Bolton Valley, VT 18DEC2010


We had one of those weeks where it snowed almost continuously at the house and in the local mountains, but there havenít been any huge synoptic storms to make people really stand up and take notice.  Weíve actually had over a foot of snow this week at our location in the Winooski Valley, and 1.5 to 2 feet in the local mountains, but when it comes in doses of just a few inches a day and itís very light and dry, itís hard to know if itís really adding up on the slopes.  Well, after heading up to Bolton yesterday we can definitely say that itís been adding up in a big way.


Since it wasnít an obvious powder day, we didnít rush and headed up for a mid morning start.  After dropping E and the boys off at the village circle, I parked in the bottom row of the main lot, right above the sports center.  That lot was still mostly empty at that point, so I had the sense that the number of visitors wasnít going to be quite as big as it was last Saturday for opening weekend.


I hadnít looked at the snow report for the day, so we just played it by ear and discovered all the new ropes that had been dropped during the day.  Patrol has opened routes like Cobrass, Glades, The Enchanted Forest area, Vista Glades, Alta Vista, Vermont 200, Schuss, Beech Seal, etc., most of them just on the natural snow that has fallen.  Iím not sure exactly when all those trails opened, but most of them were not open when we were at the mountain last weekend.  According to SnoCountry Mountain Reports, Bolton was 45% open yesterday, and based on the snow we saw, I bet they could be 80% open if they wanted to.  They havenít even fired up the Wilderness, Timberline, or Snowflake lifts yet, so while some of the Wilderness and Snowflake terrain can be accessed from Vista, there is a lot of potential terrain thatís just not open due to lack of lift access.  I did notice that snow was being blown down at the bottom of Timberline, and have heard that plans are to open it after Christmas.  I also noticed work being done at the bottom of the Wilderness lift yesterday, perhaps it was some preparation to get it going.


Anyway, as far as the skiing went yesterday, we rotated run choice among the family, so we managed to mix it up among the terrain options fairly well.  On the announcement board at the bottom of Vista they had a sign that said ďLOTS OF FLUFFY SNOWĒ, and they werenít kidding.  We found that most areas, even those with some manmade underneath were really nice packed powder due to all the natural snow that has fallen on top of the base, and on the sides there was plenty of untracked powder.  Areas where we did find icy snow were the top half of Alta Vista, where it was pretty horrible at the end of the day, and a few smaller spots on Beech Seal where there were snowmaking whales that hadnít been covered with enough natural snow.  I didnít ski it, but it also sounded like Hard Luck Lane was in similar shape to Alta Vista, which is not surprising with the way they are exposed to summit winds and the amount of traffic they get.  We didnít ski Cobrass, since we only realized that it was open toward the end of the day, so I donít know how much snow they blew and what it was like.  Coverage was clearly not perfect on steep, natural snow runs like Vermont 200, and patrol has thin cover signs up, but the coverage seemed quite manageable on what they had open.  On that note, we did ski Glades, which is on all natural snow, and it was very easy to avoid any thin areas even in the steep sections.  There were still some pockets of powder on Glades in areas that are awkward to access, but for the most part it was packed powder.  Iíd forgotten how much fun even packed powder can be on a trial with lots of natural terrain features on which to play.


As far as tree skiing goes, some areas of the mountain are already in pretty good shape and people are starting to ski them a lot.  We didnít ski any of the steepest tree shots, and Iím sure they arenít quite there, but lots of the low and moderate angle shots are ready.  Obviously there are still early season dangers out there, but the consolidation from last weekendís mixed precipitation storm really seemed to help.  No longer is it fluff to the ground, thereís a base of snow, and then lots of fluff on top.  I saw a patroller head into one of the tree shots off Wilderness, and in areas that have seen sufficient traffic, the level of coverage is very obvious.  With 27 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, we are still about a foot away from the ďofficialĒ 40-inch depth start to tree skiing, but based on calculations I made in a post at First Tracks in January, we are just about at the point (mean = 28.2 inches) that people start venturing into the trees.  Weíre actually about a week behind the average start of Northern Vermont tree skiing that I calculated in that post (December 9th), but thatís not too surprising since we havenít really had a big, all-snow synoptic storm yet.  Weíve been relying on the upslope magic of the Greens, which has provided lots of fluff, but were it not for that consolidating synoptic storm last weekend, tree skiing would probably still be rather impractical.  With reports like Greg Petricsí mid week ones, as well as his report from the trees yesterday, itís quite obvious that tree skiing is not just on, but on with gusto for those with the knowledge of how and where to do it safely.


As for the rest of our skiing from yesterday, we found really good snow in many places, but my favorite was definitely the Wilderness area.  Were it not for rotating run choice among the family, I would have tried to drag everyone over there basically every run.  There was lots of untracked powder at Wilderness, and my depth checks generally revealed 8 to 12 inches of quality fluff over the base.  Itís more than enough to keep one floating off the base snow, but even if you touch down thereís often some thick snow there that fell in the earlier part of this weekís event making a density gradient, so the quality of the powder skiing is right up there.  After morning exploration of the mountain, we had lunch up in the tavern and then actually got some sun for part of our afternoon session. 


Consistent with my initial observations, when we left in the afternoon the bottom section of the main parking lot wasnít quite full, so whether it was the fresh snow that fell, or opening weekend excitement, I think last weekend was busier.  While we loaded up the car we had Ty count the number of Subarus in our section of the parking lot, and out of 40 vehicles, 17 of them were Subarus.  It wasnít a rigorously controlled survey or anything, but we found it interesting.


Some pictures from the day have been added below: