Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2011

An image of the main upper mountain at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont with low clouds
Today had a bit of a Pacific Northwest flavor on the mountain, with low clouds and soft snow.

We knew that today was going to be a big day up at the mountain.  Kenny and his family just returned home yesterday from holidays in New York City, and the plan was to get together with us for some skiing at Bolton.  A couple close friends of their family were coming to ski as well, and with Stephen and his crew up for the morning, that made a total of 15 people with whom we were likely to ski.  With varying abilities and instructional goals, everyone wasn’t necessarily going to be skiing together all at once, but with eight kids, the outing was likely to be quite a mettlesome affair.

The day started off with good timing; we arrived right around the same time as Kenny and his family, so assembling in the lodge and getting day tickets for those that needed them was an easy process.  The pre-arranged plan was for E and Uncle Forrest to provide a bit of instruction to Marlene and Ashley in the Mighty Mite area so that they could get their feet wet on their first outing of the season.  Meanwhile, Jeff and I took all the kids up the Mid Mountain Lift so that Kenny, Liana, and Isabella could do a few laps and get their turns flowing.  After just a couple of runs their turns and control were really coming along, although we did have to keep Kenny from playing too hard with Ty and Dylan in the jumps and other terrain along the edge of the trail until he was ready.  Helena quickly joined up with us, and after watching the other kids working on their turns, I was especially impressed at how confident and fluid she looked in her turning.  Soon, our ranks swelled a bit more as Stephen, Johannes and Thomas joined us for a bit.  Temperatures were in the mid 30s F, so the snow softened nicely and was perfect for digging in an edge.  I was once again impressed at just how good Bear Run is for folks that are working on their turns; there are a couple of slightly steeper spots, but none that are overwhelming, and the trail really meanders down the mountain at a fairly consistent and friendly pitch.

We hadn’t done too many runs before Isabella (the youngest of course) insisted that she needed more challenge.  The routine of Bear Run was already making her impatient and she wanted to hit something else.  It felt like everyone was ready, so we stepped it up next with the recently-opened Beech Seal.  Everyone did fine, although there was no question that the increased pitch put a little more pressure on the less advanced children – Isabella definitely got lazy toward the bottom and stopped making here turns.  Jeff and I both got on her case for that.  In any event, the snow was just as soft as we’d encountered on Bear Run, and it was really nice to hit that steeper pitch and really sink the edges into the snow.

We met up with the folks who had been on the Mighty Mite around that time, and learned that instruction had gone well; Marlene was working her way toward parallel turns with wedge Christies, and Ashley was working on various aspects of her wedge.  The only issue is that there had been a big pause due to adjustment needs in their leased/rented boots.  Even though their boots were from another shop, the folks in the Bolton Valley rental area were great with assistance with fitting, and figured out exactly the adjustment that was giving them all their discomfort with that specific boot model.  Knowing how painful the situation had been, big kudos go out to the shop folks for saving the day.

With the Mighty Mite crew joining us, we did some additional trips down Bear Run that allowed Marlene to ski with the kids – she was looking really good with her parallel turns and seemed to be having a great time.  Naturally with the huge group, everyone’s pace wasn’t quite the same, so Jeff and I had let Ty and Kenny run circuits at their own speed.  Liana did the same thing, and although they don’t typically do a lot of time at the resort alone, they took care of themselves quite well.

Finally, we had progressed to the point that we decided to do a run off the Vista Quad – Ashley had gone in for a break, but everyone else in the group was heading up.  Ty had been excited to get to the upper mountain, and had been talking it up enough to Kenny that he was getting excited as well.  Since there was the potential for more challenge, I’m sure Isabella was happy as well.  While we’d been below cloud level on the lower mountain, the Vista Peak area was socked in, and it was very impressive just how thick the clouds were.  We started with the full Sherman’s Pass route to make it as easy as possible on everyone that was working on their turns.  The kids played in all the jumps along the edges of the trail and had a blast.  On-slope visibility was difficult at the top of the mountain, but those thick clouds tapered off well before we even got down to the Mid Mountain level.

With that run under everyone’s belts, it was easy to get a consensus to break for lunch; Stephen and his crew had to leave by 1:00 P.M., so they had gone in to eat earlier, but we still had quite a large group.  Despite the soft snow, the cloudy weather and potential for a few showers seemed to keep many people home, so that meant neither the slopes nor lodge were crowded – that was good news for our group at prime lunch time.  Personally, I thought the conditions were great; it felt like classic Pacific Northwest ski conditions in the lower elevations – a little heavy on the clouds and moisture in the air, but it was more than made up for by very comfortable temperatures and soft snow.  In any event, we had any easy time getting all the tables we needed for the large group upstairs on the lodge.  The kids took care of the hunger they’d accumulated with all those morning runs, and charged themselves up for the afternoon.  Later, when I asked Ty about things he remembered from the day, he spoke of the awesome cheeseburger he had for lunch… so obviously it made an impression.  Oh, and he also mentioned Kenny’s pizza, which seemed to disappear quickly.

An image of various people from our group having lunch in the base lodge at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Enjoying lunch with our big group in the base lodge

We were right back on the quad in the afternoon, and although I wasn’t sure how ready everyone was for more challenging options beyond Sherman’s Pass, Jeff made the executive decision of heading down Bull Run.  Technically I think it’s labeled a beginner run, but it’s got some more challenging sections, including that last dive down to Mid Mountain that would probably be rated advanced on its own.  The pitch made it difficult for the girls to commit to their turns, especially since it’s a natural snow trail and coverage was a little thin to further constrain the line options.  I helped by carrying Isabella through the crux, and Liana took that section by sliding on her back in the soft snow.  Everyone seemed to have a really good time though, and they were laughing about it as we slid across the Mid Mountain area.  The clouds had lowered pretty far by the afternoon, even below Mid Mountain, so many folks were calling it an early afternoon.  While the reduced visibility can be great for working on your balance if you’ve reached a certain level of skiing, it can make it quite difficult when you’re first starting out.  I heard one guy in the lodge mention that he only did a couple of runs because he just couldn’t see well enough to be confident in his skiing.

An image of snowboarders riding the Vista Quad Chair in heavy fog at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Clouds enveloped the mountain peaks today and visibilities dropped to incredibly low levels on the upper mountain.

With the clouds lowering the way they were, after a couple of quad runs we decided to finish off with Mid Mountain Lift to keep us below the densest clouds.  People were excited to check out Glades, and although I was a little worried about the uneven terrain or potential coverage issues for the beginners, I quickly acquiesced.  Coverage wasn’t too bad, but not quite to the level it was when it opened up on December 30th, 2006.  I bring up that day because the 2006-2007 season started slowly, very much like this one – it wasn’t until the end of December that natural snow terrain really started to open up.  So, even with the early season coverage on Glades, Ty, Dylan and Kenny ate it up; the huge leap in skiing that Kenny had made that day was most evident as I watched him easily hang with Ty and Dylan.  The boys schussed the run so fast that we had time to hit the Waffle Cabin at the base while we waited for the girls.  The boys had already finished their waffle by the time everyone else arrived, but E said all of the girls had done really well – it just took time as she coached them on how to deal with uneven terrain by taking it one turn at a time, and there were a couple of small tumbles that just required a lot of time for reassembly.  It had been a great day for Kenny and his family all around, and it looks like they’ll hit the ground running when ski program starts up next week at Stowe.

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