Brandon Gap, VT 16MAR2018

An image of one of the backcountry glades in the No Name area at Brandon Gap in Vermont
Today at Brandon Gap I was greeted by more than 30 inches of feather weight powder, and fantastic ski terrain and access that have been meticulously crafted thanks to the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trail Alliance.

At Brandon Gap, about an hour or so south of our house in Waterbury, the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trail Alliance (a.k.a. RASTA) has done something very special.  They’ve created the Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area, a network of trails for backcountry skiing and riding in the Green Mountain National Forest just south of Vermont Route 73 at Brandon Gap.  The area has over 16,000 vertical feet of skiing and riding on numerous glades spread out along three miles of the Long Trail.  What makes the Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area so special is that unlike the typical clandestine backcountry areas that skiers have created throughout Vermont, the area at Brandon Gap was actually created in partnership with the United States Forest Service,  It truly is a pioneering project showing that the development of backcountry ski terrain can be done in a legal, legitimate, and sustainable way.  The only other area for backcountry skiing that I know of around here that would be somewhat comparable would be the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network, which is associated with Bolton Valley Resort.

An image of the Brandon Gap backcountry ski map from the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trail Alliance
A copy of RASTA’s detailed map for the Brandon Gap backcountry area. Please visit RASTA’s website for a full-size version of the map

“Imagine more than 30 inches of feather-light champagne powder, and enough pitch to do it justice, and that’s what was going on at Brandon Gap today.”

The RASTA backcountry ski trails at Brandon Gap have been in the news for a while, and as soon as I first heard about them, I was eager to go on a tour and check them out.  It’s not always easy to find an appropriate hole in one’s schedule that coincides with great snowpack and conditions though, so it’s taken a while to get me down there.  I had time in the afternoon today though, and even though I was busy at work longer than I’d expected, I was still able to make it down to Brandon Gap.

An image of a Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trail Alliance trail marker at the Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area in Vermont
One of the plentiful RASTA trail markers along the skin track

Although I didn’t know exactly how much snow the Brandon Gap are had picked up relative to the rest of the state, everyone has been getting substantial snows due to the remnants of Winter Storm Skylar.  Ski resorts in the northern part of the state have picked up as much as six feet of snow in the past week or so.  I could see that there wasn’t much to worry about at Brandon Gap when I caught sight of the massive stack of snow atop the map sign at the trailhead.  The snow situation was looking very good.

I was somewhat short on time, so I opted to tour in the No Name Backcountry Area today.  You really can’t ask for much easier access to great backcountry skiing.  For the No Name area you literally hit the trailhead, and within moments you start going right up on your ascent.  The skin track is nicely interwoven among the various glades in the area, so you can get a look at a lot of the potential ski options.  The skin track is well established, beautifully laid out, and extremely well marked with RASTA blazes and directional arrows.  I’ve never seen a skin track so clearly marked, it’s just one of those things about the area that make it so efficient and professional looking.

“We’re talking “hold onto your head as you descend because this is going to blow your mind” type of conditions.”

The ascent was extremely pleasant with such a beautiful skin track underfoot, and before I knew it I’d reached the top of the area where I found a nice packed out area for de-skinning, and another copy of the map displayed.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect on the descent, but my depth checks on the way up had revealed that there was more than 30 inches of absolutely feather-weight powder covering the base snow.  In many cases that would simply be too much snow, since you need some rather steep pitches to accommodate it, but that wasn’t a problem in the No Name area – the pitches there are generally at least black diamond.

An image showing the depth of the new powder for skiing at Brandon Gap in VermontWith my gear set for the descent, I headed off to skiers left where I’d seen a glade that was essentially untracked.  I dove in, and the powder skiing was simply insane.  Imagine more than 30 inches of feather-light champagne powder, and enough pitch to do it justice, and that’s what was going on at Brandon Gap today.  We’re talking “hold onto your head as you descend because this is going to blow your mind” type of conditions.  Wow, just… wow!  One of the more fun aspects of the descent was simply adjusting the pitch of my front leg in my Telemark stance to determine how much of my body was under the snow and adjust my speed.  You know the snow is deep when that’s your main mechanism for controlling your speed.  Got fat skis?  Good, you’ll want ‘em. 

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour at Brandon Gap in Vermont
A Google Earth Map with GPS tracking data showing the path of today’s tour in the No Name area at Brandon Gap

It’s so funny how different the snow was today compared to the dense snow yesterday at Bolton Valley, but that’s the way storms go.  Sometimes you have the right conditions in the dendritic grown zone to produce those massive, fluffy crystal, and sometimes you get small, baking powder flakes.  Brandon Gap definitely got the goods over the past few days.  It looks like we’ve got cold, midwinter conditions going into the weekend however, so the current state of the snow should be maintained for everyone getting out to enjoy the bounty of the recent big storms.

Bolton Valley, VT 15MAR2018

An image of Dave skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Winter Storm Skylar just continues to churn out the snow in the Northern Greens, so Dave stayed around for some additional powder fun today at Bolton Valley

Being in the midst of this impressive storm cycle here in Northern Vermont, Dave decided to stick around for a bit more skiing today.  We’d had an absolutely fantastic outing at Stowe yesterday with the family, and today the goal was to visit Bolton Valley for some runs.  Like other local resorts, Bolton has been putting up some impressive snowfall numbers in the past several days, with 42 inches in the past 48 hours, and 62 inches in the past week.  Another interesting note was that the Timberline Quad was slated to open today at 10:00 A.M. – for the first time this week.  That had us intrigued.

“Like other local resorts, Bolton has been putting up some impressive snowfall numbers in the past several days, with 42 inches in the past 48 hours, and 62 inches in the past week.”

Although it was calm down at the house with huge fluffy flakes falling from the sky, I was definitely concerned about lift operations on the mountain with the anticipated winds.  Dave had checked the snow report as we were heading out, and there was no note of any lift issues, but once we got up to the resort we found that the Vista Quad was on wind hold.  The Timberline opening looked delayed about a half hour due to the time required to remove all the new snow from the lift terminals, but we were able to keep ourselves busy with some runs off the Snowflake and Mid Mountain chairs while we waited.  The mountain had indeed picked up another good shot of snow overnight, but it was notably denser than what we were skiing yesterday at Stowe.  You were still getting down in the powder to some degree, but you were definitely skiing much more “on” it at times as well.

An image of Dave skiing in the Lost Girlz area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dave working his way through the upper section of Lost Girlz as Winter Storm Skylar has finally put enough snow in there to provide good conditions.

When it was time to head over to Timberline, we caught first tracks on Tattle Tale.  Indeed the new snow was dense, but it was a lot of fun planing our way down through the untracked expanse of white.  Dave was definitely excited to get some of that feel today at Bolton, vs. the much busier slopes of Stowe from yesterday.  We spent the rest of the morning there, hitting lots of other favorites like Spell Binder, Brandywine, Adam’s Solitude, Lost Boyz, Lost Girlz, etc.  We headed back to the main mountain a bit after noon, and I headed out, but Dave was planning on a few more runs before heading on his trip back to Boston.

An image of a house with fluffy snow accumulations along the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Down in the sheltered areas along the Bolton Valley Access Road there were some nice snowy scenes

I got home to a driveway which needed to be cleared with the snow thrower again, after just having cleared it late yesterday evening.  We’ve passed two feet of accumulation now with Winter Storm Skylar here at the house, and it just keeps snowing.  We’re looking at some potentially great conditions continuing right into the weekend with snow showers around in the mountains.

Stowe, VT 14MAR2018

An image of Dylan skiing deep powder after Winter Storm Skylar at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
As Dylan demonstrates, there was a lot of white room action today at Stowe as Dave joined the family to ski the bounty of Winter Story Skylar

With so much potential snowfall on the horizon, Dave sent us a text on Sunday inquiring about the best days to come up for some skiing in Northern Vermont this week.  The forecast was still a bit up in the air at that point, but by Monday he was set to go, and just needed to decide on when to come up.  He ultimately decided to make his drive on Tuesday evening, once Winter Storm Skylar was pulling away from Southern New England.  He battled his way up from Boston, having a slow go of it during the first hour, but quickly found himself cruising along as the only one on the road.

“Depth checks around the mountain revealed roughly 20 inches of powder at a minimum, with many areas at 30+ inches.”

We didn’t know until this morning that E and the boys would have a snow day, but once we knew, the plan was secured for all of us to head to Stowe together.  That meant that we’d want to get on the road pretty early, since when it comes to Stowe and its fast lifts and ravenous powder hounds, one definitely needs to be an early bird to get the worm.  That meant we’d have to get the boys up and motivated.   Dave hasn’t been up in a while, so when he saw Ty in bed this morning, the exchange went as follows:

Dave:  “Do you remember me?”
Ty:  “Yes.”
Dave: “Good… get up.”
That’s classic Dave, and we LOLed about that exchange all day.

We were indeed able to get the boys motivated for an early start, and got to the mountain with no travel problems.  We had a quick breakfast at the Mansfield Base Lodge, and headed right up to the Fourrunner Quad.  Within a half hour of lift opening, the trails, and even the glades off the quad had been devoured.  The skiing was of course still fantastic, but if you wanted untracked lines of any length, you were already having to head for those more obscure spots.  We all had a tremendous time in the Tres Amigos Glades, highlighted by the boys dropping whatever ledges and cliffs they could find with powder below.  And indeed it was that kind of day where you could launch just about anything you wanted.  Dave really found his groove when we hit the Nosedive Glades, and had a blast.

We moved over to the Gondola so the five of us could ride the lift together as a group, and had a great couple of runs on Waterfall, Perry Merrill, and surrounding environs.  Whether we were on piste or off, the conditions were simply ridiculous.  On piste it was bottomless chowder and packed powder, and off piste it was waist deep powder.  Ty and I took the crew to an area we’ve nicknamed “Stella”, because we discovered it during our Winter Storm Stella outing and delivered such great lines of steep and deep powder.

An image of Dave skiing waist deep powder at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dave definitely catching the powder day he’s been seeking today

We had a nice lunch at the Great Room Grill, and since we were over at Spruce Peak we decided to take Dave on some runs there.  What a great decision that was!    Spruce Peak served up tons of untracked powder in all our favorite locales off Sunny Spruce and Sensation.  Let’s just say, the skiing was so good that we spent the rest of the day there.  Dylan said he really had fun skiing with today’s “crew”.

An image of the depth of the powder in the Ridge Glades area at Stowe Mountain ResortIn terms of overall snow, I believe the resort was reporting a storm total of 18 inches, but it snowed throughout the day and there was already much more powder than that available from previous storms.  Depth checks around the mountain revealed roughly 20 inches of powder at a minimum, with many areas at 30+ inches.  We’ve still got snow falling here at the house this evening, so the resorts should be reporting additional accumulations by tomorrow morning.  It’s interesting to note that we’re once again at the “S” winter storm of the alphabet with Winter Storm Skylar, just as we were last year around this time with Winter Storm Stella.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13MAR2018

An image of Stephen skiing powder in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen enjoying some of the great snow out there in the Bolton Valley backcountry today

Today was a big ski day for Stephen.  He’s been working hard, for what seems like years, to put together an appropriate alpine touring setup for backcountry skiing at a reasonable price.  Over the past few months, the final pieces have finally been coming together.  Despite his son Johannes “stealing” critical pieces of what appeared to be his final setup, the gear swapping, shop visits, adjustments, readjustments, and everything else that tried to get in the way, was eventually settled.  All that remained was finding a day in his busy schedule to actually use his fancy gear.  Today was that day, and the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network was the place.

An image out the window of the Bryant Cabin showing icicles in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe got a fairly early start to give us plenty of time for a tour of whatever length we chose, I figured I’d give Stephen a good introduction to some of my favorite parts of the network that he’d never visited.  We’d be able to adapt the length of the tour as needed to fit energy levels and any equipment issues.  Snowfall from Winter Storm Skylar was just getting started as we began our tour from the sports center, and it intensified on our ascent of the Bryant Trail.  We saw only one other person on our ascent, and with the Bryant Cabin vacant, we were able to check out the upgrades that had been done as we took a quick break.  Clearly the cabin has seen some recent use, because the icicles draped down from the roof were some of the largest I’ve ever seen.

The next leg of our journey took us up to “The Glades” above the Catamount Trail, where we stopped our ascent around 3,100’.  Although the storm occasionally brought us some slightly larger flakes, they were for the most part small, with diameters in the 1 to 2 mm range.  This meant that the new snow was fairly dense, and it was covering everything underneath it quite well.  We continued down into the Cotton Brook Glades on Randy’s and Great White Way, and found some impressive untracked lines.  Stephen had a few good explosions in the powder, but he seemed thankful for most of them as they helped cool him down after the long ascent.  Those steep, tight sections on Randy’s were certainly the most challenging, but Stephen had some of his best turns down in the mellower pitches of Great White Way.  I find that those lower angle areas are some of my favorites as well unless you’ve just picked up two feet of fluff and really need the steeper pitch.

The ascent up from the back side was quite a labor at times.  It’s always tough skinning out in a few spots of that Cotton Brook ascent.  It’s just steep and narrow near the bottom of Randy’s, and there’s no way around it, so you have to try your best to set in switchbacks.  We were fortunate to have use of the old skin track that’s in place, but we were slipping on the steepest pitches.  Stephen was definitely feeling it as he’d take one step forward and what felt like 10 steps back, especially as he was getting used his very first day on his skins, but we made it through that struggle and the pitch of the ascent improved dramatically.  When we cut Stephen’s skins for his skis at full width, I was telling him how I considered that approach a “no brainer” vs. going with anything narrower, and after today’s ascent up from the Cotton Brook area I know he agrees 100%.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a tour in the backcountry at Bolton  Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS tracking data for today’s tour into the Bolton Valley backcountry

We finished off the tour with a line below Heavenly Highway down to Bryant Cabin, then on to Gardiner’s Lane and JJ’s, which delivered one of the best runs I’ve had there.  We’d certainly accumulated a few fresh inches of snow from the storm by that point, which helped make the skiing extra soft.  The Telemark Practice Slope was also aided by all the new snow, and made a nice end to the tour.  Actually, the tour wasn’t quite over at that point because we added on one of the most important parts:  sandwiches at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery.  We even got to chat with Ralph Deslauriers while we were there, and naturally one of the topics of conversation was the very snowy week we’ve got to look forward to.  It sounds like Winter Storm Skylar is going to move up into Northern Maine and wrap some of that abundant Atlantic moisture into the Northern Greens, just like the way things happened last week after Winter Storm Quinn!

Stowe, VT 11MAR2018

An image of Wiley skiing powder in the Hazelton Zone at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Wiley rips down a line in the Hazelton Zone today at Stowe as we finally had the conditions to get our BJAMS ski group out into some exciting off piste terrain.

We’ve really been waiting all season to get some quality midwinter base depths and top notch surface snow conditions to line up for our BJAMS Sunday ski program at StoweWe had a decent stretch back in the first half of February, but it didn’t quite hit the level of quality that we got today.  Conditions are stellar because we recently picked up more than a foot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn, and then overnight the mountain upslope snow event brought close to another foot to the resort.

An image of Robbie snowboarding at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Robbie blasts through a line during our day’s adventures at Stowe

We actually had most of our regular ski group today, and with the conditions on hand I decided that we should head for some of that exciting terrain that we just haven’t been able to visit yet this season.  We kicked things off with a run on Ravine, although Bob’s foot was acting up so he had to bow out at that point.  The conditions on Ravine are great, and base depths are more than sufficient, although you can tell the base isn’t quite up at normal levels for this time of year based on the look of some of the bigger obstacles.

“Conditions are stellar because we recently picked up more than a foot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn, and then overnight the mountain upslope snow event brought close to another foot to the resort.”

An image of Dylan covered in snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe had a fantastic run starting on the Kitchen Wall, with some very powdery lines in the trees below, and we just kept diving into every section of woods that presented itself until we finally would up in the Hazelton Zone.  We had to be a little cautious in there with only 50 inches or so at the stake, but there’s definitely enough base.  The traverses are in place and looking good.  That run was quite a doozy, so everyone requested a break at the Midway Lodge after that for food and drink.  On our final run of the day, Wiley and Robbie switched to each other’s snowboard and skis, and we took a run through the terrain park.  Wiley had plenty of falls, but really hung in there for taking his first even snowboard run right off the Fourrunner Quad.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Kitchen Wall area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty out in fields of powder below the Kitchen Wall

It was really great to finally be able to get out there with the boys into the some of the exciting terrain we’ve been missing all season.  It actually looks like we could have yet another winter storm affecting the area this week.  This one has the potential to bring upslope snow as well, so we’ll just have watch for where this one tracks over the next few days, but ski conditions should continue to improve going forward.

Bolton Valley, VT 10MAR2018

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Snowfall over the past few days has built up some great powder at Bolton Valley, and today was a day for getting out and finding it!

Although Bolton Valley was only reporting an inch of new snow in this morning’s report, they’ve picked up more than a foot of snow in the past couple of days from Winter Storm Quinn.  Combined with modest midweek skier traffic, that was already a recipe for some great skiing today, but even more snow was expected to arrive as the day wore on to further freshen up the slopes.

E and Dylan had some obligations in the morning, but Ty and I were free to ski and had plans to meet up with Stephen at the resort.  We parked at Timberline, alerted Stephen with a text, and headed up the Timberline Quad for a run.  Although I couldn’t find any slopes that hadn’t been thoroughly resurfaced at the resort during yesterday’s outing, I can finally say that I found at least one today.  I figured we could try a run on Lost Girlz, which would be a really tough test of the resurfacing.  Unfortunately, the combination of dense evergreen canopy above, and very steep pitch were too much; the coverage just wasn’t enough.  So, we high tailed it over to Tattle Tale for a run.  The snow was certainly good there, but in general it had seen much more traffic than usual because the Tattle Tale headwall was open.

An image of Ty skiing in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fun in the Villager Trees

We met up with Stephen and did a full run of Tattle Tale so that we could really take in the headwall experience.  It was a bit windblown at the very top, but coverage was quite good overall and it was definitely worth the trip. 

An image of Stephen skiing in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Stephen getting just what he was looking for today… powder for his fat skis!

The rest of the morning was dedicated to getting Stephen some deep untracked powder, and that we delivered in spades with trips to The Crack, Villager Trees, and White Rabbit.  Stephen seemed quite happy floating around on his fat alpine touring skis.  The powder was easily a foot or more in untracked areas, and it was definitely delivering great turns with that right-side-up density gradient that Winter Storm Quinn had set up.  In addition, new snowfall was ramping right up as we approached midday due to an incoming mountain upslope snow event that’s developing in the area.

An image of a water bottle and some ski gloves at the Fireside Flatbread bar at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe three of us headed to Fireside Flatbread for some lunch, and E and Dylan joined us for a bite once they arrived at the resort.  We all did a Cobrass/Five Corners run together before Stephen had to head back to pick up Johannes, and the rest of us finished off the day with some Timberline runs.  E and Dylan had skied Spell Binder earlier and it got a great recommendation.  It lived up to the expectations, especially that skier’s left that Dylan enjoyed ripping up so much.

“As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.”

As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.  There’s a vertically stacked low pressure sitting in Northern Maine, and that’s typically a great setup for snowfall in the Northern Greens when the low pressure wraps in deep moisture from the Atlantic.  You know there’s some potential for continued snowfall when the National Weather Service in Burlington speaks about difficulty in finding the off switch for the snowfall in their forecast discussion:

“Another good problem to have is trying to find the off switch to the upslope snow machine…looks like a brief break develops Sunday afternoon into Monday…before more accumulating snowfall for Tuesday into Weds.”

Bolton Valley, VT 09MAR2018

An image of a snowboard track in powder snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm Quinn
With more snow from Winter Storm Quinn falling last night, today produced some beautiful powder skiing on the slopes of Bolton Valley.

Right on the heels of last week’s Winter Storm Riley that brought 40 inches of snow to parts of the Catskills, another nor’easter named Winter Storm Quinn hit the New England area during the middle of this week.  Quinn left three feet of snow in Southern Vermont, and really hammered the Southern Vermont Ski Resorts.  Up here in the northern part of the state, the accumulations weren’t quite that huge, but as of today the northern resorts were in the 1-foot range for total snowfall.

I actually had time in my schedule for some lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley this morning, and with half foot or so of additional power on top of yesterday’s snow, it seemed like there would be plenty of quality out there on all the slopes.  Indeed this overall shot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn had the potential for a good resurfacing of the trails, since my measurements down at the house indicated that we’d picked up close to an inch of liquid equivalent in our snow, and the local resorts should have seen at least that much.

“I took every steep and potentially rocky line I could find to get a sense for how aggressive I could make my turns in the powder before hitting the old subsurface or various trail obstacles. Try as I might to make contact with surface below, I just couldn’t do it.”

After getting to watch the Snowflake lift-op John, shred some endless tight turns on his snowboard, I made my way over to Timberline just in time to catch the opening of the chair.  My first run was Intro to Brandywine, and I took every steep and potentially rocky line I could find to get a sense for how aggressive I could make my turns in the powder before hitting the old subsurface or various trail obstacles, and I just couldn’t do it.  Even though Winter Storm Quinn only brought about a foot of snow and an inch or so of liquid equivalent, it had essentially resurfaced everything.  There’s little doubt that the robust coverage was due to the start of the storm providing some nice dense snow that simply adhered to and covered whatever was underneath.  My trip down Spell Binder revealed that the headwall was in prime form.  I launched off the ledges on the skier’s left expecting to bust down into a hard contact with the subsurface, but that simply never happened.  Although I didn’t ski it, I saw that even the Tattle Tale headwall was open, and that is really hard to cover well.  Along with the high density of the snow from the initial part of the storm, I think that fact that the storm had so little wind overall allowed the snow to really cover things well without the usual scouring.

Back at the main mountain all I can say is that everything was simply great: the powder, the groomers, all of it.  My measurements around the resort revealed generally 13” of settled surface snow at the elevations of the main mountain, and 11” at Timberline elevations, but the difference wasn’t noticeable in terms of the skiing – the new snow just covered everything.  Temperatures were in the mid-20s F during my session this morning, and I don’t think they were expected to go above freezing at the resort level, so the snow should continue to stay in great shape.

An image of the Bonus Woods area with lots of fresh powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a line through the Bonus Woods today and admiring how everything was just caked with powder

We’ve actually got a winter Weather Advisory out for the Northern Greens for tomorrow into Sunday because there’s a chance for some decent upslope snowWinter Storm Quinn was the type of storm that took a track northward after it hugged the coast, and it’s now part of the general cyclonic flow over there in the Maritimes that just spins Atlantic moisture into the area.  Around here in the Northern Greens we like that setup very much and we’re looking forward to seeing what else Mother Nature might throw at us in the coming days.

Stowe, VT 04MAR2018

An image of Dylan snowboard in the Meadows are at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan out on the slopes of the Meadows area at Stowe today as he worked on learning to snowboard

I haven’t been on my snowboard for a while, but it was definitely fun being back on it for today’s BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  Dylan was planning on his first real day of snowboarding, and with Molly snowboarding in my group as well, riding today seemed to be the obvious choice.

“I’m not sure if we had the groomers or the skiers to thank for all that loose snow, but it was more than a foot deep in spots, which provided a nice surfy feeling on the boards.”

We started off in the late morning, a bit earlier than usual, so that E could work Dylan on his board a bit and get him as far as possible ahead of our session.  When I caught up with the family after parking and getting changed, Dylan had just finished his third run on Inspiration and was moving on to the Meadows Quad.  I joined everyone for that run and we helped him work on his heel side transitions and turns, which were definitely his weaker side.

Stowe had picked up a couple of inches from Winter Storm Riley, but the subsurfaces were generally frozen granular in the Meadows area.  Fortunately, there was tons of loose granular on top of the base in many areas.  I’m not sure if we had the groomers or the skiers to thank for all that loose snow, but it was more than a foot deep in spots, which provided a nice surfy feeling on the boards.  It was great stuff for cushioning falls, which as anyone knows, are common when you’re learning to snowboard.  Dylan certainly had his share of tumbles today, but his improvements were obvious on his last couple of runs.

An image of Shrimp Pho from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontPrecipitation in association with a minor system affecting the area had already started falling by the time we got to the mountain in the morning.  It began out as light graupel, transitioned to some granular flakes as time went on, and had graduated to much fluffier flakes by the end of the day.  There were some bursts of fairly heavy precipitation as well.  With Dylan’s hard work learning to maneuver his snowboard around, we took plenty of breaks in the lodge.  Lunch with the family was definitely a fun break – I visited the Noodle Bowl area at the Great Room Grill and got the shrimp pho… definitely delicious!

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03MAR2018

An image of the Prayer Flag trail on the Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down through a bit of fresh powder today on the Prayer Flag trail on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

Yesterday the Northeast was affected by Winter Storm Riley, a whopper of a system with wind gusts reaching 93 MPH in Barnstable on Cape Cod.  On the winter side of the storm, the Catskills were the epicenter for big snowfall, with accumulations reaching 40 inches.  Here in Vermont, the snow totals weren’t quite as outrageous, but the southern resorts still pulled in over a foot of accumulation.  Bolton Valley was reporting 4 inches of new snow from the storm, which seemed like just enough to temp me out for a tour in the new powder.

“I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.”

I headed up to the Village in the mid-morning timeframe with temperatures in the upper 20s F and mostly cloudy skies.  The parking lots were already getting quite full, but there were still a number of parking spots right along Broadway, and I was able to grab one of those.  I actually saw a few folks riding fat bikes on some of the lower Nordic Trails, and it looked like a perfect day to be out on those.  Actually, with the fresh snow, comfortable temperature, and peeks of sun, it was just a gorgeous day to be out on anything – I saw all manner of folks on the trails varying from the bikers, to snowshoers, to Nordic skiers, to backcountry skiers.

A direction arrow and snowy evergreens on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWith only a few inches of new snow, I was looking for some low-angle glades for today’s tour, and I decided to venture across to the west side of the valley for a change.  I kicked things off with a run on Prayer Flag, augmented by ascending a bit farther up the west wall of the valley above the flags to get some extra vertical.  I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.  Only when I had to cut hard to stop or adjust for a major obstacle would I get down to the subsurface.  Lower angle was clearly the way to go today though, because down on Brook Run I could see that steeper terrain like the Holden’s Hollow Glades will definitely need another storm before they’ll be back in top form.

Down at the pump house on Broadway, I reskinned my skis and headed back up World Cup to Bryant.  I skied the first half of Cup Runneth Over to start my next run, skipping the steeper bottom half because the new snow just wasn’t sufficient for that pitch.  Cup Runneth Over had seen a couple of skiers, but there was ample fresh snow remaining and the turns were generally very nice.  I finished out with some of the usual glades in the World Cup area, and even caught part of the Telemark Practice Slope, which had actually seen minimal traffic.

A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking Data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

The classic end to the tour was of course a visit to the Village Deli to grab some subs with that fantastic new bread they’ve got.  I didn’t see Gus today, but the Deli was really hummin’ with just about every table filled.  It sounds like we might have another storm affecting the area this coming week, so we’ll certainly be watching that potential over the next few days.

Stowe, VT 25FEB2018

An image of the trails of Mt. Mansfield from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A view today from Spruce Peak Village with a bit of the fresh snow we had to ski from Winter Storm Polly

Today we were under the influence of Winter Storm Polly, a system passing through the Great Lakes that’s brought snow and mixed precipitation to the area.  Although our BJAMS ski program was on today at Stowe, between the people opting out because of the questionable travel and weather, and those families that are on vacation for school break, we had substanially fewer participants than usual.  My group actually wound up being just Ty and Dylan at first, although eventually Jacob joined when his group was not going to be able to meet up with him.

“Snow conditions were bolstered significantly by a couple of dense inches of sleet and snow that had fallen by the time we arrived around midday.”

Snow conditions were bolstered significantly by a couple of dense inches of sleet and snow that had fallen by the time we arrived around midday.  There was definitely a good shot of liquid in those couple of inches, and it helped to keep you off the subsurface in some areas, but the firm surface below definitely made its presence known.

The Gondola and Fourrunner Quad were both on wind hold due to the strong gusts associated with the storm at elevation, so we started the afternoon off with a Sunny Spruce run to get a feel for the conditions.  We found the edges of the runs quite good in some areas where the new snow was either untouched, or skiers had pushed the excess from the trails there.  I decided to bring the group across to Mansfield to ride the Mountain Triple Chair where I expected to find that type of snow on trails like Tyro, and indeed we found some of that smooth snow and had some fun runs.  The biggest hassle of the day was some freezing drizzle that would frequently crust up one’s goggles and reduce visibility, but fortunately it wasn’t really affecting the quality of the snow surfaces.

Vermont Skiing & Winter Weather