Tag Archives: February

Bolton Valley, VT 11FEB2017

An image showing the "South of Solitude" sign on the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out the new signage on a visit to Timberline today

Last weekend featured some excellent ski conditions both on and off piste, and while we did get hit with a fairly substantial winter storm this week that further substantiated the snowpack, it ended with some sleet that put a dense layer atop the powder.  We’ve seen a few inches since then from Winter Storm Niko and a weak Alberta Clipper yesterday, but it hadn’t seemed like quite enough to really cover up that dense layer and get the powder skiing back to where it was.

In any event, I decided to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs to see just where conditions sit ahead of our next potential large winter storm (Winter Storm Orson) that is expected to start up tomorrow.  Temperatures were down in the single digits F in the morning, so I waited until later in the afternoon to head up to Bolton Valley’s Timberline area.  By then, the temperature was around the 20 F mark and it felt quite comfortable outside.

Watching the skiers below me as I rode the Timberline Quad, the groomed terrain seemed pretty nice, although I could certainly hear their turns, so that wasn’t a great sign.  I dropped into Showtime myself and found some decent groomed snow along the skier’s left.  My mid-fat Tele skis don’t have much for edges at this point, and I noticed it when I’d get to the occasional firmer spot.  I could see that there was some nice powder in the Twice as Nice Woods, so I dropped off the edge of the trail and into the trees.  Even though that terrain is roughly intermediate pitch, it was still a bit too steep for the amount of powder available.  I was touching down on the dense layer below, and occasionally slipping out on it or breaking through.  It was just too inconsistent to make for good skiing so I headed back to the groomed terrain of Showtime to finish my run.

On my next run I took Sure Shot and made my way to the lower angle slopes of the KP Glades.  I was able to get some decent powder turns at times, but even there it was possible to bust through the dense layer and the skiing was still just too inconsistent.  I finished out my run, and Timberline was closing anyway, but a couple of runs were enough to reveal that there really wasn’t much going on today with regard to off piste skiing.  It’s good that we’ve got Winter Storm Orson coming into the area tomorrow because it should be able to get the off piste conditions back to something more consistent and typical for midwinter around here.

Stowe, VT 05FEB2017

An image of Dylan skiing some powder along the boundary of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan on Spruce Peak at Stowe today finishing off with a nice powder run.

It’s been two days since Stowe’s “Big Friday” powder extravaganza, but we were definitely excited for the BJAMS ski program this afternoon knowing that the snow quality would be great and there would be plenty of untracked lines left in the lesser-used areas.  The overall setup for the day looked quite comfortable, with temperatures around 30 F depending on elevation, and some snow from our next Alberta Clipper coming in near the end of the day.

An image of fluffy upslope snow from a recent storm on the branches of trees in the Nosedive Glades area of Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe were with Nolan, Evan and Sophie again today, and with the snowpack now up to 76 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, I knew I could continue to introduce them to more of Stowe’s many off piste areas with no constraints.  With that in mind, two areas that I had on my hit list were Angel Food and the Hazelton Zone.  I started everyone off with Angel Food just in case folks were interested in going all the way down to Route 108, but the general consensus was to head back via the main traverse, so that’s as low as we went.  We followed that up with a run on Chin Clip where Nolan and I worked on bump technique with all the kids.  Chin Clip is in classic top-to-bottom bump mode right now and serves as a great spot for bump practice.  After a Midway Lodge break we hit a combination of Nosedive Glades and Hazelton Zone.  The streams down in the Hazelton Zone are generally well covered, but perhaps a bit less filled in than some seasons due to some stronger melt flows back in December and January.

An image of a house being constructed along Route 108 near Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe headed back to Spruce as the end of the day approached, and folks generally got on their way a bit early with the Super Bowl coming up in the evening, but Dylan and I decided to head off together and catch another powder run.  We explored from the Spruce side down to Route 108 and found some really fun lines.  We didn’t run into any other skiers, but we did find a group of ice climbers working on a small section of ice not far from the resort.  We made our way back on one of the access roads to the houses they’re building right along Route 108, and got to see an up-close view of one of the huge ones that’s got some massive retaining walls built to accommodate the steep slopes down to the road.  It can’t really have much of a yard with the way the terrain is so steep, but it’s got some amazing landscaping, architecture, and fantastic views of Mansfield.

Light snow began to hit the resort in the last hour or two of the day, and we’ve got snow accumulating here at the house this evening, so I’m sure they’ll have a bit of fresh to report from the resort in the morning.

Bolton Valley, VT 04FEB2017

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty out enjoying some of the recent upslope powder bounty at Bolton Valley today

There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week.  As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct.  We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order.  What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area.  Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.

“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”

Things really started to ramp up on Thursday night.  My phone alerted me to the fact that the National Weather Service in Burlington had put out a Special Weather Statement for snow squalls.  It wasn’t long before eyewall sent along some pictures of the heavy snow falling in the Burlington area, and eventually, light snow at our house in Waterbury farther east turned into a 1 to 2-inch per hour maelstrom of flakes.  In the morning, Powderfreak started reporting in from the Stowe area, and initial thoughts of at least 6” on Mt. Mansfield turned into 8”, and quickly 9-10” at his 3,000’ snow plot on the mountain.  When adk sent along some of the shots taken during his usual morning wanderings on Mansfield, they revealed that however much snow had fallen, it was skiing deepsome awesome “over the shoulder Champlain powder” shenanigans were already taking place.

“By 2:00 P.M. he reported in with close to 17” of new snow…”

By midday, Powderfreak was reporting a foot of snow at Stowe, and Mother Nature was still pouring out the flakes over the spine at 1 to 2-inches per hour.  By 2:00 P.M. he reported in with close to 17” of new snow, and followed up with his own collection of powdery pictures a bit later in the afternoon.  At times, during the afternoon there were just huge snowflakes pouring from the sky, and Powderfreak sent along a bit of slow-motion video that he caught at Stowe’s base area showing some of the huge aggregates.  Folks quickly started talking about the day as “Big Friday”, no doubt because it was likely the biggest powder Friday of the season thus far.  When you start off with almost a foot of powder, and then tack on another half foot through the morning while you ski, you can’t help but have a “Big Friday”.  I was too busy yesterday to get out for any skiing, but when I posted the Vermont snow reports yesterday evening, all the resorts in the Northern Greens along the spine were coming in with 15-17” of new snow, so a trip to Bolton Valley would definitely be in order.

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Tattle Tail trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty, feeling the powder groove on his Soul 7s today

From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning.  E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later.  From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere.  Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder.  I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats.  For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day.  It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow.  We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.

An image of the "South of Solitude" Mexican restaurant logo at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E.  We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season.  Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season.  The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge.  I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito.  They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!

An image showing the Chimichanga on the blackboard menu at the "South of Solitude" restaurant at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area.  We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation.  A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season.  Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.

An image of Erica on the Timberline Quad at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it.  We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.

Stowe, VT 28FEB2016

An image of Dylan skiing the Kitchen Wall area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan drops into one of the Kitchen Wall snowfields today to enjoy some of the snow delivered to Mt. Mansfield from the past couple storms.

On our ski outing yesterday we got a taste of the current backcountry conditions at Bolton Valley, and today we got to see how the lift-served terrain at Stowe has been fairing since the snows from Winter Storm Petros. With additional snows falling overnight from another moderate system skirting the northern border of Vermont, conditions were improving dramatically the farther north one went. We had students in our group from Wolcott and Hyde Park that had picked up 4 inches of snow at their houses, and Jay Peak saw another 7 to 10 inches overnight.

An image of Ty skiing the Kitchen Wall area of Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontKen and I had a fairly large group with 7 students today, and based on the way the snow had played out yesterday at Bolton, we immediately took everyone to the top of the Gondola and into the lower reaches of the Kitchen Wall terrain to get a feel for how the powder was skiing. The snow was excellent, with a good 6 to 8 inches of midwinter powder for everyone to enjoy. The students commented on numerous occasions how good the snow was. The best powder lasted down to about the 3,000’ mark before it began to get thinner and a bit wetter. At that point we’d stick to the trails, where conditions varied from midwinter snow to spring like, to ice, depending on elevation and aspect.

An image of Jonah skiing the Kitchen Wall area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Jonah attacking a line on the Kitchen Wall

The kids had liked the first run so much that on our next one we took the high Kitchen Wall traverse and dropped into the untracked powder in one of the snowfields. There was a good 8-12” of snow up there, so bottomless turns were the norm. Even down below in the evergreens we found plenty of untracked lines and the kids’ overall energy was very positive. One line that we found ended up taking us basically through a cave, and you had to do some major body contortions to pull that line off smoothly.

Ken was thinking of paying a visit to Ravine, and I told him that we’d likely be able to ski the top ¼ at least based on what we found last week. We were all amazed to find the top entrance absolutely untracked at 3:00 P.M. on a Sunday afternoon, so some of the boys dropped in, and we eventually found out why it was being left alone. There was nice powder on top, but presumably some of the rain from Winter Storm Petros had wrecked the subsurface. It was a moonscape under there, so after skiing the available powder for a few hundred yards, we switched out to Gondolier for the rest of the run.

Unfortunately for Ken, he really brought the wrong pair of skis today. He was at Sugarbush yesterday where he found bulletproof conditions and struggled on skis with no edges. Anticipating the same thing today, he brought his freshly-sharpened, skinny, 195 cm old-school cruising skis. He couldn’t believe that we were skiing almost a foot of powder up high, and his long, skinny skis were essentially the exact opposite of what he would have liked to have in tight, powder-filled trees. We joked about how we used to ski everything on such skis, no matter how tight, but the new shorter, fatter, rockered, twin-tipped boards are so superior, and one can forget how much work it takes to push around those long sticks.

An image of the West Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont with large snowmaking whales
Huge snow whales made for fun times on West Slope today

We finished off the day over at Spruce Peak, where areas in the sun were already turning to spring corn snow. The resort had made some huge snow whales on West Slope, and everyone was lapping those, which held soft snow and some great contours and drops. It’s definitely starting to feel like spring with the lasting sunlight we’ve got, but apparently we’ve still got some winter storm to come – the forecast suggests we’ve got three potential storms this week, so it should be interesting to see where things stand next weekend. Right now the Mt. Mansfield Stake is at 34”, so if things break right perhaps we’ll hit that magic 40” mark that means that most of the off piste terrain is reasonably well covered.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 27FEB2016

An image of Dylan skiing powder on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan scoots off through one of Bolton Valley’s backcountry glades today as we take in some of the powder left by Winter Storm Petros.

I haven’t been on a backcountry ski outing since January 23rd, but the whole family got out to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network today for a tour. Winter Storm Petros left up to 9 inches of new snow at the local resorts yesterday, and with a clear beautiful day today, it was a perfect chance to get out.

Temperatures at the house were in the low to mid 30s F when we headed up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe, and it was just a bit below freezing up at the Village (~2,100’). It’s not quite spring weather yet, but the sun is certainly getting stronger, and it was pleasant as we put our ski boots on down along Broadway in one of the tennis court parking areas.

An image showing some snow crystals that had formed on a frozen stream on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontDepth checks at the start of the tour revealed that the new powder had settled to about 2-3” down at the Village elevations, and up at Bryant Cabin it was in the 4-5” range. The Bryant Trail was pretty quiet and we didn’t see anyone else, but you could tell by the various descent tracks and a well-established skin track in spots that people had certainly been out. Up at the cabin we stopped to have hot chocolate that E had made (with a special thermos of dark hot chocolate for Dylan that he was very excited about).

An image of Dylan removing his skins from his skis on a backcountry ski outing on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Everybody had a fun time working on skin removal without taking off their skis today.

I took everyone on one of my usual routes along Gardiner’s Lane, North Slope, and then down via Grizzwald through Gotham City. We skinned a bit past the cabin, and at the top of our descent everyone worked on removing their skins without taking off their skis. Everyone was ultimately successful, although I’d say Ty spent a good amount of time on the ground after things went a bit awry. We caught first tracks in some areas, and on the upper half of the terrain the powder turns were quite nice. I kept everyone off south facing terrain since I could see that it was pretty thin, but in fact I’d say this has to be the lowest snowpack that I can remember around here for the end of February. Fortunately that amount of snow is still enough to cover a lot of the glades well. Below Gotham City the snowpack and powder were notably thinner, so you had less line selection, but we still had some good turns down there. No doubt the way to go for the best turns is to stay above ~2,400’ if possible right now, but you can get some very nice powder if you know your terrain and aspects. It was really great to get the whole family out for some exercise today, since we haven’t had quite as many ski outings as usual with the low snowfall this season. The boys were in good spirits for the whole tour, I’d say probably the most positive backcountry attitude from them in quite some time!

An image of Erica sking powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E Teles through the powder today as we drop through one of the glades below North Slope

We’ve got another system in the area tonight giving us a bit of snow right now even here at the house, but it sounds like Jay Peak might really get the best shot out of this one.

Stowe, VT 21FEB2016

An image of Dylan skiing in the Cliff Trail Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Stowe’s reporting up to 9 inches from our latest storm, and the BJAMS boys were out in force today doing their best to get into that fresh powder.

The Alberta Clipper system in our area had already dropped 4 to 6 inches of snow yesterday, and as of this morning the totals were passing a foot up at Jay Peak, and Stowe wasn’t too far behind. Heading northward was definitely the way to go today. It was generally just cloudy at our house, but right as we were passing north out of Waterbury into Stowe, the precipitation started to come down more vigorously, and the precipitation was snow, or a mix of rain/snow even down in the valley. That’s a good sign for even better things going on up high, and indeed precipitation changed over to all snow just as we hit The Matterhorn at around 1,000’.

Anticipating a day with fairly standard February light, I had my all around Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM on my 7D II, and although the snowfall was generally tapering off, I saw the clouds sitting on Mansfield up high and quickly switched out to my F/1.2 Storm Day Lens before I went out to meet my group. Based on everything I was hearing from Powderfreak, the powder was really sweet up in those clouds, and that was where we’d want to be getting today’s photos.

An image of Mt. Mansfied with clouds on the upper mountain at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
With this view I knew we’d be shooting up in the clouds today, so I opted for the F/1.2 lens to get the most light under those conditions.

After a couple of sessions away, I was back with my regular group of BJAMS students today, which featured Luc, Ty, Wiley, Jonah, and Dylan. Our decision on where to go was easy based on my most recent beta, so we immediately high-tailed it over to the Gondi and headed up into the clouds. Our initial foray onto Gondolier revealed some very sweet snow – worlds better than what we’d encountered on the very same route just two weeks ago. I let the boys warm up on Gondolier for that first run before we thought about heading off piste, but boy was it tempting; short forays into the snow along the sides of the trail revealed a healthy 8-10” of medium-weight powder that skied like a dream – especially in this nightmare of a ski season. By the last third of the vertical, we found that the on piste snow got a bit firmer, and the powder got a bit thinner, but we’d already seen what we needed to see up top – it was definitely time to hit the trees.

“…short forays into the snow along the sides of the trail revealed a healthy 8-10” of medium-weight powder that skied like a dream – especially in this nightmare of a ski season.”

We worked the Gondola the whole afternoon, enjoying that great snow up top whenever possible and hitting lines in the Cliff Trail Trees, High Road Trees, Perry Merrill Trees, and Nosedive Glades. We even skied the top third of Ravine before we cut back to the piste to be on the safe side. It’s not an issue of rocks in there so much as we need just a bit more snow to put a deeper later above the ice – it is a streambed after all. We could see some great lines dropping into the top of the Hazelton Zone, and I’m sure they would have delivered for a few hundred vertical, but we knew that the turns would be tough by the bottom.

An image of Ty skiing powder snow in the High Road Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty finding great snow in the High Road Trees on the upper elevation terrain of Mansfield

On the group dynamic side of things, I have to say I was very impressed with Jonah and Wiley. They were the most eager in the group when it came to hiking around a bit and they were definitely setting a tone for getting to the highest quality snow vs. easier access to the more typical surfaces. They have definitely figure out our group’s mindset and the current makeup of the team is really starting to mesh.

An image of Jonah on the Stowe Ice Slide at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys hit the Stowe Ice Slide after s;mores for a good session of tricks and snowball bombardment.

We finished off the day hitting the s’mores session and watching the ice skaters in the Spruce Peak Village, followed up by a lot of time on the Stowe Ice Slide with slide tricks and simultaneous bombardment by snowballs. All in all this latest little storm resulted in a great step up in conditions at the mountain. We’ve still got a long way to go to get anywhere near a normal base depth, but the snowpack depth at the Mansfield stake hit 30” for the first time this season so some ground is being gained. A couple more storms are in the pipeline this coming week, so we hope they can play out reasonably well the way these last couple did, and keep that snowpack growing.

Bolton Valley, VT 20FEB2016

An image of Erica skiing powder on the Wilderness Liftline trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Mother Nature delivered a bit of powder to hungry Bolton Valley skiers today

Temperatures hovered below zero Fahrenheit for highs in the mountains last weekend, and without any major storms or ski program obligations due to the President’s Day holiday, there wasn’t much incentive to get out and ski; so we didn’t. This weekend though, things have been a bit more hospitable. An Alberta Clipper system has been moving along north of the international border since yesterday, and it dropped 4 to 6 inches of new snow for the Northern Vermont resorts overnight. Fresh snow and comfortable temperatures up in the 30s F certainly sounded appealing, so Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley for some midday runs today.

A quick check of the Bolton Valley snow report revealed that even the Timberline area was open, and it would be our first chance to visit it for lift-served turns this season. We even thought of basing ourselves out of there, but ultimately decided to head all the way up to the main base to facilitate picking up some lunch at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery afterwards. Parking was fairly easy; even though it was 11:00 A.M. we only had to go down to the third tier in the main Village lot because there was only a moderate number of skiers at the resort.

An image of Dylan skiing the Showtime trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Showtime was one of the highlights today with some excellent soft snow.

We decided to check out as many sections of the mountain as possible to assess conditions, so we started with a quick trip up Snowflake to make our way toward Timberline. Timberline Lane and Timberline Run didn’t really inspire us with regard to conditions – it wasn’t great either on or off piste. Despite the mild weather, the groomed terrain was strangely hard, sort of that like that hard but wet surface that you can encounter on the lower slopes of Whistler Blackcomb. There was fresh powder off piste, but unfortunately below ~2,000’ it was just a bit too sticky to be fun. I was hoping that the surface conditions we’d encountered there were not going to be all the mountain had to offer today, and fortunately what we’d experienced was the worst we were going to see. We did a Timberline Mid Station run on Showtime because we could immediately tell as we rode the lift that the conditions looked nice. Indeed the turns were awesome on Showtime, because if featured soft packed snow that wasn’t at all sticky. I’m not sure what combination of grooming, timing, or skier traffic led to such disparate conditions on routes at equivalent elevations, but whatever the case, Showtime was great fun.

“Indeed Wilderness Lift Line held several inches of fresh powder in spots protected from the wind, and there were perhaps a dozen tracks on Lower Turnpike.”

We continued our tour by heading back to the main base and riding up the Vista Quad. Temperatures were below freezing up high and the powder was very much in midwinter form up there. We headed toward Alta Vista, and Dylan and I jumped into some of the dense trees off to the skier’s left to explore some lines. There’s not really much there because the evergreens are really dense, but with E spotting from the trail we found a couple of open spots to catch a few turns and there were 4 to 5 inches of protected powder in there that made the experience quite fun. Back on piste, skier’s left of Alta Vista before the first turn was filled in with 8 to 10 inches of soft snow, so we all enjoyed that.

We made our way over to Wilderness after that, figuring that traffic would be fairly light over there. Indeed Wilderness Lift Line held several inches of fresh powder in spots protected from the wind, and there were perhaps a dozen tracks on Lower Turnpike. The powder turns on Lower Turnpike were smooth and creamy, until about the last couple hundred feet above the Village where the temperature had risen enough to cause the powder to become sticky.

An image of Erica skiing powder snow along the edge of the Liftline Trail in the Wilderness are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh powder along the edge of the Wilderness Lift Line

Our run led us right down to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery where we picked up some sandwiches to bring home for lunch. With temperatures above freezing down in the Village, it felt more like a March or April day vs. February, but it was really nice to be able to change out of our ski boots at the car in comfort – unlike what it would have been last weekend (or the way things were much of last season). It looks like there are a couple more potential storms in the pipeline for this coming week, so we’ll see how they play out with respect to snow.

Lincoln Gap, VT 28FEB2015

An image of Ty on the skin track on a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
Ty heads out on today’s backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area

Unlike last weekend, where Winter Storm Pandora provided fresh snow on both Saturday and Sunday, new snow this weekend isn’t really expected until tomorrow afternoon. It also hasn’t really been a particularly snowy week, with no new snow in five to six days. Snow preservation has continued to be great though, and that brought about some interest in heading for some backcountry turns. I’d come across an article about some of the skiing in the Lincoln Gap area at the Nor’easter Backcountry Blog, and it sounded like there was a lot of potential. Guru Gered had put plenty of detail into the report, as well as a map, so it was a good aid for getting the general lay of the land and some ideas of where to go for quality turns. One great aspect about today that I haven’t had on a lot of backcountry trips this season was the temperature – it looked like it was going to be up into the 20s F, which was going to feel like a warm spring day.

“It’s obvious that there’s a massing amount of ski terrain there on the east side of Lincoln Gap…”

An image of Lincoln Gap Road in Vermont at the winter closure area where the snow starts
Starting the tour at the Lincoln Gap Road closure area

E was taking care of Dylan and an afternoon birthday party at a friend’s house, but Ty was free, so we let the day warm up with the help of that almost March sun, and headed south toward Warren in the afternoon. The sunshine was brilliant as we made our way through the Mad River Valley and up Lincoln Gap Road. After a few miles, the plowing ended, and we found about a half dozen cars parked where the road closure and snow began. From one of the cars, a group of sledders was heading out to ride on the snowy road, which I suspect is a popular activity just the way folks like to do it on Route 108 through Smuggler’s Notch.

“The powder was fantastic; certainly not super fresh, but there were no crusts of any kind and it was definitely super bottomless.”

Ty and I started skinning right up the road, which was well packed through what seemed to be a combination of human and mechanized traffic. Off to the left of the road, the land sloped down toward Lincoln Brook, and off to the right it sloped upward the slope of Mount Abraham. You could immediately see great ski terrain right up in that direction to the northwest, but based on Guru Gered’s report, we were planning to tour off on the southern side of the road. After about five minutes or so, we found a service road in that direction marked with a brown “66”, and an obvious skin track on it; it was clear that this was a common route for skiers. The road headed gently upward in a southerly direction, still paralleling Lincoln Brook, and since the land still fell away in that direction, there was no obvious yet to the terrain beyond it. After roughly another ten minutes, the brook narrowed somewhat, the road bent in that direction, and we approached the foot of the mountainsides now visible to our south.

“You also know that the terrain is pretty steep when you head over the handlebars for a crash into the powder, and wind up back on your feet after a full flip – Ty demonstrated that one for us.”

We met a couple there, who were out backcountry skiing with their young daughter – she was at the age where she was still riding in a pack (I can remember those days). We chatted for a bit, and the dad gave me an overview of the area. Above us to the west, we could see some fairly gentle slopes that formed the bottom of the drainage and headed up along the continuation of the brook. He said that a few skiers had been in there in the morning. We were informed that the main skin track wrapped back around the brook, heading east for a bit below the slopes above, and then turned more southward. We’d hit a sign marking the wilderness boundary, and from there you could continue south up that drainage where there were some options of trimmed lines as well as the streambed itself. From that point there was also the option to head back to the west and work your way up to the slopes right above us.

An image of a sign marking the boundary of the Breadloaf Wilderness Area in VermontWe thanked him and made our way along the main skin track that wrapped around the brook. The skin track was on a nice gradual grade that seemed to be an old logging road. Even after just a few minutes up that route, we could start to see some nice open lines dropping below us toward the brook. We hit the wilderness sign after about a mile of total distance, and based on time, we opted to head back west up above the slopes that would lead us back down to where met the family earlier. From that point the skin track went up and up and up (so it seemed) generally heading westward but with lots of switchbacks. We actually saw the family again, because they were heading up into that area as well and had taken a more direct skin track that eventually merged with the one we’d used. It seemed like it took forever, but we eventually hit the ridgeline above us as the terrain flattened out. One option of the skin track actually continued upward as the ridgeline continued to rise to the east, and that’s actually the way that the family was headed. I’m not sure exactly how much higher it went, since Ty and I took another track that headed along the ridgeline in a more westerly direction. We followed that for a few minutes until we came to where the previous skiers had started their descent. We could tell that this was generally going to get us back to the drainage where we’d started, and it looked like a decent option.

An image of Ty crashing in the powder on a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
Ty making great use of that deep powder out there to cushion a spectacular fall with a full flip

We did a quick changeover to descent mode and were on our way down. There were the few tracks of other skiers in the general area, but there were plenty of fairly open trees all around, and you could spread out with plenty of space if you wanted to get away from signs of other tracks. The powder was fantastic; certainly not super fresh, but there were no crusts of any kind and it was definitely super bottomless. The terrain was steep, with plenty of shots of 25 or even 30 degrees, and you know the surface snow is seriously deep above the base when you can crank turns on those pitches and not touch a thing. There were good lines all over the place, and some of the most fun was riding the main streambed – everything is so buried in there under deep snow that there’s really nothing to worry about when the snowpack is like this. Ty was on fire with the Telemark turns, and I think he might have even been more consistent with them than me. He’s been doing cross country skiing in a program at school, and I think that’s gotten him even more attuned to his free heel work. If we had our druthers, we actually would have chosen a run with a shallower pitch than what we hit, since we’d been planning of something of a more intermediate pitch that really made for easy Telemark turns. But by the time we were done we’d realized that it didn’t matter; the powder was so consistent the tree spacing so good that even the steeper pitches had been working well.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from today’s backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area

We eventually hit the bottom of the drainage, and headed down it to the right. We hadn’t known just how close we were to the service road, but were hit it in just a minute or two. From there it was a few minutes of gliding back to the car on the skin track. It’s obvious that there’s a massing amount of ski terrain there on the east side of Lincoln Gap, and much in line with what Guru Gered said in his report, there is a lot of prime hardwood skiing terrain out there. If you don’t have a couple feet of powder, I’m sure some of those steeper lines are tougher to ski, but there’s plenty of mellower terrain out there as well. I have no idea how long it would take to explore even half of the potential terrain that’s out there, but I’m sure it will be fun.

Bolton Valley, VT 24FEB2015

An image of skiers on the Cobrass trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
This afternoon we were up at Bolton Valley for a photo session focusing on mostly groomed terrain.

E and the boys are on winter break this week, so as he’s done in the past, Josh asked if we’d be interested in doing some photography up at Bolton Valley. The challenge this week has been choosing between the days that were forecast to be sunny but cold, or warmer but snowy. Unfortunately, the snowier days don’t make for the best photos, so with today’s forecast of relatively benign weather, it seemed like one of the better options.   The main issue today was the temperatures; morning lows in the area were in the -20 to -30 F range, without even any wind, so Josh decided that an afternoon session would be the way to go. The forecast called for temperatures getting up into the teens F in the afternoon, at least in the valley elevations, and although it would be a bit colder in the mountains, winds were minimal so it seemed like it wasn’t going to be outrageously cold.

The others were able to head up around noon and start working with Josh on some shots around the Village, and I was able to get up to the resort around 1:00 P.M. for some on-slope work. The sky did have a covering of high, thin clouds, so it wasn’t especially blue in the afternoon, but there was indeed plenty of light. We started off with some classic Cobrass shots, and then moved on down to Timberline and did some shooting on Brandywine. There was also another family along for the session with their kids Fox, Summer, and Trevor, and I didn’t get to meet Fox because he was the youngest and didn’t head up the mountain, but the others were there with their dad they were all helpful as ski models. Josh and I did the photography, generally focusing on groomed shots without a lot of sky since it wasn’t especially blue. The groomed snow is in excellent condition as has been typical for many weeks now, and there’s powder everywhere off piste if you just jump off the sides of the trails. It was a fun time as usual, with the noticeable quiet of a midweek day at the resort. Temperatures were certainly in the single digits F up high, so that made things a little uncomfortable and Summer headed in a bit early with her dad.

An image of Ty doing a jump on skis on the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Airing it out for the camera today on Brandywine

It wasn’t an especially long session anyway, since Josh had to head off to do the afternoon snow report by 3:00 P.M., and the rest of us were happy to head into the lodge for snacks by that point. It looks like there’s another photo session in the works later in the week that might take advantage of some skies with a bit more blue, so hopefully they’ll be able to get some scenic shots that weren’t available today.

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.