Bolton Valley Backcountry, Nordic, and Alpine, VT 26JAN2014

An image of the "Cup Runneth Over" glade on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The backcountry season is definitely underway at Bolton Valley now.

After our fresh snow and reprieve from cold temperatures yesterday, today it was back into the arctic air with highs predicted to be in the single digits F or even hovering around zero in the higher elevations.  And of course that didn’t factor in the wind, which brought the effective temperatures down well below zero.  Since that was the forecast, E and Claire cancelled our BJAMS ski program at Stowe today; there’s just no reason for dozens of kids to risk frostbite, especially when many of them are so focused on learning to ski that they’re oblivious to what’s going on with their skin.

“Many, many glades have
been included on the latest
version of the backcountry
map, and there are now
more than two dozen of
them on there.”

With the prevailing temperatures, I wasn’t all that excited about riding ski lifts myself, but since the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake came in at 36 inches yesterday, that got me thinking about a backcountry tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.  With three feet at the stake, much of the terrain on the network should finally be in play, and I was eager to see how things were going up there with $40,000 having been invested since the state took over a large portion of the land in June.

Temperatures were in the low single digits when I arrived in the Village, but as I parked down along the edge of Broadway I could see that the Nordic scene was definitely hopping.  Numerous skiers swished by as I prepared my gear, including three patrollers heading off to monitor the trails.  I definitely felt cold as I geared up, but once I started moving, that welcomed warmth of activity quickly came on, and I rapidly found that pleasant temperature balance between movement and winter cold.  Checking the powder depth near the base of the network at ~2,100’ revealed 7 inches, which was encouraging.

“That actually made for
quite a unique tour
overall, one that
brought me from the
network back to the
alpine network.”

I started out with only a vague plan to head up to Bryant Cabin and assess the state of coverage on the trail network, so that gave me the opportunity for some exploring along the way.  For a while I’ve wanted to check out the glade called “Cup Runneth Over”, which I’d read about a while back on the Bolton Nordic Blog, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it.  I had printed out Art’s directions to the glade on a piece of paper that I keep in my backcountry pack, and with the help of those and a little poking around, I quickly found it.  The coverage looked a little on the lean side, but as I glanced around, I could see that not only does the glade drop below World Cup, it starts up above it – and there was a track on that upper section that clearly showed how the snow was sufficient for turns.  I skinned up through that upper section of the glade until it reached the Bryant Trail, and made a mental note of that upper start point for future reference.  I can’t believe how many times I’ve passed by that spot on Bryant and never noticed the glade starting off to the left, but that’s what exploring is all about.

An image of the Bryant Trail on the Bolton Valley backcountry network approaching the Bryant Cabin
The evergreens were choked with snow today on the upper sections of the Bryant Trail.

It was indeed nice to finally get to see part of Cup Runneth Over, but I wanted to keep exploring, so I merged onto Bryant and headed upward.  I noticed what looked like some open trees in the forest below Possum, and did a quick tour through the area to see what it offered.  The terrain there really needs no glading, as the natural make-up of the forest would lend itself to plenty of turns.  The pitch is such that it would be great after one of those events that deliver 4 to 6 inches of light powder over a smooth, firm base.  Much more than that amount of snow though, and the pitch is just not there – even today it would have been slow with the 7 or 8 inches of medium weight snow atop the snowpack, but that was also in part due to the snow being slow because of the cold temperatures.  Continuing upward on Bryant, I saw tracks on fairly steep lines like A1A, JJ’s, and Big Blue, and the coverage certainly looked sufficient.  I eventually got into the areas of protected evergreens that really hold the snow, and you could see that they were choked with powder.  Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ I found the powder to be in the 8 to 9-inch range.

“The snow had settled a
bit more, some wind had
affected it in spots, and
it was slow due to the
cold temperatures, so
while fun, it couldn’t
compare to yesterday.”

I decided to continue my tour out along North Slope, and when I finally hit one of the local high points I stopped to take off my skins and have a break with some of the hot soup from my pack.  The scene was peaceful, although I could occasional hear the hoots and yelps of other skiers around on the network.  I began to descend on North Slope, and actually decided to ride it all the way out to the end because I’d never done that.  There are actually a couple of notable uphill sections that require a few minutes of work, but it wasn’t enough that I needed to put my skins back on.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Finishing off today’s tour on Lower Turnpike

Although I saw some good potential in some of the glades, I stuck with my plan to run North Slope all the way out to Lower Turnpike and ski down there, because after yesterday’s experience, I knew it was a sure thing in terms of coverage.  That actually made for quite a unique tour overall, one that brought me from the Nordic/backcountry network out to the alpine network.  Most of the time I’m using the lifts and going the other direction, so this was a fun change.  North Slope has a nice little connecting trail with Lower Turnpike that I’d never seen.  There were only a few tracks on Lower Turnpike, so there was plenty of fresh snow, but it didn’t ski nearly as beautifully as yesterday.  The snow had settled a bit more, some wind affected it in spots, and it was slow due to the cold temperatures.  So while fun, it couldn’t compare to yesterday.  I finished off my run with an interesting route through the Village below the Liftline Condos – it actually turned out to be a pretty slick connection with some backyard powder turns that dropped me right down onto Broadway.

A GPS/Google Earth map of a ski tour at Bolton Valley on the Nordic, backcountry, and alpine trail systems at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The GPS/Google Earth map of today’s tour from the Nordic/Backcountry Network back to the alpine trails

Another great discovery came this evening, when I visited the new Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry website while writing up my report.  I checked out the map of the network that they have available, and it’s the most expansive I’ve seen yet.  Many, many glades have been included on the latest version of the backcountry map, and there are now more than two dozen of them on there.  It really gives one an idea of just how expansive the opportunities are out on the trial network, and it’s going to be great to see how things go with the new, clearly energized, participation in maintaining the area.  As for the trails, everything I saw today looked to be in excellent condition.  And, with the snowpack below average for this point in the season and just getting to sufficient levels for backcountry skiing, I’d expect that problems would be relatively easy to see.  Thanks to all the folks that worked on the trials this season, and put out that great new map of the backcountry network!

A map of the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network for the 2013-2014 ski season
The updated map for Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network now has more than two dozen glades listed

3 Replies to “Bolton Valley Backcountry, Nordic, and Alpine, VT 26JAN2014”

  1. Hey, I’m a resident of Duxbury not too far from you guys, and a BV passholder. I was wondering what kind of ski equipment you use for your Bolton-Trapps tour?

    And do you think it’s doable with a standard (non-tele) AT setup with skins?

    1. Hi Kevin, I haven’t actually done the full tour out to Trapps, but I’ve gone up to the high point of the Catamount Trail on that route (you can see it marked on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Map included in this report) and that’s been fine on a heavy Telemark setup with skins That wouldn’t be much different than an AT setup. It sounds like people have done it on AT gear, even if that’s not optimal based on one report I’ve read at the link below.

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