The arctic front that came through overnight dropped an inch or two down here at house, but 4 to 5 inches up on the mountain. It also brought in some colder air – single digits were reported on the Bolton Valley snow report in the morning. While that was cold enough to make riding the lifts less appealing, it sounded like some good temperatures for earning turns. Even though it’s already been a lengthy week of powder skiing, the allure of getting in another workout on yet more powder atop all the snow we’ve had over the holiday break was too much to resist.
I hadn’t thought that there would be much rise in temperatures today, but when I got to Timberline the temperature was already up to 15 F, so combined with the sunshine and minimal wind, it was much warmer than I’d expected. There were a few other cars in the parking lot, and I could see that several sets of tracks had been carved into the new snow at the bottom of Showtime.
The Twice as Nice skin track was in great shape; with the new snow already well packed by various skiers, the ascent was very quick. At the top I decided to head into Doug’s Woods through the upper entrance for a change of pace and to see if the snow in the trees was more protected from any winds. The snow in Doug’s Woods was fantastic, bottomless powder, but unfortunately it was just too much of it for some of the mellower pitches. I measured 24” of unconsolidated snow atop the base, and even with my fat skis I was moving slowly when the pitch wasn’t there.
I slid my way back to the car and was about to gear down to head home, when I noted the time and reconsidered. I had plenty of daylight left and it was just too nice out, so I headed up for another lap. I was feeling the rhythm on that one, and it only took about 20 minutes to ascend Twice as Nice proper. At the Timberline Mid Station I looked upward toward Intro and saw that it was pretty wind blasted, and that made the decision easy to descend from where I was. This time I opted for Spell Binder, which had just a few tracks on it. The headwall held great snow that really hadn’t been affected by wind. Snow was actually excellent from top to bottom, and there was enough consolidation from either previous rounds of wind or skiers that bogging down in deep powder on lower angle sections wasn’t a problem.
It’s been quite a holiday week for turns, with at least some new snow each day, and bigger shots of snow on some of them. This last snowfall actually put Bolton Valley past 100” for the season, and brought the Mt. Mansfield Stake to a depth of 46”, both good signs as we head into January. The next chance at snow appears to be this evening with some snow squalls from an upper level trough.
We picked up an unexpected 0.7” of snow overnight, and although not a significant dump, it never hurts to top things off with a little extra fluff. It was also a good reminder of the snowy pattern we’ve been in the second half of the month, it just seems to want to snow a lot. Starting on the 17th, we’ve had at least a trace or more of precipitation every day since then. There were no big plans for skiing today, but I still wanted to get in a workout, and it’s hard to resist all that powder that’s sitting out there. I figured I’d try a tour similar to the one I did on Saturday, starting and ending down at Timberline, with a trip to the main mountain in between.
It was pleasantly warm today, close to 30 F at the house when I headed up to Bolton Valley. Yesterday was on the chilly side, so when I walked outside and felt that air it seemed downright balmy. Up at the Timberline Base the temperature was a comfortable 26 F, and I could see that there was little chance of catching a shuttle to get up to the main mountain – there were only two other cars in the entire parking lot. There was a little activity taking place over at the base of the Timberline Quad as they presumably continued maintenance, but the overall scene was very quiet and subdued. There was a thick layer of clouds overhead, and combined with the low December sun angle, it was already quite dark even though it was only mid afternoon.
I followed the main skin track up behind the Timberline Base Lodge, and as it started to head up Twice as Nice, I broke off on a traverse toward Timberline Run. The ascent along Timberline Run was very quiet – there were no snowmobiles running backcountry laps, all I saw was a ski patroller drifting silently through the Corner Pocket Glades, and a lone dog that greeted me above some of the condominiums. A well-established skin track broke away on Lower Brandywine, so I decided to change up my route and make that ascent. Lower Brandywine looked quite appealing for turns – it looked like roughly eight people had made descents, but there was still plenty of powder and it looked well protected from any winds. Lost Boyz had seen a bit of traffic, but the Sure Shot Trees were totally untracked and looking might fine, and I made a mental note to think about that area for a descent.
At Five Corners I switched over to descent mode, but I still saw only a few skiers out in that area. The subdued vibe continued as I approached the resort, with the low clouds and quiet snow, the skiers I saw seemed to just blend in with the silence as they glided along. I cut into the Butterscotch Terrain Park and skied a bit of powder, but when I got onto some groomed terrain I was suddenly stunned by the way my AMPerages felt overly fat. It seemed like it was tough to get them up on edge, just like E was saying about her Elements. I realized that I hadn’t really skied anything but powder with them in a couple of days, and time spent on my narrower RT-86s on Saturday evening seemed to have exacerbated the sensation. I could also tell that one of my boots had a bit of sloppiness in it, and this was again in line with what E had noticed as she started skiing on her Elements. As soon as I hopped on the Vista Quad, I tightened up my boot.
The clouds had seemed low, and indeed they were because as I got above Mid Mountain I headed right into them and the world became hazy and gray. Despite the relatively early hour, the night skiing lights were already on, and they were actually starting to add to visibility. I found Cobrass already closed, presumably because patrol had already performed their sweep, so I headed down Sherman’s Pass and cut left to get myself heading in a southerly direction. I was able to reach the Villager Trees, and although it wasn’t a perfect approach, I was able to catch the new line I’d sought on Saturday. The turns were nice, although somehow not as fluffy as I’ve encountered in some areas over the past couple of days. There were plenty of additional good lines in there though, so I actually had some very nice turns in there, and it felt notably better than the way it did on Friday when it just seemed hard to get into a groove in that area.
I made a quick ascent of Villager, and debated strongly about trying a new descent on Brandywine due to what I’d seen on Lower Brandywine. However, westerly winds had finally hit the upper reaches there, and compacted some of the snow. Gone was the beautifully undisturbed snow that had been set down by the easterly winds the other day. At the junction with Intro, I saw that the next section of Brandywine was either tracked, hit with wind, or groomed, but it certainly didn’t have the primo powder that I was looking for. I continued on down Intro and made my way to old reliable Spell Binder. I could see that the plateau at the top of Spell Binder had been hit with some wind, but I think that the skier’s right had actually taken on a good shot of new snow due recent snowfall and winds. That area was as good as ever, providing heli-quality conditions just like these Timberline headwalls have been doing the last few days. I cranked turn after turn down the steep face, and just kept going until my legs were fried. I counted about 20 tracks on the trail of varying age and level of disappearance below recent snowfalls, but there’s still plenty of space for those that want powder turns.
I actually saw the Timberline Quad in motion while I was out there today, so perhaps they are making progress on it. It will be interesting to see what the schedule is for opening the Timberline area, but there’s awesome skiing to be had whether it’s open or closed. There are no huge storms on the horizon at the moment, but our next potential snowfall event comes in tonight with the passage of an arctic cold front.
Last night the back end of the storm cycle brought a change to much fluffier, upslope-style snowfall comprised of larger flakes that settled down in the 2-3% H2O range here in the valley. Unless there was excessive wind, the combination of that snow atop the denser, synoptic snow that we received yesterday, was likely to make for some fantastic skiing. With the upslope snow came colder temperatures; morning temperatures at Bolton were around 10 F, so we decided it was a good day to stay off the lifts and earn some turns instead. We contemplated heading out onto the backcountry network at Bolton Valley, but with Timberline lift service still on hold, it was better to take advantage of the terrain there while we still had the chance.
“The skiing was just turn after turn of bottomless powdery bliss, so I’ll just defer to the pictures and let them talk about it.”
E picked up Ty from his overnight visit at a friend’s house, and it turned out that he was really eager to come home and do some skiing. Dylan was also surprisingly excited to get on his Telemark skis and earn some turns, so we had to ride that wave of enthusiasm. I still had to trim the skins for E’s Black Diamond Elements, but by mid afternoon the skis were all skinned, the rest of the gear was ready, they boys had chilled out enough, and we headed up to Timberline. The snow from the end of the storm had tapered off in the morning, but not before Bolton had picked up another 10 inches of December goodness. It was a bit brisk at the Timberline Base, with temperatures in the lower teens F, and even a bit of wind, but we knew we’d be in good shape once we got on the ascent.
There were just a few cars in the Timberline lot, so it didn’t seem like the resort needed to use it for overflow parking today. The lots had been plowed, but there’s still tons of snow everywhere and we were able to skin right from the car. Ty and E were leading the ascent, and when they inquired with me about which way to go, I just suggested that they follow the most established skin track to make things easy. An ascent of either Twice as Nice or Showtime would work out fine. Twice as Nice wound up being the most travelled option, with one, and at times even two, well established skin tracks up the climber’s left. One had a few dog prints in it, but there were not footprints, post-holes, or even snowshoe tracks. The full-width skins on the AMPerages and Elements were working great, and E and Ty just blazed up the skin track at what felt like breakneck speed. I hung back with Dylan, who was feeling tired, and although I didn’t have any GU to get him going, once I pointed out that he had Grandma’s ginger snap cookies in his pack, and he ate one, he really perked up. Beyond that point he just shot to the top of our ascent and that was that. E and Ty were already waiting for us, camped out of the wind beneath the Timberline Mid Station. We pulled out the hot soup, and hot cocoa, and everyone had their fill while we prepared the gear for the descent.
Since I’d had such a good run on Showtime yesterday, we opted to descend there. Of course now it had yet another round of snow on it – in this case a nice shot of Champlain Powder™ to hopefully hit that skiing powder pinnacle of the right-side-up density gradient. I dropped in off the headwall and found that snow that was just as good as yesterday, but with that little extra bubbly champagne on top to make it even more fun. One exciting aspect of the outing was that the boys actually worked on Telemark turns in deep powder. They haven’t even mastered the on groomed terrain yet, but they were game to work them into their powder skiing, and they actually had a good degree of success. E got yet another chance to test out her Elements on their preferred surface, and she looked quite good on the challenging step and deep conditions of the Showtime Headwall. We had late day sun illuminating our descent at times, or lighting up the tracks with an afternoon orange glow (enhanced all that much more by our amber goggle lenses). The skiing was just turn after turn of bottomless powdery bliss, so I’ll just defer to the pictures and let them talk about it.
Earlier today when I was heading up for some afternoon skiing, E suggested that we should go night skiing because it looked like the snow and weather conditions would be good. We’re always on the lookout for that convergence of fresh snow, moderate temperatures, and low wind for time under the lights. So, as soon as I was done with my afternoon session, I picked up E and Dylan at the house and we headed to the main base area at Bolton Valley for some turns. Indeed E was right on with the conditions; the trails were chock full of new snow, temperatures were in the mid 20s F, snow was falling, and there was no wind. Those are just the sort of conditions that we’ve found to make night skiing at Bolton Valley especially enjoyable. The Snowflake Chair was running, so I dropped E and Dylan off there for some runs while I parked the car and got ready. There were good parking spots right in the top tier lot, and while I was getting ready I heard a familiar voice helping someone get their car out of the snow. It was Will, one of our BJAMS benefactors who lives up in the Village. We chatted for a while about the snow, the wonderful conditions, and various other skiing-related things.
Eventually I made my way to the slopes, and met up with E and Dylan after they had finished their third Snowflake run. Dylan was working on his Telemark skiing and doing a nice job – this was his first session on the 118 cm Völkl Gotama Juniors that he inherited from Ty, so it was a step up in size for him. E was excited to be back on some skinnier skis after being on her fat Black Diamond Elements for a couple of days. We took a run on Sprig O’ Pine, and the snow surface was indeed fantastic – packed powder and powder everywhere, and there were only a few people out on the slopes. Dylan insisted on riding the lift alone… because he could, but it meant that E and I got to ride together. We made a trip up the Vista Quad and were able to take the upper part of the Vista lift line at the start of our run. I think they’ve removed some stumps and other debris to make it more skiable, and boy was it nice. It’s only partially lit, so it was a bit of an adventure making turns, but the powder was great. The whole trip down Sherman’s Pass was just one soft turn after another, and Mother Nature continued to pile it on from the sky as well.
We went back to Snowflake for a run in the Progression Park, and those were some of my favorite turns of the night. I’d pulled out my RT-86s for the evening session, and after several days on the AMPerages I’d forgotten just how lively a narrower, midfat-waisted ski (86 mm) could be compared to skis with a relatively fat profile (115 mm waist) on snow that wasn’t bottomless. Being back on the RT-86s made for some really fun carving in the powder and chowder. One way to describe the conditions from tonight were that they were the sort that made you never want to leave.
When Dylan’s hunger overcame his desire for turns, we headed into the lodge and got some pizza at Fireside Flatbread. Gone were the crowds of yesterday, although there was one large group of 15-20 people at a large table. That’s our third time at Fireside Flatbread in three days, and Dylan seems to be enjoying it – it’s really convenient to pop in there and get a slice, and it’s really good flatbread. Dylan was in rare form, chatting about everything and carrying around some comical cocky persona that was just too funny. He was indeed having a lot of fun out on the slopes, and the saying he adopted to describe the evening was “Lights, Powder, Action!”
We finished off the evening with one more run in the Progression Park, where Dylan invented an interesting technique in which he turned both directions in the same Telemark stance – it was quite original, although I’m sure it’s a drill of some sort that folks have used. Right as the lifts were closing, the small snowflakes that had been with us all evening changed over to larger, upslope-style flakes, and they were beautiful under the lights. I stopped for a few pictures before we headed to the car, one of which was a tree that was entirely encrusted with rime. I shot upwards to get the tree and some of the big snowflakes against the black of the sky, and it was an interesting image. It was a fantastic evening on the slopes, and I wish we could get conditions like that all the time at night; I’m sure we’d be out there much more often.
Our latest winter storm started up in Waterbury around 10:45 A.M. today, with the snow coming in as small flakes that accumulated slowly – generally in the ½ inch per hour range. I gave the snow a few hours to accumulate and then headed up to the mountain for an afternoon session of turns. After seeing how busy the mountain was with holiday visitors yesterday, I decided to park down at Timberline and take the shuttle up to the main mountain, or if the shuttle wasn’t running, skin over via Timberline Run and Timberline Lane. My plan was to ski over at the main mountain and then finish my session with a run back down to the Timberline Base. Ty was away at a friend’s house, but E and Dylan thought that we should do some night skiing since the conditions looked so stellar, so it looked like I’d be picking them up at the house as soon as I was done with my tour.
As I drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road, snowfall was light but steady, with probably a bit more intensity than what we’d been getting down at the house. I found about an inch of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) as I parked the car, and it didn’t seem like the resort had much parking taking place there, because there were only about a dozen cars present. While I was booting up, I saw a snowboarder finishing up a run, and he asked if I knew whether or not the shuttle was running like it had been yesterday. He had just made a run down through the Timberline terrain and was hoping to catch a ride back up to the Village. I told him that I unfortunately didn’t know about the shuttle, but that I’d been there for about five minutes and hadn’t seen any sign of it up to that point. Enough time had passed by the time I was suited up that I figured either the shuttle wasn’t running, or it wasn’t running very frequently. In either case, I was happy to get in the workout of getting over to the main mountain under my own power, so I strapped on my skins, wished the snowboarder good luck, and headed on my way out around the back of the Timberline Base Lodge.
Just as I crossed behind the lodge I could see that work was actively being done on the Timberline Quad, with several chairs removed, so I assumed that that was at least part of why the resort hasn’t started lift service on Timberline yet this season. My ascent was very smooth along Timberline Run – the groomers have been out doing their thing throughout parts of the Timberline area, so even with all the new snow of the past couple weeks, I had a nice firm base for skinning. Also, I’ve finally fit my Black Diamond AMPerages with some full width skins, so they were sticking like glue to the snow surface and I was no longer having to deal with the slippage that’s come with using the narrower skins for my Atomic RT-86s. In terms of the new skins, I once again went with G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins – I’ve not found anything that I like better. Many of the retail shops around here seem to be carrying Black Diamond Ascension Skins, but I got a pair for Ty’s (now Dylan’s) Telemark skis and they just don’t stack up to the Alpinists. The Ascension skins are fine on glide and grip as far as I can tell, but they are stiffer so that they don’t seem to fold up as well, they have a more standard style tip loop that is nowhere near as versatile as the clips on the Alpinists, and worst of all, the metal tail clips seem to easily fall off the tail adjuster. We’ve already lost a couple and had to replace them. The Alpinist tail clip doesn’t fall off because of the way it’s designed, and on this new pair of skins they have even improved the tail clip further to give it a really nice “cam” style attachment method. Also, the Alpinist skins come pre-sized for length, so all you do is trim the width to fit and you are good to go. For the AMPerages (as well as for E’s Black Diamond Element skis) we had to go with the 140 mm width skins to accommodate the 139 mm tips of the skis. 140 mm is the widest I’ve seen available in the Alpinist skins, but they are a fantastic fit, and I’m not slipping anymore. I’m absolutely convinced that full width is the way to go though, especially on fat, rockered skis that may ride the edges of skin track grooves because of their width and lose some contact surface because of the rocker. As an avid user of various pairs of Alpinist skins, I expect these new ones to be bomb proof just like the others; you can put them on and forget about them, and that’s the way it should be.
Anyway, the ascent continued to be a delight with the new skins doing their thing, light to moderate snow falling, temperatures in the mid 20s F, and zero wind. It was another one of those perfect winter days to be out on the slopes. As I approached the corner of Timberline Run below the junction with Sure Shot, I noticed some folks out along the trail with a few dogs. I’m guessing that they lived in one of the many houses along the resort, and it turned out that they were running ski laps on Timberline with a snowmobile. The laps were fast too, the snowmobile must have passed me three times while I was finishing my ascent up toward Five Corners. Cutting the corner of Timberline Run via one of the access trails, I peered up into the Lower Sure Shot Trees and things looked quite nice in there.
At the Five Corners junction I stowed my skins in my pack, got into descent mode, and headed down to the main base area. The number of visitors seemed much more modest than yesterday, and the area had a mellower vibe. Snowfall that had tapered down a bit during my ascent made a notable resurgence by the time I’d reached the base, so I was eager to see how the snow was coming down in the higher elevations. I jumped on the Vista Quad, and from the Vista Summit made my way over to Cobrass to begin working my way back toward Timberline. Conditions on the Cobrass headwall were OK, but it definitely seemed to be showing some wear and tear form a day’s worth of traffic, and slick spots were plentiful. Below that though, surfaces were in excellent shape. More snow had definitely fallen in the higher elevations, but I didn’t get a good measurement to provide a number. I jumped into the Villager Trees and tried to check out a new line that I’d explored in the off season, but I didn’t quite hit the one I wanted. I’ve got a better idea of where it is now though, so next time should be closer. Snow in there was good, but as we found yesterday, this synoptic-style, medium-weight snow seems more easily affected by traffic.
I headed up Villager to get to the Timberline Summit, and the snowmobile crew was still running their laps at what seemed like a breakneck pace. I have to think those folks got in a lot of vertical today. Descending along the skier’s left at the top of Brandywine, and continuing on to Intro, I was simply blown away by how good the snow was. That east wind settled so much snow in there! Turns were perhaps even better than yesterday with today’s extra snow on top. To mix things up, I opted for Showtime below the mid station, and there were only a few tracks on the whole trail. Man, the snow on that headwall was SO DEEP! I hammered those turns as hard as I could and there was just no bottom to be found. I did a quick check on the depth and found 26 inches of snow above whatever base layer sat below, and since the snowpack has now got plenty of this medium weight synoptic snow in it, it can take whatever you can dish out. Even without Champlain Powder™ on top, those turns down Showtime were some of the best of the season so far; they just went on and on and on with smooth, buttery fluidity. Combined with the snow falling and dusk setting in, it was one of those great runs I’ll remember for a long time. Another fellow was just approaching the headwall as he was skinning up, and he was hooting and hollering with joy as I approached on my descent. He said that he’d been waiting all week to hit the slopes, and I let him know that he was going to be in for quite a run. I definitely wanted to go back for another lap, but darkness was in the near future and I had to get E and Dylan for night skiing.
Back at the Timberline Base I saw that indeed the shuttle bus was running today, so I’m assuming that snowboarder made it back up to the Village. I called up E and let her know that I was on my way to pick them up for night skiing – the snowfall had actually intensified, so things were looking really good for some snowy night skiing under the lights.
The snow from yesterday’s nor’easter had essentially shut down by late afternoon, and while there was a touch of upslope snow after that, there really wasn’t any refill to provide another huge round of fresh powder for today. With that in mind, we didn’t rush off to the mountain, but instead took care of things around the house such as finishing off the driveway with the snow thrower, etc. Eventually we headed out to Bolton Valley in the mid morning timeframe, and I’d contacted Stephen earlier and learned that he was probably 30 minutes or so ahead of us. We again spotted a car at Timberline as we’d done on Sunday, figuring we’d head over that way depending on how the day went. The resort appeared to be frantically plowing the parking lots there, although we didn’t quite know why at the time. As we approached the Village, we figured out why; we saw that traffic was backed up, and within a minute or two we knew that all the upper lots were full. It was actually pretty convenient being where we were (near the outlet of Wentworth Road), since we just spun around and parked on the access road following the advice of the parking attendants, but this was the first time in our seven seasons of visiting the resort that we’ve actually parked like that. I’ve seen it done before on busy days, but we’ve always been much earlier or later and found a spot in the main lot. In any event, I took it as a sign that the holiday visitors had arrived and business was looking good. I think the combination of the big storm yesterday (in which many people probably didn’t venture out to the slopes due to the difficult travel) and the holiday week really came together to get everyone out today.
It was good that all four of the main mountain’s chairs were running, but queues were forming. We opted for a run on the Mid Mountain Chair, since the queue was just a couple of minutes. We came straight down on Beech Seal, which amazingly still held some nice untracked powder on the sides. It was still that medium weight powder, but it skied pretty well where it was untracked. The queue for the Vista Quad had disappeared when we got back to the base, so we got ourselves to the Vista Summit and headed down Cobrass. There’s definitely been a solid resurfacing on Cobrass (as well as the rest of the slopes), and although there were still a few slick spots, it was overall quite good. We popped into the Villager Trees, where coverage was definitely fine, but the higher density of the snow seemed to leave its impression in there. It was difficult to really get into a groove, because even one set of tracks in the snow made it much more challenging. It was difficult to explain, but we could feel how things were just off at that point.
“As she floated her way down the Spell Binder headwall, E finally got to really feel her Black Diamond Element fat skis in their ‘element’ so to speak…”
We finished off the run catching the bottom of the Butterscotch Terrain Park, which is still just being left for powder skiing without any features. Even just catching the bottom of that area was enough to get a sense that it might be what we needed to reinvigorate everyone’s skiing. The powder wasn’t so deep that you bogged down, and tracks were sparse enough that you could get some fresh turns, or plentiful enough that you were skiing on skier packed snow. There wasn’t any of that deep, semi-tracked snow that was feeling so difficult to ski. There was little if any queue for the Snowflake Chair, so we went through the park terrain three times before the boys decided that they needed to eat. For me, the snow in there was skiing just right and I would have been happy to ski it all day. We got to see Claire and Luke, and make a run with Stephen and Johannes as well. E was also very observant and noticed that a young boy had lost his mother at the Snowflake Summit, so a quick cell phone call remedied the situation.
The base lodge was jam packed, so we took a look upstairs at Fireside Flatbread to get some pizza and grab a seat. Unlike yesterday when Dylan and I walked right in and sat down, it was filled to capacity. We hung out along the side for a while near the big stacks of wood for the fire, and eventually got a seat and some slices, but even as we approached 2:00 P.M. it was just a continuous flow of people picking up slices at the counter. Business was so steady that they even ran out of dough soon after that, and had to shut down for a while to prepare more. I couldn’t believe how people just kept streaming in well into mid afternoon, but I overheard that the wait for a table at the James Moore Tavern was an hour and fifteen minutes.
E and the boys were ready for one final run after that, so we decided to head over to Timberline. They were actually grooming terrain on Timberline, and I heard on one of the patroller’s radios that they were going to be opening the route back to the base to let people ski back to their cars. Although the snow was still that medium weight powder that had sort of proven itself susceptible to deteriorating the skiing with traffic, the skiing was actually better in some respects than with the Champlain Powder™ from Sunday. It was combination of a thorough resurfacing with the denser snow, but also the somewhat uncommon easterly wind that hit with the nor’easter. The combination had snow sticking to the steep pitches on Intro and Spell Binder, leaving a gorgeous covering of white in those spots that are typically scoured by the wind. With lightly tracked snow, the skiing was superb, even if one wasn’t sinking in as deep as they would in the fluff. As she floated her way down the Spell Binder headwall, E finally got to really feel her Black Diamond Element fat skis in their “element” so to speak, and she mentioned how she was recalling the comments I’d made about the front rocker allowing you to be more aggressive and still put that weight forward in the powder. I think she looked really good in steep powder, which has definitely been challenging for her on Telemark skis. The afternoon sun came out as we were making our descent, which really set up some great end of the day photos to cap off another holiday session on the slopes. It sounds like another round of snow is on the way for tomorrow and tomorrow night, so that should help to keep the snow surfaces in great shape.
The roads were snow covered, and snow was falling at a good clip, but the drive went smoothly, even on the Bolton Valley Access Road. Of course having put some new Nokian WRG2 tires on the Subaru a couple weeks back probably helped out the cause. We’ve had previous iterations of the WRG2 on other Subarus, and they have been fantastic. They’re essentially a winter tire made to run all year round (i.e. no dealing with the hassle of changing over tires each spring and fall) and since we started using them on our vehicles several years back, we’ve never gone back to winter/summer only tires. E has driven in the snow a number of times with the new tires, but today was my first chance to really test them out. Let’s just say that they devoured the Bolton Valley Access Road today without even a slip, and the road must have been at least a bit challenging because there were plenty of cars that had to remain parked at the bottom due to not making it up the road. I even saw a guy at the bottom of the road that appeared to be putting his chains on his tires
“…Dylan got a nice steep, untracked line. He really ripped that up, including the roll over at the end that dropped right out of sight.”
Snowfall was running in the inch per hour range up in the village, and there was some wind of probably 10-15 MPH, but it must have been well down from what was out there earlier – the Vista and Snowflake lifts had been down on wind hold in the early morning, but by mid morning the winds had let up enough to get them going. Since it was mid afternoon by the time of our visit, we grabbed a vacant spot in the top tier of the village parking lots, but it still only looked like three tiers had been filled anyway.
“My 6:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. analyses down in the valley indicated that this snow was coming in in the 7 to 8% H2O range, but it seemed to ski heavier than that…”
Since Dylan saw that the Snowflake Lift was finally open for the season, he immediately requested a run on that to start things off. We decided on a route through the Butterscotch Terrain Park, which isn’t actually a park yet, but it’s open for skiing. Today’s update on the Bolton Valley website was letting folks know that the park was open even without the features, and that it was offering up some nice powder skiing. Today featured a somewhat uncommon east wind, so it was at our backs on the descent. We still found a couple of wind scoured spots in the terrain park, but in general it was smoothly resurfaced by the dump of new snow, so I think the easterly wind was a plus in that regard. My 6:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. analyses down in the valley indicated that this snow was settling down in the 7 to 8% H2O range, but it seemed to ski heavier than that – possibly due to the wind. It also may have seemed a bit heavy due to the super dry Champlain Powder™ that we skied on Sunday. This snow is definitely substantiating the base though, so it’s a big win in that regard. Like he’d done on Sunday, Dylan decided to closely follow my tracks in the powder, and it really worked out well for him in areas where he might otherwise bog down and lose speed. He seems to be having a lot of fun with the technique, and I think he’s learning a lot about line choice and all that.
For the next run it was my choice of lift and trail, and I chose the Vista Quad. For my trail I wanted to check out Devil’s Bowl, one of the areas that we worked on this summer with the glade crew. It took a bit of re-orienting and thinking to get myself there, but I found it just as I’d remembered. The snow was wind protected, but still skiing more like medium weight powder than I’d expect. The turns were very nice though, and it’s going to be fun exploring that terrain this season. On the lower mountain we got into the Enchanted Forest – coverage is decent but they could still use a bit more to cover up brush and roots. The latest snow is stacking up with some loft though – as we pulled out of one line in the woods and hit an open area, we found ourselves behind a huge boulder with a cap of snow that made it look like a mushroom. Dylan thought it was pretty cool, so I snapped a photo of him with his arms stretched out around it.
Dylan went with the Mid Mountain Lift for his next run, and I introduced him to Glades Right, which he approved of since he wanted to go that way anyway. Traffic had actually been pretty light in there, so Dylan got a nice steep, untracked line. He really ripped that up, including the roll over at the end that dropped right out of sight. We headed through Nixon’s and at the bottom of the mountain we took a powdery Lower Fanny Hill, dropping us right out at Wilderness.
We’d hit everything but the Wilderness Lift by that point, so it was the obvious choice for my run. On the lift ride, Dylan was definitely starting to get cold, so we made it a short run by getting off at the mid station. We checked out Andy’s, which has seen a similar level of traffic to Glades Right. The snow was good, the coverage was good, and it was fine way to end the afternoon on the slopes.
Dylan had been a trooper out there in the blowing snow, so we headed into the base lodge and I said that we could get something to eat. He was up for some pizza at Fireside Flatbread, and they’ve currently got it isolated from the rest of the upstairs lodge seating, so it made a great place to have a slice and relax as we talked about the afternoon. I’m not sure when the last time was that I’d had their pizza up there, but the crust was really good – definitely some quality flatbread crust, probably right up there with The Blue Stone, which is the new pizza place right in the center of Waterbury.
We had an interesting chance encounter at the end of the day when we gave a ride to a couple visiting from Minnesota. They had parked their car down at the Smilie Memorial School because they hadn’t been able to make it up the hill. It turns out that the woman, Ruby, had worked in one of our labs in the Biochemistry department at UVM a couple of summers back, so the rest of the ride I was able to catch her up on people she knew. She’s obviously got ties in the area, but it still made it feel like small world.
Overall it was a fun afternoon ripping up the powder with Dylan – all the lifts were walk on, probably due to the storm and the fact that the general message was to stay off the roads unless it was important. We didn’t quite adhere to that, but a few miles of driving isn’t too bad, even if the roads are a little snowy. It’s great to be back on the slopes after a few days off for the holiday, hopefully the snow gets freshened in the coming days and we can get some more good outings.
This morning we got up to the resort around 9:00 A.M., and similar to yesterday the scene was fairly mellow – after dropping off E and the boys I was able to park in the third tier of the main lot. We started off with a run down Alta Vista, and it was E’s first chance to try out her Black Diamond Element skis, which are the women’s version of the AMPerage. I warned her that unlike my first experience with the AMPerages, which was entirely under powder conditions, she might not be that impressed with how they skied on the groomed areas before we made our way to the powder. Indeed she was very unimpressed, noting that there was so much ski width (115 mm at the waist) that she couldn’t even get them on edge. I hadn’t found that to be an issue for me with the AMPerages, so it could certainly be attributed to a difference in our ski styles, but I think it questions again the potential for these skis to serve as a one ski quiver for all surfaces. We got them as our backcountry/powder Telemark skis anyway, but it will be interesting to see how our usage patterns develop; being more comfortable on them so far, I might take them out on more marginal lift-served powder days, where E might stick with her narrower Telemark skis. E did point out that her Telemark ski boots are a bit loose, and she could feel the slip in them today due to the thinner socks she was wearing. Having that slip in there may make it challenging to get the pressure necessary to roll these fat skis on edge on groomed surfaces, so we’ll have to see if a better boot fit helps out, or if there’s going to be an adjustment period due to something else.
“We found a foot plus of Champlain Powder™ over a consolidated base – and it was more than enough to be bottomless…”
We made our way over to Wilderness and got into some powder, and not surprisingly, E didn’t have any issues with the skis there. But, neither did she find them to be as amazing in the powder as I had on my previous outings. Of course we were skiing in roughly a foot of amazingly dry snow over a well consolidated base, so almost any ski could handle it. We enjoyed lots of fresh turns on Lower Turnpike, and it was a bit slow with the modest pitch and all the powder, but the boys had a great time. Ty had an especially fun time straight lining sections of the powder. We also jumped into Wilderness Woods, which were being skied extensively – they’re certainly skiable, although you still needed to be somewhat cautious to avoid underlying objects. On that note, the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit 28” inches yesterday, passing the magic 24” mark that I’ve used as a measure of when those initial forays into the trees begin. Bolton even opened steep tree areas like Devil’s Playground today, so many trees are definitely ready for skiing if patrol deems areas like that acceptable.
We headed for the same route again on the next run at Ty’s request, but wound up taking the Wilderness Lift Line when Dylan led us that way. Conditions along the edges still offered up plenty of nice turns though. The boys were calling for an early lunch after those two runs, so we headed into the lodge, and eventually got a call from Stephen that he and the kids had finally made it to the mountain. We finished up our lunch and met up with Helena and Johannes to take a run while Stephen picked up his skis from the ski shop. We opted for the standard Sherman’s Pass route to let Helena and Johannes warm up. Surfaces were decent packed powder aside from wind-exposed areas, which were blasted down to whatever nasty hard surface lay below.
When we all got back together we hit Lower Turnpike again, and it felt much faster that second time. There were a few more tracks around to let you gain your speed, but somehow it was more than that. Whatever the case, the turns were smooth and silky in the powder. Johannes and Helena needed their lunch break by that point, so while they went in the lodge, E and the boys and I went back for another round. Dylan and I came in at a higher entrance and got some bonus fresh turns.
We had spotted a car over at Timberline on our way up to the resort, with the intent of finishing off the day there, but Dylan was pretty beat, so E decided that they would drive down and meet Ty and me there. Johannes had enough energy, so he joined Ty and me for the trip. Aside from windblown areas, which were reduced thanks to the lower elevation, the snow was simply amazing at Timberline as is typical for these types of events. We found a foot plus of Champlain Powder™ over a consolidated base – and it was more than enough to be bottomless, even on the Spell Binder headwall as long as you stuck to the skier’s right. That’s some pretty primo skiing. The only part to avoid was the bulk of the headwall section with sastrugi (or “fake powder” as it often looked today) from the winds. Both boys did well, and we made reasonable time down to the car, with the requisite photo sessions as well. Dylan missed some great turns, but he was certainly tired – while E was out getting a couple of final things for the holiday in the evening, I found that Dylan had gone and tucked himself into our bed and gone to sleep.
I was worried about the cold today due to the potential wind chill, but it turned out to be a fine day with temperatures in the 20s F and only minor breezes. We’ve got more snow falling tonight with the potential for four more storms to pass through the area this week. It could be an excellent holiday period for skiing if the potential storms hit our area as snow. The mountain is already opening up lots of natural snow terrain, so the snowpack is building with the weather pattern we’re in. The Mt. Mansfield Stake just hit 42” today, and that is a sign that off piste skiing should be well under way.
The back side snow of our current storm cycle was starting up right around 6:00 A.M. this morning when I was making my CoCoRaHS observations, and it continued at a steady, albeit light pace through the morning. Knowing that yesterday’s mixed precipitation left some variable surfaces on the slopes, I waited until around mid morning to let the accumulations get going, and then headed up for some turns. On my way up the Bolton Valley Access Road, I stopped in at the Timberline Base (1,500’) to check the depth of the new snow; I found 2” there, then roughly 3” up in the Village (2,100’). It actually wasn’t too busy at the mountain, with about three rows of the main lot filled.
“The skier’s left of Alta Vista yielded some excellent turns – it wasn’t untracked powder, but it was a good combination of new snow along with what skiers had pushed over there.”
It was basically walk-on at the Vista Quad so I headed up with the intention of checking out Alta Vista and going in the direction of Wilderness. The skier’s left of Alta Vista yielded some excellent turns – it wasn’t untracked powder, but it was a good combination of new snow along with what skiers had pushed over there. I did touch down to a firmer surface below, but you could tell that it was one of those thick, spongy sort of crust layers as opposed to an ice sheet. Checking in protected areas, it seemed like the upper mountain had picked up about 4” of new snow by that point. I boogied over to Wilderness to check out the snow conditions there, and as I dropped in elevation I could tell that the snowpack had taken more of a hit due to more warming. Underlying surfaces were a bit firmer, and of course the new powder a bit less, so the turns on chopped up powder weren’t quite as good. In addition, the westerly wind was whipping its way right up the trail, so that was taking away a lot of the snow. The sides of the trail were well protected and yielded at least some decent powder turns, even if I was typically touching down on my RT-86s. There was certainly a part of me that wanted to see how the AMPerages would float, but I figured it was good to get the RT-86s out and give the AMPerages a go in what’s expected to be a bigger powder day tomorrow.
I next explored Cobrass on the other end of the main mountain, which was open on 100% natural snow with an “Experts Only” sign. Coverage was easily sufficient, and the only detraction was encounters with that firm layer. In the higher elevations it was sufficient to support skiing in the powder on top of it, but below mid mountain you could punch through so you had to be on your guard. In many spots you could tell that the conditions were the sort where turns were great in some of the fresh powder, or in areas that had seen plenty of skier traffic that had pulverized the thick layer back to packed powder, but those in-between areas created a challenge. That run led me down onto Cobrass Run, where there were more good powder turns as long as you didn’t get on terrain that was so steep that you’d punch through the thick layer.
I decided on one more run to explore the central part of the main mountain, hitting Alta Vista again but finding it not quite as impressive as my first run because other skiers had apparently discovered that left side. Sherman’s Pass was fine, with some excellent powder turns available along the skiers left down near Hard Luck and Lower Show Off. I checked out the Enchanted Forest, and coverage was good, but that low on the mountain the new powder was only a few inches, so I was spending a lot of time on the old surface.
“We almost didn’t go to a Christmas party tonight because it was snowing so hard when we were leaving that we could only see a couple of yards in front of us.”
Before leaving I stopped in at ski patrol and picked up my powder pass from Quinn from our summer glade work. Quinn said that he was very happy that they were able to have Show Off open, because the skier traffic was just what it needed to help keep that snow in place and fend off the effects of the wind. It looked really good from above when I was riding the lift, but I was thinking I’d hit it tomorrow with a bit more snow. I stopped in at the retail shop for a bit of last minute shopping with my pass holder discount, and the place was hopping. I ran into people buying all sorts of gear like goggles, gloves, etc., so hopefully business was good.
I’d say that another inch or so had fallen by the time I left the mountain around lunchtime, but we’ve been getting blitzed with snow tonight here at the house. We almost didn’t go to a Christmas party tonight because it was snowing so hard when we were leaving that we could only see a couple of yards in front of us. Fortunately the intense snow tapered off as we headed west out of the mountains, but there was a half a foot of snow on the snowboard by the time I measured after the party, and then after the snowboard was cleared, another couple of inches fell in just that next hour. That’s another 8 inches of snow here at the house tonight, so it will be interesting to see how much the mountain reports in the morning.
The mountain snowpack has been building up all week due to storms running through the area, and with the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake approaching the two foot mark today, it was finally time to venture up to Bolton Valley and see how the western slopes of the Greens were skiing. I awoke this morning to find 2.2” of new snow at our house in the Winooski Valley, and Bolton Valley reporting 4” overnight to bring their seven-day total to 19”. Although 19” of isn’t an outrageous accumulation over the course of a week, these recent storms have put down plenty of dense snow, so there’s been ample liquid equivalent in that snow to build the base for skiing.
“The turns were naturally really fun, with all sorts of new ski terms like smeary, slarvy, and drifty dancing through my head as the rocker in the skis did its thing.”
When I left the house (495’) it was a couple degrees above freezing and we were in a precipitation lull, but by the time I hit Bolton Flats a couple miles to the west, the next wave of moisture was coming in, and I was hit with a barrage of wet snow and rain. There was no snow on the ground right at the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’), but snowpack appeared very quickly as I began the climb – just a couple hundred feet up there was a solid inch or two of snow down on the ground. The lowest part of the road is fairly protected, but as I got higher I could see that the winds were howling. With the strong winds I was keen to stay somewhat low in elevation, so my goal was to start a ski tour at the Timberline Base (1,500’) if the snow looked sufficient. The temperature at that elevation was right around the freezing mark, but snow was falling with plenty of intensity – when I had my skis out on the ground while I was getting ready, they were covered with a few tenths of an inch of snow in just a few minutes. The wind gusts were strong, certainly 20-30 MPH, and I actually had to head off into the trees a few dozen yards away when I realized that one of my glove liners had been stolen and carted off by the wind.
Aside from the driving school’s vehicles that were lined up in front of the base lodge, I only saw one other vehicle that seemed like it might belong to a skier (not surprisingly it was a Subaru). As I began my ascent, I didn’t initially find a skin track, although I followed some fairly fresh snowshoe tracks before breaking off to set my own track up the climber’s left of Twice as Nice. Snow depths at the base ranged from as little as 5 inches, to as much as 18 inches, with the average snow depth falling somewhere in the middle of that range. Breaking trail was at times a bit tough through the snow on the deeper end of the spectrum, but I enjoyed very good traction despite sporting the combination of AMPerages with RT-86 skins. This combination struggled to provide traction in established skin tracks back on November 30th and December 1st outings at Stowe, but it was very solid today. I’ve discovered that the width of the AMPerages combined with narrow skins proves to be a difficult combination in skin tracks that may have been made by narrower skis – it leaves one resting on just the outer edges of the wide ski base, where there is no skin. Today’s snow was dense with good grip, and I was able to head straight up the edge of the trail with minimal switchbacks. Snow depth increased somewhat as I ascended, and that increase seemed to be on the bottom end of the range; the deepest areas weren’t get deeper, but coverage was definitely getting better in areas that needed it. More notable than even the increase in snow depths was that after the first couple hundred feet of elevation, the snow got drier. There’s definitely not enough base yet to open terrain to lift-served traffic down at that elevation, but it’s getting close. One good dump with an inch or two of liquid equivalent would have it there. The wind actually subsided quite a bit by the time I was descending, so it was very comfortable with the temperature near freezing.
I didn’t have time for a really long run, so I headed right back down Twice as Nice, sticking to the skier’s left where the snow looked deepest. Indeed there were no issues touching down, and areas where depths were blown low by the wind were easily avoided. This was my first chance to try the AMPerages in a denser, powder (morning analysis of the snow at the house came in at a Sierra-like 11.4% H2O) and they again showed that they were in their element. After one cautious turn to see if I was going to find myself being tossed around in a Telemark stance… it was all downhill. The turns were naturally really fun, with all sorts of new ski terms like smeary, slarvy, and drifty dancing through my head as the rocker in the skis did its thing. I wouldn’t say that I ever tire of skiing powder, but these types of skis can definitely inject a new level of fun if you’re looking for something to invigorate your skiing. Boy did I want to stick around for some more turns!
I’m not sure when the mountain started opening natural snow terrain, but as of today they’ve got numerous natural snow trails in the mix, including several black diamond runs on the upper mountain. That is a very good sign that snow depths are substantial up there above 2,000’. I see from one of Powderfreak’s recent posts on the American Weather forum, that Stowe has also been opening up a bunch of natural snow terrain, and the skiing looks excellent. It appears that some upslope snow could be coming in to the area tomorrow with the back end of this system, and that might deliver another foot of powder in some areas. The skiing should be quite good with that addition, and with potentially more of these storms in the pipe, we could be looking at a very good holiday week for the local resorts.