It hasn’t been an especially cool fall thus far in Vermont, and in fact we had some rather warm days with temperatures up to 90 degrees F for the Champlain Valley last month. It’s hard to think of potential snow with temperatures like that! Due to the heat, we actually delayed our September apple picking trip to Boyer’s Orchard with the Bennetts and the Burseys for one week to wait for a more autumnal feel. The temperatures and generally fair weather have certainly made for some fantastic outdoor activities, but the warmth may have altered the timeline for the development of the fall foliage color. In any event, by the beginning of last week I could already see that we were past peak color in the Winooski Valley. Bare trees were numerous throughout the hillsides, leaving at least small gaps in the colorful views.
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.
Our protracted stretch of pleasantly warm and sunny weather has continued this week, and it’s allowed the ground to dry to the point that on Tuesday, I headed out for a mountain bike ride to sample some of local terrain by the house and into town. Indeed even some of the typically wettest terrain down by the Winooski was dry enough for riding, so things are ready on that front, but after seeing Powderfreak’s ski report from yesterday at Stowe, it reminded me that I should probably get back out on the slopes while the snow is available. I can still see bright areas of white snow on the slopes of Bolton Valley from my office in Burlington, but from that distance it’s hard to know exactly how continuous the coverage is. I popped up the image from the Bolton Valley Web Cam and could see that there were only patches of coverage on Beech Seal on the bottom half of the mountain, but it looked as if the snow at the bottom of Bear Run might be stretching upward for some substantial coverage.
I headed up to the resort with plans to at least get in a hike, since the areas without snow already looked pretty dry. I saw the first signs of snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road at the base of Timberline at 1,500’, and it was clearly leftovers of manmade snow. Up in the Village it was very quiet, and I’d thought about getting a sandwich from the Deli, but it was closed. This is probably one of the quietest times of the year, so I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising. I took a quick walk up to the slopes and could see that Spillway had some large areas of snow, and it was enough to suggest that I should throw my skis on my pack and bring them along.
The visible snow near the base that appeared to head up to Bear Run was the start of a reasonably long section that went about halfway up the trail, and from there to Mid Mountain the coverage was a lot more fractured or nonexistent. Above Mid Mountain I began to hike toward Spillway, since I’d seen the snow up there, but once I saw far more substantial coverage on Sherman’s Pass, I switched my route in that direction. I stopped my ascent at around 2,600’ near the top of the steeper Sherman’s Pass terrain above Mid Mountain, since there was another gap in coverage at that point.
For the descent, I found that the snow definitely had some sun cups and dirty areas, but there were a variety of areas with decent turns, and the coverage there basically brought me down to Mid Mountain before I took off my skis to connect to the lower half of Bear Run. That bottom part of Bear Run offered the longest stretch of continuous snow, and it carried me to within about 50 yards of the base lodge. With Bolton’s western exposure and more limited snowmaking than some of the larger resorts, May turns are often spotty, and this year was fairly typical in that regard. Based on what I saw, today’s turns were likely my last of the season at Bolton Valley, so that’s probably it until the fall. There’s a ton of snow left at Stowe and some of the other resorts around, so hopefully I can get out to some of those spots for more turns this month.
“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.
It was already obvious from my outing on Thursday at Bolton Valley that the snow from Winter Storm Vulcan had fallen in a fairly dense state in this area. It hadn’t been warm during the storm, but snow growth just hadn’t been all that great around here, and the small flakes packed together to produce snow in the 10-11% H2O range. When combined with some wind, the snow had definitely been settled, and that was already evident even though I was skiing while the storm was still finishing up. And of course, snow generally just gets denser over time, so with temperatures predicted to be in the 30s F today, we weren’t expecting light and dry powder everywhere.
“…Vulcan dropped what was likely close to two inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains in the form of snow, so we knew that the mountain had received a full resurfacing.”
Although we weren’t expecting feathery, “Champagne Powder®” on the slopes today, Vulcan dropped what was likely close to two inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains in the form of snow, so we knew that the mountain had received a full resurfacing. That meant it was a perfect time to hit all the steep terrain that just hasn’t been well covered yet this season. Because we’re still waiting on Dylan’s physician to give him the go ahead for doing the most vigorous activities, such as skiing, Dylan and E planned to go swimming in the Bolton Valley Sports Center, while Ty and I planned to ski.
E dropped Ty and I off over at the base of Wilderness, and for me, it was quite a treat to get the chauffeur service that the rest of the family usually has. We found out that the Wilderness Double Chair was still on wind hold though, so we headed up to the Vista Quad for a run. Our first stop on the steep terrain tour was the Preacher Woods. The coverage there is definitely sufficient now, even up in the big open areas with multiple ledges. There are still some aspects of the ledges that one needs to dodge here and there, but when the terrain is small cliffs, that’s often the way it’s going to be. The snow was packed, and the untracked powder was sort of thick and dense, but the skiing up there was really pretty decent. There just wasn’t any fluff factor to speak of, so things felt very “settled”. It was really just fun to take virtually any line and not worry about coverage around the next corner; we’ve been waiting for a while to get to that stage this season. Our run brought us down through the Cobrass Woods, and then Deer Path, and finally the Bear Run Woods. The lower half of the mountain had warmer temperatures and snow that was somewhat wet, so that made it a bit more challenging. I’d brought my fat skis, and while I liked them a lot in the dense powder and chowder up high, I was less than thrilled with them on the more packed snow in the lower elevations.
When we arrived back at the base, we found a big lift queue at the Vista Quad, and a similar queue at the Snowflake Chair. The Wilderness Chair was still on wind hold, so we decided to go for a run off the Mid Mountain Lift to get ourselves over to Timberline. We used Deer Run to get there, and Ty had an excellent crash in some of the powder that appeared to be to the amusement of some of the little kids in one of the ski programs. As we headed lower and lower in elevation over toward Timberline, the snow got wetter and wetter, and we could tell that it was really getting warm down in those lowest elevations. We encountered a huge queue at Timberline, probably because of other people that had left the main mountain to find shorter lift queues, but after seeing the drop in snow quality down low, I bet many of them headed back to the relative cool of the main mountain. I took Ty down the steep terrain of Lost Girlz, followed by Thundergoat Pass. We generally skipped the untracked powder down at Timberline, as it was just getting too dense and challenging. The partially tracked up snow was much easier to ski.
We made our way back to the main mountain after that, and finding that Wilderness still wasn’t open and there were substantial queues at the other lifts, we decided it was time for lunch. I called down to E and Dylan, and we met them for lunch at the Deli. I suspected that with all the patrons the resort had today, the lodge would be quite packed, and even the usually very quiet deli was hopping, so it was definitely a busy one out there. I actually think it’s interesting that so many people would come out after President’s Day, but Vulcan was a big storm and it caught a lot of people’s attention. After lunch, Ty headed down for some swimming with E and Dylan, and I contemplated another run or two. Finding the lift queues still fairly substantial, I decided to just call it a day. The skiing certainly wasn’t phenomenal enough that it warranted waiting in lift queues, especially since the snowfall was picking up and the possibilities for tomorrow were looking decent with cooler temperatures. I toured around the Village a bit and got some pictures, returned the pizza pans that Fireside Flatbread had lent us when we ordered pizza last Saturday, and finally worked my way down to the Sports Center. I worked on a jigsaw puzzle that was out in the recreation room while I waited for the others to finish swimming, and when they arrived, the battle was joined in a game of foosball. I forget how much fun stuff there is to do down at the Sports Center – we don’t visit to often because we’re usually headed home after skiing, but we’ll have to remember that there’s a lot more than just swimming.