Article | Snowboarding | Feb 2009 | M.McKennedy
Vermont back country snowboarding and skiing at it’s finest. I had the pleasure of joining four skiers and one other snowboarder in Underhill, VT on Mt. Mansfield for a sweet day of carving up powder on The Teardrop Trail.
The Teardrop Trail was originally cut in the 1930s, from what I have been told. Descending from the west side of Mt. Mansfield, the trail offers steep, narrow, twisting, tree-line classic Vermont back hill powder skiing and riding. Needless to say, this is not the type of ski/snowboarding trail for beginners and do yourself a favor, wear a helmet!
After fueling up on a good breakfast and (a bit too much) coffee I met a group of guys at Mills Riverside Park in Jericho. We climbed into two cars and headed out to the entrance to Underhill State Park. We parked on the side of the road right before a gated trail-head. With snowshoes on, boards strapped to backs, helmets dangling off backpacks, and skies fixed with skins (a thin coating of textured plastic that is appended to the bottom of the ski to add climbing capabilities) we made (what we assumed were our) final gear adjustments and began the ascent.
This was a first for me, well…. back in 1984, when I began riding a board all I did was back hill riding, but I never hiked up a mountain with a board on my back before, nor had I done it in snowshoes – small hills yes, plenty….but Mt. Mansfield is over four thousand feet tall! To add to all of this; it was my first time on a board in two years, and I had not been exercising regularly. Within fifteen minutes of hiking we stopped to remove a layer of clothes.
Another thirty minutes later we stopped to rest for a short period. The pattern went on and on for the entire hike up the snow-packed trail. At some points we stopped every few minutes to catch our breath as the grade of the trail was incredibly steep at times. I recall a few moments where I asked myself how I planned on getting back down the mountain if my legs were already burning from exertion. There was even a point where I contemplated stopping and riding down from there. Needless to say, it was a tiring hike up but when you are with a group of guys there is plenty of testosterone going around to help push through the doubt.
After hiking for three hours we decided that the trail was narrow enough for our tastes. It had been about three feed wide for several hundred yards and none of us really knew where the starting point was. The evergreen trees were thickly clumped with nearly a foot of snow. The wind chill nibbled at every part of the body, exposed or not. We knew we were near the top but by this time most of us were saying… “This is far enough.” “We should stop right up there.” “It looks somewhat sheltered. This looks like a good place to stop.” “This trail has been a mere few feet wide for a while now, I am ok with stopping here.” Eventually we did stop and I was exhausted and I mean completely drained of any energy. Doubt began creeping up on me again. I began thinking about the possibility of getting hurt. You know…legs tired, can’t hold yourself up and BAM! into a tree!! That would not be good!
Anyway…I squashed those thoughts and began focusing on stretching and regaining the energy to get me down that mountain not only in one piece but with style as well. We fueled up, strapped on helmets, put on extra layers, strapped boards to feet and began the descent on the Teardrop Trail.
Within a few feet I realized that wearing a backpack with snowshoes hanging out of it (I was ill-prepared – the backpack I was wearing was a bit small), required a quick adjustment to my riding style to account for the extra weight. Within a few turns I had a good feel for how to manage the fresh-powder-lined trail. I aggressively attacked the trail, forcefully carving my board into the into the side of the mountain, back and forth and side to side to control both speed and direction. The sides of the trail were a haven for powder-hungry skiers and riders. A quick b-line off the trail and into the woods exposed untouched tree-runs of knee-deep powder for the adventurous. Jump back onto the trail to explore the various bumps and jumps, springing into the air effortlessly and for great distances due to the steepness of the trail. All of this quickly burned up any energy I had and made me realize just how dangerously tired my legs really were. Luckily, the entire group of us stopped every few minutes to wait for each other which gave my legs short periods of rest. I could hear the yelps, and cheers of all of us while, each in his unique style, ripped up the Teardrop Trail just as others did 79 years ago.
By the end of the run a mere thirty minutes had passed but every single one of us was smiling as much as one can possibly smile. My legs were cramped and in pain but still I knew that I had just experienced one of the greatest snowboard runs I have ever been on. Someone popped the trunk of their car, pulled out some beer and everyone of us held our cans up high as we toasted to some of the best Vermont back hill skiing and riding there is. We stood for a while talking about how each one of us enjoyed certain sections or types of snow on the trail. We talked about the pain of the hike up, the pure enjoyment and satisfaction of the ride down and the possibility of doing it all again. The sweat beneath my clothes began to chill my body once more. We packed into our cars and headed back to Mills Riverside Park where we exchanged goodbyes and drove off to our respective homes.
Mt. Mansfield’s Teardrop Trail is a hidden gem in a state filled with some of the best skiing in the northeast period! Smuggler’s Notch, Stowe, Jay Peak, Sugarbush – they all have their own charm and challenges but sometimes you have to get off the trail, away from the ski lifts and into the woods to find out what treasures really lay nestled in the forests of the Green Mountains and other areas of beautiful Vermont. If you are in Vermont vacationing, and you are looking for a challenge check out the Teardrop trail after a fresh powder-dump and you will never look at skiing and riding the same again.