Bolton Valley, VT 04JAN2013

An image of a ski track on the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Despite only modest storms over the past week, the snow has definitely built up for some nice powder skiing.

Our weather pattern in the Northeast has been fairly active over the past week, with four storms affecting our area since December 28th when I was last out on the slopes of Bolton Valley.  For Northern Vermont, these storms really haven’t been big hits though.  The first storm on the 29th was one that really hit Central Vermont and New Hampshire, and areas off to the east in Maine, while areas to the north and south of that saw little if any snow.  In general, the ski resorts in the southern 2/3 of Vermont picked up the snow, with Okemo topping the list at 10 inches.  The second event was just a little cold temperature diamond dust that fell from a weak short wave system through the midday hours on New Year’s Eve.  Third in line was a weak Alberta Clipper system that brought a couple of inches to the northern valleys and mountains, and the fourth was the big kahuna… at least for some areas.  It was a coastal storm that was pretty far off shore, so again it was southern areas that picked up the largest snow totals.  For the Vermont ski resorts, Stratton topped the list with 18 inches, although there were places to the north of Boston that picked up two feet.  In terms of Northern Vermont it was again a fairly minimal storm, but the few inches that fell were quite dense.  Here at the house we picked up 3 inches of snow, but it contained almost a third of an inch of liquid.  One notable aspect of that storm was how cold it was – it was snowing significantly with temperatures in the single digits and even below zero Fahrenheit.  That was part of what made the snow up here so dense – it was actually too cold for optimal dendritic snowflake production.

“One of my favorite parts
of the descent was playing
in the dips and rolls along
the skier’s left of the trail
– there was some incredible
flow, and the fats had that
“no width” feeling much of
the time.”

Despite the recent additions of snow, there hasn’t been too much incentive to ski over the past couple of days, basically because of the continuation of those cold temperatures.  When the high temperatures are below zero Fahrenheit, as they have been in some locations this week, I’d much rather get other work done and save skiing for when the temperatures become more respectable.  Fortunately, today was that day.  Temperatures climbed into the low 20s F this afternoon, and since I was curious about how those rounds of snow over the past week had settled in up at the mountain, it was time to check it out.  I really didn’t know what to expect up on the hill.  New trails have been opening up on natural snow, including some black diamond runs like Schuss and Vermont 200, so that seemed like a good sign.  I was also curious about the lower-elevations on Timberline though.  If the recent snows had put down enough coverage there, I was excited to skin up for some powder turns.  To cover my options, I put both the fats and mid fats on the ski rack, and threw their skins in the back of the car.  I was ready for whatever was out there.

First on my list was to check out Timberline on my way up to the main base, but that’s as far as I got.  There was still some tall grass sticking out of the snow on the slopes, but I could see a lot of ski tracks scattered about, and it was clearly game on for Timberline turns.  I grabbed the fats, put on the skins, and headed up.  There was a well-established skin track heading up the usual Twice as Nice route, so clearly a lot of people have been earning turns since the most recent storm.  At the base elevations down at ~1,500’, the snowpack had a few different layers.  Going from the top down there were 3 to 4 inches of powder, with what appeared to be a thin crust below it, then another inch of powder, and then some denser snow.  All told it was only about 5 to 6 inches in deep, but there was enough substance to it that it seemed like it would provide some decent skiing.  Up above 2,000’ it was notably deeper, with more base and a snowpack hitting the 7-10” range.

Based on what I’d seen in the lower elevations, I thought that Brandywine might be a nice option, so I headed to the top of Intro and switched over for the descent there.  Looking down Brandywine, the signs were definitely positive.  The trail had seen a few skiers, but there was plenty of untracked snow on the skier’s left, and based on the tracks it looked like there would be plenty of cover.  The turns were even better than I’d expected, with 6 to 8 inches of powder over a hardened base up top.  There was that thin layer of crust sandwiched in there somewhere, but it only occasionally made its presence felt, and the fat skis made quick work of it.  One of my favorite parts of the descent was playing in the dips and rolls along the skier’s left of the trail – there was some incredible flow and the fats had that “no width” feeling much of the time.  There has definitely been some good snow building up on the mountain while I wasn’t looking – it’s certainly not enough to support lift-served traffic yet, but we’re just one good synoptic storm away from that with the base that’s down there now.

An image of a ski track in powder snow on the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying a run through the untracked snow on Brandywine today

When I reached the junction with Timberline Run I saw that it was rutted from snowcat traffic, so I took Spur, which was totally untracked.  The powder wasn’t so deep that I couldn’t move on the modest pitches, but it was enough to keep you floating for turns.  As I passed by Spell Binder I saw that there had been a lot of skier traffic there, so indeed people have been hitting it hard.  It seems like there was a mini army out there skiing laps over the past couple of days.  Just as I was reaching the end of Spur, I saw that the sky was exploding with color off to the west, and it quickly became dramatic enough that I had to stop and take it in.  I was probably there for 10 minutes watching the color change as the sun sank lower, and I happily got some good photos of the light show.  Even the lowest elevations about which I was most concerned offered up good turns, so it may be worth another visit tomorrow.  Temperatures are staying mild ahead of the next storm heading this way, so I’d say it’s time get out in the snow in the northern mountains.

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