Category Archives: Bolton Valley

Bolton Valley, VT 27DEC2012

An image of Dylan skiing some powder in the Devil's Bowl area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out Devil’s Bowl for the first time this season

Flakes from the current Nor’easter appeared here at the house in Waterbury as of 11:39 P.M. yesterday evening, and the snow came in so quickly that we’d picked up roughly 2 inches in the first hour.  The snowfall didn’t maintain that rate all night, but there were 4.8” on the snowboard this morning at 6:00 A.M., and by noon the storm total was 10.5” here in the valley.  I cleared a few swaths in the driveway with the snow thrower, and then we headed up to Bolton for some afternoon turns.  It wound up being just Dylan and me making the trip, because Ty was being a bit sassy, and Mom had to put her foot down and keep him home.

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.

An image of Dylan with his arms stretched out along a boulder with a pillow of snow in the Enchanted Forest area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan in the Enchanted Forest today

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.

An image of the wood-fired pizza oven at Fireside Flatbread restaurant in the base lodge of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fireside Flatbread

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2012

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Tracks on Spell Binder – sometimes you can tell the quality of the snow just by the ski tracks.

The upslope snow that started yesterday really delivered in the evening, and we got to witness it first hand as we drove off to a Christmas party in the Champlain Valley.  We almost turned around right at the house as the snow was coming down at 2 inches an hour or more, and we could only see a few yards in front of the car.  Fortunately that tapered off a couple miles to our west, but in the end we wound up with 9.5 inches of upslope fluff at the house, and Bolton Valley probably had over a foot, bringing them to 30 inches of snow in the past week.  This snow was some incredibly high quality Champlain Powder™ to boot, with my snow density analyses coming in at 2 to 3% H2O.

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.

An image of Ty skiing in about a foot of Champlain powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty taking on Spell Binder today

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 22DEC2012

An image of the edge of the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the edge of Alta Vista today

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.

An image of snow-covered evergreens along the edge of the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Wintry views off Alta Vista today

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2012

An image of a ski track in powder on the Twice as Nice trail Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Carving away through some bottomless powder today

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.

An image showing the driving school vehicles at Bolton Valley with a fresh coating of snowAside 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.

“Today’s snow
was dense…”

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!

An image of ski tracks on dense powder at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Timberline is sporting a good coating of dense snow

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 24FEB2009

An image of Jay jumping into deep powder on the Duva Horn trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today you just aired it out wherever you wanted… it didn’t matter.

E and the boys are off from school this week, so I joined them for a day up on the mountain yesterday.  Heading up to ski was pretty much a no brainer – it looked to be almost a carbon copy of Saturday, with another foot or so of upslope Champlain Powder™ overnight to finish off another three-foot storm cycle, and the clouds pulling away to leave blue skies and perfect temperatures.  Bolton Valley had just finished off a run featuring six feet of snow in six days, which doesn’t happen all that often… anywhere.

We hit up many of our usual haunts in the Timberline area, but also got in a few runs in the Adam’s Solitude/Wild Woods out of bounds areas, which we’d yet to visit this season.  I don’t visit those areas all that often, but I was absolutely floored by how protected the accumulated snow was over there.  Amazingly delicate accumulations of Northern Vermont’s famed upslope snow had settled on everything, apparently defying gravity by even accumulating laterally and growing off the sides of trees.  All it seemed to take was the slightest imperfection on a surface to catch a few crystals, and then they would apparently grab hands and just go nuts.  I’m not sure if the area is always protected like that, but I’ll sure be on the lookout with future storms.  My final overnight accumulation of snow down at the house for that event had come in at 2.4% H2O, which is not all that uncommon for upslope snow in our sheltered valley location, but there really were areas up near the top of Adam’s Solitude where the snow was like air.  I’d be skiing along through the usual bottomless powder and I’d hit pockets where it would feel like the bottom had literally dropped out because the snow became so airy.  It almost felt like I was hitting small tree wells, but it was just the settling pattern of the powder.  Anyway, it was quite an experience.  I’ve skied a lot of cold smoke snow between Vermont and our years out in Montana, and yesterday snow now sets the standard.  I can remember a day at Smugg’s several years back that featured snow as airy as yesterday’s, but it was only about 6 to 12 inches deep and not bottomless, so the experience wasn’t quite the same.

An image of Ty skiing some of the incredibly light "Champlain Powder" in Vermont on the Adam's Solitude trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort
Ty out there on Adam’s Solitude getting a taste of that Champlain Powder today

I wanted to bring E and the boys over to explore some areas on the main mountain, but the day at Timberline was so packed full of runs that we just never had the chance to get over there.  We did manage to meet up with Stephen and his kids for a final run down Adam’s Solitude.  It was a first time out there for them, so it was quite an introduction to that terrain.  I worked a bit with Ty and E on getting their body positioning more compact when they are in the air.  They’ve still got some work to do, but it was one of those days where you didn’t mind having to try, try again on those kinds of tasks.  The rest of the images from yesterday can be found below in the gallery, and full size versions are also available in our report to SkiVT-L.

Bolton Valley, VT 21FEB2009

An image of Erica skiing in neck deep snow in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
As E demonstrates, today was one of those day when you could go neck deep… if you’re into that sort of thing.

The numbers are in, and they indicate that Bolton Valley picked up a solid three feet of snow from our latest storm cycle, with the final 12 inches of upslope fluff coming in overnight to set the table for a fantastic Saturday.  The day started off a little cloudy and breezy, but by midday we were left with warm sunshine to make for one of the best ski days of the season.  We arrived up at the Timberline Quad for the 8:30 A.M. opening, and in classic Bolton Valley style the powder day lineup was comprised of a whopping three chairs worth of people.  The first hour or two of the morning were pretty quiet in the Timberline area, at least in terms of numbers of visitors, although generally not in the voices of those of us that were there.  By 10:00 or 11:00 A.M. more visitors started to arrive.

“The deep powder
also let Ty engage
in his own personal
huck fest ’09.”

While the trails only contained about a foot of powder in areas that had seen skier traffic over the past couple of days, many off piste locations that hadn’t seen visitors on Thursday or Friday held the entirety of the storm in and undisturbed stack.  Before heading up to the mountain this morning we joked about losing Dylan in the deep snow, but fortunately that didn’t happen.  The good thing about the snow was that it was quite dry (my analysis on the overnight accumulation at the house was 3.7% H2O); even the boys could get down in it and really have a fun time experiencing the depth.  We met up with Dave and his friend Jo at 10:00 A.M., and my colleague Stephen and his son Johannes early in the afternoon, and all eight of us managed to do a couple of great runs on Twice as Nice together.

An image of Dave skiing in deep powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dave stopped in today for some of his usual Bolton Valley activities

For Ty it was a day of notable improvements in his skiing.  With the fantastic depths of powder in the off piste, he was able to start charging steep slopes more aggressively than I’ve seen up to this point.  E and I had indicated to both boys that they would want to ski steeper terrain than usual today because the deep powder would be slowing them down.  They weren’t very receptive to this idea at first.  However, by the end of the day Ty had really changed his tune and was actually seeking out some of the steepest lines so he could tackle them.  Dylan had quickly picked up on the idea as well.

An image of Ty peering over a cliff in the Wood's Hole Glades area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont as he prepares to jump off
Peering over the steep edge of a drop… decisions, decisions.

The deep powder also let Ty engage in his own personal huck fest ’09.  I’d been saving up a nice 5 to 10 foot drop with a sloped landing that Dave and I had discovered in the Villager Trees a couple weeks back, and with feet of new powder it was ready to be plundered again.  Ty likes to do jumps on his skis, but this type of a drop was in a league he’d never really tackled before, so I was curious to see his reaction.  When we arrived at the top of the drop, he was certainly intimidated by the height and confirmed that he didn’t want to hit it.  We didn’t want to force him, but we had Mom drop it and demonstrate how easy it was with such deep powder.  After seeing that, he didn’t immediately change his tune, but we could see that the wheels were turning.  Later in the day we were in the Wood’s Hole Glades and Ty somehow found himself atop a rather big rock.  He dropped a pretty rugged looking line, and with that his confidence was building.  I asked him if he’d be interested in joining Dave and I in dropping another small cliff on the next run and he said yes.  We gave him first shot at the drop in the freshest powder, while E shot pictures from below.  He wasn’t willing to carry a lot speed going into it, but he dropped right off and did an awesome job.  At the end of the day when we were in the lodge, he indicated that he wanted to go out for one more run.  He insisted that we hit the first drop that we’d shown him earlier in the day, the one that Mom had done.  He said he was now ready for it.  He had no trepidation this time around, and dropped it as soon as I was in position with the camera and gave him the go ahead.  When we got back to the lodge he even told E that he’d done a better job on it than she had.

An image of Ty dropping into powder off a cliff in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Those landings from the drops started to get smoother and smoother today for Ty

Dylan also had quite a day, blasting lots of powder lines with the most consistency that I’ve seen from him all year.  He plowed through every mellow or steep nook and cranny that we dragged him into, and his powder skiing is now becoming reliable enough that we don’t have to worry much about bringing him into any of the typical areas that we’d ski as a family.  It appears as though a mounting topic with Dylan is the use of ski poles.  Ty didn’t start using poles until his 4/5-year old season (last year), but it looks like Dylan is about ready.  After I broke a wayward stick off of a tree today in the Wood’s Hole Glades, Dylan proceeded to bring it with him for the rest of the run and use as a pole.  Back on the trail, E told Dylan how he should be using the stick in terms of planting, and he easily coordinated the timing of planting and turning.  We may have to start phasing in poles for him the way we did with Ty.  Dylan also skied what was perhaps his biggest day to date, racking up over 8,000’ of vertical.  He was clearly on his last legs when we came down through the Twice as Nice Glades near the end of the day though; he just couldn’t handle the steepest pitches anymore and I had to help him down the final one.

An image of three-year old Dylan skiing the powder on the Sure Shot trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Little Dylan making his own advances in figuring out the powder today

When I finally downloaded the images from my camera this evening, I discovered that I’d taken 479 shots throughout the day, but I managed to whittle it down to 21 that made the final cut.  In some cases, the culling process involved skipping over some really nice waist-deep powder shots in favor of some even better chest and neck-deep ones, but sometimes that the way it goes!  Images from the day are in the gallery below, and full size versions are also available in our report to SkiVT-L.

Bolton Valley, VT 19FEB2009

An image looking down the Vermont 200 trail filled with powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Bolton is starting off this storm cycle with about a foot of powder to greet midweek visitors.

By the time I’d left the house (495’) at 7:30 A.M. this morning, we’d picked up 0.6 additional inches of snow since the 6:00 A.M. snowboard clearing, bringing the event total to 4.1 inches.  It had been snowing lightly at the house when I left, but when I arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village area (2,100’) it was snowing moderately and still accumulating.  The mountain had reported 7 inches of new snow as of their 6:45 A.M. update, but I suspected I’d find a bit more based on the way it was coming down.  The lifts weren’t going to start loading until 9:00 A.M., so I kicked off the morning off by skinning for some turns, taking the route straight up Beech Seal.  I first checked the consistency of the snow near the base area; I couldn’t quite make a snowball out of it in my hand, so I guess I’d describe it as medium weight powder.  Beech Seal had been groomed at some point earlier, but I found about 2 to 4 inches of additional new snow on top of the groomed base.

“…today Spillway
offered up some
gorgeous steep
powder.”

When I reached mid mountain (2,500’) I checked the depth of the powder in an undisturbed location and it came in right at 12 inches.  That should represent the combination of powder from last week’s midweek system (~6 inches) as well as whatever had come down up to that point with this new event, so that seemed reasonable.  Wind doesn’t appear to have been much a factor with this system, so getting measurements was easy.  I was thinking of skinning up in the Cobrass area, but there was enough powder to keep me following one of the snowmobile tracks for my ascent.  At about 9:00 A.M. I’d reached the top of Vermont 200 (~3,000’), and when I checked the depth of the new snow there I found that it was at 9 inches.

“It was really nice
to see all the visitors
getting rewarded with
such a splendid day
on the slopes.”

I enjoyed first tracks down Vermont 200, and this new round of snow had settled in nicely.  The medium-density powder was just what the doctor had ordered in terms of getting the windswept steeps back into shape.  I was on my Telemark skis, and found that the consistency of the snow made for really easy turns.  After my initial descent I stayed around for some rides on the lift, and unquestionably the trail pick of the day for me was Spillway.  Usually I avoid it like the plague between its man-made snow, exposure to the wind, and traffic, but today Spillway offered up some gorgeous steep powder.  The fact that it has seen grooming in the past made the subsurface the most consistent and provided lots of nice bottomless turns, and since there didn’t appear to be much wind with this event, there were no issues on that front.  I had to hit it twice because it was so good, and I’d say it was better than even Hard Luck or Vermont 200.  The Wilderness Lift opened right around 10:00 A.M., and I was fortunate to catch one of the first few chairs.  The way the steeper trails had been skiing so nicely, I opted for Bolton Outlaw from the Wilderness Summit, and it was in great shape.  After that descent I traversed back toward the main mountain.  I followed a random set of tracks off New Sherman’s Pass and found a nice region of glades that I’d never explored before.

An image looking down the Bolton Outlaw trail with fresh snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Things were looking great on Bolton Outlaw today

The mountain definitely had more than its usual midweek handful of people this morning.  A lot of the extra folks I saw were children, and I think some of the schools in the Northeast have vacation right now because I heard what sounded like a Boston-style accent on a couple of occasions.  It was really nice to see all the visitors getting rewarded with such a splendid day on the slopes.

The moderate snowfall had gradually tapered off through the morning, and when I left the mountain around 10:40 A.M. there was just light snow and the temperature at my car (~2,100’) was 34 F.   The temperature stayed fairly stable through most of the descent down the Bolton Valley Access Road, but at the bottom (340’) it was up to 35 F.  The precipitation was light snow as I drove westward through the Winooski Valley to the center of Richmond.  The temperature there was up to 36 F however, and I was surprised to see that Richmond appeared to have picked up little if any snow from this event.  When I’d reached the I-89 rest area in Williston, the temperature was up to 37 F and the precipitation was over to rain, which was coming down at moderate intensity for a while.  In the South Burlington area the temperature was up to 38 F, and when I finally arrived at the UVM campus it had hit 39 F.

Bolton Valley was officially reporting 8 inches from this event as of their 10:05 A.M. update, so I don’t think we’ll have any trouble getting into Scott’s 10-20” inch prediction range with some upslopeIt sounds like this is one of the best upslope setups we’ve seen this season, so it should be fun to see how it plays out for the mountains and even the mountain valleys over the next couple of days.  It’s expected to start up tonight so I’ll certainly report on whatever makes it down to our elevation in Waterbury.  Images from today can be found in the gallery below, and full size versions are also available in the report to SkiVT-L from today.

Bolton Valley Backcountry, VT 11FEB2007

An image of part of the VAST (Vermont Area Snow Travelers) used as part of a backcountry ski tour in the Bolton Valley backcountry
Out on the VAST trail during today’s tour

Today I headed out for some backcountry exploration in the Bolton area. I was sure that James would still be resting his ankle, so once again I made it a solo outing. After exploring part of the Cotton Brook drainage the previous week, I decided to switch it up and check out something on the other side of the valley. A convenient starting area for reaching the terrain on the western side of the valley is one of the VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) access points. The ample parking lot sits at an elevation of roughly 1,000 feet on the Bolton Valley Access Road. My plan was to start out on the VAST trail that heads west from the parking area, and make my way up to the ridge line that extends north from Stimson Mountain. The summit of Stimson Mountain is at 2,002 feet, and the ridge maintains roughly that elevation for several miles as it heads northward toward the Bolton Mountain area. If I was able to find a suitable route to the ridge, and the terrain was appropriate, the tour would provide about 1,000 vertical feet of skiing.

I arrived at the trailhead in late morning to sunny skies and a temperature of 19 degrees F. There was only one snowmobile trailer in the lot at that time, so the lot looked pretty deserted. I started skinning westward on the nicely maintained VAST trail, which at first had a fairly gradual slope. Then, I crossed a large bridge, and the trail steepened. After maybe 50-100 vertical feet, the trail flattened out and turned to the south. At that point I decided to break away from the VAST trail and head westward up the ridge. The going would be slower once I had to get off the trail and break my own way through the powder, but as far as I could tell without a VAST map, the VAST trail headed more southward and was not going to get me up the ridge where I wanted to be. I finally broke off the VAST trail at the intersection with an old logging road. There was a sign indicating that the logging road was not open for VAST travel.

Despite breaking my own trail, the going was pretty smooth. I’d checked the depth of the powder just after I started my hike, and found it to be 9 inches over whatever thicker layer was below it. At the bottom of the logging road, the snow was still in the 9-12-inch range, so I wasn’t bogged down by too much depth. I continued upward, following a network of logging roads and taking the route that seemed to best direct me toward my destination on the ridge. I spied plenty of great ski lines along the way, and I marked a few of the more attractive ones on my GPS. The logging road seemed to have been maintained and it made for quick travel; at least it appeared that way with the snowpack at the time. If there was a forest of saplings growing on the road, they were long buried under the snowpack. There was only one obstacle that forced me to detour from the logging roads, a huge tree that lay across the trail near the middle of the hike. It took a few extra minutes to work my way around that one. Currently, with the additional 3 to 4 feet of new snow from Wednesday’s storm, that tree is probably not even an issue.

My route took me generally westward up the ridge, with a bit of northward movement toward the end. About 2/3 of the way through the hike, I came across a large flat area, and above it was some of the steepest terrain I’d seen on the day. The terrain there actually looked a bit too steep and rocky for skiing, so the slight northward trend worked well to keep me in more skiable terrain. Near the top of the hike I attained nice views of the Timberline area across the valley. I could even hear the announcer for the ski race that was taking place over there. The race was presumably a continuation of the event that Ty and I had seen the previous day. High clouds had been building in throughout my trip, so at that point the sunshine was no longer as brilliant as it had been when I started the hike.

After several minutes of additional climbing, I finally hit the ridge. While the powder just below the ridge had built up to a depth of around 15 inches, on the ridge itself, the snow was heavily compacted and drifted. In some places, the snow had been scoured down to just a few inches in depth. Small trees all across the ridgeline had been bent over and snapped by the strong prevailing winds that raked the area. To the west below me was Bolton Notch, and I could see what looked like some skiable lines dropping eastward toward the Bolton Notch Road. I actually thought I heard the voices of a couple of people below me in the notch, but it was very faint and I couldn’t get a fix on their location. I hiked around the summit ridge for a bit while I had a snack and a drink, then removed my skins and started down.

To ensure that I’d be able to get right back to the car without having to do any hiking along the access road, I followed a downhill route in the same general area as my skin track. Sometimes I traversed out above my skin track and skied back down to it, but for much of the run I was able to stay off to the skier’s left of my skin track and follow the natural contour of the terrain. Even with the snowpack below average (as gauged by the snow depth at the stake on Mt. Mansfield being at only ~54 inches), one could pretty much ski anywhere in the area I explored. There were always some lines that seemed to be the pick of the crop, but there were few areas where the vegetation was too thick for turns. There was plenty of powder for bottomless turns throughout the descent, and the depth of the base let me tackle the lines with a fair degree of confidence. With the potential for 3 to 4 feet of snow from the storm this coming Wednesday, I suspect there will be even more wide open lines. A storm of the size expected would likely bring the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake close to 80 inches, which would actually be above average for this time of year.

For the final pitch down to the VAST trail, I actually skied the last part of the logging road I’d ascended. It was steep enough that it made for some pretty nice turns. The Avocet recorded 920 vertical feet of descent and the Suunto recorded 958 vertical feet of descent, a difference of 4.0%. The high clouds had continued to build in throughout the tour, so the temperature at the end of my run was pretty much the same as it had been when I started skinning. It was a fun and easy trip with great access.