Bolton Valley, VT 17APR2011
Yesterday’s temperatures were fairly cold, with Stowe reporting early afternoon readings of 20 F at the summit and 30 F at the base. There wasn’t much in the way of new snow, and with those temperatures the snow wasn’t likely to soften up to any great degree. Temperatures were warmer today though, and with some sun breaking out in the afternoon, I decided to head up to Bolton for a few turns. There was no snow at all at the base of the Bolton Valley access road (340’), but the first patches of snow started to appear around 900’. The natural snow cover hadn’t become 100% complete by 1,500’ at the base of the Timberline area, but I could see that the trails were well covered. I stopped there, knowing that opportunities for skiing the lower elevation trails are going to come to an end more quickly than options in the higher elevations.
The air temperature was in the low 40s F at the Timberline base, but the precipitation falling was still snow. It was generally just flurries, but you could tell that Mother Nature was still trying to figure out what she wanted to do as clearing was building in from the west. I quickly checked the snow surface and found that it was nicely softened, so the potential for good turns looked promising.
There were a couple of other vehicles in the lot, and not surprisingly, one was another Subaru. Inside it were some big fat skis mounted with Telemark bindings. It looked like a fun setup, but presumably the owner was out on the hill using something else. I started my skinning ascent on Beech Seal, and then switched over to Twice As Nice about halfway up where I encountered a gentleman hiking down because he’d had some binding problems. It turns out those big fat skis were his, and he was heading down to switch over to those. As I continued to ascend I could see that the snowpack was quite impressive; even down to the lowest elevations, the snow coverage was decent, although on the natural snow trails there were a few bare areas that would require some navigation. Beech Seal seemed very solid in cover though thanks to some supplemental snowmaking, just the sun-exposed north side of the trail was starting to melt out.
I ascended to the Timberline Summit (2,500’) and enjoyed a few minutes taking in the views from the new patrol shack as I had a snack. Coverage above the mid station at ~2,250’ was essentially wall to wall, so the middle and higher elevations were doing very well in terms of snowpack. Looking off to the north I could see glimpses of the trails on the main mountain, and they looked like they had excellent coverage. From my vantage point, the skies off to the east were fairly cloudy and the feeling was that of an overcast day, but once I started my descent I could see that the world was quite different to the west; the sky was mostly clear and the sun was making its presence known.
The descent down from the top of Brandywine and Intro featured reasonably soft snow, but it clearly hadn’t reached that prime softness for corn skiing; it was being well preserved for future use. Below the mid station however, the sun was working the snow, the temperatures were a bit warmer, and the corn was right at the stage it needed to be for slicing out beautiful turns. I stopped for a bit on the Showtime headwall as I ran into the gentleman who I’d seen before – he’d grabbed his fat skis just as he’d said. After talking for a bit we realized that we’d both graduated from CVU, albeit about a decade apart. I found out that his name was Gary Allen, and I learned that he was a good friend of my old Alfa mechanic, Jeff Hildebrand. We chatted about backcountry skiing for a while and had a good conversation standing there in the sun. A group of about a half dozen skiers ascended past us on the edge of Showtime and they looked psyched to get at some of the corn.
Eventually we ended our conversation and I engaged in a splendid ascent of that soft corn on Showtime. It was well worth another lap, but based on the time, my desire for dinner won out. There’s definitely enough snow up in the higher elevations to last for a few more weeks, so people will likely be enjoying the area for quite some time.