Today was the day after the storm (Winter Storm Quinlan), and the weather had settled down. E and I headed up for morning turns at Timberline, and the conditions were great. It was still cold by March standards, somewhere in the teens F in the morning. The storm total reported by Bolton Valley was around 18 inches.
We spent our entire morning at Timberline, and just stayed there since there was plenty of snow even down to 1,500’, and there was still some wind around as we hit 2,500’. My depth checks generally revealed about 12” of new snow after settling down in the Timberline elevations, which with the density at the beginning of the storm was plenty to cover most on piste terrain. Initially, the headwalls of the steepest terrain areas were closed, since they had been scoured by the winds and thus not covered as well as they otherwise would have been. The traverses below them were in good shape though, so that gave you access to run after run of untracked powder on trails like Spell Binder. Eventually, patrol even opened the Spell Binder headwall, but you had to be quite cautious going down the most scoured sections.
For off piste runs, you had to know the areas with good base depths, but the skiing in those areas was excellent. The usual steepest areas were still sketchy of course, as one storm can only do so much to cover up areas with poor base depths. E and I had a great run in the lower KP Glades, and when we showed it to Dylan and Parker once they arrived it the early afternoon, they were pretty impressed with the conditions as well. E and I left around 1:00 P.M., but the boys did a lot of off piste exploring in the afternoon, and my Dylan’s ski got a solid core shot to show for it.
“My depth checks generally revealed about 12” of new snow after settling down in the Timberline elevations, which with the density at the beginning of the storm was plenty to cover most on piste terrain.”
The parking lots up at the Village were already full when we arrived in the morning, so the Timberline Quad had intermittent periods with a lift queue as the people arriving made their way up to the main mountain, but thankfully those died off as people dispersed. Bolton opened the new expansion to the Timberline Lodge for the first time this weekend, and it looks quite nice. I hear they are also going to use it as rentable space for conferences and events, but it’s going to be a great addition to the space in the lodge.
E and I headed out for some turns this morning, thinking it was clearly going to be the better day for skiing over the weekend. Temperatures were in the 20s F, so it was quite nice in that regard, but we were curious to see how the trail conditions were faring after the midweek clippers. Despite all the new snow, trail conditions were fairly poor, even at a relatively low traffic resort like Bolton. The powder that hadn’t been touched was actually skiing really well, but untracked areas were few and far between on the lift-served terrain after the completion of school vacation week and the extension of the break period into Monday and Tuesday that most local schools had. I actually think some low to moderate angle backcountry might have even been the better call based on the sharp contrast in snow quality between the on piste vs. off piste conditions we found.
“The powder that hadn’t been touched was actually skiing really well, but untracked areas were few and far between on the lift-served terrain after the completion of school vacation week and the extension of the break period into Monday and Tuesday that most local schools had.”
The recent clippers from this week were nice, and were potent enough that they made for some great short term conditions while the snow had its loft, but there just wasn’t enough liquid equivalent in there to really set up for lasting improvement in the on piste snow surfaces. Those systems, and even Winter Storm Oaklee before it, were fairy cold from start to finish. That meant that there wasn’t any notable dense snow to bond to the underlying subsurface, and the light, dry snow eventually just gets pushed around, bringing you back to whatever hard base was there before. My snow analysis numbers show that these past four storms (there was also a smaller system with squalls between Oaklee and the two larger clippers) actually put down over an inch of liquid equivalent here in the valley. But despite there likely being somewhat more liquid equivalent than that in the mountains, it wasn’t going to be enough to hold up to lift-served levels of skier traffic. Even more than usual on Saturday we found a huge difference between the quality of the manmade subsurfaces and the natural subsurfaces. Erica commented on it during one of our runs because the difference was so extreme that it jumped right out to her. Based on what we encountered, it seemed like the denser manmade base areas had an even harder time incorporating the new snow than the natural snow terrain.
We finally had a chance to check out the Miso Kome stand by the main base lodge up close today – it wasn’t open in the morning when we were there, but we’re excited to check it out. Stephen had a chance to try it a few weeks back, and said good things! Now that we’re into March, hopefully we’ll get a chance to try it out on one of these nice spring days. One notable event of the day was having to wait ~15 minutes on the Wilderness Chair, which was apparently due to a mechanical issue. They got their backup power going to get everyone unloaded, but they didn’t reload after that, presumably to take care of the issue.
This morning, Ty, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to check out the snow from Winter Storm Oaklee. The boys were both asleep as E and I were just about to leave to get in on some of the fresh powder, and we assumed they were just going to sleep in. Ty just happened to wake up at the right time, and he was excited to join us, so that was fortuitous timing for him!
Having clear skies, comfortable winter temperatures, and about a foot of fresh snow held the potential for some great skiing. Based on my snow density observations down at the house, the storm cycle progressed from denser 8-10% H2O snow into some impressive 2-4% H2O champagne, and indeed what we found out there at Bolton today was some very high quality powder. This was also the first chance for E to try out her new Rossignol Spicy 7 HD skis, and she was very happy with how they felt with today’s conditions.
The denser snow from the front end of the storm cycle wasn’t too evident underfoot actually, so the only major downside of today’s powder skiing was that it wasn’t quite bottomless. Depending on the pitch, you were certainly touching down on the subsurface, but on everything except for the steepest terrain, the powder turns were quite good. On moderate-angle terrain you could typically get by with 80-90% bottomless skiing, and because the powder was just so incredibly dry, you could ride it on lower angle terrain and it skied really well because of such low impedance.
Measurements throughout the morning revealed plenty of 8-12” powder depths, and we just ended up staying down at Timberline for our entire session because there was rarely a lift queue of note. A lot of trails weren’t open simply because the headwalls didn’t have quite enough snow to cover them up fully, but routes were available to traverse below them, and all that terrain was just loaded with quality powder. We generally stayed on piste because there was plenty of powder available there, and it was the better option anyway. Some off piste areas are dicey because of the recent warmth, but the off piste areas that are typically protected from the warmth and are well manicured were in great shape, so we did have some nice turns in those spots.
Storms like this are where one’s knowledge of their local hill really comes into play for putting together a fun session vs. one where you’re constantly dodging rocks and logs, wrecking your skis, or even worse, potentially wrecking yourself. Although we did spend most of our time on piste over the weekend because there was plenty of available powder there, our travels also brought us into some off piste lines that we trusted, and we found great turns in those areas.
From conversations with friends and colleagues who have skied in different spots in the Northern Greens over the past few days, it sounds like with respect to off piste turns, the farther north you go, the better the base gets. These next couple of bread and butter systems that are coming though this week should only help in that regard, and then we’ll have to see if that mixed system that’s farther out there in time can further substantiate the base.
Temperatures definitely warmed up today relative to yesterday, so E and I headed out to Bolton Valley for an afternoon ski session. We spent our time at Timberline, since it’s only been open for about a week, and it allowed us to check out some of our favorite areas for the first time this season. We checked out Twice as Nice, where the on-piste conditions are excellent, as well as spots like the Corner Pocket Glades, Doug’s Woods, Doug’s Solitude, Doug’s Knob, Wood’s Hole, etc.
Conditions continue to be excellent, although the trails are getting pretty tracked up at this point, so we had to head a bit farther off piste for fresh snow. In line with the observations from my backcountry ski tour yesterday, we found powder depths at around 20 inches, even down to the 1,500’ – 2,000’ elevation range.
We were hoping for some afternoon sun, but we only had it very briefly before clouds moved in from the west and the light got flat. This made the action photography more challenging, but we still managed to get in some good sequences. It was a solid ending to the weekend that Mother Nature really turned into quite an extended break – many schools, like Dylan’s, had a four-day weekend with both Thursday and Friday off due to Winter Storm Landon.
With today’s high temperatures expected to be in the single digits F at elevation, touring seemed like the far better ski option, so I paid a visit to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network. Overall ski conditions remain excellent thanks to the 1½ to 2 feet of snow that the local mountains just picked up from Winter Storm Landon, so despite the chilly temperatures, it’s time to get out there and make use of that great snow.
Today I toured over in the Holden’s Hollow area of the network, approaching from the back side of the ridge using the Telemark trail, and then sampling some descents on both the west and east sides. Today’s tour had me in the 2,000’ – 2,500’ elevation band, and I’d say total snowpack depths at those elevations are in the 2 to 3 foot range. In terms of surface snow, we’ve got enough different layers in the snowpack now, and they’re blending together enough, that it’s getting a bit tricky to actually decide what constitutes surface and subsurface snow/base. If you’re very delicate with your measuring, you can find a bit of a dense layer about 16 inches down. I think it’s safe to say that top section of the snowpack is the settled powder from Winter Storm Landon. The dense layer below that is presumably some denser precipitation, perhaps from the start of the storm when temperatures were coming down and there was a mix of rain and snow. Based on Powderfreak’s observations from Thursday, it doesn’t sound like there was too much rain at elevation, and since that layer is rather subtle, that would argue for that and/or a very good transition/blending with the drier snow above.
Past that denser band, you’re into another 6 to 8 inches of powder before you hit something more solid that can really serve as a potential base. That’s typically where I’d find that my poles could finally gain purchase, and it sounds like that’s similar over at Bretton Woods based on Alex’s comment yesterday here in the thread. Having backcountry baskets would probably help a little bit in that regard.
There are a couple of other dense bands down in the snow there that I could detect when probing carefully, but I’d say the solid base is down there in the 22 to 24-inch range for those low to mid elevations, and I’ve got an image of my pole hitting that approximate depth with this report. So if you’re first on an ascent and breaking in the skin track, plan on a good workout. Thankfully, most of the route for my tour had seen some previous traffic, and I only had to break one section with perhaps 100’ of vertical, but it was a good deal of extra work.
Right now in terms of the backcountry skiing around here, I’d argue that you really need black pitches or greater to have a reasonable descent without getting too bogged down or simply having to straight-line it too much. I was on 115 mm skis that I’d just waxed, and I still had to seek out those pitches if the snow was untracked. As long as you get the right pitch though, the powder skiing is excellent as one would imagine.
From several days out, the weather models suggested that Winter Storm Landon was going to target Northern New England with more than a foot of snow. Unlike last weekend’s Winter Storm Kenan, this wasn’t a coastal system that needed to line up perfectly and might affect only a small geographical area; this was a large overrunning system stretching up all the way from the Southwest, through the Midwest, and into the Northeast with an almost nation-wide swath of wintry precipitation. By Wednesday, it was obvious that Northern Vermont was on track for a solid snowfall, and late in the afternoon, I got a quick text from Dave that led to the following exchange:
Dave: “Any thoughts on this storm?”
Jay: “I would say 12”+ is a good bet for around here.”
With that, the plan was on. Dave was heading to Killington to ski on Thursday, and then he’d make his way up to our place to stay Thursday night, with the hope of being able to get some turns together on Friday. This was exciting, because Dave’s schedule and obligations haven’t really lined up for a visit in a while. A search on our website revealed that his last trip up for skiing was in 2018 when we skied Stowe on March 14th and Bolton Valley on March 15th.
When Dave got to our house late yesterday afternoon, he said that he’d almost bailed on skiing at Killington when he arrived there in the morning to find it raining. Thankfully, it was much more wintry up high on the mountain, and the conditions just got better as the day went on. He met up with another guy that was skiing solo, and ended up having a fantastic time roaming around and even getting some video shots with the guy’s camera.
“At our site, I recorded 6.0 inches of new snow from 6:00 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., and then another 5.2 inches between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. Our storm total at that point even down at the house was over a foot of new snow, and 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent, so it was clear that the storm was putting down a very solid resurfacing of the slopes.”
As expected, the snowfall really turned on around here yesterday evening. At our site, I recorded 6.0 inches of new snow from 6:00 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., and then another 5.2 inches between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. Our storm total at that point even down at the house was over a foot of new snow, and 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent, so it was clear that the storm was putting down a very solid resurfacing of the slopes. Between getting gear together, snow blowing the driveway, solidifying Dave’s ski plans, getting his ticket, and everything else that goes into a storm morning, it was quite busy. But we easily made it to the Vista Quad lineup for the planned 9:00 A.M. opening.
It was chilly out there on the mountain, with temperatures probably in the 10 F range. We were happy to discover that winds weren’t strong at all though, so there were no wind holds, and the lifts seemed to start right up at their planned times aside from the usual smaller delays of getting the later lifts rolling on a storm day. We were all set to head over toward Timberline on our second run, but we ran into a patroller on Cobrass who said that it wasn’t quite ready yet, so we gave it one more run and the timing worked out beautifully.
The new snow was undoubtedly a solid resurfacing of the entire mountain at all elevations. Indeed, that 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent that we’d picked up at our house meant that the resort had at least that much, and you could feel it by the girth of the massive cushion beneath your skis. The snow had started out quite dense at the very initial stages of the storm as temperatures were still coming down, and then it seemed to settle down to roughly medium-weight powder for the bulk of the overnight accumulations. My 6:00 A.M. analyses revealed snow density at 9.4% H2O, which is solidly in that medium-weight powder category. There hadn’t really been any fluff at that point to set up an impressively right-side-up powder accumulation, so you were generally riding in that medium weight snow, and we found the best skiing on steeper terrain. Low angle slopes were just a bit on the slow side with the available snow density. Thankfully, with that 1 to 2 inches of liquid equivalent down, it was game on for even the steepest terrain, and steep areas that we hit such as Vermont 200, the Spell Binder headwall, and the Tattle Tale headwall all delivered. You could attack those pitches as aggressively as you wanted, without concern. Another great example of the resurfacing was hitting Cobrass on our second run to find that even the usual ledges and ice bulges were covered. Initially, I’d gone in with the usual strategy of negotiating those obstacles, but quickly saw that they were irrelevant, and I was able to ski like they weren’t even there. That’s the sign of a solid resurfacing. With depth checks, I was generally finding settled accumulations of about a foot at that stage of the storm, which I think was right in line with what the resort had noted in their morning report.
We actually skied with an associate from PeakRankings.com who was getting info for his report on Bolton Valley, so we showed him around for a few runs. His ski jacket has something like “WE RANK PEAKS” written in huge letters on the back, which quickly gets your attention and lets you know what he’s up to. We hooked up with him just as we were finally planning to head over to Timberline, so we showed him the Maria’s route to get there.
I had to head out around midday, but Dave and E did eventually catch up with Dylan and his friends out on the mountain for some skiing. When E texted to see if the boys were on the mountain, they couldn’t help but have some fun by replying with a picture saying “NO” that was an obvious shot of them riding the lift. The boys waited at the Vista Summit for the others to catch up, which shows a nice touch of class on a powder day. Dave and E said they had a great time that afternoon, and E even had a some sense of where they were going on the mountain. She recalled some trail names, and was remembering the character of many trails enough to give people an idea of what they were going to ski.
I have to give the boys a hard time for not getting out right at the start of the morning, but Dylan’s friend Parker did pull off a classic dual resort visit to really maximize a powder day. He headed to Stowe first thing for the typical “hour of power”, where you can get some good fresh runs before it’s all tracked up and the lift queues grow, and then he headed to low-key Bolton where you can enjoy powder for the rest of the day in peace. I’d say he’s wise beyond his years.
Dave said that his drive home to Boston was fine on I-89, but I-93 was tough with lots of people off the road. Those areas to the south apparently got a lot of mixed precipitation and it was quite a mess. We were all happy to be well north of that stuff up here.
Stephen and Johannes had planned to head up to Bolton Valley for some skiing today to take advantage of the opening weekend of the Wilderness Chair, and I headed up in the late morning to hopefully catch up with them and get in some rides the Wilderness Chair myself. Temperatures were up into the teens F today, so a bit warmer than yesterday, and riding the lift was reasonably comfortable.
Stephen saw me in my car as I was arriving, and unfortunately they were just heading home because Stephen’s heel was bothering him a bit, but I got some solo runs and did some exploring. For the terrain above the Wilderness Mid Station, only the Peggy Dow’s side is open. The conditions weren’t bad, although the usual wind scoured areas were slick. Below the mid-station was where I found the best conditions, with nice soft surfaces on piste and powder depths of about a foot, similar to what we encountered yesterday. The Wilderness Woods were in nice shape, as was the Wilderness Lift Line, and for untracked powder, I enjoyed some nice variations in the Snow Hole and Branches area.
Today is Ty’s birthday, and the whole family was around with time to do something together. Ty’s broken collarbone has healed to the point where he doesn’t have to wear a sling, and light activities that don’t put stress on it are fine. On Sunday, Ty and E and I went for a snowshoe tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, and after some discussion today, we decided that some ski touring on mellow terrain would be fine.
D is still trying to find some new Telemark boots that fit better, so he just hiked in with his snowboard – most of the approach is either road, or packed trails, so it didn’t turn out to be a problem. Ty did give D a ride on the backs of his skis at times, which was sort of neat. Ty said it was a lot of work, but D could help out the process a lot by using his poles.
I’d found total snowpack depths of ~18” at the 1,500’ elevation when I toured in the Timberline area on Tuesday, and even starting down at an elevation of 1,200’ today there were no major issues with the base. The powder out there in the backcountry is still in excellent shape – depth checks I did today in the 1,200’ – 1,700’ elevation range revealed powder depths of 12-13”. That’s actually a bit deep for some of the lower angle spots on today’s tour, but the descent was still nice. We also hit some of those slightly steeper shots around the Bolton Lodge, and those pitches offered up some great powder turns.
Up at Bolton Valley today, wind holds were in effect at the resort’s normal opening time. By mid-morning though, the winds had died down, the lifts started running, and we headed up for what was hopefully going to be a great day of skiing. We were right in the midst of Winter Storm Izzy, the resort had already picked up several inches of snow, and more snow continued to pour down. Right from our house it was obvious that snowfall rates were pretty impressive with the system. Snow was falling at about an inch per hour down in the valley, and they ramped up as we headed into the higher elevations. With the snowfall rates, it was hard to keep pace with plowing the Bolton Valley Access Road, so it was snow covered and giving some vehicles trouble making the ascent. We had to head around stopped vehicles in a couple of different spots on the access road; one car was actually working on turning around to head back down and presumably wait for the plow/sander to make a pass.
“By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. ”
As far as ski days go, you had a number of factors that made today an amazing one. By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. The snowfall meant that surfaces were getting constantly refreshed, atop of what had already been a solid resurfacing of the slopes with probably 0.50 to 0.75 inches of liquid equivalent in the form of medium-weight powder.
With the overnight shot of snow and the continued heavy snowfall, patrol was opening up trails all over the main mountain that had not been available yet this season. It was hard to know which ropes had been dropped before opening time, and which ones were done on the fly, but just about everything on Vista was open. Even Cobrass was open, offering options all over that side of the mountain. The resort had completed their snowmaking and preparation of Spillway, which is certainly a steep, signature trail on Vista, but it takes a lot of snow to cover its width, notable pitch and plentiful amounts of obstacles. Getting Spillway open definitely marks a big point of the winter’s progression at Bolton. With Spillway getting all the new snow atop the base they’d made, it offered up some excellent steep skiing today. You could still contact the harder manmade snow below at times, but it was snowing so hard that the manmade stuff was quickly getting buried.
E and I headed up by ourselves to start the day, but we were planning to ski with Dylan and his friend Colin, who came up the road just behind us. We saw them in the parking lot, and quickly caught up to spend the day with them after our first run. Only the Vista Quad and Mid Mountain Chair were running today, but we touched on just about every main area that was available as we toured Colin around the mountain and introduced him to numerous trails that he’d yet to ski. Up to this point he’s really only been night skiing with Dylan, so with the typical daytime options and all the new trails opening, it was quite a whirlwind tour for him. Some highlights were definitely the steep turns on Spillway, lots of fresh snow and great conditions on Cobrass and Cobrass Run, and heading over toward Wilderness where there was lot of fresh powder as usual. We even brought Colin into the Wilderness Woods to that he could get a taste of what tree skiing was like.
The heavy snowfall rates were certainly one of the most impressive parts of today’s outing. The pace of accumulations was very evident while riding the lifts because of how fast you would get coated with snow. On one of our rides on the Vista Quad, Colin stayed still to catch the accumulation, so that was a lot of fun to see, and of course we had to get a picture. By the time we left around mid-afternoon, the resort must have picked up in the range of a foot of fresh snow, so the skiing just kept getting better. This is our first big, synoptic winter storm in a while, and it was just what the local resorts needed to really get the base depths up to snuff, and they should now be able to open up most of their terrain.
I wanted to head up before that colder air was supposed to move in later in the afternoon, so I hit the mountain in the late morning. With those strong winds blowing from the northwest, it wasn’t at all surprising to see in the snow report that the Vista Quad and Wilderness Double, being the highest elevation lifts, were on wind hold. With that in mind, I decided to make it a hybrid outing of both riding the lifts and skinning to get efficient access to the fresh powder. The Mid Mountain Chair was running, so I ended up using that for a quick elevation assist over to the Wilderness area. I followed some folks that were using a nifty access route around the mid-mountain snowmaking pond to get to Wilderness.
I generally found powder depths topping out around 6” just like the snow report indicated, aside from wind scoured or drifted areas, or trails that had been groomed during the storm. Low angle terrain on fat boards was what I’d been planning to hit, and that definitely delivered. The lift assist from the Mid Mountain Chair was just right for cycling the bottom half of the Wilderness terrain, which had the kind of pitch this snow called for. Anything with moderate pitch or above was just too steep for the available snow, and you’d be hitting the scratchy subsurface unless you were in a drifted area.
The BTV NWS forecast discussion said that the precipitation would be somewhat cellular during the day, and indeed that’s just what I experienced out on the mountain. At times it would be whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility, and at other times that snowfall would wane and it would almost look like the sun wanted to break through. Temperatures started out in the 20s F, but were down into the teens F by the time I was leaving, so that colder air was moving in as scheduled.