Today was forecast to be the warmer of the two days this weekend, with highs in the 10-15 F range, so E and I headed up to Bolton for some turns. There wasn’t much more than a trace of new snow around here from Winter Storm Kenan, the recent coastal system, but Bolton did pick up an inch or two from a cold front that came through the area on Friday. That was nice to freshen up the snow surfaces a bit, but more notable was the fact that it was the first day of lift-served skiing at Timberline. A bit of touring traffic was all the Timberline area had seen up to that point, so it was pretty much a bonus powder day for that entire section of the resort.
The snow we found on today’s Timberline outing wasn’t quite on par with a fresh powder day, since a lot of the powder had been sitting and settling to a degree, and some exposed areas had taken on a bit of wind crust. Areas that hadn’t seen any wind certainly had 10-12” of dry powder that had been well preserved in the arctic cold. The opening of Timberline also meant that the resort finally had 100% of its lifts running for the first time this season. Bolton put down manmade snow for the main Villager/Timberline Run route, and that surface was fine, but the rest of the trails were running on natural snow and even the packed surfaces were far softer than the manmade route. There are still a few of the steepest wind-scoured spots like the Tattle Tale headwall that will need one more large synoptic-level event to be fully opened.
Stephen and Johannes had planned to head up to Bolton Valley for some skiing today to take advantage of the opening weekend of the Wilderness Chair, and I headed up in the late morning to hopefully catch up with them and get in some rides the Wilderness Chair myself. Temperatures were up into the teens F today, so a bit warmer than yesterday, and riding the lift was reasonably comfortable.
Stephen saw me in my car as I was arriving, and unfortunately they were just heading home because Stephen’s heel was bothering him a bit, but I got some solo runs and did some exploring. For the terrain above the Wilderness Mid Station, only the Peggy Dow’s side is open. The conditions weren’t bad, although the usual wind scoured areas were slick. Below the mid-station was where I found the best conditions, with nice soft surfaces on piste and powder depths of about a foot, similar to what we encountered yesterday. The Wilderness Woods were in nice shape, as was the Wilderness Lift Line, and for untracked powder, I enjoyed some nice variations in the Snow Hole and Branches area.
Today is Ty’s birthday, and the whole family was around with time to do something together. Ty’s broken collarbone has healed to the point where he doesn’t have to wear a sling, and light activities that don’t put stress on it are fine. On Sunday, Ty and E and I went for a snowshoe tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, and after some discussion today, we decided that some ski touring on mellow terrain would be fine.
D is still trying to find some new Telemark boots that fit better, so he just hiked in with his snowboard – most of the approach is either road, or packed trails, so it didn’t turn out to be a problem. Ty did give D a ride on the backs of his skis at times, which was sort of neat. Ty said it was a lot of work, but D could help out the process a lot by using his poles.
I’d found total snowpack depths of ~18” at the 1,500’ elevation when I toured in the Timberline area on Tuesday, and even starting down at an elevation of 1,200’ today there were no major issues with the base. The powder out there in the backcountry is still in excellent shape – depth checks I did today in the 1,200’ – 1,700’ elevation range revealed powder depths of 12-13”. That’s actually a bit deep for some of the lower angle spots on today’s tour, but the descent was still nice. We also hit some of those slightly steeper shots around the Bolton Lodge, and those pitches offered up some great powder turns.
Temperature in the single digits combined with wind seems a bit cold for riding lifts this morning, but the back side of Winter Storm Izzy came through with several inches of additional snow atop what fell yesterday, so I was definitely interested in getting out for some skiing. With Bolton reporting 16 inches of new snow, just about any terrain at the resort would be able to support some decent turns.
I was unsure about whether I was going to aim for touring on Wilderness, the Backcountry Network, or even Timberline. On my way up the access road, I saw several cars parked at Timberline from people who were earning turns, so I decided to check it out. The parking lots weren’t really plowed, so it was little tough moving around all the new snow, but enough cars had packed down areas to make it manageable.
Although the Timberline Uphill Route is not listed as officially open, it seems like it’s seen a lot of traffic – it’s well established and in very good shape. The coverage on Twice as Nice was excellent, with just a few tracks. Upon reaching the Timberline Mid Station, I decided to continue on to the Timberline Summit – the Intro trail looked somewhat scoured as is often the case, but there were still some decent areas of snow on the skier’s right.
I chose Twice as Nice for the main part of the descent, and the turns there were outstanding. The powder was deep and the consistency was fantastic for turns on the powder boards. I checked the snow depth in various spots on both the ascent and descent, and my best estimates of overall settled snowpack depth were ~18” at 1,500’, ~22” at 2,000’ and ~24” at 2,500’. The resort wasn’t making snow at the Timberline Base, but they were making it up at the Timberline Summit, so I assume they’re on the way towards opening the area if temperatures continue to stay cold.
Up at Bolton Valley today, wind holds were in effect at the resort’s normal opening time. By mid-morning though, the winds had died down, the lifts started running, and we headed up for what was hopefully going to be a great day of skiing. We were right in the midst of Winter Storm Izzy, the resort had already picked up several inches of snow, and more snow continued to pour down. Right from our house it was obvious that snowfall rates were pretty impressive with the system. Snow was falling at about an inch per hour down in the valley, and they ramped up as we headed into the higher elevations. With the snowfall rates, it was hard to keep pace with plowing the Bolton Valley Access Road, so it was snow covered and giving some vehicles trouble making the ascent. We had to head around stopped vehicles in a couple of different spots on the access road; one car was actually working on turning around to head back down and presumably wait for the plow/sander to make a pass.
“By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. ”
As far as ski days go, you had a number of factors that made today an amazing one. By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. The snowfall meant that surfaces were getting constantly refreshed, atop of what had already been a solid resurfacing of the slopes with probably 0.50 to 0.75 inches of liquid equivalent in the form of medium-weight powder.
With the overnight shot of snow and the continued heavy snowfall, patrol was opening up trails all over the main mountain that had not been available yet this season. It was hard to know which ropes had been dropped before opening time, and which ones were done on the fly, but just about everything on Vista was open. Even Cobrass was open, offering options all over that side of the mountain. The resort had completed their snowmaking and preparation of Spillway, which is certainly a steep, signature trail on Vista, but it takes a lot of snow to cover its width, notable pitch and plentiful amounts of obstacles. Getting Spillway open definitely marks a big point of the winter’s progression at Bolton. With Spillway getting all the new snow atop the base they’d made, it offered up some excellent steep skiing today. You could still contact the harder manmade snow below at times, but it was snowing so hard that the manmade stuff was quickly getting buried.
E and I headed up by ourselves to start the day, but we were planning to ski with Dylan and his friend Colin, who came up the road just behind us. We saw them in the parking lot, and quickly caught up to spend the day with them after our first run. Only the Vista Quad and Mid Mountain Chair were running today, but we touched on just about every main area that was available as we toured Colin around the mountain and introduced him to numerous trails that he’d yet to ski. Up to this point he’s really only been night skiing with Dylan, so with the typical daytime options and all the new trails opening, it was quite a whirlwind tour for him. Some highlights were definitely the steep turns on Spillway, lots of fresh snow and great conditions on Cobrass and Cobrass Run, and heading over toward Wilderness where there was lot of fresh powder as usual. We even brought Colin into the Wilderness Woods to that he could get a taste of what tree skiing was like.
The heavy snowfall rates were certainly one of the most impressive parts of today’s outing. The pace of accumulations was very evident while riding the lifts because of how fast you would get coated with snow. On one of our rides on the Vista Quad, Colin stayed still to catch the accumulation, so that was a lot of fun to see, and of course we had to get a picture. By the time we left around mid-afternoon, the resort must have picked up in the range of a foot of fresh snow, so the skiing just kept getting better. This is our first big, synoptic winter storm in a while, and it was just what the local resorts needed to really get the base depths up to snuff, and they should now be able to open up most of their terrain.
It continued to snow after my session at Bolton yesterday, and with the impressive conditions I found during the touring part of my trip, E and I decided to head up for some touring today.
The recent rounds of snow have been great overall for the resort, and they’re reporting 7 inches of new in the past 48 hours. All the new snow is a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to touring on the Wilderness terrain though. In this morning’s Bolton Valley snow report, it was already announced that a number of natural snow trails had been opened on Vista, so I assumed it was only a matter of time before ski patrol opened up lift-served access to the lower slopes of Wilderness as they typically do in these situations.
With temperatures hovering around 0 F in the early morning we waited until late morning to head up to the mountain to take advantage of the warmer part of the day. While we were on our ascent we could see that the terrain was already getting rather tracked up, and indeed a big part of that was likely because patrol dropped more ropes, and lift-served skiers were coming over from Vista. The resort did have an associate checking passes at the base of the Wilderness Lift though, so they were enforcing the need to have your pass on you, even for touring.
“The recent rounds of snow have been great overall for the resort, and they’re reporting 7 inches of new in the past 48 hours.”
In terms of conditions, natural coverage is quite good on the lower slopes of Wilderness, as the trail openings for lift-served skiers would suggest. I’d say the depth of the powder was about the same as what I found yesterday – a couple more inches had been added with the additional snowfall, but there was probably a similar amount of settling. The snow was slower though today due to the colder temperatures, so that knocked the flow of the turns down a bit on the low-angle terrain of lower Wilderness.
Although the Timberline Uphill Route isn’t open yet down at the 1,500’ elevation, the terrain there is actually looking pretty close to being ready for non-lift-served traffic based on what we saw as we passed by. Barring any major warming events, even a moderate storm would probably get that terrain in play for touring.
I haven’t been up to the hill since last week as I’ve been waiting for conditions to pick up, but Bolton’s morning snow report indicated 3-4” in the past 24 hours, and that seemed like enough to head up for a ski tour to check out the new snow.
Since yesterday’s snow was feather-light with ratios in the 60 to 1 range based on my analyses down here at our site, I was wasn’t expecting it to contribute much in terms of building up the powder depths. I’m sure the depths I found today were bolstered by some of the additional smaller events we’ve seen in the past week, but whatever the case, the combination of those events, yesterday’s snow, and now the addition from Winter Storm Garrett has been substantial. Right off the bat I was finding 4-5” of surface snow at 2,000’ and up at 3,000’ it was 6-7”. The powder wasn’t just fluff either – there was a good deal of substance to it and a great right-side-up gradient with the current upslope snow falling. I was on midfats today, and powder turns were easily bottomless on low and moderate angle terrain that was untracked/unscoured. This past week, and especially these past couple of storms, have been an absolute game-changer for the Wilderness terrain up at the resort.
“Right off the bat I was finding 4-5” of surface snow at 2,000’ and up at 3,000’ it was 6-7”. The powder wasn’t just fluff either – there was a good deal of substance to it and a great right-side-up gradient with the current upslope snow falling.”
The skiing was nice enough that I decided to stick around to check out the lift-served terrain as well. The past week and the most recent couple of storms have made a difference there too, because they’ve now opened some natural snow terrain, and people are definitely skiing the trees and glades on the lower mountain. I didn’t notice a huge improvement in the quality of the on-piste skiing that I sampled; it was fine, but these recent storms just haven’t delivered enough liquid equivalent to provide a real resurfacing for lift-served levels of skier traffic.
There was more good news in terms of the current weather, because there was plenty of snow coming down while I was there. At 2,000’ the snowfall rate was moderate, and it was definitely heavy when I was up around 3,000’ on the Wilderness Summit. Snowfall rates above 2,000’ were notably heavier than what we’ve had down here at the house, and if it keeps up like that for a bit this evening, conditions should move even another notch up tomorrow.