Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT 15JAN2012

An image of ski tracks in nice powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the great powder on Spell Binder today

Our late week storm brought plenty of powder to Northern Vermont, but it brought ample cold air as well.  With some help from hand and foot warmers, the boys dealt with it pretty well yesterday at Bolton, where temperatures ranged through the single digits, but this morning was even colder.  We bottomed out at -3.6 F at the house for our coldest reading of the season to date, and up in the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100’ I watched the thermometer sit around -10 F for much of the morning.  Naturally, the temperature had me thinking of a backcountry outing instead of sitting still riding lifts in the frozen air, and although I haven’t been out on Bolton’s backcountry network yet this season, our observations from yesterday suggest that base depths are more than ready, even in the middle elevations.  As I prepared my ski gear however, another option entered my head.  Despite what appears to be fairly decent coverage, the resort has yet to open up Timberline, so the slopes are just sitting there loaded with all the fresh powder.  The beautiful tracks we saw in the powder at Timberline yesterday made the thought of skiing there hard to resist, and since it shouldn’t be too long before lift-served skiing starts up over there, I switched my plans to a hike of Timberline.

A temperature plot showing the cold temperatures on Janunary 15, 2012 at the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Watching the cold temperatures up at Bolton Valley today

Around midday, E headed off with Ty to Kenny’s house – Kenny was having a sleepover for his birthday, and Ty was part of it.  Dylan and I hung around the house since I wasn’t planning to bring him out in the subzero temperatures, and it was well into the afternoon before E got back and I could get on my way up to the mountain.  The temperature in the Bolton Valley Village was on the verge of getting into positive numbers though, so that was looking very good – temperatures around the 0 F mark are really quite nice for ascending in winter.

“…I found 15 inches of
powder on Spell Binder,
and the turns were blissfully
bottomless and smooth.”

Indeed the car thermometer gave a reading of exactly 0 F at the elevation of the Timberline Base (~1,500’) when I arrived.  I didn’t have time to dawdle, since it was already after 4:00 P.M. and the sky was darkening by the time I started my ascent, but it looked like I’d have a good opportunity to see the winter sunset from the westward facing slopes of the Timberline area.  I saw a couple of ski tracks at the very bottom of Doug’s Woods, and the coverage certainly looked passable.  That’s a good sign to see the west-facing slopes skiable down to such a low elevation.  When I probed the snow depths down near the lodge, I found a general 9 to 12 inches of powder above the base snow.  The resort has been grooming the Timberline trails in preparation for their eventual opening, and that meant that there was a nice skin track available on Showtime.  I didn’t get any pictures to do it justice, but it beautifully negotiated the Showtime Headwall and made my ascent very efficient.  I kept checking behind me every few minutes to monitor the sun during the ascent, and I was able to catch it just before it went down to produce a nice shot of the sunset.

An image of late winter light illuminating ski tracks at the bottom of the "Doug's Woods" glade at Bolton Valley Ski Area in Vermont
Tracks have started to appear in Doug’s Woods.

Available daylight pretty much negated continuing past the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station, so I stopped my ascent there and poked around to see which route had the best powder for the descent.  There were a good number of tracks on Twice as Nice, so I settled on Spell Binder.  It was hard to go wrong though with all the new snow – I found 15 inches of powder on Spell Binder,and the turns were blissfully bottomless and smooth.  The powder we skied yesterday has presumably settled some, but it actually seemed to ski even better today, so perhaps it dried out with the cold temperatures.  Those temperatures don’t seem to be going anywhere either, when I got back down to the car it was 1 F, and we’re looking at lows in the -10 to -20 F range down at the house tonight.  Tomorrow’s looking good though, after the cold start, the temperature should be up around 20 F on the slopes at Stowe.

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