Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry 19JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder descending from the North Slope trail on the Nordic & Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Heading off into the powder below North Slope today

It was a lot of fun skiing in the soft snow and warm temperatures last weekend, but winter is definitely back now.  Temperatures dropped down closer to seasonable levels at the beginning of the week, and then the bottom fell out toward the end of the week as we dropped below zero F Thursday night with an arctic frontal passage.  Fortunately, we’ve also had some modest shots of snow to start freshening the snowpack, and temperatures were back up to around 30 F in the mountains today, so it did seem like a good opportunity to get out for some turns and exercise.  Stowe is reporting 8” of snow since Wednesday, and the skiing looks great based on the pictures that Powderfreak posted in the ski thread and the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forum today. Bolton Valley is also reporting 5” of new snow during the period.  Although I’m thinking of waiting until we hit roughly the one foot mark before checking out the lift served terrain, it did seem like we’d seen enough new snow in the past few days to provide some decent backcountry turns.

“…I found 3 to 4 inches of fluff
down at the Village level, and
that gradually increased to the
4 to 6 inch range by the time I
got up to the Bryant Cabin at
around 2,700’.”

With all that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain for a quick tour up to the Bryant Cabin and back through whatever terrain seemed fitting for the conditions.  We’d reached the mid 30s F down at the house (495’) when I headed out around 2:00 P.M., but up in the Village at 2,100’ it was just 31 F.  There certainly hasn’t been enough snowfall yet to really resurface the slopes and get the on piste conditions back to normal, so I couldn’t believe how the Village parking lots were virtually full.  I wasn’t even able to get a parking spot in the upper tennis court lot like I usually do because it was full, but the lower tennis court lot had a decent number of spaces, and I was still able to park trailside along Broadway.  The resort was hopping though, so I guess the holiday weekend and the comfortable weather are enough to make people really want to get out there.  Overall that’s great for the resort of course.

“Indeed the turns in the powder
were silky, especially when
aided by the width of my
AMPerages, and it was nice
to feel that float again.”

In terms of unconsolidated snow above the old base, I found 3 to 4 inches of fluff down at the Village level, and that gradually increased to the 4 to 6 inch range by the time I got up to the Bryant Cabin at around 2,700’.  Coverage on the Bryant Trail was generally fine, although a couple of the stream crossings had only recently filled back in after presumably being blown out a bit with running water during the warm spell.  Traffic out in the Bryant area was pretty light once I was up above the Nordic trails – I saw a couple of skiers descending and a couple groups coming down on snowshoes.  The air was generally calm, although you could occasionally hear some gentle gusts of wind up in the peaks.  We’ve got another system and arctic frontal boundary coming through tomorrow, so there was that feeling of being between systems.

An image of Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Vally Nordic & Backcountry network at Bolton Vally ski resort in Vermont
Bryant Cabin

There was nobody in the Bryant Cabin area when I arrived there, and it was very quiet as I made my way past and stopped at the top of Gardiner’s Lane.  I could see some of the glades above me, and the look of the powder up there was very appealing, but I could tell by the tracks of a couple of other skiers up there that the new snow wasn’t quite deep enough to really make the turns bottomless.  As I was stripping off my skins, I heard a little noise coming from above me in the Birch Loop direction, and soon another backcountry skier passed by and headed down Gardiner’s Lane.  I’m not sure what he’d been skiing up above, but he probably had a similar plan to mine for the terrain below – there are a lot of nice mellow options off Gardiner’s Lane that would work really well with the conditions.

An image showing a measurement of the powder snow depth atop the base outside the Bryant Cabin on the backcountry ski trail network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The powder is building.

Conditions on Gardiner’s Lane were packed, and a little bumpy in spots.  At the junction with North Slope, I headed up a bit to catch a nice mellow line that I knew, and I’m glad that I did.  I could see that another skier had taken in before me, and the tracks left behind suggested some nice turns.  Indeed the turns in the powder were silky, especially when aided by the width of my AMPerages, and it was nice to feel that float again.  Back on Gardiner’s Lane, I had a feeling that I was in the zone of another glade I knew, and figuring that Gardiner’s Lane itself would have seen a fair share of traffic, I decided to head on that lesser used route.  Only one other skier had passed through there, and the snow was good, but the pitch was too steep to avoid contacting the base snow.  Below there I followed a set of tracks to an area I’d never been, and found a nice long glade that brought me all the way back down to World Cup.  It’s got to be one of the longest glades I’ve seen out there.  I’m not sure how new it is in the grand scheme of the backcountry network, but it’s new to me; I can’t wait to show it to E and the boys – especially with deeper powder.  Someone did some nice work in there.  The glade starts off with some mellow terrain that was great for today’s conditions, and then it steepens out to more of an intermediate pitch.  I was even able to finish off with a run on the Telemark Practice Slope, which did have some irregularities in the subsurface snow due to previous skier traffic, but still delivered some nice turns – even a few in which I was able to stay floating in the powder.

A GPS map on Google Earth showing a ski tour taken on January 19th, 2013 using the Nordic and backcountry ski network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS Track of today’s tour on Google Earth

Overall I’d say that that part of the run in the new glade was a good description of the general conditions out there – you can get some bottomless turns (especially with the help of fat powder boards) on the mellower green-style terrain, but on intermediate pitches and above you’re going to be touching bottom a lot.  It was definitely worth a tour out there today though, and if we get a few more inches as the next system passes through tomorrow, it’s going to be even better.

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