Bolton Valley, VT 28APR2020

An image taken from Interstate 89 of Mount Mansfield in Vermont covered with snow after a late-April snowstorm
An image of sunshine and snow on evergreens after a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sun came out and offered brilliant views of the fresh snow today at Bolton Valley.

It cooled back down overnight, and with continued snowfall, I suspect the snow levels dropped based on the fact that it was down into the 30s F at our place in the valley.  I would have liked to see where accumulations stood as of this morning, but I had a car maintenance appointment, so I couldn’t stop by the Village until about midday.  All that new snow at elevation made for some impressive views as I drove on I-89 returning from Burlington, and I stopped at Williston Southbound Information Center in I-89 to get a few images of the Green Mountains.

 

An image of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont taken from the Southbound Information Center on Interstate 89 near Williston after a late-April snowstorm
Looking out from I-89 in Williston today toward the snowy slopes of Bolton Valley

By the time I got up to Bolton today I’d say accumulations were generally back to what I reported yesterday, so accumulations were really only beginning to appear up near the Bolton Valley Village elevations.  Temperatures had risen well above freezing by that point as well, so the snow was getting quite wet and dense.  As the brilliant late-April sunshine appeared, it felt downright hot out as I was touring.  The sun created fantastic views of the fresh snow gleaming white on all the trees, and the views had an almost midwinter feel.  The temperatures and sunshine had the snow pretty quickly melting off the trees on aspects facing toward the sun, so the sound of dripping water and crashing piles of snow was the most prominent thing accompanying me on my tour.

With the new snow getting quite wet by the time I was out, the descent portion of the tour was pretty much just a free ride down with a few turns here and there, but there weren’t really notable powder turns like we had yesterday.  It was of course still great to be out in the fresh snow getting exercise on such a beautiful day.

We’re almost on to May now, but it does sound like snow potential is going to stay around for a couple of weeks with the weather pattern, so we’ll see what Mother Nature brings us.

Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2020

An image of the Wilderness double chairlift taken during a ski tour during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow on the trees during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our current late-season snowstorm has been bringing a lot of snow to the higher elevations, with already over a foot of fresh powder on the mountain as of this afternoon.

We’ve got another late winter storm taking place in the area, with fairly high snow levels up around 2,000’.  As of this morning, the Bolton Valley live webcams were suggesting new accumulations of an inch or two at 2,100’, and perhaps a couple more at 3,150’.  The Vista Summit new snow depths were hard to judge though, and it was still snowing, so I planned to head up in the afternoon to check out the scene and get some exercise of my schedule allowed for it.

Although I haven’t seen it being an issue at Bolton Valley, we’ve purposefully stayed off the mountain for the past couple of weeks as we learned that the local ski resorts have asked people to refrain from touring because of potential crowding at base areas.  As of today though, with the strong positive strides Vermont has made in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through its social distancing, Governor Scott took another notable step in relaxing the restrictions.  The new order states that, “Expanding on Addendum 10, outdoor businesses, construction operations and recreation maintenance work may operate with a maximum of five total workers per location. (Effective April 27).  It’s only outdoor work that is being phased in at this point, but that makes sense to ramp that activity up first where people are not in the close confines of interior spaces.  With respect to the pandemic, we’ve been fairly lucky here in Vermont with our small total population, and relatively low population density, so the spread of the virus appears to be on the decline locally.  Modeling was already reflecting the positive trends here as of 10 days ago, with Vermont being one of only four states that could potentially begin loosening social distancing measures as early as May 4th.

“…the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.”

From down here in this part of the Winooski Valley, even this morning at the coldest part of the day, you wouldn’t know that there was a solid amount of snow falling with this storm if it weren’t for some of the resources like Bolton’s webcams.  I don’t think I’ve seen a flake here at 500’, and even our local hills surrounding the valley that top out around 2,000’, don’t have signs of white on them.

An image of the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort at an elevation of approximately 2,000 feet above sea level with some fresh snow from a late-April snowstorm.
Accumulations were just starting to take hold today in the Bolton Valley Village Elevations around 2000′.

Seeing what was on the webcams though, it was obvious that snow was falling and accumulating at least down to the elevation of the Bolton Valley Village.  My trip up the Bolton Valley access road allowed me to get a sense for what was going on with the accumulations.  I knew the snow line had to be way up there, but I just kept climbing and climbing, and there were no signs of new snow anywhere.  The first signs of old snow from the remaining winter snowpack were around 1,400’, but even at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, the precipitation was all rain.  The rain didn’t even change over to snow until about 1,900’, just before I reached the Bolton Valley Village.  That’s also right about where I saw the first accumulations of new snow taking hold.  The snow accumulations picked up quickly with 1-2” at the main parking lots at 2,000’ and 2-3” at 2,100’ near the base of the main lifts.

An image of ski trail signs and trees covered with snow during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
Dense snow was sticking to everything with today’s storm, and accumulations quickly grew as I ascended on my ski tour.

The snow was dense, but not really wet, and the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.  Thankfully there were some skin tracks to use, because as the depth of new snow surpassed a foot, breaking trail was tough in many areas.  The skiing was definitely challenging in the dense snow, akin to the snow from that storm that Erica and I encountered when we skied at Schweitzer Mountain Resort back in 2001.  This storm didn’t drop four feet of that dense stuff all at once, but I’d brought my mid-fat Telemark skis because I hadn’t anticipated the depths I found, and my fat skis would have certainly been the better tool for the conditions.  Some of the best turns I had on my mid-fats today were actually in the middle elevations around Five Corners, where the snow depths were still more than plentiful for bottomless turns, but not so deep that they pushed your skis around with strong resistance.

Here’s the full accumulations profile for this storm as of ~5:00 P.M. based on what I saw up to the Village and beyond.  It gives a pretty good sense for the elevation ranges with the largest jumps in accumulation, but on average it looks like once accumulations took hold, they increased by more than an inch per 100’ of elevation gain:

340’:  0”
500’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,500’: 0”
1,900’:  0-1“
2,000’:  1-2”
2,100’:  2-3”
2,300’:  4-5”
2,500’:  8-9”
2,750’:  11-13”
3,000’:  13-14”
3,100’:  14-15”

An image of snow falling at the base of the Snowflake lift during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
The snow was still pouring down at the base of the Snowflake Lift when I was leaving after my tour today.

It was still dumping at the base when I left, and the radar has shown continued precipitation tonight, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see those numbers increase a bit more by tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 11APR2020

An image of Erica and Dylan skiing powder together during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With additional snowfall overnight, depths of new snow on the mountain today were hitting a foot or more, and Dylan was making quick work of the fresh powder riding Mom’s fat Telemark skis.

Although I headed out on yesterday afternoon’s ski tour alone because I was unsure of just how good the snow was going to be, my concerns turned out to be quite unfounded.  With 4-5” of fresh snow at Village elevations, and 8-9” up top, the power skiing was already good to go… and Mother Nature was only making it better.  Yesterday evening, the upslope snow continued to crash into the spine of the Greens, and as temperatures came down, we began to pick up accumulations in the valleys again.  With the snowfall anticipated to continue overnight at all elevations, it was definitely going to be worth getting the family out for a tour.

A close-up, wide-angle image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontMorning revealed some additional snow accumulation at our house at 500’ in the Winooski Valley, and as we climbed the road up toward Bolton Valley we could see that the snow levels had indeed come down compared to what I’d seen on my tour yesterday.  After whatever settling occurred since that point, total accumulations at 2,000’ in the Village were now up to roughly 8”.  We topped out at around 2,800’ on today’s tour, and accumulations are a foot plus from there on up.  The elevation profile from yesterday’s tour is updated below with the addition of today’s total new snow depth numbers, which are in bold below:

340’: 0” –> 0”
600’: —–> T
900’: T –> ½”
1,000’: ½-1” –> ½-1”
1,500’: 2” –> 5”
2,000’: 4-5” –> 8”
2,500’: 7” –> 9-10”
2,800’: 12”
3,000’: 8-9” –> 12”+

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E said that she really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the skiing today – it was certainly the type of snow where you could just set yourself on autopilot and go.

So with depths of new snow hitting a foot or more in the higher elevations, and snow continued to fall during our tour as well, the skiing was of course even better than yesterday.  Indeed, the snow was deeper and drier, and the turns were even more bottomless and effortless.  We saw a few other skiers out there on the slopes, but traffic was quite light and fresh tracks were in great supply.  I gave Dylan my Canon EOS 30D with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens, so we had a couple of cameras available to document the outing, and it was great to be out with the family.  Ty was working in the morning, but he would definitely had been there if he was free.

Bolton Valley, VT 10APR2020

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Bolton Outlaw trail after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fresh snow from an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the current storm ongoing, a trip to the higher elevations revealed that there’s already been a solid coating of fresh snow put down

As the forecasts have been hinting at over the past several days, a late season winter storm has moved into the area as we close out the week.  The forecasts have been suggesting the potential for a foot or more of snow along the spine of the Northern Greens, and as is common in these late season events, substantially lower accumulations were expected upon descent down into the valleys.

While the initial stages of this storm were focused in New Hampshire and Maine, producing more than a half foot of snow at relatively low elevations, the more potent part of the system for our area was expected to be the upslope precipitation on the back side of the storm.  The precipitation at our house at 500’ elevation down in the Winooski Valley had largely been rain for this event, but this morning we began to get some snow and a bit of accumulation.

The snow really struggled to accumulate in the valleys today, but up in the mountains it was a different situation.  By midafternoon as I checked on the Bolton Valley live webcams I’d say there was already an inch or two at 2,100’ in the Village.  For the local mountains, the slightly lower temperatures had definitely helped promote accumulations today relative to yesterday, where you could see the new snow down at the main base kind of accumulate and melt back to expose areas of old snow.  Those areas of snow were pretty well covered up this afternoon.  From images shown by the Vista Peak cam, it was clear that there had been at least a few inches of snow up at 3,150’, but it was hard to get a detailed sense for the new snow due to the winds.

What I’d seen from the webcams by the afternoon was certainly enough to get me to head up to the mountain for an exploratory tour, but I wasn’t quite sure enough of conditions to entice the rest of the family to go.

At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at roughly 340’, there were no signs of snow accumulation, but right around 900’ you could see the first traces of white, and they quickly jumped up by the time you hit the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign at ~1,000’.  There were a couple of inches of new accumulation at the Timberline Base, and continuing on up to the Village. I found a solid 4-5” in the parking lots.  Heading farther upward with my tour in the Wilderness area revealed the following elevation profile with respect to storm totals:

340’: 0”
900’: T
1,000’: ½-1”
1,500’: 2”
2,000’: 4-5”
2,500’: 7”
3,000’: 8-9”

Right near the start of my ascent on Lower Turnpike, a skier cam swishing by through the powder on his descent and shouted “Don’t head up, it’s not worth it!”, but I laughed in reply because it was obvious he was being sarcastic.  The turns looked fantastic and belied his remark even down at that elevation with a nice 5-6” of medium-weight powder.

An image of the Wilderness Chairlift with a fresh coating a of April snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The chairs at the bottom of the Wilderness Lift revealing a fresh coating of snow.

Indeed, despite this being a late season storm, the snow wasn’t really wet at all out there today (at least where I was touring in the 2,000’+ range).  It was reasonably dense and offered plenty of bottomless turns, but certainly not unlimited bottomless turns on all the steepest pitches.  We’ve had roughly 1.25” of liquid equivalent from this event down at the house, so there’s certainly a decent amount of L.E. in that snow at elevation where they’ve had little if any rain.  Today I toured up to the Wilderness Summit, then around to Bolton Outlaw and on back down toward Lower Turnpike.  The turns were excellent and there had been very little skier traffic.

It was interesting up on the mountain today because a bit of sunshine appeared near the start of the tour, but by the time I was finishing up it was pounding heavy snow made up of big flakes.  It was in the 20s F and snowing so hard in the Village at that point that it felt like it had to be accumulating down in the valley, but it was an impressive gradient as I headed back down the mountain and the snow still wasn’t really accumulating much below the 1,000’ level.

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2020

An image of the upper part of the Brandywine trail near the junction with Intro below the Timberline Quad chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski goggles with a reflection at the end of a ski tour by the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Catching a reflection at the end of today’s tour.

Today was even a bit warmer than yesterday, with temperatures in the valley this afternoon topping out around 60 F.  So, I decided to get in another round of exercise with a Bolton Valley ski tour.

The strip of snow just to the climber’s right of the Timberline Quad base station had broken up even a bit more than yesterday, but I still traversed the gap with skins to start my tour.  To mix things up today, I headed up Timberline Run and over toward Brandywine for my ascent.  That area is more shaded from the sun, but with the warmer temperatures I figured it might be softened up enough for some smooth turns.

“The slightly warmer temperatures today made the snow quality even better, so the trend has just been one of increasing snow quality of these last few sessions.”

The snow there was fine, but once I got back into the snow below the Timberline Quad near the top, I could see that the exposure to the sun had made the snow just so much better there.  I couldn’t resist that snow, so I ultimately ended up descending via Showtime as we’ve done on the past couple of outings.  The slightly warmer temperatures today made the snow quality even better, so the trend has just been one of increasing snow quality of these last few sessions.

It’s beginning to look more and more likely that we’re going to get a winter storm toward the end of the week with the possibility of substantial snow for the mountains, so hopefully we’ll be able to get back into some powder skiing.  The spring skiing has been very nice, but a change of pace with powder skiing would of course be welcomed as well.

Bolton Valley, VT 06APR2020

A view of a tower and some of the chairs on the Timberline Quad Chairlift during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont

We had another nice day of weather today with some sun and temperatures in the 50s F, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for another ski tour at Timberline.  The strip of snow just to the climber’s right of the Timberline Quad base station that we used for skinning during our ski tour on Saturday, was slightly broken up now with a small gap.  It was just a few feet of dry grass in the break though, so I easily continued right across it, and coverage was great from there on up.

An image looking west toward Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains from the Timberline Summit area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An afternoon view from the Timberline Summit out toward Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks

On Saturday, we stopped our tour at the Timberline Mid Station because it was our first outing in a little while and I figured it was good to take it easy, but today I headed right up to the Timberline Summit.  The views were nice with some late day clouds to the west over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.  The snow on Showtime was even a notch better than Saturday, I think thanks to a bit more sun to soften it up and create a smoother, more even surface today.

It looks like we’ll have more spring weather in the first part of this week before it becomes wintrier in the latter part of the week.

Bolton Valley, VT 04APR2020

An image of Ty and Dylan on a chair of the Timberline Quad Chairlift during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
An image of Erica Telemark skiing on the Showtime trail during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E enjoys some spring exercise as the whole family got out for a ski tour at Bolton Valley today.

Our most recent winter storm cycle was Winter Storm Quincy, which took place over a week ago.  It brought a couple days of good powder, and D and I were able to get out for some fun turns, but since then we’ve sort of been back in the spring weather doldrums.  We haven’t had another significant storm, and it hasn’t really been warm enough to soften up the slopes.

Some warmer, sunnier weather moved into the area today though, with temperatures in the 50s F, so the family headed up to Bolton Valley for a quick tour and some soft spring turns.  Timberline still has plenty of continuous lines, so we toured from the Timberline Base, and up to the Timberline Mid Station.  Just to the right of the base of the Timberline Quad there’s a thin line of snow that supports skinning right from the base, but that will probably melt out in a couple more days of warm weather.  There’s solid coverage on the climber’s left of the quad base though, so that will probably be fine for ascents and descents for a while.

An image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan preparing their gear for a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The family gets their gear set for the ski tour.

Ty cruised right up the hill on the ascent, with Dylan not too far behind, so the two of them had the chance to hang out at the top for a bit before I arrived.  One of the chairs of the quad is nicely positioned at the mid station to make a convenient bench, so the boys really enjoyed hanging out there and enjoying the mountain views.

Showtime is doing the best with respect to coverage thanks to additional manmade snow, so we made our descent there.  The snow was nice spring corn that had softened on Bolton’s usual afternoon sun, so the turns were quite good.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out on Mom’s fat skis today.

We only saw a couple of other cars in the parking lot, although it was fairly late in the afternoon, so most people had probably gotten their turns in earlier. 

It looks like the weather is going to cool back down as we head into the latter part of this coming week, so we may be looking at more fresh snow coming to the mountains.  We’ll see what happens, but I know everyone would be psyched to get out for some more powder.

Stowe, VT 28APR2019

An image snowing some of the snow cats from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont assembled above the Midway Lodge
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
A little more snow overnight topped off the accumulations from yesterday to produce some nice turns starting at around 3,000′ at Stowe today.

This weekend we took advantage of the great off-season rates and stayed slope side at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which I learned has now been renamed “The Lodge at Spruce Peak”.  My sister and her family were in the area and staying at the Lodge for a couple of days, so this gave us a chance to catch up with them as well stay right by the slopes for some easy access to skiing on Mt. Mansfield.

Over the past couple of days we’ve had a storm in the area that’s been dropping some fresh snow in the higher elevations, and my ski tour at Bolton Valley yesterday revealed 4 to 6 inches of fresh, dense powder up around the 3,000’ mark.  Powderfreak reported similar accumulations in the upper elevations during his tour at Stowe yesterday, and images of the powder skiing looked quite decent, so that bode well with respect to getting in some good turns in association with our visit to the Lodge.  While there was expected to be a lull in the snowfall on Saturday afternoon, the forecast suggested that it would pick back up in the evening with the chance to tack on some additional accumulations as well.

An image of people in one of the hot tubs by the pool at the Lodge at Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica, Jill, and the kids out for time in the hot tub and pool on Saturday afternoon/evening.

We arrived at the Lodge yesterday afternoon, dropped off the car, and then got settled into our room while we caught up with my sister’s family.  This time we tried out one of the one bedroom suites, similar to what we’ve had in the past at places like the Tram Haus Lodge.  It’s definitely nice to have a bit more space and the multiple rooms, especially now that the boys are older (and bigger).  The additional space was also convenient for when my sister’s family came over to visit.  During the evening we generally relaxed, the kids headed to the pool/hot tub area for a bit, and we all had a great dinner at the Hourglass Lounge.  There was snowfall all the way down to the base elevations in the evening, and as we had dinner we’d occasionally see windy whiteouts from all the blowing snow.  It looked quite wintry, but temperatures were fairly marginal at the base elevations, so there was really only a trace of accumulation visible by morning.

I was the only one planning to ski today, so after we checked out of our room and had breakfast at Solstice, E and the boys dropped me off at the Midway Lodge.  There were probably two to three dozen cars in the Midway parking lots, and people were heading out from there for ski tours along various routes.  Chin Clip Runout looked pretty quiet, and it, along with Switchback is one of my favorite ascent routes, so I headed that way and started skinning.

An image of rime ice on some branches high on Mt. Mansfield near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowstormOn my ascent, I observed that additional snow accumulations seemed rather minimal below about 2,500’ – there was a windswept inch or two that was really scattered around atop the old base, and much of that was probably there from Saturday’s snow.  The new snow had collected in pockets here and there, but I didn’t really see any substantial consistency until I started getting into the upper half of the terrain.  Around the 3,000’ mark I started getting some solid 6 to 7 inch depths of reasonably dense, dry snow along the climber’s right of Perry Merrill.  I saw some folks continue their ascents up above the Gondola into the alpine via Cliff Trail Gully, but I was a bit leery of what coverage would be like with the new snow over previous melting among the rocks.  If the new snow depths continued to increase above the 3,600’ range then it could have been quite nice up there.

“The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.”

Being underwhelmed by the accumulations I’d seen on my ascent of the main Gondi terrain, I headed toward Cliff Trail for my descent.  The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.  That was really nice, and while the depth gradually decreased as I headed down Cliff Trail, the skiing there was quite good throughout.  There were a few tracks on the trail, but only a handful of skiers had been down at that point.  I’d say that the junction with Nosedive at around 2,700’ was right about where the best snow petered out.  The elevation was part of it, but the change to Nosedive with its more open nature and higher levels of skier traffic made for a very obvious break in the availability of the new snow.  That would have been an excellent spot to stop a descent if one was looking to lap the best snow up high.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow along the edge of the Perry Merrill trail up near 3,500 feet on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
Catching some nice powder turns off the side of Perry Merrill up around 3,500′

We’ve got some fairly cool days coming over the next week, so the new snow should stick around for a while up high, although the quality may deteriorate somewhat from the typical spring temperature cycling.

Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2019

An image of the Mid Mountain Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
An image of new snow on evergreens during a late April storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I found a good 4 to 6 inches of fresh snow up in the 3,000′ elevation range today at Bolton Valley thanks to the storm that’s currently affecting the area.

After watching it snow all morning on the Bolton Valley Web cam, I decided to head up for a ski tour around midday to see how the new snow was settling in over the old snowpack.  Similar to our house, the precipitation was rain and there was no snow at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, but driving up I encountered residual winter snowpack starting at ~1,400’.  The rain changed over to snowfall right after that, around the Timberline Base at 1,500’.

I found a couple inches of new snow as I parked the car in the Bolton Valley Village around 2,000’, and that depth only increased slowly to roughly 3 inches at the 2,500’ level.  I noticed a bit of a jump in depths when I hit the 2,600’ to 2,700’ range though, so that seemed to be a threshold of sorts for accumulations during this storm.  .

Here’s the new snow depth profile with respect to elevation based on my observations from today’s tour:

340’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,500’:  T-1”
2,000’:  2”
2,500’:  3”
3,000’:  4-6”

“…with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.”

On the ascent I was a bit worried that the snow was going to be sticky with respect to turns, but the temperature up top around 3,000’ was roughly 30 to 31 F.  So it was certainly below freezing up there, and the new snow was dense, but definitely dry enough for some nice powder turns.  I only found sticky snow to be an issue during the final couple hundred feet of descent to the main base area at 2,100’.  I made my initial descent down Alta Vista, then worked my way over toward Wilderness, and with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.  Powderfreak reported some nice turns today at Stowe as well, and he found similar accumulations to what I encountered on my Bolton Valley tour.

An image of a brook with fresh snow along the edges during a late April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow accumulations along one of the brooks flowing with spring meltwater in the Wilderness area on today’s ski tour

The models and forecasts suggest that after a lull this afternoon, there’s a chance for more snow tonight into tomorrow as the back side of the system comes through.  We’re planning to stay at the Lodge at Spruce Peak tonight, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head out for some turns on Mansfield tomorrow.

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield – Rock Garden, VT 21APR2019

An image from Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont showing a view of the Gondola and the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline with the Rock Garden area visible in the upper left
A view of the Rock Garden area near the treeline on Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view from up in the Rock Garden today near the start of my descent from the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline

Temperatures have been warming up over the past several days, and snow has just about melted out in most of the lower valleys, but there’s still feet upon feet of snow in the mountains.  After a fairly dreary Saturday, today was looking warm and pleasant, so the whole family headed off to Stowe in the afternoon for some spring turns.

The tailgating scene was in full force in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smell of burgers cooking on portable grills seemed to be everywhere.  Today was definitely the day to be out there with the glorious spring weather, and as the last official day of lift-served skiing, I’m sure the Stowe faithful were all happy to be going out on a high note.

An image of Tailgaters in the Mansfield parking lot at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Stowe Tailgaters

The four of us had our ski packs with us as we boarded the Fourrunner Quad, since one goal I’d had today was to check out the Rock Garden.  With the ample snowfall and overall pattern of storm cycles the Northern Greens have seen this season, it just seemed to fill in even better than usual, so this was certainly a spring to pay the area a visit.  As we’ve done before on other tours, the plan was to use the Fourrunner Quad for lift access, ski across through the Nosedive Glades, and then hike up Cliff Trail to get to the Gondola/Chin area.  We’d initially been excited to see that the Gondola was running when we arrived, which would make for even easier access to the alpine terrain near The Chin, but we soon saw that they were just clearing off the cabins from the Easter sunrise service.  As we took in the views of the Rock Garden from the Fourrunner Quad, I could see that it was no longer the large continuous snowfield that it had been just a few of weeks ago.  There were still plenty of skiable lines, but I wasn’t sure if the effort was going to be worth it for E and the boys.  So after an initial run all together, I split off to check it out on my own while they skied the Fourrunner terrain together.

My trip over toward the Gondola/Cliff House went smoothly, and I caught a good traverse through the Nosedive Glades over to Cliff Trail, even if the snow was a bit sticky in there at times.  I’d initially planned to hike up the Cliff Trail Gully and take the Mansfield ridgeline across to the top of the Rock Garden, but as I approached the last pitch of Perry Merrill, I could see that the Rock Garden was right above me after just a short jaunt through some trees.  It seemed silly to head up another route with such easy access.

The toughest part of ascending the Rock Garden was catching the occasional post hole in the snow.  For the most part, the snow was consolidated, but every so often I’d hit that spot where my foot would punch through and I’d be up to my thigh.  Thankfully, once I got into the open areas of the Rock Garden, I found a boot pack that someone had made, and that made things substantially easier.  There was still the occasional post hole, but having pre-made, consolidated footholds really took care of most of it.

Gaining the Mansfield ridgeline at the top of the Rock Garden, I found three other skiers who were just getting ready for their descent.  As they headed down, I recharged myself with a snack, and took in the views.  Although it’s not as obvious as some of the others, the Rock Garden really is a lot like the various other southeastern-facing gullies on this part of Mt. Mansfield.  Similar to those, it gets filled by the prevailing northwesterly winds, and it’s protected from the late day sun, so it preserves snow well.  The west face of the gully isn’t quite as sheer as some of the others though, so it’s able to hold snow and take on that snowfield appearance that’s different that the narrower gullies.

“The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.”

For my descent through the Rock Garden, I started out in the main throat of the gully, and then cut right as the snowpack would allow, to take in some steeper turns along the headwall below the Mansfield ridgeline.  The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.  The snow was definitely corn, and I didn’t have to worry about any post-holing on my skis, but the surface was irregular due to the natural melting patterns up there.  The best snow surfaces and smoothest turns of my descent were actually once I got down into the upper parts of Perry Merrill.  The snow was evenly packed and there’s been little skier traffic of late.  I was able to open it up and use the entire trail to arc some big wide turns as I often like to do in those wide sections of Perry Merrill when I have it to myself.

I’d kept in touch with E and the boys by updating them on my progress with a few text messages indicating my tour mileage and location.  And, just as I was reaching Perry Merrill on my descent they let me know that they were at the car, so I gave them an update and told them that I’d be down soon.

A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour of the Rock Garden in the Mt. Mansfield alpine above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour involving the Rock Garden in the Mt. Mansfield alpine near Stowe Mountain Resort

The tailgating was rolling right along as I got back to the car, and I took in more of the sights while packing up my gear.  That’s a wrap on the lift-served ski season at Stowe, but there’s still a ton of snow left, so now it’s time to move on to 100% human-powered ascents of Mt. Mansfield.  There even appear to be some snow chances coming up over the next week or so, and we’ll be watching to see if Mother Nature decides to send along any more April powder for us.