Bolton Valley, VT 08FEB2014

An image of E skiing some powder among ski tracks in the Wilderness are at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Conditions are still below average for this time of year around here, but Wilderness delivered great snow today as it often does.

With over half an inch of liquid equivalent delivered, our midweek winter storm, “Nika”, was certainly a mini boon for the local slopes.  I checked out the fresh snow on Wednesday and Thursday, but today was our chance to see how conditions fared now that things have settled a bit, and traffic and grooming have worked the new snow into the base.  There’s no question that the recent shot of moisture from Nika provided a bump in snowpack for Bolton Valley – many additional trails have come on line, and as of this morning, the only areas that patrol haven’t opened are upper Wilderness and the natural snow trails of Timberline.

Of course the fact that we’re approaching mid February and even having to talk about those areas not being open speaks to just how poor a January the area had to endure.  The snowfall data that I monitor at our house parallels the local mountains quite nicely, especially in mid winter, so my numbers provide a very good sense of how it went for the ski areas of the Northern Greens.  With just 15.8 inches of snow, this past January was the lowest in my records by a notable margin.  Granted, I only have eight seasons worth of data, but this past January wasn’t just lower than any January in my records, it was lower than any December, January, or February in my records.  Looking at all those months puts a lot more into the data set, so for January to come in well below all of the other months is quite notable.  And, the statistics back that up, with this January being a whopping 1.86 standard deviations below the midwinter monthly mean of 39.4 inches, putting this January in THE BOTTOM 3% OF ALL MIDWINTER MONTHS according to my data set.  So if you felt that January was horrendously low with respect to snowfall in the Northern Greens, you were correct.

Fortunately we’re on to February now and the past week was at least somewhat average with respect to snowfall.  E took a look at the Bolton Valley Web Cam and noted that there wasn’t much of a line at the Vista Quad, so after a quick lunch, we headed up to the mountain.  Timberline had a good number of cars, and the Village lots were near capacity, so clearly the resort had a lot of visitors – I dropped E and the boys off at the Village Circle and had to park in the bottom tier of parking down near the recreation center.

After they’d taken a couple runs on Snowflake, in which Ty really seemed to be getting some nice air in the terrain park, I met up with E and the boys and we headed up the Vista Quad for a run on Spillway.  That was Dylan’s choice, and I was optimistic that the ridge on the skier’s right would yield some good snow, but it was definitely underwhelming.  I found soft snow in a few spots, but in general there wasn’t much of it and the hard, manmade snow predominated on the left side of the ridge and even made its presence known on the right side of the ridge.  It wasn’t until we neared the connection onto Sherman’s Pass that we were able to get into some good powder on the edges, and then the Vista Quad Liftline below held soft natural snow as well.  The snow we’d experienced up on Spillway had him calling for some trees, which was timely, because that was the plan.

An image of Ty skiing powder in Maria's Woods at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Although the trees are still a bit lean for this time of year, there are lots of good areas to be found

The next run was my choice, and with the recent opening of the Cobrass suite of trails, I decided we should check out Cobrass and head to Maria’s for some soft snow in the trees.  The snow on Cobrass was just horribly icy, and we couldn’t get down it fast enough.  Even the skier’s right, where soft snow often holds, was meager like we’d found on Spillway.  Either the trails with snowmaking have seen too many skiers or not enough natural snow, or perhaps a combination of both.  Fortunately, the snow off piste was blissfully soft, with generally about a foot of powder on Maria’s.  The only problem is that the base is still lean – we need another big synoptic storm, this time with an inch or two of liquid equivalent to really get the off piste terrain into prime, midwinter form.  The snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake is just above that 40” mark, so as one might expect, the off piste skiing is in play, but you can’t rely on everything to be covered yet.  You still need to take it cautiously in general.  Maria’s did offer up some nice shots of powder, and we found some nice deep shots, but until we get another storm or two you just won’t be able to go top to bottom with full confidence.

With the snowmaking terrain generally too firm, and the off piste terrain passable but not ready for prime time in all areas, our next course of action was obvious.  It was time for a run over at Wilderness.  Before we could do that though, Dylan needed to warm up his toes, so we took a break for a bit in the lodge.  The boys got some snacks, and everyone warmed up for what we planned to be our last run.  From the top of the Vista Quad we took Alta Vista, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more soft snow available on the side there than what we’d experienced on Spillway or Cobrass.  I’d say it was simply due to lower skier traffic, because it seemed like very few people had skied there.  We connected over to Wilderness and got some nice powder on the Wilderness Lift Line, which was followed up with an excellent run down Turnpike.  Boy that Turnpike just always seems to deliver.

So, there’s certainly some decent skiing out there thanks to the recent storm “Nika”, but overall things are certainly subpar for February in Northern Vermont.  We’re definitely keeping our eyes peeled for that next big synoptic storm that could get things closer to average – based on the current depth at the stake we need about a foot to a foot and a half of base depth increase to get there.

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