Classic Sidecountry Lines: Hell Brook, Stowe

February 7th, 2013 by

Words by Erme Catino

Hell Brook, the shortest and steepest trail from Route 108 to the summit of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, is a northeast-facing summer hiking drainage that undergoes a dramatic transformation in the winter. An average of 300 plus inches per year falls upon Mount Mansfield. The precipitation combined with fierce northwest winds that howl across Lake Champlain and up Mansfield’s western flanks and summit transform Hell Brook in to one of the deepest pockets off the ridgeline. That said, use caution during and after storms with high winds. Occasional pockets have been known to slide.

Jay Bowen in the Stowe backcountry. Stowe, VT

Jay Boden shot by Chris James

The line is a legitimate 2,600 vertical feet and begins like any New England stash: tight. But with each subsequent turn, wide-open treasures are revealed. Craggy stunted trees meet you at the entrance, and once the summer trail sign is buried, it’s a good indicator that you can pin it. The obvious descent is the streambed, but generations of hard-core skiers have carved nooks and crannies that offshoot the main drag.

Like many classic eastern lines, there are upper, middle, and lower sections. Linking these zones together in one fluid run, launching back into the ravine or off a drop as you enter the next stash can eliminate all preconceived notions about skiing the East.

From the top of the Stowe Mountain gondola, exit to the right, where you will see a bootpack and boundary sign. Follow the path to the summit. You have several options, but hit the Hourglass Chute—its eastern aspect and hourglass shape will be obvious. Once through the “Glass,” you need to work your way left around the Adam’s Apple and into the drainage where the summer hiking trail is located. Many skiers have gotten lost here or ended up down the west side of the mountain, so keep your bearings in check. Upon descending the ravine, you’ll pop out on Route 108, which is closed in the winter. From there, you’ll skate a mile down the road to the resort parking lot.

Hike: 6 Ski: 6

Related:

Introduction to Classic Sidecountry Lines, plus Cody Peak, Jackson Hole
Classic Sidecountry Line — DOA, Whistler Blackcomb
Classic Sidecountry Line — Munchkins, Alpine Meadows
Classic Sidecountry Line — Shuksan Arm, Mt. Baker

*Hike and ski ratings are in terms of difficulty: 1 being relatively easy, 10 being very challenging. This article originally appeared in the 2013 FREESKIER Backcountry Issue. Subscribe to the magazine, or get it on the iTunes Newsstand.

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