Bolton Valley, VT 30APR2018

an image of the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont with ski tracks in fresh snow from a late April snowstorm
An image of Telemark powder skis at the start of a ski tour in late April at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting ready to set out on my tour from the Bolton Valley Village in today’s fresh snow

Our latest storm moved into the area yesterday, and it held the potential for some decent mountain snows.  Yesterday afternoon, I could see that a few inches of snow had already accumulated at the summit elevations at Sugarbush, but there was really just a trace in the mid mountain elevations, so it was unclear how low significant accumulations were going to go.  When reports started coming in from the west side of the Northern Greens, it turned out that snow levels were much lower there, with accumulations visible down to 800 feet in the Nashville area.  In line with those low snow levels, we were even getting snow here at the house, which is down at 500 feet.

I had initially contemplated heading to Stowe for some turns in the morning, thinking the terrain above 3,000’ would really be needed to get into some good snow, but those low snow levels on the western slopes definitely had me thinking about Bolton Valley as good option.  The overnight didn’t seem to bring about any substantial changes, so I stuck with that plan and headed to Bolton for a ski tour this morning. 

“I could tell right away as I began my descent that the density and consistency of the snow called for steep terrain, so I dove right down Spillway and that really hit the spot.”

Low clouds were obscuring the mountains by our house, but it seemed like the snow line this morning was down around 1,000’.  On my drive, the first signs of fresh snow accumulations were indeed right around the 1,000’ elevation on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and then the world just got whiter and whiter as I headed up. 

I started my ski tour at the Bolton Valley Village, which is a bit above 2,000’, so with the way this storm accumulated that meant decent coverage from there on up to the summits.  At the base elevations this morning the temperature was just edging above freezing in the 7:30 -8:00 A.M. timeframe, and the snow was definitely dense.  The fresh snow was wet, but not slushy or sopping at that point.  It was gradually falling of the trees on my ascent as the temperatures rose.  I headed up into cooler temperatures, but it was still warming all the way to the summit and I bet temperatures in the mid-30s F tracked with me as I ascended.

An image of cars covered in fresh snow from a late April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Bolton Valley Village today

Here’s a summary of the accumulations I found this morning for various elevations:

500’: 0”
1,000’: Trace
1,500’: 1-2”
2,000’:  3-7”
2,500’: 8-9”
3,000’: ~9”

An image of snow on evergreens during a ski tour in fresh April snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A snowy view from today’s ski tour

The larger range I’m reporting at the 2,000’ level was simply because I had time to get a sense for accumulations atop the different surfaces, with the low end being on paved or gravel surfaces, and the high end being on the existing snowpack, elevated surfaces, etc. 

In terms of what was out there on the trails for new snow, the numbers above show that there really wasn’t a huge bump in accumulations above 2,000’, so I’d say those elevations did fairly well in terms of maximizing whatever snow they were going to get out of the available moisture.  We had ~¾” of liquid in the rain gauge at the house this morning, so presumably the mountains are somewhere north of that.

“Even with 115 mm fat skis I was still touching the subsurface at times, but this snow was definitely dense enough to hold up pretty well on steep, aggressive turns.”

Although it can’t compare to the drier snow we had with last weekend’s storm, the turns were actually pretty sweet today.  I could tell right away as I began my descent that the density and consistency of the snow called for steep terrain, so I dove right down Spillway and that really hit the spot.  Even with 115 mm fat skis I was still touching the subsurface at times, but this snow was definitely dense enough to hold up pretty well on steep, aggressive turns.  I stuck with Beech Seal on the lower half of the mountain, and the pitch there was also quite sufficient for a lot of good turns.

An image of ski tracks in fresh snow on the Spillway Lane trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a late April snowstorm
Starting off the descent with some powder turns on Spillway Lane

Today was the last day of April, but it’s certainly been a decent one for snow.  It’s time to move on to May and see what it delivers for turns!

Bolton Valley, VT 28APR2018

An image of the Showtime trail in the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont in late April
An image of the mid station area on the Timberline lift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view from the Timberline Mid Station at Bolton Valley today

Today was forecast to have favorable weather for outdoor activity, with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s F, so I decided to head up to Bolton Valley for a ski tour.  Dylan is under the weather, Ty tweaked his hip at track practice, and E was planning to do some work in the yard and exercise at home, so I headed up to the mountain solo.

Heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road, first signs of snow were around 1,200’.  I was all set to head up the main base area, but a quick look at Timberline revealed that plenty of snow remained, so I decided it was a good time to catch some turns there before it melted out for the season.  Snow is essentially continuous right down to the base at 1,500’, which is pretty impressive for this time of year on relatively low elevation, western-facing terrain.

An image of signs at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road in Bolton Vermont
Down at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road

I contemplated actually skinning up Spell Binder, but the snow there wasn’t quite continuous, so I took the Showtime route.  The snow there is continuous right up to the Timberline Summit, aside from a small break at the Showtime Headwall where the rocks melted out the snow.  I saw a couple of other skiers, including a pair of snowboarders who were running snowmobile-accessed laps to the summit.

“In terms of the skiing, the consistency of the snow was very nice, with just a few sticky spots.”

In terms of the skiing, the consistency of the snow was very nice, with just a few sticky spots.  During the tour, I could see showers over the in Adirondacks, and thicker clouds were just moving in as I finished my descent.  The sun had finally faded, and showers just began to appear as I was heading home.  As this system pulls farther east, the forecast suggests that there’s a chance for some snow associated with the incoming colder air, so we’ll see what the mountains pick up for accumulations.

Bolton Valley, VT 20APR2018

An image of Erica skiing the Alta Vista trail in fresh April powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our latest April storm brought another heaping helping of midwinter powder to the slopes of Bolton Valley.

April temperatures have been running several degrees below average here in Northern Vermont, and for those awaiting warmth, the winter weather must feel simply interminable.  Some of us don’t have a whisper of complaint though, since we know when we’ve got a good thing going.  While average April temperatures around here can bring snow, below average temperatures typically bring more snow, drier snow, and preserve the snowpack.  With the approach of the current storm, the National Weather Service in Burlington was already talking about the potential for the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake to get back up to 100 inches, and as of this evening’s co-op report, indeed it’s there.  The snowpack is essentially wall-to-wall everywhere in the local mountains here, so topping that off with fresh powder is a recipe for some awesome skiing and riding.

“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.

An image looking up the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont with a fresh coating of April powder
Looking up Alta Vista with a fresh blanket of white
An image of Erica skiing powder near the Vista Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E throwing around some of today’s powder at Bolton Valley.

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.

An image of a Sonar Blue lens for Anon M2 GoglesWith 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.

An image of a tractor with snow in Richmond Vermont after an April snowstorm
Enjoying the snowy April views from the valley – cool temperatures have brought snow accumulations all the way to the valley bottoms with this latest storm.

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2018

An image of Ty skiing in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A bit of snow fell yesterday and overnight to freshen up the slopes at Bolton Valley.

A modest winter storm came into the area on Friday and left up to 8 inches of new snow at the Vermont ski areasBolton 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.

An image from the base of the Snowflake Chair at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Base of the Snowflake Chair

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.

An image showing a Sonar Silver lens for Anon's M2 gogglesIn 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.

Woodward Mountain Trail, VT 18MAR2018

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail in the Bolton Valley backcountry
An image of ski turns in powder snow along the Woodward Mountain Trail in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Powder turns today during explorations in the lower elevations of the Woodward Mountain Trail

Wind chills were forecast to approach -30 F today on the upper elevations of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort, so E did a “soft cancel” of our BJAMS ski program.  The program was still on, and families could go if they wanted to, but no coaches were required to go, and students wouldn’t have to deal with those potentially frigid temperatures.

Although I was glad to not have to battle the nasty wind chills up in the higher elevations, it was still a gorgeous late-winter day out there, so I thought about heading out for a ski tour on something local, relatively low elevation, and sheltered from the wind.  Eventually, an exploration of the lower elevations of the Woodward Mountain Trail came to mind.  The base of the trail is just a couple miles from our house in Waterbury, and with the healthy snowpack that extends all the way to the bottom of the local mountain valleys, the ski conditions there should be outstanding.

The Woodward Mountain Trail is quite a route, running six miles and dropping over 2,500 vertical feet in elevation.  The traditional way to ski the trail is to spot a car at the VAST parking area (450’) at the bottom on Little River Road near the Waterbury Reservoir, then drive up to Bolton Valley Resort and use the Vista Quad to get to the top of Vista Peak (3,150’).  From there, you ski southward along the ridge between Vista Peak and Woodward Mountain, before descending eastward off the flanks of Woodward Mountain itself down to Little River Road in the Waterbury Reservoir and Little River State Park area.  I’ve skied the upper elevations of the trail before, but I’ve heard route finding for the ending (and middle for that matter) portions of the trail can get a bit tricky.  At some point it would be great to get family and friends together for a full run of the trail, so my goal with today’s outing was to orient myself to the twists and turns at the bottom of the trail to hopefully make that experience a bit more efficient.  And with the great snowpack and plenty of powder out there, I hoped to get in some good turns in the process.

“…my goal with today’s outing was to orient myself to the twists and turns at the bottom of the trail to hopefully make that experience a bit more efficient.”

I used my copy of David Goodman’s classing backcountry guidebook “Backcountry Skiing Adventures:  Vermont and New York” to get myself oriented with respect to the lower regions of the route.  His book has a nice description of where to park, as well as a topographic map with the route outlined.  The guide is excellent, with just one problem in my case – the guide is built for following the trail down, so it’s not perfect for guiding you up from the base of the trail if you want to try that approach.  In any event, with the map from the guidebook and my GPS in hand, I knew I’d be able to orient myself reasonably well to what the bottom of the trail held in store, and I’d always be able to come back again if necessary on a future trip with my own first experience in hand.

Temperatures were probably around 20 F when I parked at the VAST lot on the west side of Little River Road.  There were a few cars there, most with snowmobile trailers of course, although one car looked like it might be backcountry skiers waiting to pick someone up.  Starting from the parking lot, you’re immediately on the VAST trail, and it climbs a steep pitch before leveling out and going through some fields along the power line leading up to the dam.  It was easy to see from the map in the guidebook that this part of the trail is a bit circuitous – you’re doing a big loop that doesn’t immediately bring you toward the rest of the Woodward Mountain Trail.  This is due to the layout of the VAST trails, but with the topography of the ridges, valleys and streams down there, you’d probably just waste a ton of time trying to break trail through the snow if you wanted to follow more direct route from the parking area anyway.  It’s hard to put a price on having a packed, well-marked trail to get you through the backcountry, even if the route is a bit indirect.  The energy-saving and route-finding efficiency of having an established packed trail are simply huge.   I was a bit dismayed to find that there was one fairly substantial downhill section (which of course means uphill on the way out) on the route in.  I’m talking about a substantial enough slope that you’re likely going to have to take off your skis and walk, or put your skins on to deal with it.

After 0.9 miles on the well-packed VAST trail, I came to a T junction.  The trail I was intersecting was part of the VAST system, but it was also a road, Woodard Hill Road.  It had actually been groomed (and apparently even plowed) down in that area, so the snow cover was a bit thin in spots.  I headed upward and to the right on Woodard Hill Road, which was the obvious route to take based on the guidebook map.  I passed a couple of hunting camps on the left, and eventually at 1.75 miles into the route I came to a gate that seems to be the one indicated on David Goodman’s route.  This is where the utility of the map in his guidebook broke down a bit for the ascent.  His route appears to be shown passing through the gate, but it’s also shown staying to the south of the main drainage in that area.  If you go through that gate, you’re crossing a bridge to the northerly side of that drainage, so those two pieces of information don’t line up.  On the south side of the drainage there is a clearing that had seen some snowmobile activity, but I didn’t see any obvious ski tracks coming down from there to suggest it was near the Woodward Mountain Trail.

An image of a hunting camp along Woodard Hill Road along the route for the Woodward Mountain backcountry ski trail near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the hunting camps seen during my ski tour along Woodard Hill Road

I decided to play it safe on my first look and simply follow the VAST trail through the gate to see if any obvious trails branched off from it.  The “safe” aspect of this choice was that I could continue to follow a well-packed, well-marked trail for a while, wherever it was going to take me.  At 2.65 miles and an elevation of ~1,750’, I hit the local peak of that VAST trail and hadn’t seen any obvious trails converging on it, so it was time to see what potential the clearing on the other side of the drainage held.  I de-skinned and switched to descent mode, and actually had some fun turns in the terrain off the sides of the VAST trail. 

“At the very start of my tour down around 450’, the powder was generally 8 to 12 inches deep, but up in the 1,500’ to 2,000’ range where I topped out it was in excess of 20 inches deep. So there were a lot of good turns today at all elevations.”

Coming back down to the gate and bridge area, I headed up into the clearing and could see what had to be the outlet of the Woodward Mountain Trail.  The clearing was full of powder, and the reason I hadn’t seen any ski tracks coming out among the snowmobile tracks was simply due to the fact that the last person to use the trail had done so before our recent bout of snowfall had stopped.  Once I looked up the trail, I could see that there was an obvious ski/skin track.  I put my skins back on and started up the trail.  Fortunately, only about 6 to 7 inches of light fluffy snow had accumulated since the last person’s track, so breaking trail wasn’t really too much of a chore.  I ascended for a bit within what my schedule allowed, and then had a nice ski back down that section of the trail with some smooth powder turns.

Back at the VAST trails, I descended until I hit the VAST stop sign at the junction of the final leg back to the parking lot.  I was reading Ski Maven’s report of her trip on the Woodward Mountain Trail, and it sounds like her group went right through this junction, which left them at the base of Woodard Hill Road about a mile from the parking lot where they had spotted their car.  This meant that they had to walk that distance back on Little River Road to get to where they’d parked.  Froom that VAST trail junction though, it’s really a short downhill jaunt (just a couple tenths of a mile) to get to the base of Woodard Hill Road.  This would actually be a much better place to park a car for finishing the Woodward Mountain Trail.  Unfortunately, there’s not the expansive VAST parking area that you get following the other route, but I’ve seen cars parked down at the base of Woodard Hill Road, and I’m sure that’s why.  I can tell you, having returned the 0.9 miles to the main parking lot on my tour today via the standard route in the guidebook, with its one substantial uphill and extensive flat sections, that continuing down on Woodard Hill Road would be tremendously more fun and efficient.  It shortens the travel at the end of the route by almost a mile, and it’s all downhill.  Even if parking isn’t available at the bottom of Woodard Hill Road, and you had to park at the VAST lot, you could still have everyone in your party continue that way and have one strong member follow the regular route and pick the rest of the party up at the road.  It would honestly give people a much more enjoyable finish to their tour.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail in the Bolton Valley backcountry
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data showing today’s tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail

At the very start of my tour down around 450’, the powder was generally 8 to 12 inches deep, but up in the 1,500’ to 2,000’ range where I topped out it was in excess of 20 inches deep.  So there were a lot of good turns today at all elevations.  At some point I’d like to get to the middle portions of the Woodward Mountain Trail, but I’ve now learned a lot about the layout of the upper and lower sections, and would definitely feel comfortable guiding people in those areas.  The middle portion of the route is supposed to have a lot of fun glades though, so I can’t wait to check those out.

Bolton Valley, VT 15MAR2018

An image of the Ski Barn with new snow on the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dave skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Winter Storm Skylar just continues to churn out the snow in the Northern Greens, so Dave stayed around for some additional powder fun today at Bolton Valley

Being in the midst of this impressive storm cycle here in Northern Vermont, Dave decided to stick around for a bit more skiing today.  We’d had an absolutely fantastic outing at Stowe yesterday with the family, and today the goal was to visit Bolton Valley for some runs.  Like other local resorts, Bolton has been putting up some impressive snowfall numbers in the past several days, with 42 inches in the past 48 hours, and 62 inches in the past week.  Another interesting note was that the Timberline Quad was slated to open today at 10:00 A.M. – for the first time this week.  That had us intrigued.

“Like other local resorts, Bolton has been putting up some impressive snowfall numbers in the past several days, with 42 inches in the past 48 hours, and 62 inches in the past week.”

Although it was calm down at the house with huge fluffy flakes falling from the sky, I was definitely concerned about lift operations on the mountain with the anticipated winds.  Dave had checked the snow report as we were heading out, and there was no note of any lift issues, but once we got up to the resort we found that the Vista Quad was on wind hold.  The Timberline opening looked delayed about a half hour due to the time required to remove all the new snow from the lift terminals, but we were able to keep ourselves busy with some runs off the Snowflake and Mid Mountain chairs while we waited.  The mountain had indeed picked up another good shot of snow overnight, but it was notably denser than what we were skiing yesterday at Stowe.  You were still getting down in the powder to some degree, but you were definitely skiing much more “on” it at times as well.

An image of Dave skiing in the Lost Girlz area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dave working his way through the upper section of Lost Girlz as Winter Storm Skylar has finally put enough snow in there to provide good conditions.

When it was time to head over to Timberline, we caught first tracks on Tattle Tale.  Indeed the new snow was dense, but it was a lot of fun planing our way down through the untracked expanse of white.  Dave was definitely excited to get some of that feel today at Bolton, vs. the much busier slopes of Stowe from yesterday.  We spent the rest of the morning there, hitting lots of other favorites like Spell Binder, Brandywine, Adam’s Solitude, Lost Boyz, Lost Girlz, etc.  We headed back to the main mountain a bit after noon, and I headed out, but Dave was planning on a few more runs before heading on his trip back to Boston.

An image of a house with fluffy snow accumulations along the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Down in the sheltered areas along the Bolton Valley Access Road there were some nice snowy scenes

I got home to a driveway which needed to be cleared with the snow thrower again, after just having cleared it late yesterday evening.  We’ve passed two feet of accumulation now with Winter Storm Skylar here at the house, and it just keeps snowing.  We’re looking at some potentially great conditions continuing right into the weekend with snow showers around in the mountains.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13MAR2018

An image of Stephen dropping off Heavenly Highway into some powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Stephen skiing powder in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen enjoying some of the great snow out there in the Bolton Valley backcountry today

Today was a big ski day for Stephen.  He’s been working hard, for what seems like years, to put together an appropriate alpine touring setup for backcountry skiing at a reasonable price.  Over the past few months, the final pieces have finally been coming together.  Despite his son Johannes “stealing” critical pieces of what appeared to be his final setup, the gear swapping, shop visits, adjustments, readjustments, and everything else that tried to get in the way, was eventually settled.  All that remained was finding a day in his busy schedule to actually use his fancy gear.  Today was that day, and the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network was the place.

An image out the window of the Bryant Cabin showing icicles in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe got a fairly early start to give us plenty of time for a tour of whatever length we chose, I figured I’d give Stephen a good introduction to some of my favorite parts of the network that he’d never visited.  We’d be able to adapt the length of the tour as needed to fit energy levels and any equipment issues.  Snowfall from Winter Storm Skylar was just getting started as we began our tour from the sports center, and it intensified on our ascent of the Bryant Trail.  We saw only one other person on our ascent, and with the Bryant Cabin vacant, we were able to check out the upgrades that had been done as we took a quick break.  Clearly the cabin has seen some recent use, because the icicles draped down from the roof were some of the largest I’ve ever seen.

The next leg of our journey took us up to “The Glades” above the Catamount Trail, where we stopped our ascent around 3,100’.  Although the storm occasionally brought us some slightly larger flakes, they were for the most part small, with diameters in the 1 to 2 mm range.  This meant that the new snow was fairly dense, and it was covering everything underneath it quite well.  We continued down into the Cotton Brook Glades on Randy’s and Great White Way, and found some impressive untracked lines.  Stephen had a few good explosions in the powder, but he seemed thankful for most of them as they helped cool him down after the long ascent.  Those steep, tight sections on Randy’s were certainly the most challenging, but Stephen had some of his best turns down in the mellower pitches of Great White Way.  I find that those lower angle areas are some of my favorites as well unless you’ve just picked up two feet of fluff and really need the steeper pitch.

The ascent up from the back side was quite a labor at times.  It’s always tough skinning out in a few spots of that Cotton Brook ascent.  It’s just steep and narrow near the bottom of Randy’s, and there’s no way around it, so you have to try your best to set in switchbacks.  We were fortunate to have use of the old skin track that’s in place, but we were slipping on the steepest pitches.  Stephen was definitely feeling it as he’d take one step forward and what felt like 10 steps back, especially as he was getting used his very first day on his skins, but we made it through that struggle and the pitch of the ascent improved dramatically.  When we cut Stephen’s skins for his skis at full width, I was telling him how I considered that approach a “no brainer” vs. going with anything narrower, and after today’s ascent up from the Cotton Brook area I know he agrees 100%.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a tour in the backcountry at Bolton  Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS tracking data for today’s tour into the Bolton Valley backcountry

We finished off the tour with a line below Heavenly Highway down to Bryant Cabin, then on to Gardiner’s Lane and JJ’s, which delivered one of the best runs I’ve had there.  We’d certainly accumulated a few fresh inches of snow from the storm by that point, which helped make the skiing extra soft.  The Telemark Practice Slope was also aided by all the new snow, and made a nice end to the tour.  Actually, the tour wasn’t quite over at that point because we added on one of the most important parts:  sandwiches at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery.  We even got to chat with Ralph Deslauriers while we were there, and naturally one of the topics of conversation was the very snowy week we’ve got to look forward to.  It sounds like Winter Storm Skylar is going to move up into Northern Maine and wrap some of that abundant Atlantic moisture into the Northern Greens, just like the way things happened last week after Winter Storm Quinn!

Bolton Valley, VT 10MAR2018

An image of E and Dylan in the car at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Snowfall over the past few days has built up some great powder at Bolton Valley, and today was a day for getting out and finding it!

Although Bolton Valley was only reporting an inch of new snow in this morning’s report, they’ve picked up more than a foot of snow in the past couple of days from Winter Storm Quinn.  Combined with modest midweek skier traffic, that was already a recipe for some great skiing today, but even more snow was expected to arrive as the day wore on to further freshen up the slopes.

E and Dylan had some obligations in the morning, but Ty and I were free to ski and had plans to meet up with Stephen at the resort.  We parked at Timberline, alerted Stephen with a text, and headed up the Timberline Quad for a run.  Although I couldn’t find any slopes that hadn’t been thoroughly resurfaced at the resort during yesterday’s outing, I can finally say that I found at least one today.  I figured we could try a run on Lost Girlz, which would be a really tough test of the resurfacing.  Unfortunately, the combination of dense evergreen canopy above, and very steep pitch were too much; the coverage just wasn’t enough.  So, we high tailed it over to Tattle Tale for a run.  The snow was certainly good there, but in general it had seen much more traffic than usual because the Tattle Tale headwall was open.

An image of Ty skiing in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fun in the Villager Trees

We met up with Stephen and did a full run of Tattle Tale so that we could really take in the headwall experience.  It was a bit windblown at the very top, but coverage was quite good overall and it was definitely worth the trip. 

An image of Stephen skiing in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Stephen getting just what he was looking for today… powder for his fat skis!

The rest of the morning was dedicated to getting Stephen some deep untracked powder, and that we delivered in spades with trips to The Crack, Villager Trees, and White Rabbit.  Stephen seemed quite happy floating around on his fat alpine touring skis.  The powder was easily a foot or more in untracked areas, and it was definitely delivering great turns with that right-side-up density gradient that Winter Storm Quinn had set up.  In addition, new snowfall was ramping right up as we approached midday due to an incoming mountain upslope snow event that’s developing in the area.

An image of a water bottle and some ski gloves at the Fireside Flatbread bar at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe three of us headed to Fireside Flatbread for some lunch, and E and Dylan joined us for a bite once they arrived at the resort.  We all did a Cobrass/Five Corners run together before Stephen had to head back to pick up Johannes, and the rest of us finished off the day with some Timberline runs.  E and Dylan had skied Spell Binder earlier and it got a great recommendation.  It lived up to the expectations, especially that skier’s left that Dylan enjoyed ripping up so much.

“As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.”

As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.  There’s a vertically stacked low pressure sitting in Northern Maine, and that’s typically a great setup for snowfall in the Northern Greens when the low pressure wraps in deep moisture from the Atlantic.  You know there’s some potential for continued snowfall when the National Weather Service in Burlington speaks about difficulty in finding the off switch for the snowfall in their forecast discussion:

“Another good problem to have is trying to find the off switch to the upslope snow machine…looks like a brief break develops Sunday afternoon into Monday…before more accumulating snowfall for Tuesday into Weds.”

Bolton Valley, VT 09MAR2018

An image of two skiers walking through snowfall in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a snowboard track in powder snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm Quinn
With more snow from Winter Storm Quinn falling last night, today produced some beautiful powder skiing on the slopes of Bolton Valley.

Right on the heels of last week’s Winter Storm Riley that brought 40 inches of snow to parts of the Catskills, another nor’easter named Winter Storm Quinn hit the New England area during the middle of this week.  Quinn left three feet of snow in Southern Vermont, and really hammered the Southern Vermont Ski Resorts.  Up here in the northern part of the state, the accumulations weren’t quite that huge, but as of today the northern resorts were in the 1-foot range for total snowfall.

I actually had time in my schedule for some lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley this morning, and with half foot or so of additional power on top of yesterday’s snow, it seemed like there would be plenty of quality out there on all the slopes.  Indeed this overall shot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn had the potential for a good resurfacing of the trails, since my measurements down at the house indicated that we’d picked up close to an inch of liquid equivalent in our snow, and the local resorts should have seen at least that much.

“I took every steep and potentially rocky line I could find to get a sense for how aggressive I could make my turns in the powder before hitting the old subsurface or various trail obstacles. Try as I might to make contact with surface below, I just couldn’t do it.”

After getting to watch the Snowflake lift-op John, shred some endless tight turns on his snowboard, I made my way over to Timberline just in time to catch the opening of the chair.  My first run was Intro to Brandywine, and I took every steep and potentially rocky line I could find to get a sense for how aggressive I could make my turns in the powder before hitting the old subsurface or various trail obstacles, and I just couldn’t do it.  Even though Winter Storm Quinn only brought about a foot of snow and an inch or so of liquid equivalent, it had essentially resurfaced everything.  There’s little doubt that the robust coverage was due to the start of the storm providing some nice dense snow that simply adhered to and covered whatever was underneath.  My trip down Spell Binder revealed that the headwall was in prime form.  I launched off the ledges on the skier’s left expecting to bust down into a hard contact with the subsurface, but that simply never happened.  Although I didn’t ski it, I saw that even the Tattle Tale headwall was open, and that is really hard to cover well.  Along with the high density of the snow from the initial part of the storm, I think that fact that the storm had so little wind overall allowed the snow to really cover things well without the usual scouring.

Back at the main mountain all I can say is that everything was simply great: the powder, the groomers, all of it.  My measurements around the resort revealed generally 13” of settled surface snow at the elevations of the main mountain, and 11” at Timberline elevations, but the difference wasn’t noticeable in terms of the skiing – the new snow just covered everything.  Temperatures were in the mid-20s F during my session this morning, and I don’t think they were expected to go above freezing at the resort level, so the snow should continue to stay in great shape.

An image of the Bonus Woods area with lots of fresh powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a line through the Bonus Woods today and admiring how everything was just caked with powder

We’ve actually got a winter Weather Advisory out for the Northern Greens for tomorrow into Sunday because there’s a chance for some decent upslope snowWinter Storm Quinn was the type of storm that took a track northward after it hugged the coast, and it’s now part of the general cyclonic flow over there in the Maritimes that just spins Atlantic moisture into the area.  Around here in the Northern Greens we like that setup very much and we’re looking forward to seeing what else Mother Nature might throw at us in the coming days.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03MAR2018

An image of people riding fat bikes on the Nordic Trails at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont March after a fresh snowfall
An image of the Prayer Flag trail on the Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down through a bit of fresh powder today on the Prayer Flag trail on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

Yesterday the Northeast was affected by Winter Storm Riley, a whopper of a system with wind gusts reaching 93 MPH in Barnstable on Cape Cod.  On the winter side of the storm, the Catskills were the epicenter for big snowfall, with accumulations reaching 40 inches.  Here in Vermont, the snow totals weren’t quite as outrageous, but the southern resorts still pulled in over a foot of accumulation.  Bolton Valley was reporting 4 inches of new snow from the storm, which seemed like just enough to temp me out for a tour in the new powder.

“I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.”

I headed up to the Village in the mid-morning timeframe with temperatures in the upper 20s F and mostly cloudy skies.  The parking lots were already getting quite full, but there were still a number of parking spots right along Broadway, and I was able to grab one of those.  I actually saw a few folks riding fat bikes on some of the lower Nordic Trails, and it looked like a perfect day to be out on those.  Actually, with the fresh snow, comfortable temperature, and peeks of sun, it was just a gorgeous day to be out on anything – I saw all manner of folks on the trails varying from the bikers, to snowshoers, to Nordic skiers, to backcountry skiers.

A direction arrow and snowy evergreens on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWith only a few inches of new snow, I was looking for some low-angle glades for today’s tour, and I decided to venture across to the west side of the valley for a change.  I kicked things off with a run on Prayer Flag, augmented by ascending a bit farther up the west wall of the valley above the flags to get some extra vertical.  I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.  Only when I had to cut hard to stop or adjust for a major obstacle would I get down to the subsurface.  Lower angle was clearly the way to go today though, because down on Brook Run I could see that steeper terrain like the Holden’s Hollow Glades will definitely need another storm before they’ll be back in top form.

Down at the pump house on Broadway, I reskinned my skis and headed back up World Cup to Bryant.  I skied the first half of Cup Runneth Over to start my next run, skipping the steeper bottom half because the new snow just wasn’t sufficient for that pitch.  Cup Runneth Over had seen a couple of skiers, but there was ample fresh snow remaining and the turns were generally very nice.  I finished out with some of the usual glades in the World Cup area, and even caught part of the Telemark Practice Slope, which had actually seen minimal traffic.

A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking Data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

The classic end to the tour was of course a visit to the Village Deli to grab some subs with that fantastic new bread they’ve got.  I didn’t see Gus today, but the Deli was really hummin’ with just about every table filled.  It sounds like we might have another storm affecting the area this coming week, so we’ll certainly be watching that potential over the next few days.