I was in Montreal yesterday, generally doing more eating that exercising, so I definitely wanted to fit a ski tour into the day today if possible. The weather was good much of the day, with some sun, but plenty of clouds to keep it cool as well, and I made my way up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe.
My initial views from the Bolton Valley Village area didn’t reveal much snow, but one I got moving up the mountainside I could see that there were some good areas of snow around. The Butterscotch Terrain Park has probably the most snow on the lower mountain, but I found Bear Run actually has some decent areas with snow as well. The biggest surprise on the upper mountain was actually Spillway, which had initially looked like it only had a strip of snow left along the skier’s right. Once I got above mid mountain I could see that there was substantial coverage on a lot of the trail.
I hiked up Spillway to where the continuous snow ran out, which was just a bit below the 3,000’ mark, and started my descent from there. Spillway held some of the best areas of corn I found today. There were some sun-cupped areas and a few spots where the snow remained coalesced like ice, but in general the turns were nice in the corn snow. I was actually able to continue all the way down to mid-mountain on snow, and then even a bit farther on Beech Seal before I had to throw the skis back on my pack and hike down.
Based on my initial sights, I was thinking this was likely the last weekend for reasonably plentiful skiing at Bolton Valley, but based on what I saw, I think there might be some snow around next weekend depending on how the temperatures run this week.
Prior to today, it had been over 20 years since I’d last skied Whiteface. It was January 30th, 1994 when Dave and I headed across the lake for a day, and I’ve still got my pictures from that trip (film, not digital of course) but I believe the text of my report was in some of the SkiVT-L archives that were lost. As of a few days ago, I never would have thought I’d end up skiing Whiteface today, but E proposed a trip to Lake Placid for the weekend, and although I couldn’t interest anyone else in the family in skiing, I brought my skis along with the hope that I could fit in some turns.
We stayed at the Courtyard Lake Placid, which has a really neat pool/hot tub complex that appealed to the boys, but our visit to Smoke Signals for dinner was definitely a highlight in town. I selected it because of all the rave reviews online and, their amazing barbeque did not disappoint. Everything we had was outstanding, but as the reviews often indicated, their brisket is especially amazing.
This morning I headed out early to Whiteface while the boys were still asleep, and as I arrived at the base of majestic Whiteface in the early morning light, I was definitely reminded of my last visit. It’s surprising how long it took me to get back to such a famous Olympic mountain with huge vertical that’s really just across Lake Champlain. Granted, we were away from the Northeast for several years during that period, but a much bigger factor was simply that we live at the foot of the Northern Green Mountains, and from a strictly skiing perspective there’s just not enough incentive for use to head over to the Adirondacks. Relative to the snow we get in the Northern Greens, it just seems that Whiteface suffers in both quantity of snowfall and quality of the ski surfaces. I have to say, my perception was only reinforced further today when I approached the mountain and my main thought was, “Where’s all the snow?”
The resort has only been closed for a week, but it was extremely slim pickings with respect to skiable snow on the lower slopes of the mountain. Even up high, while I could see that there were some better lines of manmade snow on the trails, it looked like there was very little natural snow remaining. I was astonished, after what the Whiteface website says was a season with a record-breaking 281 inches of snow, that there was so little of it left. Meanwhile, the natural snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is still six feet deep. It’s sometimes hard to figure out why Whiteface doesn’t get, and I guess in this case even retain, more snow. It’s an impressive peak, rising up to nearly 5,000’, and it’s certainly downwind of the Great Lakes so that they can serve as an extra supply of moisture. It’s even closer to the Great Lakes than the Green Mountains, so one would think that it would make out even better. Somehow though, the resort has an annual average snowfall of only about 180 inches according to Tony Crocker’s website. With some of the resorts in the Northern Greens reporting annual snowfall averages of nearly twice that amount, the disparity is quite dramatic.
I had to stick to the lower mountain today based on my available time, but fortunately I was able to piece together a fairly decent amount of turns using the remains of some of the terrain park snow. I’d been worried about encountering stiff snow by going early in the morning, but it had actually softened enough to make the turns quite pleasant. I just wish I’d had a bit more time to go higher and get into some of the more continuous lines of leftover snow.
The forecast for this morning was sunny, and mountain highs were predicted to be in the 40s and 50s F, so the whole family headed off to Stowe for a few runs before lunch. Lift operations at thre resort are down to just the Fourrunner Quad and the Mountain Triple Chair, but with roughly 90 inches of snow still at the stake, base depths are in good shape and almost all the terrain on Mansfield is available.
We’ve certainly had some good cycling of the snow over the past few days with night freezes and daytime thaws, so the surfaces were generally corn, but there were still some sticky surfaces out there in some spots. We got some steep turns on Nosedive, hit the bumps of Centerline, and even jumped into some of the terrain parks. We got to watch one crew of what must have been a couple dozen guys running the parks together and performing lots of tricks.
As usual for this time of year, folks were out in force with their spring tail-gaiting setups in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smells of various food being barbequed was definitely enticing when we headed back to the car. For our lunch we headed to Doc Ponds on the way home to use a gift certificate we had, and the food was great. Most of their offerings are done with some sort of unique flair. I really enjoyed my falafel, which was incredibly filling and I’d recommend it if you’re a falafel fan.
Just like last Saturday, another storm came through the area over the past couple of days and dropped a round of fresh snow to give us some great April powder. For the first time in quite a while, the whole family was available to ski, so we headed up to Bolton Valley this morning for some turns.
Down at the house, snowfall was fairly intense at 6:00 A.M. observations time this morning, but it started to taper off after that, and it was pretty much done down here when we headed up to the mountain. There was some snow falling up at Bolton Valley, but accumulations were pretty much done there as well.
In terms of the snow we found, I’d say they were actually a bit conservative with the 9” value at the top of their accumulation range. More typically I was able to find about 11” as a general depth of the surface snow at most elevations, although I did find up to two feet in spots. The powder from this storm was even drier than what we found from last weekend’s storm – most folks would be hard pressed to complain about the snow even in midwinter, because it was midwinter dry. It wasn’t Champlain Powder™ fluffy, but that was probably more a function of flake structure than any above-freezing temperatures – it was well below freezing at all elevations of the resort this morning. It was actually downright chilly, and folks were often getting cold when we’d pause for setting up a photo session.
I mentioned all the underutilized powder we encounter last Saturday, and this Saturday was even more extreme. For much of the morning you could literally ride the Timberline Quad, count the number of tracks on a trail, and then on the next lap you’d be able to see exactly how many (if any) additional riders had been down it. It was hard to pull ourselves away. While we were finishing up back at the main base area and getting ready to hit the Village Deli to grab some lunch, we were able to watch some of the snowmobilers in the Rock The Hills Snowmobile Hill Climb. The Village parking lots were full of snowmobile trailers, so the resort got a great additional influx of visitors.
Initial reports from Spruce Peak as we began our ski program in the afternoon suggested that indeed the snow was getting quite sticky in the sun, so we took our group over to Mt. Mansfield to get to higher elevations and find north-facing terrain that would see the best protection from the warming temperatures. From our experience on trails like Nosedive and even Cliff Trail, we found that snow quality was quite nice on roughly the top half of the mountain, but the bottom half was certainly sticky enough to be a nuisance. It was one of those days where you wish Stowe had some upper mountain lifts.
With the sticky snow, the group was happy to take an extended break for some s’mores and a visit to the Great Room Grill before we went out for a few more runs on Spruce Peak to close out the day. A highlight of those last runs was hitting the ruts of the race course on Competition Hill. They had been well traveled, so the snow was plenty fast and lots of fun. Ty and I raced for the gold on our final run, and I won, but it was because he let me choose the track and I opted for the faster one on the left. While that’s it for official ski program days this season, there’s still lots of snow left in the mountains, so we’ll see what the rest of April brings us for skiing.
The latest weather system to come into the area has been named Winter Storm Theseus. Snow associated with the storm started up on Friday and left nearly a foot of at some of the local ski resorts, so Dylan and I headed up to Bolton Valley this morning for what we hoped would be some great powder skiing, and we weren’t disappointed.
Temperatures edged above freezing down in the valley, but the freezing line really stayed below 1,500’ this morning from what we saw, so that kept surfaces wintry at all elevations of the resort. The snow was certainly less dense the higher you went, but it wasn’t until probably below 1,800’ that the quality of the powder skiing started to fall off a bit – it was just getting a bit too dense for optimal turns. Really though, that’s just last few hundred feet of vertical at Timberline, and everything at the main mountain was well above that. It snowed all morning to keep the wintry appeal going and keep things fresh. The flakes were small so additional accumulations weren’t too hefty, but it was definitely coming down at times – we had to pull out the lens hoods for some photography sessions because of the intensity of the snow.
We started off on the morning on the main mountain with a trip up the Vista Quad, but we knew that by the time we’d worked our way down the trails we’d be able to catch the opening of the Timberline Quad. We had a good time down there, catching the rope drop on Upper Tattle Tale, just after we’d skied the lower half from the crossover. We did some exploring and found the entrance to House Line, a shot I’ve been looking to ski for a while. Dylan decided to go Telemark again today, and he was definitely ripping up that powder. We eventually made our way back to the main base and finished off the ski day on Wilderness, then grabbed some food at the main cafeteria and the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery.
Bolton’s got their 48-hour total at 9 inches for the higher elevations, and I’d say 9 to 10 was where we found things topping out with the addition of this morning’s snow. Anyway, it was a great way to start off this month’s skiing, and of course another perk of the day was the fact that we’re in April, and visitation at the resorts really starts to fall off. There were certainly visitors, but there were still a number of trails with just a few tracks on them when we were leaving around midday, so folks who were out really got treated to one of those kind of powder days.
Today was probably 20 degrees cooler than last Sunday, but it was still looking warm enough to offer some spring snow for Stowe’s final lift-served ski day of the season. We headed to the mountain in the mid-afternoon timeframe and found that the tail-gaiters were out again in full force in the Mansfield Parking Lot like last week. There was even a band playing off the deck of the Mountain Operations building. E forgot her coat, which had her pass in it, but she decided to just hang out in the car and get some work done since the boys and I only planned to do a few runs.
As Ty, Dylan and I rode the Fourrunner Quad, we could see that shaded locations on the upper mountain were really holding winter-like snow – or in this case icy frozen granular since we’ve had many a freeze-thaw cycle by this point. The air temperature was just a bit above the freezing mark at the top of the Fourrunner Quad, but with the strong April sun, only fully shaded areas were of any concern with respect to being to firm to hold a good edge. Everything else was soft corn snow like you’d expect to find in late April.
We took a trip down Nosedive and found coverage to be in great shape – there should be plenty of earned turns there well into May as usual. I’d say the same is generally true for the typical Lord/North Slope route as well. On our last run, the boys ski technique really degraded… on purpose as it turned out. They had loads of fun goofing around with poor technique and were incredibly impressed with how much more work it took to ski that way – especially in areas of soft snow.
It was a nice way to close out the lift-served season on Mansfield, and we topped it off with an après ski stop at Sushi Yoshi. We had time to go for some hibachi, which was a good show as always! We’ve actually got some cooler weather coming into the area this week with a chance for a bit of snow in the mountains over the next couple of days. It should be fun to see exactly what happens with respect to snow, as it’s always an interesting piece of weather if it falls in any of the lower elevations when we get close to May.
The nice forecasts had been out there for a while, and folks knew that we had a fantastic weekend of weather on the way – one that would bring back the spring skiing after our winter-like interlude over that past couple of weeks. I was pretty busy with work in general since we’re near the end of the spring semester, but the whole family took some time this afternoon to catch a few runs at Stowe and enjoy the spring snow.
Temperatures were in the 60s F even at the mountain, so all the snow was well corned up, and of course the usual tail-gaiters were out in force in the Mansfield Parking Lot. The Fourrunner Quad is the only option for lift-service now, so we spent our time there with a couple of great trips down the bumps of Centerline to really get that spring groove going. One of the big highlights of the day was Dylan getting down in the corn snow so that he could be intentionally whitewashed – and of course the rest of the family all took advantage of that opportunity. Dylan just loved it, probably because he was overheating with the warm weather, which would be typical for the boy who’d be happy to wear shorts all year round if we’d let him.
That’s it for the lift-served season at Stowe, but there’s plenty of snow left on the trails, so hopefully we’ll have a chance to get out for some skinning if the weather cooperates. From what I can see it’s going to get a bit more active with respect to precipitation, but it looks like we’ll generally be seeing warm days and cool nights to keep the corn harvest in full swing.
Although the lowest elevations were softening in the April sun, Stowe’s terrain in the upper elevations of Mt. Mansfield appeared to hold onto winter snow all through the day yesterday. That got me thinking about taking a couple more runs in the powder today, and although Ty was a bit under the weather and E planned to stay home with him, Dylan was happy to go with me to see what we could find.
We couldn’t get out early, but we were able to head out to the mountain around midday. Even in the valleys, temperatures were holding at or below freezing despite lots of April sun, so we knew that at least the air temperature wasn’t going to be affecting the snow. Today was even sunnier than yesterday, and the high peaks like Mt. Mansfield were standing out brilliantly above the lower elevations. It was quite a sight to behold as we traveled along Route 100 east of the Green Mountain Spine.
Dylan and I followed my procedure from yesterday, parking in the Midway Lot and heading right up the Gondola. Since I knew coverage was fine in the Kitchen Wall area, we headed right there to see how the powder was faring in the highest lift-served elevations. I hadn’t actually taken the main Kitchen Wall Traverse yesterday, but I have to say it was one of the most challenging trips I’ve had through there. The snow pack is just that bit on the low side that keeps some extra stumps sticking out in a few places, so you really have to keep your eyes open for the best routes to use.
We were quickly able to tell that even up in those elevations, any snow in direct sunshine was turning mushy, so we picked a partially shaded line for Dylan and he dropped into one of the snowfields. He had some nice turns, but as we got down lower, even though we were predominantly in the trees, we encountered a lot of challenging, sticky snow wherever light was sneaking into the forest. Down in the Nosedive Glades we generally stuck to the main routes to avoid that type of snow, but we found plenty of good turns on lightly tracked or skier packed snow. We finished off with Nosedive, which had conditions similar to yesterday, with the snow quality being better the higher you were in elevation.
We knew the window for ample off piste skiing was just about closed with the way the powder was getting sticky, so we decided to stick with an on piste run down Gondolier. We debated going to Cliff Trail, but Dylan said we would be too tempted to head off piste and we’d end up paying for it if we got into mushy snow. We still managed to get sucked off piste below the switchback of Perry Merrill, and that was our most exciting adventure of the day. The snow was actually pretty well preserved because of the shady nature of the area, and we came upon a nice cliff band with an ice fall that will no doubt be a lot of fun when we have ample midwinter powder. Dylan and I were already planning to take our BJAMS ski group to the area next season. We had to sift our way through some denser evergreen areas to get back to Perry Merrill, but our navigation was good and we quickly got back on piste. We ran that run out with a combination of Perry Merrill and Gondolier, and that was enough to consider ourselves satiated for the day. We did get into a bit of corn snow near the bottom of Gondolier, and Dylan commented on how that was his favorite snow on the trail, so he’s definitely ready for full on spring conditions vs. the transitionary snow that appears on some of these spring days.
“Indeed Mansfield had done its usual business, and a quick probe in untouched snow outside the Cliff House as I put on my skis revealed a nice foot of midwinter powder.”
Temperatures were still at or below the freezing mark at all elevations, but the new snow was already starting to melt off in the valleys thanks to the strong April sun. The mountains were holding their own with respect to the snow however, and I headed right to the Midway Lot and up the Gondola to see what Mansfield had delivered below The Chin. Indeed Mansfield had done its usual business, and a quick probe in untouched snow outside the Cliff House as I put on my skis revealed a nice foot of midwinter powder. I took a first run down Gondolier, and encountered some simply amazing snow along the edges of the trail. The powder petered out to just a few inches in depth by the time I was back down to the Gondola base, but there had been a pretty solid resurfacing on the upper half of the mountain, and it was only the lowest ¼ of terrain that left much to be desired in terms of hitting the old base.
I wasn’t yet sure what I was going to explore with respect to off piste adventures, but back in the Gondola I rode up with a couple that had been in the Nosedive Glades, and another gentleman who had just visited the Kitchen Wall, and it all sounded quite good. Based on the accumulations I’d seen, I didn’t have to second guess any of it and headed right off to the Nosedive Glades from the north. As I headed along the Glades Traverse the realization hit me that we were indeed dealing with April-style visitation numbers at the resort – there was just untracked entry after untracked entry into the glades. Eventually I just had to choose one and I dropped in. The powder was great, with just a little hint of getting thick due to temperatures and sun, with the effect increasing a bit as you lost elevation. I knew that higher would be even better, so I visited the Kitchen Wall area next, and found a solid 10 to 14 inches everywhere I checked.
I went with my Telemark skis today because I wanted to really blast my legs after not skiing for a stretch, and my only regret would be that I was just burning too quickly each run after being off the boards for too long. I’d have to stop and rest them often, but I can’t say it was really all that bad just hanging out in the warm spring sun. A few runs on that Mansfield vertical serviced by high-speed lifts was enough to totally cook my legs, but at least my body got the workout it needed. Hopefully we won’t have to deal with such a period of generally horrible conditions as we’ve seen the past few weeks for quite a while – I can already tell that I’m going to pay for today’s workout and it’s only been a few hours since I finished!