Mount Washington, NH 27MAY2012

An image of Dylan skiing the snow on the Mount Washington snowfields on Memorial Day Weekend 2012
Dylan getting his taste of Mount Washington’s Corn snow this Memorial Day Weekend

It’s becoming an almost annual tradition that once the Mount Washington Auto Road opens for its summer season, we head over with the boys for some skiing on the summit snowfields. It’s not quite an annual tradition though, since there are years where an appropriate window of pleasant weather never presents itself to us before much of the snow melts out. But then there are those years like 2010; the snow was so plentiful on our trip that we could easily travel among different snowfields. The variability in weather and snowpack keeps these trips really interesting though; with the way that the weather patterns create different assortments of snow deposition each season, it never seems to be the same experience twice.

This year’s auto road skiing season began last weekend, when the road opened with outstanding weather for getting out on the mountain. However, with other things on our plate, we had to wait until this weekend for a shot at some turns. After some clouds and a bit of precipitation midweek, the fantastic late spring weather returned, and we were set up for blue skies on the mountain. I’d been following the state of the snowfields in one of the Time for Tuckerman Forum threads, and coverage looked great last weekend. The amount of snow dropped off a lot this past week, but it still looked like we’d have more snow than we did for our trip last season, when we couldn’t make it out to ski Mount Washington until June due to obligations and weather. It looked like both Saturday and Sunday were going to be excellent days on the mountain, and we decided that skiing Sunday would work best with our schedule.

I finished up some yard work yesterday, and then we headed off to New Hampshire in the mid to late afternoon. Our plan was to get in a night of camping at one of the New Hampshire campgrounds, and since we’d visited the Israel River Campground last year, we decided to try out the KOA in Twin Mountain this time around. Although it’s Memorial Day weekend, we didn’t make any reservations and just decided to play it by ear. As it turned out, we got the last available site at the campground, so we didn’t even have to check out any other options. Even though it was the last available campsite, we really enjoyed the spot we got, which was under a bunch of stately white pines, and pretty close to the playground, pool, bathrooms, etc.

An image of the Ammonoosuc River in New Hampshire with early evening light
Beautiful early evening light hits the Ammonoosuc River as we travel toward Twin Mountain, New Hampshire.

The boys really like the campgrounds with the added amenities, so we’ll choose those sometimes, and of course as soon as we were at our campsite they were off to the playground. One of the neat features at the playground was this huge soccer ball that was as tall as Ty’s waist; they had all sorts of fun kicking it around and launching themselves on top of it. At least we were able to pull them away from the playground for a bit to help get the fire started and finish setting up the tent. Instead of pulling wood out of our she, we’d purchased an armload of firewood from the campground, and I was happy to discover that the quality was good – it really got the fire blazing. Sometimes we’ve gotten that moist wood that just likes to sit there and smolder, and that’s annoying. We cooked up the usual assortment of burgers, dogs, and beans for dinner, and then had time for some s’mores, where I created perhaps the best s’more ever. Dylan pointed out that since we hadn’t actually seen all the s’mores in the world, we couldn’t possibly know that, but I’m standing by my statement. I contend that mine could easily have been used in a magazine to create a model image of how a s’more should look.

An image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan around a campfire making s'mores at the Twin Mountain KOA campground in New Hampshire on Memorial Day weekend 2012
S’mores around the campfire last night in Twin Mountain, NH

As we headed into the tent for the night, I was able to get on the internet (another benefit of campgrounds with amenities) and check on the forecast. With the nice dry weather, the Twin Mountain area where we were located was forecast to have a low temperature of 43 F – some classic Memorial Day Weekend weather for Northern New England and very similar to last year where the forecast called for the upper 30s F, although that was actually at the beginning of June. It looked like it was going to be comfortable sleeping weather, at least if we stayed in our sleeping bags. The high for Sunday was expected to be 74 F in the valley, which would probably translate into the 50s F up on the snowfields.

I woke up pretty early this morning, at the point where we were just starting to get some light in the sky. It was indeed chilly and I hung out in comfort in my rectangular sleeping bag watching some squirrels that seemed to be playing around way up above us in the towering pines. Ty was chilly when he woke up, so he huddled up in his bag as well. Dylan even hopped into Mom’s sleeping bag with her, and pointed out that his bag has definitely been getting too small. He also added that this wasn’t the first time he’s told us about the size, and proceeded to hop in and demonstrate how his head is certainly sticking out, while his feet are crammed right up against the end of the bag. OK, we get it Dylan, we are definitely behind on getting you a new sleeping bag. Both boys are really in need of new bags though, and they are ready for some mummy-style ones, so I hopped on the internet and started looking around while we generally dozed in the tent. I found that several companies make nice bags for kids – I saw a nice review on one of the 20-degree bags from Mountain Hardwear, and that seems to be the frontrunner in the selection process so far.

An image of pancake batter being dispensed for the all-you-can-eat breakfast at the Twin Mountain, New Hampshire KOA Campground
Now that’s how you make a pancake!

The campground was having an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast so we stopped in there and had our fill. I enjoyed the batter dispenser that they had – you load it up with a bunch of pancake batter and it does a beautiful job of dispensing it evenly out of a funnel in the bottom. It was fun chatting with the folks that helped run the campground, they’re really an enthusiastic bunch, and why not when you’re spending the summer camping. E and I then got a chance to hang out on the front lawn in some of the wonderful Adirondack chairs that they’ve got assembled out there, and we watched the boys hit the playground with some of the other kids. I got a chair with arms that must have been 6 to 8 inches wide, and of course flat, like the arms of a real Adirondack chair should be. The wide arms are a hallmark of the chairs anyway, but these were fantastic for holding my last round of breakfast while I ate – if we get more Adirondack chairs, I’m going to be partial to those extra wide arms. It would have been nice to kick back there in the chairs for a while, but there was skiing to be done, and with the forecast calling for clouds moving in later in the day, the sooner we got up the mountain the better.

The clear weather held strong as we headed up to Gorham and wrapped our way around down to the Great Glen area to the start of the Mount Washington Auto Road. It’s always nice when you start seeing those patches of white up in the high peaks, and they were definitely sparkling in the late May sunshine. The trip up the road went smoothly, and we threw in our copy of the audio tour CD, which is always a fun refresher of the history of Mount Washington and the auto road. I guess that there’s actually a new version of the tour CD available, but the woman who helped us at the toll booth said to keep our old one because the narrator is better. When we arrived at the parking area above the snowfields, we were surprised to find only two other cars there at midday on such a nice weekend day. We weren’t surprised to see that both cars were also Subarus though – skiers know what works well for getting you to the slopes. Whatever the snow conditions were going to be, it didn’t look like finding space on the snowfield was going to be an issue.

The boys played around and headed off for a quick hike up Ball Crag (6,106’) while E and I got the gear together. The weather was indeed pleasant as forecast, although with a temperature in the lower 50s F and probably a 10 MPH breeze, it was nice to get our ski pants and other gear on while we worked. After visiting various spots on the snowfields over the past few seasons, we’ve finally got a good sense for where the vestiges of the main snowfield like to sit at this time of year, so we dialed that descent in fairly easily – although you generally can’t see the snow from above once the snowfield has gotten small enough, heading in the direction of Wildcat’s ski trails will get you in decent shape.

An image of Jay advising Dylan as he skies though a narrow area with rocks on the Mount Washington east snowfields - Memorial Day Weekend 2012
A little advice from Dad as Dylan makes his way through the choke point on the upper snowfield

Unlike last year’s trip, when the remaining snow was only toward the bottom of the general East Snowfields area, there is currently substantial snow much higher up, so even in our Telemark boots it was a quick five to ten minute descent today to get down to the skiable snow. We met a couple of guys from Time For Tuckerman Forums who are part of the Memorial Day Slackfest tradition, and had a fun time chatting with them. One was RR, who plays a big part in the gathering and sets up the poles for the slalom that they like to have on Memorial Day. RR and others have been keeping the auto road & snowfields conditions thread nicely updated with pictures, so many thanks go out for their work. They filled us in on the status of the snow while another couple was just hiking back up from a run. We were on the top of the main snowfield section, and it was broken up into three areas, with another similar snowfield down below us, and a smaller one off to the skier’s left. Our snowfield had a choke point in the middle with some exposed rocks, so one had to be careful going through there. It turned out to be enough of a hassle that we spent most of our time skiing the section of the snowfield below that point – the rocks just broke up the flow too much to try to get through there. The turns were nice and smooth below that point though, and even sticking to just that one snowfield seemed to give us more vertical that we’d found on last year’s trip.

An image of Ty skiing under beautiful blue skies on the Mount Washington snowfields on Memorial Day Weekend 2012
Blue skies and corn snow for Ty

The boys were really excited to just slide on the snow in their ski pants, but we convinced them that they should do at least one run on the skis before they got to sliding, so they got their alpine boots on and were happy with that. I skied down first with Dylan, getting some photos in the process, and when we reached the bottom I told him that I’d bring his skis back up for him so that he could go off and play. Dylan had done a nice job with the turns – the snow quality was excellent as usual, and getting through that crux point was the only real challenge. I hung out at the bottom of that upper snowfield and took pictures while E and Ty also did a run down to meet me. Ty left his skis at the bottom like Dylan had done, and then they were off on their sliding adventures and created a “slide of doom” like they had last year.

An image of Erica skiing the snowfields on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, with a stripe of cirrus clouds among blue sky in the background
E’s back for another run.

E wasn’t very happy with the fluidity of her first run, and she made a couple more runs to get her groove going, which she definitely did. I took plenty of shots with our usual Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, then got her on another lap taking some wider-angle shots using our friend’s Canon EF-S 10-22 mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens that we’d borrowed. It’s a great compliment to the 24-105, and it’s been on my wish list for quite a while. It’s been a lot of fun catching huge sweeping images, and it really takes some time to get used to just how much is going to be contained within the image when you’re using that lens. People and objects to the side of my view were constantly ending up in the images if I didn’t pay attention.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing on the Mount Washington snowfields on Memorial Day Weekend 2012
Carving up the corn snow today on the snowfields

After E had had her fill or turns for a bit, she got behind the camera and I did a few more runs, including a side trip over to that other small snowfield to our north. That one had some pristine snow, and it was a neat perspective getting shots of that snowfield from the side. In general, the consistency of the snow was excellent today everywhere we went, but the main area was more tracked up, so the smooth turns were a treat. Skies were generally blue, turning whiter as the afternoon wore on and clouds started to build in. Having been out on the snowfields in less than optimal conditions before, we appreciate that fact that there was sunshine, minimal wind, no bugs, and simply perfect air temperature. It would have been awesome if the whole snowfield had held together with good coverage for today, since the runs would have been much longer, but even sticking to the upper section of snow was enough for some good turns, and with the way this season went, it’s really nice to even be skiing on Memorial Day Weekend. We actually never even visited that other chunk of the big snowfield that was down below the one we skied, but now that I look back at the web cam images and see what others had to say, it sounds like it was pretty decent in size and was probably offering up some fun turns. Each year though, I get a better ability to translate what we see on the web cam images of the snowfields into what is actually on the ground, so we’ll be able go in with an even better perspective on what we want to ski next time around.

An image of Jay skiing one of the snowfields on the east side of Mt. Washington on Memorial Day weekend 2012
Heading over to another snowfield to our north for some smooth turns on the untouched snow
An image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan on the observatory deck of Mount Washington State Park's Sherman Adams Visitor Center at the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire
E and the boys spending some time on the summit

The other folks had left by the time we were winding down our session in the mid afternoon, so it was very quiet as I finally got a chance to have my lunch while we packed up the gear. With some weather on the way, we got to watch some fun lenticular clouds form off to our east above Wildcat. I bet that something similar was forming over our heads knowing the tendencies of Mount Washington and weather, but the sky never really got so cloudy that the intensity of the sun was lost. The return trip to the car was very quick; it must have been just about five minutes since we were so close and knew exactly the direction to go. Along with some clouds pushing in, the wind had picked up noticeably at the car, and it was probably in the 25-30 MPH range while we were packing up our equipment. We switched out of most of our ski gear, and decided to stop in at the summit for a little while to take a look around with Ty and Dylan. The boys got a couple of fun scientific toys in the gift shop (a gyroscope for Ty and a spinning magnet for Dylan) and they’ve been having a lot of fun with those.

An image of the sign for Alburrito's Mexican restaurant in Littleton, New Hampshire
Alburrito’s in Littleton, NH

It was sort of an interesting trip this year, since we camped before we skied. That’s just the way things worked out with our availability and the forecast, but it gave us the chance to grab dinner somewhere on the way home. We decided to check out Alburrito’s Mexican restaurant in Littleton. We weren’t all that excited by the chips and salsa and the appetizer chili queso dip, but my vegetable burrito was quite good and E’s coconut shrimp was as well. That redeemed things a bit, but we didn’t find it to be on par with Frida’s Mexican restaurant that we often visit in Stowe. It made for a nice stopover though on what has been yet another successful trip to the Mount Washington snowfields. These past couple of trips have certainly been on fairly small snowfields, so we’d hoping for a good combination of snowfall and spring weather that can get us up there when more snow is left next season. We’ll see what Mother Nature has in store. As I was writing this up, I noticed that RR has already made a post on the Time For Tuckerman Forum with some pictures from today; he even captured E and I and the boys in one of them. That’s another great spot to get some pictures from this fine day out on the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2011

An image of the main upper mountain at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont with low clouds
Today had a bit of a Pacific Northwest flavor on the mountain, with low clouds and soft snow.

We knew that today was going to be a big day up at the mountain.  Kenny and his family just returned home yesterday from holidays in New York City, and the plan was to get together with us for some skiing at Bolton.  A couple close friends of their family were coming to ski as well, and with Stephen and his crew up for the morning, that made a total of 15 people with whom we were likely to ski.  With varying abilities and instructional goals, everyone wasn’t necessarily going to be skiing together all at once, but with eight kids, the outing was likely to be quite a mettlesome affair.

The day started off with good timing; we arrived right around the same time as Kenny and his family, so assembling in the lodge and getting day tickets for those that needed them was an easy process.  The pre-arranged plan was for E and Uncle Forrest to provide a bit of instruction to Marlene and Ashley in the Mighty Mite area so that they could get their feet wet on their first outing of the season.  Meanwhile, Jeff and I took all the kids up the Mid Mountain Lift so that Kenny, Liana, and Isabella could do a few laps and get their turns flowing.  After just a couple of runs their turns and control were really coming along, although we did have to keep Kenny from playing too hard with Ty and Dylan in the jumps and other terrain along the edge of the trail until he was ready.  Helena quickly joined up with us, and after watching the other kids working on their turns, I was especially impressed at how confident and fluid she looked in her turning.  Soon, our ranks swelled a bit more as Stephen, Johannes and Thomas joined us for a bit.  Temperatures were in the mid 30s F, so the snow softened nicely and was perfect for digging in an edge.  I was once again impressed at just how good Bear Run is for folks that are working on their turns; there are a couple of slightly steeper spots, but none that are overwhelming, and the trail really meanders down the mountain at a fairly consistent and friendly pitch.

We hadn’t done too many runs before Isabella (the youngest of course) insisted that she needed more challenge.  The routine of Bear Run was already making her impatient and she wanted to hit something else.  It felt like everyone was ready, so we stepped it up next with the recently-opened Beech Seal.  Everyone did fine, although there was no question that the increased pitch put a little more pressure on the less advanced children – Isabella definitely got lazy toward the bottom and stopped making here turns.  Jeff and I both got on her case for that.  In any event, the snow was just as soft as we’d encountered on Bear Run, and it was really nice to hit that steeper pitch and really sink the edges into the snow.

We met up with the folks who had been on the Mighty Mite around that time, and learned that instruction had gone well; Marlene was working her way toward parallel turns with wedge Christies, and Ashley was working on various aspects of her wedge.  The only issue is that there had been a big pause due to adjustment needs in their leased/rented boots.  Even though their boots were from another shop, the folks in the Bolton Valley rental area were great with assistance with fitting, and figured out exactly the adjustment that was giving them all their discomfort with that specific boot model.  Knowing how painful the situation had been, big kudos go out to the shop folks for saving the day.

With the Mighty Mite crew joining us, we did some additional trips down Bear Run that allowed Marlene to ski with the kids – she was looking really good with her parallel turns and seemed to be having a great time.  Naturally with the huge group, everyone’s pace wasn’t quite the same, so Jeff and I had let Ty and Kenny run circuits at their own speed.  Liana did the same thing, and although they don’t typically do a lot of time at the resort alone, they took care of themselves quite well.

Finally, we had progressed to the point that we decided to do a run off the Vista Quad – Ashley had gone in for a break, but everyone else in the group was heading up.  Ty had been excited to get to the upper mountain, and had been talking it up enough to Kenny that he was getting excited as well.  Since there was the potential for more challenge, I’m sure Isabella was happy as well.  While we’d been below cloud level on the lower mountain, the Vista Peak area was socked in, and it was very impressive just how thick the clouds were.  We started with the full Sherman’s Pass route to make it as easy as possible on everyone that was working on their turns.  The kids played in all the jumps along the edges of the trail and had a blast.  On-slope visibility was difficult at the top of the mountain, but those thick clouds tapered off well before we even got down to the Mid Mountain level.

With that run under everyone’s belts, it was easy to get a consensus to break for lunch; Stephen and his crew had to leave by 1:00 P.M., so they had gone in to eat earlier, but we still had quite a large group.  Despite the soft snow, the cloudy weather and potential for a few showers seemed to keep many people home, so that meant neither the slopes nor lodge were crowded – that was good news for our group at prime lunch time.  Personally, I thought the conditions were great; it felt like classic Pacific Northwest ski conditions in the lower elevations – a little heavy on the clouds and moisture in the air, but it was more than made up for by very comfortable temperatures and soft snow.  In any event, we had any easy time getting all the tables we needed for the large group upstairs on the lodge.  The kids took care of the hunger they’d accumulated with all those morning runs, and charged themselves up for the afternoon.  Later, when I asked Ty about things he remembered from the day, he spoke of the awesome cheeseburger he had for lunch… so obviously it made an impression.  Oh, and he also mentioned Kenny’s pizza, which seemed to disappear quickly.

An image of various people from our group having lunch in the base lodge at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Enjoying lunch with our big group in the base lodge

We were right back on the quad in the afternoon, and although I wasn’t sure how ready everyone was for more challenging options beyond Sherman’s Pass, Jeff made the executive decision of heading down Bull Run.  Technically I think it’s labeled a beginner run, but it’s got some more challenging sections, including that last dive down to Mid Mountain that would probably be rated advanced on its own.  The pitch made it difficult for the girls to commit to their turns, especially since it’s a natural snow trail and coverage was a little thin to further constrain the line options.  I helped by carrying Isabella through the crux, and Liana took that section by sliding on her back in the soft snow.  Everyone seemed to have a really good time though, and they were laughing about it as we slid across the Mid Mountain area.  The clouds had lowered pretty far by the afternoon, even below Mid Mountain, so many folks were calling it an early afternoon.  While the reduced visibility can be great for working on your balance if you’ve reached a certain level of skiing, it can make it quite difficult when you’re first starting out.  I heard one guy in the lodge mention that he only did a couple of runs because he just couldn’t see well enough to be confident in his skiing.

An image of snowboarders riding the Vista Quad Chair in heavy fog at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Clouds enveloped the mountain peaks today and visibilities dropped to incredibly low levels on the upper mountain.

With the clouds lowering the way they were, after a couple of quad runs we decided to finish off with Mid Mountain Lift to keep us below the densest clouds.  People were excited to check out Glades, and although I was a little worried about the uneven terrain or potential coverage issues for the beginners, I quickly acquiesced.  Coverage wasn’t too bad, but not quite to the level it was when it opened up on December 30th, 2006.  I bring up that day because the 2006-2007 season started slowly, very much like this one – it wasn’t until the end of December that natural snow terrain really started to open up.  So, even with the early season coverage on Glades, Ty, Dylan and Kenny ate it up; the huge leap in skiing that Kenny had made that day was most evident as I watched him easily hang with Ty and Dylan.  The boys schussed the run so fast that we had time to hit the Waffle Cabin at the base while we waited for the girls.  The boys had already finished their waffle by the time everyone else arrived, but E said all of the girls had done really well – it just took time as she coached them on how to deal with uneven terrain by taking it one turn at a time, and there were a couple of small tumbles that just required a lot of time for reassembly.  It had been a great day for Kenny and his family all around, and it looks like they’ll hit the ground running when ski program starts up next week at Stowe.

Bolton Valley, VT 30DEC2011

An image of Jay skiing in powder on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont - December 30, 2011
Today we finally had a chance to catch up with some the powder that has accumulated form the recent holiday snowstorms.

Although we headed out to the mountain yesterday to check out the powder from the recent storm, we really didn’t get to explore all the areas that we’d wanted to hit.  The frigid weather had the snow feeling a bit slow, and the boys got cold pretty quickly in the single digit temperatures and wind.  With the warmer weather today though, we headed back out this afternoon for more exploration.  One of the problems yesterday was that E and the boys hung around outside and waited while I parked the car, headed into the lodge, changed into my gear, etc.; that didn’t really help them in terms of staying warm.  Today however, they decided to hit the slopes and take a run while I got ready.  They typically use the Snowflake Lift for these types of shorter runs, but since Snowflake isn’t in operation yet, they took a run off the Mid Mountain Lift.  They decided to take a trip through The Enchanted Forest – it looked like it had a lot of snow when we looked at it yesterday, and today we saw that the mountain had decided to open it up.  After their run, when I caught up with E and the boys at the base of the lift, E gave me the update on the conditions there.  Although it was certainly skiable, it was probably best earlier in the morning before it had seen much traffic.  Fortunately rocks weren’t really an issue, but E said that areas of grass were coming through and there was enough navigating around them that it wasn’t really worth doing again – we’d likely be able to find better snow elsewhere. 

With those observations in hand, we got ourselves over to Wilderness to catch up on some of that exploration on our agenda.  We checked out the Wilderness Lift Line in the area below the Wilderness Mid Station, but with the way the wind had hit it, it didn’t look all that appealing, so we decided to continue on over to Cougar where there’s a bit more protection from the wind.  The Cougar Headwall had a few tracks on it, and there were actually a couple other groups of skiers hitting it up while we were there.  The best powder pockets were off to the sides, and especially the skier’s left where the wind had been minimal and any wind slab was reduced in thickness.

An image of Erica and Dylan heading over to the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading over to Wilderness for some powder

Things actually got even better when we dropped down onto Lower Turnpike.  The pitch was less, but that meant that terrain could support a lot more traffic.  There had maybe been a dozen skiers on it before us, and spending some time in the tracked areas was actually quite useful if the pitch mellowed too much for the amount of powder available.  And the powder was very good – we found ourselves in 8 to 12 inches of medium weight powder over a nicely consolidated base.  A few water bars still had to be approached cautiously, and optimal crossing points chosen, but between the base and all the new powder from the past two storms, coverage was more than sufficient.  Near the top of the run, a group of kids had built a backcountry kicker and they looked like they were having a good session.  We did some photography of our own skiing, although it was actually getting difficult because it was later in the day and the light was fading.  All in all though it was a beautifully long run filled with powder that more than made up for what we’d skipped yesterday.

An image ofAn image of Jay skiing powder on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the powder on Lower Turnpike

By the time we hit the bottom of Lower Turnpike it was getting dark enough that the lights were coming on for night skiing, but we weighed our options for more skiing with the boys as we shuffled back from the bottom of the Wilderness lift toward the base lodge.  Dylan said he didn’t really feel like doing another run, while Ty was pococurante and said he could go either way.  We decided to split the difference and do a quick run off the Mid Mountain Lift – we were in part excited that it was a chance for Mom to catch a run under the lights.  It had been a while since she’d been out for an evening session, and we had so much fun under the lights last Friday that we wanted another taste.  Since the mountain had recently opened Beech Seal for the season, we decided to have a go at it.  We’d watched them making snow on it yesterday, and at times it had looked like they were basically just spraying water on it while they adjusted the guns, but it looked quite nice now that the snowmaking whales had been smoothed out by the groomers.  We had a nice run, and with the increased pitch relative to Bear Run it was a good change of pace.  E really enjoyed it and commented on how easy it was to ski it now on her Telemark skis, when at one point early on in her Telemark career it had been the bane of her existence.

That run was enough to satiate us after that long Wilderness tour though, and we know that we’re likely to have a big day tomorrow when we ski with a large group of friends.  We’re really enjoying the moderating temperatures after yesterday’s cold snap, and tomorrow looks like it’s should be plenty warm, with temperatures in the 30s F even up in the mountains.

2010-2011 Ski Season Summary

Having now compiled all our ski trip and winter storm summary reports for the ’10-’11 ski season, I’ve put together this season summary as a view of how things transpired from a Northern Vermont local perspective.  It’s interesting to note that for Burlington, winter ’10-‘11 was well above average for snowfall (128.4”, 175%), while out in the mountains at our house the deviation was much less (197”, 114%), and indeed in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens like Bolton it was even closer to average (330”, 106%), so ski resort snowfall around here was essentially average.  I actually made a chart for a post at Americanwx.com concerning the ’07-’08 season, which used Bolton’s snowfall from the past several seasons as a general indicator of how the snowfall has been in Northern Vermont:

A table showing the snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont from the 2006-2007 through to the 2010-2011 season

One can see from the chart that ’10-‘11 was basically average for snowfall, and that the amount of snow (330”) was identical to ’07-’08.  I would add that the general impression was that consistency of winter temperatures was a bit better than average in ’10-‘11 due to fewer warm events, so the quality of snow surfaces was higher.  I’m not sure how much better than average it was though, since it seems that during midwinter, the norm in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens is to have about one warm episode per month.  Also, since we were essentially out of the main track of synoptic storms until February, there wasn’t much in the way of moderate-density snowfall to resurface the slopes.  I try to address the consistency of temperatures/quality of the snow surfaces in the text below though, at least in the context of weekends; I should note that it’s possible there could have been some midweek weather issues that simply flew under the radar for me.  For the quality assessment I simply focused on whether or not we were skiing powder, because unless there is some sort of notable rise in temperatures, there is always powder available.

A monthly breakdown of snowfall and my perspective on the season follows below – you can click on each month (except November) and it should bring up that month’s posts in the J&E Productions Web Log.  I only have the monthly snowfall for my house and not the ski areas, but the percentages relative to average often parallel the mountains reasonably well, especially for Bolton which is right up above us:

October:  Pretty typical in that we got at least some snow for skiing; we had 1.0” of snow at the house.  October snowfall in the lower valleys is often minimal enough that the percentages aren’t all that relevant, but that number is 111% vs. the five year average since we’ve been at our house, so indeed that’s rather “normal”.

November:  Very poor; we got just 2.4” of snow at the house (29% of average) and I don’t really remember it, nor do I have any entries for that month in my ski log, so that says plenty right there.  I do have a vague recollection of storm after storm tracking to our north and west giving us mostly rain though, so that would explain the low snowfall total.  The lack of snowfall wasn’t necessarily a huge concern at the time since it was “only November”, but without good November snowfall, getting to appropriate base depths and excellent skiing in December can be that much harder.

December:  Quite normal, 46.0” of snow at the house (right about average at 102%).  Fortunately, even with minimal November snow we were skiing natural snow terrain by December 10th up at Bolton; the holiday period featured some decent skiing, with 7 outings for me during that stretch, indicating that the snow was obviously OK.  Bolton had picked up 4 feet of snow from the storm at the beginning of the month, however, a lot of that snow, as well as what fell later in the month, was upslope fluff.  So, even if one assumes a fairly average amount of snowfall for the mountains like we saw in the valley, the very dry nature of the snow meant that there was less liquid than usual, resulting in base depths that really didn’t build quickly.  The Boxing Day Storm was unfortunately the start of a pattern that would last the next five to six weeks, with the big synoptic storms staying well south of the region and pounding Southern New England, while northern areas remained on the fringe and essentially survived on fluff.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and out of the 12 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Friday, Dec 31st, so that suggests pretty consistent temperatures.

January:  We got 55.5” of snow at the house, which is above average (137%) in what can sometimes be a dry, midwinter month.  However, January was essentially a month-long continuation of the trend that started on Boxing Day, and we were living on mostly Northern Vermont Champlain Powder™ fluff.  We had a couple of good upslope storms in the early to mid part of the month (January 7th and January 12th) that made for some fine skiing, but obviously since so much of it was pixie dust, the base depths just could not build the way that they would with some synoptic storms.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, and out of 11 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Saturday, Jan 1st due to the warmth at the end of December.  So I think one could argue that weekend ski surface consistency through Dec/Jan was better than average with only one (instead of two) weekend-affecting warm up(s) for the two months.

February:  This is when the storm track finally shifted north and we got some notable synoptic storms; the first one was right on the 1st, and then we had a second storm on the 5th.  That first storm brought just over a foot of snow for us down in the valley, and was by far the largest for the month.  Thus there weren’t really any mega dumps based on my records from the house, but there was plenty of the usual good skiing at Bolton and even good skiing at Stowe.  Snowfall was 48.1”, which is roughly average at 108%.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Out of the 10 outings in my records, all 10 of them had powder skiing, so February was perfect in that regard.  However, while skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, we had to wait until Monday of the long weekend to ski because there had been some sort of warm-up.  So I’d say the month was pretty typical with at least that one warm-up.

March:  We continued to stay in the storm track for most of March, with our biggest valley snowfall of the season (25.0”) coming from the March 5th storm.  We did wind up with notably above average snowfall in the valley for the month (39.6”; 155%), essentially due to that one big storm and aided by the fact that what I’ve got for a March average could be a bit low due to very poor Marches in ’09 (12.6”) and ’10 (2.1”).  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and powder skiing was done on all those weekends, however, there was also notable infiltration of non-powder skiing days into the weekends.  Relative to the previous three months, only 9 of our 12 outings for March featured powder skiing, so while still a pretty good ratio, it was certainly a decrease.  Indeed there were multiple warm ups in the month because those three non-powder days were actually on three different weekends (the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends).  Fortunately, those weekends were somewhat redeemed by powder on the other day.  By March, especially toward the end, things may start to fall off a bit from the typical rate of one warm episode per month, but I would expect that with at least 3 individual warm ups in March, it was nothing great or even above average in terms of consistency.

April:  This was again quite a poor month in terms of snowfall and powder skiing; although snowfall correlation between our location down at the house and the mountains can really start to wane as one moves through April and snowfall becomes more and more elevation dependent.  Snowfall at the house was well below average for the month (4.4”; 61%).  We did at least start out the month with a snowstorm on the 1st and another one on the 4th; these events produced some good weekend powder skiing at Bolton and helped the mountain snowpack to surpass 100 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake.  However, the snowfall really fell off after that.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, but only 3 out of 9 days had powder and only 2 of the weekends had powder skiing.  People were excited because we had a relatively deep snowpack during the month and coverage stayed longer than normal, but after that first week the storm track had shifted to the north/west and it was just storm after storm that featured warmth and little to no snow, even for the mountains.  I commented on that trend in a post at Americanwx.com, since there can easily be feet of snow in the higher elevations in April, and instead of just some corn days or spring crud, we could have been skiing some great powder.

May:  The May skiing was good due to the healthy snowpack, and I did get out in the powder on the 6th for top to bottom skiing on Mansfield.  We didn’t get any snowfall at the house during the month, but May’s average snowfall numbers down at our elevation are pretty minimal like October, and with the high sun angle and warming as we approach the solstice I suspect even more removed from correlation with what the mountains see.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  I wouldn’t say May powder is consistent enough to worry about.  I only got out for two days during the month, but at least one was a powder day; the other day was a corn snow day at Bolton so that was also good even if there wasn’t fresh snow.

June:  Our only day in June was outside VT on the East Snowfields on Mt. Washington, and the snowfield was probably smaller than usual for that time of year due to the below average Mt. Washington snowfall for the season.  There actually had been some frozen precipitation in the northern mountains leading up to that day, but we were skiing corn snow.

So in terms of overall snowfall, the two above average months of January and March were basically counteracted by the two below average months of November and April, and with the rest of the months being about average, the snowfall for the season ends up… about average.  Some plusses were better than average snowpack in April and May, but that’s somewhat counteracted by the lower than average snowpack in November, December, and January.  It looks like there was an uptick in consistency in the December-January period due to just that one notable warm-up, but with February and March coming in probably about average in that category, and while November is not especially consistent in terms of temperatures, even in the higher elevations, it must have been below average to get so little snow for the month.  So taking the trends of consistency as an aggregate from November through April, I wouldn’t say that there was a massive improvement in temperature consistency/snow quality for this area.  Something that I have noticed around here is that having a few more storms with mixed precipitation is not necessarily a huge detractor in terms of snow quality.  The ’07-’08 season was a good example of this.  We were right in the storm track, so if we did receive some mixed precipitation, there was often another storm on its heels so quickly, that old snow surfaces were covered up.  It felt like we were right in the storm track for most of that winter, except that we had a relatively poor April with little snowfall (we picked up just 1.6” of snow at the house, even less than this past April).  It is interesting to note that winter ’07-’08 (consistently stormy from November through March) and winter ’10-’11 (biggest synoptic storms focused on just February and March) provide quite disparate examples of how to get to very similar seasonal snowfall totals (203.2” and 197.0” respectively at the house, and 330” and 330” respectively up on the mountain).

Tree skiing:  While working on some web page material, I came across the post I made about the average date for the start of Northern Vermont tree skiing, so I decided to add in the ’10-’11 data and see how the season compared.  In my initial analysis through the ’09-’10 season, the average start date for tree skiing was December 9th ± 13 days with an average of 28.2 ± 6.8 inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake.  In terms of my personal log of outings from last season, I’ve got a start date of December 18th, 2010 for tree skiing, and the addition of these data alters the averages very slightly, bringing the date one day later to December 10th ± 13 days, and the average snowpack down a tenth of an inch to 28.1 ± 6.5 inches.  So in terms of the ’10-’11 season, the start to tree skiing was slightly late in that it started about a week later than the mean date I’ve calculated.  With the horrible November in terms of snowfall, and much of the December snowfall being dry fluff, the late start is not too surprising.  However, the date is well within one standard deviation, so in that sense the start to tree skiing was another parameter of the season that was basically “average”.

On that temperature consistency/snow quality note, I was curious about the powder skiing we did throughout the season, so I checked my reports.  For the list of outings below, I placed a P whenever we were skiing powder, and put a red X if we weren’t, so it shows the pattern of when we did have powder, and when we did not.  Links to the text and pictures for all the individual reports are available below if people want more details about the depth/consistency of the snow, or one can also step through the J&E Productions web log, which has an entry for each outing.  It’s interesting to note that starting at the beginning of the season in October and continuing through to March 26th, there were only four days (December 31st at Bolton Valley, January 1st on the Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry Network, March 5th at Cochran’s, and March 20th at Stowe) where we weren’t skiing powder.  Strangely enough, I’ve never looked at a season in that way before, but it did give me an even greater appreciation for just how much powder there is to ski around here.  After March 26th, the powder skiing really trickled off this season, although there were still at least a few days in there.  I’m not sure how this season compares to others since I’ve never looked at one like this before, but I suspect most other “average” seasons would look similar for the way we ski, and with our pattern of skiing there might be similar patterns even in seasons that deviate more from average snowfall.

Stowe, VT, Saturday 16OCT10
Stowe, VT, Sunday 05DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 10DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 11DEC10
Stowe, VT, Sunday 12DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 18DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 19DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 23DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 24DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 27DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Tuesday 28DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 30DEC10
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 31DEC10
X  Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 01JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 09JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 13JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 15JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 16JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 17JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 22JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 29JAN11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 30JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 03FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 05FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 06FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 13FEB11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 21FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25FEB11
Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT, Saturday 26FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 27FEB11
X  Cochran’s, VT, Saturday 05MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 06MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 07MAR11
Stowe, VT, Tuesday 08MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12MAR11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 13MAR11
Monroe’s Sugarin’, Barton, VT, Saturday 19MAR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 20MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Wednesday 23MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26MAR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 27MAR11
P  Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 02APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 03APR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 07APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 09APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 10APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 17APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Tuesday 19APR11
X  Sugarbush, VT, Friday 22APR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 23APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 01MAY11
Stowe, VT, Friday 06MAY11
X  Mount Washington, NH, Saturday 04JUN11

So yeah, long story short, pretty average season in my book.  On that note, since we’ve been back from Montana, the only season we’ve had with substantial snowfall deviation from average for Northern Vermont was a negative one in ’09-’10 as I show in that table of Bolton Valley snowfall near the top of the post.  There definitely hasn’t been anything like what many parts of the Western U.S. saw last season, but as I look at the list of outings above there’s still been plenty of great skiing.

Mt. Washington, NH 29MAY2010

An image of Jay Telemark skiing on the Snowfields of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire on Memorial Day weekend 2010
We found lots of options for great turns on Mt. Washington’s snowfield’s this weekend.

The Mount Washington Auto Road was finally open for business by the weekend of May 22nd – 23rd, but since E was out of town, Memorial Day weekend was our first opportunity for a ski trip.  As always, weather was an important determinant in whether or not we would try to take the boys up the mountain, but as the weekend grew closer, the good forecasts continued to hold.  None of the days looked like a total washout, but Saturday looked like the best bet since the NWS point forecast indicated the chance for gusts as high as 100 MPH in the higher elevations of the Presidential Range on Sunday, and Monday had higher potential for precipitation.  On Friday evening we put ice packs in the freezer, charged batteries, and planned to make a final check on the forecast in the morning.

Saturday morning’s forecast still looked decent; there was a chance of precipitation in the afternoon, but winds were expected to be low with comfortable temperatures.  I reserved a campsite for Saturday night, and we spent most of the morning getting things together for the trip and taking care of other stuff around the house.  We finally headed out in the late morning under mostly cloudy skies, but no signs of precipitation.

Once we’d reached the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road, we stopped in at the Great Glen Lodge to hit the restrooms and check on the summit weather.  We were excited to see that the summit weather board indicated winds of just 4 to 12 MPH and a temperature of 50 F.  Even better though, was being able to look up toward the higher elevations to the west to see blue skies.  Last year’s trip featured 50 MPH winds and fog, conditions that were more amenable to playing in the strong gusts on the deck of the observatory than skiing with the boys.  From our views along Routes 2 and 16, the snow up high looked less plentiful than we’ve often seen at this time of year.  The level of the snowpack was potentially due to at least a couple of factors.  Although there were some nice snowy storms in April and May, too many of the midwinter storms skirted off to the south of Northern New England this season, and more recently we’d seen warm, or even hot, dry weather with lots of sun.  One never really knows quite what the snow situation is going to be until they get up on the mountain though, and based on the Mt. Washington web cam images, we knew there was going to be plenty of terrain to ski.

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The fair weather made for an enjoyable drive up the Auto Road, and the views were stupendous as usual.  We stopped in just briefly at the summit, and got an overview of the various eastern snowfields on the drive back down the road.  We could see that there were plenty of options, and continued our drive down to the parking area below Ball Crag where we’d based ourselves before.

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Consistent with the faster depletion of the snow this season, although potentially due to seasonal variability as well, the snowfield that we’d skied with the boys in May of 2008 was absent.  But, based on the boy’s enthusiasm, along with their improved endurance and ski abilities, we were looking to hit some different snowfields this season anyway.  The plan was to head up the Nelson Crag Trail for a bit as we’d done on our last ski trip to the area, and then traverse generally southward below Ball Crag to search out some snowfields that would work well for everyone.

Our equipment setup from our last Mount Washington ski trip had worked well, so we used a similar configuration with just a couple of changes.  I carried the big SLR in my photo/ski pack, which is also set up well to carry multiple pairs of skis, so I carried mine as well as the boy’s.  E and I simply hiked in our Telemark boots, but since the boys would be skiing in alpine ski boots, they wore their hiking boots to make their traveling much easier, and along with her skis, E carried their ski boots in her pack.  The boys had their poles for hiking, and a new addition this time was that they carried their water, food, clothing, and helmets in/on their packs.

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We hiked roughly two tenths of a mile up the Nelson Crag trail before breaking off and contouring southward.  The boys were very mobile in their hiking boots and light packs, and they moved along at a great pace.  Compared to our last ski outing on Mount Washington, Ty was much more comfortable traveling through the alpine setting; he was well ahead of the rest of the group and opted for a much higher traverse.  I knew that we would eventually run into the main portion of the east snowfield if we didn’t run into any other snowfields first, but there turned out to be earlier options.  Ty was the first to spot some of the bigger snowfields below us along the Upper portion of the Huntington Ravine Trail, and we planned to work our way toward those after seeing what we found ahead of us.  After only about a tenth of a mile of traversing, we hit a small snowfield, and the group, which had become a bit scattered during the traverse, got back together to start the descent.

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That first snowfield was moderately steep, perhaps in the 30 degree range or so.  Since it was steep and rather short, the boys decided to wait until one of the bigger snowfields to start skiing.  They opted to simply do some sliding on the snow.  E and I mentioned that it was likely to be easier to ski than slide since they would have edges to control their descent, but they were having fun.  E and I skied the snowfield, and then we all traversed over to a much larger snowfield off to the north.  When we’d arrived at the initial snowfield, there had been a couple of people skiing laps on the edge of the larger snowfield below, but by the time we got there they were gone, and we had the whole thing to ourselves.  In fact, they were the only people we’d seen on any of the snowfields in that area.  We were surprised by the lack of people since it was Memorial Day weekend, but perhaps everyone had already done their skiing the previous weekend.  The weather continued to feature interludes of sunny and cloudy periods, and although we’d seen what looked like thicker clouds and showers off to the Green Mountains in the west, no precipitation materialized in our area.

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Ty and Dylan were the first to ski the larger snowfield, and it was fun to watch Dylan follow Ty through the terrain.  The snowfield wasn’t quite as steep as the first one, and it was a fun experience for the boys to have the whole face to themselves with the ability to decide what route they wanted to take.  The boys stopped about 2/3 of the way through the descent to wait for us, then E joined them, and I skied all the way to the bottom to get some pictures from below.

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From the bottom of that snowfield we traversed north and slightly upward to another snowfield section that was connected to the first.  At that point we were on the long collection of snowfields that sits above Huntington Ravine.  The next section of snow didn’t provide quite as much vertical drop, but it didn’t seem like it had seen any skier traffic in quite a while, so it was extremely smooth.  I made a boot ladder that was spaced well for the boys, and we hiked up to the top of that section.  The boys had been happy with their earlier turns, and were most excited to play on the rocks and stairs of the Huntington Ravine Trail, so they switched back to their hiking boots and played around while E and I did a bit more skiing.  Those turns were a lot of fun, and E got the time she’d been looking for that let her practice and dial in some smoother Telemark turns.

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I hadn’t really been following the recent freeze thaw cycles up on Mt. Washington prior to our outing, but looking back at the Mount Washington summit weather archive, it says that the lows for the two nights before our trip were only down to 35 F, and the nights prior to that were even warmer.  Apparently, once the corn is formed, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the temperatures go below freezing nightly or not in terms of maintaining quality conditions for spring skiing.  We never encountered sticky, rotten, or mushy snow, just good corn with a peel away layer on the surface.  I’m sure it would have been much less enjoyable for the boys if the snow had been difficult, but thinking back, I can’t recall any really tough snow in our Mount Washington outings at this time of year.  Perhaps the snowpack is dense enough by this point in the season that freezing cycles aren’t as critical.

It was only a few minutes of hiking to get back to the car from there, and it really had been an efficient outing; for all the skiing we’d done, it had only required about ¾ of a mile worth of total travel.  Although I’m sure Dylan was a bit tired, both boys were still bounding around on the final leg back to the car, so the distance had clearly been good for them.  Just as we were about finished changing clothes and packing the gear back into the car, one of the Auto Road vans came by and let us know that he was the last one heading down.  It was just about 6:00 P.M. by that point.  We didn’t dawdle on the way down so that we wouldn’t hold up the final van, but there were plenty of people still out of their cars below us as we passed by, and even a pair of hikers just below our parking area that seemed to be making their final descent via the road.

After an enjoyable Auto Road descent with more fun views, we headed over to Shelburne, NH and checked in at White Birches Camping Park.  We’d reserved a grassy site, and they’ve got some nice ones right on the edge of an evergreen forested area that contains access to the Shelburne Basin Trails.  The evening’s burgers were some of the best in a while, and there were no complaints from me when Ty couldn’t quite polish his off burger or sausage.

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In the morning, we had some breakfast and broke camp, then the boys went off with E for a while to go swimming and play on the campground’s equipment while I worked on repacking the gear.  The weather was still nice, so we decided to take a circuitous route home and see some sights.  We headed back to Gorham, then north along the Androscoggin through Berlin, past Umbagog Lake, and up to Lake Aziscohos.  North of Berlin, we were certainly in the land of lakes, loons and logs; houses seemed just as likely to have a loaded logging truck in their yard as anything else.  Between the abundance of big rivers, dams, and lakes, it’s quite a water paradise.  We saw several groups of flat water and whitewater boats, and lots of fly fishing taking place.  At Aziscohos we were getting close to the Saddleback/Sugarloaf zone, although we didn’t head quite that far into Maine.

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After lunch at the picnic area on the south shore of Aziscohos, we headed west through Dixville Notch and got to take in its impressive craggy views.  We also stopped in to check out The Balsams Resort Hotel and The Balsams Wilderness Ski Area, which we’d never visited before.  The ski area isn’t huge, offering just over 1,000 feet of vertical, but from everything I’ve heard, it’s very much the type of ski area we enjoy.  Akin to some of our favorite local ski areas like Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana and Bolton Valley in Vermont, it’s got low skier traffic, low speed lifts to keep it that way, and decent snowfall.  Wilderness doesn’t quite get the 300+ inches of annual snowfall that Bolton and Lost Trail do, but knowing the snow trends for northernmost New Hampshire, I suspect they do decently on snow preservation like Saddleback and Sugarloaf.  Based on an article I found by David Shedd on easternslopes.com[SJ2] , it sounds like minimal skier traffic helps out in maintaining the powder and general snow quality as well. The 1,000 feet of vertical at Wilderness is said to be nicely sustained, with no runouts, and that was definitely the impression we had when we drove to the bottom of the lifts and looked around.  E and I have been thinking it would be nice to do a ski trip coupling Wilderness, Saddleback, and Sugarloaf together.  Of the three areas, we’ve only been to Sugarloaf, and only in the spring.  It’s usually hard to leave Northern Vermont’s snow during the middle of the ski season, but a good time to go east would be when one of those storm cycles comes through that focuses on Northern New Hampshire and Western Maine.

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We got back into Vermont in the far northeast part of the Kingdom, and took the northerly route to I-91 along the Canadian border past Wallace Pond.  It’s not a huge body of water, and it was fun pointing out to the boys that the houses just a couple hundred yards away on the other side of it were actually in Canada.  We also passed Great Averill Pond, Norton Pond, and finally Seymour Lake, where we stopped for a few minutes.  We went through Derby, but didn’t quite get up to Derby Line to show the boys how the library/opera house is split by the international border.  At some point we will have to get them up there.  Once on I-91, we were pretty quickly back in our own neck of the woods, and I’d say one of the more surprising things that we discovered was how close Balsams Wilderness Ski Area is to our location.  Being so far north in New Hampshire, and mentioned so infrequently, it seemed to be on another planet.  But, barring horrible road conditions, it should only be two to three hours from Waterbury.  After our visit to the area, it has certainly moved up higher on my hit list.

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Below I’ve added a web cam image of the east side of Mt. Washington from last weekend, showing the various areas of snow that were present at the time.  The longest runs up near the summit still seemed to be off the main east snowfield that we didn’t visit.  We haven’t had any of the hot temperatures that we had the week before our visit, and things have been much more seasonable, so there should still be some decent easy access skiing up there at this point.

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Click through temporarily for integrated images in the report at SkiVT-L.

Bolton Valley, VT 24DEC2005

An image of Erica and Ty riding the Vista Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E and Ty enjoying their first chance to ride Bolton Valley's Vista Quad Chairlift

Today we took Ty up to Bolton Valley for a few afternoon ski runs.  I hadn’t initially thought of taking him up to Bolton, but Grandma mentioned it and it sounded like a good idea.  With holiday visitors at the house, and another family gathering later that evening, time was a little tight.  So, Bolton was especially appropriate being only about 30 minutes away.  E hadn’t been out to ski with Ty in the past couple of weeks, so this would be an opportunity for her to ski with him using the leash, and see the progress he’d made first hand.

The weather had been warming since yesterday, and had risen above freezing in the valley.  When we left my parent’s house in Shelburne (elevation ~180’), the car thermometer was reading 39 degrees F.  At the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road (elevation ~340’) it was at 37 F, and by the time we reached Bolton’s main base (elevation ~2,100’) it was down to 34 F.  There was a notable difference in the look of the snow on the mountain when compared to the valley.  Down in the valley, the snow was getting spring-like, and had melted off the trees.  Up on the mountain, even at the base area, there was a coating of white on the trees, and the snow still looked pretty dry and wintry.  Bolton was reporting 2 inches of new snow, which we hoped would make for some pleasant skiing.

To read the rest of the details and see all the pictures, head to the full Bolton Valley trip report from today.

Robbins Mountain Power Line, VT 30DEC1995

Today we skied the power line on Robbins Mountain (power for the airway beacon on top).  Here are the stats:

Base elevation: 340′
Summit elevation: 2060′
Vertical drop: 1720′
Length: 5544′
Slope: 31%

After kicking in steps yesterday evening (snowshoeless are we) to 1,100′, we hiked up to around 1,350′ today with skis. Unfortunately, above this point, the line hasn’t been cleared in a couple of years and its pretty thick with brush. Below this point though, its clear sailing, about 40 feet wide and untracked. The snow conditions were about 5 inches powder followed by that crust, then another 2-3 feet of thick powder below. From our starting point, the first 200 feet down are a little brushy (a la Goat) then the trail funnels into a 50 foot chute with steep drops on either side. After this chute, the line opens up for about 200 feet of blue-grade boulevard untracked (one of the best parts). The next 1,000′ consists of a few cliffs (5-10 feet high and easily bypassed if desired) with islands of brush that leave at least half of the trail open at a all times. At this point (elevation 700′) the main power line takes a dive into a stream bed, but fortunately there is a road, or riverbed or something that parallels the line and provides a nice clear route. The last 100 feet or so is a bit of a scramble out the road. Temps were in the 20s and light snow was falling today making for great conditions. 1,000 continuous vertical of untracked powder at no charge; sometimes it’s nice to earn turns by muscle instead of $$$$.