Stowe, VT 28JAN2018

An image of the Spruce Peak base area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The Spruce Peak base area was popular today with some great midwinter weather.

Today, E set up a special Sunday morning session of snowboarding instruction for Molly based on the progress she’d made last week.  It was one of those situations where Molly was progressing quickly and wasn’t quite going to have a group that would be a perfect fit for her abilities.  Dylan was under the weather, but E giving the early session mean that she, Ty, and I headed off early today to Stowe.

An image of a breakfast burrito from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontIt was sort of strange starting things off in the morning on a ski program Sunday, but while E went off to her session with Molly, Ty and I made good use of our early visit to the mountain by checking out some of the breakfast offerings at the Great Room Grill.  Ty got their huge breakfast sandwich, and I got their hearty breakfast burrito, which was so filling that I could have easily skipped lunch and been fine all afternoon.  We of course headed out for some turns as well, and were lucky enough to run into Jack, so we spent the morning doing some runs with him.  He’s on the Rice Memorial High School ski team now, so we go to catch up on lots of his season’s adventures thus far.

“The terrain off Sunny Spruce was soft top-to–bottom.”

In terms of conditions, as expected, they were much like what we’d experienced last Sunday, and similar to what I’d found at Bolton Valley yesterday.  Temperatures were well up into the 30s in the lower elevations, so surfaces ranged from spring-like softened snow on sunny aspects, to full on winter snow on the more northerly aspects.  The terrain off Sunny Spruce was soft top-to–bottom, and we had a lot of fun on the skier’s left of Gondolier, where the sun had worked the snow into a beautifully soft consistency.

An image of some lights in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Spruce Peak Village

After lunch, which were able to keep on the small side thanks to that breakfast, we met up with our group and hit essentially the same terrain that we’d found to be optimal on the morning.  Colder air did start moving in as the afternoon wore on, so the snow began to firm up a bit, but the places that had really softened stayed excellent right through the end of the day.  There is off piste skiing to be had, as we saw in images from Scott Braaten yesterday, but we still need a storm to get it where it should be, so we’re waiting on that to happen.  There’s clearly some terrain that still has issues with respect to conditions, because the mountain doesn’t have 100% of its trails open.  Chin Clip was an example we saw today – for some reason it’s not open, because it was clearly roped off.  It sounds like we’ll finally start to break out of the recent lull in snowfall this week, so we’ll see if we can get any snow down to give the surface conditions a boost.

Bolton Valley, VT 27JAN2018

An image of RT-86 Telemark skis with snow on them at the base lodge of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
My RT-86 Telemark skis holding onto a bit of that leftover powder that I found out at Bolton Valley’s Wilderness area today

Ski conditions have been in sort of a holding pattern here in Northern Vermont.  We just haven’t had any big snowstorms in the past couple of weeks, and that’s what we need to get the off piste terrain back in prime shape.  With that said, there’s certainly some decent off piste skiing out there in various spots.  Powderfreak highlighted how good some of the tree skiing was at Stowe today, despite the fact that Winter Storm Jaxon had a substantial amount of mixed precipitation.  It was just one of those storms that finished off with some dense sleet to snow that really resurfaced whatever lay beneath.

I was sort of curious about the conditions up in the mountains today, and when temperatures rose up into the 30s F even at elevation, I decided that there would certainly be some soft snow out there.  I headed up to Bolton Valley in the midafternoon timeframe and parked at the Timberline Base to start my outing.  With the main base of the resort at 2,100’ up into the 30s F, I knew it would have warmed down there at 1,500’.  The scene at Timberline was quite mellow, with generally calm winds under cloudy skies, and just a sprinkling of skiers visible.

“As soon as I got off, I headed into the trees a bit off to the right of Villager, and low and behold there was some powder in there and the skiing wasn’t bad at all.”

As I rode the Timberline Quad, the conditions below me on Showtime looked, and even more importantly, sounded very good.  I couldn’t hear a thing from the turns of the skiers below me, so I hopped right off at the mid station and went for a run.  Indeed the snow on Showtime was great, probably softened a bit by the moderate temperatures, but it was immediately obvious that a major portion of the snow quality came from the fact that the resort had just blown a ton of snow on it.

“…it was kind of fun to span the gamut from some almost spring-like softened snow to midwinter powder.”

That snow on Showtime was worthy of being lapped for quite a while, but I still wanted to find out what the snow was like in the higher elevations, so I headed all the way to the Timberline Summit.  As soon as I got off, I headed into the trees a bit off to the right of Villager, and low and behold there was some powder in there and the skiing wasn’t bad at all.  I hadn’t seen Powderfreak’s post and photos about the snow at Stowe at that point, and I really wasn’t expecting much, so it was indeed sort of a pleasant surprise.  It did make me think back to something I’d read in the Bolton Valley snow report earlier in the day:

“Updated Saturday, January 27th at 7:57 AMNews and Notes: Come and get it folks. The sun will make an appearance today and the trails have a pleasant surprise feel to them making for a fun combination. If you take a little time to explore, you will find some powder in the glades and wooded areas off of our open trails such as the Wilderness Liftline and Preacher.”

If you take a little time to explore, you will find some powder in the glades and wooded areas off of our open trails such as the Wilderness Liftline and Preacher.”

The report literally had “pleasant surprise” in it, and I can absolutely see what they were getting at.  With that commentary, and what I’d encountered off piste, I decided to head off to check out the powder over at Wilderness.  What I found was that even areas that had seen some skier traffic over there were offering up some nice soft turns, but untracked areas with that coating of a couple inches of powder were very nice.  It’s really the dense, yet soft, material underneath that is providing the good turns vs. the couple inches of powder on top, but hey, the combination really comes together.

An image of Jay taken from a double pane window reflection in the base lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Capitalizing on a double pane window reflection on the Bolton Valley base lodge

I gradually worked my way back to the Timberline Base to complete my tour of the resort’s terrain, and it was kind of fun to span the gamut from some almost spring-like softened snow to midwinter powder.  Despite the good conditions I found in many spots, high-traffic and windblown areas are definitely in need of a resurfacing.  The worst spots will need a couple inches of liquid equivalent, but good base is in place in most areas, so all we really need is a decent storm with about an inch of liquid equivalent and we’ll really be back to more typical on and off piste conditions.  We’re expected to get into a more active wintry pattern in February, so we’ll see if any storms swing through to bring what we need.

Stowe, VT 21JAN2018

An image of Dylan, Jay, and Ty on the Sunny Spruce Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys out at Stowe today for our first BJAMS ski day of the season

Our first BJAMS ski program day of the season at Stowe was scheduled for two Sundays ago, but we canceled it due to dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills.  That wasn’t an issue today though – with base elevation temperatures in the 30s F, it was quite comfortable out there.  On piste coverage and conditions were actually quite decent, whether it was the softened snow on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak, or the midwinter snow higher up on Mansfield.  Although natural base depths are fine, and there are definitely people skiing off piste, the snow is sort of thick and punchy out there, so the groomed runs are just a much friendlier place to be.

“Although natural base depths are fine, and there are definitely people skiing off piste, the snow is sort of thick and punchy out there, so the groomed runs are just a much friendlier place to be.”

An image of Dylans ski helmet with the Backcountry.com goat and the Turtle Fur turtleWe arrived at Spruce Peak early enough that I was able to take a couple of runs with Ty and Dylan off the Sunny Spruce Quad.  We found nicely softened snow with those temperatures in the 30s F, and it was really only those usual high-traffic areas out of the sun that we found to be slick.  We had a mixed group of snowboarders (Cole and Robbie) and skiers (Dylan and Wiley, with Norris also tagging along) today, but since we were on piste for the most part there weren’t any traversing issues for the snowboarders.  We did a couple of runs off Sunny Spruce, carving up the soft snow, and then headed over to Mansfield for some longer runs.  Being fairly old snow, and a Sunday afternoon, the best turns were definitely the sides of the trails where ample traffic had built up substantial loose, soft snow.  We did a few runs on Gondolier and Nosedive, and you could just go and go and go and rarely have to leave those edges with good snow if you didn’t want to.  I think one would have to grade the overall conditions as subpar because of the quality of the off piste snow, but on piste conditions are fairly typical for when we haven’t seen a substantial snowstorm in a while.  We had a nice break at the Octagon toward the end of the afternoon before heading back to Spruce Peak to catch up with everyone else.

A fundue sign at the Skinny Pancake at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

For Ty’s first day as a chaperone/coach in the program today, he was helping E with some first-timers over on the lower parts of the Meadows area.  When I stopped in to check on them at the end of the day, he was just heading up the Inspiration Chair with a boy who had graduated from the Magic Carpet.  It was actually a great day to be out there with the first-timers, because he wasn’t really missing out on anything special on the steep or off piste terrain.  I think it will be a couple of weeks before we get back into some really good storms, so hopefully he’ll be able to put in some more time at our next session helping out the beginners again.

Bolton Valley, VT 15JAN2018

An image of tree branches with ice on them from Winter Storm Hunter at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Remnants of Winter Storm Hunter were seen today at Bolton Valley in the form of a little ice glistening on tree branches in the sun

The weather has been a real roller coaster ride over the past two to three weeks.  We were in the deep freeze over the holiday week and the first week of January, so while the snow quality was great, air temperatures and wind chill values just didn’t make for comfortable skiing.  Winter Storm Grayson hit the area in the January 4th through 6th timeframe and dropped roughly 10 inches of snow here at the house, but the temperatures that followed were still too frigid to make great use of all the snow.  Temperatures finally moderated this past week in association with Winter Storm Hunter, but the early part of the storm brought a mix of precipitation, so the skiing wasn’t great at that point.  Frigid air once again came in right after that storm, but mountain temperatures finally moderated into the teens today, so Ty and I made a quick trip up to Bolton Valley in the afternoon to check out the ski conditions.

A sign announcing an upcoming music performance at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont Bolton picked up about 5 inches of dense snow on the back side of Winter Storm Hunter, and that actually did a pretty decent job of resurfacing the slopes, but the snow and sleet were still dense enough that the resort wasn’t comfortable opening ungroomed terrain.  From the Vista Summit, Ty and I tried out Alta Vista, which of course was fairly scratchy in its steep upper section being the end of the ski day, but the snow that had accumulated on skier’s left from traffic was quite nice.  We actually helped a gentleman who was in well over his head and stepping down that first steep section of the trail.  Although Alta Vista is listed as an intermediate trail, that first section is clearly a black diamond pitch, and even more challenging than that when it’s been scraped down after a day’s worth of skier traffic.  We ventured off into the lower part of the Vista Glades, and low to moderate angle terrain that was untracked was really quite smooth.  In general the off piste turns were beautiful with that dense covering of a couple of inches, as long as the pitch didn’t get too steep.  We considered heading over to check out the lower parts of Wilderness, which are loaded with that sort of terrain, but just didn’t have enough time before the lifts closed.  All in all though, if you didn’t get out this weekend, you weren’t really missing anything too spectacular – conditions are well below average.  Temperatures are remaining nice and wintry, so freshly groomed terrain I’m sure is making for some fantastic carves, but we’ll need another nice shot of snow to get the off piste back in prime form.

“Any of the Anon MFI System equipment has magnets in it that automatically link to the bottom of the goggles and makes a perfect seal.”

One extra fun aspect of today was that Ty finally got to try out the combination of his Anon M2 Goggles and Anon MFI Tech Balaclava that he got for Christmas.  For those unfamiliar with the goggles in this system, a unique aspect is that the lenses are held in with magnets.  So, you can pop them out with a quick pinch of the frame and change them in seconds, but the magnets are quite strong, so the lenses never pop out unless you want them to.  Another part of the system that is ridiculously slick and ingenious is the balaclava.  You know that gap you always have between the bottom of your goggles and your balaclava or neck warmer?  Well, you don’t have it with this system, thanks to more magnets.  Any of the Anon MFI System equipment has magnets in it that automatically link to the bottom of the goggles and makes a perfect seal.  Ty had been asking for a balaclava will full face coverage, so this system was literally perfect for him.  Today’s benign, but reasonably cold conditions were a great chance for him to test out the system to see how it performed for him, and he loved it.  Hopefully it will serve him just as well on his next chilly, storm day.  And hopefully, we’ll get the weather to stabilize into a more typical pattern and have some of those days soon!