Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 14FEB2021

An image of Erica skiing out through powder in the trees below the Buchanan Shelter in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the privy building by the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the snow up by the Buchanan Shelter near the start of our descent on today’s ski tour.

Yesterday I toured in the Beaver Pond area of the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, and the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.  The boys were both working during the middle of the day today, so we headed up during that window to do some additional exploring based what I’d discovered yesterday.

“…the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.”

Thanks to my explorations on trails like Moose-Ski and Grand View, I knew the most efficient and direct approach route to the Buchanan Shelter was to simply take the Catamount Trail to Beaver Pond.  I’d taken this as my final route out on yesterday’s tour, and it really worked well as a rather direct and efficient gravity traverse back to the car.  Indeed, it was quite the efficient route for the approach today, and it’s such a gradual incline that before you know it, you’ve gained several hundred feet of elevation.

During yesterday’s tour, I was pressed for time, so on my descent from the Buchanan Shelter, I had to stick near Upper Beaver Pond.  Today we had plenty of time, so we were able to explore more to the east to find the best lines.  There’s plenty of open forest for turns, and we were able to pick some fantastic lines that brought us right back down on Deer Run near the junction with Beaver Pond.  We also had plenty of time to enjoy additional turns in some of the low-angle powder on the return to the car.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS Tracking for today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlaid onto Google Earth

The powder was just as excellent today as it was yesterday, so it was a great ski outing.  And, the fact that it just ended up being the two of us was sort of neat in the context of Valentine’s Day.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13FEB2021

An image looking across from the Moose-Ski trail in the beaver ponds area of the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network toward the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a bucket loader covered with snow on a ski tour of the Nordic and Backcountry trail network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Views along today’s ski tour – a bucket loader covered with snow shows the various layers in the snowpack that have accumulated from recent storms.

Today was expected to be fairly chilly, with temperatures topping out in the teens F, and without any fresh snow in a couple of days, backcountry touring seemed to be the call.

I was looking for something new to explore, so I planned a tour in the southwest corner of Bolton’s Nordic & Backcountry Network.  I’ve only just scratched the surface of this part of the network in previous visits, so I was eager to see what options there were for descents with good tree skiing.  My anticipated route was to start from the Catamount Trail parking lot on the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~1,200’, head up through the expansive beaver pond meadows in the Mt. Mansfield State Forest, and top out around the Buchanan Shelter at 2,150’ below the Long Trail.

On my ascent I was on the lookout for potential descent options, exploring trails on the network such as Moose-ski.  The terrain was nice, but generally rolling, so while there were some nice short descents, it would be challenging to incorporate these into an efficient tour once my climbing skins were removed.  The views from that area across the beaver ponds did provide some great views back toward the alpine trails and the Village area.

An image of an old ski track in the powder near the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic and Backcountry trail Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Beginning my descent through the powder today near the Buchanan Shelter.

The best powder skiing terrain on the tour was definitely on the slopes below the Buchanan Shelter, with some nice areas of open forest.  The only sign of skiing in that area was an old ski track from someone that must have been there at least a couple of storms ago.  I suspect traffic is generally light in this area because it requires an approach that’s close to two miles, vs. much quicker access in many other spots on the network.  There’s a vast area of terrain for good descents off the ridge where Buchanan Shelter is located, enclosed by the Long Trail, Goat Path, Lower Maple Loop, Deer Run, and Beaver Pond.

Even without new snow in a couple of days, the snow preservation has been so good, that the quality of the powder is simply spectacular.  The snowpack I found was generally in the two- to three-foot range, but there’s such good density in the bottom layers that anything of concern is well covered.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

I was unsure how smooth the traverse out was going to be via the direct route back to the Catamount Trail, since I’d come in by an alternate route using Grand View and Moose-Ski.  Indeed, the direct route out on Beaver Pond is quite quick – it’s essentially a gravity traverse with a few spots that require glide and kick or double polling, but there are even spots below Caribou’s Corner where it’s steep enough that you can get additional turns in the powder outside the skin track.

Bolton Valley, VT 10FEB2021

Dylan skiing powder by a small evergreen tree in the Doug's Solitude area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing through powder after Winter Storm Roland in the Doug's Solitude area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty blasting through a bit of our surprise powder at Bolton Valley this morning.

While we haven’t really had any of those stretches this season where snowfall has really gone off the hook by Northern Greens standards, what we’ve had in the past few weeks has been a nice steady pace of snowfall from bread and butter systems intermixed with the occasional larger synoptic storm.  And that snowfall has indeed been steady – since the start of the calendar year at our house, we’ve only had four days without snowfall.  Indeed we also haven’t seen any massive blockbuster storm cycles in the area yet this season, but in many ways, it’s felt like a fairly classic Northern Greens winter period since about the start of the calendar year.  Part of the climatology here is getting those little surprises throughout the season, such as Winter Storm Roland dropping over 8 inches here, when only about half that was expected.  It’s good to take advantage of Mother Nature’s surprises when you get the chance.

An image of Dylan skiing powder in some open trees at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Skier traffic was fairly low this morning, so we had acres and acres of powder to ourselves.

To that point, I certainly hadn’t planned to ski today.  But, with the way it was dumping huge flakes here at the house this morning, and after watching it snow 2.5” in an hour, I started to reconsider.  I checked out the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam, saw just a whiteout of massive flakes, and that pretty much sealed the deal.  I told the boys that if we they didn’t have any meetings this morning, we definitely needed to head up to the mountain for some turns.  And so we did.

An image of Ty dropping off a ledge while powder skiing after Winter Storm Roland at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty dropping on of those powdery ledges today

We just stuck to Timberline, and skier traffic was low enough that there really wasn’t any need to go anywhere else.  We started with a run on Adam’s Solitude, but spent the rest of the day in Doug’s Woods and Doug’s SolitudeBolton is reporting 12” in the past 48 hours, but we were typically finding 12-16” off piste in the areas we were skiing.  The snow was absolute champagne, definitely in line with the ~2% H2O I’d gotten from my previous three snow analyses at the house, so it skied like a dream.  The boys had fun throwing themselves off just about any stump, bump, log, tree, ledged, or cliff they found.  And, Mother Nature even decided to treat us with some sun during the morning to let us get a bit more pop out of the photos from the session.

Bolton Valley, VT 07FEB2021

An image of Dylan skiing powder from Winter Storm Peggy in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty and Dylan approaching the mid station area of the Wilderness Double Chair at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys approaching the Wilderness Mid Station on one of our runs today

It had just started to snow when I headed up to Bolton Valley with the boys this afternoon for a session.  We had planned to start at Timberline, but we were surprised to find that the Timberline Quad wasn’t running.  It must have been a mechanical issue because it didn’t seem like there were any issue with the wind.

Today wasn’t the obvious powder day that yesterday was, but the snow continues to be fantastic.  We just had to travel farther afield to get into fresh stuff around the resort today, hitting areas like White Rabbit, Snow Hole, The Knob, Maria’s, various Fanny Hill Glades, etc.  The only spot on our list that we didn’t get to hit was Adam’s Solitude, since the Timberline Quad wasn’t running.

An image of Ty jumping into some untracked powder in a ski line off The Knob at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty comes flying into the picture during a run through some of that deep powder off The Knob.

The powder really just keeps piling up with each round of snow, making all the untouched areas more and more bottomless.  We had on and off light snow during the afternoon that accumulated to less than an inch, but it started dumping those huge flakes when we were leaving due to approaching Winter Storm Quade, so there should be some additional accumulation tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 06FEB2021

An image of Ty jumping off a ledge on skis in the Wood's Hole area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks on a powder morning after Winter Storm Peggy on the Spell Binder trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Early tracks and some sunshine on Spell Binder this morning

With Bolton Valley reporting 8” in the past 24 hours due to various rounds of snow from Winter Storm Peggy, we headed up for a session at the opening of Timberline this morning.  It was bright and sunny when we got there, but before long it clouded up and flakes started to appear.  For the rest of the morning it was generally cloudy with a bit of snow and the occasional appearance of the sun.

My depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ range revealed new snow depths in the 6-9” range, which was definitely consistent with the snow report.  The powder was pretty dry (3-5% H2O) so the new stuff alone wasn’t quite bottomless on piste on steep terrain, but it skied really well.

An image of Erica skiing powder from Winter Storm Peggy in the Wood's Hole area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica dropping through some powder today in the Wood’s Hole area

We ended up spending the entire morning and into the early afternoon at Timberline, starting off with powder runs on the trails, and gradually moving into the trees.  We hit some favorites that we had yet visited this season, like the KP Glades, Lost Girlz, and the Corner Pocket Glades.  Anywhere off piste that hasn’t seen heavy traffic, the new snow just bolstered the depth of that already bottomless snowpack that’s out there.

Bolton Valley, VT 03FEB2021

An image of a fence covered with snow from various winter storms, including Winter Storm Orlena, near the Timberline Base Area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snowy evergreens and ski trail signs at the Timberline Summit area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the addition of last night’s burst of snow from Winter Storm Orlena, the mountains just continue to build up powder on all surfaces.

With that period of 2”/hr snows we had yesterday afternoon, I stopped in at Bolton for some runs this morning to see how the powder was skiing.  When I got there about 30 minutes after the opening of Timberline, it seemed curiously busy for Bolton Valley on a weekday morning, but I must have caught part of the initial burst of arriving skiers, because it was back to walk-on by my second run.

I was surprised to run into freezing mist and drizzle as I was heading through Bolton Flats, and that was the main precipitation type right on up to the mountain.  My experience was similar to what I’d heard from skiers at other local resorts, in that it was pretty inconsequential with respect to the overall snow quality.  It was irrelevant on the groomed terrain, and in the powder out in the open, while you could tell the layer was there, it was so thin that it just didn’t make a difference with respect to turns.  The powder overall was denser than I thought it would be with my evening snow analyses coming in roughly 5 to 6% H2O, but perhaps the freezing drizzle had its effects there in terms of compacting things a bit.  In the trees, the powder was essentially untouched by any of the mist because of the way the foliage catches most of the mist/drizzle.

While the snow was relatively unaffected by the precipitation, the biggest hassle I found with the freezing drizzle was visibility.  My goggles would glaze up pretty nicely during a lift ride.  The great solution I found was to simply pop out my lens for the lift ride (another nice benefit of magnetic lenses), stick it in my coat, and by the time I reached the top, it was thawed and clear to start another run.

“At the Timberline Base I found about 5” of new snow, and depth checks I did around the mountain in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ range revealed roughly 5-8” of accumulation.”

At the Timberline Base I found about 5” of new snow, and depth checks I did around the mountain in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ range revealed roughly 5-8” of accumulation.  I think was a bit more than what they mentioned in the snow report, but I’m currently seeing a report of 9” in the past 48 hours, so I’d say that’s pretty similar overall.

The precipitation was changing back over to snow as I was heading out, and then later in the day that next round of backside upslope finally came through to finish off the storm.

Even with that bit of freezing drizzle that came through, we really haven’t had too much weather to specifically knock down the fluff or push the snow off objects, so it just continues to stack up on various surfaces and looks quite scenic.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 31JAN2021

An image of snow-covered branches overhanging a ski trail after Winter Storm Nathaniel on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow covering a stump in the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out on my ski tour today at Bolton Valley, I found that there was still lots of powder stuck to everything.

I hadn’t been up to the mountain for a couple of days while I waited for the arctic hounds to head out of town, but things were definitely warming up this afternoon, so I hit the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network for a tour.  Temperatures were in the mid-teens F, and with brilliant sunshine and no wind, it was definitely getting much more comfortable out there.

I wanted a relatively quick tour and hadn’t yet visited the trails on the western side of the network below the North Ridge this season, so I headed out in that direction.  At the 2,000’ elevation around the Village I was quite consistently getting settled snowpack depths right around 24”, and in the 2,300’ – 2,400’ elevation near the top of my route, I got a 26” measurement.  Although that’s not especially deep, there’s a lot of liquid in the snowpack, so everything is surprisingly well covered and there aren’t any major ground obstacles to worry about.  Even steep terrain like C Bear Woods and the Holden’s Hollow Glades had plenty of coverage.  I’m sure there would be a few coverage issues on steep terrain for lift-served levels of skier traffic, but with just backcountry traffic, there’s more than enough coverage to ski everything without concern.  Although it had only been a couple of days since the last snows, there had actually been a pretty good amount of traffic on the main routes I traveled, so I had to go off the edges for fresh powder.

A map showing GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network superimposed onto a Google Earth map

There has definitely been some settling of all the fluff in the forest over the past few days, but there’s still a lot of snow covering everything.  It will be interesting to see what the snow from this next storm does in terms of sticking to what’s out there already.

Bolton Valley, VT 28JAN2021

An image showing heavy snowfall on the back side of Winter Storm Nathaniel as it interacts with the Green Mountains and drops snow on the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the base station of the Timberline Quad Chairlift through heavy snowfall on the back side of Winter Storm Nathaniel in January at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the base station of the Timberline Quad as heavy snowfall greets me upon my arrival at the mountain today

We had snow here at the house most of the morning, and it was generally light, but at times it would pick up with a burst of intensity with larger flakes.  Toward the afternoon, the snowfall became a bit more persistent, and we were having longer periods with the large flakes, so it started getting to the point where I was wondering how much the mountains were getting.  As it was snowing more heavily here, I checked out the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam and saw what looked like really heavy snowfall, so I decided to hit the mountain for a couple of runs.  Indeed, the local radar showed that another push of moisture was right on the doorstep as well, so that held the potential for additional snow.

A weather radar image of snow pushing eastward from the Champlain Valley into the spine of the Northern Green Mountains on the back side of Winter Storm Nathaniel
Another pulse of moisture is set to push into the spine of the Green Mountains today as I head up to Bolton Valley for a few runs.

The radar didn’t look that outrageous in terms of snowfall intensity, but I got up to Timberline and the snowfall was very heavy, probably 1-2”/hr with visibility of a few hundred feet.  It was hard to tell how much had fallen recently, but I was finding 4-6” in many areas on the trails since the previous grooming.  In any event, it was definitely a mini powder day up there, with that 4-6” easy to find essentially anywhere that hadn’t been skied recently.

“It was hard to tell how much had fallen recently, but I was finding 4-6” in many areas on the trails since the previous grooming.”

Very steep or windblown areas on piste definitely need another synoptic storm or two before they’re in prime shape, but the snow has continued to build up this week in the off piste areas.  In areas that haven’t been skied in the past week or two, you’re essentially looking at 30” of unconsolidated snow down to elevations as low as 2,500’ now.  I made a trip through Maria’s and I was finding that depth consistently.  There is some dense snow in there form the front end of Winter Storm Malcolm, but since we haven’t had any major thaws in more than a month, there’s no layer in the snowpack that is fully solidified.  My depth checks just went right down through the 30” to what I suspect is the ground, or perhaps a base of a few inches of old base snow depending on the location.  You really need at least moderate pitch to ski these areas because you’re sinking too deep for shallow slopes.  I was on midfats today, so fat skis would help, but pitch is still going to be necessary.

I hadn’t been out on the mountain since my tour on Saturday, and certainly wanted to get some exercise, but the continued snow we had today, and the chance to beat the arctic hounds that are coming in for the next couple of day, definitely made the timing right.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 23JAN2021

A snowy scene with a skier and cars from the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after some January snowstorms
An image of a snow-covered sign indicating one of the entrances to the backcountry and trail information at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The recent upslope snows were seen covering and clinging to everything today while I was out on a backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley.

The consistent snows and temperatures we’ve had over the past several days had me pretty certain that the snow quality was there for lift-served skiing today, but the arctic hounds coming in on those northwest winds led me to go touring instead.  When I saw projected highs in the single digits F for Bolton Valley today, there was no way I wanted to sit still on the lifts in the wind vs. generating my own heat down in the protection of the forest.

I got up to the Village around midday, and temperatures were indeed in the mid-single digits F as the forecast had suggested.  Between all the backcountry touring and Nordic folks that I saw, there were plenty of people out on the lower trails, but farther out into the higher trails by the Bryant Cabin, I saw probably a handful of groups. Overall, you could tell by the vibe that people felt it was great weather for these types of activities.

An image of a snow-covered evergreen and house after a week of January snows in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snowy scenes were everywhere today around the Bolton Valley Village.

The additional 4 inches of fresh champagne that the resort had just picked up really served to top off the already crazy levels of fluff that covered everything.  I saw some great images of the recent snows as soon as I arrived in the Village, so before gearing up for my tour, I took a quick walk around the Village and grabbed some scenic shots.  Once I started my tour and got into the forest, the amount of snow on all surfaces was just amazing – it was caked so heavily on the trees that you were surrounded by it on all sides.  Starting up the Bryant Trail was like walking into some sort of white cathedral.

I made depth measurements of the snowpack during my tour, and I found generally 26-27” around the 2,000’ level, and many spots that are getting dangerously close to 40” up near 3,000’.  That’s pretty consistent with what the Mt. Mansfield Stake is showing.  The powder skiing was great, although we could still use another storm or two just to push the snowpack depth past that 40” benchmark.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data from today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

At the start of my tour off Heavenly Highway I was on some steep, 30+-degree slopes, and I was setting off sloughs that definitely spoke to the relative snowpack instability from the continuous day after day after day of snows without consolidation.  I was perfectly safe where I was the very dense forest, but I immediately though about how I wouldn’t want to be exposed in spots like the ravines of the Presidentials.  So I guess it wasn’t entirely surprising when I discovered posts in the American Weather New England Skiing Thread about slides in Tuckerman.

Bolton Valley, VT 20JAN2021 (P.M.)

An image of Ty and Dylan skiing powder snow left by upslope precipitation during a January storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing trees in the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont during a January snowstorm
Ty charging through the trees of Timberline today as we get out for some turns during our most recent rounds of snow this week at Bolton Valley.

The turns this morning at Bolton Valley were so good, that as soon as I got home, I checked to see if the boys had finished all their school meetings and schoolwork to be able to head up for an afternoon session at Timberline.  I had a midday Zoom meeting anyway, so that gave them time to finish up any remaining work, and once everyone was set, we headed back up to the mountain.

For the afternoon, I switched over from Telemark to alpine gear, since that’s what the boys wanted to do.  It was just great to be out with the boys on a snowy afternoon enjoying some turns, getting some pictures, goofing around in the powder, etc.  I had to break it to them that the turns weren’t quite as insanely good as what I’d encountered in the morning, but that was splitting hairs of course.  The trails were a bit more tracked up due to a few more hours of skier traffic, but we started heading into some of our favorite tree stashes anyway, where the powder was deep and plentiful.

An image of Dylan skiing powder during a January snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontIndeed, while it continued to snow during our afternoon session, it was more in the ½-1”/hr range, so certainly decent, but not quite up to the level of what I’d experienced in the morning.  That was until we were leaving though – when we were packing up at the car, the snowfall rate was back up in that 1-2”/hr range again and combined with light heading more toward dusk, visibility dropped way down.

An image of snow falling outside the Timberline Base Lodge during a January snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snowy scene at Timberline today as we were finishing up for the day.

The Northern New England ski resorts are definitely having the sort of great run of snowy days that we needed to make up for some slower snowfall earlier in the season, and the snow looks to continue right into the coming weekend.