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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On 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!
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.
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.
The weather over the past several days has been great, and I guess we sort of lose perspective in how we can often be battling marginal temperatures and cloud cover to even get these nice warm spring days in April. We’ll certainly take them when we can get them.
With this continued run of pleasant weather, I headed up to Bolton this afternoon to check out the spring snow and get in a few turns. I wanted to take a run on Hard Luck since I knew the snow there was fairly deep and probably just about continuous to make for a nice steep run. It’s funny, but Spillway, which is a usual the big spring holdout with snow in terms of steep terrain on the main mountain, isn’t really an option at this point. Mother Nature covered it up enough on her own this season that I guess the resort decided to save the money and skip the snowmaking there. Hard Luck did look good as I passed by on my way up Sherman’s Pass, but I was a little too tight on time to fit it in my tour, so I ended up skiing a moderate descent on Sherman’s and Bear Run.
It was a nice run, but I’ll have to see if I can get up for another trip to try out Hard Luck!
Today was Bolton Valley’s last scheduled day of lift-served skiing for the 2020-2021 season, so with some nice spring weather and a bit of time, I stopped up for some turns this afternoon.
Today we’ve definitely transitioned from the wintry, powder conditions of Friday and Saturday, back to spring snow conditions. On untouched terrain, the snow from our recent storm was a bit sticky, but on terrain that had seen skier traffic, I actually found some of the best corn snow of the season. I had good turns on Hard Luck and Beech Seal, and there seemed to be some additional trails opened up today after ski patrol had assessed the combination of new snow and softening that came together. I did traverse out to the Snowflake area to see what opportunities it held, and ended up taking Sprig O’ Pine back toward the main base – it had seen some grooming and seemed to offer the best turns.
In the parking lots, the warm weather meant that spring tailgating was in full effect, and folks seemed to be trying to practice their social distancing and stay with their specific groups. Around the base area, you could hear lots of conversations related to the final day of lift-served skiing, and I’m sure the employees are ready for a nice break after the extra stress of dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and precautions all winter.
We popped back up to the mountain for another sunny ski session at Timberline on Sunday, and the boys were both off work so they were able to join us. Temperatures were about 10 F warmer than Saturday, but I didn’t notice too much change in the variety of ski surfaces that we’d seen – the direct, west-facing trails were decent corn snow, but there were still some sticky spots on other aspects, and some firmer snow on terrain well out of the sun.
We sampled most of the available terrain off Timberline, and folks had some different favorite runs. E liked Twice as Nice the most, while I liked Spell Binder the best because it seemed to have seen less traffic and offered some of the smoothest corn snow surfaces below the headwall. All in all it was yet another great day of spring skiing though, topped off with a little takeout from Mad Taco Bolton for dinner.