Record warmth occupied the region over the past week, with temperatures that topped out in the 70s and 80s F, forcing the closure of many trails at the local ski areas. Fortunately, Bolton was able to keep things rolling by managing their available snow, and they were open for skiing today. Although the warmth of the past couple of weeks has meant a lack of powder, altering terrain choices from the trees to more on piste alternatives, it’s been a boon for Ty and Dylan’s Telemark skiing. They worked hard on their turns last Saturday at Bolton, E brought them to Stowe yesterday where they worked some more, and the plan was for them to keep at it again today. They don’t often get back to back days of Telemark skiing, so we were excited to get out there today to really put in a reinforcing shot in their progression.
After the warmth of the week, temperatures cooled and clouds came in today, so we were concerned about the snow surfaces stiffening up. When Powderfreak mentioned that the mountain temperatures were cool enough to firm up the snow at Stowe, it didn’t instill a lot of optimism, but we decided to head up to Bolton anyway and check things out. We got up to the Village around 10:00 A.M. for the opening of the Vista Quad, and the temperature was 41 F at the base. Plenty of parking was available in the top tier lot because so few skiers had come out, and the base area was pretty quiet aside from a large group of what looked like kids and ski instructors. It didn’t appear as though they were going to ski; it just seemed like they were going to have some sort of end of the season gathering.
The elevation at which natural snow begins to appear has risen quite high, and we didn’t see any until around 2,000’. Even above that though, it remained very patchy all the way up to the Vista Summit above 3,000’. With such intense heat over the past week, it was a different melting pattern than what I’m used to seeing on the mountain. Options for skiing were the Spillway and Sherman’s Pass routes up top, which combined into Beech Seal on the lower mountain. Sherman’s was the plan for the boys on their Teles, and the snow turned out to have an excellent consistency. Thanks to grooming and/or skier traffic, it had softened to great corn snow. The snow actually turned out to be even better than what we had last Saturday, which was a little on the soft side and pushed the boys around in spots during their turns. In areas without the skier traffic or grooming though, today’s snow was a bit firm, so there’s clearly plenty of thermal mass left in the snowpack to keep it cool. We had wondered what it was going to be like in terms of crowding today with just a couple of routes open, but there were so few people skiing that it wasn’t an issue – E and I estimate that we saw about 30 to 40 people out there on the slopes, and that includes quite a few ski patrollers.
Since E skied with the boys at Stowe yesterday, she got to watch the progression in their Telemark turns, but this morning was the first time I’d seen them in action since last weekend. I quickly got to witness the improvement that the additional session and back-to-back days had made. Both boys were holding stronger Telemark turns on steeper pitches. Dylan still has an obvious “vanilla” side (and I guess therefore a “chocolate” side), but Ty seemed to be pretty consistent to the right and left. We therefore had him working on transitions between turns, because we could see that that was an area of weakness. Right now he’s completing many good turns, but not flowing into the next one, and E and I can both recall from our learning that dialing in that transition represents a big leap in one’s ability to link smooth, quick Telemark turns on various pitches. In any event, both boys really put out a lot of great turns, and since Bear Run was closed, they were nailing them on the steeper top section of Beech Seal. Both boys were holding long Telemark stances even in the flats to work on their balance, and Dylan commented on how it was really working his legs. Telemark skiing will do that… apparently even to a six year old.
The snow was definitely good enough for some additional runs, especially with the way the snow surfaces and terrain were working out well for the boys, but we finished up early because we had to be home by noon. We were meeting my mom to head off to my cousins sugarhouse in Barton for his annual get together. It’s interesting that Bolton was only planning to stay open until 2:00 P.M. though, and they are making this their last day. With the cooler forecast and potential for more snow in the coming weeks, there’s no question that they could stay open if they wanted to, but I’m sure it’s a financial decision with so few people skiing. The warmth of the past week no doubt shifted many people’s thoughts away from skiing, and folks aren’t going to be too interested in paying for a lot of days on limited terrain. Bolton’s normal closing is next weekend anyway, and with the extra weekend that they stayed open last season due to the prodigious spring snowpack, closing a week early this season basically averages things out. It is great that there is still plenty of base down for earned turns in the coming week if we get more powder, or even if the weather warms up for more corn snow.