. As you can imagine, the wind coming out of the straw pushes itself outward in all directions as soon as it hits your hand, causing strong, 360 degree winds.
This is what happened on Mount Mansfield last July in a popular glade area known as “Goat’s Woods.” The destruction in this area was incredible, with fully grown trees being completed uprooted and knocked over. What’s left is a gnarled mess of full grown trees, scattered like a game of pick up sticks. The only difference here, unfortunately, is that no one will be picking up these “sticks.”
Of course any tree skier is going to say, “Thanks Mother Nature! Let’s clean this mess up and get some great glades out of it!” The problem though, is that this land is actually owned by the state of Vermont, and is only leased by Stowe Mountain Resort. That means that it’s the Vermont Department of Forest and Parks’ decision about whether or not to clean things up. To the dismay of Stowe locals, the decision’s been made to avoid unnecessary labor and danger- opting instead to let nature run its course.
So what does that mean for skiers? Right now, all we can do is wait. There’s already a great deal of concern swirling around the mountain regarding the dangers of this area. Between the popularity of this section of woods for tree skiing and the allure of freshly cleared trees, there’s no doubt that there will be skiers and riders who duck the ropes and ignore the warnings. What ski patrol is worried about, is the possibility of hidden dangers. Due to the tangled nature of the mess, there is almost certainly going to be numerous tree wells, hidden tree trunks, and all kinds of other dangers. To the unknowing skier, what might look like a fresh line through the disaster could in reality be a pit where a trees roots once grew.
The good news about the whole situation though, is that Stowe was able to clear any trees, limbs, or debris that landed on any already existing trail. That means that both Midway and Goat will be unaffected and completely skiable for years to come! As for the woods in this area though- take heed of the warnings and stay away! This terrain is likely to be a mess for quite a while.
Gardner, Tommy. "Microburst takes out 6 acres at Mansfield ski area" Stowe Reporter. Stowe Reporter, 24 Jul. 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
"Microburst" Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 6 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.