Bolton Valley, VT 15FEB2020

An image of Dylan in the snow laden trees off piste at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after recent snows from Winter Storm Kade, Winter Storm Lamont, and Winter Storm Mabel.
An image of Dylan skiing the trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out today at Bolton Valley enjoying some of the powder off piste on Maria’s

Today started out very cold.  We bottomed out below -15 F here at the house, so nobody was really in a rush to get out skiing this morning.  Last Saturday, Dylan and I skied in temperatures around 0 F to catch the fresh snow from Winter Storm Kade, but today we took our sweet time and waited well into the afternoon when temperatures were predicted to be up around 20 F.

It was a bit after 3:00 P.M. when we arrived up at the Village, and we were able to grab a parking spot in the first tier and load right on the Vista Quad.  We headed toward Maria’s for some powder, and a chance for Dylan to try out his new Rossignol Sky 7 skis for the first time.  His skis were supposed to arrive last weekend, but in a nice piece of irony they were delayed because of Winter Storm Kade.

“We probed total powder depths above the old base and generally found 20 to 22 inches.”

In any event, Dylan’s skis were a great tool for today’s snow.  The powder currently consists of snow from Winter Storm Kade last weekend, topped off with snow from four additional storms that included Winter Storm Lamont on Sunday into Monday, and Winter Storm Mabel that just hit the area at the end of the week.  We probed total powder depths above the old base and generally found 20 to 22 inches.  There was a breakable crust present within the snow from some mixed precipitation that occurred during Winter Storm Mabel.  In some areas the crust was absent altogether, and in others it was anywhere from 2 to 8 inches down in the snowpack.  The presence and depth of the crust depended on things like aspect, wind effects, and protection from that part or the storm by trees or other terrain features. 

An image of Dylan skiing powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in the powder on Maria’s testing out the float of his new Sky 7 skis

Overall the powder skiing was good, although of course not up to the level of last Saturday with the fresh snow from Winter Storm Kade.  The crust is thin enough that it’s breakable, and buried enough that it’s inconsequential in many spots, but it definitely makes the powder skiing variable enough that you have to be on your toes.  Putting down some additional fresh snow and burying the crust deeper will definitely help the off piste conditions, so we’ll have to see how the expected storms this next week play out.

Stowe, VT 09FEB2020

An image from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont on a sunny February day.
An image from the Great Room Grill restaurant in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The group having our snack/lunch break today in the Great Room Grill in Spruce Camp

Dylan and I were assigned a different group today for our BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  Erica was planning to work with Viviana, our student from last week, and we were going with Meredith and Bella.  They’re farther along in their skiing and they’re working on transitioning from wedge to parallel.  After spending time with them today I’d say they’re about 50% of the way there.  They still need their wedge to control their speed on more challenging terrain, but on beginner/green terrain they can make parallel turns most of the time.

“Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.”

Our group spent time on the Adventure Triple Chair, Meadows Quad, and Sunny Spruce Quad today, and conditions were essentially perfect on beginner terrain.  There are some slick areas on intermediate terrain depending on traffic levels.  Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.  It seems that we may have more powder on the way as well – the Mt. Mansfield forecast is suggesting an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 08FEB2020

An image of Dylan skiing in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after nearly two feet of snow from Winter Storm Kade
Dylan out there in the Bolton Valley powder today from Winter Storm Kade

Over the past couple of days, we’ve had Winter Storm Kade affecting the area, and it’s been our largest storm cycle of the winter so far.  It began on Thursday with some dense snow and mixed precipitation, then on Friday came heavy snowfall that was enough to even cause UVM to close down for the afternoon.  By the time the storm wound down overnight, we’d picked up 17 inches of snow here at the house, and the local resorts in the Northern Greens were reporting up to 2 ½ feet of snow.  The storm has been an excellent addition to the snowpack, with 1.86 inches of liquid equivalent here at home, and that must have meant more than 2 inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains.  That’s an all-around solid resurfacing of the local slopes.

An image of railings covered with fresh snow on a slopeside house at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm Kade
Viewing the snowy scenes from Winter Storm Kade as we make our way over to the Timberline Base

Cold temperatures in the single digits F were in the forecast today on the back side of the storm, but Dylan and I decided to head up for a few runs anyway – the bounty of new snow was just too good to miss.  Our timing was pretty good such that we took our first run off the Vista Quad and headed right down to Timberline to catch the opening of the Timberline QuadThe top of Vista was absolutely frigid, with an air temperature below zero, but as we made our way down toward the Timberline Base we found that the temperature went up significantly.

“We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow.”

At Timberline, the sun was out, the snow was great, and there was essentially no line at the Timberline Quad, so we simply stayed down there and skied until we were ready to go.  We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow.  So, the snowpack is ready for prime time from the top to bottom elevations of the resort.

We probably would have stayed for a few more runs if the temperatures were warmer, but eventually we wanted to warm up and get some food, so we headed back to the main base and had some slices at Fireside Flatbread before heading out.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake has finally caught up to average with this storm, and it looks like we could have some additional snow in the coming week.

Stowe, VT 02FEB2020

An image of a beautiful February day at the base of the Spruce Peak area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Inspiration learning trail at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The Inspiration Trail today at Stowe with its excellent packed powder conditions and Dylan helping Viviana with her turns on the far left

Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th.  For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction.  We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful.  It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills.  In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.

An image from inside the Magic Carpet beginner lift at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan leads Viviana on the Magic Carpet today as we make a few initial runs there.

We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink.  Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair.  She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.

There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run.  The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent.  There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn.  The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.

“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”

We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having.  As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next.  I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.

Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration.  Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today.  We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 01FEB2020

An image of the logo on the Bolton Valley Backcountry promotional vehicle at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the C Bear Woods area sign on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
At the top of the C Bear Woods area today in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

I was out on the slopes Sunday at Stowe during the recent protracted snowstorm that affected our area, and I got out again for a bit of night skiing on Thursday, but today was my first chance to really see how things had unfolded in the off piste areas.  I had a feeling that the storm was just what the local backcountry needed though, so I decided to make today’s outing a tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network.

Temperatures were really in a sweet spot today – they were just a bit below freezing, which meant that they were extremely comfortable, but not warm enough to ruin any of the powder.  I think a lot of people know that today was going to be spectacular out there, because even the lots down by the Nordic Center were filling up when I arrived around 10:00 A.M.  The upper tennis court lot was already filled, so I had to head to the lower one, but I got a nice trailside parking spot that let me gear up and jump right onto Broadway.

“The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.”

I needed to pick up Ty from work at noon, so my plan was a quick tour out to the Holden’s Hollow area to get in some powder turns.  Consistent with the parking lots, there were people all over the Nordic trails, and a number heading out onto the backcountry trails as well.  Once I got up onto the Telemark Trail I didn’t see anyone else around however, and based on the skin track it looked like only about 3 or 4 people had even been out on that part of the network recently.

I had to break trail on the final stretch up to the ridgeline above Holden’s Hollow, and once I’d crested I found myself with a vast area of untracked snow below me.  The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.

An image of the C Bear Wood area in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting ready for some untracked turns through the C Bear Woods area today.

As I switched over for the descent, I noticed a trail sign just down the ridgeline from me, and figured it was one of the markers for some of the Holden’s Hollow Glades.  Once I headed over to it though, I saw that it read “C Bear Woods”, and I realized it was a sign I’d never seen before.  The sign looks new, so it’s either an area that was recently updated for skiing, or perhaps folks just got around to putting up a sign.  Whatever the case, the glade below me was entirely untracked, and the powder was excellent.  As I encountered on Thursday, there was a bit of a crust buried within the pack in some spots, but in this case it was either absent or buried deep enough that it was inconsequential.

I was surprised to find that the run actually brought me down on the back side of the ridge, which would have been great for doing another lap, but unfortunately I didn’t have time.  I cut eastward through the trees and got myself over to the east side of the ridge where I was able to descend back to the Telemark Trail and Broadway with more untracked powder turns.

From the pump house/bridge area, I re-skinned my skis for my return to the Village – I’ve learned the investment of a couple minutes into putting on your skins is well worth it for that return trip with its slight uphill inclines.

A map with GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

When I got back to my car a bit before noon, even the lower tennis court lot had filled, and the parking lots in general looked packed to the gills.  The mountain was definitely doing a booming business, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising on a midwinter Saturday with a recent resurfacing of the slopes, full operation, and perfect temperatures.