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Before long, the windy, adrenaline pumping entry to this historic Mt. Mansfield ski trail gave way to a more relaxed traverse along the mountainside, giving our legs a chance to recharge, and our senses a moment to take it all in. There was not a chairlift in sight. We had climbed all afternoon to reach this run, and now had the mountain to ourselves.In many ways, entering the trail was like skiing through a portal in time…all the way back to 1939.

Ahead lay the heart of the Tear Drop Trail, a down-mountain ski trail created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (a work relief program developed as part of the New Deal to help construct trails and shelters in national parks) in the late 1930s—several years before the first chairlift, a single chair, was installed on the Stowe side of the mountain in 1940. Several other ski trails, including the Bruce Trail and Nosedive, came before Tear Drop, and collectively, these backcountry ski trails blazed the way for a culture and economy centered upon alpine adventure and recreation that defines the region today.

As the advent of chairlifts lured skiers away from backcountry options, some of these original trails were abandoned; yet in recent decades, many have been revived and remain accessible today via the Trapp Family Lodge and Mt. Mansfield nordic trail networks, from the higher ridges of Mansfield, and by more obscure backcountry routes. And trails like Nosedive, Perry Merrill, and Chin Clip now remain highlights of Stowe Mountain Resort’s liftserved trail network.

Continuing our descent on Tear Drop, which opens up appreciably after its challenging entry, we enjoyed the trail’s winding and flowing nature, with steeper alleys balanced by lower-angle sections. Towering birches and other tree forms were set aglow by the falling sun. Islands of trees sheltered pockets of deep, untracked snow. We took turns waiting up
and then watching each other ski past as plumes of powdery snow swirled into the air. We were immersed in a wintry and joyful wonderland, grateful for those who created and have helped to maintain these beautiful corridors through skiing time.

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