Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2019

An image of trees coated with snow from Winter Storm Gage at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of holiday lights in the evening in the center of the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Early evening in the Bolton Valley Village with some new snow from Winter Storm Gage

Over the past couple of days, Winter Storm Gage brought several inches of snow to the area, so I headed up to the mountain today to sample the goods.  We picked up close to an inch of liquid equivalent from the storm down at the house, so the mountains should have had at least that much as well.  Bolton Valley was noting 5 inches in their official report, which was likely a fairly dense 5 inches.  There was some mixed precipitation in the middle of the storm cycle, but it seemed like the slopes should have gotten a decent resurfacing with the mixed components sandwiched between a decent amount of snow.

Temperatures were really nice up at the mountain – they were right around 30 F, and with essentially no wind, it was very comfortable and calm.  I was up in the late afternoon heading into twilight, so it was a relatively quiet period of the day and I walked right on the Vista Quad when I arrived.  Although there was still plenty of light when I first got up to the mountain, light snow was in the air and we’re in late December, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before it would be dark enough for the slope lights to come on.  I put a clear lens in my goggles, and that was really perfect for my twilight session.

New snow from Winter Storm Gage coats cars in one of the parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Cars coated by Winter Storm Gage in the upper tier of the Bolton Valley parking lots.

The new snow was certainly a boon to the conditions.  There were still slick areas, but there was a lot of loose snow throughout the trails as well.  A check on the ungroomed areas from roughly mid mountain up revealed about 4 inches of powder, then a thick/crustier layer below that, then another 4 inches of snow above the base.  Even the uppermost layer of snow was reasonably dense, so moderate angle terrain skied quite nicely.  Finding the natural snow in decent shape, I ventured over toward Lower Turnpike and got some excellent powder turns.  I would occasionally touch down to the harder layers below, so the turns were just a notch below what we experienced back on the 21st of the month.

“It’s a bit strange continuing to ski as 4:00 P.M. hits because it feels like everything should be closing up, but you just get to keep going – almost as if the resort forgot you were there.”

I really enjoy these twilight sessions that you can get at Bolton Valley – it can be a very peaceful time of the day as many people have finished up their skiing and folks planning on the evening may not yet have arrived.  It’s a bit strange continuing to ski as 4:00 P.M. hits because it feels like everything should be closing up, but you just get to keep going – almost as if the resort forgot you were there.  The night skiing lights come on at some point, and the scenery around you changes by the minute as the daylight fades.  It’s definitely a unique experience, which is certainly enhanced when you’ve got some new snow.

There’s another small system coming into the area tonight, with the potential for another few inches on top of what we’ve had.  We’re hoping it makes for some nice New Year’s conditions!

Bolton Valley, VT 24DEC2019

An image of Dylan skiing on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty on his snowboard on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty out today on his snowboard riding Bolton Valley’s Alta Vista

There hasn’t been any new snow since our ski outing on Saturday, but Ty was planning to head up to the mountain for a bit of snowboarding with his friend Liam, so the rest of the family decided to get in a few runs as well.

I had to head into town for an errand in the morning, but I headed up to the mountain to meet everyone after that.  Not seeing any of the family at the base of the lifts, I did a quick run off the Mid Mountain Chair and took the mellow Bear Run route to get a feel for the surfaces.  The grooming had set the snow up pretty nicely – surfaces were moderately firm, but not bad thanks to relatively low skier traffic.

I’d checked my phone when I got off at Mid Mountain, and E and D let me know they were in the lodge, so I caught up with everyone there.  We had snack, Liam and his family headed out, and our family decided to go for a run off Vista.  E and D showed me where the best snow was located based on their previous runs, and it was in those areas where skiers had pushed the snow to edges.  The spots provided some nice turns in a few inches of loose snow, and D really enjoyed carving it up on his new slalom skis.

Overall the mountain was very quiet today, presumably because folks know that it’s really just groomed runs for now until we get more snow.  Fireside Flatbread wasn’t even open, but Bolton Valley will likely have everything going for the holiday week.

The next couple of weather systems (a smaller one on Friday, and then a larger one starting Sunday) in the flow have generally looked like mixed precipitation, but the back side of the second one seems to consistently show snow potential in the models.  It’s interesting that some models like the ECMWF and CMC show more wintry potential in that second system, but the BTV NWS doesn’t even mention anything about that in their discussion, so I wouldn’t lend it much credence at this point.  For now, I’d certainly watch that Monday/Tuesday period for potential ski options depending on how the back side of the storm cycle plays out.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2019

An image of Dylan skiing in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont in mid-December after a couple of small snowfalls
Dylan catching some turns today on the natural snow over at Wilderness

We’ve had just a couple of modest systems bringing fresh snow this week, Winter Storm Finley on Tuesday/Wednesday, and then an arctic front with snow squalls soon after that.  In combination they brought 6 to 7 inches of snow down here at the house, and close to a foot up at Bolton Valley.  We had some warm storms last week that firmed up the slopes, but a photo of Powderfreak’s from Wednesday showed some gorgeous powder skiing thanks to the new snow.

“Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.”

Although Ty was at work today, E and Dylan and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to check out the new accumulations and overall conditions.  Temperatures have been quite chilly over the past couple of days, with highs only around 10 F or so, but today they were getting nicely up into the 20s F in the afternoon.

Lift-served trail options are fairly limited right now since natural snow trails off Vista don’t have nearly enough snow to support those levels of skier traffic, but we rode the Vista Quad and eventually made our way over to Wilderness to see what the terrain over there offered  With mostly skinning traffic on that part of the mountain, many areas on the lower slopes of Wilderness are in great shape.  Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.  We only saw three folks skinning up during the course of our descent, so skier traffic seemed light, in line with the conditions we found.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in the Wilderness area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica masquerading as Ty by borrowing his ski clothes for today’s outing.

Pizzas set up at Fireside Flatbread at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe stopped in for some slices at Fireside Flatbread before leaving, and there was modest midafternoon crowd enjoying the atmosphere.  The pizza was fantastic as always!

The forecast actually looks fairly benign over the course of the next week, but the weather models due hint at a couple of possibilities for snow.  We’ll be watching to see if anything develops.

Bolton Valley, VT 07DEC2019

An image of fluffy upslope snow from an early December Alberta Clipper system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the snowpack depth around mid mountain in early December at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking the depth of the snowpack today at around 2,600′ near Mid Mountain. Total depth was around 27″, with about 20″ of it being powder from recent storms.

Last weekend, Winter Storm Ezekiel brought some hefty snowfall to the Northeastern U.S., with totals exceeding two feet in areas around Albany, NY and Southern Vermont.  Up here in the northern part of the state we only picked up a few inches of snow from the storm, with totals falling off to almost nothing near the international border in a total reversal of the usual trend.

A couple of smaller, Alberta Clipper-style systems came through the area this week though, with the second one being especially potent as it interacted with the Northern GreensBy this morning we’d already picked up 5 to 6 inches of pristine powder at the house, and Bolton Valley was reporting 9 inches in the past 24 hours.  We’re known for getting plenty of dry, “Champlain Powder™” here in the Northern Greens, but this snow was way up there on the quality scale.  My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.

“My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.”

The upslope snowfall on the back side of the Clipper looked like it would continue all day today, so I decided it was time for a quick trip up to the mountain to check out the new powder.  Thanks to our cold November temperatures, Bolton Valley has actually been open for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t even picked up my season’s pass yet because I’ve been so busy.  E and D were both a bit under the weather, and T was at work, so unfortunately they’ll have to wait until another trip to get themselves set up with their passes.

An image from outside the Village Cafe area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI was worried about a long wait to get my season’s pass, but once up at the mountain it turned out that picking it up was very quick.  While I was walking toward the lodge from my car, I ran into a member of the resort staff who was checking in with everyone about picking up their passes.  For pick up, he said to head right toward the Village Café, and they’d take care of everything.  Indeed, there was only one person ahead of me picking up their pass, and it was very quick.  The process of pick up and filling out the waiver was all done very efficiently on a handheld, wireless iPad-type device, and there was plenty of nice seating on couches in the lobby area so you could have a seat while you finished off the process.

Of course the greatest part of picking up my pass this year was the fact that Bolton has gone RFID!!!  Dylan and I suspected it when we saw electronic gates by the lifts during a ski tour last month, but I can definitely say it’s for real.  It’s so nice to be able to just stick the pass in my pocked (my Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket has a pocket on the sleeve that works perfectly) and I never have to mess with getting it out at the lifts.  I tested out my pass at the Mid Mountain Chair and the process was perfectly smooth.

An image of snow falling in the Village Circle area during an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the snowy Bolton Valley Village today after picking up my season’s pass

“I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow.  Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.”

In terms of skiing, my plan was to use an assist from the Mid Mountain Chair and head over to Wilderness to ski some of the fresh powder in that area.  I figured there would be no one on the upper mountain without the Vista Quad running, but when I was traversing over on Fanny Hill, I ran into a patroller who was prepping the trail for opening because they were going to open Vista.  He reminded me that I wasn’t on the designated uphill route, but thankfully let me continue on over since I was just about onto the Wilderness terrain.  I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow.  Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.

An image of snowy trees and a skin track after an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the snowy views along my skin track in the Fanny Hill area.

Once connecting to the standard skinning route, I finished my ascent on Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness ridgeline and got ready for some turns.  Light snow with breaks of sun that had been with me on the last part of my ascent were replaced with a sudden change to a maelstrom of huge flakes coming down as I began to descend.  I really didn’t have to venture far afield from Peggy Dow’s and Turnpike to find powder – there was plenty of it throughout the route because skier traffic had been low enough.  Powder depths ranged from as much as 15 to 20 inches on the upper mountain, to typically 12 to 15 inches on the lower mountain, so even with the incredibly dry powder there was plenty of it to keep you floating.  I’d brought my 115 mm fat skis and they were definitely the right tool for the job.  I was surprised at how quickly my legs got cooked from making Telemark turns – they’d often be fried after just a dozen or so turns!  I guess it has been roughly three weeks since I last skied, so my legs are clearly telling me they need to get back into ski shape.  Today should get the process started though, and hopefully ski days will become more frequent as we move into December and we continue to get snow.

On the weather side, it looks like we’ve got a warm system to start off this next week, which will consolidate the snowpack somewhat, and then temperatures should cool down for midweek with potential for some moisture from the Great Lakes affecting the area.  Then there’s the potential for another large system next weekend, but it will be a bit before we can figure out how much snow we might get from that one.

Looking back at the start of the 2018-2019 ski season in Vermont – Mt. Mansfield snowpack depth and historical comparative analysis.

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.

One approximate measure of when the potential natural snow/off piste skiing begins each season here in Northern Vermont is the date when the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake reaches 24 inches.  This is by no means an exact date, especially since it’s possible to get great turns on just a few inches of snow if the snow is dense and the underlying surface is grass instead of rocks.  You can indeed get by with much less than 24 inches of snowpack if the snow is very dense, but not if it’s all Champlain Powder™ fluff.  Based on empirical observations and reports from skiers in the area each season though, hitting the 24” mark is reasonable for most situations.

With that preface, let’s take a look at where last season sits with regard the start of the natural snow/off piste skiing around here.  By most accounts, last season started off with bang.  Even in the local mountain valleys, the winter snowpack started as early as November 10th.  That’s very early for the valleys, and when the valleys are doing well, the mountains certainly are too.

The updated plot for the 60+ seasons in the Mt. Mansfield Stake database is below, with last season represented by the red star:

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.
The updated plot showing the date of reaching 24-inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. The point for the 2018-2019 winter season (November 27th, 2018) is indicated by the red star.

Before I add a bit of context to last season’s start, here are the stats for the data set:

n:  64
Mean:  Dec 12th
Median:  Dec 9th
Mode:  Dec 16th
S.D.:  18.8 days

Entry of this year’s data point had no effect on the mean, mode, or S.D. (within a tenth of a day), but it did drop the median by one day from Dec 10th to Dec 9th.

The plot would suggest a reasonably good start, but nothing outrageous:  last year’s 24” date was Nov 27th, which is only 0.78 S.D. ahead of the mean, so well within 1 S.D.  That puts it in roughly the top 22% of seasons, so about 1 in 5 seasons will have a similar or earlier 24” date.

While the 24” date is a nice snapshot for the start of the natural/off piste season, there are of course a number of other factors to take into account that made last November more impressive than that number alone:

1) Near miss:  If you look at the raw November stake depth data (posted below), you can see that the snow depth at the stake reached 23” on Nov 21st.  That’s as close of a miss as you can get to hitting 24”, so even as of the 21st of the month, the snowpack had essentially hit that two-foot level.  Getting to that level by the 21st brings a season past 1 S.D. and into that top ~15% of seasons.  That’s not a huge bump in this regard, but having nearly an extra week of borderline two-foot snowpack at that part of the season could easily mean an entire additional weekend of natural snow skiing potential.

2) No going back:  This is a much bigger feather in last season’s cap.  Even from about mid-month, the snowpack never really took a major hit, and once it did hit that 24” mark on Nov 27th, there was really no going back.  It sailed past 24” and just kept climbing as you can see in the numbers at the end of the month.  I haven’t added the December numbers below, but even with the lackluster December we had, the snowpack never dropped below ~40”.  That can’t be said for all of the seasons on the left side of the plot (certainly not Mr. October out there in front, which was the 2006-2007 season – he was back to 0” at the stake by mid-November).

3) Snow-depth days:  I haven’t calculated this for any November with the stake data, but it will obviously be a good integrative measure of how much snow was on the ground for the start of the season.  I’m sure last November would have a solid ranking if I put those data together.

So, if we look into that left side of the plot, do we have any other recent seasons in there that we can use for comparison to last season?

Actually, that lone star (Nov 25th) just to the left of the red star for last season is for 2007-2008.  We know that was a solid season around here.  The snowpack began building in the first week of November, and there was really no going back there either.  Unlike this past season, that solid November was followed up by a stellar December (almost 70” of snow here at the house) and the Mansfield snowpack was hitting five feet by the holidays.  With a solid December, last season certainly would have given 2007-2008 a run, but instead it was languishing at around 40” at the stake during the holiday period.

With regard to some of the other stars up at that end of the plot:

The two compatriots of last season on the plot, those other two stars on Nov 27th, are 1997-1998 and 1977-1978.  1997-1998 looks pretty solid with a snowpack start in the first week of November, and snowpack at about that five-foot mark by the holiday period.  There’s also a nice-looking bonus stretch of snow at the end of October, with snow at the stake for almost the last third of the month, and the depth peaking at 16”.  Checking my archives, I actually went for some lift-served skiing at Sugarbush on Oct 28th, so that speaks to that period snow being a bit of something special.  1977-1978 was before my time around here, but it looks a bit tamer.  There was nothing in October, then snowpack began to build around mid-November and was getting around the four-foot mark by the holidays.

The two stars right at Nov 20th are interestingly, back-to-back seasons of 1967-1968 and 1968-1969.  Both had a little October snow, and then a snowpack start in the first week of November.  Both had pretty steady climbs right through November and December, with 1967-1968 getting to around 40” for the holiday period, and 1968-1969 hitting a very robust 6+ feet of snowpack for the holidays.  I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, as that was just the start of a season that would become legend.

The star at Nov 18th is 1965-1966, and the progression looks sort of like 1967-1968.  That’s quite a 4-year stretch of good early seasons from ’65-’66 to ’68-’69 with those three solid starts.

The star at Nov 16th is 1980-1981.  That season is interesting in that the snowpack started building on Oct 20th and sailed right into November without ever going back to zero.  Snowpack was 4+ feet for the holidays, but the rest of the season looks modest (relatively speaking) with the snowpack depth never getting above 6 feet.

The star on Nov 14th is for something more recent:  2003-2004.  I was out in Montana for that one, but snowpack started building in the second week of November, it was 4+ feet at the holidays, and hit the 100” mark in March.

The star on Nov 13th is for 1976-1977.  That looks like an impressive start, with snowpack taking hold in the second half of October, climbing right through November, and hitting roughly the 4-foot mark for the holidays.  The stake didn’t quite top out at 100” that season, but it did pretty well topping out at 94”.

The final early star I haven’t mentioned yet is the one on Nov 11th, that’s for the 1990-1991 season.  It seems like the only other boom and bust start to go with Mr. October (2006-2007).  There was a little inkling of snow at the end of October and start of November, but snowpack started building at the end of the first week of the month and topped out at a very impressive 45” on Nov 14th!  It was a downhill slide after that though.  The snowpack never went lower than 9” but there were only 12-18” on the ground for the holiday period, and on Dec 30th it dropped from 18” to 13”, so that must have been quite a dagger in the holiday week (I guess that depends on whether it was a nice spring skiing day or a nasty rainstorm).  The rest of that season seemed pretty blasé because the snowpack never even hit 5 feet.  I don’t recall much about that season, but I’m assuming there was nothing too remarkable.

The November 2018 Mt. Mansfield snow depth data are below – note that there are a few days with no depth data available:

Date                 Depth
11/1/2018        2
11/2/2018        1
11/3/2018        4
11/4/2018        4
11/5/2018        4
11/6/2018        3
11/7/2018        0
11/8/2018        3
11/9/2018        1
11/10/2018      7
11/11/2018      8
11/12/2018      8
11/13/2018     
11/14/2018      14
11/15/2018     
11/16/2018      19
11/17/2018     
11/18/2018     
11/19/2018      20
11/20/2018      21
11/21/2018      23
11/22/2018      23
11/23/2018      23
11/24/2018      20
11/25/2018      19
11/26/2018      19
11/27/2018      32
11/28/2018      43
11/29/2018      46
11/30/2018      44

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 27DEC2018

An image of snowy evergreen branches and the sign for the Coyote Trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing six inches of powder near the Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Roughly a half foot of powder greeted me at the Bryant Cabin as I passed through the area on today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

Last night’s storm marked the fourth bout of snow we’ve had since our warm system leading up to the weekend.  Although none of these recent snowfall events have been very large, the rounds and rounds of snow from these smaller systems have piled up, and today seemed like a great opportunity to check on how the holiday week powder has been building.

With Bolton Valley reporting 7 inches of new snow during the period, I decided that a backcountry day was in order.  Knowing the way snow accumulates on their Nordic and Backcountry Network, I figured there were be plenty of fresh powder for the low to moderate-angle terrain.  Today was actually the first day this season that I’ve headed out onto the Backcountry Network.  With all the snow we’ve had, the backcountry terrain has been ready for skiing since well back in November, but there’s been so much good skiing in bounds that I’ve just been touring there.

“Once I got on trail, I made some depth checks around the 2,000’ elevation and found 5 to 6 inches of settled powder atop the old base.”

I arrived at the resort around noontime and parked in the lower Nordic Center lot – it was just about filling up while I put on my gear, and the parking attendants were getting ready to start the shuttle bus for Timberline parking.  That’s good news for the resort in terms of holiday visitors.  Once I got on trail, I made some depth checks around the 2,000’ elevation and found 5 to 6 inches of settled powder atop the old base.  The depth of the powder didn’t really increase substantially with elevation, and I found roughly 6 inches at 2,700’ by the Bryant Cabin.

An image of fat Telemark skis in a couple inches of powder in one of the Nordic Center parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I was greeted by a fresh couple inches of light powder when I parked my car in the lower Nordic Center parking lot today.

“The snow had been quite nice, with probably 70-80% bottomless turns on my 115 mm skis, so I strapped the skins back on and headed up for another descent.”

From what I’d seen, there was plenty of snow for the tour I’d planned, which involved some new terrain and some area I’d not visited in quite a while.  I started my descent in the trees below the Bryant Cabin (Bryant Woods) and worked my way though there until I reached JJ’s.  Then I crossed the Bryant Trail and hung close to it for a few hundred feet until I got into the lines on the west side (Possum Woods).  None of that terrain has much in the way of actual manicured glades, but the natural tree spacing is just fine for its pitch, and today’s conditions, featuring about a half foot of delicate Champlain Powder™ fluff, were exactly what you needed for it.  Lower down, I merged onto Cup Runneth Over and various trees in that area until I got to the lower loops of World Cup.

An image of a sign announcing custom made sandwiches and maple lattes at the Village Deli at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe snow had been quite nice, with probably 70-80% bottomless turns on my 115 mm skis, so I strapped the skins back on and headed up for another descent.  This time I went for a run in the Coyote area and made my way back toward the Village to hit the deli.  At the Village Deli I discovered something excellent – they are back to making custom made sandwiches!  I immediately texted E and the boys and Stephen the good news, and got myself a maple latte and some sandwiches to take home.

An image of a map with GPS tracking data overlayed onto Google Earth for a backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont on December 27th, 2018
The GPS tracking data from today’s ski tour at Bolton Valley overlayed onto Google Earth

We’ve got a more substantial system coming into the area tonight.  It’s supposed to pass to our west, so we’re expecting some warmth, but this one’s expected to have more snow and much less rain than the last one, so we could get some bolstering of the snowpack out of it.

Bolton Valley, VT 18DEC2018

An image of a ski track in powder snow in the Wilderness Woods area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of snow drift near the Wilderness Summit area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the impressive snow drifts I found while ski touring near the Wilderness Summit today at Bolton Valley. Our recent bout of upslope snow brought some nice accumulations of powder, but also a shot of wind as well!

This week, the pace of winter storms and snowfall has slowed down a bit here in the Green Mountains compared to what we were seeing at the beginning of the month, but the weather models have been suggesting the chance for some of our classic upslope snow on the back side of this latest system.  Scott put together a nice summary of the event’s potential at Braatencast, and it certainly looked like we’d have a chance for some decent powder turns today.

With the intensity of the snowfall at our house yesterday evening, it was pretty clear the mountains would have at least a few inches of new snow, so I planned to catch some turns in the morning.  When I checked the Bolton Valley snow report this morning, I was sort of surprised to see the mountain only reporting 4 inches of new snow, especially since we’d already picked up about 5 inches down at the house.  I figured that they might have missed out on some of the snow because it was blowing downwind of the Green Mountain Spine, but after touring around at the resort today, I can say that definitely wasn’t the case.

An image of the Bear Run street sign in deep snowbanks along the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
As I drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road, it was very obvious in places that hadn’t been scoured by wind that the mountain had seen a good shot of fresh snow.

I was actually planing to earn some turns and ski tour a bit before the lifts opened at 9:00 A.M., but I was up there later than I’d hoped and it was right around opening time.  That didn’t matter too much though, because winds were fierce and the Vista Quad wasn’t even running, so I just headed off to Wilderness for a tour as I’d initially planned.

An image showing the depth of powder found on the Peggy Dow's trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a mid-December upslope snowstormWith those harsh winds, you’d be hard pressed to know that much snow fell at all from just looking around the base area parking lots.  The accumulations were really patchy on a lot of snowbanks because the new snow had been ripped away and sent elsewhere.  Once I got onto the skin track on Lower Turnpike and out of the wind though, the actual snow accumulations became apparent.  Indeed I’d say that the 4 inches reported was a safe way to go in terms of being conservative, but aside from scoured areas, that definitely represented the low end of accumulations I encountered.  Omitting the extremes of drifts and scoured areas, my checks revealed settled snow depths of 4 to 10 inches throughout my tour.  That wasn’t really elevation dependent, it seemed to just be a factor of how the snow sifted down in various areas.  Drifts I found up around the 3,000’ elevation were generally in the 2 to 3-foot range, though there were some bigger ones as well of course.

“Omitting the extremes of drifts and scoured areas, my checks revealed settled snow depths of 4 to 10 inches throughout my tour.”

The skiing was obviously much different than what you would get from just four inches of fluff.  With a number like that I’d be expecting to get good turns on only low angle terrain, but bottomless turns were pretty standard all the way up to about single black diamond pitch as long as the subsurface was smooth.  I was on my 115 mm boards, but one could certainly still float on something skinnier.  I’d say the storm must have put down a half inch of liquid or so on the mountain based on what I was skiing.

Upon reaching the Wilderness Summit on my tour, I started down Bolton Outlaw, thinking it would be pretty smooth from minimal early season traffic.  It wasn’t long before I realized that the Wilderness Lift has indeed run this season (I actually rode it with Stephen on opening day), so there’s been enough skier traffic to produce some moguls.  I was definitely hitting the subsurface with the steep pitch and moguls, so I quickly dove off into the Outlaw Woods, and the turns in there with a smooth subsurface turned out to be just about perfect.  I was also able to get first tracks in the lower Wilderness Woods, and they were excellent as well.  Getting into the trees was generally a great option because the snow had settled in there very nicely thanks to protection from the wind.  I hung around for a couple of lift-served runs off the Snowflake Lift, and with the typical low traffic there I found plenty of untracked snow.

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
In areas where winds hadn’t affected the snow today, the turns were simply wonderful in up to 10 inches of powder.

This was definitely an upslope snowfall event that was focused on the mountains.  When I left the resort and headed west toward the Champlain Valley, snow accumulations really tapered off.  There was just a bit of accumulation in the Richmond Village area and it seems like just a trace to nil in the Burlington area.

We’ve got a warmer weather system expected to affect the area at the end of the week, so the next chance for snow won’t be until Saturday afternoon into the evening on the back side of that storm.

Bolton Valley, VT 01DEC2018

An image of Ty skiing powder and ducking under a bent tree in the Snow Hole area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of hoarfrost coating a branch at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the neat weather features out on the mountain today was the delicate hoarfrost covering everything with needles up to three inches in length

Yesterday, the last vestiges of Winter Storm Bruce wound down in our area, so today was a great day to take advantage of all the new snow on the slopes with relatively benign weather.  Due to the prodigious November snowfall we’re had around here, Bolton Valley is running the lifts again this weekend for another pre-season session.  Ty and I had some time in the morning, so we headed up to the mountain for a bit of lift-served skiing.

“We caught a ton of untracked lines today, but the powder has settled even more than what I found on my Thursday morning tour, so it was very much a PNW/Sierra-style snow experience.”

We got to the Village in the mid- to late-morning period and were amazed to find that all the parking lots, even the Nordic Center lots, were packed.  It was a struggle to find a spot, but we finally got one in the very lowest Nordic lot.  We assumed the lifts would be packed, but there were no lines at Vista, Mid Mountain, or Snowflake.  We were stunned, and couldn’t figure out where everyone was, but we happily hopped on for our first Vista ride of the season.

Although the Wilderness Lift isn’t running yet, the usual Vista Quad-served access to Wilderness is available, so after a great run down Alta Vista, Ty and I headed that way and made a run through Snow Hole.  There was an old track or two around, but we essentially had first tracks through there.  Another spot on today’s hit list was Maria’s, where we traversed far left and were well clear of any tracks from other skiers.

An image of Ty skiing in Maria's area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty enjoying a fun line through the powder today on Maria’s.

We caught a ton of untracked lines today, but the powder has settled even more than what I found on my Thursday morning tour, so it was very much a PNW/Sierra-style snow experience.  In most spots now, you really only sink a few inches into the powder, so you’re very much staying on top of the snowpack.  It’s been interesting to watch the powder slowly transform to this dense state from our ski session on Tuesday, to my Thursday outing, to today.  It’s really hard to complain about such fantastic early season conditions, but in terms of powder we could use a freshening at some point.  The groomed terrain is skiing superbly right now though – with such a huge resurfacing it’s just packed powder and more packed powder.  One very cool weather-related feature out there today was the hoarfrost covering everything – we found areas where the delicate, feathery needles were as much as three inches long.

Our next winter storm is moving into the area tonight with snow, then some mixed precipitation, and potentially more snow on the back side.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 30DEC2017

An image of snow-covered berries on a tree up by the Bryant Cabin near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a glade in the Bolton Valley backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Taking advantage of today’s slightly warmer temperatures to visit some of the glades in the Bolton Valley backcountry network

I last got out for a ski tour at Bolton Valley on Tuesday, with the plan of getting in some turns ahead of the very cold weather that was forecast for the rest of the holiday week.  Indeed the cold came into the area as expected, and while the low temperatures were far from anything that would set records, high temperatures that were staying below zero F and wind chills on top of that meant that it was going to be brutal out there.  Today marked a bit of a respite from those temperatures though, with highs expected to be well up into the single digits F, no winds, and sunshine.  I figured that today was my window to get back out for a ski tour before temperatures dip back down in the coming days.

An image of some plants poking through the snow along the Broadway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe warmest part of the day was expected to be in the afternoon, with a southerly flow of air thanks to the remnants of Winter Storm Frankie passing through the area.  I went with two base layers (lights under heavies) just to ensure that I’d be comfortable, and headed up to the mountain around 2:30 P.M.  There was still some dim, arctic-looking sun pushing through the clouds off to the south as I arrived at the Village and parked right along the edge of Broadway.  Temperatures were in the in the 5 to 10 F range, and with no wind it was actually quite comfortable – within a few minutes of starting my ascent of Bryant I was skinning without a hat in order to cool off.

“Learning from my Tuesday tour, I brought fatter skis and dropped the pitch of my selected slopes just a bit, and that yielded some excellent powder turns.”

It was my first day out on the backcountry network this season, so I stuck with a simple trip up to Bryant Cabin with one of my favorite touring routes:  Car –> Broadway –> Bryant –> Bryant Cabin –> Gardiner’s Lane –> North Slope –> Connector Glade –> Gardiner’s Lane –> Grizzwald –> Gotham City –> Girl’s –> World Cup –> World Cup Glade –> Telemark Glade –> Broadway –> Bolton Valley Village –> Fireside Flatbread –> Car.  It seems like quite the tour, although it’s only about 2.5 miles.  That last stop before the car is pretty important though, especially on a cold December afternoon when the sun’s gone down.

A map with a GPS tracking data plotted onto Google Earth for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort on December 30th, 2017
The GPS track of today’s Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry tour mapped onto Google Earth

We’ve had perhaps an inch or two of snow since my last outing on Tuesday, and at Village elevations I was finding about 5 inches of powder atop a thick layer.  That surface snow depth definitely increased a bit with elevation, and if you punched through the thick layer in the snowpack you’d be looking at 18 to 24 inches of snow before getting to whatever base snow was below that.  Learning from my Tuesday tour, I brought fatter skis and dropped the pitch of my selected slopes just a bit, and that yielded some excellent powder turns.  Some of the best sections were Girl’s and Telemark Glade, where the terrain and snow really flowed well.

Bolton Valley, VT 26DEC2017

an image of the Timberline Lift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Preparing for some turns on Brandywine during my ski tour at Bolton Valley’s Timberline area today

The middle of Winter Storm Dylan at the end of last week had some mixed precipitation that put a thick layer into the snowpack, but since then we’ve had the backside snow from that storm, the snow from Winter Storm Ethan, and some additional snow from a localized streamer that was affecting the area yesterday.  It was certainly enough new powder to entice me out to the mountain for a quick tour today, especially with some very cold air coming into the area later this week.

I arrived at Timberline in the mid-afternoon period, just as a some snow was moving into the valley.  The snow was steady during my whole tour, although visibility was generally in the 1 to 2-mile range, so it wasn’t especially heavy.  In terms of the powder, I found roughly 4 to 6 inches at the 1,500’ level, and probably 5 to 7 inches at the 2,500’ level.

An image of the Timberline Lodge with some snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snowfall at the Timberline Lodge today

Although I did ascend all the way to the Timberline Summit, my main goal was a trip down Brandywine, which had some great snow and just a couple of previous ski tracks.  The powder was deep enough for plenty of good turns on Brandywine, although I think it would have been better with some wider skis vs. just my midfats.  I also think some slightly lower angle would be good to really stay away from that crust.

At the end of my tour I spoke with one of the crew that was working on grooming Timberline Run, and it sounds like they’re planning to open the Timberline area tomorrow for lift-served skiing.