It was quite a gorgeous day out there today, with valley temperatures up around 60 F. That’s certainly well above average for February, but with such nice weather on a Saturday, Ty and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to catch a few runs in the warm sun. We got up to the mountain in the mid-afternoon timeframe, and our timing was perfect, because just as we were about to load the Vista Quad, Jack caught us and we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon together.
We started off with a couple of runs on Spillway, which is always one of my favorites when we get soft spring snow like today. It’s got that nice steep pitch, and as usual there was that ridge of snow along the skier’s right that provides some especially nice turns. We rode the Snowflake Chair to go for a run in the Butterscotch Terrain Park, but for some reason the rope was up and the park was closed. We still got in some nice cruising on Sprig O’ Pine, and then headed back up for some steep turns on Hard Luck. Turns were also great there, very similar to what we found on Spillway.
The wind was really picking up at the end of the day when we headed back to the car, and we’ve had a storm come through with some rain that changed to snow this evening. Temperatures are going to drop back to more seasonable levels tomorrow, so it will probably be a day for the groomed terrain unless the mountains pick up substantial snow tonight.
“I did a check on the new accumulation there at the Vista Summit and found 5-6″, which was right in line with the snow report.”
We hadn’t made definite plans to head up to the mountain today based on the uncertainty of the results from any mixed precipitation, but it sounded like crust wasn’t an issue, so by mid morning we’d made our way up to the Bolton Valley Village. A few rain showers on the way up the Bolton Valley Access Road had us concerned about the appearance of mixed precipitation on the mountain, but as I dropped E and the boys off at the Village Circle, it appeared as though we were just dealing with passing showers.
“…this storm has covered up a lot of the old base and should be a good shot in the arm for the overall state of the subsurface going forward.”
We headed up the Vista Quad and found a good shot of dense snow up there. I did a check on the new accumulation there at the Vista Summit and found 5-6″, which was right in line with the snow report. Winds were generally light aside from the summit, and temperatures were relatively mild at somewhere around the freezing mark. We worked our way down to Hard Luck to check out some steep, on piste terrain, and found that the mountain had received a decent resurfacing. Packed terrain skied well, with a little stickiness in spots, and the off piste held dense powder that gave you a bit more of that stickiness to deal with. On the lower half of the mountain we skied Glades, which had good coverage among skier packed snow and snow that was a little wetter than it had been up higher on the mountain.
Since my everyday RT-86 Telemark skis are currently at the Nordic Barn to get a broken binding repaired, I decided to pull out new my Rossignol Sin 7 alpine setup for the very first time. I’d been expecting to get the Sin 7 setup out when an appropriate day arose during our school ski program at Stowe, but this storm seemed like the perfect opportunity to put the skis into action with my midfat Teles sidelined. I’d already tested out the Sin 7 (128/98/118) at the end of last season, so I knew what to expect. Their width was definitely nice in that dense fresh snow, and I at ~100 mm at the waist, I could certainly feel that width on the groomed snow relative to my 108/70/101 Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots. But, I know they would still be quite spritely on the quick turns despite that width, and they were a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get them out in some lighter snow and put them through a good school program day with all the kids at Stowe.
“Their width was definitely nice in that dense fresh snow, and I at ~100 mm at the waist, I could certainly feel that width on the groomed snow relative to my 108/70/101 Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots.”
We took an Alta Vista/Schuss/Fanny Hill run next, finding plenty of good turns, but some sticky snow as well. Knowing that the snow was only going to be getting wetter as time went on, we skied down to the car after that. It was definitely worth getting out for turns today though; this storm has covered up a lot of the old base and should be a good shot in the arm for the overall state of the subsurface going forward. We’ve got a number of opportunities for snow this coming week that should continue to enhance the conditions.
When Bolton Valley reported another four inches of snow this morning, we knew that we’d be heading up to make some turns. That amount of snow, on top of the four to five inches that I’d found when I visited the mountain yesterday, was definitely going to bring the skiing up a notch. As it turned out, it brought the skiing up several notches and turned it into what was for us, unquestionably the best ski day of the 2014 calendar year. That’s actually not saying much with the way the past few weeks had gone in terms of weather around here, but when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.
“…when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.”
The approach of an arctic front brought an inch and a half of snow to the house overnight, but as the cold air continued to filter in, more snow was wrung out, and we received snowfall of various intensities through the morning. Snow was falling up at the mountain as well, and with updates on the website indicating that new trails were opening, it sounded like conditions were getting better and better. While we had initially started to discuss both skinning and lift-served options for today’s outing, the opening of new terrain sealed the deal in favor of the latter; we knew that meant that the recent accumulations had resulted in substantial changes in coverage. In the end, with so many additional terrain options opening, it was clearly the right choice.
We finally headed up later in the morning to find the parking lot only about half filled, and after dropping E and the boys off at the base of the Snowflake Chair, I quickly got a great spot to park down near the end of one of the top rows with help from one of the parking attendants. I’d spoken with him before, and as I got my gear on, we chatted about how nice it was to have some consistent temperatures back – the past few weeks have been a real roller coaster with systems passing though off to the west, and he said that he had to pack a ridiculous amount of clothes each day just to keep up with the weather. In any event, winter was definitely in place, and as I look around at the falling snow and ski vehicles covered in white, it was a much more familiar look for the Northern Greens in winter.
By the time I got to the base of Snowflake, E and the boys had already completed a couple of runs, and Ty was raving about the conditions. They’d taken Butterscotch, and Ty said that there was powder off to the sides, but even if you didn’t go into the powder, the conditions were great. We hit one more run there, and then boarded the Vista Quad to hit some steeper terrain. We spent the midday hours trying out the steepest available terrain like Spillway, Hard Luck, and then Alta Vista. Not surprisingly, there were some firm surfaces on the middle areas of the trails where manmade snow predominated, but off to the sides where traffic was low, the snow was generally softer and there was plenty of chopped up powder and even untracked powder at times. The skier’s right of Spillway held a lot of great snow over the edge of the trail where the terrain fell away.
After a few runs, E was getting a bit cold, and Dylan was ready for a break, but Ty was just too jazzed to go in. He wanted to stay out with me and shoot some photos, so I told him that I had two specific runs in mind. We kicked things off with a run down Spillway, where he dissected all the potential powdery lines off to the skier’s right, coming up with his own lines and photos that he wanted me to shoot. He was one fire on that steep terrain, taking on everything, even the occasional massive death cookie that got sent that way from the groomers. On our next run we headed over toward Wilderness. Although Swing was roped off, closing the upper entrances, another track was available off Sherman’s that gave us some lower access. I checked the snow depth as we headed over, and found 10 inches of settled powder. The Wilderness Lift Line was in nice shape with plenty of coverage and plenty of powder, and Ty managed some nice face shots.
We stopped in the lodge for some lunch with E and Dylan, and then brought Dylan out for one more run in the powder on Wilderness. They boys got some deep turns on Cougar, followed by a delightful cruise through the powder on Turnpike. Actually, we had to use the tracks of others at times on Turnpike, because the powder is now getting almost too deep for some of the pitches there. The snow had let up, and the sun came out for that final run to really punctuate the day. The coming week is looking quite cold, with single digits for high temperatures, but at least the snow is going to be well preserved for the near future. It was interesting to note what Powderfreak said in the Ski Tread at American Weather – that this week we just managed for the first time in 2014 to have an average snowfall week here in the Northern Greens. With that being the case, an above average week should be really fun.
I saw a couple of new offerings mentioned on the Bolton Valley website this morning as they continue to expand their terrain – the opening of the Snowflake Lift and the Hard Luck trail. Ty was away at Kenny’s, and E and Dylan had to take care of some shopping for an upcoming birthday party, but eager to check out the expanded terrain, I decided to head up to the hill in the afternoon.
We’re experiencing warmer temperatures right now ahead of the next incoming storm, so it’s been quite comfortable out there. It was around 30 F at the house when I left at noontime, and mid 20s F up on the hill. It was cloudy, but unlike the persistent snowfall of yesterday, there was only the occasional spit of snow in the higher elevations. Like yesterday, I was able to grab a parking spot in the top lot from a car that was leaving, and after getting on my gear I headed right over to catch a ride on Snowflake. While on the lift I was able to watch a snowcat working on the Butterscotch Terrain Park – all the snow piles were being flattened, and they play to open it tomorrow for skiing without features. Only Timberline Lane and Lower Villager are open on the skier’s left of Snowflake, so I opted for Sprig O’ Pine to get me down to the Vista Quad. The snow on Sprig O’ Pine was nice, not as soft as natural snow of course, but good because traffic has been minimal there. I took the alternate loop out toward Deer Run, which did have natural snow – that was really soft, and as it’s a protected area there were some beautiful accumulations of snow on the trees.
“Indeed, all of Peggy Dow’s above the first big bend had plenty of deep snow and some great powder turns were made.”
There was a lift queue of probably a couple minutes for the Vista Quad, but I jumped in the singles line and got right on. I found good snow along the skier’s left of Spillway Lane, and then dropped into Hard Luck to see how it skied. It was somewhat firm manmade snow in the top section, although skier traffic had created deposits of soft snow along the edges. As is sometimes the case with manmade snow, the loose material was a lot like sand, but at least it was soft. The bottom half of Hard Luck appeared to be mostly natural snow – it was much softer than what was above as one would expect, but some areas of poor coverage has to be roped off. Below Hard Luck there was actually some nice untracked powder remaining on the skier’s left of Sherman’s Pass – people just hadn’t been venturing that far to the left. On the lower mountain I skied Beech Seal, which had some excellent areas of soft, contoured snow along the skier’s left. I was eager to hit that again on my next run.
I checked out Alta Vista next, and the line along the skier’s left was in good shape. Had it not been for the occasional touching down onto firmer snow, it would have been great. Sherman’s Pass was in decent shape, with the occasional patch of slick snow that could be avoided, and turns were very nice once I got to that area below Hard Luck and followed the same route down Beech Seal.
I’d explored the offerings that I wanted to hit by that point, and decided that I’d tour over to Wilderness to finish off the day with some powder. I headed down Alta Vista again, really happy with the way I hit that skier’s left with some aggressive turns. My legs felt warmed up and stronger by that point. On my previous run I’d seen that all the lower routes over to Wilderness were roped off, so the Upper Crossover route was the best remaining option. I knew that anything steep was going to be too much for the current conditions, but I suspected that Peggy Dow’s would be passable, even if I found nothing good above the Old Turnpike area. I caught the bottom portion of Vista Glades, then connected onto Upper Crossover to switch over for the ascent. While putting on my skins, I had time to enjoy the snowy views, which included evergreens that were really starting to take on some healthy accumulations of powder. On the ascent toward the Wilderness Summit, I generally found snow depths of 6 to 11 inches in spots that weren’t scoured by the wind, so there were indeed some good pockets of snow up there.
Despite intense scouring at the top of Bolton Outlaw, the Wilderness Summit itself was sheltered from the wind and had some nice snow. Indeed, all of Peggy Dow’s above the first big bend had plenty of deep snow and some great powder turns were made. Once I neared the junction with Heavenly Highway I initially went wide right to avoid the icy, wind-scoured face, but I saw that another skier had taken the chute that bypasses it on the left. That area was protected from the wind, so I followed that skier’s tracks and found reasonable coverage. Down on Old Turnpike the first couple of steep corners were naturally icy, but there were lines to bypass the most exposed spots, and soon I was down into the protected lower areas that we skied yesterday. I actually used the same route as we did yesterday, until I decided to mix it up and check out the Wilderness Lift Line instead of Lower Turnpike. The lift line was actually fine, even if didn’t quite have the protected coverage of Lower Turnpike, and there were several tracks on it. From the base of Wilderness, I headed back to the car and had time to do a little long-range shooting with Chris’ Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM paired with his Canon Extender EF 1.4 III. That’s a full frame equivalent to 448 mm on my 30D, so there’s some great reach with that combo, and you’ve still got f/4 speed. It’s certainly not a setup that you can carry lightly though; with the lens hood on it’s 15 inches in length and the weight is around 6 pounds, so you definitely know it’s there.
Looking ahead, the next winter storm of note is a coastal system that is expected to affect the area tomorrow afternoon into Monday. The valleys will probably be a bit warm at the start, but the mountains look to do well; the point forecasts from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington currently call for 3 to 5 inches down here at the house, and 3 to 7 inches up at Bolton Valley.