Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2014

An image of the Alta Vista trail with a ski track in late April at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We got a bit of fresh snow and some fun turns in the higher elevations from our latest April storm.

Our latest April storm brought with it the potential for some mountain snow, and as the forecast from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington suggested, snow levels came down last night, and the snow started to accumulate.  Precipitation was just a mix of rain and snow at our house down here at 500’ this morning as I checked on some of the local mountain web cams, but I began to get a sense for how the snow had accumulated up high.  There was no accumulation visible at Stowe’s base elevations, and it looked like the snow line was up above 2,000’ on the east slope of Mt. Mansfield based on the accumulations seen on the trees.  Bolton Valley appeared to have picked up a reasonable accumulation of snow at roughly 2,000’, and when Powderfreak showed accumulations down to roughly the 800’ elevation along the western slopes, that sealed the deal on Bolton Valley as my tour destination.

“The skiing was actually far
better than I’d expected – it
was three inches of dense
snow atop what, even up at
that elevation, was a soft
spring base.”

Temperatures were in the upper 30s F down in the Winooski Valley with light rain/mist, and as I headed westward through Bolton Flats, the intensity of the precipitation picked up.  The rain changed over to snow at ~1,200’ on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and first signs of new snow accumulation were at the Timberline Base at 1,500’.  I suspect that accumulations had reached lower based on that image that PF showed earlier from 800’ in Nashville, but it seemed like the snow line had already risen a bit by the time I was up there.  As I continued to ascend the road beyond the Timberline Base, the deciduous trees took on a picturesque coating of white, and gradually the ground began to fill in with white as well.

The Village was quiet as is typical for late April, and as I pulled into the upper lot near the base lodge, I saw a skier just returning to his car after a run.  We chatted for a bit, and he said that he’d just come down Cobrass and that the skiing was great.  I looked around and saw what looked to be about an inch of fresh snow atop all surfaces, and even the base snow appeared to be soft.  Unsure of exactly what I was going to find, I’d brought both fat and mid fat Tele skis, and after finding out how soft the subsurfaces were, I felt confident that going with the fatter AMPerages was the call.  I strapped on skins and headed upward, just as another car with three skiers arrived to take the place of the lone skier that had just left.

An image of one of the snowmaking pump houses with fresh April snow at the mid mountain elevation of the main mountain at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontLight snow continued to fall as I began skinning up above the lodge, and I could see that skier traffic had been very light.  There were signs of just a couple of skiers that had skinned up in the new snow, and a couple of addition sets of footprints from people that had hiked.  As I was ascending near the top of Beech Seal, a skier passed me on his descent, and I definitely liked the sound of his turns… or more appropriately, the lack of sound as he came by.  That quiet schuss was a good sign regarding the subsurface below the new snow, and I with the good coverage I saw, I made a note to consider Beech Seal on that part of the descent.  At Mid Mountain the depth of the new snow was about 2”, and I continued over toward Cobrass on my ascent to see what that other skier had experienced.  I don’t think I’ve ascended Cobrass yet this spring, so it also gave me a chance to use that route.  I could see the other skier’s descent track, and pretty quickly I knew that descending Cobrass was not going to be the call for me.  With its southern and western exposures, there was just too little base in various spots.  I suspected things would be much better on a trail with northern exposure.  I could see that the Cobrass Café picnic table had reappeared from its winter burial; it’s been looking a bit worse for wear over the past couple of seasons, but it’s hanging in there.

An image of evergreen boughs covered with snow from a late April, snowstorm up at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow accumulations increased gradually with elevation today, eventually revealing more substantial accumulations.

At the Vista Summit, I checked the depth of new snow again, and it was right around 3”.  There were actually no tracks of any kind over near the patrol house or the top of the Vista Quad, and it was just pristine snow, so I suspected that whatever trail I chose, I’d be able to get first tracks.  I downed a GU and some water, switched over to descent mode, and headed down Alta Vista.  Aside from the wind scoured section along the skier’s right at the top, the base coverage was wall to wall, and the new snow on top was wholly untracked.  The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base.  I was very happy with my ski choice, as the AMPerages were in their element – I was planing pretty quickly atop the dense snow, and had a lot of fun drifting some of my turns.  The new snow was only partially bonded to the subsurface, so you could easily let it slide as much as you wanted as you sloughed the snow away.

I thought about a number of options once I was down to Sherman’s Pass, but stuck with Sherman’s because I was sure of the base snow.  It also meant that I could catch Beech Seal, which I knew was a sure thing.  The turns on the lower half of the mountain were good, and certainly soft, but the upper half of the mountain took the prize for conditions.  The temperature had risen at the base since I’d started my tour, and I could see that much of the snow had melted out of the deciduous trees down at the Village elevations as I departed.   The snow line had risen another few hundred feet as I was heading back down the mountain, so it was definitely one of those days to get at it sooner rather than later.  It’s actually continued to be a slow April in terms of snowfall, but the forecast does show the potential for additional shots of snow in the midweek period and then next weekend, so we’ll see if we get anything like this event in the next several days.

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