Today our area has been under the influence of Winter Storm Bruce, a low pressure system that’s crossing through New England and bringing copious amounts of moisture with it. School was cancelled for Ty due to the storm, so I came home a bit early in the afternoon with the hopes of getting together for a ski tour up at Bolton Valley. There was some very heavy snowfall in the early afternoon period that was easily putting down an inch or two of snow an hour, so I was a bit leery about trying to negotiate the Bolton Valley Access Road under such conditions. But, the heavy snow let up a bit in the midafternoon timeframe, and we figured the plows would be able to keep up with it so we headed out.
The Bolton Valley website indicates that the Timberline area is strictly closed to traffic right now (perhaps due to chairlift work) so we headed up to the main base for our tour, and that turned out to be a great starting point. The amount of snow that the Village picked up from this storm was quite impressive – we both did numerous depth checks and found 18 to 20 inches of snow at 2,000’. The depth of the new snow was essentially the same all the way up above 3,000’, so I’d say that everything from this storm fell as snow at least down to the Village level.
There was a great skin track set on Lower Turnpike, which was a godsend with so much fresh snow. Temperatures were in the upper 20s at 2,000’, so all the snow up there was quite dry. It certainly wasn’t Champlain Powder™ fluff, but it was medium-weight powder with a right-side-up distribution and the skiing was fantastic – definitely a day for the fat boards. Ty was on E’s 115 mm Black Diamond ElementTelemark boards, and he really likes the way they handle the powder. I knew we’d need some steep pitches to handle this snow, so that’s what we sought out, and the skiing was simply fantastic. This storm brought plenty of liquid equivalent in the snow (1.5 inches of total liquid form the storm even down at our house in the valley) so it’s covered everything really well and there’s not much to worry about with such a substantial base already in place ahead of this storm.
The actual action photography was quite a challenge today because we’re talking fairly late afternoon, late November light, and snowfall, but I used my brightest lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM) and we did our best with the light we had. Bolton Valley is now reporting 66 inches of snow on the season, which is a great way to get rolling in November.
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.
After Winter Storm Goliath last week, we moved into a pattern of snow showers with minor accumulations here and there ahead of a cold front that passed through the area yesterday. The approach of the cold front intensified the snowfall, resulting in snow totals of up to a foot in the Northern Greens. Unlike the dense snow from Winter Storm Goliath, these latest rounds of snow have been light and dry, with densities of 3-6% H2O based on my analyses. With this fluff on top of the dense snow, it was actually a setup for some great powder skiing. The temperature drop with the arctic cold front was notable, with highs expected to be only in the single digits F today, but I still wanted to get out for some turns and exercise, so I decided to go for a ski tour up at Bolton Valley this morning.
Despite temperatures running in the low single digits as expected, I was happy to find that there wasn’t much wind as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road. I swung into the Timberline parking lot at 1,500’ on my way up the road, and measured 4-5” of powder over the old base. Although likely serviceable for some turns on appropriate terrain, I know that the base snow is a bit thinner down at that elevation, so I continued on up to the Village at 2,100’ to start my tour. It was right around 0 F up at the Village, and there was the occasional bit of breeze blowing things around, but it was nothing like that wind from last Tuesday during Winter Storm Goliath. I ascended via the designated Wilderness route, and for the first time this season it felt like it was worth a trip all the way to the Wilderness Summit. Indeed that was the case, as the new snow kept getting deeper and deeper, eventually reaching a point where even black diamond terrain was quite skiable. The person before me who had set the skin track up to the summit had descended via Bolton Outlaw, and the turns looked quite nice.
Here’s the summary of the snow depths atop the old base up to the Wilderness Summit at various elevations, with the 500’ value being from our house:
I can’t say that all the snow up on the mountain was necessarily from the past 24 hours, but it’s very easy to distinguish the new powder from the dense base snow that we picked up from Winter Storm Goliath.
Wanting to go for something with a bit more pitch lower down, I passed by Bolton Outlaw and headed to Upper Fanny Hill so that I could also ski its lower portion. Upper Fanny Hill has a healthy black diamond pitch, and in terms of coverage it’s easily good to go now with the dense base covering up everything but the obvious major obstacles. I did find a good representative spot from which I could assess total snowpack depth at around 2,700’, and found it to be 14-15”. There’s a lot of single-black terrain at appropriate elevations that I suspect is good to go for at least the touring crowd, although I’d say one more good shot of liquid equivalent (an inch or so) would be needed to get things going for lift-serviced levels of traffic. I’m sure the mountain could open some natural terrain consisting of mellow pitches at this point if they chose to.
“Upper Fanny Hill has a healthy black diamond pitch, and in terms of coverage it’s easily good to go now with the dense base covering up everything but the obvious major obstacles”
In any event, the powder turns were excellent this morning, with my only complaint being that it was “slow snow” due to the very cold temperatures. Even with 115 mm fat skis keeping me afloat, I had to go steeper than the pitch of typical green terrain for a good ride – in that respect, Fanny Hill was a better choice than Lower Turnpike as I suspected. We’ve got a couple of potential storms coming up this weekend that may deliver something more like Winter Storm Goliath in terms of liquid equivalent. They probably won’t deliver the type of Champlain Powder™ we had with this event, but if they play out well they could set up the base to open a good amount of natural snow terrain.
We’ve had a decent buildup to Winter Storm Goliath over the past several days because it was expected to be the first widespread winter storm to hit the Northeast this season. The forecasts were spot on with an initial burst of heavy snow in the wee hours of Monday night, as snow began to fall not too long after midnight, and by the time I made my 6:00 A.M. weather observations there were 4.3 inches on the boards here at the house. Early morning reports from the mountains weren’t actually all that much greater than our total in the valley, topping out around a half a foot, but the snow was certainly going to do a decent job of resurfacing the slopes – my liquid analysis showed the snow coming in at a hefty 13.0% H2O. That’s actually a great way to start building a natural base of snow.
“I could tell that in the appropriate areas the snow was going to offer those surfy, buttery powder turns that you get atop a good dense snowfall.”
We were getting set to head up to Bolton Valley for some turns around noontime when we hit a very unexpected snag – Ty put on one of his Telemark boots and immediately let out a boisterous “Whoa, that’s tight!” Apparently kids his age grow. Ty likes his boots really tight, so for him to say that was a bad sign, there was no way he was going to be able to ski in those boots. E quickly offered him one of her new boots, and it was a great fit. Ty was of course elated to have the chance to try out E’s sweet ski boots, but of course that left her without a pair. Let’s just say that it’s fortunate for us that trash day is Thursday. E’s old Telemark boots had been sitting around for a couple of years, and after finally bringing them to OGE last week for consignment and finding out that they were just too beat up for them to even accept them, it seemed like it was time to give them the heave-ho. Desperate times call for certain types of measures, so into the trash I went this afternoon, and the old Garmonts came back into service. Ty actually tried them on and found that even those were too tight, so “conveniently” he somehow still wound up with E’s nice new boots and E donned her old ones. Needless to say, a trip to OGE is going to be in order to see what we can find for Ty in the Tele boot department.
The precipitation we encountered was generally sleet as we headed up to the resort, and we got a pretty good sandblasting with pellets driven by a strong wind in the Bolton Valley parking lot. There generally seemed to be 3 to 4 inches of new snow at Village elevation, but there was also plenty of drifting due to the strong winds, so it was hard to get a good estimate. The process of being blasted by sleet pellets tamed down as we began skinning up the sheltered slopes of Lower Turnpike, and after gaining a couple hundred feet of elevation, depth checks revealed 5 to 7 inches of dense snow along the sheltered areas on the climber’s right of the trail. Even on Lower Turnpike, there were still some areas that were wind packed and or showed reduced snow depths due to stripped snow, but I could tell that in the appropriate areas the snow was going to offer those surfy, buttery powder turns that you get atop a good dense snowfall. The boys stopped their ascent at the junction with Wilderness Lift Line and jumped into the woods to play in the snow, but E and I continued on up to the base of the headwall on Cougar to get into some of the typically good snow that sits there. As we neared the top of our ascent I was finding pockets of 8 to 10 inches of snow in the best spots, but even half that amount was plenty to keep you well off the subsurface with the density of this storm’s snow.
After a quick break, E and I began our descent, sampling the snow along the skier’s left of Cougar and finding some reasonably soft lines in the dense accumulations. As E descended I took the opportunity to get in a first test of ski action photography using the Canon EOS 7D Mark II with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. I’ve been looking for a really bright lens to supplement my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM workhorse – especially for dark storm days like this near the solstice. Although it’s a prime lens, 50 mm on an APS-C camera is in a pretty nice spot with respect to focal length for my type of ski action photos. And, it’s hard to argue about the monstrous light-gathering ability of an f/1.2 lens – wide open it’s more than an 11-fold increase over my f/4 lens, so it should be able to handle even the darkest of storm days. Obviously shooting action photos wide open at f/1.2 with its razor thin depth of field isn’t necessarily going to be practical, but even stopping down to a respectable f/2 is going give me a four-fold increase in brightness and the ability to hit action-stopping shutter speeds in lower light without having to crank up the ISO too high. Today I started off with a reasonable f/2.8 and a locked shutter speed of 1/1000 sec, and an ISO of only 250 was required. After looking at the images, I’ve got nothing to complain about so far; the focal length is looking like it’s going to be great, and the lens has got that beautiful color retention and contrast you’d expect from one of Canon’s L-series lenses.
“Dylan was back on his game of trying to one-up me with his Telemark turns, but I had my fat skis today, and boy were they the right tool for the dense snow.”
There was certainly some variability in the snow due to areas affected by the wind and dense precipitation types, but the sheltered spots yielded some very nice turns. When we’d made it down to the boy’s elevation we found that they had already put away their skins and were just about ready to go – that was a pleasant surprise. Dylan was back on his game of trying to one-up me with his Telemark turns, but I had my fat skis today, and boy were they the right tool for the dense snow. They made that beautifully stable platform that kept you up in the upper reaches of the powder, but still let you slice your way into it. I’d say the most consistently good powder turns were in the upper reaches where E and I began our descent, but there were some nice turns to be had lower down as well. Ty was unfortunately off his game a bit due to a sore leg, but Dylan had some beautiful carves and was working hard on fast transitions from turn to turn as he followed me into some of the best lines along the skier’s left of the trail.
I’d heard that the James Moore Tavern was going to be open for business this weekend, but I guess they changed that plan because we found it closed, and instead headed for some food at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery. The resort was pretty quiet in general, with just a few skiers around hitting the slopes and enjoying the new snow with a bit of extra solitude. There was plenty of snow being made on the slopes of the main mountain today, and combined with this natural accumulation (which added up to over an inch of liquid even down at our place in the valley) they should be in good shape to handle lift-served levels of traffic on the terrain they open. We’re getting into a much more wintry weather pattern now, so this storm should serve as a good base for the start of the season’s snowpack.