Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 22FEB2020

An image of Ty powder skiing though a glade on Backcountry Trail Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in some powder on a sunny February day on the Backcountry Trail Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty drops into a line through some of the great snow we found today on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

Dylan and E were off to a sledding party this afternoon in Morrisville, but it was such a gorgeous day that getting out for a ski tour was definitely on my mind.  Ty had to work until noon, and was heading to a friend’s house at 4 P.M., but we definitely had enough time to sneak a tour in that window.  Once Ty was back and we’d gear up, we headed right to Bolton Valley.

You almost couldn’t ask for better weather today – we had blue skies, and temperatures at Village elevation were right around 30 F.  That’s nice and comfortable for touring, but not warm enough to really start adversely affecting the powder.  Visitation at the resort looked strong, but there were still available parking spots and we were able to get one right along the trails in the upper tennis court lot.

“The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough.”

We toured over toward Holden’s Hollow today, and the theme was definitely efficiency.  Ty is in really great shape, so his pace is even faster than mine, and within about 25 minutes we were already in position for a descent.  Based on how fast we’d moved, I said we’d easily have time for a couple of laps, so we set up for an initial descent through a nice glade on the back side of the ridge.  Ty worked on deskinning with his skis still on, and was quite fast with it, so our transition speed only enhanced just how efficient and quick we were overall.

Ty cranking a turn in the powder on the Backcountry Trail Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe had first tracks for our descent of the glade, and the conditions were excellent.  I’d actually describe the conditions as even better than what we encountered last Saturday when I was out at Bolton with Dylan – and that already wasn’t too shabby.  The powder skiing on that outing with Dylan was decent, but there was a marginal buried crust present in some areas that knocked the overall feel down a notch.  The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough.  Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend.  The powder was more consistent today though with any crust buried deeper.  That 20 inches of powder is fairly settled at this point of course, so we’re not talking about sinking down 20 inches into fresh champagne, you’re more like 6 to 12 inches down in the powder, but the rest is serving as fantastic cushion above the base.  Our first run was on a fairly south-facing slope, but the trees offered a good amount of protection from the sun.  A few spots were just starting to get that first phase of the powder being affected by the sun, but those were few and far between.

An image of an untracked glade filled with powder snow on the Backcountry Skiing Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An unblemished canvas for Ty to get first tracks on our initial descent of the tour

Once we were back down at the Telemark Trail, we switched over for another ascent, and I was much more efficient at the transition, so told Ty I’d start the ascent and he could catch up.  This time, I broke trail through the powder beyond our previous lap, and headed up to the top to access the east side of the ridge.  Ty caught up to me just as I was cresting, so it worked out perfectly.

“Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend.”

We descended in the C Bear Woods area that I’d visited back during my tour on the 1st of the month.  We had first tracks there as well, but the powder wasn’t quite as good as what we’d found on our first ascent – I think wind effects up on that part of the ridge were the main culprit.  The sun was also doing a bit more work on that snow, so in some areas it had lost a bit more of its winter fluff texture.

Back down at the bottom of that run, Ty and I skinned up for the final return to the car, and we found that we’d less than 90 minutes for the whole tour.  It was fun getting things done so efficiently, and we really weren’t even pushing ourselves, it was just overall solid pace and good transitions between skinning and skiing.

A Google Earth Map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Ski Network on February 22nd, 2020 at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS Tracking data mapped onto Google Earth for today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

We’ve got another potential winter storm coming later this week, and it looks pretty nice for the mountains around here from what I’ve seen on the models.  The initial snow might be dense since it not an especially cold storm, but unless things change dramatically it looks like another nice shot of liquid equivalent for the snowpack.  Some of the models also show extended upslope snow on the back side of the cycle, which would be great to top off the powder skiing conditions.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 01FEB2020

An image of the logo on the Bolton Valley Backcountry promotional vehicle at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the C Bear Woods area sign on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
At the top of the C Bear Woods area today in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

I was out on the slopes Sunday at Stowe during the recent protracted snowstorm that affected our area, and I got out again for a bit of night skiing on Thursday, but today was my first chance to really see how things had unfolded in the off piste areas.  I had a feeling that the storm was just what the local backcountry needed though, so I decided to make today’s outing a tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network.

Temperatures were really in a sweet spot today – they were just a bit below freezing, which meant that they were extremely comfortable, but not warm enough to ruin any of the powder.  I think a lot of people know that today was going to be spectacular out there, because even the lots down by the Nordic Center were filling up when I arrived around 10:00 A.M.  The upper tennis court lot was already filled, so I had to head to the lower one, but I got a nice trailside parking spot that let me gear up and jump right onto Broadway.

“The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.”

I needed to pick up Ty from work at noon, so my plan was a quick tour out to the Holden’s Hollow area to get in some powder turns.  Consistent with the parking lots, there were people all over the Nordic trails, and a number heading out onto the backcountry trails as well.  Once I got up onto the Telemark Trail I didn’t see anyone else around however, and based on the skin track it looked like only about 3 or 4 people had even been out on that part of the network recently.

I had to break trail on the final stretch up to the ridgeline above Holden’s Hollow, and once I’d crested I found myself with a vast area of untracked snow below me.  The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.

An image of the C Bear Wood area in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting ready for some untracked turns through the C Bear Woods area today.

As I switched over for the descent, I noticed a trail sign just down the ridgeline from me, and figured it was one of the markers for some of the Holden’s Hollow Glades.  Once I headed over to it though, I saw that it read “C Bear Woods”, and I realized it was a sign I’d never seen before.  The sign looks new, so it’s either an area that was recently updated for skiing, or perhaps folks just got around to putting up a sign.  Whatever the case, the glade below me was entirely untracked, and the powder was excellent.  As I encountered on Thursday, there was a bit of a crust buried within the pack in some spots, but in this case it was either absent or buried deep enough that it was inconsequential.

I was surprised to find that the run actually brought me down on the back side of the ridge, which would have been great for doing another lap, but unfortunately I didn’t have time.  I cut eastward through the trees and got myself over to the east side of the ridge where I was able to descend back to the Telemark Trail and Broadway with more untracked powder turns.

From the pump house/bridge area, I re-skinned my skis for my return to the Village – I’ve learned the investment of a couple minutes into putting on your skins is well worth it for that return trip with its slight uphill inclines.

A map with GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

When I got back to my car a bit before noon, even the lower tennis court lot had filled, and the parking lots in general looked packed to the gills.  The mountain was definitely doing a booming business, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising on a midwinter Saturday with a recent resurfacing of the slopes, full operation, and perfect temperatures.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 18FEB2019

An image of snow falling in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a glade in the Holden's Hollow area in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Vestiges of a couple old ski tracks in some of the glades I skied today on the back side of the Holden’s Hollow area

Today was another one of those days where I really hadn’t expected to ski.  We had a great lift-served family ski day on Saturday, and then I went on a backcountry reconnaissance tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail and Woodward Mountain yesterday, so I’d already had a decent dose of weekend skiing.  Today was going to be a bit chillier, and I was happy to simply catch up on some work at home, but Mother Nature seemed to have other plans.  It snowed all morning at our house in Waterbury, with big, fluffy, champagne flakes, and we’d picked up 3 to 4 inches of new snow by noontime.  If it was snowing like that down at our house, I could only imagine what might be going on 2,000’ higher up at the mountain, so I decided that I should do a quick ski tour and find out.

With a short Bolton Valley tour in mind, I decided to follow up on a tour I’d made with E and the boys about a month ago.  On that tour we wrapped around to the back side of Holden’s Hollow, and there were some nice glades in that area that I wanted to explore.  Now that I’m familiar with the layout there, I know that’s a great setup for a quick tour.

“I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder.”

It was still snowing rather vigorously when I got up to the mountain, and it was hard to tell exactly how much new snow had fallen over the previous layers of powder, but it seemed to be at least as much as we’d picked up down at the house.  The approach section of the tour along Broadway went smoothly, and I’d quickly wrapped around on the Telemark trail and reached the ridgeline in the Holden’s Hollow area.  I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder.  That snow was very high quality, similar to what I’d found on the west side glades on Woodward Mountain during yesterday’s tour, and the run was over way too quickly.

I skinned back up to the ridge, and headed northward a bit more to gain some additional elevation for a front side descent.  The front side Holden’s Hollow Glades had definitely seen some traffic, and I found that I was touching down to the subsurface in areas that been previously packed out by skier traffic.  I ended up heading a bit to the skiers right of the glades there to catch the best snow.

This time, for my return trip to the car, I put my skins back on to cross the flats in the Pond Loop area, instead of just managing the traverse on skis alone.  It’s hard to say if it made the trip back to the car faster overall with the time required to stop and reapply skins, but it was definitely nice to make the trek without ever sliding backwards.

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 12JAN2019

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of the Holden's Hollow Glades on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fluffy snow coated everything in the Holden’s Hollow Glades today.

With our recent winter storm dropping 2½ to 3 feet of snow at the local resorts, the ski conditions are simply fantastic.  However, the storm also brought some cold air with it, and that’s now in place over the area.  Temperatures were expected to top out in the single digits F today, which isn’t horribly cold, but cold enough that I’d rather be skinning for turns than riding lifts.

I headed up to the Bolton Valley Village for a tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network, and with the time I had, I needed something fairly quick.  I decided on a short tour over in the Holden’s Hollow area, since it’s just a short jaunt across the lower Nordic trails, and I hadn’t been over on that side of the network since my trip there in March of last season.

Temperatures were indeed in the mid to upper single digits F when I arrived at the Village around midafternoon, and not surprisingly with the fantastic snow conditions, there were a ton of Nordic skiers out on the Network.  I headed right over toward the Holden’s Hollow area via Pond Loop, and found myself on the Telemark Trail briefly before I cut right to Holden’s Hollow.  My ascent on Holden’s Hollow made me realize just how expansive that area is – there are a lot more sections of maintained glades around there than I knew, not to mention the amount of natural terrain that is skiable on its own.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
This season’s update of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map is once again listing a lot of the glades.

“In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common.”

Being well on the leeward side of Oxbow Ridge and North Ridge, the snow in the Holden’s Hollow area is well protected from winds, and boy is the quantity and quality of the powder impressive.  In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common.  I’m sure the powder has settled some since it initially fell (my analyses at the house were revealing densities in the 3% H2O range near the end of the storm) but all the snow out there is incredibly light and dry, with a fantastic soft base underneath it.  The turns were essentially as you’d expect with snow like that – simply outstanding.  I guess the only complaint I can muster would be that a few skiers had already been through the area so I had to hunt around off the main lines a bit for fresh tracks.  However, this is the kind of powder that’s so deep and plentiful, it’s still amazingly good even after it’s seen a few passes from other skiers.  That’s indeed what’s out there right now in the backcountry, so get out and enjoy it if you’ve got the chance!