Since we had some warm weather at the beginning of the week that brought all elevations above freezing, and a return to more wintry temperatures by midweek, I wasn’t even sure that we were going to ski today. The snow surfaces were simply going to be hard, the only way around that would be fresh snow, and there were no notable storms in the forecast. Because the weather pattern has been relatively prosaic over the past month or so, there hasn’t really been much of need for refresher storms, but they were definitely needed this week. The only winter weather events in the forecast were a couple of small, upper level low pressure systems that were expected to pass through the area. Each one looked like it would be a 1-3” type of event, which would hardly be enough to get past “dust on crust” conditions. The Green Mountains came through though, working their magic to pull out up to 10” of snow from the first event, and another 6” from the second in the north central areas. Even areas father north that didn’t jackpot with those two storms were well on their way to some nice conditions.
“I did numerous depth checks
on the powder up there in the
3,000’ range, and was getting
readings from 6 to 9 inches in
areas that didn’t have drifting.”
With the storms delivering, it was time to make a plan for some Saturday turns at Bolton Valley. I expected that the 7” they’re reported in the past couple of days was a bit conservative, but with the new snow being split between Thursday and Friday, the best turns were going to be found on terrain that hadn’t been touched at all. I decided that some moderate angle terrain on the backcountry network would be the way to go, and it seemed that one of the glades we’ve been skiing the past couple of weeks would fit the bill nicely. With some sidecountry laps off the Wilderness Lift, we could get good access there. That plan actually went by the wayside when I saw that the Wilderness Lift wasn’t running, but of course that opened up a whole new realm of untracked terrain in the Wilderness area itself, and we could certainly make use of that.
“The three of us packed
our bags with skins and
snacks, and headed up to
the mountain in the late
E was dead set that she wanted to do a bunch of cleaning in the house today, so I couldn’t convince her to head out for turns, but she did insist that I get the boys out of the way. No problem. The three of us packed our bags with skins and snacks, and headed up to the mountain in the late morning. Temperatures had been hanging in the low 20s F all morning in the valleys, and even colder in the higher elevations, so we knew that powder would be staying light and dry. The on and off sun that we’d had in the lower elevations much of the morning was quickly replaced by light snowfall as we hit the 1,000’ elevation mark on the Bolton Valley Access Road – the mountains just didn’t seem to want to let go of that moisture. The resort looked like it was doing a brisk business, with the fourth tier of parking in the Village lots just about full. I chatted with the parking attendants about potential spots higher up from people that had already left, and ended up getting a good parking location right along the south edge of the lot.
There was lots of activity at the main base area as we boarded the Vista Quad, because the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge was taking place. It would have been fun to hang out and join some of the festivities, but there was powder to be skied. Our first test of the day’s conditions was Alta Vista, and indeed one could see that surfaces were much firmer than last weekend. The grooming had definitely tilled the new snow into the base, but traffic had also made its mark on the terrain. I’d hit some areas of excellent packed powder where my skis could bite soft and deep, but plenty of others where it was quite firm, and at 115 underfoot, the fat skis certainly weren’t the tool for the job there. The skier’s left offered up its usual supply of powder, but it wasn’t quite the effortless, soft flow that it sometimes is; the powder hadn’t quite hit that threshold depth to really let you crank hard in there while totally avoiding the old base snow.
At the base of Upper Crossover, we began strapping on the skins to head upward. Josh, who had found time for a break from his day’s duties, was out taking a run and spotted us in preparation for the ascent. We chatted for a bit about the festivities going on with the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, and he brought up the fact that part of the event was a race. I think they boys might have fun with that, so we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled if they do it again next season. We bid Josh adieu as he continued with his run, and we finished preparing for our ascent. I finished with Dylan’s skins first, and let him go to get a head start, then followed up with Ty and let him go. They’re definitely becoming faster ascenders, but I knew I’d be able to catch them pretty quickly. We found that there was a skin track in place, but it looked like only one other person had used it at that point, and that bode well for encountering lots of untracked terrain. The weather was just perfect – wintry and moderately cold, with no wind. I did numerous depth checks on the powder up there in the 3,000’ range, and was getting readings from 6 to 9 inches in areas that didn’t have drifting. That’s after some settling over the past couple of days, but the 7 inches reported for the past two events certainly seems to be in the ballpark. The crux of the ascent was actually right at the top of Bolton Outlaw. New snow hadn’t settled in well there, and previous scouring left a lot of ice. We really had to work our edges and do some side stepping and pole work to pass through that area. Dylan muscled his way through a challenging slick spot that Ty and I staunchly avoided, and it was quite impressive to see him stick it out. The boys recharged with some GU at the Wilderness Summit, and then we headed in the direction of Peggy Dow’s.
The descent featured some great snow, with generally that 6+ inches of untracked powder unless the wind had played around with it. The best part of the descent was that the boys had plenty of time to work on their Telemark turns in powder, which is something they only get to do so often because they’re typically using their alpine equipment. Today, with the quality of the snow and the very even subsurface, they were really making strides on those turns. Time and time again I’d hear them hooting about how they’d just made “their best powder Telemark turn ever”. Naturally the powder skiing wasn’t 100% bottomless everywhere, but you could definitely get a good percentage of bottomless turns on most pitches. Since we’d all pulled out the fat skis to help in that regard, we were enjoying the fact that they were clearly doing their part to keep us off the subsurface. Lower Turnpike was mostly groomed and had seen a little traffic coming over from Vista, but the edges held a lot of untracked snow, and powder turns were plentiful for essentially the entire descent. It wasn’t going to be too hard to get the boys to do another lap if it seemed like that was the way to go.
Ty was raring to go again, but Dylan was calling for lunch after that lap, and the choice was made to head up to Fireside Flatbread. The upstairs of the base lodge was full of people taking part in the various festivities of the day, so we sat at the bar and had our slices while we soaked up the scene. My pizza was a fun combination of vodka sauce, broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, and red onions, and Ty and I joked about how my slice was almost half of a large pizza. That was Ty’s estimate, and I’d say it was more like 1/3 of a pizza, but it was a monster. We enjoyed watching the pizza guys doing their quick and masterful assemblies of various pies. I overheard them talking with one of the managers about the potential Fireside Flatbread schedule midweek next week, discussing the options for what they’d do it if dumps. There’s the potential for a significant synoptic storm in the Tuesday timeframe, and that’s something we really haven’t seen much of in Northern Vermont so far this season. We’ll be watching the forecast with anticipation just like them.
After lunch we hit the lower half of Wilderness and worked our way over to Snow Hole. The boys had already asked about it on their first run, and it seemed like a great idea. The snow was quite good in there, with just a couple of other tracks. The light snowfall that had been with us during the morning had tapered off after a couple of hours, but clouds were generally around and the snow was still staying wintry all the way down to the Village. We also did a run on Snowflake to work in some of the powder on Snowflake Bentley, and it really was still sitting there along the edges even as we were moving past mid afternoon. The boys worked in some additional excellent Telemark turns on those pitches. Conditions really only get marked down today because of the subsurface that is firmer than usual due to the warmth, and some spots being closed because coverage was a bit thin, but if this next storm is substantial enough, those issues could be remedied quite well.