Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13JAN2019

An image of people ski touring on the Pond Loop trail near sunset with some of Bolton Valley Resort's alpine trails in the background
An image of Erica skiing the Cup Runneth Over glade on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica enjoying some beautiful powder on Cup Runneth Over today at Bolton Valley

Today’s temperatures were a few degrees warmer than yesterday’s, but earning turns in the backcountry still seemed like good way to fight off the chill.  E and the boys were up for some skiing today, so with yesterday’s trip to Holden’s Hollow serving as reconnaissance, I set up what I hoped would be a fun ski tour for them.

The temperature was right around 10 F in the Village when we arrived in the midafternoon, and with afternoon sun and no wind it was actually quite comfortable as we headed up the Bryant Trail to begin the tour.  It wasn’t long before we came to the top of Cup Runneth Over, and everyone was surprised that I had them taking off their skins for our first descent.  The descent there was excellent, with about a foot of powder over a soft base.  I was very impressed to find that even the steep final section of the glade was in excellent shape.  E was really enjoying the quality of the snow, but also the peace and quiet of the trees and all the unique formations that the fluffy snow had built upon the vegetation.

An image showing a formation in the powder snow that looks like a snail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the snow formations Erica saw out in the backcountry today that looked like a snail coming up out of the snow.

“I was worried that they would be a bit steep for E and the boys on their Telemark gear, but the powder was deep and soft enough that they had no problems with the turns.”

Once we finished our descent down to the pump house, we put out skins back on and began our ascent on Telemark.  This was a slightly different route than what I’d taken yesterday, but Telemark looked like a nice option to ascend to the top of the Holden’s Hollow Glades and I was interested in exploring that route.  It turns out that Telemark takes a nice mellow grade as it wraps around the ridge with Holden’s Hollow.  On the trip around we discovered that there are also more glades on the back side of Holden’s Hollow.  They looked quite inviting, but we didn’t quite have time to incorporate those into our tour this time.

An image of Erica and Ty ski touring on the Telemark trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica and Ty make their way up the Telemark trail under the cover of beautiful snowy branches.

“E said that overall she had a really great time because the quality of the snow was just so good.”

We stopped on the ridge at the top our ascent for some hot chocolate, then headed down through the Holden’s Hollow Glades.  I was worried that they would be a bit steep for E and the boys on their Telemark gear, but the powder was deep and soft enough that they had no problems with the turns.  In the lower sections of the glade, Dylan said he wished it was even steeper to accommodate the amount of powder that was there.  E said that overall she had a really great time because the quality of the snow was just so good.  We’re often out on the backcountry network when the powder is more marginal and not quite enough to hold up on the lift served terrain, but this time everyone was getting top notch midwinter powder and loving it.

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map including GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 12JAN2019

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of the Holden's Hollow Glades on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fluffy snow coated everything in the Holden’s Hollow Glades today.

With our recent winter storm dropping 2½ to 3 feet of snow at the local resorts, the ski conditions are simply fantastic.  However, the storm also brought some cold air with it, and that’s now in place over the area.  Temperatures were expected to top out in the single digits F today, which isn’t horribly cold, but cold enough that I’d rather be skinning for turns than riding lifts.

I headed up to the Bolton Valley Village for a tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network, and with the time I had, I needed something fairly quick.  I decided on a short tour over in the Holden’s Hollow area, since it’s just a short jaunt across the lower Nordic trails, and I hadn’t been over on that side of the network since my trip there in March of last season.

Temperatures were indeed in the mid to upper single digits F when I arrived at the Village around midafternoon, and not surprisingly with the fantastic snow conditions, there were a ton of Nordic skiers out on the Network.  I headed right over toward the Holden’s Hollow area via Pond Loop, and found myself on the Telemark Trail briefly before I cut right to Holden’s Hollow.  My ascent on Holden’s Hollow made me realize just how expansive that area is – there are a lot more sections of maintained glades around there than I knew, not to mention the amount of natural terrain that is skiable on its own.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
This season’s update of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map is once again listing a lot of the glades.

“In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common.”

Being well on the leeward side of Oxbow Ridge and North Ridge, the snow in the Holden’s Hollow area is well protected from winds, and boy is the quantity and quality of the powder impressive.  In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common.  I’m sure the powder has settled some since it initially fell (my analyses at the house were revealing densities in the 3% H2O range near the end of the storm) but all the snow out there is incredibly light and dry, with a fantastic soft base underneath it.  The turns were essentially as you’d expect with snow like that – simply outstanding.  I guess the only complaint I can muster would be that a few skiers had already been through the area so I had to hunt around off the main lines a bit for fresh tracks.  However, this is the kind of powder that’s so deep and plentiful, it’s still amazingly good even after it’s seen a few passes from other skiers.  That’s indeed what’s out there right now in the backcountry, so get out and enjoy it if you’ve got the chance!

Bolton Valley, VT 10JAN2019

An image of drifted snow and some heavy snowfall behind the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing ski tracks in powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Catching first tracks this morning on Spell Binder during our ongoing winter storm

We’re in the midst of a long, strung out winter storm system that began way back on Monday evening.  The storm has already dropped 20 inches of snow down here at the house, and I’d expect some of the local resorts to report totals in the 30-inch range by tomorrow morning.  With the northwest winds driving the moisture into the mountains, I wasn’t surprised to find that the Vista Quad was on wind hold again this morning, just as it had been when Ty and I went out for some runs yesterday.  I’d been contemplating both lift-served turns up at the main mountain, or touring down at Timberline, but the Vista Quad remaining on wind hold sealed the deal on some skinning at Timberline.

“Snow had settled in there nicely and I measured about 22 inches of surface snow atop the headwall.”

I arrived at Timberline to find fairly heavy snowfall and not a lot of plowing.  I had to wrap around to the far entrance to gain entry, but I plowed my way through 8 to 12 inches of snow in the Subaru and got over to the main parking area.  There were a few cars present, but I was worried that I’d be breaking trail on the ascent when I found no signs of a skin track next to the Timberline Base Lodge.  Fortunately, the lower areas of the track had just been erased by the winds, and once I got to Twice as Nice there was a great track in place.

An image of the depth of the powder on Spell Binder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWinds had definitely affected the snow, but after looking around at the options by the Timberline Mid Station, I found that Spell Binder was entirely untracked and decided to the skier’s right would offer up some great turns.  Snow had settled in there nicely and I measured about 22 inches of surface snow atop the headwall.  The turns were great, but even there the snow had been affected by the winds, so the powder wasn’t quite as light and airy as it was in the trees.  I’d popped into the trees briefly at the top of my ascent to take off my skins out of the wind, and it was dead calm in there with beautifully fluffy snow.  The trees should really offer up some great skiing in the coming days!

Bolton Valley, VT 09JAN2018

An iamge of Ty skiing powder in the Bonus Woods at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing powder in the trees at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today’s trip to Bolton Valley revealed some nice accumulations of dense powder in the trees.

A long, strung out winter storm system has been affecting our area for the past couple of days.  It started out with some snow from a warm front overnight into yesterday morning, then there was a bit of a lull, and today the main part of the storm came through.  Ty was off from school today due to the storm, and I decided to work at home, so we had a chance to head up to the mountain in the afternoon for a few turns.

The first part of this storm had some mixed precipitation, so we were really in no rush to jump out on the slopes early, instead deciding to let some of the new snow build up during the day.  Today’s snow here at the house was quite dense, coming in in the 10-13% H2O range based on my analyses, so while it wasn’t going to be the ultimate in fluffy powder, it certainly had the potential to further resurface the slopes.

“I did some depth checks in the trees and frequently found surface snow depths of 12 to 15 inches.”

While working today, I watched the Bolton Valley Live Webcam, and saw that the Vista Quad stopped running at some point around midday.  I figured it was on wind hold, but Mid Mountain and Snowflake were still running, so we still headed up for a few lower mountain runs.  The wind was certainly whipping around up there, but most of the lower mountain areas were reasonably sheltered, and the trees were especially nice because it seemed like a lot of snow had settled in there.  I did some depth checks in the trees and frequently found surface snow depths of 12 to 15 inches.  I’m sure some of that is from a previous storm or two, but as their afternoon report, the resort was indicating 7 inches of snow and overall there have been some healthy, dense accumulations from these past couple events.  Indeed we found the new snow on the mountain to be dense as my analyses had suggested, but boy did it constitute a resurfacing of the slopes.  If you were on the new snow there was no touching the subsurface, and you typically sunk into the powder just a few inches anyway because of the density.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the trees at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty out in the trees slashing up some of that dense powder from this latest winter storm

As of about 9:30 P.M. this evening, the flakes falling have become much larger down here at the house, so the snow is getting fluffier.  This drier snow on top of the dense stuff from earlier today is just what we like – the perfect right-side-up deposition for those powder turns.

Stowe, VT 06JAN2019

An image of Dylan and Molly getting ready to ride their snowboards in some powder on the Competition Hill area of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan snowboarding in powder on Upper Meadows at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan charging through some of this afternoon’s powder on his new snowboard as we kick off the BJAMS ski program for the season at Stowe.

Today was our first BJAMS ski program day of the season at Stowe, and I was assigned a snowboarding group consisting of Dylan and Molly.  Molly has been riding for a couple of seasons, and Dylan has been snowboarding before, but it looks like the plan is to have him work on it more this year.  He’s used Erica’s snowboard in the past, but this fall at the Waitsfield ski swap we got him his own brand new board, a Rome Mini Agent Rocker.  It’s a bit smaller and lighter than E’s board, it’s got a softer flex, and it has some rocker as well, so we expected it to be a much better fit for him.  He could already feel the differences when we were installing the bindings yesterday and he put on the board – he could flex it easily and said it felt great.

He confirmed those impressions today after his first run on Spruce Peak.  I was still getting on my gear in the lodge, but he took an early run with Ty in the Meadows area and said he loved the feel of the board.  He also indicated that the overall riding was fantastic with all the new powder out there, and that can’t help but make any appropriate board feel sweet.

“Indeed we had a small weather system in the area that started dropping snow overnight, and there was easily 4 to 6 inches of fresh powder out there for today’s session.”

Indeed we had a small weather system in the area that started dropping snow overnight, and there was easily 4 to 6 inches of fresh powder out there for today’s session.  There have been some rounds of fluffy snow with this system, but overall I’d say the snow settled in to produce some medium-weight powder, and it did a great job of resurfacing the slopes from what we experienced in the Meadows area.  We stuck to the Meadows Quad all afternoon because there really wasn’t a need to go anywhere else.  There’s a top-to-bottom continuous fall line with no significant flat areas to deal with on the boards, there’s a gradient of pitches to use across the big open face, and we were essentially getting free refills on powder each run.

An image of Molly snowboarding on the Upper Meadows trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Molly dropping in for another round of powder thanks to Mother Nature’s refills

“The riding was simply glorious, and you could see how much fun Molly and Dylan were having as they surfed the powder.”

The riding was simply glorious, and you could see how much fun Molly and Dylan were having as they surfed the powder.  Most of Dylan’s previous snowboard experience was in rather marginal/firmer conditions, so he really hadn’t experienced a day like this.  Today he was on a new board with appropriate size and flex, and he was floating on powder.  So as you can imagine, the snowboarding experiences of the past compared to today were like night and day for him.  He was blow away by how much fun it was, and said he would love to snowboard a lot more if the experience was like today.  I let both the kids know that this was the kind of riding that snowboards were initially designed for, so these are indeed great days to pull out the board.

An image of Dylan snowboarding in soft snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontMolly and Dylan are very competent making turns in both directions on their boards, and they can handle slopes up to black diamond pitch – especially with quality snow like we had today.  You could see the confidence in their turns knowing that they wouldn’t have to deal with the hard subsurface.  They’re at the stage where they’re just trying to smooth out their transitions and remove any jerky movements, so I discussed that with them and simply let them ride.  Smoothing out those transitions will come with time on snow, and there’s no better time to enjoy that than with some good powder.

An image of Molly snowboarding in powder on the Upper Meadows trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Molly jumps into some of the powder on Upper Meadows today as the group worked on their turns with the great snow conditions.

As noted, the snow conditions really were fantastic at the mountain, so the only weather-related issue we really had to combat today was the wind.  It was strong, and blowing right at us as we rode the Meadows Quad.  Dylan and I had brought our new Anon MFI balaclavas today to use with our M2 goggles, and I simply can’t overemphasize how great they were during each lift ride.  Having that magnetic seal between the balaclava and the bottom of the goggles seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread as the wind washed over us.  If you hate having to fiddle with your facemask or neck gaiter on every lift ride as you try to seal up those crevices where the biting wind gets in, definitely check out one the MFI-type magnetic systems.

An image of Dylan slashing through some powder on his snowboard at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Slash that pow Dylan!

We’ve got what looks like a snowy week coming for the mountains, so barring some drastic changes to the forecast, we should be looking at some great skiing and riding in the coming days.

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2019

An image of Ty skiing powder in White Rabbit area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty enjoys the great weather and takes in some powder today on our visit to Bolton Valley

With help from our most recent winter storm, Bolton Valley is reporting 6 to 9 inches of new snow over the past several days, so Ty and I decided to head up today to ski a bit of that powder.  We got to the Village in the late morning, and were surprised to find the upper parking lots were hitting capacity.  We poked around in the lots for a bit though, and eventually got a spot from someone who was leaving.  Parking at the main base was at an unusual premium today because there was a big Nordic race taking place.  They certainly had a really fantastic day for the event – the sky was a mix of sun and clouds, and temperatures were just edging above freezing at the 2,000’ level.

An image of snow banks in the parking lots near the village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow covering snow banks today in the busy Bolton Valley parking lot

With temperatures expected to rise a few degrees above freezing, Ty and I quickly got on our way over to Wilderness to make sure we could get in some powder turns before any potential temperature effects on the snow.  We started off with a warm up on Bolton Outlaw, connecting down to the Wilderness Woods area and Lower Turnpike, where we found plenty of powder along the edges of the runs.  I was definitely leery of the subsurface on Bolton Outlaw based on my experience over at Timberline on Thursday, but I ended up being really impressed with the overall conditions we found.  The new snow has settled some and it’s now had a chance to form a much better bond to the underlying surface.  In addition, there’s definitely been some additional liquid equivalent added to the surface snow relative to what I found earlier in the week.  There was plenty of loose snow on Bolton Outlaw, but even when you got down to the subsurface there was substantial grip.  Steep, natural snow trails like Bolton Outlaw being in good shape bodes well for the overall surface conditions on the mountain, so it’s not surprising that most terrain has been reopened now.

“There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.”

Ty and I also visited White Rabbit, where we found just a couple of tracks and acres of fresh powder.  The freezing level was rising, so we had to start paying attention to aspect and sun protection, but the effects on the powder were still fairly minimal overall.  There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.

The forecast suggests we’ve got a small system coming in to the area tonight, and then another couple of larger systems in the coming week, so folks should be alert for more potential powder turns in the near future.

Bolton Valley, VT 03JAN2019 (Night)

An image of Jay and Ty having pizza at the Fireside Flatbread restaurant at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty night skiing on the Beech Seal trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Night lights and snowfall set the scene as Ty rips up some of today’s new snow at Bolton Valley.

Ty and I headed up to Bolton Valley for a few runs this evening to catch up with my friend James and his kids Jack and Lizi.  James is one of the chaperones for their school’s ski program, which has their sessions on Thursday nights at the resort.  They’ve actually had some great Thursday nights so far with respect to conditions.  They had a couple of nice days before the holidays, and they scored again tonight as well with the resort reporting 6 inches of new snow as of this evening.

Up at the mountain we quickly caught up with James and made a run off the Vista Quad.  Like my tour at Timberline this morning, the overall weather was quite nice.  Temperatures were well up into the 20s F, and another bout of snow had come in for the evening to further freshen up the slopes.  Wind was pretty minimal as well, except for up near the Vista Summit where it was howling at times.  The off piste was actually a bit better than what I found this morning, presumably due to some additional snow, but the groomed areas were really what I found to be impressive.  You could still find scratchy areas, but a lot of new snow had been groomed into the base, and combined with the additional snow that was falling and had been pushed around by skiers, there were some really soft zones of snow throughout the available runs.  The steepest slopes like Spillway weren’t open, which is probably a good idea with respect to safety, since that very firm subsurface is still sitting there lurking under the new snow.

“…a lot of new snow had been groomed into the base, and combined with the additional snow that was falling and had been pushed around by skiers, there were some really soft zones of snow throughout the available runs.”

We caught up with Jack and Lizi for a final run off the Mid Mountain Chair, and I was surprised to see that they headed right down Beech Seal vs, the easier Bear Run route.  They get an hour of ski lessons on each of their program days, and it’s obvious that they’re really coming along in the way they easily tackled Beech Seal.  I could tell that Jack was clearly comfortable by the way he flashed me a peace sign as he buzzed the camera while I was shooting photos.

An image of Jack night skiing on the Beech Seal trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Jack is clearly comfortable skiing Beech Seal this evening as he has time to add a bit of flair and flash the camera.

James and the kids had to head out around 8:00 P.M., but Ty and I went for one more run off the Vista Quad before retiring to Fireside Flatbread for some pizza.  We’d snacked at home a bit earlier, but we’d definitely been saving space all evening for some of their great pie.

It looks like we might have another small system coming through on Saturday night into Sunday, and then there’s the potential for another couple of larger systems midweek, so conditions may improve even further over the next several days.

Bolton Valley, VT 03JAN2019

An image of ski tracks in powder at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing a ski track in powder on the Villager Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching first tracks on Bolton Valley’s Villager trail today thanks to some fresh powder from an overnight Alberta Clipper

An Alberta Clipper system came through the area overnight, dropping a half foot of snow at some of the local resorts by morning, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for a morning ski tour this morning.  With roughly 5 inches of new snow found at the house this morning, and the resort reporting the same, it didn’t seem like there was a huge elevation dependence with this event.  Plus, now that the bullwheel replacement on the Timberline Quad and associated operations are finally done, Timberline is back open for ski touring, so I figured I’d get to check out the conditions there for the first time in a while.

“…I found a very even coating of about 5 inches of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and roughly 5 to 6 inches up at the Timberline Summit (2,500’).”

Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F with light snow falling and zero wind, so we’re talking super friendly conditions to be out on the hill.  Since wind was pretty minimal during this event, I found a very even coating of about 5 inches of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and roughly 5 to 6 inches up at the Timberline Summit (2,500’).

An image of a car with fresh snow on it in the parking area near the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today’s new snow on one of the vehicles in the Timberline parking area

The new snow was excellent dry powder in the 20 to 1 range for snow to water ratio, and there’s generally plenty of base, but the consistency of the base is horrible.  It’s rock hard, and in a few exposed places that had presumably seen flowing water, there was simply clear ice as the top layer of base.  There was a nice established skin track in place on the Twice as Nice ascent route, but the ascent was definitely the most challenging part of the tour.  Slightly steeper spots with just powder on ice provided little grip, and you could see that in those areas some people had to diverge out from the main skin track and take shallower routes due to lack of grip with their skins.  Fortunately there were only a handful of spots like that, but navigating them was a definite challenge.  It’s good that there wasn’t much wind with this event because scoured areas would be a nightmare.

“The new snow was excellent dry powder in the 20 to 1 range for snow to water ratio, and there’s generally plenty of base, but the consistency of the base is horrible.”

After seeing the conditions on my ascent, it was obvious that the best bet for a descent was going to be something that had previously groomed, and had a fairly shallow angle.  So, I headed down Villager from the Timberline Summit, and that was an appropriate pitch.  I still had to hit a couple of blue/black pitches on Sure Shot on my route, and there was no way to avoid touching the hard subsurface there, even on 115 mm boards.

The Lower Turnpike area with its nice mellow pitch would probably have offered up the most consistent bottomless turns today, but it was nice to get a chance to get out on Timberline again.  I can’t imagine there was any point to skiing ungroomed terrain before this latest storm, and this snow isn’t going to be able to hold up to much traffic, but there are definitely some nice powder turns to be had on terrain of the appropriate pitch.