After the good conditions I experienced yesterday on my tour of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I knew today had some great potential depending on how Winter Storm Noah performed. It wouldn’t take much to produce some really excellent skiing, and when the numbers finally came in this morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 5 inches of new snow. That was more than enough for the whole family to get together for a tour.
“The powder was typically 10-12” in depth, with some areas even more, and a few open spots with less if the wind had pushed the snow around.”
Although it’s already mid-February, today was actually the first day of the season that the whole family would have a chance to ski together. It really looked like a beauty though, with close to 10 inches of snow in the past couple of days, temperatures in the upper 20s F, and snow showers giving way to clearing skies in the afternoon. Arriving up at the mountain in the mid-morning timeframe, the resort was really humming with visitors once again. We were able to get a prime parking spot right along the edge of Broadway, geared up, and we were on our way.
Since I’d like what I found on my tour yesterday, I brought E and the boys on a variation of that trip. We headed up to Bryant Cabin, stopped for a quick break among about a dozen other backcountry travelers, and then headed on above Gardiner’s Lane as I’d done yesterday. My skin tracks had just about disappeared with all the new snow overnight, but there were just enough vestiges of my passage to allow me to use my old track as a guide.
We descended through a lot of glades I knew well, in addition to a few different lines that we found in our explorations. There were definitely plenty of good crashes in the powder, especially by Ty who seemed to enjoy the crashes as much as any aspect of the tour. The powder was typically 10-12” in depth, with some areas even more, and a few open spots with less if the wind had pushed the snow around.
We stopped in for some lunch at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery after the tour, and I got a great shot of Ty grappling with his huge sub. It was great to finally get the whole family out together, and what a day for great ski conditions!
We had some great ski conditions in the area last weekend thanks to a couple of winter storms putting down a solid resurfacing of the slopes. Ty and I hit some beautiful powder on Saturday at Bolton Valley, and the good snow conditions carried right over to our BJAMS ski program session on Sunday at Stowe. Some mixed precipitation moved in as the weekend closed out though, potentially setting up some dicey conditions as temperatures cooled back down during the week. Some new snow would likely be needed to soften up the slopes, but the only real possibility in the forecast was a cold front coming through the area on Friday. It was only expected to drop an inch or two, but true to form, the resorts along the spine of the Northern Greens managed to reel in a solid four inches. A subtle but important aspect of the snow that fell was that it started out dense and wet, then gradually dried out. That held the potential to really bond it to the old snow and actually create a rather soft subsurface that would be great under the new powder. You never know exactly how the layers are going to come together, but the potential definitely piqued my interest enough for a trip to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.
“In many areas my pole would simply go down 15 to 20 inches to a previous base layer.”
We had a morning of blue skies and bright sun, but it was dimming just a bit ahead of incoming Winter Storm Noah as I headed up to the mountain around midday. Arriving up in the Village, there was no doubt that it was President’s Day weekend – it took me several minutes to get a parking spot even down by the Sport Center and Nordic area because the lots were just jam packed. Hopefully that’s a great sign that the resort is going to have a great weekend of visitors. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get out today though – it was simply spectacular out there with sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20s F.
“Those turns had been so good, and it was such a nice day, that I decided to tack on some more touring.”
My first real sign that there might be some great snow on the hill came as soon as I walked to the back of the car to gear up. I’d backed into my parking spot and was pleasantly surprised when I had to remove almost a foot of powder to clear a spot so I could get my ski boots on. The snow had clearly drifted some, but it was obvious that the resort had picked up a good shot of accumulation and I was eager to see what the protected environs of the trees held.
Starting my ascent I generally found about four inches atop the old base, very consistent with what the resort had mentioned in the snow report. It was actually tough to gauge the depth of the new snow at times though, because indeed the new snow had bonded so well to the old snow that it was hard to find the interface. In many areas my pole would simply go down 15 to 20 inches to a previous base layer.
I was inspired to try a couple of new areas on my tour today. First, I ascended up the Bryant Trail, then past Bryant Cabin to Gardiner’s Lane. I then ascended up above Gardiner’s Lane at an angle until I hit the evergreen line, and then contoured across at that elevation until I reached the North Slope area. I stopped where I could catch a nice line all the way back down to Gardiner’s Lane, and got in some great turns. Then, instead of continuing along Gardiner’s Lane, I dropped off into one of the glades and skied fresh lines down to the next bench. I contoured on the bench until I found myself entering Gotham City, where I caught a series of various glades back down to Bryant.
Those turns had been so good, and it was such a nice day, that I decided to tack on some more touring. I headed back up Bryant, and ascended back up to the bench near the bottom of A1A. I worked back toward Gotham City and then ascended into some lines above. I finished off my descent heading down Alchemist and back toward the Village for a stop in at the deli for some subs.
The Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery was really hoppin’, but I definitely have to give a shout out to Gus and his crew for some great work managing all the holiday visitors. Thanks Gus, the sandwiches were great!
February snowfall has been off to a roaring start here in Northern Vermont, with Stowe just coming out of a stretch that dropped 30 inches in 8 days. The quality of the skiing both on and off piste has naturally taken a huge jump, and unlike the great snow we had back around the holidays, this snow didn’t come with subzero arctic temperatures. Everyone seemed quite excited to get out for our first BJAMS ski program of the season where the mountain was really delivering in quality and quantity of terrain.
We had most of our usual group today, along with Johannes, since he and Stephen were at the mountain to watch some of the Bolton Valley Freeride Team take part in the 2018 Stowe Freeride Challenge. Ty was also with us, since he wasn’t needed for any other coaching responsibilities today.
“February snowfall has been off to a roaring start here in Northern Vermont, with Stowe just coming out of a stretch that dropped 30 inches in 8 days.”
I wanted to make the most of the great conditions and get our crew into some fun terrain, so I set my sights on getting them over to Lookout. Coming over from Spruce Peak, we took the Gondola to Cliff Trail, and I’ve got to say, Cliff Trail had some of the best conditions I’ve seen there in a long time. You could just lay those edges over and dig in, and there was nothing there but packed powder. Lookout was closed from the top, so I brought the group around via Hayride and we wound up skiing through much of Tres Amigos Glades. There are still some icy sections in there on the heavily used lines, but there were a lot of great soft lines present as well if you just ventured out to the sides a bit. I hadn’t been in Tres Amigos for quite a while, and I’d forgotten how steep and fun it is in there.
As we neared the end of the day we’d whittled down the group to just Wiley, Ty, Dylan, and I, and we finished things off back at Spruce Peak with some runs off the Sensation Quad. Green Acres yielded what was definitely the most consistently great snow of the day, with deep bottomless powder that had us stunned with the fact that it was still untouched after the whole weekend.
“You could just lay those edges over and dig in, and there was nothing there but packed powder.”
Temperatures were great today, running in the range of probably 25 to 32 F, so comfort wasn’t at all an issue there. What was an issue though was the low clouds that were thick on the upper half of the mountain, making visibility really tough in open areas. There was also some light mixed precipitation in the afternoon that compounded visibility issues by leaving droplets on people’s googles and causing fogging. We had to ski with goggles up at times because the visibility was so tough, but fortunately temperatures were warm enough to make that feasible. The snow surfaces stayed nice at just about all elevations though, since the mixed precipitation we were picking up was fairly light.
Base depths are great right now, with five feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so as long as we can keep refresher storms coming we should be in great shape heading into the rest of February.
Light snow fell yesterday during the daylight hours while we were at Stowe, but the snowfall intensified after dark and we picked up more substantial amounts of snow in the evening. Knowing that the same thing was going on at the local resorts, it seemed like this morning would be an excellent time to catch some turns in the fresh powder. So, I decided to head up for a quick ski tour at Bolton Valley.
When I’d left the house the temperature was still right around freezing, but by Bolton Flats I hit winds associated with the cold air moving in, and by the time I got up to Timberline the temperature was down around 20 F. I found several cars in the usual parking spots off to the right, and they belonged to various skiers and riders coming and going from trips in the new snow.
“Today yielded some of the best turns in at least a couple of weeks, and it looks like the skiing is only going to get better with another storm predicted for Wednesday.”
On my ascent I found a nice skin track in place on Twice as Nice, and I frequently checked the depths of the powder. Wind had pushed the snow around a bit, but I generally found depths of 5 to 8 inches with spot amounts up to 10 inches near the Timberline Mid Station. I opted for Spell Binder on the descent, and even though the headwall had seen a lot of its snow blow around, the usual spots that hold the snow yielded excellent turns. Throughout the trail, turns were bottomless aside from a few contacts with the subsurface here and there, and I found protected spots with depths of over a foot.
Today yielded some of the best turns in at least a couple of weeks, and it looks like the skiing is only going to get better with another storm predicted for Wednesday.
Snow from our incoming winter storm began in the area this morning, and maintained a steady light intensity through our arrival at Stowe a bit before noontime. After the family had some lunch at the Great Room Grill, everyone gathered up for the afternoon’s sessions. With the past couple of week’s program sessions having rather stale snow, there was a bit of a buzz in the air with the incoming storm, even if new snow accumulations were still on the minimal side at that point.
Molly was continuing with her snowboarding, so Ty snowboarded as well, while Dylan and I went with Telemark skis. E feels that Molly is progressing really well with her turns, and just needs time on snow, so that’s exactly what we gave her. We did several runs off the Meadows Chair, which provided Molly with great terrain for her boarding, and it was an excellent area for Dylan’s Telemark practice as well. I drilled him using a technique that he actually invented, which involves skiing all turns in both directions in the same Telemark stance. In this case I made him work on his weaker stance, which is left foot in the back.
We had a good hot chocolate break back in the Great Room Grill before finishing off with a couple of bigger runs off of Sunny Spruce. The snow continued to fall lightly, but ended up adding a couple inches to freshen up surfaces before we left. We only took the occasional quick jaunt into the off piste, but it skied quite nicely with about 6 inches of powder, even down near the base elevations. The snow’s been chugging right along this evening at a slightly invigorated pace, so tomorrow should be another excellent day for turns.
Today started out quite cold, with temperatures down near 0 F, but it was expected to get warmer throughout the day. I waited until midafternoon, then headed up to Bolton Valley for a tour to check out how the new snow had settled in. Temperatures were in the mid to upper teens F when I arrived, and checking the settled depth of the powder at the 2,100’ elevation level, I found it was 4 to 5 inches deep.
Instead of going all way up to Bryant Cabin today, I decided to do a bit of an abbreviated tour. I headed about halfway of the way up the Bryant Trail, then connected onto Coyote and made my way up to Gotham City. I saw a nice skin track taking a novel route into the upper reaches of Gotham City, so I followed that for a few minutes and added on some additional vertical. I topped out close to 2,500’, where the depth of the powder was roughly 6 inches. The upper reaches of Gotham City that I skied were totally untracked and yielded some excellent turns, and I followed my run out through the usual assortment of glades available throughout the World Cup area. The turns were excellent on low to moderate angle terrain, with only the occasional contact with the subsurface unless you got into steeper terrain or areas that had seen previous traffic.
Even that modest storm that we just picked up was all that was really needed to make a huge bump up in the ski conditions, but we’ve got another system on its way tomorrow that should help even more. We’ll see how this next system plays out, but another several inches on top of what we just picked up will really get things back in midwinter form.
This was really a good day not to ski, since our recent warm spell came to an end last night and tightened up all the snow on the slopes. Many families are actually out of town because of winter break, but our BJAMS ski program was still on, so we headed to Stowe in the afternoon. We weren’t in any rush based on the anticipated conditions, so the boys and I had a good lunch up at the Great Room Grill before our session began.
The only redeeming aspect of the conditions that we found today was the couple of inches of dense new snow that fell on the back side of Winter Storm Quid. Areas with the new snow were actually pretty nice as Powderfreak showed in his pictures from this morning. I actually found some areas with even deeper accumulations than just a couple of inches, and turns were actually quite good with the density of the snow, but we didn’t spend too much time hunting down those areas with the best conditions. We joined up with another group today and just did some runs off Sunny Spruce to at least see what the main runs had to offer.
With the general conditions the way there were, the guys in my group were pretty much done after about an hour or so, and we headed to the s’mores area for a while, then up to the Great Room to hang out. Dylan brought his playing cards, and we got in a good session with various games, and of course some card tricks thrown in by Norris. The guys definitely enjoyed the indoor session, so we’ll keep it in mind the next time conditions are somewhat lackluster on the slopes.
It was quite a gorgeous day out there today, with valley temperatures up around 60 F. That’s certainly well above average for February, but with such nice weather on a Saturday, Ty and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to catch a few runs in the warm sun. We got up to the mountain in the mid-afternoon timeframe, and our timing was perfect, because just as we were about to load the Vista Quad, Jack caught us and we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon together.
We started off with a couple of runs on Spillway, which is always one of my favorites when we get soft spring snow like today. It’s got that nice steep pitch, and as usual there was that ridge of snow along the skier’s right that provides some especially nice turns. We rode the Snowflake Chair to go for a run in the Butterscotch Terrain Park, but for some reason the rope was up and the park was closed. We still got in some nice cruising on Sprig O’ Pine, and then headed back up for some steep turns on Hard Luck. Turns were also great there, very similar to what we found on Spillway.
The wind was really picking up at the end of the day when we headed back to the car, and we’ve had a storm come through with some rain that changed to snow this evening. Temperatures are going to drop back to more seasonable levels tomorrow, so it will probably be a day for the groomed terrain unless the mountains pick up substantial snow tonight.
For the first time in a while, none of the family had anything else on their agenda, so we were all free to ski together today. Winter Storm Pluto wound down on Thursday night, which meant that unfortunately the resorts would have been pretty tracked up after all of Friday’s visitors. Based on my Friday morning tour at Bolton Valley though, I knew the powder from upslope portion of Pluto was really good, so that had me thinking a backcountry session was the call (not to mention it’s a holiday weekend for the resorts). But where to go? We’ve basically hit the point where lines are viable essentially all the way down into the mountain valleys, at least on the east side of the Greens, so basically everything there is on the table. The west side in general did well with Winter Storm Pluto, bit even with that boost, the base there is still lagging well behind the east side. With temperatures expected to head above freezing by midday, I was looking for a protected area with some north-facing lines, and ultimately decided on Lincoln Gap. Ty and I had visited Lincoln Gap back in February of 2015, and I was simply in awe of the massive acreage filled with steep open lines through the hardwoods. This was our chance to show the area to E and Dylan.
Knowing that we had only until around midday before temperatures might be a concern with respect to the quality of the powder, we got a relatively early morning start. We were heading out into a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid-20s F as we passed through the Mad River Valley. One thing that stuck me during our drive was that in the bottom of the Mad River Valley there only seemed to be about half the amount of snow on the ground relative to what we’ve got at our house, so I’m guessing the valley itself didn’t make out quite as well in the recent storms as we did farther north. As usual, snowpack certainly wasn’t an issue as we headed up to closure area on Lincoln Gap Road.
When Ty and I were last at Lincoln Gap to ski, we headed to the south side of the gap road, where there are a lot of popular north-facing lines. I was hoping to try something on the north side of the road this time – the terrain looks a little bit mellower for those getting their Tele legs. With the sun out and temperatures rising though, I didn’t dare risk sticking around on those southerly-facing areas, so we ultimately decided to once again use the route to the popular north-facing terrain that Ty and I had used last time. Once we got to the base of the main terrain area, I decided to alter our ascent from what Ty and I had done. There’s a nice skin track that follows the forest road and wraps beneath some of the terrain, and while it’s got a nice gentle grade, it’s quite circuitous. With concern for the warming temperatures, my plan was to instead just break a skin track right up the main north face. It was extra work, but we were able to direct ourselves right toward areas that looked good. And boy was there a lot of terrain that looked good, really good. I’d actually forgotten what a gold mine of ski terrain the whole Lincoln Gap area is, but I was quickly reminded and spent a lot of time gawking at amazing lines as I broke trail for the skin track.
We’d covered about half the potential vertical on that north face before I decided that we’d get a good run, and we’d hopefully outrun the warming temperatures. As for the snow, my probes during the ascent generally revealed about 18 inches of powder over the subsurface. I can’t say exactly which storms the powder should be attributed to, but it was looking great. There wasn’t a single track in the various gullies and spines that we’d surveyed on our ascent, so we had the pick of whatever lines we wanted. Everyone struggled at least a bit with their Telemark turns in the deep powder, but very, or at least moderately-fat skis were certainly helping. Temperatures were pushing past the freezing mark as we finished our descent, so it was really comfortable out there. The snow wasn’t quite as outrageously deep and light as the time that Ty and I went to the area by ourselves last, but I think E and Dylan were impressed with the area, so I suspect we’ll head back at some point.
As we drove back down the Lincoln Gap Road, it suddenly felt like the calendar had flipped to March. The gravel/dirt portion of the road was already starting to have some mud on it! For lunch we went to The Mad Taco, and low and behold, Chris was right at the bar and spotted us. We caught up on lots of stuff (including his ski trip to Idaho to see friends) and being quite the regular at The Mad Taco, he gave us the lowdown on everything. They make tons of different hot sauces all the time, and list them on various blackboards in the establishment. They’re even numbered on a 1 to 10 scale based on how hot they are, but Chris said watch out because the numbers aren’t always right. For sauces I tried “It Tingles” (2) and “Bad Hombre” (1) and both had a decent amount of spice. The food was fantastic, and so was the atmosphere. I suspected I was going to like the scene when I jump in line to place my order and Joy Division is coming through the speakers. We’ll definitely be back, and Chris said he’d be happy to grab take-out for us anytime he’s heading toward our place.
On a final note, today was my third time using my iPhone to plot my GPS data from a ski tour in place of my old handheld GPS unit. I’ve been using the MotionX-GPS app, and I’m totally sold. It only costs a few bucks, it does basically everything my old GPS unit did, and it makes it all 10 times easier. It’s so much more sensitive to picking up GPS signals as well – I can basically store it anywhere on my person or in my pack and the signal is fine. I really enjoy the feature of announcing your speed, distance and tour time at various intervals. Since it’s on my phone, which I’m carrying anyway, that means one less item I have to carry. Anyway, I’m sold, so if you’re looking for a GPS app for your phone that acts like a real GPS, check out MotionX-GPS.
Today’s ski session was great, but it really wasn’t the one I was expecting. Since E and the boys were off from school for a snow day, and I had some time in the morning, it seemed like a great chance to all get in some skiing together. My first inclination was to visit Bolton Valley, which is right on my way into Burlington and very convenient, but lifts weren’t opening until 10:00 A.M., which on the late side based on the time I had. So, we decided on Stowe, which opened at 8:00 A.M. However, what we found on the Mountain Road was traffic backed up all the way to Harvest Market. That’s miles away from the resort. I figured it had to be because of an accident, but people in touch with E indicated that it was just bumper to bumper all the way down from the resort. I’m not sure how long it would have taken to travel all those miles, but we didn’t really have the time to find out. We switched our plans to Bolton Valley, figuring we’d take at least a few runs, but winds were keeping the Vista Quad on hold, so the available terrain would be quite minimal. It was just one of those crazy days where getting us all together to ski was going to be a challenge.
So in the end, I wound up stopping at Bolton for some earned turns on my way into Burlington, just like I often do. It simply took me a lot longer than usual to get to that point. Fortunately, just as one would expect thanks to the recent visit from Winter Storm Orson, the snow is simply spectacular. I skinned up the usual Timberline route, and while there were some tracks on Twice as Nice from skiers who had visited earlier, it was still snowing big, fat, fluffy flakes, and their tracks were rapidly disappearing. Today seemed like a great day to make a run on Twice as Nice, and it delivered bottomless turns all the way. The depth of the powder I found there today was generally 8 to 10 inches at the Timberline Base elevation, with nearly a foot in may spots higher up. The density gradient of the powder was fantastic, since we’ve been getting some really light fluff on the back side of the storm. It was funny to come full circle back to what I probably would have done if E and the boys hadn’t had the day off, and while it was a crazy path getting me there, the quality of the turns was definitely worth it.