“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
The arctic front that came through overnight dropped an inch or two down here at house, but 4 to 5 inches up on the mountain. It also brought in some colder air – single digits were reported on the Bolton Valley snow report in the morning. While that was cold enough to make riding the lifts less appealing, it sounded like some good temperatures for earning turns. Even though it’s already been a lengthy week of powder skiing, the allure of getting in another workout on yet more powder atop all the snow we’ve had over the holiday break was too much to resist.
I hadn’t thought that there would be much rise in temperatures today, but when I got to Timberline the temperature was already up to 15 F, so combined with the sunshine and minimal wind, it was much warmer than I’d expected. There were a few other cars in the parking lot, and I could see that several sets of tracks had been carved into the new snow at the bottom of Showtime.
The Twice as Nice skin track was in great shape; with the new snow already well packed by various skiers, the ascent was very quick. At the top I decided to head into Doug’s Woods through the upper entrance for a change of pace and to see if the snow in the trees was more protected from any winds. The snow in Doug’s Woods was fantastic, bottomless powder, but unfortunately it was just too much of it for some of the mellower pitches. I measured 24” of unconsolidated snow atop the base, and even with my fat skis I was moving slowly when the pitch wasn’t there.
I slid my way back to the car and was about to gear down to head home, when I noted the time and reconsidered. I had plenty of daylight left and it was just too nice out, so I headed up for another lap. I was feeling the rhythm on that one, and it only took about 20 minutes to ascend Twice as Nice proper. At the Timberline Mid Station I looked upward toward Intro and saw that it was pretty wind blasted, and that made the decision easy to descend from where I was. This time I opted for Spell Binder, which had just a few tracks on it. The headwall held great snow that really hadn’t been affected by wind. Snow was actually excellent from top to bottom, and there was enough consolidation from either previous rounds of wind or skiers that bogging down in deep powder on lower angle sections wasn’t a problem.
It’s been quite a holiday week for turns, with at least some new snow each day, and bigger shots of snow on some of them. This last snowfall actually put Bolton Valley past 100” for the season, and brought the Mt. Mansfield Stake to a depth of 46”, both good signs as we head into January. The next chance at snow appears to be this evening with some snow squalls from an upper level trough.
We picked up an unexpected 0.7” of snow overnight, and although not a significant dump, it never hurts to top things off with a little extra fluff. It was also a good reminder of the snowy pattern we’ve been in the second half of the month, it just seems to want to snow a lot. Starting on the 17th, we’ve had at least a trace or more of precipitation every day since then. There were no big plans for skiing today, but I still wanted to get in a workout, and it’s hard to resist all that powder that’s sitting out there. I figured I’d try a tour similar to the one I did on Saturday, starting and ending down at Timberline, with a trip to the main mountain in between.
It was pleasantly warm today, close to 30 F at the house when I headed up to Bolton Valley. Yesterday was on the chilly side, so when I walked outside and felt that air it seemed downright balmy. Up at the Timberline Base the temperature was a comfortable 26 F, and I could see that there was little chance of catching a shuttle to get up to the main mountain – there were only two other cars in the entire parking lot. There was a little activity taking place over at the base of the Timberline Quad as they presumably continued maintenance, but the overall scene was very quiet and subdued. There was a thick layer of clouds overhead, and combined with the low December sun angle, it was already quite dark even though it was only mid afternoon.
I followed the main skin track up behind the Timberline Base Lodge, and as it started to head up Twice as Nice, I broke off on a traverse toward Timberline Run. The ascent along Timberline Run was very quiet – there were no snowmobiles running backcountry laps, all I saw was a ski patroller drifting silently through the Corner Pocket Glades, and a lone dog that greeted me above some of the condominiums. A well-established skin track broke away on Lower Brandywine, so I decided to change up my route and make that ascent. Lower Brandywine looked quite appealing for turns – it looked like roughly eight people had made descents, but there was still plenty of powder and it looked well protected from any winds. Lost Boyz had seen a bit of traffic, but the Sure Shot Trees were totally untracked and looking might fine, and I made a mental note to think about that area for a descent.
At Five Corners I switched over to descent mode, but I still saw only a few skiers out in that area. The subdued vibe continued as I approached the resort, with the low clouds and quiet snow, the skiers I saw seemed to just blend in with the silence as they glided along. I cut into the Butterscotch Terrain Park and skied a bit of powder, but when I got onto some groomed terrain I was suddenly stunned by the way my AMPerages felt overly fat. It seemed like it was tough to get them up on edge, just like E was saying about her Elements. I realized that I hadn’t really skied anything but powder with them in a couple of days, and time spent on my narrower RT-86s on Saturday evening seemed to have exacerbated the sensation. I could also tell that one of my boots had a bit of sloppiness in it, and this was again in line with what E had noticed as she started skiing on her Elements. As soon as I hopped on the Vista Quad, I tightened up my boot.
The clouds had seemed low, and indeed they were because as I got above Mid Mountain I headed right into them and the world became hazy and gray. Despite the relatively early hour, the night skiing lights were already on, and they were actually starting to add to visibility. I found Cobrass already closed, presumably because patrol had already performed their sweep, so I headed down Sherman’s Pass and cut left to get myself heading in a southerly direction. I was able to reach the Villager Trees, and although it wasn’t a perfect approach, I was able to catch the new line I’d sought on Saturday. The turns were nice, although somehow not as fluffy as I’ve encountered in some areas over the past couple of days. There were plenty of additional good lines in there though, so I actually had some very nice turns in there, and it felt notably better than the way it did on Friday when it just seemed hard to get into a groove in that area.
I made a quick ascent of Villager, and debated strongly about trying a new descent on Brandywine due to what I’d seen on Lower Brandywine. However, westerly winds had finally hit the upper reaches there, and compacted some of the snow. Gone was the beautifully undisturbed snow that had been set down by the easterly winds the other day. At the junction with Intro, I saw that the next section of Brandywine was either tracked, hit with wind, or groomed, but it certainly didn’t have the primo powder that I was looking for. I continued on down Intro and made my way to old reliable Spell Binder. I could see that the plateau at the top of Spell Binder had been hit with some wind, but I think that the skier’s right had actually taken on a good shot of new snow due recent snowfall and winds. That area was as good as ever, providing heli-quality conditions just like these Timberline headwalls have been doing the last few days. I cranked turn after turn down the steep face, and just kept going until my legs were fried. I counted about 20 tracks on the trail of varying age and level of disappearance below recent snowfalls, but there’s still plenty of space for those that want powder turns.
I actually saw the Timberline Quad in motion while I was out there today, so perhaps they are making progress on it. It will be interesting to see what the schedule is for opening the Timberline area, but there’s awesome skiing to be had whether it’s open or closed. There are no huge storms on the horizon at the moment, but our next potential snowfall event comes in tonight with the passage of an arctic cold front.
Last night the back end of the storm cycle brought a change to much fluffier, upslope-style snowfall comprised of larger flakes that settled down in the 2-3% H2O range here in the valley. Unless there was excessive wind, the combination of that snow atop the denser, synoptic snow that we received yesterday, was likely to make for some fantastic skiing. With the upslope snow came colder temperatures; morning temperatures at Bolton were around 10 F, so we decided it was a good day to stay off the lifts and earn some turns instead. We contemplated heading out onto the backcountry network at Bolton Valley, but with Timberline lift service still on hold, it was better to take advantage of the terrain there while we still had the chance.
“The skiing was just turn after turn of bottomless powdery bliss, so I’ll just defer to the pictures and let them talk about it.”
E picked up Ty from his overnight visit at a friend’s house, and it turned out that he was really eager to come home and do some skiing. Dylan was also surprisingly excited to get on his Telemark skis and earn some turns, so we had to ride that wave of enthusiasm. I still had to trim the skins for E’s Black Diamond Elements, but by mid afternoon the skis were all skinned, the rest of the gear was ready, they boys had chilled out enough, and we headed up to Timberline. The snow from the end of the storm had tapered off in the morning, but not before Bolton had picked up another 10 inches of December goodness. It was a bit brisk at the Timberline Base, with temperatures in the lower teens F, and even a bit of wind, but we knew we’d be in good shape once we got on the ascent.
There were just a few cars in the Timberline lot, so it didn’t seem like the resort needed to use it for overflow parking today. The lots had been plowed, but there’s still tons of snow everywhere and we were able to skin right from the car. Ty and E were leading the ascent, and when they inquired with me about which way to go, I just suggested that they follow the most established skin track to make things easy. An ascent of either Twice as Nice or Showtime would work out fine. Twice as Nice wound up being the most travelled option, with one, and at times even two, well established skin tracks up the climber’s left. One had a few dog prints in it, but there were not footprints, post-holes, or even snowshoe tracks. The full-width skins on the AMPerages and Elements were working great, and E and Ty just blazed up the skin track at what felt like breakneck speed. I hung back with Dylan, who was feeling tired, and although I didn’t have any GU to get him going, once I pointed out that he had Grandma’s ginger snap cookies in his pack, and he ate one, he really perked up. Beyond that point he just shot to the top of our ascent and that was that. E and Ty were already waiting for us, camped out of the wind beneath the Timberline Mid Station. We pulled out the hot soup, and hot cocoa, and everyone had their fill while we prepared the gear for the descent.
Since I’d had such a good run on Showtime yesterday, we opted to descend there. Of course now it had yet another round of snow on it – in this case a nice shot of Champlain Powder™ to hopefully hit that skiing powder pinnacle of the right-side-up density gradient. I dropped in off the headwall and found that snow that was just as good as yesterday, but with that little extra bubbly champagne on top to make it even more fun. One exciting aspect of the outing was that the boys actually worked on Telemark turns in deep powder. They haven’t even mastered the on groomed terrain yet, but they were game to work them into their powder skiing, and they actually had a good degree of success. E got yet another chance to test out her Elements on their preferred surface, and she looked quite good on the challenging step and deep conditions of the Showtime Headwall. We had late day sun illuminating our descent at times, or lighting up the tracks with an afternoon orange glow (enhanced all that much more by our amber goggle lenses). The skiing was just turn after turn of bottomless powdery bliss, so I’ll just defer to the pictures and let them talk about it.
Earlier today when I was heading up for some afternoon skiing, E suggested that we should go night skiing because it looked like the snow and weather conditions would be good. We’re always on the lookout for that convergence of fresh snow, moderate temperatures, and low wind for time under the lights. So, as soon as I was done with my afternoon session, I picked up E and Dylan at the house and we headed to the main base area at Bolton Valley for some turns. Indeed E was right on with the conditions; the trails were chock full of new snow, temperatures were in the mid 20s F, snow was falling, and there was no wind. Those are just the sort of conditions that we’ve found to make night skiing at Bolton Valley especially enjoyable. The Snowflake Chair was running, so I dropped E and Dylan off there for some runs while I parked the car and got ready. There were good parking spots right in the top tier lot, and while I was getting ready I heard a familiar voice helping someone get their car out of the snow. It was Will, one of our BJAMS benefactors who lives up in the Village. We chatted for a while about the snow, the wonderful conditions, and various other skiing-related things.
Eventually I made my way to the slopes, and met up with E and Dylan after they had finished their third Snowflake run. Dylan was working on his Telemark skiing and doing a nice job – this was his first session on the 118 cm Völkl Gotama Juniors that he inherited from Ty, so it was a step up in size for him. E was excited to be back on some skinnier skis after being on her fat Black Diamond Elements for a couple of days. We took a run on Sprig O’ Pine, and the snow surface was indeed fantastic – packed powder and powder everywhere, and there were only a few people out on the slopes. Dylan insisted on riding the lift alone… because he could, but it meant that E and I got to ride together. We made a trip up the Vista Quad and were able to take the upper part of the Vista lift line at the start of our run. I think they’ve removed some stumps and other debris to make it more skiable, and boy was it nice. It’s only partially lit, so it was a bit of an adventure making turns, but the powder was great. The whole trip down Sherman’s Pass was just one soft turn after another, and Mother Nature continued to pile it on from the sky as well.
We went back to Snowflake for a run in the Progression Park, and those were some of my favorite turns of the night. I’d pulled out my RT-86s for the evening session, and after several days on the AMPerages I’d forgotten just how lively a narrower, midfat-waisted ski (86 mm) could be compared to skis with a relatively fat profile (115 mm waist) on snow that wasn’t bottomless. Being back on the RT-86s made for some really fun carving in the powder and chowder. One way to describe the conditions from tonight were that they were the sort that made you never want to leave.
When Dylan’s hunger overcame his desire for turns, we headed into the lodge and got some pizza at Fireside Flatbread. Gone were the crowds of yesterday, although there was one large group of 15-20 people at a large table. That’s our third time at Fireside Flatbread in three days, and Dylan seems to be enjoying it – it’s really convenient to pop in there and get a slice, and it’s really good flatbread. Dylan was in rare form, chatting about everything and carrying around some comical cocky persona that was just too funny. He was indeed having a lot of fun out on the slopes, and the saying he adopted to describe the evening was “Lights, Powder, Action!”
We finished off the evening with one more run in the Progression Park, where Dylan invented an interesting technique in which he turned both directions in the same Telemark stance – it was quite original, although I’m sure it’s a drill of some sort that folks have used. Right as the lifts were closing, the small snowflakes that had been with us all evening changed over to larger, upslope-style flakes, and they were beautiful under the lights. I stopped for a few pictures before we headed to the car, one of which was a tree that was entirely encrusted with rime. I shot upwards to get the tree and some of the big snowflakes against the black of the sky, and it was an interesting image. It was a fantastic evening on the slopes, and I wish we could get conditions like that all the time at night; I’m sure we’d be out there much more often.
Our latest winter storm started up in Waterbury around 10:45 A.M. today, with the snow coming in as small flakes that accumulated slowly – generally in the ½ inch per hour range. I gave the snow a few hours to accumulate and then headed up to the mountain for an afternoon session of turns. After seeing how busy the mountain was with holiday visitors yesterday, I decided to park down at Timberline and take the shuttle up to the main mountain, or if the shuttle wasn’t running, skin over via Timberline Run and Timberline Lane. My plan was to ski over at the main mountain and then finish my session with a run back down to the Timberline Base. Ty was away at a friend’s house, but E and Dylan thought that we should do some night skiing since the conditions looked so stellar, so it looked like I’d be picking them up at the house as soon as I was done with my tour.
As I drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road, snowfall was light but steady, with probably a bit more intensity than what we’d been getting down at the house. I found about an inch of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) as I parked the car, and it didn’t seem like the resort had much parking taking place there, because there were only about a dozen cars present. While I was booting up, I saw a snowboarder finishing up a run, and he asked if I knew whether or not the shuttle was running like it had been yesterday. He had just made a run down through the Timberline terrain and was hoping to catch a ride back up to the Village. I told him that I unfortunately didn’t know about the shuttle, but that I’d been there for about five minutes and hadn’t seen any sign of it up to that point. Enough time had passed by the time I was suited up that I figured either the shuttle wasn’t running, or it wasn’t running very frequently. In either case, I was happy to get in the workout of getting over to the main mountain under my own power, so I strapped on my skins, wished the snowboarder good luck, and headed on my way out around the back of the Timberline Base Lodge.
Just as I crossed behind the lodge I could see that work was actively being done on the Timberline Quad, with several chairs removed, so I assumed that that was at least part of why the resort hasn’t started lift service on Timberline yet this season. My ascent was very smooth along Timberline Run – the groomers have been out doing their thing throughout parts of the Timberline area, so even with all the new snow of the past couple weeks, I had a nice firm base for skinning. Also, I’ve finally fit my Black Diamond AMPerages with some full width skins, so they were sticking like glue to the snow surface and I was no longer having to deal with the slippage that’s come with using the narrower skins for my Atomic RT-86s. In terms of the new skins, I once again went with G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins – I’ve not found anything that I like better. Many of the retail shops around here seem to be carrying Black Diamond Ascension Skins, but I got a pair for Ty’s (now Dylan’s) Telemark skis and they just don’t stack up to the Alpinists. The Ascension skins are fine on glide and grip as far as I can tell, but they are stiffer so that they don’t seem to fold up as well, they have a more standard style tip loop that is nowhere near as versatile as the clips on the Alpinists, and worst of all, the metal tail clips seem to easily fall off the tail adjuster. We’ve already lost a couple and had to replace them. The Alpinist tail clip doesn’t fall off because of the way it’s designed, and on this new pair of skins they have even improved the tail clip further to give it a really nice “cam” style attachment method. Also, the Alpinist skins come pre-sized for length, so all you do is trim the width to fit and you are good to go. For the AMPerages (as well as for E’s Black Diamond Element skis) we had to go with the 140 mm width skins to accommodate the 139 mm tips of the skis. 140 mm is the widest I’ve seen available in the Alpinist skins, but they are a fantastic fit, and I’m not slipping anymore. I’m absolutely convinced that full width is the way to go though, especially on fat, rockered skis that may ride the edges of skin track grooves because of their width and lose some contact surface because of the rocker. As an avid user of various pairs of Alpinist skins, I expect these new ones to be bomb proof just like the others; you can put them on and forget about them, and that’s the way it should be.
Anyway, the ascent continued to be a delight with the new skins doing their thing, light to moderate snow falling, temperatures in the mid 20s F, and zero wind. It was another one of those perfect winter days to be out on the slopes. As I approached the corner of Timberline Run below the junction with Sure Shot, I noticed some folks out along the trail with a few dogs. I’m guessing that they lived in one of the many houses along the resort, and it turned out that they were running ski laps on Timberline with a snowmobile. The laps were fast too, the snowmobile must have passed me three times while I was finishing my ascent up toward Five Corners. Cutting the corner of Timberline Run via one of the access trails, I peered up into the Lower Sure Shot Trees and things looked quite nice in there.
At the Five Corners junction I stowed my skins in my pack, got into descent mode, and headed down to the main base area. The number of visitors seemed much more modest than yesterday, and the area had a mellower vibe. Snowfall that had tapered down a bit during my ascent made a notable resurgence by the time I’d reached the base, so I was eager to see how the snow was coming down in the higher elevations. I jumped on the Vista Quad, and from the Vista Summit made my way over to Cobrass to begin working my way back toward Timberline. Conditions on the Cobrass headwall were OK, but it definitely seemed to be showing some wear and tear form a day’s worth of traffic, and slick spots were plentiful. Below that though, surfaces were in excellent shape. More snow had definitely fallen in the higher elevations, but I didn’t get a good measurement to provide a number. I jumped into the Villager Trees and tried to check out a new line that I’d explored in the off season, but I didn’t quite hit the one I wanted. I’ve got a better idea of where it is now though, so next time should be closer. Snow in there was good, but as we found yesterday, this synoptic-style, medium-weight snow seems more easily affected by traffic.
I headed up Villager to get to the Timberline Summit, and the snowmobile crew was still running their laps at what seemed like a breakneck pace. I have to think those folks got in a lot of vertical today. Descending along the skier’s left at the top of Brandywine, and continuing on to Intro, I was simply blown away by how good the snow was. That east wind settled so much snow in there! Turns were perhaps even better than yesterday with today’s extra snow on top. To mix things up, I opted for Showtime below the mid station, and there were only a few tracks on the whole trail. Man, the snow on that headwall was SO DEEP! I hammered those turns as hard as I could and there was just no bottom to be found. I did a quick check on the depth and found 26 inches of snow above whatever base layer sat below, and since the snowpack has now got plenty of this medium weight synoptic snow in it, it can take whatever you can dish out. Even without Champlain Powder™ on top, those turns down Showtime were some of the best of the season so far; they just went on and on and on with smooth, buttery fluidity. Combined with the snow falling and dusk setting in, it was one of those great runs I’ll remember for a long time. Another fellow was just approaching the headwall as he was skinning up, and he was hooting and hollering with joy as I approached on my descent. He said that he’d been waiting all week to hit the slopes, and I let him know that he was going to be in for quite a run. I definitely wanted to go back for another lap, but darkness was in the near future and I had to get E and Dylan for night skiing.
Back at the Timberline Base I saw that indeed the shuttle bus was running today, so I’m assuming that snowboarder made it back up to the Village. I called up E and let her know that I was on my way to pick them up for night skiing – the snowfall had actually intensified, so things were looking really good for some snowy night skiing under the lights.