Tag Archives: Deep Powder

Bolton Valley, VT 16MAR2017

An image of the Adam's Solitude trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A visit to the Adam’s Solitude trail at Bolton Valley to check out the 58 inches left by Winter Storm Stella

Snow totals from Winter Storm Stella were in excess of four feet at the resorts of the Northern Green Mountains, and Bolton Valley topped the list with an impressive 58 inches.  It wasn’t just the mountains that made out well from this storm cycle though, it left 41 inches of snow at our house, which trumped the 2007 Valentine’s Day Storm to become the largest storm we’ve recorded since we moved here.

Not wanting to miss the chance to check out all that new snow up at the mountain, I headed up to catch a few runs this morning.  The potency of the storm was immediately evident as I saw some of the vehicles that had been parked in the Village parking lots over the past couple of days – they were buried in deep drifts, and some were barely visible.

An image of a car, barely visible under drifted snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
There is a car in there somewhere.

“ I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches.”

I got in line for the opening of the Vista Quad, but the lift operator felt that it was going to be on wind hold for a bit, so I headed up Snowflake and was happy to find that Timberline was already open.  On the way over I cut the traverse over to Tattle Tale, and with two to three feet of snow in the way it took a good deal of effort.  I found Tattle Tale untracked, and the powder very deep.  There were also pockets of super light powder scattered among slightly denser snow, and when you hit one of those pockets, any support you found in the powder would simply disappear as if the floor was dropping out on you.  I had on the fattest skis I own, with 115 mm width at that waist, and even that couldn’t stop the free fall in that snow.  On my first encounter with one of those pockets, I quickly went over the handle bars on my Tele skis and had to extract myself from the deep powder.  The snow was so deep that even with my fat skis combined with the steepest pitches, I had to straight-line it.  I didn’t get to make many turns there, but it was definitely a neat experience.

An image of the handle of a ski pole showing powder more than 40 inches deep at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm StellaI stayed at Timberline the entire morning, and found great turns on Twice as Nice.  It was actually nice as the powder started to get chopped up a bit, because you could keep plenty of momentum going to hop in and out of the untracked areas.  The turns were simply fantastic all around though; Winter Storm Stella definitely provided one of the more thorough resurfacings I’ve witnessed around here.  Since the storm dropped over 2 inches of liquid equivalent down at our house, you know the mountains were well above that.  I did a run on Adam’s Solitude, and it was my first visit there in quite a long time.  I opted for the Secret Solitude option, and got first tracks down one of the lines with a number of small cliffs.  At the top of that section I contoured across the hill, and with the pitch of the slope, the powder was up to my shoulder.  Adam’s Solitude is famous for catching some well-protected powder, and the depth was very impressive.  I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches.  After seeing that, I knew I could just straight line my way right down through the ledges, and that was indeed one of those lines where the snow is just up and over your shoulders.

By the time the morning was over, the Tele turns had cooked my legs and my body was craving some food, so I stopped in for a burrito at South of Solitude.  I kicked back and did some browsing on my phone while I ate, which seemed to be a popular option for the handful of folks populating the lodge. The Vista Quad was running by the time I got back to the main base, but my legs had definitely had their workout, so I skied down to the car and headed out.

An image of Telemark ski boots in the back of a car at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Packing up the gear and away we go… until next time.

In general, most areas I found offered up powder in the 24 to 30-inch range, similar to what we found at Stowe Yesterday.  There are no major warm-ups in the near future, so we should have some excellent conditions going into the weekend.

Stowe, VT 15MAR2017

An image of Ty skiing in deep powder up and around his shoulders and head at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty and I experienced a lot of this today at Stowe Mountain Resort thanks to Winter Storm Stella

After some simply fantastic ski conditions during the first half of February, temperatures warmed up in the Northeastern U.S. and everything changed.  The result was actually some nice days of spring skiing, but as temperatures cooled back down and no winter storms with substantial snow came through the area, conditions were just generally hard and crusty.  It’s amazing that it took until mid-March to really get the ski conditions back on track, but boy did they come back in a big way thanks to one heck of system named Winter Storm Stella.

“As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches.”

Some of the biggest nor’easters are actually picked up fairly early on the weather models.  These very large storms are associated with an alignment of such prominent weather features that they produce a signal that the models can really key in on.  That was the case with Winter Storm Stella.  The buildup was impressive on the weather boards and in the national media, and although it didn’t deliver massive amounts of snow to the big coastal cities in the Northeastern U.S., areas farther inland (such as Northern Vermont and Upstate New York) made out like gangbusters.  Reports were coming in of over 40 inches of snow in Upstate New York, and the Vermont resorts.

Unfortunately Dylan was a bit under the weather today with a cold, and while he was bummed to miss out on some great powder, he probably made the right decision to stay home and rest up with the way he felt.  Although he could stay home alone, E felt that if she was home with him he’d do a much better job of taking care of himself.  So, Ty and I headed off alone to Stowe for some turns this morning.

“We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep.”

It was still snowing steadily at the house when we left, but the roads weren’t bad because the plows were out working hard.  In terms of snow accumulations and snowfall rates around the area, they tapered off somewhat as we headed from the house to Waterbury and Waterbury Center, and surprisingly, snowfall rates dropped to just flurries along the Stowe/Waterbury line.  That was the nadir in terms of snowfall intensity, and then it gradually ramped back up as we headed through Stowe Village and up to the mountain.

We decided to focus on the Gondola terrain today, so we parked in the Midway area, and got suited up in the Midway Lodge.  There were very few people in the lodge at that point, which was probably a good sign with respect to crowds.  At the Gondi, the lift queue was a few minutes long, but that’s really not bad for such a storm day.

As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches.  This storm gave the whole resort quite an impressive resurfacing.  We started off with Waterfall, and then headed to Gondolier and eventually we found ourselves on Ravine.  That’s where we started getting into the untracked powder, and boy was it deep.  We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep.  It was actually pretty easy to get buried in the snow if you fell, so we were definitely watching out for each other.

An image of deep snow on a picnic table at the Midway Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

We’d skipped breakfast to save time, with the intention of getting it at the Midway Lodge.  So, we stopped in quickly for a couple of really good breakfast sandwiches, and then got right back into some additional Gondola runs.  We actually spent a lot of time over by Perry Merrill skiing the powder along the sides of the trail and exploring new terrain along the edge of the Hazelton Zone.  We found a lot of untracked shots, and I pulled out the camera for some of our favorites.  On our last run Ty blasted me with a massive wall of powder and covered everything, my clothes, my camera, my open bag, all of it.  He described what I looked like all covered in white with my mouth agape.

An image of Ty skiing deep powder in the Hazelton Zone at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm Stella

We stopped to grab some sandwiches for lunch on the way home at Edelweiss Mountain Deli, one of Ty’s favorite options.  I could tell that it continued to snow at home because I’d check on our web cam while riding the Gondola, and watched it as the snow got so deep that all the camera could see was white.  The settled snow on the deck is now deeper than the level of my web cam, but I pulled away some snow and adjusted the angle so the settled height of the snow is once again visible.

As of this evening, we’re approaching 40 inches of accumulation at the house, and earlier, Jay Peak was already reporting 72 inches of accumulation, so Winter Storm Stella has been quite the event around here.

Stowe, VT 22FEB2015

An image of Dylan skiing deep powder in the Hazelton area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
After a moderate shot of snow from Winter Storm Pandora, it was quite a powder fest out there today at Stowe.

Beginning yesterday afternoon when we were skiing up at Bolton Valley and well into the night, Winter Storm Pandora unloaded inch per hour snows on the Green Mountains. As of this morning we’d picked up over 8 inches at the house, and accumulations at the resorts in the Northern Greens had topped out around a foot. The snow was incredibly dry; the stack at our house came in at 3.5% H2O.

“I’m starting to give up on checking the surface snow depths for the time being because my 40+” pole simply disappears when I push it into the powder.”

An image of Dylan in his ski goggles looking out the window of the Stowe Gondola at the start of a powder dayIt looked like a good day to kick things off early at Stowe ahead of our afternoon BJAMS ski program, so we headed over to the resort in the morning. When we arrived there was another round of snow falling, setting the mood for what would hopefully be a great day. E decided to hold off with skiing or riding until her coaching obligations in the afternoon to make sure that she didn’t work her injured toe too much today, so she relaxed in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge and did some ski program coordinating while the boys and I headed over to Mt. Mansfield to start the day on the slopes. This was definitely not a sleeper powder day. There was a queue almost out the Gondola building by 9:00 A.M., and the trails were already tracked out. Even all of the easy access trees seemed to have been hit, and not with just a couple of tracks We headed into the trees for powder, visiting Ravine, the Kitchen Wall, the Hazelton Zone, and then some new terrain off the western end of Spruce Peak.

“The snow was incredibly dry; the stack at our house came in at 3.5% H2O.”

The powder was fantastic, and temperatures in the 20s F felt so nice for a change. With powder so light and dry, it really didn’t keep you consistently off the subsurface in those areas that had been groomed or previously packed by skiers, but if you got into untraveled terrain, the fresh snow represented another beautiful Champagne Powder® icing on the soft cake that is the current snowpack. I’m starting to give up on checking the surface snow depths for the time being because my 40+” pole simply disappears when I push it into the powder. In any event, even where the subsurface was packed, there’s not much that compares to gliding through that kind of delicate cold snow.

“In any event, even where the subsurface was packed, there’s not much that compares to gliding through that kind of delicate cold snow.”

After lunch with E in the Great Room Grill, we met up with our group and got back out for some more. We did an Angel Food run, which yielded some large areas of fresh snow farther left, and then there were plenty of options for fresh tracks all around the return traverse as well. We visited the Kitchen Wall again, headed far to the south for a change of pace, and then dropped off Nosedive for a different approach to Hazelton. We got into some of those big, north-facing gullies that I’ve seen in the past and wanted to visit, so that was a nice accomplishment. With nine in the group there were certainly a few episodes of people getting stuck in the deep powder. In one instance, Ken lost a ski on an encounter with some obstacle, and it looked like we could be in for one of those incredibly long “ski search and rescue missions”. He was in a spot right where the terrain was starting to roll over and get steeper, and the powder out there is so bottomless, it was really going to be tough to track that ski down if it slid away under the surface. I was the only one within reasonable distance to be able to help, so within a couple of minutes of his initial searching I’d made it up to him and I prepared myself for a thorough and systematic process of probing the snow. Everyone else in the group was within 50 yards, but downhill, and with slopes that steep combined with powder that deep, they might as well have been on the moon. I was really wondering how we were going to manage everyone’s time. We were lucky though, within about a minute, I happened to look down the slope and saw his ski sticking up out of the snow. He quickly got it and we breathed a sign of relief – that’s the sort of stuff that can really slow down the group, and of course the odds of that stuff happening increase with each addition to the group. I’ve got to say though, the trip was really pretty efficient for as big as our group was. It’s definitely helpful that Ty and I have been in that area a few times now and have a feel for the lay of the land. One big advancement in my knowledge of the area today was in exploring some of those ridges and plateaus between the gullies. The gullies are typically the first areas to get tracks in them, since people are naturally drawn down into them by gravity. There is some excellent skiing on the ridges in between though, and they are typically untracked and yield some seriously steep and deep powder as the pitches drop back down into the gullies. I nailed some really sweet turns after helping Ken find his ski, so that was quite the reward.

An image of Ty skiing deep powder in the Hazelton Zone of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Deep champagne powder and sunshine… definitely ingredients for a great ski day.

We returned to Spruce around 3:00 P.M. to finish off the day, and mixed up a number of runs off Sunny Spruce, including the terrain that Ty and Dylan and I had explored earlier that morning. All the students really did well in the trees today, and they’re getting more and more comfortable as time goes on. If the snow continues to stay this good we’ll have some excellent options with the group in the coming weeks.

An image of Ken skiing dry powder as he comes out of the trees and into the open on Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Although Stowe’s plentiful amount of visitors meant that on piste areas were tracked out pretty quickly, venturing off piste and exploring areas old and new provided great powder all day long.

 

 

Robbins Mountain & RMWMA, VT 14FEB2015

An image of gladed backcountry ski terrain near the top of Ribbins Mountain in Vermont in the area of the Robbins Mountain Wildlife Management Area
Birch glades on the western headwall of Robbins Mountain offering up some great powder skiing today

Last weekend we got out of the arctic chill for a bit, and since Winter Storm Marcus delivered 1 to 2 feet of snow to the Vermont ski resorts, we had some great lift-served powder skiing at Bolton Valley and Stowe. We haven’t had too much additional snow in the past week though, with just a midweek Alberta Clipper system dropping about a half foot at the local ski areas. The forecast was actually for some pretty reasonable temperatures today, approaching 20 F at our house in the valley, but with only modest snow in the past couple days, and the fact that it was a big holiday ski weekend, I decided to get back out into the backcountry. Today my goal was to check out the west face of Robbins Mountain in the Robbins Mountain Wildlife Management Area (RMWMA). In the past I’ve done ski tours on both the north and east faces of the mountain, but this would be my first time on the west side. A quick look at maps and literature available from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department suggested that reasonable access to the area could be gained via the Chittenden County Fish & Game Club parking area off a West White Hill in Richmond.

“Even down at that elevation, the snowpack was running at roughly 20″ on the level, and starting from the fluffy powder on top, there were gradually denser layers as you went down.”

We’re currently under the influence of Winter Storm Neptune, and although the snow has generally been light here in Northern Vermont, it’s still putting down a fresh coat of powder on the snowpack and generally keeping things quite wintry. Light snow from the morning had tapered down a bit as I headed off in the afternoon toward Richmond, and I cruised westward with the car thermometer showing temperatures generally in the mid to upper teens F. Although I wasn’t familiar with the location of the Chittenden County Fish & Game Club parking area, I’d plugged a nearby address into the car’s GPS, and once I got close, I found the entry to the game club well signed. The road was nicely maintained, and in the parking area I found a couple of other cars there that belonged to people who were using the shooting range. Beyond that initial parking area, the road was plowed for another couple hundred feet, but the plowing abruptly stopped so the parking near the shooting range ended up being the best option for parking the car to start the tour.

An image showing a snowy cabin and picnic table on the grounds of the Chittenden County Fish & Game Club in Richmond, Vermont
The grounds of the Chittenden County Fish & Game Club held plenty of deep snow.

As I geared up, the snowfall began to intensify and the flakes became larger, so the storm was definitely on an uptick. Occasionally I’d hear the sound of gunfire coming from the range, and it was pretty loud since I was only 50 feet away or so. I wasn’t exactly sure where to go to start my tour, but I certainly wasn’t heading southward anywhere near the shooting range, and with Robbins Mountain looming off to my east, the partially plowed road that headed in that direction seemed like the logical choice. I’d initially had some concerns about the snowpack in the lower elevations of Robbins Mountain, since the parking area is at an elevation of only 750′, but those concerns were allayed as soon as I started skinning along and took a few depth measurements. Even down at that elevation, the snowpack was running at roughly 20″ on the level, and starting from the fluffy powder on top, there were gradually denser layers as you went down. So indeed the snowpack there at the base is just about the same as what we’ve got at our house at 500′ in the Winooski Valley, and since the snow depth was only going to increase with elevation, I knew there wouldn’t be any problems with snow coverage.

An image showing signs on the grounds of the Chittenden County Fish & Game Club in Richmond, Vermont buried in and covered with snow
Signs for the fish and game club buried and covered with snow

“…when I later saw how deep the snow was and how steep this vehicle could ascend despite such deep snow, it had to be something with tracks on it.”

As I followed the plowed road I found myself skinning through some of the fish and game club’s facilities, noting the deep stacks of snow that sat atop everything, and I worked my way toward what seemed to be a gate at the far end of the complex. With the temperature near 20 F, it was feeling downright balmy compared to some of the ski tours I’ve done in the past few weeks, so it was really a gorgeous midwinter day. At the gate there was an opening off to the side for foot traffic, and I saw what appeared to be one track from someone on snowshoes. Beyond the gate I was on what appeared to be a service road, and it had seen some interesting traffic. The tracks I saw appeared to come from a wide vehicle, and at that point it could have been a jeep, but when I later saw how deep the snow was and how steep this vehicle could ascend despite such deep snow, it had to be something with tracks on it. Whatever it was, it gave me a semi-packed track to use for skinning, and that helped a lot because it would have been quite a slog through that deep powder without it.

“…the spacing of the trees was so good, and the snow surface so consistently smooth and unadulterated by anything below, that you could have enough confidence to make whatever turns you wanted.”

It was pleasant skinning along the service road with light snow falling and no wind, and after about a half mile the service road forked. The right fork seemed to continue contouring along and slightly up to the south, and it actually had a set of ski tracks on it. The other fork interested me much more though, since it headed east toward the higher elevations, so I opted for that route. Following that fork, the road meandered generally to the east, with switchbacks at times to keep the pitch moderate. I was actually amazed at some of the pitches that the vehicle making those tracks had climbed, so it must really be built for dealing with deep snow. At around 1,700′ the vehicle tracks finally stopped, and a single track continued on. The track was so old and buried that it was hard to tell what it was, but it certainly could have been an old skin track.

“The trees were so open with respect to underbrush that I wondered if the area was part of the successional cuts that are made in the area as part of the wildlife management.”

Not long after the single track began, the road took a sharp left and headed north. A quick look at the overall terrain and vegetation in the area made it obvious that that wasn’t the way for me to go. The underbrush was denser in that direction, and the terrain looked like it would head into more ledges. My thoughts were drawn much more to the south, since on the ascent I’d seen what appeared to be some excellent open terrain a few hundred feet off in that direction. Coincidentally, or more likely not, the single track that I was on seemed to head in just that direction. It wasn’t obvious that it was a skin track, and it actually seemed more like a game track, but it went exactly where I wanted to go, so I followed it. Within a few moments I was into the open trees that I’d seen, and boy did that look like some good ski terrain. The trees were so open with respect to underbrush that I wondered if the area was part of the successional cuts that are made in the area as part of the wildlife management. The terrain wasn’t overly steep, but it looked like it would offer up some really nice turns, especially in conjunction with the fantastic snow that was underfoot. I continued to follow the track up through the open trees, and with the path the track took, it really could have been made by a skier. It seemed to skirt right along the top of some of the more open sections of woods, seeming to pick the perfect line to get to the apex of that terrain. A few hundred feet above me I could see where the terrain began to steepen dramatically, and based on my elevation I knew that was the final headwall leading up to the ridge extending south from Robbins Mountain. I expected that the trees would get to tight and or brushy once I hit the headwall, because that’s sometimes what happens as the composition of the forest changes, so I was getting set to find a good spot for my transition as soon as I reached the top of the open trees below.

An image showing the depth of the powder snow on the western headwall of Robbins Mountain in Vermont
Checks revealed close to three feet of powder bellow the ridgeline on the western headwall of Robbins Mountain.

When I finally approached the headwall though, I had to reconsider my initial plans of not skiing it; what I saw above me was just too good to pass up. The trees continued to be quite open for another hundred vertical feet before ledges took over, so I had to head up a bit more. That terrain would make for a great start to the ski run. The ascent track I’d been following didn’t go that way, so I had to break trail, and it was somewhat slow going with the pitch of that slope and the depth of the snow. I clicked up my rarely used, tall heel lifts, and kept at it. The pitch was easily 25 to 30 degrees, and though I made switchbacks it was a slog through that powder. I did some depth checks and the surface snow was pushing three feet of depth, so even with the floatation of 115 mm fat skis I was down a good distance in that snow. I thought I’d catch another hundred feet of vertical or so out of that ascent, and be just below the steep and ledge terrain of the headwall, but as I continued to ascent, a beautiful gully full of nicely spaced birches appeared to the southeast. It actually ascended all the way up to the ridgeline, slicing to the northeast through the ledges, and it was almost as if Mother Nature had made a passageway to permit skiing down from the ridgeline. I had to keep going because there was no way I was going to miss the chance to tag the ridgeline and ski that beautiful gully. So after a bit, or perhaps more, of additional work, I reached the ridgeline.

“Those turns through the birch glade and then the lower reaches of the headwall were deep and smooth, and you almost couldn’t ask for better snow.”

When I got to the ridgeline I had some flashbacks of my most recent trip to Robbins Mountain with James. It was nice up there though, with very little wind and good temperatures. I had some food, and switched over for the descent. My depth checks continued to reveal snow depths approaching three feet up there, so even on the steepest pitches there were no concerns about snow coverage. Those turns through the birch glade and then the lower reaches of the headwall were deep and smooth, and you almost couldn’t ask for better snow. The powder had an excellent density gradient, and you could cut into it as hard as you wanted. The only things to watch out for were obvious big logs, which you could easily see. I mixed it up with both Telemark and alpine turns, but the spacing of the trees was so good, and the snow surface so consistently smooth and unadulterated by anything below, that you could have enough confidence to make whatever turns you wanted. Below the headwall I got into the very open hardwoods, and the skiing was mellower, but oh so good. The coverage and general consistency of the snowpack, and the lack of (or perhaps buried nature of) underbrush means that you can just let the skis run and run and you’ll just keep finding that great ski terrain appears.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from a backcountry ski tour on Robbins Mountain in Vermont
A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data for today’s backcountry ski tour on Robbin’s Mountain

At roughly the 1,300′ elevation I finally merged my way back onto the service road and skin track, and from there on down I stuck close to the track. I still made occasional turns in the powder, but being near the track was really helpful as the pitch of the terrain lessened. Following the general area of the service road ensured an efficient runout and exit from the tour, because the powder out there right now is just too deep to keep up speed if you don’t have that necessary pitch. I was able to make a quick descent right back to the parking area thanks to the service road and my skin track. I’d say that a good way to cycle that terrain would be to head down to that 1,300′ level and catch the skin track back up, and then simply hit the runout at the end of the ski session. Surface snow depths of 6-12″ of powder would be fine for everything but the headwall area, and you could probably ski some additional mellow pitches if the snow was in that state. It’s really hard to complain about the current snowpack though, it so deep and soft that it’s hard to say enough about how well it skis. With good access and some great open terrain, I’d say that RMWMA zone is a nice option when the snowpack on the lower elevations of the west slopes is sufficient. When I got home I told E that it would be a good spot for her and the boys, so hopefully I’ll get them out there one of these days so that they can see what it’s like.

An image of snowflakes in the air and accumulation on my car at the Chittenden County Fish & Game Club by the Robbins Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Richmond Vermont
Snowfall setting the mood of the day

Bolton Valley, VT 07FEB2015

An image of Dylan deep in some champagne powder while skiing at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Today when it was suggested that Dylan charge the powder… he did.

On Wednesday I sent out a ski alert message to the regional members of the 311 crew concerning the upcoming weekend. Although there wasn’t a massive winter storm cycle brewing, it didn’t matter; conditions on the slopes have been so consistently excellent that when combined with temperatures rising to near 20 F in the valleys, it was prime time for getting some turns. I learned that E’s sister Tina was planning to come up with her family for some skiing this weekend as well, so their timing was excellent. Chris pretty quickly answered my alert and said that he’d be able to catch up with us for skiing on Saturday, so it looked like we’d have a fun group for the slopes.

“Up around the 2,700′ elevation level I measured 36 inches of powder above the base, so you can image how that run went.”

The Friday night forecast called for about an inch of snow due to a weak disturbance approaching from the Great Lakes, so I expected that we’d at least have a little something to top off the slopes in the morning. I began to get a little suspicious though when we’d picked up nearly an inch down in the valley as of 11:00 P.M., and by midnight the snow was coming down at an inch per hour. I knew that up at the mountain they’d be getting at least as much as we got down here, but would they be getting one of those Green Mountain surprises where you find a foot of snow on the ground the next morning?

“My CoCoRaHS analyses here at the house were consistently showing snow densities in the 2% H2O range, so we were going to be able to get Tina’s family a taste of some real Champlain Powder™.”

It seems like we just went through this routine a couple of days ago, but when I checked the morning snow report, indeed the Northern and Central Greens had worked some of that magic to produce accumulations of up to a foot. Up at Bolton Valley they were reporting 9″ new, and that would certainly change the dynamics of the day a bit and give it a more “powder day” atmosphere instead of just a good day out on the slopes. My CoCoRaHS analyses here at the house were consistently showing snow densities in the 2% H2O range, so we were going to be able to get Tina’s family a taste of some real Champlain Powder™.

We made it up to Timberline just as lift service was getting going, and there were only a few cars in the lot. The resort was actually trying a new parking method in which people were directed to enter at the far entrance and come back toward the main parking areas, but it was a bit confusing and we ended up going in the usual route by accident. It worked out fine though, and the attendant said that he suspected the switch would be tough when we’re so used to the usual entrance. Temperatures were decent, somewhere in the teens F, and wind was nonexistent, so prospects for a reasonably comfortable ski day were looking good.

An image of a ski track in powder on the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Our first tracks of the morning on Tattle Tale revealed some very high quality powder

We could see that there had been some grooming on the lower slopes of Timberline during the overnight snow, so we visited Tattle Tale and Spell Binder to start off. Their headwalls don’t typically get groomed, so they offered a good combination of pitch and powder. Both headwalls had some scoured snow in the middle, right near the top, but all around they offered up some great snow. It wasn’t completely bottomless since the powder was just so dry, but you were still doing a lot of floating. Riley and Nikki were sending up some huge sprays of snow with their snowboards. Everyone was pretty jazzed by those runs, as the quality of the powder was simply top notch. At one point Riley was blasting through the powder and shouted out “I love this real snow!”, since it was a bit of a change from what he is often riding on in New Jersey. It took some getting used to taking on those face shots though, and he found out that riding without your goggles down is a good way to get a brain or face freeze from the powder billowing up there. Riley got the photo of the morning though, with an image of him snowboarding with his goggles up and eyes closed as the powder blasted into his face.

We headed to the main mountain next, and the kids were ready for a bit of warming in the lodge. We were upstairs when I got a call from Chris that he had arrived, and we let him know where to meet us. My goal was to get Tim and the kids over to Wilderness Woods for some mellow tree skiing, so we used the Vista Quad to connect over that way. There had been some traffic in there by that point, but the surface and subsurface snow were excellent and the kids really enjoyed poking around in there.

People were starting to think about lunch, so we went back up Vista and did a long run down to Timberline. The trails were more tracked of course, but fresher snow could be found along the edges. The Timberline Lodge was really hoppin’, and it was one of the busiest days I’ve ever seen in there. The length of the line for the cafeteria suggested that it was a great day for the resort in that department.

An image showing a measurement of 29 inches of powder in the KP Glades area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontFor the afternoon it was into the trees, with a couple of runs through various glades in the Wood’s Hole complex. There was lots of deep snow, and Riley struggled at times if he got bogged down because he was on a snowboard. He got pretty frustrated and probably worn out from extracting himself from the powder, so he took a break in the lodge before he and Tim eventually decided to head back to the main mountain with the goal of letting him get some time in the terrain park. Dylan was just about done for the day after a couple of woods runs, but he joined Chris and me for one more in the KP Glades and he’s glad he did. We found him a great line that produced some really deep turns and great photos. I checked the depth of the powder in there at around 2,000′ and found it at 29 inches. That’s bottomless. Dylan was even noticing how exceptionally deep the powder was, and he commented on how he could feel the way his fat skis were keeping him afloat.

“I checked the depth of the powder in there at around 2,000′ and found it at 29 inches. That’s bottomless.”

Dylan called it a day, but Chris and I went off for one more run in the Villager Trees. Up around the 2,700′ elevation level I measured 36 inches of powder above the base, so you can image how that run went. I’d definitely say that was the run of the day; it was very much fat ski city. Floating through three feet of Vermont’s finest fluff was a great way to finish off the day, but Mother Nature apparently isn’t done with piling it on yet. A Winter Storm Warning begins at 1:00 A.M. tonight and there’s potentially another 12-18″ on the way thanks to Winter Storm Marcus, which is supposed to last for 3 or 4 days.

Bolton Valley, VT 20JAN2014

An image of Dylan skiing deep powder on the Cougar Trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
It’s amazing what a little of that Champlain Powder can do for the skiing.

When Bolton Valley reported another four inches of snow this morning, we knew that we’d be heading up to make some turns.  That amount of snow, on top of the four to five inches that I’d found when I visited the mountain yesterday, was definitely going to bring the skiing up a notch.  As it turned out, it brought the skiing up several notches and turned it into what was for us, unquestionably the best ski day of the 2014 calendar year.  That’s actually not saying much with the way the past few weeks had gone in terms of weather around here, but when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.

“…when Ty gets talking about
having to ski blind because
there’s too much powder in his
face, it’s a sign that conditions
are on the mend.”

The approach of an arctic front brought an inch and a half of snow to the house overnight, but as the cold air continued to filter in, more snow was wrung out, and we received snowfall of various intensities through the morning.  Snow was falling up at the mountain as well, and with updates on the website indicating that new trails were opening, it sounded like conditions were getting better and better.  While we had initially started to discuss both skinning and lift-served options for today’s outing, the opening of new terrain sealed the deal in favor of the latter; we knew that meant that the recent accumulations had resulted in substantial changes in coverage.  In the end, with so many additional terrain options opening, it was clearly the right choice.

We finally headed up later in the morning to find the parking lot only about half filled, and after dropping E and the boys off at the base of the Snowflake Chair, I quickly got a great spot to park down near the end of one of the top rows with help from one of the parking attendants.  I’d spoken with him before, and as I got my gear on, we chatted about how nice it was to have some consistent temperatures back – the past few weeks have been a real roller coaster with systems passing though off to the west, and he said that he had to pack a ridiculous amount of clothes each day just to keep up with the weather.  In any event, winter was definitely in place, and as I look around at the falling snow and ski vehicles covered in white, it was a much more familiar look for the Northern Greens in winter.

An image of ski vehicles and falling snow in the village parking lot at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Back to reality

By the time I got to the base of Snowflake, E and the boys had already completed a couple of runs, and Ty was raving about the conditions.  They’d taken Butterscotch, and Ty said that there was powder off to the sides, but even if you didn’t go into the powder, the conditions were great.  We hit one more run there, and then boarded the Vista Quad to hit some steeper terrain.  We spent the midday hours trying out the steepest available terrain like Spillway, Hard Luck, and then Alta Vista.  Not surprisingly, there were some firm surfaces on the middle areas of the trails where manmade snow predominated, but off to the sides where traffic was low, the snow was generally softer and there was plenty of chopped up powder and even untracked powder at times.  The skier’s right of Spillway held a lot of great snow over the edge of the trail where the terrain fell away.

An image of Ty skiing the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty finally getting his chance to ski some of Bolton’s steeper terrain on the great snow today.

After a few runs, E was getting a bit cold, and Dylan was ready for a break, but Ty was just too jazzed to go in.  He wanted to stay out with me and shoot some photos, so I told him that I had two specific runs in mind.  We kicked things off with a run down Spillway, where he dissected all the potential powdery lines off to the skier’s right, coming up with his own lines and photos that he wanted me to shoot.  He was one fire on that steep terrain, taking on everything, even the occasional massive death cookie that got sent that way from the groomers.  On our next run we headed over toward Wilderness.  Although Swing was roped off, closing the upper entrances, another track was available off Sherman’s that gave us some lower access.  I checked the snow depth as we headed over, and found 10 inches of settled powder.  The Wilderness Lift Line was in nice shape with plenty of coverage and plenty of powder, and Ty managed some nice face shots.

An image of Ty getting a face shot of powder on the Wilderness Lift Line trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty encountering some of today’s visual impairment.
An image of Ty skiing deep powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty keeping his head above water

We stopped in the lodge for some lunch with E and Dylan, and then brought Dylan out for one more run in the powder on Wilderness.  They boys got some deep turns on Cougar, followed by a delightful cruise through the powder on Turnpike.  Actually, we had to use the tracks of others at times on Turnpike, because the powder is now getting almost too deep for some of the pitches there.  The snow had let up, and the sun came out for that final run to really punctuate the day.  The coming week is looking quite cold, with single digits for high temperatures, but at least the snow is going to be well preserved for the near future.  It was interesting to note what Powderfreak said in the Ski Tread at American Weather – that this week we just managed for the first time in 2014 to have an average snowfall week here in the Northern Greens.  With that being the case, an above average week should be really fun.

Bolton Valley, VT 24FEB2009

An image of Jay jumping into deep powder on the Duva Horn trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today you just aired it out wherever you wanted… it didn’t matter.

E and the boys are off from school this week, so I joined them for a day up on the mountain yesterday.  Heading up to ski was pretty much a no brainer – it looked to be almost a carbon copy of Saturday, with another foot or so of upslope Champlain Powder™ overnight to finish off another three-foot storm cycle, and the clouds pulling away to leave blue skies and perfect temperatures.  Bolton Valley had just finished off a run featuring six feet of snow in six days, which doesn’t happen all that often… anywhere.

We hit up many of our usual haunts in the Timberline area, but also got in a few runs in the Adam’s Solitude/Wild Woods out of bounds areas, which we’d yet to visit this season.  I don’t visit those areas all that often, but I was absolutely floored by how protected the accumulated snow was over there.  Amazingly delicate accumulations of Northern Vermont’s famed upslope snow had settled on everything, apparently defying gravity by even accumulating laterally and growing off the sides of trees.  All it seemed to take was the slightest imperfection on a surface to catch a few crystals, and then they would apparently grab hands and just go nuts.  I’m not sure if the area is always protected like that, but I’ll sure be on the lookout with future storms.  My final overnight accumulation of snow down at the house for that event had come in at 2.4% H2O, which is not all that uncommon for upslope snow in our sheltered valley location, but there really were areas up near the top of Adam’s Solitude where the snow was like air.  I’d be skiing along through the usual bottomless powder and I’d hit pockets where it would feel like the bottom had literally dropped out because the snow became so airy.  It almost felt like I was hitting small tree wells, but it was just the settling pattern of the powder.  Anyway, it was quite an experience.  I’ve skied a lot of cold smoke snow between Vermont and our years out in Montana, and yesterday snow now sets the standard.  I can remember a day at Smugg’s several years back that featured snow as airy as yesterday’s, but it was only about 6 to 12 inches deep and not bottomless, so the experience wasn’t quite the same.

An image of Ty skiing some of the incredibly light "Champlain Powder" in Vermont on the Adam's Solitude trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort
Ty out there on Adam’s Solitude getting a taste of that Champlain Powder today

I wanted to bring E and the boys over to explore some areas on the main mountain, but the day at Timberline was so packed full of runs that we just never had the chance to get over there.  We did manage to meet up with Stephen and his kids for a final run down Adam’s Solitude.  It was a first time out there for them, so it was quite an introduction to that terrain.  I worked a bit with Ty and E on getting their body positioning more compact when they are in the air.  They’ve still got some work to do, but it was one of those days where you didn’t mind having to try, try again on those kinds of tasks.  The rest of the images from yesterday can be found below in the gallery, and full size versions are also available in our report to SkiVT-L.