Tag Archives: Glades

Bolton Valley, VT 28JAN2017

An image of Erica skiing some powder snow in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E in the Wilderness Woods at Bolton Valley this morning enjoying some of the powder put down over the past couple of days

Snowfall has been somewhat lean in Vermont this January, so we haven’t been up to Bolton Valley since the early part of the month.  Things are definitely picking up now though.  The past couple of days have featured plenty of upslope snow in association with an upper level low to our north pushing various smaller impulses through the area.  Over the course of the past two days, the resorts in the norther half of the state have picked up 1 to 2 feet of new snow.

With Bolton Valley reporting nearly a foot of snow over the past two days, the family headed up this today to see just how it well it was settling into the terrain.  The snow report let us know that some of the upper lifts would be delayed a bit due to winds, but they were opening just as we were arriving around mid-morning.  The word was definitely out about all the new snow today – cars were already parking down to the lowest Village lot when we arrived, and more were coming in by the minute.

We started off with a quick run on Snowflake, and enjoyed some excellent powder on the side of Snowflake Bentley.  Since he’s been Telemark Skiing and snowboarding up to this point, it was Ty’s first time on alpine boards all season, and he was really enjoying the powder turns much like a new sensation.  There was no line for the Vista Quad by that point, so we hopped on and got to see the impressive rime up near the Vista Summit.  Catching some of the first turns on the groomed Alta Vista was nice treat that we don’t usually experience, and it really was soft and carveable from edge to edge.  We also got first tracks in the powder off to the ungroomed areas to skier’s left.  The only downside in the powder there was occasionally hitting some old grooming chunks under the snow, but the new accumulations were deep enough to make them only a minor hindrance.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Wilderness Woods at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWe made our way over to Wilderness and took a quick pass through part of the Wilderness Woods.  The powder was really nice in there, and there had been little traffic up to that point.  We finished off with some groomed and powder turns on Lower Turnpike, and found that the Wilderness Double Chair was running, but they weren’t quite loading it yet.

We stopped into the lodge for an early lunch, and by the time we came out they were loading the Wilderness LiftPeggy Dow’s was in nice shape, but out favorite part was actually the Wilderness Lift Line, which had a lot of powder left on it.  Everyone had so much fun there that we would have easily done it again, but a bit of a queue was forming at the Wilderness Lift so we decided to call it a morning.

An image of Dylan drinking some chocolate milk with two straws in the base lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
What can even be said about the Dylan?

When we were leaving, a woman was more than willing to wait for our parking spot way down by the sports center, so obviously the lots were really filling up.  Even the Timberline lots looked full when we passed by.  Temperatures were in the upper 20s F today, so folks were definitely out in force to enjoy it with the new snow – we’d even heard comments on one the local weather reports about just how good a ski day it was going to be.  The current trends with the snow will probably go on for a couple more days, so conditions should stay quite good.

Stowe, VT 22JAN2017

An image of low clouds in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Thick, low clouds down to the base elevations and soft snow were the themes of the day today at Stowe.

The midweek period this past week saw some decent snows, with 6.5 inches at our house, and accumulations up to 10 inches at the Vermont ski resorts.  There was some great skiing at Stowe on both Wednesday and Thursday, but I was too busy to hit the slopes and check it out.  Today we were at Stowe for our weekly BJAMS ski program though, so I finally got to check out the latest conditions on Mt. Mansfield.

On our drive to the mountain we noticed that there’s not actually a ton of snow down in the center of Stowe Village, but the snowpack builds as one heads up the mountain road, and it’s quite hearty once you get up to The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ elevation.  The snow depths simply skyrocket after that, and Mansfield’s snowpack is quite impressive.  This shouldn’t be too surprising with 52” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, but it’s still great to get out there and experience it firsthand.

An image of a snowman drawing on the wall at the Octagon atop Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontToday in our group we had many of the usual crew, like Jack, Dylan, Jonah, and Norris.  Ken is still taking it easy due to his injury, so our new additions were Nolan and his kids Sophie and Evan.  They fit right in with the group, so I suspect we’ll have a lot of fun whenever we’re together.  After an initial run on Sunny Spruce, we quickly headed over to Mansfield to check out some steeper terrain.  We skied the Bypass Chutes, as well as Goat and Starr from the top.  While coverage isn’t yet perfect on those routes, it’s pretty darned good, and that says a lot if those steep pitches are reasonably covered.  I was concerned about what the snow surfaces were going to be like with the cloudy conditions today, but the snow was beautifully soft at all elevations with temperatures in the 30s F.  The Nosedive Glades were fantastic – and they’ve definitely done some additional clearing in there to enhance some of the lines.  Overall, today was actually like being out there on one of those awesome soft days in April with the hefty snowpack.  I’d say the main drawback on the hill today was the visibility, since we were in the clouds the whole time.  In some elevation bands it was pea soup, but it was more reasonable than at many elevations.

An image of some BJAMS students at the Octagon atop Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Hanging out in the Octagon today while the crew re-hydrates

We’ve actually got a storm coming into the area tomorrow evening that should bolster the snow pack even more.  The storm is expected to have some mixed precipitation with it, but plenty of liquid equivalent, so it should really be a good shot to add to the season’s base.

Ranch Valley & Stowe Cross Country Center, VT 07JAN2017

An image of a sign for the Burt Trail on the trail network at Stowe Cross Country Center in Vermont
Out on the Burt Trail today for some backcountry skiing

It’s been a relatively slow week for snowfall in the Northern Greens, but Stowe did manage to pick up roughly a foot of snow between Wednesday and Thursday.  Since the Mt. Mansfield area seemed to be a sweet spot with respect to snowfall, I decided to head out for a backcountry tour in the Ranch Valley, which sits just to the south of the resort’s alpine trail network and is the location for Stowe’s Cross Country Center.  I’ve been through the area numerous times when coming down the Bruce Trail, and I’ve sampled some of the natural glades that populate the middle elevations in that area.  I could see that there was much more skiable terrain to explore though, so I decided to check out what the areas around the Burt Trail had to offer.

Temperatures were in the low to mid 20s F in the local mountain valleys as I headed up to the Stowe Cross Country Center to start my tour.  It turns out that Mrs. Blanck was behind the counter when I was buying my trail pass, so we were able to catch up a bit and she gave me an overview of some nice glades that she’d heard of as we reviewed the backcountry portion of the trail map.

My ascent route consisted of starting on the Timberlane Trail and using Cross Cut 2 to get to the Burt Trail.  The recent snows were certainly elevation dependent, so there was only about an inch of fresh snow atop the snowpack down near the base of the Cross Country Center at ~1,000’.  It did increase as I ascended, reaching a couple of inches by the time I hit the Burt Trail, and nearly 4 inches at the top of my ascent at the junction with the Underhill Trail.  Here’s the general depths of surface powder I found on my tour with respect to elevation:

1,000’:  1”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 3”
2,500’: ~4”

An image of a hut along the Burt Trail at Stowe Cross Country Center at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Passing a hut along the Burt Trail

The backcountry portion of the Burt Trail starts right around 1,500’ elevation, and getting to that point represents a pretty hefty approach of over two miles, so that’s about the minimum distance one will have to go on this route to get into terrain for potential descents.  The Burt Trail really starts to steepen above 2,000’, which one hits at close to three miles in.  At that point it’s comprised of switchbacks to accommodate the steeper terrain.  That area is still mostly hardwoods, with scattered evergreens, so tree density isn’t too bad and one can easily cut the switchbacks and ski through the forest.  That terrain is pretty steep though, so one would want a decent amount of powder for it to be optimal.  Based on darkness and trying to ensure that I made it back to the Cross Country Center by 5:00 P.M. since a sign that the parking lot gate would close at that point, I only ascended to the junction with the Underhill Trail, but I could see that there was plenty of similar terrain right up above me.

As for the skiing and conditions, one would definitely want more powder above the base than what I found today, but I was still able to get in some decent turns.  I had my midfat Tele skis, which were certainly not all that light in the overall spectrum of Nordic equipment, but I was thankful to have something that could handle the descent well.  I cut the Burt Trail switchbacks and skied the fairly open forest in some spots, but I could actually stay on the trail itself for the most part where it mattered.  Only one person had gone up ahead of me above 2,000’ on the trail and they must have descended another way, because there was no descent track.  So the Burt Trail itself was relatively untracked and I got some of my best turns of the afternoon simply by staying on it.  The terrain in the 1,500’ to 2,000’ range offers some options off the trail depending on the pitch of the terrain, but I just ran my descent out the trail itself based on the snow conditions and my time.  The whole runout back to the Cross Country Center is actually pretty fun, and you can really cruise along at times, but you will have to do some skating and deal with a couple of small uphill sections.  It’s quite similar to running out the Bruce Trail though, and indeed the route is identical in some spots, so if you’ve done that you’ll have a good sense for what this is like.

An image showing GPS data on Google Earth from a backcountry ski tour in the Ranch Valley of Vermont near Stowe Mountain Resort
Today’s backcountry ski route in the Ranch Valley

It looks like we’ll be in a fairly active weather pattern in the foreseeable future with some clipper-type events and larger synoptic systems with potential mixed precipitation, so we’ll see how these play out in terms of bolstering the snowpack.

Bolton Valley, VT 30DEC2016

An image of the White Rabbit Glade with fresh powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An afternoon visit to Bolton Valley today with some first tracks on White Rabbit

I haven’t been up to the mountain for turns since last week, but today when I arrived at Bolton Valley I was reminded just how popular skiing can be over the holidays.  I pulled into the Timberline lot expecting to find a few cars from folks earning turns there, but found it nearly full of vehicles.  The main lots had presumably filled up, and I could see that the shuttle was ferrying people to and from the Timberline lots.

An image of some toppled chairs with snow at the Timberline Base Area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAlthough the Timberline Quad isn’t running yet, I was starting at Timberline today as part of a combination sidecountry and lift-served tour that I’d planned.  The resort had picked up 4-6” of snow yesterday from Winter Storm Fortis, and an additional 4-5” the previous day from a weak cold front, but I didn’t expect that to be enough snow for a thorough resurfacing that would hold up to holiday skier traffic on all terrain.  The Wilderness Lift is running though, so my plan today was to skin up from Timberline to the main mountain, catch a lift-served run through White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and then return via some Timberline skiing.

An image of ski tracks on powder snow on the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontThe skin up Timberline was very pleasant, and I saw a few skiers and riders skiing the trails to make their way back to their vehicles at the Timberline Base.  I could see why Timberline isn’t open for lift-served skiing yet though – exposed areas were really windswept and wouldn’t be able to support lift-served levels of skier traffic.  Sheltered areas like most of Spell Binder, Brandywine, and Tattle Tale looked really nice though with all the new powder, and I suspected I’d find some great turns at the end of my tour.  When I reached the main base I found that there were plenty of visitors, but fortunately lift queues were almost nonexistent.  There was generally light snow coming down, with some hefty wind at times that was enough to cause a short stoppage of the Wilderness Lift when I was on it.  By the time I reached the top of Wilderness it was definitely cold – it had to be in the teens F, and feeling much lower than that with that wind.

“I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.”

I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape.  The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.  Snow Hole had seen a good deal of traffic, but there were still plenty of routes available with powder, and the traffic actually helped to compact the snow at the water crossings.  Lower Turnpike was its usual smooth self and offered a nice groomed surface on which to carve some Telemark turns.

An image of a man making balloon art at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontBack at the main base I had a little time to stop in for a slice at Fireside Flatbread, and it was sort of that transition time between day and night skiing with lots of visitors coming and going.  One of today’s holiday week activities was balloon art, and you could see people around with their colorful balloon headgear.

“I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.”

I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.  I quickly headed over to the Snowflake Chair and made my way toward Timberline.  I ran into a family on Timberline Lane trying to make their way back to the Bear Run condominiums where they were staying, and their younger son on a snowboard struggled to move along in the flats, and then struggled more on the ungroomed steep pitch of Timberline Run below.  I headed to Lower Tattle Tale to catch some fresh tracks in the powder there (which I’d say were actually the best of the day) but waited at the intersection of Timberline Run to make sure everybody in the family was getting along OK.  I actually had already pulled out my headlamp for the last bit of skiing since it had gotten so dark, and that was helpful in making sure the family found their way to their lodging.

It was a great tour today with plenty of powder, and it looks like we’ve got another storm coming into the area tomorrow.  Just as I was arriving at the resort today I got an alert that we’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory starting up tomorrow at 10:00 A.M.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 10DEC2016

An image of the depth of powder on a glade along the Catamount Trail outside of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
In the backcountry today, the higher elevations held up to 20 inches of powder atop a roughly 10-inch base, indicating a snowpack of approximately 30 inches.

This is opening weekend for lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, but with only minimal terrain served by the lifts at the moment and fairly chilly temperatures in the forecast, I decided to make it my first visit of the season to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.  Although we haven’t had any big storms in the area in the past few days, we’ve had some lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes and additional snow from an arctic frontal passage that has given the mountains additional bouts of snow almost every day.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake is indicating a snowpack depth of 34”, and it’s definitely not just fluff.  With the high elevation and maintenance that goes on in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I’ll usually feel OK poking around on appropriate terrain once the stake kits 24” (depending on the composition of that 24”), so with 34” I figured it would definitely be ready to go.

I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon, and temperatures in the Village at ~2,000’ were in the mid-teens F, but fortunately there was minimal wind.  There was blue sky at times, but light snow was still falling off and on.  My goal was to head to the upper glades along the Catamount Trail out past the resort boundary.  Those glades are up around the 3,000’ elevation, so I suspected the snowpack would be more than sufficient.

An image of a new structure near Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I saw that there had been some recent construction up in the Bryant Cabin area.

I headed up the usual Bryant Trail, and the most interesting thing I saw was that there are some new structures going up around the Bryant Cabin.  One structure looked like a shed of sorts, and there was a larger structure that seemed to be partially built.  It also seemed that there had been some work done on the cabin itself.  In terms of snowpack depths, down at the Village at 2,000’ the surface snow was generally 14-15” of powder over a fairly thin layer of base snow.  Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ there was 16-17” of powder over a much more substantial base, and when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder.  I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range.  So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range, which seems pretty reasonable with the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 34”.

“…when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range…”

The skiing was generally excellent, especially in those upper glades.  Since it was afternoon there had certainly been some traffic up there, but I still found areas of fresh snow.  I made my way down via Gardiner’s Lane, and eventually decided to check out the Alchemist glade that I hadn’t visited in a while to the south of Gotham City.  It’s a south-facing glade, so conditions can be quite variable, but aspect almost doesn’t matter right now because we’ve had November/December sun over the past couple of weeks… and not much of it anyway, so south-facing terrain isn’t all that different from north-facing terrain.  One does have to watch out as they get down near 2,000’ though because the base below the surface snow does start to get pretty thin, so you don’t want to ski anything with many obstacles at that point.  One could easily just lap terrain up above 2,500’ though with minimal concern about base depths.  Skiing is definitely quite good up high right now.

A map showing a ski tour from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS/Google Earth plot of today’s backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley

There was a bit of accumulation of snow on my car when I got back to it after the tour.  It was rather minimal though, about ¼“ of new after 2 to 3 hours away.  Currently, Winter Weather Advisories are up ahead of our next storm that is coming into the area tomorrow.  I signed up for Washington County weather alert texts through VT-Alert, so I was notified of our Winter Weather Advisory just I was finishing up my ski tour today.  It was definitely nice to get that heads up right away without having to actively check, and it really doesn’t matter where you are.  Anyway, the advisory calls for a general 4-7”, which seems pretty consistent with what’s been expected of this event for a few days now.

Stowe, VT 10APR2016

An image of Dylan dropping into a ski line below the Kitchen Wall at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan drops into some powder along the Kitchen Wall today at Stowe

Although the lowest elevations were softening in the April sun, Stowe’s terrain in the upper elevations of Mt. Mansfield appeared to hold onto winter snow all through the day yesterday.  That got me thinking about taking a couple more runs in the powder today, and although Ty was a bit under the weather and E planned to stay home with him, Dylan was happy to go with me to see what we could find.

We couldn’t get out early, but we were able to head out to the mountain around midday.  Even in the valleys, temperatures were holding at or below freezing despite lots of April sun, so we knew that at least the air temperature wasn’t going to be affecting the snow.  Today was even sunnier than yesterday, and the high peaks like Mt. Mansfield were standing out brilliantly above the lower elevations.  It was quite a sight to behold as we traveled along Route 100 east of the Green Mountain Spine.

Dylan and I followed my procedure from yesterday, parking in the Midway Lot and heading right up the Gondola.  Since I knew coverage was fine in the Kitchen Wall area, we headed right there to see how the powder was faring in the highest lift-served elevations.  I hadn’t actually taken the main Kitchen Wall Traverse yesterday, but I have to say it was one of the most challenging trips I’ve had through there.  The snow pack is just that bit on the low side that keeps some extra stumps sticking out in a few places, so you really have to keep your eyes open for the best routes to use.

We were quickly able to tell that even up in those elevations, any snow in direct sunshine was turning mushy, so we picked a partially shaded line for Dylan and he dropped into one of the snowfields.  He had some nice turns, but as we got down lower, even though we were predominantly in the trees, we encountered a lot of challenging, sticky snow wherever light was sneaking into the forest.  Down in the Nosedive Glades we generally stuck to the main routes to avoid that type of snow, but we found plenty of good turns on lightly tracked or skier packed snow.  We finished off with Nosedive, which had conditions similar to yesterday, with the snow quality being better the higher you were in elevation.

We knew the window for ample off piste skiing was just about closed with the way the powder was getting sticky, so we decided to stick with an on piste run down Gondolier.  We debated going to Cliff Trail, but Dylan said we would be too tempted to head off piste and we’d end up paying for it if we got into mushy snow.  We still managed to get sucked off piste below the switchback of Perry Merrill, and that was our most exciting adventure of the day.  The snow was actually pretty well preserved because of the shady nature of the area, and we came upon a nice cliff band with an ice fall that will no doubt be a lot of fun when we have ample midwinter powder.  Dylan and I were already planning to take our BJAMS ski group to the area next season.  We had to sift our way through some denser evergreen areas to get back to Perry Merrill, but our navigation was good and we quickly got back on piste.  We ran that run out with a combination of Perry Merrill and Gondolier, and that was enough to consider ourselves satiated for the day.  We did get into a bit of corn snow near the bottom of Gondolier, and Dylan commented on how that was his favorite snow on the trail, so he’s definitely ready for full on spring conditions vs. the transitionary snow that appears on some of these spring days.

Stowe, VT 09APR2016

An image showing a depth measurement of a foot of powder at the top of the Gondola at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A quick depth check at the top of Stowe’s Gondola today revealed a foot of midwinter powder.

Over the past three weeks we’ve had a couple of March snowstorms that produced some moderate powder days, and another April one ahead of our most resent storm cycle, but there wasn’t anything that fell on the weekend or was quite big enough to get me out for early morning turns.  That’s just sort of the way it’s been this season, but yesterday evening the Northern Greens did a bit of their more typical convening with Mother Nature and snow began to dump along the spine as moisture smacked into the mountains on a westerly flow.  We had some decent bouts of snowfall here at the house, and being a Friday night, it was definitely enough to get me thinking about a trip to Stowe.  By morning, totals for the full storm cycle were hitting 12 to 18 inches at the northern resorts, so after catching up on a few things at the house, I headed off for some turns around mid-morning.

“Indeed Mansfield had done its usual business, and a quick probe in untouched snow outside the Cliff House as I put on my skis revealed a nice foot of midwinter powder.”

Temperatures were still at or below the freezing mark at all elevations, but the new snow was already starting to melt off in the valleys thanks to the strong April sun.  The mountains were holding their own with respect to the snow however, and I headed right to the Midway Lot and up the Gondola to see what Mansfield had delivered below The Chin.  Indeed Mansfield had done its usual business, and a quick probe in untouched snow outside the Cliff House as I put on my skis revealed a nice foot of midwinter powder.  I took a first run down Gondolier, and encountered some simply amazing snow along the edges of the trail.  The powder petered out to just a few inches in depth by the time I was back down to the Gondola base, but there had been a pretty solid resurfacing on the upper half of the mountain, and it was only the lowest ¼ of terrain that left much to be desired in terms of hitting the old base.

I wasn’t yet sure what I was going to explore with respect to off piste adventures, but back in the Gondola I rode up with a couple that had been in the Nosedive Glades, and another gentleman who had just visited the Kitchen Wall, and it all sounded quite good.  Based on the accumulations I’d seen, I didn’t have to second guess any of it and headed right off to the Nosedive Glades from the north.  As I headed along the Glades Traverse the realization hit me that we were indeed dealing with April-style visitation numbers at the resort – there was just untracked entry after untracked entry into the glades.  Eventually I just had to choose one and I dropped in.  The powder was great, with just a little hint of getting thick due to temperatures and sun, with the effect increasing a bit as you lost elevation.  I knew that higher would be even better, so I visited the Kitchen Wall area next, and found a solid 10 to 14 inches everywhere I checked.

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Even at midday it wasn’t hard to find untracked lines in even the most common glades today thanks to the lower number of resort visitors this late in the season.

I went with my Telemark skis today because I wanted to really blast my legs after not skiing for a stretch, and my only regret would be that I was just burning too quickly each run after being off the boards for too long.  I’d have to stop and rest them often, but I can’t say it was really all that bad just hanging out in the warm spring sun.  A few runs on that Mansfield vertical serviced by high-speed lifts was enough to totally cook my legs, but at least my body got the workout it needed.  Hopefully we won’t have to deal with such a period of generally horrible conditions as we’ve seen the past few weeks for quite a while – I can already tell that I’m going to pay for today’s workout and it’s only been a few hours since I finished!

Stowe, VT 06MAR2016

An image of Ken skiing the Green Acres area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ken dropping into a line in Green Acres, where we found some of the best snow today at Stowe.

Based on my tour of the Bolton Valley backcountry yesterday, I didn’t anticipate skiing much powder today with our BJAMS ski group today at Stowe, and therefore I packed narrower skis for me and the boys. I’d say it was the right call, because we spent most of our time on piste, and aside from our initial runs on the softened slopes of lower Spruce Peak, the snow we found was roughly 20% decent and 80% crap.

Fortunately for us, we did start out on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak for the beginning of this afternoon’s session, and off the Sunny Spruce Quad the snow had softened in the sun from top to bottom. The boys had taken some earlier runs, and announced that we should head for Freddie’s Chute. I couldn’t believe that they were serious, because Freddie’s has all natural snow, faces south, and is loaded with ledges and rocks that quickly catch the sun and burn out the snow. Low and behold though, the coverage was there, so even though we haven’t had any really great winter storm cycles in the past few weeks (or at all this season for that matter) the storms of mixed precipitation that we have had are substantiating the snowpack in the mountains to some degree.

After some good turns on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak, we decided to do a few runs off the Sensation Quad. I hadn’t taken the group there at all this season, so it seemed like a good day to do it with no plans for our typical Mansfield powder explorations. I was actually surprised to see all of Spruce Line open for business aside from the initial headwall, and that’s amazing because patrol never seems to open that even when we have a ton of snow. We decided to make our way there by dropping into Green Acres, and that was where we undeniably found some of the best snow of the day. The high elevation and evergreen protection kept the snow soft and powdery in there, and it was deep enough that it was one of the few times today that I wished I’d brought wider skis. Spruce Line had some good shots, but the snow was generally dense or wind-packed, so while good, there wasn’t any of the powdery snow that we’d found in Green Acres. We did some additional runs off Sensation, hitting Sterling, Upper Smugglers, and Main Street Headwall, but they were all generally a mess of ice and firm snow with decent surfaces few and far between. Ken’s description of the worst areas was “plate ice”, which is that glare ice that’s got no redeeming qualities aside from the novelty of seeing the treads of the groomers carved into it. It’s just hideous stuff that really nobody in their right mind should have to ski.

Clouds were moving in at times, and with afternoon temperatures cooling down, snow that had softened in the sun was starting to firm up, so we headed back down to the lower slopes to finish off the day. We did a few more laps off the Sunny Spruce Quad, and even down there the snow wasn’t as soft as it was earlier, so it was changing from corn to frozen granular and becoming much less inspiring. We found that a number of us have similar boot sized and we started to switch around skis – I got to try Jack’s 163 cm Nordica Bad Mind skis (120-84-109), and that was a lot of fun because unlike my Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots, they’ve got some edge. I stayed on them for the rest of the day, and I thank Jack for the demo. Not only did his skis have edges, but they’ve only got a half season on them, so they’ve still got plenty of pop in them unlike my Salomons that are over a decade old.

An image of a Maple Latte from The Beanery at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAs the boys finished off the last few runs on their own, Ken and I took a run through the Ridge Glades and down in the glades below along the right of East Run. Some of that terrain off to the side of East Run is really steep, probably 35 degrees, and in horrible shape. Ken came into one of those steep lines very aggressively and had a pretty big tumble where his equipment went everywhere. He was generally OK, although he did say he tweaked his knee a bit and something popped, so he’s going to have to assess how things go over the next few days to see if it’s anything serious. That area of trees definitely fit in with the general 20% decent/80% crap, where there was probably 20% decent snow on the whole slope, and the rest was a combination of ice, roots, stumps, dirt, and whatever else isn’t snow – it’s just hideous. We do appear to have some snow coming into the area tomorrow, so hopefully that will add a bit more to the snowpack in areas that need it.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 05MAR2016

An image of a ski track in powder off to the side of a Nordic trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a little powder off to the side of World Cup on Bolton’s Nordic trails.

It’s not too often in Northern Vermont that we have winter temperatures and no access to powder, but today was pretty close. Generally, even for winter weather systems with mixed precipitation, there’s at least some snow on the back side of the storm to provide a bit of powder for skiing. As usual, that was the case with Winter Storm Quo that came through earlier this week. The storm dropped 4 to 5 inches on the resorts in the Northern Greens, and the precipitation even remained frozen throughout the event. After the dense accumulation in the middle of the storm, there was some lighter powder, but it was fluffy, and based on the way it has really settled down over the past couple of days here at the house, I suspected things would be similar up in the mountains.

With that in mind, I inquired with E and the boys to see if any of them wanted to go for a ski tour up at the mountain, but didn’t push too hard because I didn’t suspect the conditions would be quite up to the level of what we found last Saturday on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. It was a nice sunny day though, with temperatures around the freezing mark down in the valley, so whatever the conditions, it was going to be nice to get out in the fresh air.

Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F up at the resort, and it looked like business was good based on the number of cars in the Village lots. Although Winter Storm Quo didn’t deliver a ton of powder, it did substantiate the base depths at the resort, and the open trail count was as high as it’s been in a while. I hopped onto Broadway and headed right up toward Bryant Cabin. The powder had settled to about a half inch at Village level, and I was hoping that it would build with elevation the way it had last weekend, but it never really did. Even up at the cabin I only found about an inch or so of fluff above the base. The overall minimal availability of the powder skiing was pretty evident due to the fact that I saw more people out on the trails today on snowshoes vs. skis.

Noting the minimal powder, I decided that I ski some of the mellow trees between the Bryant Trail and Gardiner’s Lane. The skiing was surprisingly good because thanks to little if any liquid precipitation, the base below wasn’t really icy, it was mostly just dense. The turns there got me interested enough that I headed off toward North Slope to check out some of the glades there. I tried out a new area back down to Gardiner’s Lane, and then poked around in the trees and found some new glades in the A1A area that I don’t think I’d skied before. They brought me right down to the junction of Bryant and Coyote, where I skied Coyote out to World Cup and connected over to the base area. I had some good turns here and there, with some nice ones off in the untouched snow off to the sides of the groomed Nordic trails.

A map of the Nordic and backcountry terrain network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A map of Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network with more than two dozen glades listed.

Back in the Village I grabbed some food for E and the boys and called it a day. Over the next week it looks like we’ll have some spring warmth and sun moving into the area, but the weather models do show the potential for some storms, so we’ll have to see if they bring some snow to the mountains.

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.