Stowe, VT 29JAN2017

An image of Ty skiing powder with heavy snowfall at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty cranking out some powder turns during some of the heavy snowfall this afternoon at Stowe

Ty and I had an appointment in Burlington this morning, which mean that we’d be arriving a bit late to our BJAMS ski program at Stowe in the afternoon.  We were arriving just in time for the afternoon snows however.  The first encounter was when we driving to the resort during the noontime hour.  We could see snow moving in to our north as we headed through Waterbury, and it finally hit us as were rising up to the Waterbury/Stowe line near Chutesville Hill.  Some fairly intense graupel was a big feature of the precipitation at that point.

There were on and off periods of snow throughout the afternoon at the mountain, and Ty and I worked our way over from the Gondola to the Fourrunner Quad trails around Tyro with a dip into the Chapel Glades.  The snow surfaces were excellent in there, and there were plenty of spots with fresh tracks to be had.  We continued all the way down into the Toll House terrain because we were looking for something mellow, and I’d say there has certainly been plenty of visitation to the mountain over the past couple of days based on some of the areas I saw with tracks in them.  You typically don’t find too many people spending much time in the trees around the Toll House Lift, since the terrain is very low angle and the return to the rest of the resort exceedingly long on the slow double.  I’ve never seen as many tracks in there as I did today though, and we’re not talking a week after a storm, we’re talking a day or two after a storm.  It was unusual, but hopefully a lot of beginners got their chance to check out the awesome powder in the trees!

An image of macarrons at The Beanery at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe made our way back to Spruce Peak for a final couple of runs of visiting some of our favorite powder stashes, and that last hour before closing definitely featured some of the heaviest snowfall of the day.  I’m sure rates were an inch per hour or more at that point, and the photography was difficult during the heavy stuff, but we still fired away.  Images captured successfully during intense snowfall are always fun anyway.  In general I’d say we found about a foot of powder around the mountain in untracked areas, and the skiing was great.  The quality of the powder was definitely very high, and it looks like it will stay that way with the upcoming forecast for the next week or so.

Bolton Valley, VT 28JAN2017

An image of Erica skiing some powder snow in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E in the Wilderness Woods at Bolton Valley this morning enjoying some of the powder put down over the past couple of days

Snowfall has been somewhat lean in Vermont this January, so we haven’t been up to Bolton Valley since the early part of the month.  Things are definitely picking up now though.  The past couple of days have featured plenty of upslope snow in association with an upper level low to our north pushing various smaller impulses through the area.  Over the course of the past two days, the resorts in the norther half of the state have picked up 1 to 2 feet of new snow.

With Bolton Valley reporting nearly a foot of snow over the past two days, the family headed up this today to see just how it well it was settling into the terrain.  The snow report let us know that some of the upper lifts would be delayed a bit due to winds, but they were opening just as we were arriving around mid-morning.  The word was definitely out about all the new snow today – cars were already parking down to the lowest Village lot when we arrived, and more were coming in by the minute.

We started off with a quick run on Snowflake, and enjoyed some excellent powder on the side of Snowflake Bentley.  Since he’s been Telemark Skiing and snowboarding up to this point, it was Ty’s first time on alpine boards all season, and he was really enjoying the powder turns much like a new sensation.  There was no line for the Vista Quad by that point, so we hopped on and got to see the impressive rime up near the Vista Summit.  Catching some of the first turns on the groomed Alta Vista was nice treat that we don’t usually experience, and it really was soft and carveable from edge to edge.  We also got first tracks in the powder off to the ungroomed areas to skier’s left.  The only downside in the powder there was occasionally hitting some old grooming chunks under the snow, but the new accumulations were deep enough to make them only a minor hindrance.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Wilderness Woods at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWe made our way over to Wilderness and took a quick pass through part of the Wilderness Woods.  The powder was really nice in there, and there had been little traffic up to that point.  We finished off with some groomed and powder turns on Lower Turnpike, and found that the Wilderness Double Chair was running, but they weren’t quite loading it yet.

We stopped into the lodge for an early lunch, and by the time we came out they were loading the Wilderness LiftPeggy Dow’s was in nice shape, but out favorite part was actually the Wilderness Lift Line, which had a lot of powder left on it.  Everyone had so much fun there that we would have easily done it again, but a bit of a queue was forming at the Wilderness Lift so we decided to call it a morning.

An image of Dylan drinking some chocolate milk with two straws in the base lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
What can even be said about the Dylan?

When we were leaving, a woman was more than willing to wait for our parking spot way down by the sports center, so obviously the lots were really filling up.  Even the Timberline lots looked full when we passed by.  Temperatures were in the upper 20s F today, so folks were definitely out in force to enjoy it with the new snow – we’d even heard comments on one the local weather reports about just how good a ski day it was going to be.  The current trends with the snow will probably go on for a couple more days, so conditions should stay quite good.

Stowe, VT 22JAN2017

An image of low clouds in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Thick, low clouds down to the base elevations and soft snow were the themes of the day today at Stowe.

The midweek period this past week saw some decent snows, with 6.5 inches at our house, and accumulations up to 10 inches at the Vermont ski resorts.  There was some great skiing at Stowe on both Wednesday and Thursday, but I was too busy to hit the slopes and check it out.  Today we were at Stowe for our weekly BJAMS ski program though, so I finally got to check out the latest conditions on Mt. Mansfield.

On our drive to the mountain we noticed that there’s not actually a ton of snow down in the center of Stowe Village, but the snowpack builds as one heads up the mountain road, and it’s quite hearty once you get up to The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ elevation.  The snow depths simply skyrocket after that, and Mansfield’s snowpack is quite impressive.  This shouldn’t be too surprising with 52” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, but it’s still great to get out there and experience it firsthand.

An image of a snowman drawing on the wall at the Octagon atop Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontToday in our group we had many of the usual crew, like Jack, Dylan, Jonah, and Norris.  Ken is still taking it easy due to his injury, so our new additions were Nolan and his kids Sophie and Evan.  They fit right in with the group, so I suspect we’ll have a lot of fun whenever we’re together.  After an initial run on Sunny Spruce, we quickly headed over to Mansfield to check out some steeper terrain.  We skied the Bypass Chutes, as well as Goat and Starr from the top.  While coverage isn’t yet perfect on those routes, it’s pretty darned good, and that says a lot if those steep pitches are reasonably covered.  I was concerned about what the snow surfaces were going to be like with the cloudy conditions today, but the snow was beautifully soft at all elevations with temperatures in the 30s F.  The Nosedive Glades were fantastic – and they’ve definitely done some additional clearing in there to enhance some of the lines.  Overall, today was actually like being out there on one of those awesome soft days in April with the hefty snowpack.  I’d say the main drawback on the hill today was the visibility, since we were in the clouds the whole time.  In some elevation bands it was pea soup, but it was more reasonable than at many elevations.

An image of some BJAMS students at the Octagon atop Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Hanging out in the Octagon today while the crew re-hydrates

We’ve actually got a storm coming into the area tomorrow evening that should bolster the snow pack even more.  The storm is expected to have some mixed precipitation with it, but plenty of liquid equivalent, so it should really be a good shot to add to the season’s base.

Ranch Valley & Stowe Cross Country Center, VT 07JAN2017

An image of a sign for the Burt Trail on the trail network at Stowe Cross Country Center in Vermont
Out on the Burt Trail today for some backcountry skiing

It’s been a relatively slow week for snowfall in the Northern Greens, but Stowe did manage to pick up roughly a foot of snow between Wednesday and Thursday.  Since the Mt. Mansfield area seemed to be a sweet spot with respect to snowfall, I decided to head out for a backcountry tour in the Ranch Valley, which sits just to the south of the resort’s alpine trail network and is the location for Stowe’s Cross Country Center.  I’ve been through the area numerous times when coming down the Bruce Trail, and I’ve sampled some of the natural glades that populate the middle elevations in that area.  I could see that there was much more skiable terrain to explore though, so I decided to check out what the areas around the Burt Trail had to offer.

Temperatures were in the low to mid 20s F in the local mountain valleys as I headed up to the Stowe Cross Country Center to start my tour.  It turns out that Mrs. Blanck was behind the counter when I was buying my trail pass, so we were able to catch up a bit and she gave me an overview of some nice glades that she’d heard of as we reviewed the backcountry portion of the trail map.

My ascent route consisted of starting on the Timberlane Trail and using Cross Cut 2 to get to the Burt Trail.  The recent snows were certainly elevation dependent, so there was only about an inch of fresh snow atop the snowpack down near the base of the Cross Country Center at ~1,000’.  It did increase as I ascended, reaching a couple of inches by the time I hit the Burt Trail, and nearly 4 inches at the top of my ascent at the junction with the Underhill Trail.  Here’s the general depths of surface powder I found on my tour with respect to elevation:

1,000’:  1”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 3”
2,500’: ~4”

An image of a hut along the Burt Trail at Stowe Cross Country Center at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Passing a hut along the Burt Trail

The backcountry portion of the Burt Trail starts right around 1,500’ elevation, and getting to that point represents a pretty hefty approach of over two miles, so that’s about the minimum distance one will have to go on this route to get into terrain for potential descents.  The Burt Trail really starts to steepen above 2,000’, which one hits at close to three miles in.  At that point it’s comprised of switchbacks to accommodate the steeper terrain.  That area is still mostly hardwoods, with scattered evergreens, so tree density isn’t too bad and one can easily cut the switchbacks and ski through the forest.  That terrain is pretty steep though, so one would want a decent amount of powder for it to be optimal.  Based on darkness and trying to ensure that I made it back to the Cross Country Center by 5:00 P.M. since a sign that the parking lot gate would close at that point, I only ascended to the junction with the Underhill Trail, but I could see that there was plenty of similar terrain right up above me.

As for the skiing and conditions, one would definitely want more powder above the base than what I found today, but I was still able to get in some decent turns.  I had my midfat Tele skis, which were certainly not all that light in the overall spectrum of Nordic equipment, but I was thankful to have something that could handle the descent well.  I cut the Burt Trail switchbacks and skied the fairly open forest in some spots, but I could actually stay on the trail itself for the most part where it mattered.  Only one person had gone up ahead of me above 2,000’ on the trail and they must have descended another way, because there was no descent track.  So the Burt Trail itself was relatively untracked and I got some of my best turns of the afternoon simply by staying on it.  The terrain in the 1,500’ to 2,000’ range offers some options off the trail depending on the pitch of the terrain, but I just ran my descent out the trail itself based on the snow conditions and my time.  The whole runout back to the Cross Country Center is actually pretty fun, and you can really cruise along at times, but you will have to do some skating and deal with a couple of small uphill sections.  It’s quite similar to running out the Bruce Trail though, and indeed the route is identical in some spots, so if you’ve done that you’ll have a good sense for what this is like.

An image showing GPS data on Google Earth from a backcountry ski tour in the Ranch Valley of Vermont near Stowe Mountain Resort
Today’s backcountry ski route in the Ranch Valley

It looks like we’ll be in a fairly active weather pattern in the foreseeable future with some clipper-type events and larger synoptic systems with potential mixed precipitation, so we’ll see how these play out in terms of bolstering the snowpack.

Bolton Valley Nordic Center, VT 02JAN2017

An image of the cover to the newest version of Bolton Valley's Nordic & Backcountry Trail Map
The beautiful cover to the newest version of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry Trail Map

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been out for a genuine cross country ski session, but that’s what I got to do today at the Bolton Valley Nordic Center.  E planned to take the boys up to the resort’s sports center for some swimming this afternoon, and with a fairly short window of time and not much new snow over the past few days, some cross country skiing seemed like the perfect fit.

The resort was again quite busy today with many people off from school and work, and indeed the lift queues looked fairly substantial as we passed by the base lodge.  We were able to park right down by the sports center and E and the boys headed roff to the pool while I got my gear together.  I took a nice round trip out on Broadway and Maple Loop, and enjoyed the ability to actually ski in the tracked lanes.  Where possible I used the tracks and skied classic, but also skated in some spots.  My skis aren’t really skate skis, but I was able to fumble through some strides.  I jumped into the powder off the sides of the trails a few times and even managed a few Telemark turns, but I was thoroughly reminded of just how unstable real cross country skis are.

An image from outside the Bolton Valley Nordic Center at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

The boys had a lot of fun catching balls as they jumped into the pool and did everything else they’ve missed since the last time they were in the water.  We walked up to get some sandwiches from the deli before we left, and could see the mass exodus of visitors heading back to their cars as the ski day ended.  Based on what we’ve seen over this holiday period, I think the resort has seen a lot of visitors thanks to fairly decent ski conditions, so hopefully that’s been a big positive during what is typically the biggest week of the ski season.