We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend. This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces. The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.
We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions. Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense. The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.
A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session. We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain. After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the weather board because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic. It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it. With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers. We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers. Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.
Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’. That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces. I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.
It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday. The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.
Ty wasn’t scheduled to work today, so the whole family had the chance to ski together and we decided to head up to the mountain early enough to hit the lift openings. The Vista Quad was opening at 9:00 A.M., and we got there right as folks began loading. We had an excellent run down Alta Vista, and especially Fanny Hill, and everywhere that hadn’t been groomed held several inches of dense powder that contributed to a solid resurfacing of the slopes.
“That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.”
Timberline has finally come on line this weekend thanks to the recent snows, so we next chose to head over that way and catch it near the lift opening. Cobrass still isn’t open, but we were able to take Preacher and a combination of various glades to get us over to Five Corners and onward to Timberline. That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.
Timberline still needs a bit more snow to open all the terrain, but we had an excellent run down Sure Shot and in and out of various sections of trees and nearby trails. Being a holiday weekend with fresh snow, people were arriving at the resort in droves, and when we stopped in at the Timberline Lodge for a quick break, the ticket line inside was roughly 150 feet long. That line was a sign of what was going on throughout the resort, and indeed a substantial lift queue was forming at the Vista Quad when we returned to the main base. Seeing that, we did a couple of quick, powder-filled runs on Snowflake and called it a day because we’d had our fill.
Cars full of holiday visitors continued to stream into the resort as we were leaving, and the Timberline lots must have been filled because they were already starting to have cars parallel park on the access road. The number of visitors today must have been great for the resort, even if it meant there were some lift queues at times. We’d seen Stephen and Johannes right when we’d arrived, and we didn’t get to do any runs with them, but they apparently had a big group with a number of Johannes’ friends. Stephen also said that he rode the Wilderness Chair, so the opening of the Wilderness area must have been a nice addition to disperse all the holiday visitors.
I suspected that the most recent storm wasn’t going to be quite enough to get the backcountry into perfect shape, but the forecast called for chilly temperatures topping out in the 10-15 F range, so earning some powder turns in the new snow seemed like the way to go. Dylan joined me in my plan to head up and take a quick tour on some moderate terrain on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.
“Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.”
The idea for today’s tour was to head partway up the Bryant Trail, connect over to Gotham City, catch some turns in the Gun Sight area, and then finish off the run with some lower glades. Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so. There were some nice powder turns in that snow, but the base depths are very inconsistent. In some spots the base snow was sufficiently deep, but in others there was little to no base, and obstacles like rocks and logs definitely needed to be avoided. Dylan’s most memorable quote of the day came after he had an altercation with some sort of obstacle under the snow and took a tumble. He was on Erica’s fat skis, and we were really hoping it wasn’t a rock. D quickly reassured me… “It was a log”.
We’ve actually got our next significant weather system, Winter Storm Jacob, starting to affect the area this afternoon. I’m not sure exactly when the snow from the storm first started to appear, but around 4:00 P.M. we were in Gotham City finishing our ascent, and I realized it was snowing. It’s kind of fun when you’re touring in the forest like that with limited views and protection from the elements, and before you know it you’re getting covered with fresh snow. The density of snow from this next storm will probably be on the high side, so it should make a solid contribution to the base to cover some of the obstacles we’ve been encountering.
Today we were at Stowe for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season. In terms of weather, this was one of those days where we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to the slopes if it weren’t for the program. We’ve been in the midst of Winter Storm Isaiah over the past couple of days, and it’s been a warm storm that has switched last week’s wintry conditions over to spring conditions. That actually wouldn’t be a deterrent for skiing, but the anticipated strong winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s F through the afternoon were concerning.
We were at the mountain early enough that I took a couple of runs with E and the boys, and we found conditions to be spring-like and decent. We had a touch of rain, which quickly changed over to snow in the higher elevations and made its way down to the base.
“It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming. ”
During my instruction session today I was working with a student named Viviana, an absolute first-time, never-ever skier. We worked on the magic carpet all afternoon, with one break in the middle where we got to hang out with E and the boys, their ski groups, and a number of other people from the program while we had some good food at the Great Room Grill. Viviana spent her ski time figuring out how to pressure her wedge to slow herself down and make turns, and she had progressed quite a bit by the end of the day in having the strength to stop herself. That actually says a lot, because the soft conditions we had at midday gradually changed to very hard conditions by the end of the afternoon. The cold air moved in, the groomed surfaces became much slicker, and the ungroomed surfaces became a frozen moonscape.
Strong winds put the Over Easy Gondola on hold at the end of the day, so we had to take one of the shuttles back to our car at Mansfield, and the wait for the shuttle felt like forever because of the frigid winds. It was only about five minutes of course, but many of us had dressed for the gondola vs. being out in the open. We found our car was encased in quite a layer of refrozen material from the wet snow that had fallen, so it took a bit of time to warm it up and melt that off.
Since yesterday morning, Winter Storm Henry has been bringing snow to our area, and Bolton Valley reported several new inches as of this morning. With the passage of the system came some wind however, which was enough to keep the Vista Quad on hold. Watching the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam from home, we could see that the Vista Quad closure led to long lines for the Mid Mountain Chair and Snowflake Chair. My colleague Stephen said that he’d been skiing in the morning, but the lift lines grew to 30 minutes as more people arrived and he’d eventually decided to call it a day.
Our family had planned to head up for some lift-served runs this afternoon, but the wind hold made that impractical and I ended up heading to the mountain to skin up for some turns instead. I figured this latest storm would be just about enough to get Timberline in reasonable shape for turns, so with the crowds at the main mountain, I decided to check it out.
“In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.”
The main skin route on Twice as Nice was well established, but I could see that in general the west-facing trails had seen just a bit too much wind to provide really nice turns. Having seen that, I ended up descending by the more protected Wood’s Hole and Brandywine route, and that worked out well. In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.
We’ve got yet another modest system coming through the area tomorrow, so that should bring conditions up another notch.
With the addition of snow from Winter Storm Gage Sunday through Tuesday, ski conditions have seen substantial improvement over the past few days. I was already pleased in general with the conditions I found at Bolton Valley yesterday, and I expected them to easily move up another notch with the follow up system that came into the area last night. As of this morning in the valley we’d already picked up over a half foot of snow (with a solid shot of liquid equivalent) between the two storms, and yet another round of snowfall was building in as we headed up to the mountain around noon.
“I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.”
Today was actually the first day of the season that the whole family had a chance to ski together, or at least the first day where both schedules and snow conditions made it happen. Unlike yesterday, the mountain was really busy today, and we parked in the lowest tier of the main lots down by the Sports Center. We even had to wait for a couple minutes to get on the Vista Quad, but that wasn’t bad considering the other mains lifts aren’t running yet. Temperatures were still relatively nice in the 20s F, but there was some wind in the higher elevations. D was having fun buttoning up with his magnetic Anon MFI Tech Balaclava and his helmet-compatible hood on his Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket just to see how everything came together. I have the same combo and think it’s fantastic for keeping out the wind.
From the Vista Summit we skied Alta Vista, and in discussions about the conditions, E and D said it was definitely better than the last time they’d been on it back on the 24th. All the snow from these past couple of storms has really put some quality coverage above the old base, so the trail edges were quite nice with hardly a sound from hard snow. We also had some time to visit Wilderness, which is still seeing just a modest amount of traffic from people using the uphill route. Conditions over there were very good, building on what I found yesterday. I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack. D was actually trying out Ty’s Telemark skis today for the first time, and he was really taking to them. His Tele turns looked strong on both the groomed slopes and in the powder, so I see him using those skis a lot until he gets his own new Tele setup.
Looking ahead, we’ve got the chance for another modest system this coming weekend, so conditions could get another shot in the arm if that system delivers something similar to what we’ve just received.