Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2011 (A.M. Session)

An image of ski tracks in the fresh powder along the edge of the Sherman's Pass Trail at Bolton Valley in Vermont - December 23, 2011
Making some tracks in the fresh powder along the edge of Sherman's Pass on the upper mountain

The potential storm system that we’d been watching for the past few days started trending warmer in some of the later weather model runs – warm enough that even the lower valleys in Northern Vermont looked like they might be dealing with a little rain before the snow moved in.  That wasn’t the case though, at least in the mountain valleys east of the Greens.  This morning when I got up I found 2.2 inches of snow on the snowboard at our house in Waterbury, and no sign of rain.  Light snow was still falling at the house, and with even more snow expected to fall in the mountains throughout the day, it seem like an opportune time for some storm day skiing.

I decided to head up to Bolton a bit early to earn some turns ahead of the 9:00 A.M. opening of the Mid Mountain Double.  I couldn’t quite convince the boys to go with me, but I figured I’d come home after a couple runs and get them to go up later in the day.  The valley snow accumulations certainly dropped off as I headed west to the town of Bolton, and at the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’), I’d say the accumulation looked like about 1”.  As I ascended the road, I was surprised at how slowly the accumulation increased – even up at 1,000’ it didn’t seem like there was too much more than at the base of the road.  Eventually the depth of snow started to increase though – up at 1,500’ at the base of Timberline, the trails had a decent covering of a few inches (although they may have had some base left from earlier storms).  The ascent of the road was a little tricky; with temperatures near freezing, the new snow was a bit greasy.  The traction control in the Subaru came on a few times in the slickest spots, but the ascent was pretty controlled and uneventful.  Watching how slowly cars were descending in the other lane had also been a tip off that the conditions warranted caution.  Up in the Bolton Valley Village area at 2,100’ I found 2-3” of fresh snow on the car next to me when I arrived, and I suspect that car had been there since the start of the snowfall.  It was snowing a steady light snow as I prepared my gear, and there was no wind, so the potential for fresh tracks was looking good.

I ran into patroller Quinn at the base of the Mid Mountain Double Chair, and since it was getting close to the 9:00 A.M. opening time for the lift, he said that I should avoid skinning right up Bear Run to keep out of the way of downhill traffic on open terrain.  Fortunately, this round of snow was enough to make skinning practical on natural snow terrain – even on the lower part of the main mountain.  I was able to skin up Villager to Foxy, and with the addition of the new snow the natural snowpack was generally 3 – 4”.  The fresh snow was reasonably dense, so it was plenty to keep my skis away from the ground underneath.  I stopped in at the summit station of the Snowflake Chair, grabbed some snow photos, and spend a few moments enjoying the quiet and the snowfall.

I continued on over to the mid mountain area, then headed up Bull Run to Sherman’s Pass.  The mountain was running a couple of snow guns on Sherman’s, presumably in spots they wanted to finish up for tomorrow’s planned opening from the Vista Summit.  The snowfall definitely intensified on the upper mountain, coming in at a moderate level with some larger flakes up to 7 – 8 mm in diameter.  The more intense snowfall had made a difference in the accumulations as well.  Up around 3,150’ near the Vista Summit, depth checks revealed that new accumulations were 4”+, and I found total natural snowpack in the 6 – 8” range.  That snowpack is actually pretty substantial, since there is a good layer of consolidated stuff on the bottom that went through the recent thaw/freeze.  With this new snow on top, which is certainly not ultra fluff, one good storm is all it will take to open some of the mellower natural snow terrain on the upper mountain.  As I put away my skins and got ready for the descent behind the top station of the Vista Quad, I check on the thermometer and the temperature was 28 F.  Unlike below, there was a bit of a breeze, perhaps 10 MPH, and the wind turbine was running.  I got a call from Johannes asking about where I was and if I wanted to ski with everyone, and I told him that I was at the Vista Summit and would be down soon.

The descent was nice.  Although most of Sherman’s was messy with track marks and ruts from all the snowcat and snowmobile traffic, I was able to find some fresh turns off to the sides of the trail where equipment hadn’t blemished the snow.  Just as I was descending to mid mountain I saw Helena getting off the Mid Mountain Chair, so the timing was perfect for meeting up.  Helena was on her new twin tip skis, and although she commented that they felt weird at first, she made some beautiful, controlled turns, and it looked like she was going to take to them pretty quickly.  Thomas and Johannes soon caught up to us on our descent, and we did a couple of runs while Stephen finished getting into his gear.  At some point during that time we started to get some nice big 1” upslope-style flakes of snow – the intensity was still generally light to at most moderate at times, but it had that nice winter maelstrom look to it and it was helping to keep things fresh.  I caught one more run once Stephen joined the group, and then I decided that I should head home for lunch and see if I could get the boys to come up for some turns.  Even with the limited terrain that was open, the resort had that powder day buzz and the quality of the skiing was pumped up a notch due to the new snow.  There were powder pockets off to the sides in which one could play around, and it made Bear Run all the more enjoyable.

An image of the Mid Mountain Chairlift at Bolton Valley with snow falling on December 23, 2011
Thomas and Johannes enjoy a ride on the Mid Mountain Chair amidst big flakes of upslope snowfall.

Back down at the car I found close to an inch of new snow on it, and since I’d been there for a couple of hours, that would suggest a snowfall rate of ~0.5”/hr during that period down at the main base elevations.  The temperature was a bit below freezing at 2,100’, but back down at the bottom of the access road it was certainly above freezing at ~35 F.  Even back at the house it was above freezing at 34.3 F, and although the snow had continued to fall, the accumulation on our back yard snowboard had not gone above the 0.7” from this morning, presumably due to consolidation and warming.  I told the boys that the skiing was a lot of fun up on the mountain, and that they should get in some Telemark practice – it was the perfect time to do it with fairly minimal, mellow terrain being open.  Click through to get to a report on our afternoon session back up at the mountain.

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