Dylan and I headed up to Bolton Valley this afternoon for a quick New Year’s Eve ski tour. Based on my observations from yesterday’s outing, I knew that despite exposed areas being wind-scoured, many trails at Timberline were holding some great powder. There were still resort visitors parking down at the Timberline lots, and while most had left by the time we arrived, there were still a few folks trickling down either by bus or via the trails.
“In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds.”
It was a cloudy afternoon, but temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s F as we ascended the Twice as Nice skin track. We contoured across below the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station to avoid the wind scoured areas and descended via most of Spell Binder. In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds. We were typically skiing in depths of 5 to 10 inches, with the deeper are being those that were most protected. Dylan had a great time and made some excellent turns – even on his bad side, which is getting better all the time.
We’ve actually got an Alberta Clipper coming through the area right now, but the current wind flow seems to be sending most of the snow off to the east of us. We’ll see if that changes to bring any accumulations to the mountains for tomorrow.
I haven’t been up to the mountain for turns since last week, but today when I arrived at Bolton Valley I was reminded just how popular skiing can be over the holidays. I pulled into the Timberline lot expecting to find a few cars from folks earning turns there, but found it nearly full of vehicles. The main lots had presumably filled up, and I could see that the shuttle was ferrying people to and from the Timberline lots.
Although the Timberline Quad isn’t running yet, I was starting at Timberline today as part of a combination sidecountry and lift-served tour that I’d planned. The resort had picked up 4-6” of snow yesterday from Winter Storm Fortis, and an additional 4-5” the previous day from a weak cold front, but I didn’t expect that to be enough snow for a thorough resurfacing that would hold up to holiday skier traffic on all terrain. The Wilderness Lift is running though, so my plan today was to skin up from Timberline to the main mountain, catch a lift-served run through White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and then return via some Timberline skiing.
The skin up Timberline was very pleasant, and I saw a few skiers and riders skiing the trails to make their way back to their vehicles at the Timberline Base. I could see why Timberline isn’t open for lift-served skiing yet though – exposed areas were really windswept and wouldn’t be able to support lift-served levels of skier traffic. Sheltered areas like most of Spell Binder, Brandywine, and Tattle Tale looked really nice though with all the new powder, and I suspected I’d find some great turns at the end of my tour. When I reached the main base I found that there were plenty of visitors, but fortunately lift queues were almost nonexistent. There was generally light snow coming down, with some hefty wind at times that was enough to cause a short stoppage of the Wilderness Lift when I was on it. By the time I reached the top of Wilderness it was definitely cold – it had to be in the teens F, and feeling much lower than that with that wind.
“I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.”
I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers. Snow Hole had seen a good deal of traffic, but there were still plenty of routes available with powder, and the traffic actually helped to compact the snow at the water crossings. Lower Turnpike was its usual smooth self and offered a nice groomed surface on which to carve some Telemark turns.
Back at the main base I had a little time to stop in for a slice at Fireside Flatbread, and it was sort of that transition time between day and night skiing with lots of visitors coming and going. One of today’s holiday week activities was balloon art, and you could see people around with their colorful balloon headgear.
“I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.”
I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk. I quickly headed over to the Snowflake Chair and made my way toward Timberline. I ran into a family on Timberline Lane trying to make their way back to the Bear Run condominiums where they were staying, and their younger son on a snowboard struggled to move along in the flats, and then struggled more on the ungroomed steep pitch of Timberline Run below. I headed to Lower Tattle Tale to catch some fresh tracks in the powder there (which I’d say were actually the best of the day) but waited at the intersection of Timberline Run to make sure everybody in the family was getting along OK. I actually had already pulled out my headlamp for the last bit of skiing since it had gotten so dark, and that was helpful in making sure the family found their way to their lodging.
It was a great tour today with plenty of powder, and it looks like we’ve got another storm coming into the area tomorrow. Just as I was arriving at the resort today I got an alert that we’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory starting up tomorrow at 10:00 A.M.
Since we found such great conditions on our outing at Bolton Valley yesterday evening, we decided to head back up for a little more skiing and riding today. Yesterday’s storm had cleared out, so today it was mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 20s F – a great December day to hit the slopes. Ty was psyched to get back on the snowboard, so E planned to work with him on his riding again today, while Dylan and I brought our Telemark skis to head off into the powder from the recent storm.
We headed up to the mountain around noontime, and the resort was hoppin’ based on the number of cars in the Village lots. With the weather and proximity to the holiday period, that wasn’t surprising. E and Ty stayed focused on the lower mountain terrain so that Ty could continue to work on his snowboard turns, and Dylan and I took the Vista Quad to see what conditions were like on the upper mountain and make our way over toward Wilderness. Skier traffic definitely had its effects on the snow surfaces, and we found lots of firm or icy areas on trails like Alta Vista and even lower-angle terrain like Sherman’s Pass. Fortunately, Wilderness had seen much less traffic and the snow surfaces were excellent. There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes. We even made our way into the Wilderness Woods, and there was plenty of coverage and very little traffic. Snowpack is certainly not an issue at elevation – I probed the depths at around 2,800’ over toward Wilderness and found as much as 30 inches. The consistency of the snowpack is interesting. There’s definitely a refrozen layer in there from the warm storm we had over the weekend, but it many spots it’s not really crusty, it’s just thick and has bonded pretty nicely to the snow that fell more recently.
“There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes.”
The snow from yesterday’s storm is holding up well and keeping conditions great in minimal traffic areas of low and moderate-angle terrain, so seek those out if you’re looking for soft turns. Our next winter storm is actually coming into the area tomorrow. It’s similar to yesterday’s event, with the potential for 2 to 4 inches in the higher elevations, but if it works out like that last one it should be another nice boost to the conditions.
I was home this afternoon with enough time to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs before dark, with the incentive being a bit of snow that we picked up today from a small Alberta Clipper-type system. Although the snowfall had generally been quite light in intensity today, it had been snowing continuously, and reports of 3 to 5 inches were coming in from the mountains. I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested, so I figured it would just be a solo outing for me to scope out how the new snow was setting things up for coming days. But, before I knew it, the whole family was interested in getting some turns, and once we confirmed that night skiing was on, up to the hill we went!
“…combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would.”
The temperature at Village elevation (~2,100’) was right around freezing, and while we were at the mountain the cloud deck fluctuated between there and Mid Mountain (~2,500’). There was light snow falling the entire evening, and although we never went higher than Mid Mountain, there was no wind to speak of. So overall, it was an incredibly nice time to be out skiing under the lights. I measured 3” of snow in the Village parking lot, and generally found 3-4” on the hill, which jives perfectly with the 3-4” that I see this evening in the Bolton Valley snow report. My liquid analyses down here at the house (500’) revealed a very mid-weight 10% H2O snow, and while we may have had a touch of compaction due to being slightly above the freezing mark at our elevation, I’d say that 10% density is fairly consistent with what the mountain received. So the new snow has got a bit of girth to it and can float you pretty well on low- to moderate-angle terrain as long as there’s a smooth subsurface.
One thing that got Ty excited to head to the mountain this evening was the chance to do some snowboarding. He’s big enough to use my snowboard now, so E said that she’d give him some instruction to get him started. We all started off at the Mighty Mite to ensure that Ty was set on the board, and then spent the rest of our time on the Mid Mountain Chair so that Ty could work on his snowboard turns with E, while I worked with Dylan on his Telemark skiing.
There was plenty of powder available this evening off to the sides of the main runs and on the easily accessible side trails, and combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would. There obviously hasn’t been enough liquid added atop the snowpack to keep folks from touching down to the old surface on steep terrain yet, but lower-angle to moderate terrain is skiing beautifully. I suspect the groomed terrain could have been pretty loud before this new snow, but turns were very silent and peaceful tonight. And, there’s the aesthetic quality of all the new snow. Folks coming up for the holiday weekend should be pretty psyched, especially if Mother Nature tops this current snow off with a bit more from the system potentially affecting the area on Saturday.
We capped off the evening with a trip to Fireside Flatbread for the first time this season. It was a quiet midweek evening, and service was really quick – we sent the boys downstairs to the cafeteria to get a couple of appetizers and the pizza arrived before they even got back! Anyway, tonight’s experience with the soft conditions has got everyone in the family interested in getting more turns this weekend, so hopefully we’ll have another chance to get out and enjoy the new snow.
Each year in December we head to Stowe for the training day that gets us ready for our school’s ski program. E is the director for the BJAMS program and typically takes care of the logistics on one of the weekend days, while a co-director would manage the other. In the past, when the boys were younger and couldn’t stay home alone, we’d either set up to have someone watch them, or split the two training days between us and each go alone. On those occasions, even though selecting the days was done well in advance, I always seemed to luck out and get the great conditions – comfortable temperatures, fresh powder, soft surfaces, etc., while E on the other hand would get refrozen crud, frigid temperatures, or whatever else you can think of that would make the ski experience less than stellar.
This year though, we were going to the training day together, and it looked like E was going to go for a ride on the luck train with me. Winter Storm Decima was marching across the country, and the timing looked just about perfect for a great powder day on Saturday. In fact, the National Weather Service Office in Burlington even felt strongly enough about it to incorporate a statement in their forecast discussion on Thursday:
“Should be a glorious powder day with mean snow ratios around 18-20:1 and temps gradually warming into the lower 20s valleys and upper teens mountains by early afternoon.”
By this morning, Winter Storm Decima had already begun to deliver snow as we headed off to the resort. The snowfall rates weren’t outrageous, but it was a good steady snow and you could see that little bit of extra spring in everyone’s step knowing that training day was going to feature fresh snow. As we gathered outside the Midway Lodge for the morning’s announcements, you could just see the snow piling up on the anxious skiers ready to get underway.
“There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.”
We had Steve for our group leader, similar to some previous seasons, and he regaled us with his usual assortment of giving lessons to celebrities and assorted well-heeled folks. We did a quick first run off the Meadows Quad, and that was our first chance to experience the snow. Oh was it glorious! There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day. Stowe’s already hit 110 inches on the season, and we’re only about three weeks or so into it.
We had several runs on Spruce Peak before we broke for some lunch, then got a couple more runs in over on Mansfield. Even after a day of weekend ski traffic, conditions were still amazing in the afternoon even on the most heavily-used areas. The snow is deep-down good. The only downside today was the chill in the morning at elevation with the wind, but it was still a small price to pay for such consistently awesome conditions.
Yesterday evening at some point after 9:30 P.M., light snow began falling at our house in Waterbury with the approach of Winter Storm Caly. Winter Weather Advisories were put in place for a fairly moderate 3 to 6-inch snowfall, which was expected to fall overnight and into the Monday morning commute.
This morning for my 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS observations at the house I found 3.3 inches of snow on my snow measurement boards. Snow was still falling in the form of small (1-2 mm diameter) flakes, and based on the density of the snow in the accumulation stack it appeared as though that smallish flakes had been the general trend throughout the storm up to that point. My liquid analysis revealed that the snow was right around 10% water content, so it’s certainly not Champlain Powder™, it’s very much your typical synoptic snow. This standard, medium-density snow is great in terms of building up the snowpack, which is important this time of year.
“…the turns could really flow, and they did.”
School was cancelled for E and the boys, not so much due to massive amount of snow falling, but presumably the timing right during the morning commute. I wished them a good snow day, and headed off to stop in at Bolton Valley on my way into Burlington. Bolton’s Timberline area had looked just a touch lean on base when I check on my way to the resort on Saturday, but I figured with this latest round of dense snow it was time to check it out. At the Timberline Base I’d say there was a similar amount of accumulation to what we picked up at the house – roughly 3 to 4 inches.
The skin Track on Twice as Nice was in excellent shape, so I made good time up to the Timberline Mid Station, where I decided to mix things up a bit from recent outings and head a little father to ski Brandywine. This turned out to be a great option, since it hadn’t seen any skier traffic and I got to enjoy first tracks. While this new snow is fairly medium density, it actually skis quite well where no wind has affected it, and Brandywine certainly delivered there. Although this certainly wasn’t out lightest powder of the season, today’s outing featured some of my favorite turns up to this point because the snow was consistent, there was plenty of base, and of course the untracked nature of the trail meant that I could get first tracks on whatever line I wanted. That meant that the turns could really flow, and they did.
It sounds like we’ve got light snows in the forecast this week, with the potential for a larger system toward the weekend.
This is opening weekend for lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, but with only minimal terrain served by the lifts at the moment and fairly chilly temperatures in the forecast, I decided to make it my first visit of the season to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. Although we haven’t had any big storms in the area in the past few days, we’ve had some lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes and additional snow from an arctic frontal passage that has given the mountains additional bouts of snow almost every day. The Mt. Mansfield Stake is indicating a snowpack depth of 34”, and it’s definitely not just fluff. With the high elevation and maintenance that goes on in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I’ll usually feel OK poking around on appropriate terrain once the stake kits 24” (depending on the composition of that 24”), so with 34” I figured it would definitely be ready to go.
I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon, and temperatures in the Village at ~2,000’ were in the mid-teens F, but fortunately there was minimal wind. There was blue sky at times, but light snow was still falling off and on. My goal was to head to the upper glades along the Catamount Trail out past the resort boundary. Those glades are up around the 3,000’ elevation, so I suspected the snowpack would be more than sufficient.
I headed up the usual Bryant Trail, and the most interesting thing I saw was that there are some new structures going up around the Bryant Cabin. One structure looked like a shed of sorts, and there was a larger structure that seemed to be partially built. It also seemed that there had been some work done on the cabin itself. In terms of snowpack depths, down at the Village at 2,000’ the surface snow was generally 14-15” of powder over a fairly thin layer of base snow. Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ there was 16-17” of powder over a much more substantial base, and when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range, which seems pretty reasonable with the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 34”.
“…when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range…”
The skiing was generally excellent, especially in those upper glades. Since it was afternoon there had certainly been some traffic up there, but I still found areas of fresh snow. I made my way down via Gardiner’s Lane, and eventually decided to check out the Alchemist glade that I hadn’t visited in a while to the south of Gotham City. It’s a south-facing glade, so conditions can be quite variable, but aspect almost doesn’t matter right now because we’ve had November/December sun over the past couple of weeks… and not much of it anyway, so south-facing terrain isn’t all that different from north-facing terrain. One does have to watch out as they get down near 2,000’ though because the base below the surface snow does start to get pretty thin, so you don’t want to ski anything with many obstacles at that point. One could easily just lap terrain up above 2,500’ though with minimal concern about base depths. Skiing is definitely quite good up high right now.
There was a bit of accumulation of snow on my car when I got back to it after the tour. It was rather minimal though, about ¼“ of new after 2 to 3 hours away. Currently, Winter Weather Advisories are up ahead of our next storm that is coming into the area tomorrow. I signed up for Washington County weather alert texts through VT-Alert, so I was notified of our Winter Weather Advisory just I was finishing up my ski tour today. It was definitely nice to get that heads up right away without having to actively check, and it really doesn’t matter where you are. Anyway, the advisory calls for a general 4-7”, which seems pretty consistent with what’s been expected of this event for a few days now.
Today the family headed up to Bolton Valley to pick up our season’s passes and go for a ski tour to check out the snow from our recent storm. The snowfall has finally slowed down, and with temperatures staying in the 20s F, conditions were indeed great for getting out on the slopes.
What immediately struck us when we got to the resort was how many people were there. The top tier of the main Village lot was totally full, and the uphill side of the next tier down was full as well. Plenty of people were coming and going, and it was obvious that a lot of them were picking up season’s passes and leased equipment, but we could also see that there were a lot of people geared up for ski touring.
We got our gear together, headed up to the main base lodge to take care of our passes, and when we were done we put our skis on behind the lodge. There were a number of snow guns running near the base as the resort prepares for opening next weekend, but there was plenty of natural snow as well, and it was staying dry and powdery.
We made our way over to the Lower Turnpike skin track, and I’d never seen so many people out on the ascent. Just within eyeshot there were a dozen people on the track in groups of varying size. A lot of things (fresh snow, weather, pass pickup, etc.) had presumably come together to get people out, but the number of people out there has clearly got be a sign that the word is out on the resort’s uphill routes and touring options. Hopefully it’s a great sign for a busy season at the resort in general.
In terms of the skiing, indeed the snow quality was great, just like yesterday. Bolton didn’t quite pick up the totals that I found at Stowe yesterday though – I measured 8-10” of new snow in the Village elevations around 2,000’ or so, and I’d say Stowe picked up those amounts about 500’ lower. We measured roughly 14-15” of new snow at the 2,500’ elevation mark, and I’d say that was about the same near the 3,000’ level.
We took a nice break at the top of our ascent to enjoy some soup and hot chocolate (Ty really loved the peppermint mocha creamer that I added) before we finally got out descent underway. Everyone got in some great powder turns, and the boys were in much better Telemark form on this snow without the slight crust that challenged them on their previous Bolton Valley outing. Although our big storm just finished up, it looks like we’ve got a smaller system on the way tomorrow to add a bit more. Let’s hope we can keep the snowy systems going as we move forward to set up some good December skiing.
There really wasn’t much lead up discussion on the American Weather Forum about the winter storm we’ve been having in the Northern Greens the past couple of days. That’s because, while it looked like the mountains would muster up some snow accumulation, the models hadn’t really suggested that we’d be getting TWO FEET of accumulation. But, once the snow levels dropped into the mountains, Mother Nature just continued to drive that moisture into the spine of the Greens, and it kept snowing. It’s been snowing continuously now for two straight days.
Temperatures were a degree or two above the freezing mark around in the lower mountain valleys at mid-morning when I was heading out today, and the precipitation was all snow, but accumulations were quite variable with the borderline freezing temperatures. We had about an inch on the ground here at the house on the Waterbury/Bolton line, and that tapered off to much more patchy accumulations in Waterbury and Waterbury Center. The accumulations picked back up again once I was into the Stowe Village area, fairly similar to what we had at the house. At The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ mark I’d say the snow depth was roughly 2 inches.
“…and then there was that snow. There’s so… much… snow. Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing.”
Just making that jump up to ~1,500’ at the base of the resort resulted in a huge increase in accumulations. My depth checks revealed ~10” of new snow at the base of the Gondola, and that measurement was fairly easy, since the old base had generally melted out down at that elevation. I skinned up Chin Clip Runout, since I like the grade, seclusion, and protection from any wind more than heading right up Gondolier. Actually though, winds today were pretty minimal in the lower mountain elevations, and with the temperature just a bit below freezing, it was really pleasant.
Above mid mountain I started to get into the snow guns, and I meandered here and there from Switchback to Gondolier to Perry Merrill following various skin tracks to see if there were any quiet areas. But aside from Chin Clip, they had guns running all over the place. It’s noisy and ruins the natural snow in spots, but of course the resort has to blow snow when it’s time. I actually only headed above the 3,000’ mark for the exercise and to see what was up at that elevation, because I knew the skiing was going to be much better below that point. The winds were howling on that last section of Upper Gondolier, and pounding snow from the storm combined with snow guns every 50 feet or so blasting out their little ice particles made it a virtual whiteout. It was absolutely miserable. If you’ve ever wondered why people are willing to pay a premium for really high quality alpine/backcountry/ski outerwear, there’s an example. It’s not as if it was even midwinter cold (somewhere in the 20s F), but with the snow guns added in, there was just so much liquid being blasted at you on the strong winds. Gear was thoroughly put to the test today. The skin track from the guy who was just a few minutes in front of me had absolutely vanished in that short amount of time. All I could think as I struggled up that final pitch was that if I was ever going to Tweet something at that point it would have been #itsbrutaloutthere. It was a major relief to be able to get out of the wind, snow, and the roar of the guns under the deck of the Cliff House.
Above the base elevations where the old snowpack had melted out, I did my best to try to measure on top of the old base snow/crust, and here’s the summary of my best estimates for settled accumulations from this event from the valley and up into the Gondi area below The Chin:
That last number there from the Cliff House is just an estimate because as is often the case, the wind made it really tough to find a representative spot for measurement.
“The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great.”
Anyway, as much as that last, wind-exposed stretch of Upper Gondolier was brutal on the ascent, the skiing was actually fine. But, just below that on Chin Clip was heavenly. The air was calm, the noise of the snow guns was gone, the plentiful flakes falling form the sky were friendly… and then there was that snow. There’s so… much… snow. Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing. I actually felt bad on the ascent for anyone that wasn’t skinning up because if you were trying to boot pack through this storm’s bounty, you were doing a lot of work. There’s no walking though airy dendrites out there right now, this is hard-workin’, blue-collar stuff that’s just been put down. Powderfreak is estimating this storm’s likely going to leave a couple inches of liquid equivalent all together. That’s a season starter right there. On my ascent I’d chatted with another guy near the bottom on Chin Clip Runout who was just coming down, and he said he never touched a thing below the snow… and he wasn’t kidding. On 115 mm boards I’d say I was sinking in about 8 to 10 inches on hard pressured turns on steep terrain. So you can imagine up high where there’s 20 inches of new stuff plus an old base below that, you aren’t touching anything. Even back down near the base elevations though, where the snowpack was dropping below a foot, there were no issues. The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great. I actually found a bit of upside-down snow at times on my descent, no doubt due to some changing densities throughout the storm, but even for Tele turns it wasn’t too notable within the scope of the overall snow that was available.
On the way back down into the valley on my drive home, I’d say that in general a bit more snow had accumulated during the morning/midday, but you could tell that the snow was struggling to accumulate too quickly with temperatures right around or slightly above the freezing mark. Surprisingly, back in Waterbury Center and Waterbury, there were very sparse accumulations if any, but then accumulations picked back up again once I head toward the house and into the mountains.
The weather pattern is actually looking active and potentially snowy going forward, so we’ll see what Mother Nature wants to give us. It would be really nice to get in even an average December after the past three running in the range of 50% of normal snowfall. Even normal would feel quite snowy with the way things have been the past few seasons.