This morning, Ty, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to check out the snow from Winter Storm Oaklee. The boys were both asleep as E and I were just about to leave to get in on some of the fresh powder, and we assumed they were just going to sleep in. Ty just happened to wake up at the right time, and he was excited to join us, so that was fortuitous timing for him!
Having clear skies, comfortable winter temperatures, and about a foot of fresh snow held the potential for some great skiing. Based on my snow density observations down at the house, the storm cycle progressed from denser 8-10% H2O snow into some impressive 2-4% H2O champagne, and indeed what we found out there at Bolton today was some very high quality powder. This was also the first chance for E to try out her new Rossignol Spicy 7 HD skis, and she was very happy with how they felt with today’s conditions.
The denser snow from the front end of the storm cycle wasn’t too evident underfoot actually, so the only major downside of today’s powder skiing was that it wasn’t quite bottomless. Depending on the pitch, you were certainly touching down on the subsurface, but on everything except for the steepest terrain, the powder turns were quite good. On moderate-angle terrain you could typically get by with 80-90% bottomless skiing, and because the powder was just so incredibly dry, you could ride it on lower angle terrain and it skied really well because of such low impedance.
Measurements throughout the morning revealed plenty of 8-12” powder depths, and we just ended up staying down at Timberline for our entire session because there was rarely a lift queue of note. A lot of trails weren’t open simply because the headwalls didn’t have quite enough snow to cover them up fully, but routes were available to traverse below them, and all that terrain was just loaded with quality powder. We generally stayed on piste because there was plenty of powder available there, and it was the better option anyway. Some off piste areas are dicey because of the recent warmth, but the off piste areas that are typically protected from the warmth and are well manicured were in great shape, so we did have some nice turns in those spots.
Storms like this are where one’s knowledge of their local hill really comes into play for putting together a fun session vs. one where you’re constantly dodging rocks and logs, wrecking your skis, or even worse, potentially wrecking yourself. Although we did spend most of our time on piste over the weekend because there was plenty of available powder there, our travels also brought us into some off piste lines that we trusted, and we found great turns in those areas.
From conversations with friends and colleagues who have skied in different spots in the Northern Greens over the past few days, it sounds like with respect to off piste turns, the farther north you go, the better the base gets. These next couple of bread and butter systems that are coming though this week should only help in that regard, and then we’ll have to see if that mixed system that’s farther out there in time can further substantiate the base.
We had comfortable temperatures in the 20s F, and found about 3 inches of new snow starting at the 1,200’ elevation. My initial plan was to head up to at least the Caribou Corner intersection, and then see how we felt at that point in terms of snow conditions and timing. Even at a casual, conversational pace, Ty and I were quickly at Caribou Corner, and I figured we could go on past to see what the snow looked like beyond the beaver ponds. Surface snow depths were generally in the 3-4” range, but we did find a few spots of up to 7” by the beaver ponds. We finally stopped our ascent around the Moose-ski trail on a local rise that set us up with an initial descent of relatively low angle pitches.
Even on low-angle terrain, we were still touching down to the base with any substantial edging, and only occasionally would be find just the right combination of snow depth and pitch where we could get in some bottomless turns. Those spots where you could make a gentle turn without much angulation were the ones that delivered.
A fun aspect of the day was interacting with the Husky that seems to live at that house/cabin that’s about 10 minutes up the hill along the Catamount Trail. It’s a really well-behaved dog that seems to interact nicely with most people who are out on that area of the network. On our ascent, we parted company with the Husky a few minutes after passing the house, when it joined a group of children who were sledding in a spot just below the Catamount Trail. On our descent, the Husky was right at the Bolton Lodge, and joined us for the rest of the descent back to the cabin, where we met the owner. What a great back yard that Husky has! With the Catamount Trail and Bolton’s Nordic and Backcountry Network right there, I bet there’s hardly even a shortage of people to play with.
This weekend’s forecast suggests the reverse of last weekend when it comes to temperatures. Whereas Sunday was the warmer day last time around, this weekend, Saturday is the day. We’ve had a couple of nice, milder days this past week with temperatures up around 40 F, and that spell continued into today. Tonight, the temperatures are expected to drop below zero F with the passage of a sharp cold front, and tomorrow’s highs are only in the single digits, so today was definitely the day to hit the slopes.
D, E, and I headed up to Timberline today for a ski session in the late morning. The Timberline Quad seems to be back up to full capacity, so whatever repairs were needed must have been completed. With full capacity loading, there were occasionally a few people forming a lift queue, but it was mostly just walk-on service.
Today’s outing on the mountain had a somewhat Colorado feel – temperatures were above freezing in the 30s to near 40 F, but the air was dry, and the snow stayed relatively dry as well. There’s lots of loose, chopped up snow on the trails, and it really seems like we’re still just working with long-lasting leftovers from Winter Storm Landon. I guess with low levels of skier traffic at Timberline, and the resort leaving parts of the trails ungroomed, that snow is just sticking around. We had some sunny periods that really brightened up the session, and the snow got a bit sticky in a few spots, but in general I found even the sunniest areas of snow to be quite dry. Even among the sunshine there were a few flakes falling today, and the views across the lake were impressive with squalls dropping snow among the Adirondacks ahead of an approaching clipper system.
I was on my Atomic RT-86 Tele Skis with an 86 mm waist, but I think even something in the 90-100 mm range would have been nice out there today with all the loose snow. E was riding her old school Tele skis that have a 70 mm waist, and that lack of width just made it harder to negotiate the chop. We actually discussed a similar theme during our Bolton Valley outing back on the 30th, when E and I were skiing some leftover powder and chopped up snow at Timberline. It seemed like it was a good time to get E something wider for a daily Tele driver, so I ordered up a pair of Rossignol Spicy 7 HD skis. Those were delivered earlier this week, and we actually just visited OGE to get them mounted this afternoon. They should be a nice addition to her Tele quiver, and she can save her old skinniest Teles for real groomer days or early/late season situations with poor coverage.
We spent our time today on the main Timberline runs like Twice as Nice, Showtime, and Spell Binder, and despite some warm days this week, coverage is in pretty good shape for all those areas, which are all running on natural snow. Not surprisingly, the Spell Binder headwall is the place with some thin cover, but it’s hard to overstate just how important it was to get those inches of liquid equivalent put down by Winter Storm Landon last weekend. That really was an absolute game-changer on the season for the lower elevation slopes.
Temperatures definitely warmed up today relative to yesterday, so E and I headed out to Bolton Valley for an afternoon ski session. We spent our time at Timberline, since it’s only been open for about a week, and it allowed us to check out some of our favorite areas for the first time this season. We checked out Twice as Nice, where the on-piste conditions are excellent, as well as spots like the Corner Pocket Glades, Doug’s Woods, Doug’s Solitude, Doug’s Knob, Wood’s Hole, etc.
Conditions continue to be excellent, although the trails are getting pretty tracked up at this point, so we had to head a bit farther off piste for fresh snow. In line with the observations from my backcountry ski tour yesterday, we found powder depths at around 20 inches, even down to the 1,500’ – 2,000’ elevation range.
We were hoping for some afternoon sun, but we only had it very briefly before clouds moved in from the west and the light got flat. This made the action photography more challenging, but we still managed to get in some good sequences. It was a solid ending to the weekend that Mother Nature really turned into quite an extended break – many schools, like Dylan’s, had a four-day weekend with both Thursday and Friday off due to Winter Storm Landon.
With today’s high temperatures expected to be in the single digits F at elevation, touring seemed like the far better ski option, so I paid a visit to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network. Overall ski conditions remain excellent thanks to the 1½ to 2 feet of snow that the local mountains just picked up from Winter Storm Landon, so despite the chilly temperatures, it’s time to get out there and make use of that great snow.
Today I toured over in the Holden’s Hollow area of the network, approaching from the back side of the ridge using the Telemark trail, and then sampling some descents on both the west and east sides. Today’s tour had me in the 2,000’ – 2,500’ elevation band, and I’d say total snowpack depths at those elevations are in the 2 to 3 foot range. In terms of surface snow, we’ve got enough different layers in the snowpack now, and they’re blending together enough, that it’s getting a bit tricky to actually decide what constitutes surface and subsurface snow/base. If you’re very delicate with your measuring, you can find a bit of a dense layer about 16 inches down. I think it’s safe to say that top section of the snowpack is the settled powder from Winter Storm Landon. The dense layer below that is presumably some denser precipitation, perhaps from the start of the storm when temperatures were coming down and there was a mix of rain and snow. Based on Powderfreak’s observations from Thursday, it doesn’t sound like there was too much rain at elevation, and since that layer is rather subtle, that would argue for that and/or a very good transition/blending with the drier snow above.
Past that denser band, you’re into another 6 to 8 inches of powder before you hit something more solid that can really serve as a potential base. That’s typically where I’d find that my poles could finally gain purchase, and it sounds like that’s similar over at Bretton Woods based on Alex’s comment yesterday here in the thread. Having backcountry baskets would probably help a little bit in that regard.
There are a couple of other dense bands down in the snow there that I could detect when probing carefully, but I’d say the solid base is down there in the 22 to 24-inch range for those low to mid elevations, and I’ve got an image of my pole hitting that approximate depth with this report. So if you’re first on an ascent and breaking in the skin track, plan on a good workout. Thankfully, most of the route for my tour had seen some previous traffic, and I only had to break one section with perhaps 100’ of vertical, but it was a good deal of extra work.
Right now in terms of the backcountry skiing around here, I’d argue that you really need black pitches or greater to have a reasonable descent without getting too bogged down or simply having to straight-line it too much. I was on 115 mm skis that I’d just waxed, and I still had to seek out those pitches if the snow was untracked. As long as you get the right pitch though, the powder skiing is excellent as one would imagine.
From several days out, the weather models suggested that Winter Storm Landon was going to target Northern New England with more than a foot of snow. Unlike last weekend’s Winter Storm Kenan, this wasn’t a coastal system that needed to line up perfectly and might affect only a small geographical area; this was a large overrunning system stretching up all the way from the Southwest, through the Midwest, and into the Northeast with an almost nation-wide swath of wintry precipitation. By Wednesday, it was obvious that Northern Vermont was on track for a solid snowfall, and late in the afternoon, I got a quick text from Dave that led to the following exchange:
Dave: “Any thoughts on this storm?”
Jay: “I would say 12”+ is a good bet for around here.”
With that, the plan was on. Dave was heading to Killington to ski on Thursday, and then he’d make his way up to our place to stay Thursday night, with the hope of being able to get some turns together on Friday. This was exciting, because Dave’s schedule and obligations haven’t really lined up for a visit in a while. A search on our website revealed that his last trip up for skiing was in 2018 when we skied Stowe on March 14th and Bolton Valley on March 15th.
When Dave got to our house late yesterday afternoon, he said that he’d almost bailed on skiing at Killington when he arrived there in the morning to find it raining. Thankfully, it was much more wintry up high on the mountain, and the conditions just got better as the day went on. He met up with another guy that was skiing solo, and ended up having a fantastic time roaming around and even getting some video shots with the guy’s camera.
“At our site, I recorded 6.0 inches of new snow from 6:00 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., and then another 5.2 inches between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. Our storm total at that point even down at the house was over a foot of new snow, and 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent, so it was clear that the storm was putting down a very solid resurfacing of the slopes.”
As expected, the snowfall really turned on around here yesterday evening. At our site, I recorded 6.0 inches of new snow from 6:00 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., and then another 5.2 inches between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. Our storm total at that point even down at the house was over a foot of new snow, and 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent, so it was clear that the storm was putting down a very solid resurfacing of the slopes. Between getting gear together, snow blowing the driveway, solidifying Dave’s ski plans, getting his ticket, and everything else that goes into a storm morning, it was quite busy. But we easily made it to the Vista Quad lineup for the planned 9:00 A.M. opening.
It was chilly out there on the mountain, with temperatures probably in the 10 F range. We were happy to discover that winds weren’t strong at all though, so there were no wind holds, and the lifts seemed to start right up at their planned times aside from the usual smaller delays of getting the later lifts rolling on a storm day. We were all set to head over toward Timberline on our second run, but we ran into a patroller on Cobrass who said that it wasn’t quite ready yet, so we gave it one more run and the timing worked out beautifully.
The new snow was undoubtedly a solid resurfacing of the entire mountain at all elevations. Indeed, that 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent that we’d picked up at our house meant that the resort had at least that much, and you could feel it by the girth of the massive cushion beneath your skis. The snow had started out quite dense at the very initial stages of the storm as temperatures were still coming down, and then it seemed to settle down to roughly medium-weight powder for the bulk of the overnight accumulations. My 6:00 A.M. analyses revealed snow density at 9.4% H2O, which is solidly in that medium-weight powder category. There hadn’t really been any fluff at that point to set up an impressively right-side-up powder accumulation, so you were generally riding in that medium weight snow, and we found the best skiing on steeper terrain. Low angle slopes were just a bit on the slow side with the available snow density. Thankfully, with that 1 to 2 inches of liquid equivalent down, it was game on for even the steepest terrain, and steep areas that we hit such as Vermont 200, the Spell Binder headwall, and the Tattle Tale headwall all delivered. You could attack those pitches as aggressively as you wanted, without concern. Another great example of the resurfacing was hitting Cobrass on our second run to find that even the usual ledges and ice bulges were covered. Initially, I’d gone in with the usual strategy of negotiating those obstacles, but quickly saw that they were irrelevant, and I was able to ski like they weren’t even there. That’s the sign of a solid resurfacing. With depth checks, I was generally finding settled accumulations of about a foot at that stage of the storm, which I think was right in line with what the resort had noted in their morning report.
We actually skied with an associate from PeakRankings.com who was getting info for his report on Bolton Valley, so we showed him around for a few runs. His ski jacket has something like “WE RANK PEAKS” written in huge letters on the back, which quickly gets your attention and lets you know what he’s up to. We hooked up with him just as we were finally planning to head over to Timberline, so we showed him the Maria’s route to get there.
I had to head out around midday, but Dave and E did eventually catch up with Dylan and his friends out on the mountain for some skiing. When E texted to see if the boys were on the mountain, they couldn’t help but have some fun by replying with a picture saying “NO” that was an obvious shot of them riding the lift. The boys waited at the Vista Summit for the others to catch up, which shows a nice touch of class on a powder day. Dave and E said they had a great time that afternoon, and E even had a some sense of where they were going on the mountain. She recalled some trail names, and was remembering the character of many trails enough to give people an idea of what they were going to ski.
I have to give the boys a hard time for not getting out right at the start of the morning, but Dylan’s friend Parker did pull off a classic dual resort visit to really maximize a powder day. He headed to Stowe first thing for the typical “hour of power”, where you can get some good fresh runs before it’s all tracked up and the lift queues grow, and then he headed to low-key Bolton where you can enjoy powder for the rest of the day in peace. I’d say he’s wise beyond his years.
Dave said that his drive home to Boston was fine on I-89, but I-93 was tough with lots of people off the road. Those areas to the south apparently got a lot of mixed precipitation and it was quite a mess. We were all happy to be well north of that stuff up here.