Bolton Valley, VT 08MAY2022

An image from the Winooski Valley in the Waterbury/Bolton are of Vermont in May, as spring leaves on trees begin to work their way up the mountainsides.
An image looking down the Spillway trail on a ski tour in May at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The snow on Spillway today as I get in some turns on steep spring corn at Bolton Valley

Today I headed to Bolton for turns, since it might be the last weekend for practical/productive touring there.  Based on what I saw on my last Bolton outing a couple weeks ago, I figured the lower mountain would be discontinuous at this point, but the amount of snow on Spillway was obviously going to last a while.  I decided to hike today vs. skinning, and I think that was the right call.  The bottom half of the mountain has some decent areas of snow, but it’s discontinuous enough with plenty of dry ground for walking, such that hiking is the more practical option.  Above Mid Mountain, one could skin up Spillway, but that’s really steep, and they’ve plowed Sherman’s Pass most of the way to the Vista Summit, so I used that for a lot of my ascent today.

An image of a high-elevation view out toward Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley on a May ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A high-elevation view out toward Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley on today’s tour at Bolton Valley

The snow on Spillway is still continuous, and it was skiing great.  There must have been some productive freeze/thaw cycles recently, because it was the best corn snow I’ve skied during this April/May period.  Spillway is quite steep, so you get some of those nice fall-way turns, which are so much fun in good snow.  At Mid Mountain on my way up I met a couple that was on their way down.  They said that “Spillway was about as frosty as it’s been in a while”, and they weren’t kidding.

It’s fun traveling around the area right now and taking in the views as spring begins to make its presence known.  You can see that greenery is appearing in the lower mountain valleys, and it’s just starting to make its slow creep up the mountainsides.

An image from the Winooski Valley in the Waterbury/Bolton are of Vermont in May, as spring leaves on trees begin to work their way up the mountainsides.
You can see that greenery is appearing in the lower mountain valleys, and it’s just starting to make its slow creep up the mountainsides.

Stowe, VT 01MAY2022

An image showing some of the Mount Mansfield ski trails from near the summit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Main Street trail on a May ski outing at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the spring snow on Main Street today during my ski tour

While Friday turned out to be a bit too cool and breezy to really soften up the slopes around here, and yesterday didn’t seem much better, today saw more warmth and sunshine as the forecast had suggested.  Mother Nature really wasn’t messing around, with temperatures moving up into the 60s F, a cloudless sky, and the disappearance of those persistent winds.

An image of the Chin of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont as viewed from the Moscow area
The Mt. Mansfield Chin poking up in the background from the Moscow area

There was no question about whether or not the snow was going to soften up today, so I decided to head to Stowe for some afternoon turns.  I hadn’t been to the general Stowe area in a while, but the usual views of Mansfield started to appear as I headed through Waterbury Center, and the alpine terrain was certainly lit up in the May sunshine.

I’d hoped that the south-facing terrain of Spruce Peak still had enough coverage to provide some nice uninterrupted turns, and indeed as I approached the resort I could see that the Main Street area and surrounding trails still had nearly continuous snow down the base of the Sensation Quad.

With the route I took on the lower part of the mountain, I ended up hiking about 1/3 of the ascent, and then skinning the final 2/3.  I was initially questioning my decision to bring skins as I navigated the lower slopes, but once I hit the point where I started skinning, it was definitely the right choice in terms of efficiency; the upper slopes of Main Street have so much snow that it would take more effort to find dry areas for easier hiking.

In terms of the skiing, it was far superior to what I had experienced on Friday.  The warmth and sun took care of getting the spring snow into something that was definitely worthy of turns.  It wasn’t perfect, because there were still some sticky areas from recent snows on terrain that hadn’t seen the sun and/or skier traffic, but those were generally avoidable by skiing the sunnier sides of the trails.

With such a gorgeous day, I was surprised that I didn’t see a single other skier out there during my entire tour on Spruce.  I did see two other cars when I first arrived at the MMSC Clubhouse parking lot, but they were just hikers.  I saw them finishing up their hikes while I was ascending, and the entire parking lot was empty when I got back to my car.  Everyone must have been skiing over at Mansfield!

An image of a single car in the parking lot of the Mount Mansfield Ski Club during a May ski outing at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The Mount Mansfield Ski Club parking lot where I parked today was just about empty.

Bolton Valley, VT 29APR2022

An image showing a view westward toward The Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondack Mountains of New York during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Sherman's Pass trail area near the end of the ski season at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of Sherman’s Pass out on my ski tour at Bolton Valley today – snow coverage is still decent with a few breaks here and there.

As it’s been for the past few days, it was quite windy today in the Champlain Valley, but with partly cloudy skies providing some sun, and the temperatures getting into the 50s F, it seemed like there might be enough warmth to make the slopes worth a visit.  That thought was tempered somewhat as I headed into the mountains on the way home; the skies became notably cloudier, and the temperatures felt several degrees cooler, even at valley level.  At that point I was definitely questioning if there was sufficient warmth at elevation for softening the snow, but it still felt like it was worth the quick trip up to Bolton for some turns.

On the way up the Bolton Valley Access Road, first signs of old snow snowpack were at ~1,400’, and first signs of the new snow left from our most recent storm appeared in the 1,800’ – 1,900’ elevation range.  I’d contemplated skiing at Timberline if the snowpack was continuous enough, but it’s too broken up down at those elevations to be worth it.

As expected up at the main mountain, there’s still plenty of snow for top-to-bottom turns on the main routes like Beech Seal and SpillwaySherman’s Pass seems close to continuous, but there’s at least a break or two in the snowpack there.  While the quantity of the snow is looking quite good, we’re still going to need some more warmth and temperature cycling to get the snowpack to some quality corn.  Even with Bolton’s western exposure and afternoon sun, a lot of terrain still needs some rounds of softening.  The combination of temperatures, which I guess were somewhere in the 40s F, and the cooling breeze that we’ve had the past few days, just isn’t enough to really soften the snowpack.  Granted, I was out on the mountain in the later afternoon period when the sun angle is getting lower and temperatures are starting to drop off, but it was obvious that only areas in direct sun had seen much cycling of the snow to get to appropriate quality corn, and even those areas still need work.  Heck, most of terrain above 2,000’ that was not in the direct sun, still had snow from our most recent storm earlier this week.  I toured up to about 2,500’, but didn’t push above that elevation that because it was only getting cooler and windier as I ascended, and the quality of the snow just didn’t seem to be worth it.

So while spring snow conditions weren’t quite there today, the recent snows and good preservation we’ve been seeing do bode well as we head into the next several weeks of the season.  Tomorrow’s forecast around here seems sort of similar to today’s, so I wouldn’t expect primo ski conditions, but Sunday is supposed to kick things up a notch with temperatures around 60 F and more sun.  That might be enough to get some of that south-facing terrain into good shape.

Bolton Valley, VT 03APR2022

An image showing the trails of Whiteface Mountain in New York viewed from the Wilderness are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the mid station area for the Wilderness Double Chairlift after an early April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the drifted snow at the Wilderness Mid Station while I was out on today’s ski tour at Bolton Valley

After skiing yesterday’s fresh powder out on the hill, I hadn’t really planned to ski today, since the forecast called for gray skies and temperatures heading above the freezing mark.  We were thinking we might have left one of our water bottles up around 2,800’ on Wilderness during yesterday’s ski tour though, so that was incentive enough to get me out for another go.  If in doubt, it’s generally good to get out and get some exercise anyway.

I made my way up to Bolton Valley around midday, and whereas temperatures yesterday were in the upper 20s F when we’d arrived, today they were in the upper 30s F.  Some of the new Friday/Saturday snow had definitely melted back, and that effect decreased with increasing elevation, but the freezing line was still somewhere above the 3,000’ mark.  So, I never encountered any snow yesterday that had been fully preserved below freezing.  With that said, the snow skied really well.  On the upper mountain, the new snow had seen little settling, and untracked areas skied like dense powder vs. any sort of mush.  At all elevations, even where the snow was transitioning due to the above freezing temperatures, it seemed to be doing it in a subtle way.  It wasn’t sticky, just dense, and perhaps that slow change was due to the cold overnight temperatures and the overcast keeping away dramatic warming from direct sunlight.  In thinner areas where the new snow had melted back, the skiing typically transitioned right to the underlying corn snow, and that skied really well.  It was sort of strange to move from areas of dense powder skiing, right to spring corn snow, but somehow it worked.

An image of a roof with snow in the Bolton Valley Village after and early April snowstorm hit Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A scene from the Bolton Valley Village showing some of the recent snow while I was up at the resort today.

In any event, the water bottle ended up being right where we thought it was, so that part of the tour was quite successful!  I of course used the opportunity of being up at the resort to grab another Spicy Tuna onigiri from the Miso Toh Kome stand, and I brought some onigiri home for the boys as well.

Bolton Valley, VT 20MAR2022

An image from the top station of the Mid Mountain Double Chairlift with snow piled up on a March day at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Spillway trail rising into the clouds while riding the Vista Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of Spillway today from the Vista Quad. Clouds were raising and lowering on the upper half of the mountain this afternoon before snow started falling at the ridgeline elevations.

The forecast this weekend seemed generally on the dreary side, but I did want to get out for some turns and exercise, and early this afternoon seemed like a decent window.  The colder air and snow were expected to move into the area later in the afternoon, so midday offered the chance at spring snow that wouldn’t have tightened up, and it would be ahead of any rain that might fall on the lower elevations of the mountain.

Indeed I found some nice spring conditions today at Bolton Valley, all the way up above 3,000’.  There’s a lot of good corn snow out there, but some trails have those still slick areas of denser snow and ice underneath that you have to watch out for.  It wasn’t warm enough (generally in the 30s to near 40 F at 2,000’+ where I skied on the main mountain today) to really soften those densest spots, so the best skiing involved working your way around those areas and using the available corn snow.  Some trails (like Alta Vista and Hard Luck) had more corn snow available and fewer slick spots, while others (like Spillway and Beech Seal) had more of those icy/dense spots to work around.

The good news is that all that dense snow is going to last quite a while as we head into the spring.  Most natural snow trails had some coverage issues, so skiing was generally on routes with manmade snow today.  There’s still a lot of natural snow in the elevation range of the main mountain though (the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is around 40 inches), so a lot of terrain would be in play with natural base for any large storm cycles that come through in the next few weeks.

An image of a resort employee on a snowmobile in the Mid Mountain area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Bolton Valley employee on his snowmobile today at Mid Mountain in front of a closed Glades trail

When I first got to the mountain this afternoon, the cloud ceiling was up and down in the 2,500’ – 3,000’ range and there wasn’t any precipitation.  On my last run though, it was snowing up at ridgeline level, and by the time I was leaving, the frozen precipitation was just starting to make it down to the Village elevations.  The snow level must be well below 2,000 now though, because I can see that the precipitation is all snow on Bolton’s main base area webcam.

Bolton Valley, VT 06MAR2022

An image of Dylan performing a jump on his skis in soft spring snow on the Showtime trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan carving on his skis in soft spring snow on the Showtime trail under the Timberline Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan laying out a carve on Showtime in today’s soft spring snow at Bolton Valley

I hadn’t planned to ski today, thinking it was just going to be a rainy one, but the sky cleared out in the afternoon to produce a beautiful, warm, early spring day.  Seeing that, Dylan and I popped up to the mountain for some runs.  In a classic reversal of Saturday, this was a situation where the terrain with manmade snow provided the superior skiing.  Manmade snow is dense enough that it generally transitions quickly to an appropriate spring snow surface, while the natural snow initially gets sticky with warm temperatures and requires some freeze/thaw cycles before it really primes up.  Trail pitch mattered today as well, and low angle terrain was the toughest in terms of movement.  We talked to a couple of guys in the parking lot who said that the flat terrain was brutally slow.

An image of Dylan jumping on his skis on the Showtime Trail under the Timberline Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan was enjoying the soft spring conditions today by hitting the jumps just about any time he found them.

“…we just spent the rest or the time lapping the good snow on the Showtime trail under the Timberline Quad. The snow was great for railing carves and generally having a fun springtime ski session.”

We spent our whole session today at Timberline, and Bolton Valley had recently put down a bunch of manmade snow under the quad that provided great turns in the warm temperatures.  We did venture off to flatter terrain on one run per Dylan’s request, just to see what it was like.  Thankfully, we didn’t actually find that conditions on the flats as bad as the guys we’d talked to in the parking lot, and I’ve definitely seen it worse.  I was on Teles, which can be brutal with respect to the effort required to keep fore-aft balance and prevent yourself from going over the handlebars all the time on really sticky snow, but I found that today was at least reasonable compared to some days we’ve been out in the past.

The difficulty in traveling on flat terrain was still made abundantly clear after that run, and we just spent the rest or the time lapping the good snow on the Showtime trail under the Timberline Quad.  The snow was great for railing carves and generally having a fun springtime ski session.  Also, there was hardly anyone at the resort, probably because they had assumed it was going to be a dreary day like we’d thought.  When we arrived in the early afternoon, there were just three cars in the upper Timberline lot.

An image of a few cars on a spring day in the uppermost parking lot at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We assume everyone thought that today was going to be dreary, because there was hardly anyone with us in the upper parking lot at Timberline

Stowe, VT 16MAY2021

An image from near the Mt. Mansfield Base Lodge showing Smuggler's Notch and various clouds on a spring ski day with thunderstorms in the area near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Lower Standard trail with late-season leftover snow in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading up Lower Standard today, I found a little something extra that someone left alongside the snow.

On Friday, we got another update on the state of the snow on Spruce Peak from one of Powderfreak’s frequent Stowe hikes, and I could definitely see that the width of the available snow had contracted some since when I was there on my Sunday outing.

I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns.  Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple.  There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.

An image at the junction of the Crossover and Standard trails in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Topping out near the Crossover Trail on today’s hike

As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage.  That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches.  Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area.  The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.

That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around.  While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling.  Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive.  I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building.  I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well.  I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.

Stowe, VT 09MAY2021

An image of the snow on the Main Street Trail on a May ski day at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image showing some of the remaining snow on May on the Spruce Peak trails at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Looking up at the slopes of Spruce Peak today to get a sense for the best areas to put together some turns.

I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak.  I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.

Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area.  The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed.  The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.

An image of late-season snow left over from snowmaking on the Main Street Trail in the Spruce Peak area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort
I was encouraged by plenty of spots with deep snow on my ascent of Main Street today.

Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May.  From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next.  That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.

An image from Spruce Peak showing the snow in mid-May on the Nosedive trail on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out the snow on Nosedive as I look across from Spruce Peak toward Mt. Mansfield

It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns.  It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.

Bolton Valley, VT 11APR2021

An image of the Vista Summit area on a partly cloudy day in April at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing part of the Hard Luck ski trail on an April day at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the great coverage in the middle section of Hard Luck today

Today our plan was to play Tennis with Dylan in the afternoon, but that plan fell through once he realized that he had to work.  So, moving on from that option I decided to get some exercise by heading back up to Bolton to catch that run on Hard Luck that I’d missed on Friday.

Temperatures were definitely a bit cooler today than yesterday, with more clouds around, but it was still plenty warm to keep the snow soft.  Hard Luck is nearly continuous except for a small area near the top, but from there on down it has solid coverage that runs right into Sherman’s.  There’s still top-to-bottom coverage on the main mountain via the usual Sherman’s route to Beech Seal, but it’s getting close to a gap near the middle of Beech Seal.  So, I don’t think coverage on the main mountain will be continuous through next weekend with these reasonably warm temperatures in the forecast over the next few days, unless we get a substantial spring snowstorm down the road to cover up the bare areas.

An image of the sign for "The Mad Taco" restaurant in Waitsfield, VermontOn a whim, I put in a call to The Mad Taco Bolton to place an order when I was done with my tour.  I figured they would be closed, since lift-service at the resort ended last weekend, but they were open!  I talked with the associate for a while when I placed my order, and this was their last day of business for a few weeks while they do some remodeling, but they’ll be opening back up in May for the summer season.  So, it looks like they’re planning to run year-round up in the Village supplying great Mexican food for the area!

Stowe, VT 10APR2021

An image from the Meadows are looking across to Mt. Mansfield on an April day at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image looking up from the Mountain Mansfield Ski Academy lodge parking lot toward the Main Street trail on Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view up from the MMSC lot today toward Spruce Peak and the snowy Main Street trail

Today I headed to Stowe to go for a tour on Spruce Peak, and again the weather was simply sunny and fabulous.  I hadn’t been to the resort in a while since we didn’t have our school’s ski program this season due to COVID-19, so I poked around the Spruce Peak Village for a bit first.  There’s a huge new building going up where the ski patrol building was at the base of the Sunny Spruce Quad, so that’s another substantial addition to the village area.  I’m not sure what’s going to be going in there, or if it’s more lodging?  As usual, the crowd of folks earning turns was in the MMSC lot, and I found about a dozen cars or so there and ran into Shalagh, who was there skiing with some of her friends.  You almost can’t help but run into someone you know on these days.

All I can say is that Main Street delivered what were unquestionably the best turns of the weekend, and probably the best corn snow I’ve skied the entire spring season so far.  I’m not sure what it is about Main Street, but year after year after year, it just seems to deliver superior corn snow.  Maybe it’s because it faces south and really starts its corn snow cycling early, or maybe it’s because they blow that massive amount of dense snow for the racers, or maybe it’s because it gets so much less traffic than the trails on Mansfield.  Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors, but it just delivered ridiculously smooth, perfect peel-away corn snow turns when I was there.

An image looking down the Main Street Trail on an April ski day at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A view of Main Street during my descent today, with Mt. Mansfield and its trails visible across the valley

In terms of the ascent route, Main Street is really the best option with respect to continuous coverage for skinning, but those steep pitches are rough.  Despite the tough ascent, my legs felt great making Telemark turns on the way down.  Everything just seemed to flow, and I’m sure a lot of it was the quality of the snow.  The snowpack there seems quite deep, and it’s definitely worth more trips while that snow is around.