Category Archives: Bolton Valley

Bolton Valley and Backcountry, VT 16FEB2013

An image of Erica skiing powder in one of the glades in the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E enjoying the powder in one of the glades today

Although the recent midweek storm gave a decent shot of snow to the Northern Greens, with Stowe picking up a foot of snow, and Jay Peak picking up a foot and a half, it’s still been fairly dry in general.  Because of the rather high Froude Numbers for that storm, the more west-side locations of Smuggler’s Notch and Bolton Valley saw them picking up just a half foot of snow during that event, and that’s what Bolton was reporting for their seven-day total as of today.  The dearth of snow and a holiday weekend had me thinking a tour on the Nordic/backcountry network was in order, because there’s some excellent snow out there, but there’s been enough time since if fell for lift-served traffic to pack it down pretty well by this point.

“Depths of powder above whatever
firmer subsurface lay below were in
the 8-12” range, with a bit of that melt
layer in there in the lower elevations
or on south facing terrain.”

I devised a somewhat ambitious tour for today, at least with respect to what the boys might be willing to accommodate.  It would be an opportunity to show E and the boys the two glades that I discovered last month on the 19th and the 27th.  The plan was to skin up Bryant to the Bryant Cabin, descend through the first glade, then connect over to the alpine trail network, catch an assist from the Wilderness Lift to the Wilderness Summit, traverse out on Heavenly Highway, ski the second glade, and return to the car via the Nordic/backcountry network.  If we couldn’t complete the whole tour we’d have some opportunities to truncate it as needed.  The forecast called for some sun and temperatures in the 20s F today, so it looked like we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone getting cold too quickly.

An image of our car parked along the edge of the Broadway trail in Bolton Valley's Nordic skiing area with Erica unloading backcountry ski gear in preparation for a ski tour
Unloading and preparing the gear along Broadway

We arrived up in the Bolton Valley Village in the late morning period, and the main parking lots were getting pretty full, but we were able to get a trailside spot right on World Cup in the lower tennis court lot.  There were plenty of people about as we began our ascent, including a number participating in the “Bolton to the Barns” event.  We ran into Alex, one of my former students on his descent with the event group, and learned that he is now at Tufts Medical School, although he seemed very happy to be back in Vermont visiting Bolton Valley. Dylan asked for just one break on the ascent, and we pulled over into the sunshine along the top section of World Cup and had a snack.

An image of the World Cup Nordic Trail at the Bolton Valley Cross Country Ski Center in Vermont
Admiring the beautiful conditions in the World Cup Nordic trail as we pause for a snack on our way up to Bryant Cabin

Near the start of our tour when we’d passed by the Courtside 1 Condos on Broadway, we ran into a Nordic skier who was pausing there.  She inquired about the substantial width of E’s fat skis, and E indicated that they were for powder skiing.  The woman seemed puzzled because as far as she could tell there was no powder around.  She wished us luck on finding powder, but you could tell she figured it was a lost cause.  It was very interesting to hear her speak that way when just a few feet away from her off the side of the trail, you could see the powder sitting there.  People certainly have some unique perspectives on snow conditions.  As a Nordic skier, perhaps she’s got a totally different idea of what powder snow actually is, or she may have just been oblivious to what conditions were like off the groomed runs of the Nordic trails.  Anyway, in terms of the actual snow conditions, out near the car a bit above the 2,000’ mark there were 2 to 3 inches of fluffy snow above a bit of a melt/sun crust, but I suspected that crust would disappear as we got out of exposed areas and headed up in elevation.  Indeed, pretty quickly in shaded areas I found that the powder was deeper and the melt crust underneath was disappearing, and after a few hundred feet of ascent it was essentially gone.  Depths of powder above whatever firmer subsurface lay below were in the 8-12” range, with a bit of that melt layer in there in the lower elevations or on south facing terrain.

An image of Bryant Cabin in the Bolton Valley backcountry showing the snow depth outside reaching halfway up the windows
Snowy Bryant Cabin

An image of a thermos and cup sitting in powder snow outside the Bryant Lodge on the backcountry trail network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe found the Bryant Cabin in use with the woodstove pushing a fragrant plume of smoke out the chimney.  When we talked to one of the guys using the cabin, he said that the resort is no longer renting it or regulating the usage; you can just use it on a first come, first serve basis.  I’m guessing that also means that they aren’t supplying wood, which is why we frequently saw him browsing around for dead stuff to throw on the fire.  We sat down and had lunch off to the side of the cabin clearing, and enjoyed hot soup, cocoa, and other items we’d brought.  Various groups of skiers made their way past while we were there; it was probably one of the busier days I’ve seen out there on the backcountry network, and it was nice that all the people were out supporting the use of the trail system.  Hopefully the initiative to buy the land with the help of Vermont Land Trust will go through and people will be able to continue enjoying it as public land.

An image of Black Diamond AMPerage, Black Diamond Element, and two pairs of Volkl Gotama Junior skis mounted with Telemark bindings and sitting in the snow near the Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network in Vermont
The Tele powder boards hanging out at lunch

“We found the Bryant Cabin
in use with the woodstove
pushing a fragrant plume
of smoke out the chimney.”

Our first descent was in the North Slope and Gardiner’s Lane areas, and the powder was very good in the upper elevations.  On our first pitch dropping from North Slope, conditions were just right so that both Ty and Dylan made some nice Telemark turns.  Later, Ty dropped a nice Telemark-style jump turn launching off one of the steeper pitches, and he was very proud of that.  The boys threw in a good amount of alpine turns, especially when they wanted to go faster, but it was all around great practice for them.  Like I’d noticed on our ascent, the last couple hundred vertical of the descent featured some of that melt crust below the powder.  We were on a south-facing slope, so that certainly wasn’t surprising.  I found my fat AMPerages to be really helpful in that terrain, and E had some nice turns on her Elements, but she’s still finding them hard to get up on edge in packed snow due to their width.  We’re wondering if the play in her boots is just too much and it’s ruining the ability to convey the necessary pressure into the ski.

We connected over to the Wilderness Double Chair and took it to the Wilderness Summit as planned, but Ty was pretty insistent on a quick descent without additional skinning.  So instead of heading across on Heavenly Highway to drop through the second glade I’d chosen for the day, we opted to descend on Peggy Dow’s to quickly get to Snow Hole.  There was decent powder in Snow Hole, although it was certainly more tracked and packed than what we’d seen in the backcountry glades.  I got off to the sides of the main route a good deal though and got a number of fresh lines, and at times the boys would follow me.  We did make a good connection back onto the Nordic network and caught a few final turns on the Telemark Practice Slope and other lower mountain glade areas before heading back to the car.  We’ll be planning another tour at some point to catch that second glade; I still want to show it to E and the boys.

An image of a Google Earth map showing the GPS track of a ski tour on the alpine, Nordic, and backcountry areas at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont on February 16th, 2013
A map of today’s combined alpine, Nordic, and backcountry tour at Bolton Valley – click for full-size image

Our next shot at snow appears to be coming into the area in the Tuesday timeframe.  It looks like it’s going to be a pretty standard frontal passage at face value without much fanfare in terms of snowfall, but there is definitely the potential for some upslope snow.  The crew at the National Weather Service Office in Burlington has had their eyes on the potential, and Powderfreak has been watching as well.  We’re hoping for that snowfall boost from the upslope snow, because there isn’t much forecast in terms of synoptic snowstorms in the immediate future.

Bolton Valley, VT 09FEB2013

An image of Ty skiing waist deeppowder in the KP Glades at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont thanks to winter storm Nemo
Ty, finding Nemo quite rewarding today.

Winter storm “Nemo” dropped up to 40 inches of snow on parts of Southern New England, and the effects were much less dramatic up here in Northern Vermont, but we did pick up over a foot of snow at the house, and Bolton Valley’s snow report came in at 14 inches this morning.  Being far enough away from the core of the storm, winds weren’t a big problem, but the forecast called for fairly cold temperatures with a high of around 10 F in the mountains.  Today’s skiing held a little too much potential to let a bit of cold get in the way though, so we brought along some hand and foot warmers for the boys, and headed up to Timberline.

“As for the skiing, it was
a decent day with plenty
of powder, but certainly
nothing epic.”

Today was actually the first time this season that we had a chance to get in a Timberline-based day, and there was a surprising amount of activity at the base area when we arrived.  There was even a couple minute lift queue present at the Timberline Quad not too long after lift opening.  Ty commented that he’d seen a sign indicating that the Vista Quad was down, and it turned out that it was down all day due to electrical issues.  That made for some substantial queues of several minutes at the Timberline Quad in the late morning period, but they dissipated in the afternoon.

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the KP Glades at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after winter storm Nemo hit the areaAs for the skiing, it was a decent day with plenty of powder, but certainly nothing epic.  We checked out Spell Binder, which had some coverage issues on the headwall outside the center strip where they’d made some snow.  There were also some massive death chunks, some that were the size of basketballs, which were left over from the snowmaking in the transition zone between the natural and manmade snow.  They had groomed most of the lower part of the run, so powder really wasn’t as plentiful there as it usually is.  We did find some very nice powder turns in the Corner Pocket Glades though, with first tracks through a good part of that area.  We also found some great fresh snow in the KP Glades and the Sure Shot TreesTwice as Nice really needs one more round of base building, and that’s the case with a lot of natural snow terrain down in the lower Timberline elevations.  The turns are generally fine, but you need to be on your guard to avoid any spots where coverage is a little low.  The off piste is skiing well because it gets more minimal traffic, but it would be nice to have another couple feet of base there to better cover up underlying objects.  We’d occasionally bump something under the snow today where we typically wouldn’t expect to find anything.  We never ventured over to the main mountain with the Vista Quad not operating, but the base depths there generally seem sufficient to avoid those types of issues.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in powder in the Corner Pocket Glades at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E glides through some of today’s fluff deposited by Nemo.

It was definitely fun being back in the Timberline groove today, we had an early lunch and the lodge was moderately busy, but there was still ample space.  Some of us did a little rating of the overall skiing when we were discussing things at the end of the day – Dad gave it a 5 out of 10, and Ty gave it a 6 out of 10.  A couple more decent storms will get those lower elevation Timberline trails fixed up, and it looks like the next one could be coming in Monday.  February is becoming a lot more active in terms of winter storms, which is a nice change from the relatively dry January period that we went through.  We’re looking forward to the upcoming stretch of skiing at Bolton Valley.

Bolton Valley, VT 29JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Finding good turns today in 8-10″ of powder

The Northern Greens picked up roughly a half foot of new snow thanks to the storm that came through yesterday.  There was actually a general 3-6” of accumulation up and down the spine, with the southern resorts catching the lower end of that range.  Although this was a rather modest storm, the past couple of weeks have been pretty lean on snowfall, so it was a nice way to put an end to the bout of dry, arctic air that had been hanging out in the area.  We picked up 4.5 inches of snow at our place in the valley, and that actual turned out be our largest storm so far in 2013.  The snow quality was certainly good; my analyses revealed water content of 5% H2O for the snow that fell through the afternoon, and then 4.3% H2O for the additional snow in the evening.

“Since there hasn’t been much
traffic in a while, the combination
of the most recent snow and lighter
events from last week provided
8-10 inches of beautiful powder
over a smooth base.”

With the conditions already quite good based on observations from my outing on Sunday, and Bolton Valley reporting 5” of new snow up top, it was definitely a morning to hit the slopes.  I contemplated heading up to the main base to get the most snow, but as I drove past Timberline it looked pretty good so I decided to check it out.  I went back and forth for a few moments about which base to visit, and eventually decided to stay where I was because it was generally quiet and I was hoping I could keep out of the way of any grooming equipment.  There were a couple of other cars were parked below the center island below the lodge, which meant that there might be a skin track already in place.  It was a nice morning – it was cloudy, but there was no wind and the temperature there at 1,500’ elevation was 22 F.  That was very pleasant after the arctic temperatures we’ve recently seen.

An image looking down a long spine of man made snow atop the headwall of the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont with trees visible in the background below
Snowmaking spine on Spell Binder

I began my ascent and followed the skin track that people had established on Twice as Nice.  My depth checks on the powder consistently revealed 4” new, which is what Bolton reported for the base elevations.  For the descent I headed over to Spell Binder, since a groomer was working on Showtime, and there were already a couple of tracks and a groomed strip on Twice as Nice.  I’d forgotten that the mountain could make snow on Spell Binder, but they’d made some snow on the upper headwall area.  There were some huge snow whales there, which they’ll have to spread around at some point.  The approach to skiing the steep terrain on the headwall was a toss up.  One option was to ski on some of the manmade snow, but there were some tricky snow formations made by the guns, and the 4-5 inches of snow wasn’t enough to keep you from touching down on that dense manmade surface.  The other option was to ski the sides of the trial that had not seen snowmaking.  The base snow was of higher quality, and there had been additional round of powder on top of it, but there were spots of poor coverage where snow had been swept away by winds.  I ultimately made use of both options, going where my line took me.

I was a bit conservative in my skiing of the headwall since I didn’t want to hit any rocks that might be lurking under the snow, but once I was below that, the rest of the trail was in another league in terms of snow quality.  Since there hasn’t been much traffic in a while, the combination of the most recent snow and lighter events from last week provided 8-10 inches of beautiful powder over a smooth base.  Sunday’s turns were certainly good, but with the addition of this latest storm, these were the deepest turns I’d had in a couple of weeks.  The top levels of the snow were in that 4-5% range of H2O content, and there was a nice gradient of more dense snow below.  It was that combination that powder skiers seek for great turns.

The addition of this latest storm has certainly helped the meager snow totals that we’ve seen this January.  We’ve now had almost 22” of snow at the house this month, however, that’s still only about half the average I have in my records.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a warm day, so this latest round of powder is going to settle down, but the forecast says we’re back into the cold tomorrow night into Thursday, with some chances for snow.  No large systems are expected, but some Clipper systems may come through in the next several days, and the Greens can usually do something nice with that moisture and often pull out totals just like we saw today.

Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry, VT 27JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Making tracks in the Bolton Valley backcountry today

We’ve had arctic air in the Northeast all week, which has made it one of the coldest and driest periods of the season.  With the lack of moisture there’s been only an inch of snow at the house in the past seven days, and although Bolton Valley was reporting a similar accumulation, they had picked up a few inches since I was last there for my backcountry outing on the 19th.  I also suspect they’ve picked up various small accumulations of dry arctic snow similar to what we’ve seen down here at the house, but they haven’t hit that one inch threshold for the snow report.  Although still rather cold this weekend, temperatures have definitely moderated somewhat from the beginning of the week… when high temperatures actually remained below zero in many locations.  Yesterday we topped out around 15 F down here at the house (495’), and the afternoon temperature was sitting around 4 F up in the Bolton Valley Village (2,100’).  Today we actually got up around 20 F at the house, and when I arrived at the Village in the mid afternoon, the temperature was a reasonable 12 F.  The arctic air is definitely waning.  Although I wasn’t planning on doing too much skiing this weekend with the combination of air temperature and minimal new snow, I at least wanted to get out one day for a tour.  I almost got one in yesterday, but ran out of time since we were having James and the kids over for the evening.  However, E and Claire cancelled our BJAMS ski program at Stowe today due to the forecast temperatures, so it gave me the opportunity to get in an afternoon tour.  I think today actually worked out to be the better ski day of the weekend, since it was almost 10 F warmer up on the mountain, and we had sunny skies in contrast to a bit of gray yesterday afternoon.

“It was surprising to think
that the snow was holding
pat after such a dry week,
let alone improving.”

Last weekend’s outing on the backcountry network was fun, since the powder was decent, but also fruitful in that I discovered a nice new glade in an area I hadn’t previously visited.  That discovery really wasn’t planned, but since it worked out well I figured I’d go with a similar theme today; my goal was to check out a descent off Heavenly Highway in the Moose Glen area.  It’s an area that E and the boys and I have wanted to explore for a while.  Since the boys were a bit under the weather and they weren’t going to head out in the cold temperatures, it was another solo outing for me.  I find these solo outings work well for reconnaissance though, because I can move quickly and efficiently and explore a lot of terrain relative to when we’ve got the boys along.

“As I slid through that last run in
the powder, my feet felt really quick.
I guess that’s the best way to describe
it; the pitch of the slope, the depth of
the powder, and the length and width of
my skis all just came together to make
everything work for Telemark turns.”

Once again, despite the chilly temperatures and dearth of fresh snow, the main parking lots up in the Village were pretty full, so the resort was getting a lot of visitors.  On piste conditions are actually pretty good based on what I’ve seen though, as the arctic air appears to be preserving packed powder surfaces very nicely.  I’ve been sort of down on the arctic air that’s been hanging around because it doesn’t bring fresh powder for skiing, but boy does it do a heck of a job on snow preservation.  Even though new snow has been minimal in the past week, I could tell that the quality of the snow on the ground had improved as soon as I began my ascent today.  I saw a bunch of Telemark skiers working on turns on the Telemark Practice Slope, and even though that was a tracked area and they were often on the subsurface below the powder, the turns were very quiet.  As I probed around and checked depths during my trip up the Bryant Trail, I could tell first hand that the subsurface had improved since last weekend.  Presumably that ultra dry arctic air has been working on it, because it was even more crumbly and Styrofoam-like than last weekend.  The conditions also seemed to be bolstered by additional powder.  Whereas last weekend I found 3 to 4 inches at the 2,100’ level and 6” up at 2,700 at the Bryant Cabin, today I found roughly 5 inches at the base elevations and 7 to 8 inches at the cabin.  It was surprising to think that the snow was holding pat after such a dry week, let alone improving.

An image of drifted snow along the edge of the Bryant Trail on the Nordic/Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Along the Bryant Trail

My ascent went smoothly, and I saw a few other groups of skiers here and there having fun in the good snow.  After reaching the Bryant Cabin, I continued on up to Heavenly Highway, and once I got up to around the 3,000’ elevation I could really see just how well preserved things were at those elevations.  In protected areas, the evergreens were still coated in white like snow had just fallen.  I finally switched to descent mode in the Moose Glen area, where below me sat a nice open, untracked line powder line.  The pitch looked perfect for the 6 to 8 inches of medium-weight arctic fluff that it held, and I could see the exact line I wanted to take.  As I sat there contemplating those first turns, there was an almost tangible excitement in seeing if the snow was going to deliver.  As good as the snow can seem on the ascent, making those turns is really where the rubber meets the road.

I dropped in and the turns were smooth and effortless; there was still the occasional touch on the subsurface, but indeed the conditions had taken quite a leap since last weekend.  There were a couple old tracks from previous skiers to give me an idea of where to go on the descent, but I also let the lay of the land dictate the route.  A number of clear areas offering nice turns, but I could tell that many more shots would be available if the snowpack was bumped up a foot or two.  After some consolidation and this dry January spell, snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is about a foot below average, so typically some of those areas with brush would be covered by now.  Hopefully we can do some catching up on snow depth in the next couple of months.

An image looking down at an untracked powder line from Heavenly Highway in the Moose Glen area on the Nordic & Backcountry Ski Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting ready to drop in

I continued downward in a general southerly direction and entered an area of flat terrain among evergreens.  I could tell that it was a bit of a shelf with land sloping off to the south.  There was a clearly cut route that entered the area, but the ski tracks that had led me there disappeared.  After a few minutes of poking around, I was happy to find that my instincts had led me in the right direction.  There was a nicely made glade dropping down the initial steep slope, and then in mellowed out into a large, sparsely treed area with lines everywhere.  I enjoyed a lot of good turns in there, and I eventually found that it had led me right down in Snow Hole, which without the Wilderness Lift running, didn’t have many ski tracks.  I was really appreciating the consistency of the snow in Snow Hole – the powder was just perfect for the pitch; it was dry, but somewhere just on the dry side of medium in density, and the floatation was great.

When I came to the fork indicating the route over to the Wilderness Lift, I opted to check out the right option instead, and quickly found myself on Gardiner’s Lane.  I was really liking the overall setup of this descent, gaining that extra elevation above the Bryant Cabin had already given it that extra boost of vertical, and I knew I still had some good turns to go.  On World Cup I headed past the glades adjacent to the Telemark Practice Slope, since I could see that they had seen a number of skiers, and continued on until I got to some additional untracked lines.  The woods are pretty open there, so there was no need for a specific glade to get some really nice turns.

As I slid through that last run in the powder, my feet felt really quick. I guess that’s the best way to describe it; the pitch of the slope, the depth of the powder, and the length and width of my skis all just came together to make everything work for Telemark turns.  I’d say that was really just the pinnacle in terms of that feeling, but all day today I felt good on the AMPerages.  After the way they’d felt slow at times last weekend when I hit the Bruce Trail, I was tempted to switch to my narrower-waisted RT-86s today for a faster feel with a potentially firmer base.  In the end I decided that I wanted the float of the AMPerages, and I’m glad I went that route.  Whether it was that improvement in the powder, the subsurface, the snow density, or just the lines I hit today, they were the tool of choice.

This is a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic/Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS tracking data for today’s Bolton Valley Nordic/backcountry tour – click for full size map

It was getting close to 5:00 P.M. before I was done with my tour, and now that we’re over a month past the solstice, I’m definitely noticing (and thankful for) that longer light.  We’ve also got some warmer temperatures coming in the next few days, with a dramatic change in the weather pattern this week.  A storm is coming in tomorrow that is forecast to deliver a modest 2-4” type of snowfall, but that is going to feel like a lot after only arctic dustings over the past week or so.  We’re also expected to go above freezing with the next round of the storm as it cuts to the west, but hopefully we’ll get some additional snow on the back side.  We could be into a more active pattern going into next weekend, which would be nice to build the snowpack after these January doldrums.  With that said, I’ve certainly got a new found respect for what these arctic weather conditions can do for the snowpack, so if we do get another round of that weather, the skiing could be good as long as we can get at least some snow to go with it.

Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry 19JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder descending from the North Slope trail on the Nordic & Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Heading off into the powder below North Slope today

It was a lot of fun skiing in the soft snow and warm temperatures last weekend, but winter is definitely back now.  Temperatures dropped down closer to seasonable levels at the beginning of the week, and then the bottom fell out toward the end of the week as we dropped below zero F Thursday night with an arctic frontal passage.  Fortunately, we’ve also had some modest shots of snow to start freshening the snowpack, and temperatures were back up to around 30 F in the mountains today, so it did seem like a good opportunity to get out for some turns and exercise.  Stowe is reporting 8” of snow since Wednesday, and the skiing looks great based on the pictures that Powderfreak posted in the ski thread and the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forum today. Bolton Valley is also reporting 5” of new snow during the period.  Although I’m thinking of waiting until we hit roughly the one foot mark before checking out the lift served terrain, it did seem like we’d seen enough new snow in the past few days to provide some decent backcountry turns.

“…I found 3 to 4 inches of fluff
down at the Village level, and
that gradually increased to the
4 to 6 inch range by the time I
got up to the Bryant Cabin at
around 2,700’.”

With all that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain for a quick tour up to the Bryant Cabin and back through whatever terrain seemed fitting for the conditions.  We’d reached the mid 30s F down at the house (495’) when I headed out around 2:00 P.M., but up in the Village at 2,100’ it was just 31 F.  There certainly hasn’t been enough snowfall yet to really resurface the slopes and get the on piste conditions back to normal, so I couldn’t believe how the Village parking lots were virtually full.  I wasn’t even able to get a parking spot in the upper tennis court lot like I usually do because it was full, but the lower tennis court lot had a decent number of spaces, and I was still able to park trailside along Broadway.  The resort was hopping though, so I guess the holiday weekend and the comfortable weather are enough to make people really want to get out there.  Overall that’s great for the resort of course.

“Indeed the turns in the powder
were silky, especially when
aided by the width of my
AMPerages, and it was nice
to feel that float again.”

In terms of unconsolidated snow above the old base, I found 3 to 4 inches of fluff down at the Village level, and that gradually increased to the 4 to 6 inch range by the time I got up to the Bryant Cabin at around 2,700’.  Coverage on the Bryant Trail was generally fine, although a couple of the stream crossings had only recently filled back in after presumably being blown out a bit with running water during the warm spell.  Traffic out in the Bryant area was pretty light once I was up above the Nordic trails – I saw a couple of skiers descending and a couple groups coming down on snowshoes.  The air was generally calm, although you could occasionally hear some gentle gusts of wind up in the peaks.  We’ve got another system and arctic frontal boundary coming through tomorrow, so there was that feeling of being between systems.

An image of Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Vally Nordic & Backcountry network at Bolton Vally ski resort in Vermont
Bryant Cabin

There was nobody in the Bryant Cabin area when I arrived there, and it was very quiet as I made my way past and stopped at the top of Gardiner’s Lane.  I could see some of the glades above me, and the look of the powder up there was very appealing, but I could tell by the tracks of a couple of other skiers up there that the new snow wasn’t quite deep enough to really make the turns bottomless.  As I was stripping off my skins, I heard a little noise coming from above me in the Birch Loop direction, and soon another backcountry skier passed by and headed down Gardiner’s Lane.  I’m not sure what he’d been skiing up above, but he probably had a similar plan to mine for the terrain below – there are a lot of nice mellow options off Gardiner’s Lane that would work really well with the conditions.

An image showing a measurement of the powder snow depth atop the base outside the Bryant Cabin on the backcountry ski trail network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The powder is building.

Conditions on Gardiner’s Lane were packed, and a little bumpy in spots.  At the junction with North Slope, I headed up a bit to catch a nice mellow line that I knew, and I’m glad that I did.  I could see that another skier had taken in before me, and the tracks left behind suggested some nice turns.  Indeed the turns in the powder were silky, especially when aided by the width of my AMPerages, and it was nice to feel that float again.  Back on Gardiner’s Lane, I had a feeling that I was in the zone of another glade I knew, and figuring that Gardiner’s Lane itself would have seen a fair share of traffic, I decided to head on that lesser used route.  Only one other skier had passed through there, and the snow was good, but the pitch was too steep to avoid contacting the base snow.  Below there I followed a set of tracks to an area I’d never been, and found a nice long glade that brought me all the way back down to World Cup.  It’s got to be one of the longest glades I’ve seen out there.  I’m not sure how new it is in the grand scheme of the backcountry network, but it’s new to me; I can’t wait to show it to E and the boys – especially with deeper powder.  Someone did some nice work in there.  The glade starts off with some mellow terrain that was great for today’s conditions, and then it steepens out to more of an intermediate pitch.  I was even able to finish off with a run on the Telemark Practice Slope, which did have some irregularities in the subsurface snow due to previous skier traffic, but still delivered some nice turns – even a few in which I was able to stay floating in the powder.

A GPS map on Google Earth showing a ski tour taken on January 19th, 2013 using the Nordic and backcountry ski network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS Track of today’s tour on Google Earth

Overall I’d say that that part of the run in the new glade was a good description of the general conditions out there – you can get some bottomless turns (especially with the help of fat powder boards) on the mellower green-style terrain, but on intermediate pitches and above you’re going to be touching bottom a lot.  It was definitely worth a tour out there today though, and if we get a few more inches as the next system passes through tomorrow, it’s going to be even better.

Bolton Valley, VT 12JAN2013

An image of Ty Telemark skiing on a warm January day in soft snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Soft turns in the sun today at Bolton

Repairs on the Timberline Quad at Bolton Valley are complete, and although I heard that it actually started running yesterday, today was our first chance to check out the Timberline area and make some turns.  Forecast temperatures in the 40s F are more like March or April than January this weekend, and with no need to head out early for powder, we opted for a warm, afternoon session.  When we headed up to the mountain around 1:30 P.M. or so, temperatures both at the house (495’) and up at the Timberline Base (1,500’) were in the low 40s F, and although I thought we’d have generally cloudy conditions, it was actually mostly sunny.  It’s great to have Timberline and that Timberline vibe back though, we pulled in and found probably a couple dozen cars present, and I was able to drop off E and the boys and park right below the lodge.  With the sun shining and mild temperatures, it was easy to think it was one of those spring Timberline outings.

An image showing ski tracks on the Showtime trail at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Leftover tracks at Timberline

The Timberline trails were looking really sweet in the sunshine, and you could see that areas that hadn’t been groomed hadn’t even been tracked out.  There were a couple of spots here and there where snow coverage was low, but they were pretty minor (aside from where a snow cat seemed to dig some holes on Showtime).  I think the resort has got to be pretty happy that even the low elevation areas of Timberline are looking good with mostly natural snow.  I know some snow was blown on parts of Timberline Run, but I’m sure that money has been saved on snowmaking for some runs like Showtime.  I guess they could make snow in some areas going forward if they want to beef up the base for the spring.  In the snow report they mentioned that there were a couple of trails closed for various reasons, but with Timberline in operation, the mountain is running at just shy of 100% open.

As they’ve often done in the spring, the boys went with their Telemark skis today to get in some practice, and the soft conditions were perfect for working on their turns.  We did a couple laps on the Villager/Timberline Run route, with Sure Shot thrown in as well.  Both boys went without the cables on their bindings, and while it worked well for Ty, perhaps because his new Telemark boots are stiff and supportive enough, it seemed a little sloppy for Dylan.  I think his boots are worn in enough that he might need that extra tension from the cables.  We ran into Luke and Claire and we were able get in some fun turns with them – Claire was definitely enjoying the ease of the Timberline logistics today as well.  Everyone made plenty of soft carves in the snow today, and it looks like we’ll continue with these conditions tomorrow until things start to cool down at some point Monday.  After that we’ll be looking for new snow to hopefully get back to powder conditions; it’s going to be fun to get back into some powder with Timberline in operation.

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2013

An image of Erica skiing in some powder on the Show Off trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E playing around on Show Off in some of today’s great snow

The Vermont ski areas received up to a foot of new snow in the past 24 hours, with the highest totals in the northern half of the state, and a lot of variability up and down the spine.  Morning snow showers began to clear out to blue skies, as temperatures sat in the mid 20s F in the valleys and upper teens in the higher elevations.  Winds were strong in the morning, and the Bolton Valley snow report indicated that the Vista Quad was on wind hold, but all the other lifts slated to open looked like they would be on time.  We got a call from Stephen indicating that he was up at the mountain with Helena, and that things were a little crazy since all the weekly ski programs were back in action this weekend.

Upon dropping in and seeing
what lay before them, both
boys were off like a shot,
with Dylan proclaiming “This
is our winter wonderland!”

We eventually got the boys motivated to head up to the mountain in the late morning, and while the parking lots were filling up, after I dropped E and the boys off at the village circle I got a rather neat parking spot.  The main tiers were full and the attendants were starting to fill those other nooks and crannies, and they parked me and another vehicle right along the entrance road near the Courtside 1 Condos.  The spots were sort of created due to the way the plowing was done, and I can definitely say it was the first time I’ve every parked in such a unique spot.  In any event, it meant that from the car it was a pretty quick shot right up to the lodge.

E and the boys had stopped in the ski shop to purchase a couple of gifts for upcoming birthdays, and then I met them out near the Vista Quad.  Any congestion from the weekly ski programs was gone, because there were no queues and we headed right to the Vista Summit.  Winds had been rather insignificant at the base, but they picked up a little in the higher elevations.  We could see that the summit areas looked rather wind scoured, but for our descent we checked out Hard Luck Lane and hung to the left to see if we could catch some soft snow.  There was a little soft stuff, but between the blowing wind and the hard scoured snow it was still “loud skiing”, as E put it.  We shot down onto Hard Luck, and the snow was still wind scoured and firm for another couple hundred feet before we started getting into protected terrain.  Then things started to get nice; we began finding soft snow and powder along the edges of the trail, and once we descended a bit more we cut through the trees to get over to Show Off to even more protected terrain that I expected to yield some excellent turns.  The trees were just choked with bottomless powder, and in terms of snow quality it was really night and day from up in the exposed on piste areas.  The bottom half of Show Off held excellent snow that featured anywhere from a few to several inches of powder over a soft base.  Ty had fun jumping off the side of Little Rock, one of his favorite spots.  We slid into the powder along the Sherman’s Pass/Show Off intersection, and then caught the Vista Quad Lift Line and terrain park below Mid Mountain.  There were just a couple of spots where coverage was bit thin on the lift line, but it’s really progressed in the past week or two to a point that you don’t have to worry about avoiding anything.  Ty and Dylan discovered that the Jungle Jib was open with features (including the new “Oil Can” oil tank jump) so they couldn’t get enough of that.

An image of Dylan leaning into a turn in soft snow on the Show Off trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan leans into a turn on Show Off today.

Dylan called for the Mid Mountain Chair on the next run, and we got to check out the Enchanted Forest where we found top notch packed powder and powder off to the edges.  A quick measurement of the powder depth there on the lower mountain revealed 14” above the previous packed layer.  The Enchanted Forest was definitely a good choice below Mid Mountain.

I convinced the boys to head to Snowflake next, thinking that we’d either the Butterscotch Terrain Park, which was still without terrain features and open for powder skiing, or perhaps the Bonus Woods.  Finding just one track in the Bonus Woods, we headed right through there and caught some great snow.  Upon dropping in and seeing what lay before them, both boys were off like a shot, with Dylan proclaiming “This is our winter wonderland!”

An image of Ty with his hands up as he blasts through some trees at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Blasting through

We had time for one more run before Ty needed to head off to a birthday party, but Dylan’s hands and feet were getting a bit cold, so he headed inside with E while Ty and I took the last run together.  Ty wanted a Vista run, specifically to hit Alta Vista, which is one of his favorite trails.  Unlike many of the high elevation spots, Alta Vista was well protected from the westerly winds, and the skier’s left offered up great soft turns on packed snow as well as some powder.  I was amazed that people hadn’t been in there yet – Ty had definitely made a good call.  We dropped in and out of the powder on that left side, all the way down to Sherman’s.  I showed Ty Schuss, and a nice untracked line through the trees that he could hit.  He had to get through a branch in there, and like a true tree skier her put those hands up to protect his head and face while he blasted through.  Schuss had a few slick spots at the top where it was more exposed, but it had filled in nicely in the bottom half.  We traversed our way off Sherman’s Pass over to Show Off, right at the level of Big Rock/Little Rock, and Ty was very impressed with how I’d managed to get us over there.  We finished off that run with another pass through The Enchanted Forest/Jungle Jib.

We were totally out of synch with Stephen and Helena today, since they were just going into the lodge for a break when we first spotted them, but at least E and Dylan got to see them when they headed to the lodge.  Although we felt as though we’d arrived somewhat late, the unloading area in the Village Circle was absolutely mobbed with people arriving around 12:45 P.M. as we were leaving.  Those folks may have been coming for an afternoon or twilight session, but either way, it looked like the mountain was getting a full slate of visitors.  Parking spots were at a premium and we had someone waiting for ours as we packed up the car.  We even saw that they were parking cars down at Timberline and the shuttle was running.

From what I’ve read on the Bolton Valley Facebook Page, it sounds like the mountain is shooting for having the mechanical issues addressed to enable opening of the Timberline Quad next Saturday, January 12th.  A lot of people are going to enjoy having lift access to that terrain, although it does mean it won’t be quite the perpetual powder playground it has been the past couple of weeks.  On that note, our next storm is on the way and snow is supposed to be building in tomorrow with some potentially nice accumulations for the local mountains.

Bolton Valley, VT 01JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Mother Nature to Bolton Valley: here’s your new year’s refresher.

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.

An image of ski tracks near the base of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Signs of folks out working the slopes today

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2012

An image of the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont with a skin track and ski tracks in powder
Brandywine today

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.

An image of snow covered trees and night skiing lights on the upper mountain in mid afternoon due to low clouds and December darkness at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Lights in December darkness

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.

An image of a ski track in powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Success in the Villager Trees

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 30DEC2012

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the headwall of the Showtime trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty going steep and deep on the Teles

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.

An image of Ty drinking hot cocoa at the Timberline Mid Station at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont, with late day light peeking through the clouds in the background
Break time after today’s 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.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the Showtime trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Tele Dylan on 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.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder on the Showtime trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Powder with fluff on top was the call today up at Bolton Valley.