I hadn’t yet been up to Bolton Valley for turns this season, because based on what the web cams have been showing for all the storms thus far, the slopes at Stowe have seen bigger accumulations and better coverage. This time around though, things seemed more equitable. I’d seen the general state of coverage at Stowe when I stopped there for a tour on Thursday, so I had a good idea of what was down after the additional 4 to 6 inches reported this morning due to the recent Alberta Clipper. I could see from the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam that, although there was definitely some wind pushing the snow around and scouring some areas, accumulations were at least in the same ballpark as what Stowe had seen. As long as I went for a protected section of the mountain, it looked like coverage was going to be sufficient for some good powder turns.
“If you’ve ever heard of
the ‘no chain’ expression
in cycling, for when the
pedaling seems effortless,
then the expression for
today’s ski outing would
be ‘no width’.”
I wasn’t initially sure if I’d want to head out to the slopes today, since just a few inches of snow were expected from the clipper, but more due to the fact that the coldest air of the season has moved in on the back of this storm. With significant winds as well, it sounded like it was going to be brutal out there on the mountain. The reality was though, that this was November cold, not January cold. When we were out in the yard early this afternoon taking some potential Christmas card photos, the temperature was in the low 20s F and it was reasonably comfortable. It was going to be colder and windy on the mountain, but it seemed like great weather for earned turns.
I headed up to the mountain in the mid afternoon, made a quick Timberline stop at 1,500’ to measure the snow depths, finding 2-4”, and then parked in the top tier of the village lot around 2,100’. The temperature was in the mid teens F, and snow depths had increased to around 4-5”. After a conversation with Quinn subsequent to one of our recent October snowstorms, he’d mentioned going for an outing on the Turnpike trail, and with today’s accumulations and wind, that sounded like the perfect, protected option for an afternoon ski tour. I found a nice skin track that had been set in place by a prior skier, and it brought me up through some beautifully protected terrain. I think this was actually my first time ascending Turnpike on skins, and it is indeed a nice route. It’s got that type of modest pitch that makes you feel like you’re out for a stroll and hardly doing any work. The coverage was looking decent, and there was even a bit of old base snow that was initially sporadic, but increased as I got higher on the mountain. At 2,500’ I found snow depths in the 5-7” range, and I continued to follow the skin track up to around the 2,800’ mark, where it terminated. My plan was to ascend as high as the quality of the snow dictated, stopping when the winds or terrain outweighed the elevational increase in accumulations. Whoever had made that skin track had the right idea, because at 2,800’ it was starting to get to that point. I pushed on to 2,900’ at the top of Turnpike, and called it there because the next pitches on Peggy Dow’s were clearly steeper, rockier, and exposed to the wind. The snow had definitely been getting deeper though, and I’d say the depth of the powder up there was 7” or more.
I was unsure exactly how the descent was going to go. I’d chosen Turnpike because it has that protection from the wind, but also a nice combination of blue/green pitch and a generally grassy, not rocky, surface. The new snow was quite dry, but I’d brought my fattest Tele boards, my AMPerages at 115 mm underfoot. I was banking on that width to keep me afloat. I dropped in for my first turns, and another aspect of the snow conditions quickly became apparent… the snow was indeed light and dry, but it was cold enough that it was also slow. I was worried that the lack of glide in the dry snow was really going to affect the descent, but as soon as I hit the first steeper pitch the turns started flowing. Coverage was definitely adequate, and I touched down on the old base or grass very infrequently. Turns were very smooth, and as I was gliding my way down, I was confident that I’d made the right ski choice for the day. In fact, it felt like the perfect ski choice, and amazingly, given the situation I think I would have gone even fatter with the skis.
People are always pushing the fattest skis for the deepest powder, and that definitely makes sense in terms of floatation, but they’re good for so much more. Indeed I find them absolutely horrible on firm snow; it’s a lot like trying to ride a snowboard on a hard surface. But today didn’t have anything to do with firm snow, it was all powder… light, dry powder, and the fatties shone in just modest depths in multiple ways because of their floatation. First, despite the airy snow, they were keeping me off the subsurface and allowing bottomless turns. Second, and this one was totally unanticipated prior to discovering how dry and slow the snow was, they were allowing me to plane at the more modest speeds attained on today’s moderate pitches. That kept me going on lower angle pitches, really enhancing the fun factor, and it’s been one of the few times when I’ve had the feeling that even wider skis wouldn’t have been overkill. If you’ve ever heard of the “no chain” expression in cycling, for when the pedaling seems effortless, then the expression for today’s ski outing would be “no width”. Even though it was all Telemark turns, in which transitions are much slower than alpine, things seemed to move effortlessly from edge to edge during the turns, and it all just flowed.
Looking ahead, we’ve got a small system expected to affect the area tomorrow night with some snow, and then a much more significant system as we move toward Thanksgiving. That one could be messy with some mixed precipitation, but hopefully we’ll get some snow out of it as well.