Brandon Gap, VT Trip Report: Early Season Pow Turns

Michael Nocek | | Trip ReportTrip Report

Trip Report: 12/01/2018 | Brandon Gap, Rochester, VT

Cole Gibson enjoying the last few fresh turns of Winter Storm Bruce, Rochester, VT.

A few days after Winter Storm Bruce dropped 2 + feet across the Green Mountain State, most of the state’s ski resorts were already skied out and the last bits of fresh tracks became increasingly difficult to find. The short-term forecast was calling for rain and it seemed that the last opportunity to score fresh tracks, at least for the foreseeable future, rested in the backcountry.

I called up a few friends to see who was around and available for a quick backcountry mission. I’ve never skied the Rochester/Randolph Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) trails before and figured this would be a great opportunity to do so. After all, these trails are less trafficked than nearby resorts and are located in an area that frequently receives the highest amounts of local snowfall.

Run 1

Early Saturday morning, we packed the car and took the short trip north up Route 100 towards the Brandon Gap. In less than 45 minutes, we were at the Bear Brook Bowl Trailhead which is the main access point for two of the four Brandon Gap Backcountry Zones.

Alex Jones and Cole Gibson considering our options at the Bear Brook Bowl Trailhead, in Rochester, VT.

After a short deliberation at the trailhead, we decided to check out the No-Name zone first. Accessing this zone, which peaks out on the Long Trail at 2,900-feet of elevation, is quite easy. A well marked and relatively short skin track starts right at the trailhead, making it an obvious choice for our warm-up lap.

It took us less than thirty minutes to reach the summit of the No-Name Zone, a perfect amount of time to get the blood flowing. We pulled off our skins, took a quick look at the map at the top, and began making our way towards the skier’s left side of the zone. Within moments we were greeted with fresh tracks and a number of features including this one below.

Our first run was a success. We found exactly what we were looking for and spent minimal effort doing so. There were a number of well-established tracks that led right back to the trailhead, which made our trip back to the car quite easy. At the bottom, we exchanged a few high-fives and began prepping for our second run.

Run 2

For our second run, we decided to take the mile drive up the road and check out the Goshen Mountain Backcountry Zone which is located at the top of the Brandon Gap. The skin track for this run started out along a 3/4 mile portion of the Long Trail and then veered right, taking us to the base of the Sunrise Bowl Backcountry Area. From there, we followed the track another 500′ vertical feet to reach the summit of Goshen Mountain which tops out at 3,292′ feet. Though this skin is longer and requires more effort than the No-Name skin, it is still relatively easy and very well marked.

Alex Jones and Cole Gibson at the summit of Goshen Mtn. in Goshen, VT

After a short lunch break at the summit of Goshen, we decided to explore the steeper descents on the skier’s left side of the zone. Our run started out with some very fun untracked turns in the high alpine meadows that filtered us down into the steeper and more narrow gladed areas just below the meadows. Further down the mountain the snow got heavier and the trees became narrower, but the coverage was still excellent.

A few shots of our run down the Goshen Mountain Zone

Trip Notes:

  • Skier’s left sides of both the No-Name and Goshen Mtn zones have steeper terrain than the skier’s right sides.
  • Sunrise Bowl, though mellow is very open and looks like it would be fun on a powder day.
  • If you ski the skier’s left side Goshen Mtn zone, make sure to cut right early enough so you don’t end up down in the next drainage. The hike up isn’t bad but can be easily avoided.
  • The skin tracks are well established and easy to follow, making it a great place for more novice backcountry skiers to gain experience.
  • The newly established Chittenden Brook Hut which is now available for booking is located fairly close to the Brandon Gap. To check for availability go to the Vermont Huts Association website here – https://vermonthuts.org/huts/chittenden-brook-hut/.

Route Recap and Additional Information

  • Run 1 Zone – Highlighted in Blue, Run 2 Zone – Highlighted in Red
Brandon Gap Backcountry Zones – Image courtesy of RASTA VT, Vermont Backcountry Alliance, Catamount Trail Association, and the United States Forest Service.

The Brandon Gap Backcountry Area, a joint project of the US Forest Service, RASTA, Vermont Backcountry Alliance (VTBC) and the Catamount Trail Association, is one of two backcountry ski and snowboard zones established by RASTA and its partner foundations. The other zone, the Braintree Mountain Forest, also offers VT skiers the opportunity to ski a network of backcountry trails and glades.

More information about RASTA VT – RASTA is a vast and growing network of sustainable multi-use trails and glades in the heart of the Green Mountains. The alliance, originally founded in the winter of 2013, was established to promote backcountry skiing on the area’s public and private land. With strong local support, it has since grown into a vast network of trails and glades for year-round recreational uses including backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.

Today, RASTA has two chapters – “RASTA Summer” and “RASTA Winter”  – RASTA Summer is a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA), while RASTA Winter is a chapter of the Catamount Trail Association (CTA), both of which are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. For more information about RASTA and how you can become actively involved please visit their website – https://www.rastavt.org !!!

Image: RASTA VT

Cheers and hope to see you out there!


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