Stowe, VT 22JAN2017

An image of low clouds in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Thick, low clouds down to the base elevations and soft snow were the themes of the day today at Stowe.

The midweek period this past week saw some decent snows, with 6.5 inches at our house, and accumulations up to 10 inches at the Vermont ski resorts.  There was some great skiing at Stowe on both Wednesday and Thursday, but I was too busy to hit the slopes and check it out.  Today we were at Stowe for our weekly BJAMS ski program though, so I finally got to check out the latest conditions on Mt. Mansfield.

On our drive to the mountain we noticed that there’s not actually a ton of snow down in the center of Stowe Village, but the snowpack builds as one heads up the mountain road, and it’s quite hearty once you get up to The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ elevation.  The snow depths simply skyrocket after that, and Mansfield’s snowpack is quite impressive.  This shouldn’t be too surprising with 52” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, but it’s still great to get out there and experience it firsthand.

An image of a snowman drawing on the wall at the Octagon atop Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontToday in our group we had many of the usual crew, like Jack, Dylan, Jonah, and Norris.  Ken is still taking it easy due to his injury, so our new additions were Nolan and his kids Sophie and Evan.  They fit right in with the group, so I suspect we’ll have a lot of fun whenever we’re together.  After an initial run on Sunny Spruce, we quickly headed over to Mansfield to check out some steeper terrain.  We skied the Bypass Chutes, as well as Goat and Starr from the top.  While coverage isn’t yet perfect on those routes, it’s pretty darned good, and that says a lot if those steep pitches are reasonably covered.  I was concerned about what the snow surfaces were going to be like with the cloudy conditions today, but the snow was beautifully soft at all elevations with temperatures in the 30s F.  The Nosedive Glades were fantastic – and they’ve definitely done some additional clearing in there to enhance some of the lines.  Overall, today was actually like being out there on one of those awesome soft days in April with the hefty snowpack.  I’d say the main drawback on the hill today was the visibility, since we were in the clouds the whole time.  In some elevation bands it was pea soup, but it was more reasonable than at many elevations.

An image of some BJAMS students at the Octagon atop Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Hanging out in the Octagon today while the crew re-hydrates

We’ve actually got a storm coming into the area tomorrow evening that should bolster the snow pack even more.  The storm is expected to have some mixed precipitation with it, but plenty of liquid equivalent, so it should really be a good shot to add to the season’s base.

Ranch Valley & Stowe Cross Country Center, VT 07JAN2017

An image of a sign for the Burt Trail on the trail network at Stowe Cross Country Center in Vermont
Out on the Burt Trail today for some backcountry skiing

It’s been a relatively slow week for snowfall in the Northern Greens, but Stowe did manage to pick up roughly a foot of snow between Wednesday and Thursday.  Since the Mt. Mansfield area seemed to be a sweet spot with respect to snowfall, I decided to head out for a backcountry tour in the Ranch Valley, which sits just to the south of the resort’s alpine trail network and is the location for Stowe’s Cross Country Center.  I’ve been through the area numerous times when coming down the Bruce Trail, and I’ve sampled some of the natural glades that populate the middle elevations in that area.  I could see that there was much more skiable terrain to explore though, so I decided to check out what the areas around the Burt Trail had to offer.

Temperatures were in the low to mid 20s F in the local mountain valleys as I headed up to the Stowe Cross Country Center to start my tour.  It turns out that Mrs. Blanck was behind the counter when I was buying my trail pass, so we were able to catch up a bit and she gave me an overview of some nice glades that she’d heard of as we reviewed the backcountry portion of the trail map.

My ascent route consisted of starting on the Timberlane Trail and using Cross Cut 2 to get to the Burt Trail.  The recent snows were certainly elevation dependent, so there was only about an inch of fresh snow atop the snowpack down near the base of the Cross Country Center at ~1,000’.  It did increase as I ascended, reaching a couple of inches by the time I hit the Burt Trail, and nearly 4 inches at the top of my ascent at the junction with the Underhill Trail.  Here’s the general depths of surface powder I found on my tour with respect to elevation:

1,000’:  1”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 3”
2,500’: ~4”

An image of a hut along the Burt Trail at Stowe Cross Country Center at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Passing a hut along the Burt Trail

The backcountry portion of the Burt Trail starts right around 1,500’ elevation, and getting to that point represents a pretty hefty approach of over two miles, so that’s about the minimum distance one will have to go on this route to get into terrain for potential descents.  The Burt Trail really starts to steepen above 2,000’, which one hits at close to three miles in.  At that point it’s comprised of switchbacks to accommodate the steeper terrain.  That area is still mostly hardwoods, with scattered evergreens, so tree density isn’t too bad and one can easily cut the switchbacks and ski through the forest.  That terrain is pretty steep though, so one would want a decent amount of powder for it to be optimal.  Based on darkness and trying to ensure that I made it back to the Cross Country Center by 5:00 P.M. since a sign that the parking lot gate would close at that point, I only ascended to the junction with the Underhill Trail, but I could see that there was plenty of similar terrain right up above me.

As for the skiing and conditions, one would definitely want more powder above the base than what I found today, but I was still able to get in some decent turns.  I had my midfat Tele skis, which were certainly not all that light in the overall spectrum of Nordic equipment, but I was thankful to have something that could handle the descent well.  I cut the Burt Trail switchbacks and skied the fairly open forest in some spots, but I could actually stay on the trail itself for the most part where it mattered.  Only one person had gone up ahead of me above 2,000’ on the trail and they must have descended another way, because there was no descent track.  So the Burt Trail itself was relatively untracked and I got some of my best turns of the afternoon simply by staying on it.  The terrain in the 1,500’ to 2,000’ range offers some options off the trail depending on the pitch of the terrain, but I just ran my descent out the trail itself based on the snow conditions and my time.  The whole runout back to the Cross Country Center is actually pretty fun, and you can really cruise along at times, but you will have to do some skating and deal with a couple of small uphill sections.  It’s quite similar to running out the Bruce Trail though, and indeed the route is identical in some spots, so if you’ve done that you’ll have a good sense for what this is like.

An image showing GPS data on Google Earth from a backcountry ski tour in the Ranch Valley of Vermont near Stowe Mountain Resort
Today’s backcountry ski route in the Ranch Valley

It looks like we’ll be in a fairly active weather pattern in the foreseeable future with some clipper-type events and larger synoptic systems with potential mixed precipitation, so we’ll see how these play out in terms of bolstering the snowpack.

Bolton Valley Nordic Center, VT 02JAN2017

An image of the cover to the newest version of Bolton Valley's Nordic & Backcountry Trail Map
The beautiful cover to the newest version of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry Trail Map

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been out for a genuine cross country ski session, but that’s what I got to do today at the Bolton Valley Nordic Center.  E planned to take the boys up to the resort’s sports center for some swimming this afternoon, and with a fairly short window of time and not much new snow over the past few days, some cross country skiing seemed like the perfect fit.

The resort was again quite busy today with many people off from school and work, and indeed the lift queues looked fairly substantial as we passed by the base lodge.  We were able to park right down by the sports center and E and the boys headed roff to the pool while I got my gear together.  I took a nice round trip out on Broadway and Maple Loop, and enjoyed the ability to actually ski in the tracked lanes.  Where possible I used the tracks and skied classic, but also skated in some spots.  My skis aren’t really skate skis, but I was able to fumble through some strides.  I jumped into the powder off the sides of the trails a few times and even managed a few Telemark turns, but I was thoroughly reminded of just how unstable real cross country skis are.

An image from outside the Bolton Valley Nordic Center at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

The boys had a lot of fun catching balls as they jumped into the pool and did everything else they’ve missed since the last time they were in the water.  We walked up to get some sandwiches from the deli before we left, and could see the mass exodus of visitors heading back to their cars as the ski day ended.  Based on what we’ve seen over this holiday period, I think the resort has seen a lot of visitors thanks to fairly decent ski conditions, so hopefully that’s been a big positive during what is typically the biggest week of the ski season.

Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2016

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan and Dad were out today at Timberline for a quick afternoon ski tour.

Dylan and I headed up to Bolton Valley this afternoon for a quick New Year’s Eve ski tour.  Based on my observations from yesterday’s outing, I knew that despite exposed areas being wind-scoured, many trails at Timberline were holding some great powder.  There were still resort visitors parking down at the Timberline lots, and while most had left by the time we arrived, there were still a few folks trickling down either by bus or via the trails.

“In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds.”

It was a cloudy afternoon, but temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s F as we ascended the Twice as Nice skin track.  We contoured across below the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station to avoid the wind scoured areas and descended via most of Spell Binder.  In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds.  We were typically skiing in depths of 5 to 10 inches, with the deeper are being those that were most protected.  Dylan had a great time and made some excellent turns – even on his bad side, which is getting better all the time.

An image of a snowboarder and companion heading to their vehicle in the Timberline parking area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some folks closing out their day of riding

We’ve actually got an Alberta Clipper coming through the area right now, but the current wind flow seems to be sending most of the snow off to the east of us.  We’ll see if that changes to bring any accumulations to the mountains for tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 30DEC2016

An image of the White Rabbit Glade with fresh powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An afternoon visit to Bolton Valley today with some first tracks on White Rabbit

I haven’t been up to the mountain for turns since last week, but today when I arrived at Bolton Valley I was reminded just how popular skiing can be over the holidays.  I pulled into the Timberline lot expecting to find a few cars from folks earning turns there, but found it nearly full of vehicles.  The main lots had presumably filled up, and I could see that the shuttle was ferrying people to and from the Timberline lots.

An image of some toppled chairs with snow at the Timberline Base Area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAlthough the Timberline Quad isn’t running yet, I was starting at Timberline today as part of a combination sidecountry and lift-served tour that I’d planned.  The resort had picked up 4-6” of snow yesterday from Winter Storm Fortis, and an additional 4-5” the previous day from a weak cold front, but I didn’t expect that to be enough snow for a thorough resurfacing that would hold up to holiday skier traffic on all terrain.  The Wilderness Lift is running though, so my plan today was to skin up from Timberline to the main mountain, catch a lift-served run through White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and then return via some Timberline skiing.

An image of ski tracks on powder snow on the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontThe skin up Timberline was very pleasant, and I saw a few skiers and riders skiing the trails to make their way back to their vehicles at the Timberline Base.  I could see why Timberline isn’t open for lift-served skiing yet though – exposed areas were really windswept and wouldn’t be able to support lift-served levels of skier traffic.  Sheltered areas like most of Spell Binder, Brandywine, and Tattle Tale looked really nice though with all the new powder, and I suspected I’d find some great turns at the end of my tour.  When I reached the main base I found that there were plenty of visitors, but fortunately lift queues were almost nonexistent.  There was generally light snow coming down, with some hefty wind at times that was enough to cause a short stoppage of the Wilderness Lift when I was on it.  By the time I reached the top of Wilderness it was definitely cold – it had to be in the teens F, and feeling much lower than that with that wind.

“I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.”

I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape.  The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.  Snow Hole had seen a good deal of traffic, but there were still plenty of routes available with powder, and the traffic actually helped to compact the snow at the water crossings.  Lower Turnpike was its usual smooth self and offered a nice groomed surface on which to carve some Telemark turns.

An image of a man making balloon art at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontBack at the main base I had a little time to stop in for a slice at Fireside Flatbread, and it was sort of that transition time between day and night skiing with lots of visitors coming and going.  One of today’s holiday week activities was balloon art, and you could see people around with their colorful balloon headgear.

“I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.”

I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.  I quickly headed over to the Snowflake Chair and made my way toward Timberline.  I ran into a family on Timberline Lane trying to make their way back to the Bear Run condominiums where they were staying, and their younger son on a snowboard struggled to move along in the flats, and then struggled more on the ungroomed steep pitch of Timberline Run below.  I headed to Lower Tattle Tale to catch some fresh tracks in the powder there (which I’d say were actually the best of the day) but waited at the intersection of Timberline Run to make sure everybody in the family was getting along OK.  I actually had already pulled out my headlamp for the last bit of skiing since it had gotten so dark, and that was helpful in making sure the family found their way to their lodging.

It was a great tour today with plenty of powder, and it looks like we’ve got another storm coming into the area tomorrow.  Just as I was arriving at the resort today I got an alert that we’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory starting up tomorrow at 10:00 A.M.

Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2016

An image of Ty snowboarding at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty was back on the snowboard today as we headed back up to Bolton Valley to take advantage of yesterday’s new snow.

Since we found such great conditions on our outing at Bolton Valley yesterday evening, we decided to head back up for a little more skiing and riding today.  Yesterday’s storm had cleared out, so today it was mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 20s F – a great December day to hit the slopes.  Ty was psyched to get back on the snowboard, so E planned to work with him on his riding again today, while Dylan and I brought our Telemark skis to head off into the powder from the recent storm.

An image of the Vista Quad chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Moth Nature delivered a gorgeous December day for some skiing and riding.

We headed up to the mountain around noontime, and the resort was hoppin’ based on the number of cars in the Village lots.  With the weather and proximity to the holiday period, that wasn’t surprising.  E and Ty stayed focused on the lower mountain terrain so that Ty could continue to work on his snowboard turns, and Dylan and I took the Vista Quad to see what conditions were like on the upper mountain and make our way over toward Wilderness.  Skier traffic definitely had its effects on the snow surfaces, and we found lots of firm or icy areas on trails like Alta Vista and even lower-angle terrain like Sherman’s Pass.  Fortunately, Wilderness had seen much less traffic and the snow surfaces were excellent.  There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes.  We even made our way into the Wilderness Woods, and there was plenty of coverage and very little traffic.  Snowpack is certainly not an issue at elevation – I probed the depths at around 2,800’ over toward Wilderness and found as much as 30 inches.  The consistency of the snowpack is interesting.  There’s definitely a refrozen layer in there from the warm storm we had over the weekend, but it many spots it’s not really crusty, it’s just thick and has bonded pretty nicely to the snow that fell more recently.

“There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes.”

The snow from yesterday’s storm is holding up well and keeping conditions great in minimal traffic areas of low and moderate-angle terrain, so seek those out if you’re looking for soft turns.  Our next winter storm is actually coming into the area tomorrow.  It’s similar to yesterday’s event, with the potential for 2 to 4 inches in the higher elevations, but if it works out like that last one it should be another nice boost to the conditions.

Bolton Valley, VT 22DEC2016

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder at night under the lights at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We headed up to the mountain this evening for some turns and found some great conditions brought on by today’s new snow.

I was home this afternoon with enough time to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs before dark, with the incentive being a bit of snow that we picked up today from a small Alberta Clipper-type system.  Although the snowfall had generally been quite light in intensity today, it had been snowing continuously, and reports of 3 to 5 inches were coming in from the mountains.  I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested, so I figured it would just be a solo outing for me to scope out how the new snow was setting things up for coming days.  But, before I knew it, the whole family was interested in getting some turns, and once we confirmed that night skiing was on, up to the hill we went!

“…combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would.”

The temperature at Village elevation (~2,100’) was right around freezing, and while we were at the mountain the cloud deck fluctuated between there and Mid Mountain (~2,500’).  There was light snow falling the entire evening, and although we never went higher than Mid Mountain, there was no wind to speak of.  So overall, it was an incredibly nice time to be out skiing under the lights.  I measured 3” of snow in the Village parking lot, and generally found 3-4” on the hill, which jives perfectly with the 3-4” that I see this evening in the Bolton Valley snow report.  My liquid analyses down here at the house (500’) revealed a very mid-weight 10% H2O snow, and while we may have had a touch of compaction due to being slightly above the freezing mark at our elevation, I’d say that 10% density is fairly consistent with what the mountain received.  So the new snow has got a bit of girth to it and can float you pretty well on low- to moderate-angle terrain as long as there’s a smooth subsurface.

An image of Erica snowboarding in the Mighty Mite area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontOne thing that got Ty excited to head to the mountain this evening was the chance to do some snowboarding.  He’s big enough to use my snowboard now, so E said that she’d give him some instruction to get him started.  We all started off at the Mighty Mite to ensure that Ty was set on the board, and then spent the rest of our time on the Mid Mountain Chair so that Ty could work on his snowboard turns with E, while I worked with Dylan on his Telemark skiing.

An image of Jay skiing powder at night under the lights at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dad having a blast in the fresh snow!

There was plenty of powder available this evening off to the sides of the main runs and on the easily accessible side trails, and combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would.  There obviously hasn’t been enough liquid added atop the snowpack to keep folks from touching down to the old surface on steep terrain yet, but lower-angle to moderate terrain is skiing beautifully.  I suspect the groomed terrain could have been pretty loud before this new snow, but turns were very silent and peaceful tonight.  And, there’s the aesthetic quality of all the new snow.  Folks coming up for the holiday weekend should be pretty psyched, especially if Mother Nature tops this current snow off with a bit more from the system potentially affecting the area on Saturday.

An image of the dart board outside the James Moore Tavern at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe capped off the evening with a trip to Fireside Flatbread for the first time this season.  It was a quiet midweek evening, and service was really quick – we sent the boys downstairs to the cafeteria to get a couple of appetizers and the pizza arrived before they even got back!  Anyway, tonight’s experience with the soft conditions has got everyone in the family interested in getting more turns this weekend, so hopefully we’ll have another chance to get out and enjoy the new snow.

Stowe, VT 17DEC2016

An image of snow building up on a skier during a snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
We got to enjoy the new snow from Winter Storm Decima today on our annual school ski program training day at Stowe.

Each year in December we head to Stowe for the training day that gets us ready for our school’s ski program.  E is the director for the BJAMS program and typically takes care of the logistics on one of the weekend days, while a co-director would manage the other.  In the past, when the boys were younger and couldn’t stay home alone, we’d either set up to have someone watch them, or split the two training days between us and each go alone.  On those occasions, even though selecting the days was done well in advance, I always seemed to luck out and get the great conditions – comfortable temperatures, fresh powder, soft surfaces, etc., while E on the other hand would get refrozen crud, frigid temperatures, or whatever else you can think of that would make the ski experience less than stellar.

This year though, we were going to the training day together, and it looked like E was going to go for a ride on the luck train with me.  Winter Storm Decima was marching across the country, and the timing looked just about perfect for a great powder day on Saturday.  In fact, the National Weather Service Office in Burlington even felt strongly enough about it to incorporate a statement in their forecast discussion on Thursday:

“Should be a glorious powder day with mean snow ratios around 18-20:1 and temps gradually warming into the lower 20s valleys and upper teens mountains by early afternoon.”

By this morning, Winter Storm Decima had already begun to deliver snow as we headed off to the resort.  The snowfall rates weren’t outrageous, but it was a good steady snow and you could see that little bit of extra spring in everyone’s step knowing that training day was going to feature fresh snow.  As we gathered outside the Midway Lodge for the morning’s announcements, you could just see the snow piling up on the anxious skiers ready to get underway.

“There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.”

We had Steve for our group leader, similar to some previous seasons, and he regaled us with his usual assortment of giving lessons to celebrities and assorted well-heeled folks.  We did a quick first run off the Meadows Quad, and that was our first chance to experience the snow.  Oh was it glorious!  There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.  Stowe’s already hit 110 inches on the season, and we’re only about three weeks or so into it.

We had several runs on Spruce Peak before we broke for some lunch, then got a couple more runs in over on Mansfield.  Even after a day of weekend ski traffic, conditions were still amazing in the afternoon even on the most heavily-used areas.  The snow is deep-down good.  The only downside today was the chill in the morning at elevation with the wind, but it was still a small price to pay for such consistently awesome conditions.

Bolton Valley, VT 12DEC2016

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting out to Bolton Valley for a quick morning tour on the snow from Winter Storm Caly delivered some excellent turns.

Yesterday evening at some point after 9:30 P.M., light snow began falling at our house in Waterbury with the approach of Winter Storm CalyWinter Weather Advisories were put in place for a fairly moderate 3 to 6-inch snowfall, which was expected to fall overnight and into the Monday morning commute.

This morning for my 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS observations at the house I found 3.3 inches of snow on my snow measurement boards.  Snow was still falling in the form of small (1-2 mm diameter) flakes, and based on the density of the snow in the accumulation stack it appeared as though that smallish flakes had been the general trend throughout the storm up to that point.  My liquid analysis revealed that the snow was right around 10% water content, so it’s certainly not Champlain Powder™, it’s very much your typical synoptic snow.  This standard, medium-density snow is great in terms of building up the snowpack, which is important this time of year.

“…the turns could really flow, and they did.”

School was cancelled for E and the boys, not so much due to massive amount of snow falling, but presumably the timing right during the morning commute.  I wished them a good snow day, and headed off to stop in at Bolton Valley on my way into BurlingtonBolton’s Timberline area had looked just a touch lean on base when I check on my way to the resort on Saturday, but I figured with this latest round of dense snow it was time to check it out.  At the Timberline Base I’d say there was a similar amount of accumulation to what we picked up at the house – roughly 3 to 4 inches.

An image of a skin track for ski touring on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Making use of the great skin track on Twice as Nice today

The skin Track on Twice as Nice was in excellent shape, so I made good time up to the Timberline Mid Station, where I decided to mix things up a bit from recent outings and head a little father to ski Brandywine.  This turned out to be a great option, since it hadn’t seen any skier traffic and I got to enjoy first tracks.  While this new snow is fairly medium density, it actually skis quite well where no wind has affected it, and Brandywine certainly delivered there.  Although this certainly wasn’t out lightest powder of the season, today’s outing featured some of my favorite turns up to this point because the snow was consistent, there was plenty of base, and of course the untracked nature of the trail meant that I could get first tracks on whatever line I wanted.  That meant that the turns could really flow, and they did.

It sounds like we’ve got light snows in the forecast this week, with the potential for a larger system toward the weekend.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 10DEC2016

An image of the depth of powder on a glade along the Catamount Trail outside of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
In the backcountry today, the higher elevations held up to 20 inches of powder atop a roughly 10-inch base, indicating a snowpack of approximately 30 inches.

This is opening weekend for lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, but with only minimal terrain served by the lifts at the moment and fairly chilly temperatures in the forecast, I decided to make it my first visit of the season to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.  Although we haven’t had any big storms in the area in the past few days, we’ve had some lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes and additional snow from an arctic frontal passage that has given the mountains additional bouts of snow almost every day.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake is indicating a snowpack depth of 34”, and it’s definitely not just fluff.  With the high elevation and maintenance that goes on in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I’ll usually feel OK poking around on appropriate terrain once the stake kits 24” (depending on the composition of that 24”), so with 34” I figured it would definitely be ready to go.

I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon, and temperatures in the Village at ~2,000’ were in the mid-teens F, but fortunately there was minimal wind.  There was blue sky at times, but light snow was still falling off and on.  My goal was to head to the upper glades along the Catamount Trail out past the resort boundary.  Those glades are up around the 3,000’ elevation, so I suspected the snowpack would be more than sufficient.

An image of a new structure near Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I saw that there had been some recent construction up in the Bryant Cabin area.

I headed up the usual Bryant Trail, and the most interesting thing I saw was that there are some new structures going up around the Bryant Cabin.  One structure looked like a shed of sorts, and there was a larger structure that seemed to be partially built.  It also seemed that there had been some work done on the cabin itself.  In terms of snowpack depths, down at the Village at 2,000’ the surface snow was generally 14-15” of powder over a fairly thin layer of base snow.  Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ there was 16-17” of powder over a much more substantial base, and when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder.  I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range.  So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range, which seems pretty reasonable with the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 34”.

“…when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range…”

The skiing was generally excellent, especially in those upper glades.  Since it was afternoon there had certainly been some traffic up there, but I still found areas of fresh snow.  I made my way down via Gardiner’s Lane, and eventually decided to check out the Alchemist glade that I hadn’t visited in a while to the south of Gotham City.  It’s a south-facing glade, so conditions can be quite variable, but aspect almost doesn’t matter right now because we’ve had November/December sun over the past couple of weeks… and not much of it anyway, so south-facing terrain isn’t all that different from north-facing terrain.  One does have to watch out as they get down near 2,000’ though because the base below the surface snow does start to get pretty thin, so you don’t want to ski anything with many obstacles at that point.  One could easily just lap terrain up above 2,500’ though with minimal concern about base depths.  Skiing is definitely quite good up high right now.

A map showing a ski tour from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS/Google Earth plot of today’s backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley

There was a bit of accumulation of snow on my car when I got back to it after the tour.  It was rather minimal though, about ¼“ of new after 2 to 3 hours away.  Currently, Winter Weather Advisories are up ahead of our next storm that is coming into the area tomorrow.  I signed up for Washington County weather alert texts through VT-Alert, so I was notified of our Winter Weather Advisory just I was finishing up my ski tour today.  It was definitely nice to get that heads up right away without having to actively check, and it really doesn’t matter where you are.  Anyway, the advisory calls for a general 4-7”, which seems pretty consistent with what’s been expected of this event for a few days now.

Vermont Skiing & Winter Weather