“Well let’s just say, the turns were fantastic – we had medium to moderately dense midwinter powder covering everything, temperatures near 30 F, and an almost fully untracked resort to ski.”
It’s spring vacation week for E and the boys, so E was able to join me this morning for a tour in the new snow up at Bolton Valley. We’ve had substantial accumulations of snow all the way to the valley floors with this latest storm, so I knew the potential was there for some dry, winter-style snow up at elevation. We headed out this morning amidst light snow at the house, and arrived in the Bolton Valley Village to steady snow and temperatures in the upper 20s F. A quick check on the new snow in the parking lot around 2,000’ revealed accumulations of 5 to 6 inches.
We started skinning right from the car up the Lower Turnpike ascent route, and found a decent skin track in place with just a couple inches of additional snow in it. We eventually worked our way over toward Vista and the depth of the new snow continued to steadily increase with elevation. By the time we topped out above 3,000’ on Alta Vista, my depth checks on the powder were revealing 10 to 11 inches. We de-skinned by the trees out of the wind, and E was pretty slick with her ski-on skin removal.
On the entire ascent the snow quality was looking really good, but you never quite know how things are going to ski until you drop. Well let’s just say, the turns were fantastic – we had medium to moderately dense midwinter powder covering everything, temperatures near 30 F, and an almost fully untracked resort to ski. Wind effects were pretty minimal on much of the mountain so it really was a dense, velvety resurfacing that skied like a dream. It’s definitely a good time to get out there and enjoy those uncrowded slopes with all this new snow.
With the continuing snowfall during today’s tour, I went with our Sonar Blue lenses for my Anon M2 Goggles. They’ve got 46% visible light transmission and are recommended for graybird days and tree skiing, but they were definitely a good fit for today even with snowfall since we’re talking late-April light.
In an update from this afternoon, eyewall noted that he encountered about 7 inches of new snow at the Bolton Valley Village elevation, so it sounds like they’d picked up another inch or two with the additional snow since E and I had left. That would put accumulations near the summits around a foot, so it’s definitely been a nice April event for the mountains around here.
A modest winter storm came into the area on Friday and left up to 8 inches of new snow at the Vermont ski areas. Bolton Valley was reporting 3 inches up top, which seemed like a fairly minimal covering over the base snow that’s seen plenty of spring cycling, but we figured it was worth heading up for a couple of runs to see how the accumulations had settled in. Sometimes 3 inches can ski like 3 inches, or sometimes it can ski like more, depending on how it was distributed and how densely it settled.
Ty and I headed up fairly early to find bright April sun among some on and off clouds, and temperatures in the upper 20s F. We took an initial run on the Snowflake Chair to make our way over to the Vista Quad, and while we found the groomed terrain was skiing nicely, we didn’t really find that the snow was enough to get the skiing shaped up off piste, at least down there below the 2,500’ mark.
We still wanted to check out how accumulations had played out at the Vista Summit up above 3,000’, and Alta Vista revealed a few good turns off the usual protected left side, but they were in the minority. We headed over toward Wilderness and did find some nice turns in the Wilderness Woods, but as Ty nicely put it, “You just couldn’t trust it on every turn”. Indeed you could get a few nice turns on low angle terrain, but then you’d run into a spot that had been hit by the wind and you’d be back to contacting the hard spring surface below.
“I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.”
The opening of the Wilderness Lift had been delayed a bit due to winds, but it had recently opened as we approached the bottom, so we figured it was worth at least one trip. It was running slow due to winds though, so we dropped off at the mid station and headed down Cougar. I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in. We had first tracks on the lower part of Cougar as well, and where the snow was undisturbed by the wind the turns were quite nice. We finished off dropping in and out of the Wilderness Woods, and for some reason, (perhaps the bright sunlight, or perhaps the deep spring snowpack?) they just seemed very open and smooth everywhere. There were very few tracks in there, so we had our pick of fresh lines. You still couldn’t “trust” every turn, just as Ty had said earlier, but we definitely had some good smooth lines through the trees in many spots.
In line with the bright April sun, Ty and I both had a chance to try out the Sonar Silver lens for the Anon M2 Goggles. It only lets through 6% of the visible light, so it’s even darker than the Sonar Red lens that we’d used last weekend at Magic Mountain, which lets through 14% of the visible light. We swapped between the two actually, but you could definitely notice the difference – you could easily look toward the sun with the Sonar Silver lens and not be too strained, and I can see it’s going to be another great one for these types of bright, late season days.
“…Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.”
We finished off with a trip to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab some subs, and it was around lunchtime, so a crowd was building. Although temperatures were wintry today, and there was some wind, that April sunshine easily warmed you up and you could see that folks were generally quite comfortable out there on the slopes. It looks like temperatures will be warming up next week for some spring skiing, and Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing. From what I can see in some of the weather models, we may not be quite done with snowfall in the mountains yet either.
The weather has been a real roller coaster ride over the past two to three weeks. We were in the deep freeze over the holiday week and the first week of January, so while the snow quality was great, air temperatures and wind chill values just didn’t make for comfortable skiing. Winter Storm Grayson hit the area in the January 4th through 6th timeframe and dropped roughly 10 inches of snow here at the house, but the temperatures that followed were still too frigid to make great use of all the snow. Temperatures finally moderated this past week in association with Winter Storm Hunter, but the early part of the storm brought a mix of precipitation, so the skiing wasn’t great at that point. Frigid air once again came in right after that storm, but mountain temperatures finally moderated into the teens today, so Ty and I made a quick trip up to Bolton Valley in the afternoon to check out the ski conditions.
Bolton picked up about 5 inches of dense snow on the back side of Winter Storm Hunter, and that actually did a pretty decent job of resurfacing the slopes, but the snow and sleet were still dense enough that the resort wasn’t comfortable opening ungroomed terrain. From the Vista Summit, Ty and I tried out Alta Vista, which of course was fairly scratchy in its steep upper section being the end of the ski day, but the snow that had accumulated on skier’s left from traffic was quite nice. We actually helped a gentleman who was in well over his head and stepping down that first steep section of the trail. Although Alta Vista is listed as an intermediate trail, that first section is clearly a black diamond pitch, and even more challenging than that when it’s been scraped down after a day’s worth of skier traffic. We ventured off into the lower part of the Vista Glades, and low to moderate angle terrain that was untracked was really quite smooth. In general the off piste turns were beautiful with that dense covering of a couple of inches, as long as the pitch didn’t get too steep. We considered heading over to check out the lower parts of Wilderness, which are loaded with that sort of terrain, but just didn’t have enough time before the lifts closed. All in all though, if you didn’t get out this weekend, you weren’t really missing anything too spectacular – conditions are well below average. Temperatures are remaining nice and wintry, so freshly groomed terrain I’m sure is making for some fantastic carves, but we’ll need another nice shot of snow to get the off piste back in prime form.
“Any of the Anon MFI System equipment has magnets in it that automatically link to the bottom of the goggles and makes a perfect seal.”
One extra fun aspect of today was that Ty finally got to try out the combination of his Anon M2 Goggles and Anon MFI Tech Balaclava that he got for Christmas. For those unfamiliar with the goggles in this system, a unique aspect is that the lenses are held in with magnets. So, you can pop them out with a quick pinch of the frame and change them in seconds, but the magnets are quite strong, so the lenses never pop out unless you want them to. Another part of the system that is ridiculously slick and ingenious is the balaclava. You know that gap you always have between the bottom of your goggles and your balaclava or neck warmer? Well, you don’t have it with this system, thanks to more magnets. Any of the Anon MFI System equipment has magnets in it that automatically link to the bottom of the goggles and makes a perfect seal. Ty had been asking for a balaclava will full face coverage, so this system was literally perfect for him. Today’s benign, but reasonably cold conditions were a great chance for him to test out the system to see how it performed for him, and he loved it. Hopefully it will serve him just as well on his next chilly, storm day. And hopefully, we’ll get the weather to stabilize into a more typical pattern and have some of those days soon!
Temperatures hovered below zero Fahrenheit for highs in the mountains last weekend, and without any major storms or ski program obligations due to the President’s Day holiday, there wasn’t much incentive to get out and ski; so we didn’t. This weekend though, things have been a bit more hospitable. An Alberta Clipper system has been moving along north of the international border since yesterday, and it dropped 4 to 6 inches of new snow for the Northern Vermont resorts overnight. Fresh snow and comfortable temperatures up in the 30s F certainly sounded appealing, so Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley for some midday runs today.
A quick check of the Bolton Valley snow report revealed that even the Timberline area was open, and it would be our first chance to visit it for lift-served turns this season. We even thought of basing ourselves out of there, but ultimately decided to head all the way up to the main base to facilitate picking up some lunch at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery afterwards. Parking was fairly easy; even though it was 11:00 A.M. we only had to go down to the third tier in the main Village lot because there was only a moderate number of skiers at the resort.
We decided to check out as many sections of the mountain as possible to assess conditions, so we started with a quick trip up Snowflake to make our way toward Timberline. Timberline Lane and Timberline Run didn’t really inspire us with regard to conditions – it wasn’t great either on or off piste. Despite the mild weather, the groomed terrain was strangely hard, sort of that like that hard but wet surface that you can encounter on the lower slopes of Whistler Blackcomb. There was fresh powder off piste, but unfortunately below ~2,000’ it was just a bit too sticky to be fun. I was hoping that the surface conditions we’d encountered there were not going to be all the mountain had to offer today, and fortunately what we’d experienced was the worst we were going to see. We did a Timberline Mid Station run on Showtime because we could immediately tell as we rode the lift that the conditions looked nice. Indeed the turns were awesome on Showtime, because if featured soft packed snow that wasn’t at all sticky. I’m not sure what combination of grooming, timing, or skier traffic led to such disparate conditions on routes at equivalent elevations, but whatever the case, Showtime was great fun.
“Indeed Wilderness Lift Line held several inches of fresh powder in spots protected from the wind, and there were perhaps a dozen tracks on Lower Turnpike.”
We continued our tour by heading back to the main base and riding up the Vista Quad. Temperatures were below freezing up high and the powder was very much in midwinter form up there. We headed toward Alta Vista, and Dylan and I jumped into some of the dense trees off to the skier’s left to explore some lines. There’s not really much there because the evergreens are really dense, but with E spotting from the trail we found a couple of open spots to catch a few turns and there were 4 to 5 inches of protected powder in there that made the experience quite fun. Back on piste, skier’s left of Alta Vista before the first turn was filled in with 8 to 10 inches of soft snow, so we all enjoyed that.
We made our way over to Wilderness after that, figuring that traffic would be fairly light over there. Indeed Wilderness Lift Line held several inches of fresh powder in spots protected from the wind, and there were perhaps a dozen tracks on Lower Turnpike. The powder turns on Lower Turnpike were smooth and creamy, until about the last couple hundred feet above the Village where the temperature had risen enough to cause the powder to become sticky.
Our run led us right down to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery where we picked up some sandwiches to bring home for lunch. With temperatures above freezing down in the Village, it felt more like a March or April day vs. February, but it was really nice to be able to change out of our ski boots at the car in comfort – unlike what it would have been last weekend (or the way things were much of last season). It looks like there are a couple more potential storms in the pipeline for this coming week, so we’ll see how they play out with respect to snow.
It started snowing last night on the front end of our current storm system, and although we only had about a half inch of snow here at the house, the mountains picked up a good 3 to 4 inches containing some real substance. I hadn’t prepared much of our gear ahead of time since I was unsure whether or not this storm was going to deliver, but everyone got up and rolling pretty quickly once we’d made the decision to hit the mountain. I checked the Bolton Valley website for the latest on the lifts and trails, and our timing was looking good because lifts didn’t start running until 9:00 A.M. It really feels like it’s a holiday today because we’re so close to Christmas and school is out for E and the boys, but at for the resort it was just a standard midweek day. We don’t get to ski a lot of those though, so we were excited for that.
Precipitation had been a light mix of snow and rain, but it had generally tapered off by the time we arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village. I dropped E and the boys off at the Village circle and was able to easily grab a parking spot right in the top lot because there were only a couple dozen cars in total. Apparently today really was just another midweek day. I met E and the boys near the back of the base lodge and we headed up to Vista for a run.
As we rode the lift you could immediately see that the resort had been plastered with snow overnight. The evergreens had a fresh coat of white that added yet another layer on top of all the rime and snow they already held, the groomed slopes looked great, and even the off piste was supplying quiet turns. It wasn’t until we got near Spillway that we could hear skiers contacting the subsurface, so we knew that the new snow wasn’t quite enough to support bottomless turns on the steepest pitches. Temperatures were comfortable at just a few degrees below freezing, but there was a stiff wind as we got into the higher elevations.
I’d read that Schuss was the run of the day, so for our first run we headed down Alta Vista to make our way toward Schuss. There was a bit of scouring at the very top of Alta Vista, but below that the groomed snow was excellent. Of to the skier’s left we found several inches of fresh powder, with as much as a foot in some spots. We’d been prepared to just take a run or two if the conditions weren’t that great, but it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen; the conditions were simply fantastic. Down on Schuss we did come in contact with the base in some spots since it’s quite a steep trail, but fresh snow was plentiful as there was only a track or two or two before we got there. On the lower mountain we caught Bull run to Moose Run to Glades, and the trails were either totally untracked or had a track or two on them. Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what those midweek days are like. As we hit the last hundred or so feet of vertical above the base lodge, you could really feel the snow starting to get a bit wet, so the freezing level must have been rising.
On our next ride up the Vista Quad, Dylan proposed that we each take turns picking a route to ski, so Ty went next. He followed up with another trip down Alta Vista, taking us through the lower parts of Vista Glades, and then finally over to Fanny Hill. We really got to rip up the powder there along the skier’s right, dodging in and out of the trees. I stuck with Ty in that powder right along the edge, and by the bottom of the run my legs were definitely getting cooked from Telemark turns.
Dylan’s run choice was next, and he stuck with an Alta Vista start, eventually brining us to Sleepy Hollow. He’d wanted to get in there on our first run, but now that everyone was warmed up, we were ready to rip through those trees. If anyone had been in there up to that point, they must have been few and far between, because it looked like the whole glade was untracked. I directed the group to some lines I know off to the left, and some seriously good turns were had by all. There was no problem with the new snow keeping us off the base on those pitches. Kudos go out to Dylan for a great run choice.
The fourth run was E’s selection, and she really didn’t have much of a preference aside from visiting the Glades run again; she’d really started to connect with her Tele turns there and wanted to get more of that type of terrain. So, for the upper mountain we dropped into Show Off, and we got images of the boys skiing around the rock with the big smiley face on it. On the upper half of Snow Off, the pitch was steep enough that we were making contact with the base snow, but on the bottom half of the run, the pitch had mellowed just enough to let us float through our turns quite well. Glades was nice and still held plenty of untracked snow, although the snow on the bottom half was starting to get a bit wet as the freezing level seemed to have risen.
It was approaching midday after that run and we broke for lunch at the James Moore Tavern next. The bar was hopping, but there were only a few tables with people at them. I had their grilled tuna sandwich, which was nicely done, although I’d probably opt out of the Dijon mustard-style sauce next time since it’s not one of my favorite flavors. Dylan got the homemade macaroni and cheese, and in his case he definitely had to get it with the optional bacon. I tried some and it was really good… and really rich. We had enough extra that I even had to run leftovers down to the car.
We decided to take a final run after lunch to see how the Wilderness area was doing. We took the Vista route over, but were surprised to see that the Wilderness lift was actually running. That meant that the terrain wasn’t quite as untracked as it might have been with just Vista access, but there was we caught some good lines on Work Road and in Wilderness Woods. The freezing line had continued to creep upward though, so the quality of turns in the lowest elevations had dropped a bit more.
There’s no doubt that the morning offered the best turns of the day today, and that was the time to be out because they were really good. Temperatures are going to be warm with this system for the next couple of day before they cool down, so some snow will be required at the point to get surfaces back to something soft. There are some chances for snow though over the next week, so we’ll see what falls.
“The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base.”
Temperatures were in the upper 30s F down in the Winooski Valley with light rain/mist, and as I headed westward through Bolton Flats, the intensity of the precipitation picked up. The rain changed over to snow at ~1,200’ on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and first signs of new snow accumulation were at the Timberline Base at 1,500’. I suspect that accumulations had reached lower based on that image that PF showed earlier from 800’ in Nashville, but it seemed like the snow line had already risen a bit by the time I was up there. As I continued to ascend the road beyond the Timberline Base, the deciduous trees took on a picturesque coating of white, and gradually the ground began to fill in with white as well.
The Village was quiet as is typical for late April, and as I pulled into the upper lot near the base lodge, I saw a skier just returning to his car after a run. We chatted for a bit, and he said that he’d just come down Cobrass and that the skiing was great. I looked around and saw what looked to be about an inch of fresh snow atop all surfaces, and even the base snow appeared to be soft. Unsure of exactly what I was going to find, I’d brought both fat and mid fat Tele skis, and after finding out how soft the subsurfaces were, I felt confident that going with the fatter AMPerages was the call. I strapped on skins and headed upward, just as another car with three skiers arrived to take the place of the lone skier that had just left.
Light snow continued to fall as I began skinning up above the lodge, and I could see that skier traffic had been very light. There were signs of just a couple of skiers that had skinned up in the new snow, and a couple of addition sets of footprints from people that had hiked. As I was ascending near the top of Beech Seal, a skier passed me on his descent, and I definitely liked the sound of his turns… or more appropriately, the lack of sound as he came by. That quiet schuss was a good sign regarding the subsurface below the new snow, and I with the good coverage I saw, I made a note to consider Beech Seal on that part of the descent. At Mid Mountain the depth of the new snow was about 2”, and I continued over toward Cobrass on my ascent to see what that other skier had experienced. I don’t think I’ve ascended Cobrass yet this spring, so it also gave me a chance to use that route. I could see the other skier’s descent track, and pretty quickly I knew that descending Cobrass was not going to be the call for me. With its southern and western exposures, there was just too little base in various spots. I suspected things would be much better on a trail with northern exposure. I could see that the Cobrass Café picnic table had reappeared from its winter burial; it’s been looking a bit worse for wear over the past couple of seasons, but it’s hanging in there.
At the Vista Summit, I checked the depth of new snow again, and it was right around 3”. There were actually no tracks of any kind over near the patrol house or the top of the Vista Quad, and it was just pristine snow, so I suspected that whatever trail I chose, I’d be able to get first tracks. I downed a GU and some water, switched over to descent mode, and headed down Alta Vista. Aside from the wind scoured section along the skier’s right at the top, the base coverage was wall to wall, and the new snow on top was wholly untracked. The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base. I was very happy with my ski choice, as the AMPerages were in their element – I was planing pretty quickly atop the dense snow, and had a lot of fun drifting some of my turns. The new snow was only partially bonded to the subsurface, so you could easily let it slide as much as you wanted as you sloughed the snow away.
I thought about a number of options once I was down to Sherman’s Pass, but stuck with Sherman’s because I was sure of the base snow. It also meant that I could catch Beech Seal, which I knew was a sure thing. The turns on the lower half of the mountain were good, and certainly soft, but the upper half of the mountain took the prize for conditions. The temperature had risen at the base since I’d started my tour, and I could see that much of the snow had melted out of the deciduous trees down at the Village elevations as I departed. The snow line had risen another few hundred feet as I was heading back down the mountain, so it was definitely one of those days to get at it sooner rather than later. It’s actually continued to be a slow April in terms of snowfall, but the forecast does show the potential for additional shots of snow in the midweek period and then next weekend, so we’ll see if we get anything like this event in the next several days.
“Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind.”
The temperature was still in the low 20s F when I rolled into the Bolton Valley Village this morning, and it looked like midwinter as much as it did mid April. I began skinning right up the well established skin track on Beech Seal, and as one might expect from a well consolidated skin track, it meant that the surrounding slopes had seen plenty of ski traffic. There were some nice looking turns out there though – I saw some beautiful, smooth looking powder turns in the low-angle terrain coming out of the Jungle Jib terrain park. New snow depths and ski conditions were fairly similar to what we found yesterday at Stowe – I found 3 to 5 inches of new snow on the lower half of the mountain, and around a half foot up top near Vista Peak. Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind. In the usual spots, the new powder was scoured down to the crusty surface below, so I could see that it was going to be one of those days where choosing aspect, trail, and trail side, was going to be extremely important in seeking out the best powder turns.
“Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder.”
The skin track took me up Sherman’s, Schuss, and finally Alta Vista, to where I stopped just below the top of the Vista Quad beneath where the snow was all scoured away. The skier’s left of Alta Vista offered up some nice powder turns, although I still encountered some areas of wind-packed snow. I ventured off into the lower reaches of Vista Glades, and found some smooth turns there, since the snow was generally protected. Having seen so many tracks and plenty of wind affecting the trails above the base lodge, I headed over toward Wilderness for the bottom part of my run. Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder. Like yesterday, the turns weren’t completely bottomless, but there were still a lot of them, and I was happy to have the AMPerages and their floatation to help out. The Village was still incredibly quiet as I was heading back to my car, but I did run into Josh as he was heading into the office. He’s already getting ready for next season, enjoying a quieter scene now that the lifts have stopped. Based on the snow that’s up there though, there’s still plenty of skiing to be done this season.
Our latest winter storm to come into the area was lean on cold air, bringing the potential for mixed precipitation into the picture. The northern Vermont resorts managed to get some snow accumulations though, with 5 inches reported by Bolton Valley in the morning. Well ahead of opening, they announced that the Vista Quad was starting on wind hold, and that Mid Mountain would be the early lift. So, I threw my skins in my pack before heading up to the mountain.
The temperature was around 35 F in the valley, and only dropped a degree or two as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road. Accumulations of snow on the road naturally increased with elevation, and by the time I got up to the Village, you could see that the plows had cleared away some dense, wet material. The precipitation at the base was a mist of light rain with occasionally heavier bouts.
As I approached the base of the mid mountain chair, I ran into Quinn, who was just coming down from a run. Our conversation noted the wet weather, and you could tell by the state of Quinn’s outerwear that he’d been out working in it. He said that skiing was lots of fun though, and that was a good sign. The state of the skiing on the lower mountain was quickly confirmed during my ride on the mid mountain chair; beneath my feet, I watched a couple of ski instructors on Beech Seal cut beautiful arcs through the fresh layer of dense snow. The chairs of the mid mountain chair were in quite a state – they had icicles all over them from freezing rain, and it seemed like the icicles were enhanced as the chairs went through repeated cycles of freezing and thawing on their circuit up and down through various elevations.
At mid mountain, I’d just strapped on my skins and started upward, when I heard a sled approaching. It was Quinn, and he gave me a quick lift to the Vista Summit on his way to check things out. The temperature dropped below freezing, and the depths of new snow increased as we headed upward. My depth checks revealed as much as 6” of new snow up top, with the caveat that it was a bit tough to tell where the new dense snow ended, and the old snow began. The only downside, and unfortunately it was big one, was that a fairly thick crust had formed on the snow in the higher elevations due to some rain falling into the colder temperatures. Because of this, I stuck to the groomed Alta Vista for the first part of the descent. The groomed snow was much easier to manage, but it was still firm with a layer of ice on it.
I next followed Swing over to Wilderness, and ran into Quinn again as he was making his way about the mountain. I filled him in on the conditions I’d experienced on my descent from Vista, letting him know that ski condition in the lower elevations were actually much better because of the lack of crust. I made a depth check of the new snow at that Wilderness Mid Station (~2,800’) and found roughly 4 to 5 inches. Below the Wilderness Mid Station was where the turns really started to get nice. I got into that beautiful snow that I’d seen the instructors and others skiing on Beech Seal, and cut some nice arcs. It was really interesting to have the skiing improve with every turn I took downward in elevation, because it’s often the reverse due to deeper snow accumulations up high. Since I’d found that some areas in the trees on the upper mountain had been protected from the freezing rain, I dipped into the Wilderness Woods briefly to see how they were skiing. Down at that elevation, it really didn’t make much of a difference, so I quickly ended up back out on the trails since they had large expanses of untracked snow.
I rode the Mid Mountain Chair again, this time heading out on Deer Run and over to the Butterscotch Terrain Park. I ended up just skiing the park, since it wasn’t open and had plenty of fresh snow. Usually, with the more limited terrain, it’s not great when the Vista Quad is down and the main option is the Mid Mountain Chair, but with the way the new snow was set up today, it was almost the perfect option. I didn’t stick around too long this morning because I wanted to get home and dry my gear to get ready for Stowe in the afternoon – I was certainly eager to see how Mt. Mansfield fared in this latest storm.
Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains. We haven’t had much in the way of large storm cycles up in the Northern Greens this season, so this was our largest to date, and it showed some interesting distributions with respect to snowfall density. Some areas received extensive periods of large, fluffy flakes, and other locales had some very fine flakes that fell as very dense snow. For instance, the first round of the storm at our location on Thursday night delivered some very dense, 13% H2O snow. That’s actually just what the snowpack needed for building. Whether the snow was dense or not, in the end, the mountains received well over an inch of liquid, and that liquid equivalent was really what was necessary to bolster the natural snowpack. It was enough snow that Bolton Valley had finally opened all the terrain at Timberline, and we were psyched because that had been an inordinately long time coming this season.
“Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains.”
We decided to get a relatively early start on the mountain today, and even though we weren’t expecting the Timberline Quad to open until 10:00 A.M., when we drove by at 9:30 A.M. it was already running, so we pulled right in and parked. There were a couple of dozen cars in the lot, but it was still fairly quiet. That was good, because being a holiday weekend, having the biggest storm of the season just hit, and then having great weather to enjoy it, we were worried about how many people were going to be out. It was business as usual though at Timberline, with no lift queue and just a small group of people out to hit the terrain.
During our first lift ride we could see that the snow looked quite good, and there had definitely been a major resurfacing of the slopes. People had skied the area yesterday, so it wasn’t entirely fresh snow, but there were plenty of untracked areas, and a few more inches had fallen last night to cover even areas that had seen traffic. With almost two feet of new snow having fallen at Bolton Valley, we planned on hitting a lot of the steep off piste terrain that we’d yet to ski this season, so E decided to go with her fat alpine skis instead of Telemark skis. The boys had their powder skis, and I had my fat Teles, so we were ready to tackle whatever Pax had delivered. We had really great weather to enjoy the snow too – the temperatures were in the upper 20s F, there was no wind, and a little snow associated with our next storm system was floating through the air and adding a fresh coating to the slopes.
“The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top.”
Everyone took turns choosing trails, and E kicked things off with Twice as Nice. That turned out be a great idea for a warm up. The trail was generally tracked, with some untracked snow off to the sides, but there had been such a thorough resurfacing with all the dense snow that it hardly mattered where you went. I was really feeling my AMPerages bust through the heavy snow with gusto, yet at the same time they were light and quick – I was really happy with the combination of skis and snow because everything just seemed to flow. On our next ride up the quad, E commented on how we’d had the entire trail to ourselves for the whole run, except for a ski patroller who seemed to enjoy watching us from the side and generally surveilling the lay of the land in a very casual way. Next up was Dylan’s choice, which was Adam’s Solitude. I’m glad Dylan chose that early, because while the snow was quite good, a few bare spots were already starting to make their presence known. It was easy to see that once the trail received a bunch of traffic, the skiing wasn’t going to be quite as free and easy as what we were experiencing. With the rugged terrain present on Adam’s Solitude, it’s going to take another couple synoptic storms to really get it in shape for lots of skier traffic. The roller coaster section that the boys love at the bottom is already in great shape though, and they had a blast. I really enjoyed mixing in Telemark and alpine turns as the terrain dictated, and today was one of those days where mixing both techniques on the fly just came rather easily.
It was off to the main mountain next, where in order to add some fun in getting over to the base of Wilderness, we did a run off the Mid Mountain Chair. I treated E and the boys to a run through Glades Right and Nixon’s; both areas had great snow and coverage, and the boys were impressed. Wilderness was finally running today, and I led E and the boys on an attempted run through Super Snow Hole, but it was tough to find the entrance and we had to settle for regular Snow Hole. There had been very little traffic on Snow Hole, and it could actually use a bit more people venturing in to pack it down a bit with the generous depths of the recent snows. Ty called for a run on Turnpike, with an entry via Cougar, which the boys said they always seem to ski during the Olympics. They made sure to practice their Olympic victory “raising of the arms” at the bottom.
Since the boys had really earned some lunch after the morning’s adventures, especially the off piste venturing around in the deep powder in the Snow Hole area, we got a pie from Fireside Flatbread and some appetizers from the downstairs cafeteria. The lodge was definitely packed, and that’s not surprising on a Saturday of a holiday weekend.
The afternoon started with a run through the “trifecta” of Buena Vista, Dynamite, and Sleepy Hollow. The snow was excellent, and traffic had been fairly light. Dylan requested a run through the Progression Park, and then we headed back toward Timberline to finish off the day. I was amazed that we’d seen Upper Tattle Tale open, and from below it looked somewhat scoured, but Lower Tattle Tale was really good. The Twice as Nice Glades were OK, but still a bit bony, and I’d actually say that they are due for a round of brush clearing. I took everyone down Quintessential, but it definitely needs a couple more storms to really be ready.
You really couldn’t ask for a much better day today, with such great fresh snow and weather. The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top. At some point there was some dry fluff in there, and then some snow with smaller flake fell on top. You’d sometimes find areas of untracked powder where you could drop right through that middle layer. The fat skis were definitely the tools to help with that though, doing a great job of keeping you floating vs. sinking under the topmost layers of dense snow. In terms of base, essentially everything is skiable, but I’d like to see a couple more synoptic storms to get the base wall to wall on all the steepest and most rugged natural terrain. Being mid February, that should really be expected by this point, but when snowfall is somewhere south of 80% relative to average, and January has multiple warm storms, that steep, natural terrain in the lower elevations just isn’t going to be flawless yet. We’ve actually got some nice fluffy upslope snow falling tonight in association with the next winter storm called “Quintus”; we’ll have to see how much the mountains can pull of the sky to top off what’s out there.
When Bolton Valley reported another four inches of snow this morning, we knew that we’d be heading up to make some turns. That amount of snow, on top of the four to five inches that I’d found when I visited the mountain yesterday, was definitely going to bring the skiing up a notch. As it turned out, it brought the skiing up several notches and turned it into what was for us, unquestionably the best ski day of the 2014 calendar year. That’s actually not saying much with the way the past few weeks had gone in terms of weather around here, but when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.
“…when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.”
The approach of an arctic front brought an inch and a half of snow to the house overnight, but as the cold air continued to filter in, more snow was wrung out, and we received snowfall of various intensities through the morning. Snow was falling up at the mountain as well, and with updates on the website indicating that new trails were opening, it sounded like conditions were getting better and better. While we had initially started to discuss both skinning and lift-served options for today’s outing, the opening of new terrain sealed the deal in favor of the latter; we knew that meant that the recent accumulations had resulted in substantial changes in coverage. In the end, with so many additional terrain options opening, it was clearly the right choice.
We finally headed up later in the morning to find the parking lot only about half filled, and after dropping E and the boys off at the base of the Snowflake Chair, I quickly got a great spot to park down near the end of one of the top rows with help from one of the parking attendants. I’d spoken with him before, and as I got my gear on, we chatted about how nice it was to have some consistent temperatures back – the past few weeks have been a real roller coaster with systems passing though off to the west, and he said that he had to pack a ridiculous amount of clothes each day just to keep up with the weather. In any event, winter was definitely in place, and as I look around at the falling snow and ski vehicles covered in white, it was a much more familiar look for the Northern Greens in winter.
By the time I got to the base of Snowflake, E and the boys had already completed a couple of runs, and Ty was raving about the conditions. They’d taken Butterscotch, and Ty said that there was powder off to the sides, but even if you didn’t go into the powder, the conditions were great. We hit one more run there, and then boarded the Vista Quad to hit some steeper terrain. We spent the midday hours trying out the steepest available terrain like Spillway, Hard Luck, and then Alta Vista. Not surprisingly, there were some firm surfaces on the middle areas of the trails where manmade snow predominated, but off to the sides where traffic was low, the snow was generally softer and there was plenty of chopped up powder and even untracked powder at times. The skier’s right of Spillway held a lot of great snow over the edge of the trail where the terrain fell away.
After a few runs, E was getting a bit cold, and Dylan was ready for a break, but Ty was just too jazzed to go in. He wanted to stay out with me and shoot some photos, so I told him that I had two specific runs in mind. We kicked things off with a run down Spillway, where he dissected all the potential powdery lines off to the skier’s right, coming up with his own lines and photos that he wanted me to shoot. He was one fire on that steep terrain, taking on everything, even the occasional massive death cookie that got sent that way from the groomers. On our next run we headed over toward Wilderness. Although Swing was roped off, closing the upper entrances, another track was available off Sherman’s that gave us some lower access. I checked the snow depth as we headed over, and found 10 inches of settled powder. The Wilderness Lift Line was in nice shape with plenty of coverage and plenty of powder, and Ty managed some nice face shots.
We stopped in the lodge for some lunch with E and Dylan, and then brought Dylan out for one more run in the powder on Wilderness. They boys got some deep turns on Cougar, followed by a delightful cruise through the powder on Turnpike. Actually, we had to use the tracks of others at times on Turnpike, because the powder is now getting almost too deep for some of the pitches there. The snow had let up, and the sun came out for that final run to really punctuate the day. The coming week is looking quite cold, with single digits for high temperatures, but at least the snow is going to be well preserved for the near future. It was interesting to note what Powderfreak said in the Ski Tread at American Weather – that this week we just managed for the first time in 2014 to have an average snowfall week here in the Northern Greens. With that being the case, an above average week should be really fun.