It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March. Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs. The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.
The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base. It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth. My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.
“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”
The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole. Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.
Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow. The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.
“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.
There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week. As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct. We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order. What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area. Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.
“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”
From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning. E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later. From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere. Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder. I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats. For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day. It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow. We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.
Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E. We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season. Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season. The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge. I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito. They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!
After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area. We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation. A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season. Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.
It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it. We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.
“One of my favorite parts of the descent was playing in the dips and rolls along the skier’s left of the trail – there was some incredible flow, and the fats had that “no width” feeling much of the time.”
Despite the recent additions of snow, there hasn’t been too much incentive to ski over the past couple of days, basically because of the continuation of those cold temperatures. When the high temperatures are below zero Fahrenheit, as they have been in some locations this week, I’d much rather get other work done and save skiing for when the temperatures become more respectable. Fortunately, today was that day. Temperatures climbed into the low 20s F this afternoon, and since I was curious about how those rounds of snow over the past week had settled in up at the mountain, it was time to check it out. I really didn’t know what to expect up on the hill. New trails have been opening up on natural snow, including some black diamond runs like Schuss and Vermont 200, so that seemed like a good sign. I was also curious about the lower-elevations on Timberline though. If the recent snows had put down enough coverage there, I was excited to skin up for some powder turns. To cover my options, I put both the fats and mid fats on the ski rack, and threw their skins in the back of the car. I was ready for whatever was out there.
First on my list was to check out Timberline on my way up to the main base, but that’s as far as I got. There was still some tall grass sticking out of the snow on the slopes, but I could see a lot of ski tracks scattered about, and it was clearly game on for Timberline turns. I grabbed the fats, put on the skins, and headed up. There was a well-established skin track heading up the usual Twice as Nice route, so clearly a lot of people have been earning turns since the most recent storm. At the base elevations down at ~1,500’, the snowpack had a few different layers. Going from the top down there were 3 to 4 inches of powder, with what appeared to be a thin crust below it, then another inch of powder, and then some denser snow. All told it was only about 5 to 6 inches in deep, but there was enough substance to it that it seemed like it would provide some decent skiing. Up above 2,000’ it was notably deeper, with more base and a snowpack hitting the 7-10” range.
Based on what I’d seen in the lower elevations, I thought that Brandywine might be a nice option, so I headed to the top of Intro and switched over for the descent there. Looking down Brandywine, the signs were definitely positive. The trail had seen a few skiers, but there was plenty of untracked snow on the skier’s left, and based on the tracks it looked like there would be plenty of cover. The turns were even better than I’d expected, with 6 to 8 inches of powder over a hardened base up top. There was that thin layer of crust sandwiched in there somewhere, but it only occasionally made its presence felt, and the fat skis made quick work of it. One of my favorite parts of the descent was playing in the dips and rolls along the skier’s left of the trail – there was some incredible flow and the fats had that “no width” feeling much of the time. There has definitely been some good snow building up on the mountain while I wasn’t looking – it’s certainly not enough to support lift-served traffic yet, but we’re just one good synoptic storm away from that with the base that’s down there now.
When I reached the junction with Timberline Run I saw that it was rutted from snowcat traffic, so I took Spur, which was totally untracked. The powder wasn’t so deep that I couldn’t move on the modest pitches, but it was enough to keep you floating for turns. As I passed by Spell Binder I saw that there had been a lot of skier traffic there, so indeed people have been hitting it hard. It seems like there was a mini army out there skiing laps over the past couple of days. Just as I was reaching the end of Spur, I saw that the sky was exploding with color off to the west, and it quickly became dramatic enough that I had to stop and take it in. I was probably there for 10 minutes watching the color change as the sun sank lower, and I happily got some good photos of the light show. Even the lowest elevations about which I was most concerned offered up good turns, so it may be worth another visit tomorrow. Temperatures are staying mild ahead of the next storm heading this way, so I’d say it’s time get out in the snow in the northern mountains.
We had a family gathering through early afternoon today, but in the mid to late afternoon, I headed up to Bolton Valley for a tour. Up to that point we’d had on and off bouts of precipitation in the valley, often showers mixed with sleet, but no notable accumulation other than transient stuff. Temperatures were in the mid 40s F in the 300’-500’ elevation range along the bottom of the Winooski Valley as I headed westward toward Bolton; we’d had breaks of sun among the clouds and precipitation, and I was preparing for some fairly soft and slushy spring turns up on the hill. Since I never pulled them out yesterday at Stowe, I’d even brought my fat skis to evaluate how they’d perform in the soft stuff. A lot of people seem to like the way they smooth out the mushy stuff, but I’m still curious about how well that works.
Precipitation was pretty sparse as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road, and while there’s patchy snow all the way up out of the valley, consistent natural snowpack really didn’t appear until roughly the 1,500’ elevation at the Timberline Base. Temperatures had dropped into the upper 30s F by that elevation, and light snow was falling. It was mid to late afternoon, but it was actually pretty dark with the clouds around, and more of them appeared to be building in from the west. Based on the available light, it actually felt like a typical November outing in the mountains.
“The snow was good on the whole descent…”
On the slopes, the snow wasn’t really the mushy spring snow that the valley temperatures had given me the impression I’d find; I think the temperatures and/or available sunlight really weren’t high enough to support that. Instead what I found was the couple inches of wet snow/sleet that we’ve picked up from these latest storms, sitting atop the base. The subsurface was still fairly soft and spring-like, presumably due to the recent rounds of wet precipitation percolating some moisture down in there. The intensity of the snowfall was fairly light on the ascent, although I could see squalls around off to the west. There was one off to the south, and another more ominous-looking one off to the north, they were both starting to devour the views of the Adirondacks and it looked like the spine of the Greens was in their path.
Up around the Timberline Mid Station at 2,250’, the surface snow began to have a bit more coalesced consistency relative to what was below. The temperature was approaching the freezing mark, and it appeared to be due to a combination of elevation and some cooler air coming in with the approaching weather. I topped out at the Timberline Summit at 2,500’, and the temperature by that point was either below freezing or very close – the trees still held snow from the recent storms.
After starting down Upper Brandywine, I was about to head back toward the Timberline Mid Station, when I saw that there was a lot of good untracked snow farther down on Brandywine, so I followed that less traditional route. The coverage was actually quite good, and although I don’t follow that route as often, I’m realizing that it’s got more of a northerly aspect than the slopes below the mid station. I think it’s going to be a good route to use in more marginal situations of coverage or sun exposure. The snow was good on the whole descent, transitioning from that stronger, peel-away stuff in the higher elevations, to a wetter consistency down low. I was amazed at how much be It was very much like what we experienced yesterday at Stowe up to the midday hour before the freezing level rose up above the summit of the Fourrunner Quad. There are certainly areas starting to develop bare patches at Timberline, but if you wanted you could ski natural snow terrain all the way down to the Timberline Base; that’s pretty decent for west-facing terrain down at those low elevations this time of year.
The precipitation that had been looming off to the west finally pushed its way over the ridge and into the valley as I was switching out of my ski gear at the car. In typical Bolton Valley style, it came strong, and it was snowfall that meant business. It wasn’t quite the whiteout that I saw in Powderfreak’s Stowe pictures, I think in part because the flakes weren’t as large (probably about ½” max in diameter), but a decent wall of snow came in and made its presence known.
If that snow had been rain, it would have been pouring, and indeed I was able to watch that transition as I descended back down the access road. The snow stayed with me down to around the 500’ elevation, and finally mixed out to just a pouring rain. That rain followed me through the lower elevations of the Winooski Valley, and then by the time I got up a bit higher back at that house along the Waterbury/Bolton line, snow was mixing back in. Checking the radar a little while later, it showed a nice shot of moisture making its way through the Winooski Valley.