Stowe, VT 24FEB2019

Ty and Dylan lying down on the snow with their snowboards on at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Gondola buidling with snow falling at Stowe Mountian Ski Resort in Vermont
We had been worried about the potential for mixed precipitation today with ongoing Winter Storm Quiana, so we were happy to find it snowing when we arrived at Stowe for our BJAMS ski program today.

With Winter Storm Quiana brining the potential for mixed precipitation into the area today, we were a bit concerned about conditions for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe.  Fortunately, we arrived at the resort around midday to find it snowing, and the overall conditions looked pretty sweet with the trails being topped off with some new dense snow.  Ty and Dylan took an early run on Sunny Spruce, and came back with very positive comments about the conditions.

Today was a snowboarding day for me, and since it was the start of school vacation week, our number of participants in the program was lower than usual.  My snowboard group was small to begin with, but when all was said and done it ended up being just me, Ty, and Dylan left.  That was actually pretty convenient, so the three of us were excited for a fairly casual afternoon of riding.

We took an initial run off the Meadows Chair, and indeed the snow was quite good as the boys had said.  The groomed slopes had plentiful packed powder, as well as some new loose snow on top from the snow that’s been falling today.  We were a little worried about the winds, but we took a run on the Gondola and had some great turns on Switchback.  Off piste we found plenty of deep snow, although it was pretty dense with a thick layer a few inches down in some spots.

An image of Ty and Dylan on snowboards along the edge of the Switchback trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty and Dylan pause along the edge of the Switchback trail today as we enjoy an afternoon on the snowboards.

We headed back to Spruce Peak for another run, and it turned out to be quite eventful.  We were coming down from Sunny Spruce where West Run joins into East Run, and Ty caught the front edge of his snowboard and went down pretty hard.  He hurt his shoulder bad enough that he took a ride down to first aid in a ski patrol sled, and after an X-ray at Copley Hospital we discovered that he’d broken his clavicle.  It was a fairly gentle slope where it happened, but it was one of those cases where the collision was just right to cause the injury.  Ty will certainly have a few weeks of healing to go through, but at least he’s got a positive attitude about it!

Bolton Valley, VT 23FEB2019

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on Maria's at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of a ski pole in the snowpack at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan and I were very impressed when we tried to check on the depth of the new powder from this week. We couldn’t quite a good measurement because the new snow simply blended in with old, but we were impressed with the fact that we could stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle and beyond. The Bolton Valley snowpack is deep!

This week wasn’t especially snowy, but we had at least some modest accumulations, with Bolton Valley reporting 9 inches during the period.  Overall ski conditions have been quite good as of late though, so we expected there to be plenty of good powder skiing in the usual stashes with just these recent rounds of snow.

E and Ty were both a bit under the weather, but Dylan and I headed up to the mountain with our Tele skis for a good session of powder turns and exploration.  Temperatures were really nice, well into the upper 20s F for our midmorning arrival at Timberline.

D and I put together what was essentially a truncated version of the great session that the family had last Saturday.  We hit the whole breadth of the mountain, traveling all the way from the bottom of Timberline over to the top of Wilderness, and back again.  We hit powdery favorites like White Rabbit, Snow Hole, The Crack, and Maria’s.  Dylan was skiing really well on his Telemark skis, and it was fun to watch him developing the wherewithal to throw in alpine turns among his Tele turns whenever he’d be in a tight space that called for it.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
Dylan enjoys surfing some of that powder out there today in the trees at Bolton Valley.

We caught some really nice powder turns, and it was hard to say exactly how much of the surface snow was new, but it was certainly several inches.  We had fun checking snow depths around the 3,000’ mark, and you could simply push your pole down into the snow right up to the handle… and then keep going deeper if you wanted to.  While the powder today wasn’t quite as fresh as what we experienced last weekend, it’s all just great skiing at this point. 

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 18FEB2019

An image of snow falling in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a glade in the Holden's Hollow area in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Vestiges of a couple old ski tracks in some of the glades I skied today on the back side of the Holden’s Hollow area

Today was another one of those days where I really hadn’t expected to ski.  We had a great lift-served family ski day on Saturday, and then I went on a backcountry reconnaissance tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail and Woodward Mountain yesterday, so I’d already had a decent dose of weekend skiing.  Today was going to be a bit chillier, and I was happy to simply catch up on some work at home, but Mother Nature seemed to have other plans.  It snowed all morning at our house in Waterbury, with big, fluffy, champagne flakes, and we’d picked up 3 to 4 inches of new snow by noontime.  If it was snowing like that down at our house, I could only imagine what might be going on 2,000’ higher up at the mountain, so I decided that I should do a quick ski tour and find out.

With a short Bolton Valley tour in mind, I decided to follow up on a tour I’d made with E and the boys about a month ago.  On that tour we wrapped around to the back side of Holden’s Hollow, and there were some nice glades in that area that I wanted to explore.  Now that I’m familiar with the layout there, I know that’s a great setup for a quick tour.

“I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder.”

It was still snowing rather vigorously when I got up to the mountain, and it was hard to tell exactly how much new snow had fallen over the previous layers of powder, but it seemed to be at least as much as we’d picked up down at the house.  The approach section of the tour along Broadway went smoothly, and I’d quickly wrapped around on the Telemark trail and reached the ridgeline in the Holden’s Hollow area.  I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder.  That snow was very high quality, similar to what I’d found on the west side glades on Woodward Mountain during yesterday’s tour, and the run was over way too quickly.

I skinned back up to the ridge, and headed northward a bit more to gain some additional elevation for a front side descent.  The front side Holden’s Hollow Glades had definitely seen some traffic, and I found that I was touching down to the subsurface in areas that been previously packed out by skier traffic.  I ended up heading a bit to the skiers right of the glades there to catch the best snow.

This time, for my return trip to the car, I put my skins back on to cross the flats in the Pond Loop area, instead of just managing the traverse on skis alone.  It’s hard to say if it made the trip back to the car faster overall with the time required to stop and reapply skins, but it was definitely nice to make the trek without ever sliding backwards.

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 with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

Woodward Mountain Trail & Woodward Mountain, VT 17FEB2019

An image of the fire tower atop Vista Peak at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Visiting the Vista Peak fire tower to take in some of the views on today’s tour at Bolton Valley and the Woodward Mountain Trail

The snowpack is currently in great shape here in Green Mountains of Northern Vermont, with the Mt. Mansfield Stake up near 4,000’ recently hitting 100 inches.  Solid depths are evident at all elevations though, even down to the lowest mountain valleys.  At our house, which sits at an elevation of roughly 500’ near the bottom of the Winooski Valley, the snowpack has been in the 2½ to 3-foot range since the end of January.  Snow conditions are also great right now, with Bolton Valley Resort reporting 25 inches of snow in the past few days.

When snow conditions are good, and the snowpack is like this from top to bottom, it’s a great time to consider some of those longer backcountry descents that really make use of all the vertical around here.  The trip that came to mind today was the Woodward Mountain Trail.  E was feeling a bit under the weather, but I figured I could take the boys on the tour, and E said she could still help out with the car shuttling.  We didn’t have a full day to spend, so I wasn’t going to initiate the tour unless we could get it done fairly expeditiously.  I’d scoped out the bottom of the trail and found the most efficient exit on a tour last March, but my touring in the Goose Pond area had only gotten me mildly familiar with the start of the trail up on the ridge line.  I decided to check my copy of David Goodman’s classing backcountry guidebook “Backcountry Skiing Adventures:  Vermont and New York” to get a better feel for the ridgeline part of the trail.  After the initial descent from the Vista Peak Fire Tower the guidebook mentions that the trail “climbs gently, but steadily up a ridge”.  That was enough to convince me that I needed to do a bit more reconnaissance before bringing the boys, so I set my sights for today on an exploratory tour along the ridge line.

“The snow there was spectacular bottomless powder with no tracks.”

Arriving at Bolton Valley, my tour kicked off with a ride on the Vista Quad, which whisked me right up to the Vista Summit.  I stopped in to check on the views from the Vista Peak Fire Tower, and then continued on the Woodward Mountain Trail.  The first few minutes were on terrain that I’d been on before – the descent from Vista Peak down to the col that separates it from Woodward Mountain.  As advertised, the trail rose gradually after that point.  I opted to go without skins for a few minutes, but eventually decided that putting on my skins would be the way to go.  I’d say that was the right choice, because there was at least another 10 minutes of climbing before the trail began to level off.  I followed the trail out to the point where it began to descend through some of the route’s open glades, then turned around and headed back up to the Woodward Mountain summit area.

An image showing some of the open gladed ski terrain on the west side of Woodward Mountain near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the open glades on the west side of Woodward Mountain

I still had a bit of time to explore, so I decided to check out some of the glades on the west side of Woodward Mountain as well.  I followed a prominent spur trail the headed west off the Woodward Mountain Trail, and it eventually led down to some nice open glades dropping into the prominent valley that drains Goose Pond and is surrounded by Bone Mountain, Woodward Mountain, Vista Peak, and the Timberline Summit.  The snow there was spectacular bottomless powder with no tracks.  It was hard to pull myself away, but with the time I had available I had to skin back up to the Woodward Mountain Trail after only a partial descent of the glades.  An excellent tour option would be to continue skiing on down the valley and hook back up with the resort by connecting to the Timberline Base the way we did on our Bone Mountain tour.  That potential tour will have to wait for some time in the future though, so I’ll just have to add it to the ever growing list along with the Woodward Mountain Trail.

A map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour at Bolton Valley and the Woodward Mountain Trail overlayed onto Google Earth
A map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour at Bolton Valley and the Woodward Mountain Trail overlayed onto Google Earth

Bolton Valley, VT 16FEB2019

An image of Ty skiing powder with Dylan and Erica looking on in the KP Glades area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in the Villager Trees floating through some of the 25 inches Bolton picked up over the last three days.

In the past 72 hours Mother Nature has dropped 25 inches of snow on Bolton Valley, and with the first part of that accumulation coming in quite dense, it’s been a great resurfacing of the slopes.  The bulk of the snow came from Winter Storm Maya during the early part of the week, and the last few inches came from a slightly warmer storm that hit the area yesterday.  That system brought freezing levels above the base elevations of the local resorts, so we were eager to see how that played out with respect to the quality of the snow surfaces.

“In the past 72 hours Mother Nature has dropped 25 inches of snow on Bolton Valley, and with the first part of that accumulation coming in quite dense, it’s been a great resurfacing of the slopes.”

We got to Timberline not long after the opening of the Timberline Quad, and encountered some briefly heavy snowfall that ended up sticking around in lighter intensity much of the morning to add a bit of freshening to the slopes.  Temperatures were forecast to be in the mid-20s F, but it certainly felt a bit colder than that with the snowfall and some wind.  We kicked off the day with an initial top-to-bottom run on Timberline to get a sense for how high the freezing line had gone yesterday, and the effects were definitely a gradient with respect to elevation.  There was no obvious sharp line to note, but above 2,000 the effects seemed to be fairly minimal.  Even below that elevation though, the mountain has seen several additional inches of accumulation, so there actually was great powder skiing all the way down to 1,500’.  The areas that created the most trouble in our experience were where grooming had kicked up some chunks of dense snow to create an irregular subsurface.

An image of big flakes of snwo falling at the Timberline base area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Some fairly heavy snowfall greeting us this morning as we arrive at Timberline

We headed over to the main mountain to take advantage of the additional elevation and catch some lunch after a bit more skiing.  We had a great run on White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and indeed the depths of powder and quality of the subsurface just kept getting better and better the higher you went.  We relaxed with a good lunch at the James Moore Tavern, and seemed to get in there just before it started getting busy.

An image of Erica deep in the powder skiing the KP Glades area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E blasting away some of the powder as she drops a steep pitch in the KP Glades

After lunch we headed up The Crack, found a lot of nice powder in Maria’s, then worked our way back to Timberline.  We were still finding a lot of powder even at that point in the day, so we hung around for some additional Timberline runs, catching things like the Tattle Tale headwall, that was looking very steep and appealing to Dylan, and then some fun and games in the KP Glades where everyone seemed to get themselves covered in powder through various crashes or others purposely lacing them with the white stuff.

It is technically a holiday weekend, and while the resort was bustling, lift queues were almost nonexistent since the entire resort is open and everyone is well spread out.  We even got word from Stowe that while the free days on our passes were certainly working there, the resort was really busy due to the holiday, so people should be prepared for that.  Overall though, it’s just great that the resorts are getting such excellent conditions for a big holiday weekend and upcoming vacation week.

Bolton Valley, VT 13FEB2019

An image showing very heavy snowfall at the Timberline Base at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing snow accumulation on a ski jacket due to intense snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snowfall was so intense on my ski tour at Timberline this morning, that my jacket was turning white just a few minutes into my ascent.

The current storm affecting our area has been named Winter Storm Maya, and as of this morning it’s already delivered a solid addition to the local slopes with snow containing more than an inch of liquid equivalent.  Snowfall began yesterday afternoon, and the flake structure has been producing some very dense snow – my analyses from at the house were revealing water content in the snow as high as 13-16% H2O!

After doing some clearing of the driveway this morning, I headed up to the Timberline area at Bolton Valley to get in a quick ski tour before work.  Temperatures have been warming throughout this storm, so I was greeted by some very nice temperatures way up into the 20s F at the Timberline Base.  I was also greeted by pounding snow in the range of 1 to 2 inches per hour, with huge flakes and zero wind.  The big flakes were coming down so hard that my jacket was turning white just a few minutes into my tour.  The intense snowfall, big flakes, and no wind are fantastic conditions for building up fluff, and that was a welcomed addition to the accumulations from this storm cycle; based on what I saw from my snow analyses at the house, there is probably some upside-down character to the initial accumulations we’ve had on the front end of this event.

An image of heavy snowfall at the Timberline Mid Station area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snowfall continued to pound down as I reached the Timberline Mid Station this morning.

“The accumulations I found from this storm so far were 9-10” at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base and about 12-13” at 2,500’ at the Timberline Summit.”

The Timberline Base was really deserted when I was up there this morning; there was just one other car in the lot, and the skin track had already picked up three inches of new snow since the last person had used it.  I guess filling in the skin track doesn’t take too long when it’s snowing at an inch or two per hour, but it was still surprising.  The accumulations I found from this storm so far were 9-10” at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base and about 12-13” at 2,500’ at the Timberline Summit.  That pounding snowfall probably did bump up that upper number a bit, even over the course of just a half hour ascent.

An image showing a skin track for ascending on skis at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the upper part of the skin track on Timberline this morning as it slowly disappears in the heavy snowfall.

The trip down Intro was fun, since the initial snow’s hefty density meant great coverage even in spots that might typically get scoured a bit by the wind.  Below the Timberline Mid Station, I opted for Twice as Nice, because the only skier traffic I could see there was the vestiges of one old track.  Boy did the mountain get a resurfacing though – you had to really try hard to find the old subsurface, and for the most part, it’s now just a distant memory.  Winter Storm Maya has definitely been a shot in the arm for the snow conditions so far though, and there’s plenty of snow still to come.  The 3 to 4 inches of fluff on top of the denser snow definitely set the skiing right-side-up this morning, so turns are looking really nice for the foreseeable future.

Stowe, VT 03FEB2019

An image of participants grouping up for our weekly BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of participants grouping up for our weekly BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Grouping up today for our BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak

Today was a chance for Ty and I to have the session we’d expected last week and work with Harrison during our BJAMS ski program day.  Harrison has had some ski time, but we started right off from scratch at the magic carpet.  The afternoon began with skis off as we worked with Harrison in his ski boots, showing him angulation, walking around, and getting him familiar with some of the positions his feet would be in.  From there it was skis on and we used the magic carpet slope to have him work on engaging and disengaging his edges with side slipping.

With those first exercises under his belt, Harrison decided that a break was in order, so we headed to the Great Room Grill where he ordered up some mac and cheese that he loved.  It really seemed to hit the spot because when we headed back to the Magic Carpet after the break, he began to work on his wedging and wedge stops with great success.  When we felt he was comfortable enough to make smooth stops, we said that he could move on to the Adventure Triple and the Inspiration Slope, which had him very excited.  We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and Harrison worked on speed control using his wedge, and finally began to get the idea of how to even turn in his wedge.  He’s ready to really take off at his next session, providing it’s not too long before he gets back out there.

One of the things that really help Harrison progress today was the excellent soft, surface conditions.  There weren’t any signs of scratchiness of Inspiration, and we even had some snowfall at times during the afternoon to freshen things up.  Eventually a bit of mixed precipitation appeared at the very end of the day, so we’ll have to see how that affects the surface conditions.

Brandon Gap, VT 02FEB2019

An image showing Erica, Ivan, Dy;an, and Ty skiing powder in one of the great backcountry glades created by the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trail Alliance at Brandon Gap in Vermont
An image of Ivan jumping in powder snow at RASTA's Brandon Gap backcountry recreation area in Vermont.
Ivan blasts through some of the powder we found today on our ski outing at RASTA’s Brandon Gap backcountry recreation area.

Today the family headed to Brandon Gap for some backcountry skiing.  Dylan’s friend Ivan is visiting, and he joined us as well for his very first backcountry skiing experience.  He doesn’t actually have any backcountry ski gear, but we were able to set him up with some Alpine Trekkers and a pair of Erica’s older skins that fit his skis almost perfectly.  We also had the advantage of nicely warning temperatures today, so we waited until the afternoon, and arrived at the Bear Brook Bowl Access and Trailhead on Vermont Route 73 to cloudy skies and temperatures around 20 F.

There are multiple trail pods at Brandon Gap, but for this tour I chose to stick with the same No Name Backcountry Area that I’d visited last March.  It’s an efficient touring area that heads right up from the parking lot with almost zero approach, and I didn’t expect we’d have too many curves thrown at us since I had a good idea of the lay of the land.

An image of Ivan and Dylan looking at the map at one of the trailheads at RASTA's Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area in Vermont
Dylan and Ivan check out the map as we begin our ski tour at RASTA’s Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area this afternoon.

“The powder we found was beautifully light and dry, and generally 12 to 24 inches in depth, with the highest reading I obtained at 26 inches.”

The skin track was well established as usual, and in this case it was almost a bit too well packed because there was some occasional slipping on the steeper pitches.  We quickly found that all you had to do was slide a bit to the left or right into the untracked snow and you’d find sufficient purchase.  Ivan had to get used to using the Alpine Trekkers, but by the end of the ascent he was really getting it down.  There had been about a dozen other vehicles in the parking area, but we only saw one other group out in the No Name pod.

An image of Erica removing the skins from her skis at the top of the No Name section of RASTA's backcountry recreation area at Brandon Gap in VermontFor our descent we headed far to the skier’s left, father than I’d traversed on my previous visit, and we got to ski one of the leftmost glades that had perhaps three or four previous tracks.  The terrain is generally in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range or so, and the snowpack is quite prodigious.  It was too deep for me to easily estimate based on any pole measurements, but there really aren’t any deficiencies and everything you could possibly want to be covered certainly is.  The powder we found was beautifully light and dry, and generally 12 to 24 inches in depth, with the highest reading I obtained at 26 inches.  The composition of the subsurface was pretty inconsequential because you just weren’t having to get anywhere near it, but from what we could tell it didn’t seem overly crusty.  Temperatures stayed very comfortable, and the skies were just cloudy until about midafternoon when it started to snow in association the new small system that’s coming into the area.

An image of Erica and Dylan helping Ivan out of the powder snow during a ski tour at the Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area in Vermont
Erica and Dylan have fun chaining up to try to help Ivan out of the powder today at Brandon Gap.

We stopped off in the Mad River Valley for some Mad Taco on the way home, and business appeared to be booming based on how packed it was.  I’m sure resorts throughout the state were loaded with visitors today thanks to the great conditions and moderate temperatures.