There weren’t any large snowstorms in Northern Vermont over the past week, but we did have three small storms that brought a total of 4.8 inches of snow to the house and probably a half foot or so to the mountains. Today was again expected to be one of those comfortable days in the 30s F, and since it appeared as though there was some warming in the middle elevations based on Powderfreak’s early morning report from Stowe, we got a relatively early start in case the powder on the lower mountain was going to thicken too much with the warming temperatures.
I checked in on the temperature history for the Bolton Valley Weather Station at 2,100’, and it had only gotten up to 35 F overnight at that elevation. As we drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road around 9:30 A.M., we could see that the mid level temperature inversion was in effect though; at the house (500’), the temperature was around freezing, and it was 37 F in the village (2,100’). That still wasn’t too bad depending on how dry the air was, and it was likely cooler than that above the base elevations.
The resort had finally opened up the Snowflake Lift for the season, so I dropped E and the boys off there to let them take a run or two while I parked the car and got changed. When I finally met back up with them, they’d already taken a couple of runs, and the boys were really enjoying the skiing in the Butterscotch Terrain Park. The mountain hasn’t even created the big jumps yet, but they’ve started to amass snow in the area, and there are some knolls and steep drops. Ty enjoyed taking them at speed and sailing a good distance while being just inches off the ground. The embryonic terrain features were nice, but I was more interested in powder along the edge of the park. There were a couple inches of new snow atop the base, and it was skiing nicely – there certainly weren’t any temperature issues with the powder at that point. We met up with Stephen and his group of Helena and Thomas, as well as Claire and her group of Luke and others, and took a few runs in that area before finally deciding to check out the higher elevations.
From the Vista Summit we decided to head down Alta Vista, and this is actually where I found some of the best turns of the day. I checked out the snow on the skier’s far left, and found an impressive accumulation composed of the recent rounds of powder, bolstered by snow that people had pushed off the trail. I told the others in the group to check it out as well, because it was really impressive. We’ve certainly had some good skiing so far this season, but it was something about the combination of steep, soft turns along that left side spine that really hit that next level. As I was composing my thoughts about the turns I’d just had in an effort to crystallize a description, Ty, who had followed my advice to take that line, came to a stop at the bottom of the steep pitch and said, “That was really satisfying!” I must have laughed out loud. That was the perfect description of that skiing – Ty had really nailed it. It was steep enough, and deep enough, and fast enough, that is just hit that combination that we hadn’t seem too much of yet. The mantra for the day became that “satisfying” line, and we deemed Alta Vista as our “go to” run from the top. Obviously, with the great snow we’d found, temperatures were not at all an issue up at the top of the mountain; it was easily below freezing and the snow was staying light and dry.
We headed over to Wilderness next to get into some untracked powder, and found that a few hundred feet lower the snow was still holding up well. The boys were in really good spirits after the great skiing we’d found on Alta Vista, and they next hit some untracked areas on the Wilderness Lift Line. Ty caught a nice jump on his line, and Dylan finished off his line with an impressive straight-line, figure-11 schuss. It was really nice to see him being so aggressive, although he did have an unfortunate end when he came into a water bar that wasn’t quite filled to the brim with snow and took a tumble in the powder. Fortunately, the biggest issue ended up being all the cold powder that got under his clothes. Below that, E had some really nice Telemark turns in the open areas of powder; the powder was a little dense, but without the effects of the wind, the snow was easier to manage than what we’d encountered last Friday. The boys and I popped into Wilderness Woods, and coverage is clearly adequate based on how heavily they had been skied. Still, one can’t quite go around with reckless abandon in there yet, and a big synoptic dump of snow is what’s needed to get that area to the next level of coverage with more comfortable skiing. Farther along, we ventured onto Lower Turnpike. Just like we’d seen last Friday, the kids were still there having a session on that backcountry kicker. There was still plenty of untracked snow to be found, although now that we were on the lower half of the mountain we could feel it getting thicker due to temperatures a bit above freezing.
The boys called for lunch, so we headed into the lodge. Surprisingly, even though the holidays were over, the lodge was much more crowded than we’d found on our previous Bolton outing a week ago on New Year’s Eve. That day had low clouds on the upper mountain that probably kept a lot of people away, but a big factor in the number of visitors today was probably the fact that all the season-long kids programs were starting up. After a quick look for a table, we just decided that we’d grab a quick bite in the James Moore Tavern instead. It was our first time in the tavern this season and we had a pleasant lunch with the usual great atmosphere. The tavern was really filling up by the time we were done, so it looks like they were doing some really good business. Stephen popped into the tavern during lunch and said that he’d be free in the afternoon for some skiing; Helena was going to take a lesson, and Johannes would still be in his Mountain Explorers group for the remainder of the day.
After lunch we did a Mid Mountain run on Beech Seal, and some precipitation started to fall. We actually thought it might be rain at first, but it was just a bit of sleet that soon transitioned over to snow. We met up with Stephen and Thomas, and enjoyed the fresh round of snowfall as we rode the Vista Quad and headed toward the summit. The snow was gradually transformed into higher quality flakes as time and elevation passed, and it was snowing hard enough on the upper half of the mountain that we put up our hoods to keep from getting covered. I was riding the chair with Ty and Dylan, and we all had fun with various methods of capturing snowflakes in our mouths. The snow didn’t last too long, but at least it put down a coating and brought in and extra dose of winter spirit.
We introduced Stephen and Thomas to what we’d found on Alta Vista, and then headed back over to Wilderness. It had warmed a bit more, so the turns in the untracked snow on Lower Turnpike were more challenging, and we learned that we’d definitely been smart when we’d hit it as early as possible. While the skiing was still manageable, it was getting sticky enough that it wasn’t quite worth making the trek all the way over there, especially when contrasted to the way the snow was staying so cold in the higher elevations up on Alta Vista. With that thought in our heads, we headed back up for another go at Alta Vista. Ty actually nailed the steep, “satisfying” section better than me on that one, although I came right back at him and said that I’d like to see him handle it with some quality Telemark turns. On the lower mountain, E and I opted for the steeper turns on Beech Seal, while Thomas and the boys took Bear Run for its jumps. Even with the good snow, we were done at that point, so we skied on down to the road and headed to the car. I think Ty would agree that it was a pretty “satisfying” day – we got a taste of steep, natural snow and we’re ready for Mother Nature to deliver something that will allow more access to more. There could be a substantial storm in the later part of the upcoming week, so we’ll just have to see how that plays out. The mountain is primed and ready with respectable base snow at all elevations, even down to Timberline, so a big synoptic dump could open a lot of terrain.