Our latest winter storm to come into the area was lean on cold air, bringing the potential for mixed precipitation into the picture. The northern Vermont resorts managed to get some snow accumulations though, with 5 inches reported by Bolton Valley in the morning. Well ahead of opening, they announced that the Vista Quad was starting on wind hold, and that Mid Mountain would be the early lift. So, I threw my skins in my pack before heading up to the mountain.
The temperature was around 35 F in the valley, and only dropped a degree or two as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road. Accumulations of snow on the road naturally increased with elevation, and by the time I got up to the Village, you could see that the plows had cleared away some dense, wet material. The precipitation at the base was a mist of light rain with occasionally heavier bouts.
As I approached the base of the mid mountain chair, I ran into Quinn, who was just coming down from a run. Our conversation noted the wet weather, and you could tell by the state of Quinn’s outerwear that he’d been out working in it. He said that skiing was lots of fun though, and that was a good sign. The state of the skiing on the lower mountain was quickly confirmed during my ride on the mid mountain chair; beneath my feet, I watched a couple of ski instructors on Beech Seal cut beautiful arcs through the fresh layer of dense snow. The chairs of the mid mountain chair were in quite a state – they had icicles all over them from freezing rain, and it seemed like the icicles were enhanced as the chairs went through repeated cycles of freezing and thawing on their circuit up and down through various elevations.
At mid mountain, I’d just strapped on my skins and started upward, when I heard a sled approaching. It was Quinn, and he gave me a quick lift to the Vista Summit on his way to check things out. The temperature dropped below freezing, and the depths of new snow increased as we headed upward. My depth checks revealed as much as 6” of new snow up top, with the caveat that it was a bit tough to tell where the new dense snow ended, and the old snow began. The only downside, and unfortunately it was big one, was that a fairly thick crust had formed on the snow in the higher elevations due to some rain falling into the colder temperatures. Because of this, I stuck to the groomed Alta Vista for the first part of the descent. The groomed snow was much easier to manage, but it was still firm with a layer of ice on it.
I next followed Swing over to Wilderness, and ran into Quinn again as he was making his way about the mountain. I filled him in on the conditions I’d experienced on my descent from Vista, letting him know that ski condition in the lower elevations were actually much better because of the lack of crust. I made a depth check of the new snow at that Wilderness Mid Station (~2,800’) and found roughly 4 to 5 inches. Below the Wilderness Mid Station was where the turns really started to get nice. I got into that beautiful snow that I’d seen the instructors and others skiing on Beech Seal, and cut some nice arcs. It was really interesting to have the skiing improve with every turn I took downward in elevation, because it’s often the reverse due to deeper snow accumulations up high. Since I’d found that some areas in the trees on the upper mountain had been protected from the freezing rain, I dipped into the Wilderness Woods briefly to see how they were skiing. Down at that elevation, it really didn’t make much of a difference, so I quickly ended up back out on the trails since they had large expanses of untracked snow.
I rode the Mid Mountain Chair again, this time heading out on Deer Run and over to the Butterscotch Terrain Park. I ended up just skiing the park, since it wasn’t open and had plenty of fresh snow. Usually, with the more limited terrain, it’s not great when the Vista Quad is down and the main option is the Mid Mountain Chair, but with the way the new snow was set up today, it was almost the perfect option. I didn’t stick around too long this morning because I wanted to get home and dry my gear to get ready for Stowe in the afternoon – I was certainly eager to see how Mt. Mansfield fared in this latest storm.
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