Bolton Valley, VT 14APR2012

An image of recent ski tracks in the snow left by a recent April snowstorm on the steep Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today on Spillway – recent tracks

The huge cutoff low pressure system that brought more than two feet of snow to the mountains has been great for replenishing the slopes and supplying winter-like temperatures, and we made good use of it with ski outings on Tuesday and Thursday, but the sun was finally out consistently today and temperatures have been warming up.  Even though we’re just a few miles from Bolton Valley, it’s been really hard to get a sense for how the snowpack is doing in the mountains.  From the house, you can’t see snow in any of the 2,000’ peaks across the Winooski Valley, so that makes it especially hard to gauge.  Also, when it’s sunny with temperatures in the 60s F at the house, it can be hard to think about snow.

“The descent really wasn’t
the highlight of the trip,
since the snow was still
fairly isothermal and mushy,
but I did manage some
decent turns here and there.”

I’ve definitely been curious about the state of the snowpack though, and hadn’t visited Bolton since the recent storm, so after making use of the weather to get some yard work done during the day, I headed up in the late afternoon for a ski tour.  Some clouds actually came into the area during the afternoon that kept temperatures relatively cool, so I was thankful of that with some hiking ahead.  Honestly, most of the trip up the Bolton Valley Access Road, you wouldn’t even know there was snow anywhere.  The first snow I saw was at 1,500’ at the base of Timberline, but that was just leftover manmade snow that had been stockpiled in that area.  The first natural snow along the road was visible at around 1,800’, just patchy of course, but right around 2,000’ in the Village the coverage started to become continuous, with a depth around one inch.  Just jumping up in elevation minimally to back behind the base lodge at ~2,100’, the depth of the snow had increased to 2-4”.

A pile of balanced rocks sits at the base of the Vista Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont, with snow from a recent April storm in the background
Rock balancing down near the base of the Vista Quad, with some of the recent snow in the background

Even if not super deep down near the base, it was nice to see all the slopes covered with the recent snows.  There had definitely been plenty of skier traffic since the end of the storm, and tracks were scattered all over the slopes.  I ascended on Beech Seal, using various tracks of others to ease my ascent.  The snow was certainly thick and heavy, and the depth increased very rapidly with elevation, just as I’d seen at Stowe on Tuesday.  By the time I’d reached the Mid Mountain area at 2,500’, the depth of the snow was 8 to 10”.  Above Mid Mountain, the main skin track eventually continued onto Hard Luck, and although it’s much too steep for an efficient skinning ascent, I decided to stick with it just for a change of pace from my usual ascent routes.  Indeed it was pretty rough, with post holes galore amidst a bunch of descent tracks, but it worked out OK.  Up around the 2,800’ level the snow had reached 16” in depth, and again similar to the results at Stowe, it didn’t get much deeper than that, with roughly 16-18” near the Vista Summit at 3,100’.  That 2,800’ level must have been where the storm was snow throughout, whereas below that level it had gradually changed over to snow while the temperatures cooled.

The descent really wasn’t the highlight of the trip, since the snow was still fairly isothermal and mushy, but I did manage some decent turns here and there.  The snow was tricky enough on Telemark skis that I stuck to the Sherman’s Pass and Bear Run combination.  The snow seemed to be consolidating a bit with the afternoon’s cooling temperatures, but it certainly wasn’t where we want it yet.  Sub-freezing temperatures tonight should help out with some consolidation though – there could be a nice window of skiing tomorrow when the snow surface softens up.  I’d say today’s outing was most fun from the tour aspect and the chance to assess the snow depths, but the snowpack up high is definitely looking good.  Another storm in the near future would have some base snow to set down on and produce some nice turns.

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