Bolton Valley, VT 01DEC2013

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Fanny Hill Trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Checking out the snow on Fanny Hill today

The ski tour we took yesterday was certainly considered a success, since both E and Ty were saying positive things today, and Ty was expressing to Dylan that he missed out on some fun.  With the prospects for a little more snow today from a passing Alberta Clipper, I figured another visit to the mountain was in order, and I decided to make it at the end of the day once the new snow had started to accumulate and top off the powder.  I couldn’t quite convince anyone else to come with me since they were having too much fun sledding or doing other stuff, so it was another solo outing.

I wasn’t exactly sure when the snow was supposed to start, but eventually it looked like I was going to run out of light, so around 3:00 P.M. I finally headed out.  Fortunately, flakes had just started falling in the valley, so I knew the snow would already be well underway up on the hill.  Up at Bolton Valley, the temperature in the Village at 2,100’ was 30 F and a steady light snow was coming down.  The flakes weren’t huge, but it was accumulating on my equipment quickly enough that gear left out took on a coating within a minute or two.

“Fanny Hill ultimately lost
out to Work Road because
the snow was just too
good – 6 to 8 inches of
fluff and hardly a track.”

After using Turnpike for the past couple of ascents, and seeing that skier traffic there had been decent, I decided to go for an alternative ascent route up through the Fanny Hill area.  It would give me a chance to check out the skiing in that area, and still head over toward the Wilderness Lift Line if I didn’t find anything that seemed to top what we skied yesterday.  My first interesting sight was right as I was starting my ascent on Lower Fanny Hill – on one of the small cross trails there was a group of folks hanging out in a protected nook in the trees, just sitting in a circle of chairs and chatting.  I suspect they were from the Liftline Condos that were just beyond.  There was no wind, so with the light snow falling and temperatures around 30 F, it was indeed a fun time to be outside; it just seemed like a fitting thing to be doing on a dark Sunday afternoon in December.

An image showing the snowpack depth aside the Fanny Hill trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontUpon reaching Fanny Hill, the snow looked good, so I decided to continue my ascent there and explore the surfaces further.  In general there were the same several inches of powder above the base snow that we’d encountered on the Wilderness Lift Line yesterday, and only when I got into the steeper sections of terrain near the top did the pitch seem to be too much for the snowpack.  In a nice undisturbed spot along the edge of the trail at 2,600’, I was able to check the full snowpack at that elevation, and that came in at 13”.  I’d say that consisted of a 6” base, and the rest was powder on top

I continued up toward Upper Fanny Hill, generally staying away from the Sherman’s Pass area where I could hear the snow guns running.  Those higher trails like Coyote, Work Road, Lower Crossover, and Swing, held deeper snow and had seen much less traffic.  They were definitely going to be on my descent route.  I stopped my ascent around 2,900’ on Upper Fanny Hill just before the steepest pitches, because I could see that they were somewhat windswept and just didn’t have the coverage they needed yet.

I played it by ear on the descent, just watching for those trails with deep snow that had seen minimal traffic.  Fanny Hill ultimately lost out to Work Road because the snow was just too good – 6 to 8 inches of fluff and hardly a track.  That brought me over to the Wilderness Lift Line, and since we’d skied the skier’s right yesterday, I took the skier’s left today and found the same type of good snow.  I’m sure Fanny Hill would have been fine as well, but after committing to Work Road I went where gravity took me.  The rest of the descent back to the Village was just like yesterday, good soft snow, so no complaints.

It was getting pretty dark when I was leaving, but the group of folks was still hanging out in their little alcove in the trees – it was a good spot.  As I made my way along some of the Liftline Condos, I saw a woman pushing something along through the snow – she made her way through some of the deeper snow around the back of the condos, and then was out of view for a bit before she got onto the street and I could get a picture  I didn’t know if it was a stroller, or just some other sort of vehicle for moving things, but whatever the case, the fact that it was on skis was intriguing.  Clearly it seemed to be somebody who knows the Bolton Valley environment.

An image of a woman pushing some type of sled in the snow in the Bolton Valley Village in Vermont
Bolton Valley Village version of getting around

It snowed all the way down to the valley when I was heading back to the house around 5:00 P.M., and the temperatures had fallen below the freezing mark even at the bottom of the access road down at 340’.  It looks like the next opportunities for snow are some light stuff in the early week, and then a frontal system later in the week.

Bolton Valley, VT 30NOV2013

An image of Ty skiing in powder on the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting after some of that leftover Thanksgiving powder

For the valleys in Northern Vermont, our first big winter storm of the season hit the area this week, and it created some potential holiday travel woes because of its occurrence so close to Thanksgiving.  The storm was essentially complete by the time we traveled on Thanksgiving Day, but with 8.2 inches of snow, and 1.62 inches of liquid equivalent, it had certainly bolstered the snowpack in the yard and changed the look of the landscape.  While the storm did have some mixed precipitation and rain in the middle, it was quite a nice gain in snow for the mountains, with some of the ski areas in the Northern Greens picking up more than foot of snow.  And, as is often the case, the final volley from the storm consisted of a good shot of dry powder that sat well atop some newly added dense base to create some great Thanksgiving Day skiing.

With our holiday traveling done, we finally had the chance to get out today and sample some of the new snow.  Dylan was away at a friend’s house, but E, Ty, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to earn some turns.  They had reported 9 inches of new snow for Thanksgiving morning, and as we headed up to the Village, we stopped in at the base of Timberline at 1,500’ to check on how the snow had settled in down at that elevation.  The depth of the powder was 3 to 4 inches over a good base, and we could see that there had been plenty of ski activity on Timberline’s slopes.  Continuing on up to the Village at 2,100’, we found that the snow had increased to 4 to 6 inches in depth.

“The powder skiing was
every bit as good as
what I’d experienced
on Sunday…”

Having experienced some good snow on Turnpike on Sunday, I figured that we would check that out again today.  Of course, with it being two to three days since the snow fell, plenty of skiers and snowboarders had been out on the trail, a lot more than the single track I’d seen on my last trip.  We were treated to a nice skin track, but most of the powder was tracked out, so we definitely kept our eyes open on the ascent for lesser used options.  We ran into Cam at the top of Lower Turnpike, and chatted about the mountain’s opening in a couple of weeks.  If we can stick with the current weather pattern, things are looking quite good.

Like I’d done on Sunday, we stopped our ascent around 2,900’ on Turnpike since the terrain above that level was rather windswept, but snow depths had increased to roughly 6 to 8 inches, and combined with the base, there was easily over a foot of snow sitting there in many places.  On the ascent I’d looked at the snow on Cougar and the Wilderness Lift Line, and I’d seen only a couple of tracks, so we worked those into our descent.  The powder skiing was every bit as good as what I’d experienced on Sunday, and I was glad that we found plenty of untracked snow for Ty and E.  Ty was putting together some great turns on his Teles, and I think his skiing was helped by the fact that he was in high spirits.  E had her first chance to get on her Element skis with her new Telemark boots, and she definitely felt a big increase in control that she’d previously lacked with on her fat skis with her old boots.

An image of Erica skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E finding much more ability to drive her powder skis today with her new boots

Today was a great, mellow outing, just like you’d expect pre-season at Bolton Valley.  Along with Cam, we saw a couple other pairs of skiers, and they all appeared to be experiencing that same vibe.  We’ve actually got our next small storm coming through tonight, and it’s supposed to persist into tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll get a freshening of the powder that will set things up for more turns.  It’s been a great November of skiing around here, and now it’s on to December – let’s hope it can follow suit.

Bolton Valley, VT 24NOV2013

An image of a ski track in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Some of Bolton’s powder today, thanks to yesterday’s Alberta Clipper

I hadn’t yet been up to Bolton Valley for turns this season, because based on what the web cams have been showing for all the storms thus far, the slopes at Stowe have seen bigger accumulations and better coverage.  This time around though, things seemed more equitable.  I’d seen the general state of coverage at Stowe when I stopped there for a tour on Thursday, so I had a good idea of what was down after the additional 4 to 6 inches reported this morning due to the recent Alberta Clipper.  I could see from the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam that, although there was definitely some wind pushing the snow around and scouring some areas, accumulations were at least in the same ballpark as what Stowe had seen.  As long as I went for a protected section of the mountain, it looked like coverage was going to be sufficient for some good powder turns.

“If you’ve ever heard of
the ‘no chain’ expression
in cycling, for when the
pedaling seems effortless,
then the expression for
today’s ski outing would
be ‘no width’.”

I wasn’t initially sure if I’d want to head out to the slopes today, since just a few inches of snow were expected from the clipper, but more due to the fact that the coldest air of the season has moved in on the back of this storm.  With significant winds as well, it sounded like it was going to be brutal out there on the mountain.  The reality was though, that this was November cold, not January cold.  When we were out in the yard early this afternoon taking some potential Christmas card photos, the temperature was in the low 20s F and it was reasonably comfortable.  It was going to be colder and windy on the mountain, but it seemed like great weather for earned turns.

An image of folding chairs covered with snow after a November snowstorm in the Bolton Valley Ski Area Village in Vermont
Village views of changing seasons on today’s ascent

I headed up to the mountain in the mid afternoon, made a quick Timberline stop at 1,500’ to measure the snow depths, finding 2-4”, and then parked in the top tier of the village lot around 2,100’.  The temperature was in the mid teens F, and snow depths had increased to around 4-5”.  After a conversation with Quinn subsequent to one of our recent October snowstorms, he’d mentioned going for an outing on the Turnpike trail, and with today’s accumulations and wind, that sounded like the perfect, protected option for an afternoon ski tour.  I found a nice skin track that had been set in place by a prior skier, and it brought me up through some beautifully protected terrain.  I think this was actually my first time ascending Turnpike on skins, and it is indeed a nice route.  It’s got that type of modest pitch that makes you feel like you’re out for a stroll and hardly doing any work.  The coverage was looking decent, and there was even a bit of old base snow that was initially sporadic, but increased as I got higher on the mountain.  At 2,500’ I found snow depths in the 5-7” range, and I continued to follow the skin track up to around the 2,800’ mark, where it terminated.  My plan was to ascend as high as the quality of the snow dictated, stopping when the winds or terrain outweighed the elevational increase in accumulations.  Whoever had made that skin track had the right idea, because at 2,800’ it was starting to get to that point.  I pushed on to 2,900’ at the top of Turnpike, and called it there because the next pitches on Peggy Dow’s were clearly steeper, rockier, and exposed to the wind.  The snow had definitely been getting deeper though, and I’d say the depth of the powder up there was 7” or more.

An image of the Turnpike ski trail sign with snowy trees at the Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying a snowy scene at the top of today’s tour

I was unsure exactly how the descent was going to go.  I’d chosen Turnpike because it has that protection from the wind, but also a nice combination of blue/green pitch and a generally grassy, not rocky, surface.  The new snow was quite dry, but I’d brought my fattest Tele boards, my AMPerages at 115 mm underfoot.  I was banking on that width to keep me afloat.  I dropped in for my first turns, and another aspect of the snow conditions quickly became apparent… the snow was indeed light and dry, but it was cold enough that it was also slow.  I was worried that the lack of glide in the dry snow was really going to affect the descent, but as soon as I hit the first steeper pitch the turns started flowing.  Coverage was definitely adequate, and I touched down on the old base or grass very infrequently.  Turns were very smooth, and as I was gliding my way down, I was confident that I’d made the right ski choice for the day.  In fact, it felt like the perfect ski choice, and amazingly, given the situation I think I would have gone even fatter with the skis.

An image of a ski track in powder along the edge of the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley after a November snowfall
Today’s snow offered up some great turns even on the bottom half of the mountain

People are always pushing the fattest skis for the deepest powder, and that definitely makes sense in terms of floatation, but they’re good for so much more.  Indeed I find them absolutely horrible on firm snow; it’s a lot like trying to ride a snowboard on a hard surface.  But today didn’t have anything to do with firm snow, it was all powder… light, dry powder, and the fatties shone in just modest depths in multiple ways because of their floatation.  First, despite the airy snow, they were keeping me off the subsurface and allowing bottomless turns.  Second, and this one was totally unanticipated prior to discovering how dry and slow the snow was, they were allowing me to plane at the more modest speeds attained on today’s moderate pitches.  That kept me going on lower angle pitches, really enhancing the fun factor, and it’s been one of the few times when I’ve had the feeling that even wider skis wouldn’t have been overkill.  If you’ve ever heard of the “no chain” expression in cycling, for when the pedaling seems effortless, then the expression for today’s ski outing would be “no width”.  Even though it was all Telemark turns, in which transitions are much slower than alpine, things seemed to move effortlessly from edge to edge during the turns, and it all just flowed.

Looking ahead, we’ve got a small system expected to affect the area tomorrow night with some snow, and then a much more significant system as we move toward Thanksgiving.  That one could be messy with some mixed precipitation, but hopefully we’ll get some snow out of it as well.

Bolton Valley, VT 28APR2013

An image looking down the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont on a sunny spring afternoon
Enjoying the descent of Spillway today in the afternoon sunshine

We’ve had some decent temperatures to get the corn snow cycle going over the past week, and this weekend has been much better than last weekend in terms of warming up the snow on the slopes.  Yesterday was pretty nice in terms of weather, but today was even warmer, and the sky was crystal clear.  In terms of the mountain snowpack, Stowe is looking great down to pretty low elevations based on Powderfreak’s latest pictures, but I know the snow at Bolton Valley isn’t going to last as long due to its western exposure and late-day heating.  With that in mind, I decided to make it a Bolton tour today, and since I haven’t been up since my April 14th tour at Timberline, it was a good time to check on the snow situation at the local hill.

“I actually found some of
the smoothest snow, or
more accurately softest
snow, on Beech Seal…”

I headed up in the late afternoon, with valley temperatures around 70 F.  There’s no visible snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road until one reaches the 1,500’ elevation, where there’s a big patch at the base of the Timberline area.  There’s really not much snow visible on the Timberline trails below the 2,250’ elevation though, and I suspect most of what is there is leftover manmade snow.  After passing Timberline, I next saw natural snow appearing a bit below the 2,000’ elevation as I approached the Village.  Temperatures were in the low 60s F up at the main base area, and on the slopes in that area there’s snow right down to the main base lodge, but it’s not continuous on all trails.  I had to walk a couple hundred feet in the flats above the lodge before I could put on my skins and ascend Beech Seal.  From there on up though, the snow is basically continuous on Beech Seal, Sprig O’ Pine, Sherman’s Pass, and Spillway right to the Vista Summit.  I took the Sherman’s Pass ascent, and there is some pretty dirty snow in protected areas that haven’t seen much sun.  That sun was glorious today though, and I definitely brought along the sunscreen because we’re talking about an August-like sun angle now.  On the upper half of the mountain, there’s actually a good mix of manmade and natural snow options, although the trails that received manmade snow are the ones that will really give you those continuous runs with good snow coverage.  I stopped my ascent at the Vista Summit right beyond the top of Spillway Lane, ripped off my skins, and got into descent mode.  There was just the slightest breeze, but the wind turbine was making good use of it and spinning along.

There are some sun cups starting to form that make the snow surface uneven in spots, but Spillway has smooth options just about everywhere so you can get in some really nice turns.  Spillway’s steep pitch felt good as usual, and the snow is indeed nice after this week’s corn cycling.  I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal; perhaps the lower elevation let it warm a bit more than what’s up on Spillway.  In any event, the softening was far superior to what we experienced last weekend on either Saturday or Sunday – those temperatures were just a bit to cool to get things to where I found them today at Bolton.  At the bottom of my run, I took off my skis and threw them back on my pack to walk through the couple big broken patches of snow in the flats above the lodge, but you can essentially ski all of the ~1,000’ of vertical on the main mountain for now.  There’s no snow or even cool temperatures in the forecast this week; it looks fairly mild and sunny, so I’m not sure what the situation will be on the mountain next weekend.  There will still be snow for skiing, but I don’t think it will be continuous with the melting that could take place in the sunny, warm afternoons we look to have on tap in the coming days.

Bolton Valley, VT 14APR2013

An iamge of the Timberline Lodge sign at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow falling at Timberline today

We had a family gathering through early afternoon today, but in the mid to late afternoon, I headed up to Bolton Valley for a tour.  Up to that point we’d had on and off bouts of precipitation in the valley, often showers mixed with sleet, but no notable accumulation other than transient stuff.  Temperatures were in the mid 40s F in the 300’-500’ elevation range along the bottom of the Winooski Valley as I headed westward toward Bolton; we’d had breaks of sun among the clouds and precipitation, and I was preparing for some fairly soft and slushy spring turns up on the hill.  Since I never pulled them out yesterday at Stowe, I’d even brought my fat skis to evaluate how they’d perform in the soft stuff.  A lot of people seem to like the way they smooth out the mushy stuff, but I’m still curious about how well that works.

An image of the entrance to the Ponds event area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont showing a lit street lamp in the afternoon in April due to cloudiness and snowfall
A dark, November feel today

Precipitation was pretty sparse as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road, and while there’s patchy snow all the way up out of the valley, consistent natural snowpack really didn’t appear until roughly the 1,500’ elevation at the Timberline Base.  Temperatures had dropped into the upper 30s F by that elevation, and light snow was falling.  It was mid to late afternoon, but it was actually pretty dark with the clouds around, and more of them appeared to be building in from the west.  Based on the available light, it actually felt like a typical November outing in the mountains.

“The snow was
good on the
whole descent…”

On the slopes, the snow wasn’t really the mushy spring snow that the valley temperatures had given me the impression I’d find; I think the temperatures and/or available sunlight really weren’t high enough to support that.  Instead what I found was the couple inches of wet snow/sleet that we’ve picked up from these latest storms, sitting atop the base.  The subsurface was still fairly soft and spring-like, presumably due to the recent rounds of wet precipitation percolating some moisture down in there.  The intensity of the snowfall was fairly light on the ascent, although I could see squalls around off to the west.  There was one off to the south, and another more ominous-looking one off to the north, they were both starting to devour the views of the Adirondacks and it looked like the spine of the Greens was in their path.

Up around the Timberline Mid Station at 2,250’, the surface snow began to have a bit more coalesced consistency relative to what was below.  The temperature was approaching the freezing mark, and it appeared to be due to a combination of elevation and some cooler air coming in with the approaching weather.  I topped out at the Timberline Summit at 2,500’, and the temperature by that point was either below freezing or very close – the trees still held snow from the recent storms.

An image showing ski tracks on the Brandywine Trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Brandywine Tracks

After starting down Upper Brandywine, I was about to head back toward the Timberline Mid Station, when I saw that there was a lot of good untracked snow farther down on Brandywine, so I followed that less traditional route.  The coverage was actually quite good, and although I don’t follow that route as often, I’m realizing that it’s got more of a northerly aspect than the slopes below the mid station.  I think it’s going to be a good route to use in more marginal situations of coverage or sun exposure.  The snow was good on the whole descent, transitioning from that stronger, peel-away stuff in the higher elevations, to a wetter consistency down low.  I was amazed at how much be  It was very much like what we experienced yesterday at Stowe up to the midday hour before the freezing level rose up above the summit of the Fourrunner Quad.  There are certainly areas starting to develop bare patches at Timberline, but if you wanted you could ski natural snow terrain all the way down to the Timberline Base; that’s pretty decent for west-facing terrain down at those low elevations this time of year.

The precipitation that had been looming off to the west finally pushed its way over the ridge and into the valley as I was switching out of my ski gear at the car.  In typical Bolton Valley style, it came strong, and it was snowfall that meant business.  It wasn’t quite the whiteout that I saw in Powderfreak’s Stowe pictures, I think in part because the flakes weren’t as large (probably about ½” max in diameter), but a decent wall of snow came in and made its presence known.

If that snow had been rain, it would have been pouring, and indeed I was able to watch that transition as I descended back down the access road.  The snow stayed with me down to around the 500’ elevation, and finally mixed out to just a pouring rain.  That rain followed me through the lower elevations of the Winooski Valley, and then by the time I got up a bit higher back at that house along the Waterbury/Bolton line, snow was mixing back in.  Checking the radar a little while later, it showed a nice shot of moisture making its way through the Winooski Valley.

Bolton Valley, VT 02APR2013

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Starting off with the powder on Alta Vista today

I hadn’t really been paying attention to the weather forecast over the past couple of days, but I looked out in the back yard this morning to find that no longer was it just the leftover snow standing out – everything was whitened again.  It looked like it was back to spring in Northern New England.  There was over an inch of snow on our back yard snowboard here in Waterbury as of my 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS report, and after a short lull in the precipitation, the snowfall came back in with huge flakes.  When I checked the morning snow reports for the local resorts, I found that Bolton Valley hadn’t updated theirs yet, and I wasn’t sure if they were going to since they aren’t firing up the lifts until the weekend.  Just a bit farther north though, Stowe was reporting in, and they were at seven inches of new snow and counting.  If they’d received that much snow, Bolton was likely to be somewhere in that ballpark as well, so I packed up the gear for a stop in at the local hill on my way to Burlington.

“while I finished gearing
up for the ascent, the
snowfall ramped up to
probably 2 to 3 inches
per hour or more…”

Light snowfall in the valley became a decent 1”/hr snowfall up in the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100’.  A couple of minutes after parking and beginning to get my gear together, I re-parked the car with the back facing to the east because everything inside was getting covered with flakes due to the heavy snowfall driven by those westerly winds.  That reorientation was apt, because Mother Nature decided to really crank up the snow spigot at that point; while I finished gearing up for the ascent, the snowfall ramped up to probably 2 to 3 inches per hour or more, with visibility dropping to less than 100 yards.  It seemed like the parking lot picked up another inch in just 10 minutes.

An image of heavy snowfall at the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont during an early April snowstorm
Ahh, just dumping.

The resort appeared absolutely deserted as I began my ascent behind the main base lodge.  The wind was howling at times, and it was certainly pushing the snow around and making it difficult to get a read on just how much had fallen.  I took a route up Beech Seal and then Cobrass to the Vista Summit and made the following measurements for new snow over the old spring subsurface:

2,100’:  3-4”
2,500’:  4”
2,600’:  5”
3,100’:  5-6”

An image of fresh snow on evergreen boughs along the side of the Cobrass Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Views of the fresh powder as I ascend Cobrass

With no midweek grooming taking place, the only issue with regard to measuring the snow depth was that wind, which somehow seemed to find a way to mess with everything on the compass that had any sort of westerly component.  There had definitely been some southwesterly winds, because during my ascent of Cobrass I saw that the powder had been blasted in most areas, and indeed up at the Vista Summit I found the wind turbine facing a somewhat uncommon southwesterly direction.  I was happy to see that it was running though and cranking out some power for the resort.

Seeing that wind, I opted for starting my descent on a more northerly aspect using Alta Vista, and the powder was notably better there with respect to scouring.  The snow was indeed quite dry as my morning snow analysis from down at the house indicated, so even with 115 mm underfoot I was still hitting the subsurface on 50% of my turns.  On the lower mountain I opted for Fanny Hill, since it’s typically well protected from most wind.  A little wind had gotten in there, but nothing like what I’d found in the more exposed areas.  Overall the skiing was certainly decent, with a good dose of surfy turns in the new snow, but not so mind-blowing that I wanted to throw on the skins for another run and delay getting to town.  I’d had a good morning workout in any event, and headed off with a smile.

“…even with 115 mm
underfoot I was still
hitting the subsurface
on 50% of my turns.”

As of this evening it’s clear that Mt. Mansfield really took the brunt of this storm though, with a foot of snow down and some nice views of it thanks to Powderfreak’s usual snow journalism.  His Stowe shots from today are certainly worth a look to see Mt. Mansfield doing its thing.  Stowe, both the mountain and the village, looks like it was definitely the spot for this event based on those images and the reports coming out of the rest of the Vermont ski areasBolton did update their snow report today, and they came in with four inches.  That’s certainly reasonable based on what I found, and either a bit on the conservative side for the summit areas – or they may be reporting just from the Village since the groomers hadn’t been out.  This storm has brought the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake up to a healthy 87 inches, and it looks like there are a couple more cold days on tap in which to enjoy the new powder.

Bolton Valley, VT 30MAR2013

An image of Ty skiing in spring corn snow on the Spell Binder trail in the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Spring corn snow at Timberline today

We planned on getting in some skiing on soft, spring snow today, but Mother Nature had different plans and gave us a lot more than that. Temperatures were below freezing at all elevations last night, which is good for running the corn snow cycle, but it meant that surfaces would need some time to soften into what we were seeking.  With that in mind, we took care of other projects in the morning and let the sun do its thing to warm up the snow.  At around midday I checked on the temperature in the Bolton Valley Village (elevation 2,100’), and it was still reading just 34 F despite being in the low 50s F down at the house (elevation ~500’).  Although skies were clear and that late March sun is getting powerful, 34 F at the base meant that summit temperatures were likely below freezing, so if that snow needed softening, it probably wasn’t going to get it.  An hour or so later, I checked and found that the Village temperature had only risen to 37 F, but we figured that the lower slopes, especially those at Timberline below the elevation of the Village, would certainly be softening by that point.  With Bolton Valley having an extensive amount of west-facing terrain, softening in the morning can be slow, but it really gets rolling in the afternoon sunshine.

“It was really interesting to
find the mountain featuring
essentially everything from
mid-winter to spring
conditions today…”

The snowpack has mostly disappeared from the bottom of the Winooski Valley as we approach April, and even on the lower sections of the Bolton Valley Access Road the situation is the same.  It’s not until climbing to around 1,000’ that substantial snowpack starts to return, and then it really snaps into place once you get above the big S-curve in the access road and up to the base of Timberline (elevation ~1,500’).  We parked there, finding that the temperature was around 40 F, and as we rode the lift we could immediately see that the snow in the Timberline area had nicely softened into corn.  I was also impressed with how extensive and complete the snow coverage was on the trails, even all the way down to the Timberline Base.  There were a few bare spots around in some of usual sensitive areas, but the natural snow terrain was really in good shape.

“We made our way over
toward Dylan’s “Heaven”
line, which turned out
to be more like “Hell”…”

The resort’s Rock and Roll Pond Skimming event, which had been postponed from last Saturday due to the winter-like temperatures, was just finishing up as we boarded the Vista Quad.  With the full sun, today was a much better fit for the pond skimming, even if it wasn’t outrageously warm.  Riding on Vista we began to see that conditions actually appeared to be wintry on the upper mountain, and indeed that’s what we found as we made a run on Spillway.  There was even some powder off to the sides, and I caught some nice turns in there, but for the most part it was standard packed winter snow.  It was nice, but nothing that was going to compete with the powder or corn snow.  The conditions then transitioned into a mix of winter and spring snow on the lower half of the main mountain, depending on sun exposure and aspect.

An image of Dylan skiing some spring snow in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Searching for that perfect aspect in the Villager Trees

The plan today had initially been to work on some steep terrain like Spillway and Devil’s Playground in soft spring snow, but with the discovery of some powder on the upper mountain, we decided to visit “The Crack” to see if there was any untracked powder up there.  The boys had some fun as we made the ascent, climbing other routes that Dylan pioneered over by the icicles, and starting a snowball fight with me when they had the high ground.  We made our way over toward Dylan’s “Heaven” line, which turned out to be more like “Hell”, since the snow wasn’t softened.  Indeed the snow remained wintry, but it had taken on a dense layer of about an inch thick from previous elevated temperatures.  That line is north-facing, but at around 2,500’ or so, it wasn’t quite high enough to avoid whatever warming had taken place earlier in the week.  It turned out that someone had already skied Heaven anyway, so we ventured left and changed to a more westerly aspect.  Ultimately, we actually found far better turns in the Villager Trees on west-facing terrain that had been softened by the sun today.

Since the Timberline area seemed to be low enough in elevation to support soft snow from top to bottom, we finished off the day there, with Spell Binder being our favorite run.  We found lots of excellent corn snow from top to bottom, but a few shots were getting sticky if they were in direct sun and hadn’t seen traffic.  As good as the snow was down there, I think the boys had just as much fun throwing snowballs around in the sunshine as they did making turns.  It was really interesting to find the mountain featuring essentially everything from mid-winter to spring conditions today based on how warm it got in the lower mountain valleys.  I’d break it down as the upper mountain from around 3,200’ to 2,500’ featuring winter snow on all aspects except directly south-facing, the lower mountain from ~2,500’ to ~2,000’ featuring a mix of conditions depending on sun exposure, and then most of Timberline featuring spring conditions with its lower elevations down to 1,500’.  Hopefully we’ll get to do something similar next weekend as Bolton Valley rolls into April.

Bolton Valley, VT 23MAR2013

An image of Dylan skiing deep powder in the KP Glades area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan working the powder in the KP Glades today

In Northern Vermont we remain under the influence of an area of low pressure stuck over the Maritimes, and it dropped another round of snow overnight.  We picked up just shy of 4 inches down here at the house, and Bolton Valley picked up 7-10 inches.  That amount of fresh snow changed my thoughts for today from a more sidecountry or backcountry outing, to a lift-served one.  There’s been close to 30 inches of snow on the upper mountain in the past week, and with this latest round from last night I’d expect even the on piste skiing to be great.

We arrived at Timberline right around the opening of the Timberline Quad, and kicked things off with a Brandywine to Intro to Spell Binder run.  There was some decent powder off to the edges of Brandywine and Intro up top (including enough to bog Dylan down for a great crash that delighted the folks on the lift above), but it was Spell Binder that had the real pay dirt.  There were a few tracks that had been set down, but other than that it was a sea of untracked snow.  I suspect that run would be picked as a favorite in the group today.  The snow wasn’t especially deep, but there was plenty of it for bottomless turns and the density worked out pretty well.  We went with Adam’s Solitude next, and had the fortune to meet Steve from thesnowway.com.  We had an enjoyable run with Steve, and I even managed to sneak in some ski-related conversation.  I’ve avoided Adam’s Solitude over the past several weeks, not being really sure that it had the coverage I want to see in there, and based on what I saw today, it really needed this latest storm.  I know that Steve has been visiting a variety of resorts this season, and it’s great that the recent snowfall brought him over to Bolton for some turns.  I see that he’s already written up his report from the day, so click on over and check it out.  Hopefully Steve can get back for another Bolton trip to check out Wilderness (the Wilderness Chair was down on wind hold today) and some of the backcountry.

An image of Dylan and Ty skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The boys teaming up to shred the great snow on Spell Binder today

Dylan was really hankering’ a waffle from the Waffle Cabin – in the spirit of what we were calling his hobbit-style “second breakfast”.  We made our way over only to find that the Waffle Cabin was closed, but we went for an inside snack nonetheless and had a good time sitting by the fire.  We made a Vista run after that, and I directed everyone to Devil’s Bowl… or at least close.  We overshot it a bit and ended up skiing the trees off to skier’s left, but there was a lot of untracked snow in there.  Ty called for a return to Timberline, which went over pretty easily with everyone else since the winds, which were definitely howling at the top of Vista, were notably lower down there.  We caught the lower part of Tattle Tale on the return, and noticed three guys that were actually skiing Upper Tattle Tale – but the Tattle Tale headwall looked really bony from wind scouring and they were essentially skiing around it on the edges of the trail.  Lower Tattle Tale had some decent powder, but a lot of tracks on it.  Fortunately even the previously tracked snow was good, and Ty said he liked it a lot.  We decided on one more run before breaking for lunch, which included the Intro Trees followed by a trip through Doug’s Solitude.  That run was mostly satisfying Dylan’s request to see a lean-to that E and the boys had built during the summer a couple of seasons ago in the Timberline Mid Station area.  It’s still standing, despite the deep snow.  The boys launched some nice airs at the end of those lines though – Ty’s was very smooth with a nice sloped landing, and Dylan’s was flatter with a couple of tiers.  We did discover though that the route back to the Solitude traverse needs some definite trimming this off season as it’s got a lot of small vegetation clogging the lines back there.

An image of Dylan dropping off a cliff into the powder while skiing at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan on a drop in today

After lunch it was the Wood’s Hole/KP Glades show for the boys.  We took the first run with E and she stuck to the trail because her legs were getting a bit cooked for too many more Telemark turns in the steep trees.  The boys were looking to drop some cliffs, and drop them they did.  They were so excited that we hit two more rounds in there even after Mom called it quits for the day and headed for the lodge.  The boys were definitely in the zone during that afternoon session, and the vibe was good because they kept feeding off each other and the whole scene.  The powder out there was set up well for dropping off the various ledges and cliffs – I checked a number of times and was getting depths of 22 inches where snow hasn’t been disturbed during all these recent rounds of snowfall.  Landings were very soft, although Ty did have to walk away from one that I judged just a bit too dangerous with a log and a rock in the landing zone.  He was all set to charge it based on what he saw from above, but once he got down and had a look he thanked me for the warning.

It was a wintry March day today, not especially cold with temperatures in the 20s F, but brisk enough with the wind that the pond skimming had to be postponed.  This cold weather is really keeping that powder in great shape however, and we’re not worried because we know that spring weather will come eventually.  Until then I say keep the snow flying to make up for the slow January and February.  The season is still below average on snowfall (~90% of average at the house), so even though the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake sailed above average to 82 inches today, we’ve still got some catching up to do in that department.  We could actually be in for a repeat of last night’s snow tonight.  Winter weather advisories up for the Northern Greens for as much as 10 inches of snow, but we’ll have to see how that plays out – so far the radar hasn’t really seemed to light up the way it did last night.

Bolton Valley, VT 21MAR2013 (Evening)

An image of Dylan making a Telemark turn in powder snow while E looks on at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Back at Bolton Valley for another round of powder in the evening

E had been talking about getting another evening of skiing in at Bolton Valley before the season ended, and things came together today to make it happen.  I’d initially forgotten about the potential plans when she called me at work this afternoon, especially since I was somewhat satiated and ready to get a lot of work done after a great morning session at Timberline.  Although I did have a lot of work that I wanted to get done in the evening, she said that the boys were interested in going up for some skiing as well.  It was hard not to jump at the opportunity if they were eager for some turns – an evening out on the slopes would probably be better for everyone than an evening of TV or similar indoor things.  Even if there isn’t an ongoing hefty storm to really sweeten the deal, conditions are pretty darned good after the recent snows, and temperatures haven’t been too bad either.  As we chatted on the phone, I began to describe the fantastic turns that I’d had this morning, lamenting the fact that they weren’t there to experience the powder.  But, as we began to plan the evening, I suddenly realized that they actually could get out on that same snow.  We’re into daylight savings time and past the spring equinox now, and there’s light in the sky until 7:00 P.M.  The evening plans began to shift, and pretty soon we were discussing the logistics of an evening Timberline run.  I initially thought that we should just skin up like I’d done in the morning, until E pointed out that it could be done much more quickly if we used the lifts and made it a sidecountry run.  That was brilliant of course, because it would be much faster for the boys than trying to do a full ascent under their own power.

“…it was the kind of snow
that made you just want
to keep going and going
with turn after turn, and
apparently that’s what I
did.”

Even with the relatively late sunset, time was still going to be of the essence, so we quickly decided on how to optimize our schedule.  E and the boys were at the house, just a few minutes from the resort, but I was farther away in Burlington.  Conveniently though, I still had all my gear right in the car from my morning outing; I could get into my ski clothes on the way to the mountain, and easily be there by 6:00 P.M. ready to go.  That would give us a good hour of light, which would be plenty of time for a lift-assisted lap on Timberline.

I made good time traveling from Burlington, and arrived in the Timberline lot a few minutes before 6:00 P.M.  That gave me enough time to park my car, get into my ski boots and outer layers, and have all my gear ready to go by the time E and the boys arrived.  They picked me up and we headed up to the Village.  There were no concerns about leaving a pair of “driving boots” in the car (one of those logistical aspects that has almost caught us in the past) because I was already in my Telemark boots and I had two other pairs of boots/shoes in the car.  We were good to go.  E dropped me and the boys and all the gear off right at the base of the Snowflake Lift, and we got everything ready while she parked the car and got suited up herself.  It was fun to be on that end of the preparation duties, since I’m typically the one parking the car.  Within a few minutes we were on the Snowflake Lift heading upward, with the sun still well above the horizon.  Even without lights, the resort still had all the trails of the Snowflake area open because of the extended daylight, so we easily made it over toward Five Corners and up to the Timberline Summit.

Everything had gone smoothly on our part, but there were still a couple of potentially confounding factors with regard to the skiing:  1) since the resort is planning to resume Timberline lift service tomorrow, they had been grooming some of the terrain, and 2) even with relatively cold temperatures, it appeared that sun exposed areas on the western slopes had melted a bit due to the strong March sun, and that left a sun crust that we’d want to avoid if at all possible to get the very best powder turns.

An image of Ty skiing in powder down the Intro headwall area at Bolton Valley resort in Vermont
Ty’s “Intro” to some of the evening’s powder

The upper part of Brandywine had been groomed pretty thoroughly, so that only left a few options for powder skiing.  As I expected, we found that the shaded, skier’s left of the trail yielded the best snow – in most cases one could get powder that was just as pristine as what I’d found in the morning.  With some grooming having been done on both Showtime and Twice as Nice, Spell Binder gave the most available powder below the top section of terrain, and we made our way there.  Just like I’d experienced on Showtime in the morning, the Spell Binder Headwall was in decent shape aside from a little scouring at the very top – I’d say we have the easterly wind to thank for that.  As long as one stayed along that skier’s left, and fortunately there was plenty of untracked snow there, they were catching some very good powder.  Dylan, E and I focused our efforts on that area, while Ty, who had decided to go with his fat alpine skis, seemed to have no problem ripping up any part of the trail, regardless of whether it had seen the sun or not.  He was simply flying down the slope at times – at one point he said he was going so fast that he wasn’t even leaving a track.  I think a little sun crust might have been involved in that one, but he really did seem to be a kinetic blur most of the time off to our right, and he does seem to have elf-like abilities at time atop the snow.  Dylan had daringly chosen to go with his Telemark skis, and certainly struggled at times, but he also made some really nice turns.  E was initially disheartened with the performance of her fat skis on some of the packed terrain we’d hit on the way down, but they sure seemed to work well for her when she was in the powder – as they should.  I had no complaints, my AMPerages did heir amazing job in the powder, and even when I strayed a bit far toward the crust, they seemed to help me get on track with plenty of crust-busting power.  Like this morning, it was the kind of snow that made you just want to keep going and going with turn after turn, and apparently that’s what I did.  E thought I might stop at one point as we were farther down the trail to pass the camera off to her for some pictures, but she was surprised to see me just cruise right on by.  In reality though, pictures were getting tough as time wore on – the sun was going down and the light was getting quite dim.  Low light is the enemy of high speed photography, and we were pushing it even with using the DSLR.  We still got some decent shots out of the session, even if I had to crank up the ISO to somewhat grainy levels.  We definitely made the most of the light we had.

It was kind of neat the way things came together this evening to let us get in that late-day sidecountry run, and we’ll definitely have to keep these sorts of spring days in mind for future.  We’ve got more snow coming in over the next couple of days, with more fluff to top off what’s currently out there.  I think it’s going to be a fun experience as we balance out the new snow with which aspects and elevations have seen that bit of sun crust, but I’m sure there will be some great turns out there this weekend.

Bolton Valley, VT 21MAR2013

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Showtime trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Still reaping the benefits of this week’s nor’easter at Bolton Valley

Today felt like a blast from the past… well at least the somewhat recent past of the 2012-2013 ski season.  With a silent Timberline Quad, luxurious untracked powder on the slopes, and fat skis on the feet, it was just like being back in December.  That second half of December was one of the best stretches for ski conditions this season, and it was the early date combined with some mechanical issues on the Timberline Quad that left the Timberline area the realm of those earning their powder turns.  Now we’re on the other end of season, and as it begins to wind down we find that the Timberline Quad isn’t running every day.  So it’s back to earning Timberline turns, but with a more established base of snow, and a lot more sunshine.

At some point earlier this week I realized that the Timberline Quad wasn’t running, so with some extra time this morning, I made my way up to Timberline in search of powder.  Our storm earlier in the week produced a nice resurfacing dump with about a foot of synoptic density snow, and it’s been followed up over the past couple of days by some dry fluff to really top that off for some primo powder skiing conditions.  Skies were clear this morning, with temperatures in the mid teens as I pulled into the Timberline lot, and the sun was just trying to break the ridge that marks the top of the resort to the east.  There were a couple cars in the parking lot and I could see tracks on the trails indicating that people had certainly been out taking advantage of the snow.  Depth checks at the Timberline Base elevations revealed anywhere from 12 to 15 inches of powder above the subsurface, although I tended to get reading in the 10 to 12-inch range higher up where the wind may have pushed the snow around at some point.  The main skin track today was up Showtime, and it took a somewhat unconventional route right up the gut of the trail because it was made in someone’s descent track.  It was quite a good track though, well packed and devoid of any footprints.  I saw about a dozen tracks from other skiers that had descended in the Showtime area, but untracked lines were still quite plentiful.

All was quiet when I arrived at the Timberline Mid Station, although I eventually saw a couple of snowboarders and skier getting on with their descents.  One of the lift operators showed up and began to prep the mid station area for use, and when I asked him about the upcoming schedule for Timberline, he said that it was opening back up tomorrow.  That is of course a bittersweet occurrence – it means that we can get lots of Timberline runs, but gone are the runs of endless powder day after day.  I figured that at least I’d made it in time to catch “Club Timberline” mode.

I poked around over at Spell Binder, and it looked good, but I ultimately chose Showtime for the descent because that seems to be a bit harder to come by.  Another aspect of the day that reminded me of December was the fact that all the west-facing headwalls appeared to be filled in nicely, without the usual scouring that can accompany a westerly wind – there must have been some easterly component to the wind during our most recent nor’easter.  The Showtime Headwall looked like it had been treated nicely by the storm, so I dropped in with the confidence that I wasn’t going to hit anything below the snow.  I pushed hard into those steep turns on the headwall, and the powder pushed right back, cushioning each movement of my skis with a snowpack of ever increasing density.  The turns were so silky smooth and buoyant that I have to give the conditions at least a 9 out of 10.  It really was utter perfection in terms of snow quality; with the only thing one could ask being perhaps some deeper champagne and a bunch of face shots.  After one quick stop I rattled off turns down the rest of the run, with a cadence that lingered in my head long after I was done.

I really wished that E and the boys could have been there, because the scene reminded me exactly of an outing we had back on December 28th.  The sun was out and the snow was great, and I know that they would have loved it.  I drove away thinking about how I was going to describe the skiing to E.  It turned out that it wasn’t going to be that difficult; because little did I know at time, I was actually going to be right back on those slopes again at the end of the day…