I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns. Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple. There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.
As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage. That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches. Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area. The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.
That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around. While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling. Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive. I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building. I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well. I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.
I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak. I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.
Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area. The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed. The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.
Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May. From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next. That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.
It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns. It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.
As soon as I left the house and rounded the first corner on Route 2, I was shown a bright visage of white-covered peaks across the valley. These elevation-based snowstorms typically produce some great views, and the accumulations from this one varied a bit with aspect, so that made for some exciting scenery as I headed through the Winooski Valley.
Once I was on the Bolton Valley Access Road, the first traces of white appeared at roughly 900’, and the accumulations slowly increased to 2-3’ at the Timberline Base, and 3-4” in the Village. Temperatures were below freezing from probably 1,000’-1,500’ on up, so the new snow above that point was dense, but dry. There was a notable jump in accumulations just above 2,000’ or so as the profile below shows. Above that though, there wasn’t a lot of increase, so presumably the snow line crashed down to that ~2,000’+ level pretty quickly without spending a lot of time at 3,000’+.
Here’s the accumulations profile observed on this morning’s outing:
“I’d planned on a quick tour over in the lower elevations of the Wilderness area, but once I was over there out of the wind, I saw that the accumulations were solid enough to warrant a more extended tour into the higher elevations.”
I’d planned on a quick tour over in the lower elevations of the Wilderness area, but once I was over there out of the wind, I saw that the accumulations were solid enough to warrant a more extended tour into the higher elevations.
As mentioned, the snow was dense but dry, so it skied fairly well. On 115 mm fat skis I was typically sinking in a couple of inches, and there was a surfy consistency to the setup that really let you have some fun and smear your powder turns easily if you wanted. The snow provided plenty of cushion for low to low/moderate-angle terrain, and up above 2,800’ or so, old snow and snow bridges were still in place, so that made any water bars less of an issue.
“As mentioned, the snow was dense but dry, so it skied fairly well. On 115 mm fat skis I was typically sinking in a couple of inches, and there was a surfy consistency to the setup that really let you have some fun and smear your powder turns easily if you wanted.”
There were a few folks out and about in the Village, but out on the mountain itself it was pretty quiet. All I saw was a red fox that ran in front of me on Lower Turnpike, and a guy on a fat bike up near the summit. I was surprised to see him up at that point because there was a half foot of snow, and due to their weight those fat bikes are total dogs with respect to climbing, so I’m sure he’d put in plenty of work. There were some packed areas of snow due to resort operations traffic and wind scouring, so I’m guessing he made good use of that.
We’ve had a few nice snowstorms over the past few weeks, and this latest one was a nice way to kick off the month of May with a ski tour.
Since daylight lingers so long into the evening now, I stopped off at Bolton on the way home from work today for a ski tour. I hadn’t had the time to get out yesterday, but it kept snowing much of the day today as well, so this gave me the chance to see how all the snow had accumulated from this most recent April storm. Valley temperatures had edged a bit above freezing in the afternoon, but on the mountain the temperatures were down in the 20s F.
Accumulations from this storm went right down to the lowest valleys, and even the broad, low valleys down near sea level like the Champlain Valley had accumulations that stuck around. At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~340’ there were a couple inches of accumulation, and naturally, the depths just went up from there. The wind had kicked up by this afternoon on the back side of the system, and that really pushed the snow around a lot, but using the typical calmer, unaffected spots, here’s the accumulations profile I observed during today’s outing:
“So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches.”
The snow from this storm was certainly not as dense as what last week’s storm delivered, but the initial accumulations were substantial enough to set up a good base, and then in typical Northern Greens style, the upslope came in after to boost the depth and polish things off. Overall, the snow put down by this storm cycle was right side up, just as PF noted in his post at the American Weather Forum. We picked up roughly ¾” of liquid equivalent at our site, and I’d say they’d had at least 1” of liquid in the snow on the mountain. So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches. There was also still some snow left from the previous storm in spots, so that bolstered up the base a bit more.
Anyway, turns were great with the right-side-up deposition, with midwinter consistency all the way down to the Village areas at ~2,000’ this afternoon. I didn’t tour down to 1,500’, but even there at the base of Timberline the snow was still powder as of early evening.
Since the snow totals from our latest storm were a bit higher to the south of our area, E and I decided to mix things up a little and head down to Pico for some turns today. The accumulating snow levels for this storm in our part of the Winooski Valley were generally around 1,000’ or so, and you could tell that the snow line was a bit lower as you headed south. The lowest elevations of the White River Valley were still generally devoid of snow though.
Pico certainly got a nice shot of snow from this system. With temperatures above freezing at around 2,000’ in the base area, it wasn’t surprising that we were seeing a bit of melting and consolidation there. In general, settled new snow depths we found around the base this morning were in the 9-12” range. There were about 40 to 50 cars in the main parking lot this morning, and some were from people who were staying in the lodging areas there at the base, but many were also from folks who were there for some skiing.
During our ascent we found that the new snow depth increased quite quickly on the bottom half of the mountain, and at times it felt like every 100’ of vertical we’d climb we’d find another inch of depth. It wasn’t quite that quick, but by the time we’d hit the 3,000’ elevation range the depth was in the 15-17” range. The snow depth didn’t increase nearly as quickly on the upper half of the mountain, and it topped out around 18” up around 4,000’. Here’s the rough snow depth profile with respect to elevation:
As the elevation profile data suggest, you’re essentially looking at a foot and a half of new snow on the upper half of the mountain – and it is certainly not fluff. There’s got to be at least two inches of liquid equivalent in that new snow, so there’s been a full resurfacing up there (or in places that didn’t have existing snowpack, a full recovering).
Up on the mountain it also snowed during the entire time we were out on our tour from mid-morning onward. The snowfall was generally light in intensity, but increased with elevation and was borderline moderate at times up near the 4,000’ level. You could see that the new snow, and/or other recent snow from the later part of the storm was helping to take a bit of the density out of the topmost layer of snow up high. The best turns were unquestionably up in the 3,500’ to 4,000’ elevation range, where you had a few inches of drier snow atop the rest of what the storm left. I’d say that may have been where the freezing line was located at that point, so you had dense, but dry powder for the top few to several inches. Below that, there was an increasing density gradient, but it went pretty quickly to snow that was 10%+ H2O in the vein of typical winter-style Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete. It was still quite skiable though, and you’d certainly sink in several inches, so it wasn’t that super dense stuff that has your just riding on the surface.
All told though, since there’s a foot and a half of that snow, you’ve got a bomber subsurface in place. We spoke with a guy who told us that the 49er and Pike were the routes with the best snowmaking base before this storm, so they were good options in terms of coverage, but it really didn’t matter. With 2+ inches of liquid equivalent in place, you could pretty much ski anything you wanted. There were water bars to watch out for the lower you went, but even all the way back down to the base elevations, you could ski just about anything, whether it had existing base or not. The challenging part was handling the denser/wetter snow down low, and fat skis or a snowboard were unquestionably your tool of choice. Width was the best bet in general for the most fun riding, but especially down low where temperatures were above freezing and the snow was getting a bit wetter.
For the best quality turns today, laps on the upper half of the mountain would have been a good bet if you had the time, but experienced skiers and riders would be able to handle the lower mountain conditions. We skied the bottom half of the mountain with a couple of older guys on fat Telemark gear like us, and it was well past manageable; the turns were definitely fun even in that wetter snow.
As I mentioned, it was snowing most of the time above the base elevations, and to further reduce the visibility we were often well up in the clouds on the upper mountain. This of course made the ski photography a fun challenge up high, but I’d say we still got some nice images to document the experience.
Today our plan was to play Tennis with Dylan in the afternoon, but that plan fell through once he realized that he had to work. So, moving on from that option I decided to get some exercise by heading back up to Bolton to catch that run on Hard Luck that I’d missed on Friday.
Temperatures were definitely a bit cooler today than yesterday, with more clouds around, but it was still plenty warm to keep the snow soft. Hard Luck is nearly continuous except for a small area near the top, but from there on down it has solid coverage that runs right into Sherman’s. There’s still top-to-bottom coverage on the main mountain via the usual Sherman’s route to Beech Seal, but it’s getting close to a gap near the middle of Beech Seal. So, I don’t think coverage on the main mountain will be continuous through next weekend with these reasonably warm temperatures in the forecast over the next few days, unless we get a substantial spring snowstorm down the road to cover up the bare areas.
On a whim, I put in a call to The Mad Taco Bolton to place an order when I was done with my tour. I figured they would be closed, since lift-service at the resort ended last weekend, but they were open! I talked with the associate for a while when I placed my order, and this was their last day of business for a few weeks while they do some remodeling, but they’ll be opening back up in May for the summer season. So, it looks like they’re planning to run year-round up in the Village supplying great Mexican food for the area!
Today I headed to Stowe to go for a tour on Spruce Peak, and again the weather was simply sunny and fabulous. I hadn’t been to the resort in a while since we didn’t have our school’s ski program this season due to COVID-19, so I poked around the Spruce Peak Village for a bit first. There’s a huge new building going up where the ski patrol building was at the base of the Sunny Spruce Quad, so that’s another substantial addition to the village area. I’m not sure what’s going to be going in there, or if it’s more lodging? As usual, the crowd of folks earning turns was in the MMSC lot, and I found about a dozen cars or so there and ran into Shalagh, who was there skiing with some of her friends. You almost can’t help but run into someone you know on these days.
All I can say is that Main Street delivered what were unquestionably the best turns of the weekend, and probably the best corn snow I’ve skied the entire spring season so far. I’m not sure what it is about Main Street, but year after year after year, it just seems to deliver superior corn snow. Maybe it’s because it faces south and really starts its corn snow cycling early, or maybe it’s because they blow that massive amount of dense snow for the racers, or maybe it’s because it gets so much less traffic than the trails on Mansfield. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors, but it just delivered ridiculously smooth, perfect peel-away corn snow turns when I was there.
In terms of the ascent route, Main Street is really the best option with respect to continuous coverage for skinning, but those steep pitches are rough. Despite the tough ascent, my legs felt great making Telemark turns on the way down. Everything just seemed to flow, and I’m sure a lot of it was the quality of the snow. The snowpack there seems quite deep, and it’s definitely worth more trips while that snow is around.
The weather over the past several days has been great, and I guess we sort of lose perspective in how we can often be battling marginal temperatures and cloud cover to even get these nice warm spring days in April. We’ll certainly take them when we can get them.
With this continued run of pleasant weather, I headed up to Bolton this afternoon to check out the spring snow and get in a few turns. I wanted to take a run on Hard Luck since I knew the snow there was fairly deep and probably just about continuous to make for a nice steep run. It’s funny, but Spillway, which is a usual the big spring holdout with snow in terms of steep terrain on the main mountain, isn’t really an option at this point. Mother Nature covered it up enough on her own this season that I guess the resort decided to save the money and skip the snowmaking there. Hard Luck did look good as I passed by on my way up Sherman’s Pass, but I was a little too tight on time to fit it in my tour, so I ended up skiing a moderate descent on Sherman’s and Bear Run.
It was a nice run, but I’ll have to see if I can get up for another trip to try out Hard Luck!
Today was Bolton Valley’s last scheduled day of lift-served skiing for the 2020-2021 season, so with some nice spring weather and a bit of time, I stopped up for some turns this afternoon.
Today we’ve definitely transitioned from the wintry, powder conditions of Friday and Saturday, back to spring snow conditions. On untouched terrain, the snow from our recent storm was a bit sticky, but on terrain that had seen skier traffic, I actually found some of the best corn snow of the season. I had good turns on Hard Luck and Beech Seal, and there seemed to be some additional trails opened up today after ski patrol had assessed the combination of new snow and softening that came together. I did traverse out to the Snowflake area to see what opportunities it held, and ended up taking Sprig O’ Pine back toward the main base – it had seen some grooming and seemed to offer the best turns.
In the parking lots, the warm weather meant that spring tailgating was in full effect, and folks seemed to be trying to practice their social distancing and stay with their specific groups. Around the base area, you could hear lots of conversations related to the final day of lift-served skiing, and I’m sure the employees are ready for a nice break after the extra stress of dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and precautions all winter.
After finding such nice conditions yesterday, E and I headed up for another session at Bolton this morning. Based on the forecasts I saw, those temperatures and humidity should have preserved the powder beautifully – and they definitely did; the powder was just as good as yesterday. It seemed to have settled a touch, but all the liquid equivalent was all still there, so it kept you off the subsurface and skied just as nicely.
The groomed terrain on the upper mountain that had been blasted by the wind yesterday was much improved today, I guess due to another round of the groomers pulverizing it with the new snow mixed in, and this time without the winds scouring it away.
We were talking about how the resort’s essentially come full circle on the season as it often does, and we’re back to the way it can be in November and early December when the focus is on the main mountain, but the other pods that aren’t open have enough snow to ski. All you have to do is traverse out to the powder.
We both remarked at what a fantastic late winter day it was, with the powder, the Colorado blue skies, and humidity to match. We were just starting to find a few spots in the direct sun where the powder was beginning to get sun-affected around midday when we were leaving, but it really was holding up quite well with these low humidity levels.