Bolton Valley, VT 01DEC2018

An image of Ty skiing powder and ducking under a bent tree in the Snow Hole area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of hoarfrost coating a branch at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the neat weather features out on the mountain today was the delicate hoarfrost covering everything with needles up to three inches in length

Yesterday, the last vestiges of Winter Storm Bruce wound down in our area, so today was a great day to take advantage of all the new snow on the slopes with relatively benign weather.  Due to the prodigious November snowfall we’re had around here, Bolton Valley is running the lifts again this weekend for another pre-season session.  Ty and I had some time in the morning, so we headed up to the mountain for a bit of lift-served skiing.

“We caught a ton of untracked lines today, but the powder has settled even more than what I found on my Thursday morning tour, so it was very much a PNW/Sierra-style snow experience.”

We got to the Village in the mid- to late-morning period and were amazed to find that all the parking lots, even the Nordic Center lots, were packed.  It was a struggle to find a spot, but we finally got one in the very lowest Nordic lot.  We assumed the lifts would be packed, but there were no lines at Vista, Mid Mountain, or Snowflake.  We were stunned, and couldn’t figure out where everyone was, but we happily hopped on for our first Vista ride of the season.

Although the Wilderness Lift isn’t running yet, the usual Vista Quad-served access to Wilderness is available, so after a great run down Alta Vista, Ty and I headed that way and made a run through Snow Hole.  There was an old track or two around, but we essentially had first tracks through there.  Another spot on today’s hit list was Maria’s, where we traversed far left and were well clear of any tracks from other skiers.

An image of Ty skiing in Maria's area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty enjoying a fun line through the powder today on Maria’s.

We caught a ton of untracked lines today, but the powder has settled even more than what I found on my Thursday morning tour, so it was very much a PNW/Sierra-style snow experience.  In most spots now, you really only sink a few inches into the powder, so you’re very much staying on top of the snowpack.  It’s been interesting to watch the powder slowly transform to this dense state from our ski session on Tuesday, to my Thursday outing, to today.  It’s really hard to complain about such fantastic early season conditions, but in terms of powder we could use a freshening at some point.  The groomed terrain is skiing superbly right now though – with such a huge resurfacing it’s just packed powder and more packed powder.  One very cool weather-related feature out there today was the hoarfrost covering everything – we found areas where the delicate, feathery needles were as much as three inches long.

Our next winter storm is moving into the area tonight with snow, then some mixed precipitation, and potentially more snow on the back side.

Bolton Valley, VT 27NOV2018

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in 18 to 20 inches of fresh powder from Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of one of the chairs on the Wilderness Chairlift filled with snow from Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Winter Storm Bruce unloaded its snow on Bolton Valley today – we measured 18 to 20 inches of new snow during out afternoon ski tour at the resort.

Today our area has been under the influence of Winter Storm Bruce, a low pressure system that’s crossing through New England and bringing copious amounts of moisture with it.  School was cancelled for Ty due to the storm, so I came home a bit early in the afternoon with the hopes of getting together for a ski tour up at Bolton Valley.  There was some very heavy snowfall in the early afternoon period that was easily putting down an inch or two of snow an hour, so I was a bit leery about trying to negotiate the Bolton Valley Access Road under such conditions.  But, the heavy snow let up a bit in the midafternoon timeframe, and we figured the plows would be able to keep up with it so we headed out.

The Bolton Valley website indicates that the Timberline area is strictly closed to traffic right now (perhaps due to chairlift work) so we headed up to the main base for our tour, and that turned out to be a great starting point.  The amount of snow that the Village picked up from this storm was quite impressive – we both did numerous depth checks and found 18 to 20 inches of snow at 2,000’.  The depth of the new snow was essentially the same all the way up above 3,000’, so I’d say that everything from this storm fell as snow at least down to the Village level.

An image of snowplow piles and snowy trees during Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Up in the Bolton Valley Village today, the scene was incredibly snowy thanks to Winter Storm Bruce

There was a great skin track set on Lower Turnpike, which was a godsend with so much fresh snow.  Temperatures were in the upper 20s at 2,000’, so all the snow up there was quite dry.  It certainly wasn’t Champlain Powder™ fluff, but it was medium-weight powder with a right-side-up distribution and the skiing was fantastic – definitely a day for the fat boards.  Ty was on E’s 115 mm Black Diamond Element Telemark boards, and he really likes the way they handle the powder.  I knew we’d need some steep pitches to handle this snow, so that’s what we sought out, and the skiing was simply fantastic.  This storm brought plenty of liquid equivalent in the snow (1.5 inches of total liquid form the storm even down at our house in the valley) so it’s covered everything really well and there’s not much to worry about with such a substantial base already in place ahead of this storm.

An image of Ty Telemark skiing during Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Resort on Vermont
Ty enjoying the float of Mom’s 115 mm Black Diamond Element skis on our ski tour today as he tackles the snow from Winter Storm Bruce

The actual action photography was quite a challenge today because we’re talking fairly late afternoon, late November light, and snowfall, but I used my brightest lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM) and we did our best with the light we had.  Bolton Valley is now reporting 66 inches of snow on the season, which is a great way to get rolling in November.

An image of Ty finishing a ski tour at dusk with the glow of the Bolton Valley Village behind him at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Finishing our ski tour toward the glow of the Bolton Valley Village as darkness descends.

Bolton Valley, VT 24NOV2018

An image of the Timberline Quad from near the Timberline Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder in the trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan gets into some of the powder in Bolton Valley’s trees today as the resort opens up for a special early season day.

With the great run of November snowfall we’ve had, Bolton Valley decided to run some of its lifts today as an early kick off to the season.  In addition to running the lifts, they had a number of events taking place, such as special discounts and lunch specials for pass holders, as well as roasting marshmallows outside by an open fire.

“The powder from Thanksgiving has settled somewhat, but I still found a general 12 to 24 inches in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range.”

E and the boys and I headed up to catch a few runs, and I decided to skin up from Timberline and meet the rest of the family up at the Village.  Since our last visit to the mountain on Wednesday, the Thanksgiving cold front snows had definitely freshened up the powder on the slopes.  Some skiers had been out since then, but overall traffic was much lighter than what it had been at the beginning of the holiday week.  The powder from Thanksgiving has settled somewhat, but I still found a general 12 to 24 inches in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range.  Temperatures were right around 30 F when I arrived, and were even climbing a bit above freezing as I made my ascent to the Village.

An image of the base of the Timberline Quad with snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Powder covers the assortment of materials by the base of the Timberline Quad.

Only the lower mountain lifts were in operation today, so there were lift queues of about 10 minutes, but it was such a nice day that nobody seemed to mind hanging out as they kicked off the season.  E and the boys had done a couple runs before I arrived, and once we caught up, Dylan and I headed for a little tree skiing in the powder while Ty worked on some snowboarding with E.  We then stopped in for the lunch special at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery, which has been remodeled a bit to provide more seating.

An image of snow melting in the sunshine on an evergreen bough at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAfter lunch I headed back to my car at Timberline via the Timberline Summit, and snow in the sunny areas was getting a bit thicker, but I found some excellent dry powder by sticking to north-facing and sheltered terrain.  We’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory in effect overnight into tomorrow, but that’s for mixed precipitation.  This system should add a bit of liquid to the snowpack, but there’s not really any snow associated with it.  There’s another storm coming in the midweek period however that appears to have much more snow potential.

Bolton Valley, VT 21NOV2018

An image of Dylan skiing powder after a snow squall at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Today’s ski tour was quite an outing with heavy snow squalls and lots of fresh tracks.

The big synoptic snowstorms from last week put down a lot of base on the slopes, and this week has followed up with some modest refresher storms to keep the powder fresh.  Today’s feather weather event was the passage of an arctic cold front with very impressive snow squalls that reduced visibility to near zero at times – and we were on a ski tour at Bolton Valley just as the first barrage of heavy snow hit the mountains.

An image of Johannes skinning during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontStephen and I had been talking about getting out together for a ski tour at the mountain during this holiday week, and things lined up today so that Johannes and Dylan could join us.  I planned on a tour that would bring us from Timberline up to the trails of the main mountain, shooting for some of those lesser used routes to get everyone some fresh tracks.  We began mid-morning with light flakes falling, and the snowfall gradually ramped up to a steady, heavy level of intensity with big flakes as we made our way toward Cobrass.  While we were switching over our gear for the descent, a big squall enveloped the mountain.  Snowfall rates were off the charts, with visibility down to less than 100 feet at times.  It was the kind of snowfall where you put your gear down for a few moments, and small stuff could be easily lost because of how fast it became covered.

An image of Johannes jumping a water bar during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Johannes with a bit of air as he negotiates a powdery water bar on today’s ski tour

“Snowfall rates were off the charts, with visibility down to less than 100 feet at times.”

The descent portion of the tour brought us some great fresh powder on routes like Five Corners, Sure Shot, and Tattle Tale.  It’s getting hard to tell exactly how much base is down now after so many recent storms, but I was generally getting depths of 15 to 20 inches, with much of that powder.  Everything was also topped off with a couple more inches that fell during the tour itself due to the intense snowfall.

Tomorrow is going to be an impressively cold Thanksgiving day, with highs in the mountains around here in the single digits F, so I think it will be nice being inside enjoying some holiday food.  Bolton Valley is actually planning to run the lifts on Saturday, at which point it should be much warmer.

Bolton Valley, VT 17NOV2018

An image of Ty performing an off axis flip into some of the snow in the Bolton Valley Village in Vermont after some November snowstorms
An image of Dylan getting ready to pack up his climbing skins during a November ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan gets ready to pack up his climbing skins as we get ready to start out descent during the family’s ski tour at Bolton Valley today.

We’ve had some great snow in the Northern Green Mountains over the past week.  Three coastal storms have affected the area:  a double barrel low pressure system last weekend, a low pressure system hugging the coast in the midweek period, and now Winter Storm Avery this weekend.  All told, the local mountains have picked up two to three feet of snow in the past seven days, with Bolton Valley reporting 32 inches during the period as of today.  That’s a good pace of snowfall for any week during the winter, but it’s an excellent pace for November.  This is when the mountains should be building that natural snowpack, so this is an especially good time to be getting these substantial storms.

An image of snow from recent November storms at the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the recent snow accumulations at the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley

“Snow depths were generally 1 to 2 feet throughout the tour…”

The family got out for a tour in the snow from last weekend’s storm, but I had a busy week and wasn’t able to check out the snow from the midweek system.  We had time to get out today though, and there’s been enough snow now that even Timberline was an option.

An imae of Dylan skiing some of the powder from November snowstorms at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in some of today’s power at Timberline

Timberline had already seen lots of visitors as of late this morning, so there was a well-established skin track on the usual Twice as Nice route.  Snow depths were generally 1 to 2 feet throughout the tour, and temperatures were just creeping above freezing down at the base, so the powder down in the lower elevations was starting to get just a bit wet.  In the higher elevations the snow was fairly dry, middle-weight powder, so the skiing was quite good.  I’d say starting at the main base up above 2,000’ would be a good move to optimize the best snow, so I might think about that for my next tour, but even touring down to the 1,500’ elevation is still quite reasonable.

An image of Ty falling in the powder while on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty going down in the powder on today’s ski tour

After our tour we headed up to the main base to pick up our season passes, and learned that there’s talk of starting the lift served season a week or two early.  I’d say we’re happy either way, since there’s still plenty of touring to do even if the lift-served skiing hasn’t started.

Bolton Valley, VT 11NOV2018

An image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan waving hello on their first ski tour of the season at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder after a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty getting down into a nice Telemark turn in the powder as the whole family got out for a ski tour at Bolton Valley today

Temperatures in the higher elevations stayed well below freezing overnight, and indeed they weren’t even going to rise above freezing during the day today.  So as expected, whatever state the snow was in by the end of the day yesterday was essentially how it was going to stay.  I found very nice powder conditions on the upper half of the main mountain when I was at Bolton Valley yesterday, and with that in mind, we got the family out for a ski tour today.

“So that meant some nice powder turns on the upper half of the mountain, and a melt crust under a little fluff on the lower mountain.”

The temperatures we found today were very much like what I’d encountered yesterday, with uppers 20s in the Bolton Valley Village, and 19 F up around 3,000 feet.  This afternoon featured nearly cloudless skies however, so we had much more sunshine today, and that made it at least feel a bit warmer to me, even if the thermometer didn’t have much to say about it.

An image of Erica skinning up on a November ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E cruising along through the powder as we ascend during today’s ski tour

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder after a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI took E and the boys on essentially the same tour I did yesterday, and the snow depths and conditions we found really were unchanged today.  So that meant some nice powder turns on the upper half of the mountain, and a melt crust under a little fluff on the lower mountain.  E and the boys were definitely leery of the conditions on the lower half of the mountain when we began our ascent, but I told them to stick with it and we’d get up into the good snow.  We did just that, and I’d say everyone had a lot of fun working on their first turns of the season in the powder.  We got back to the car just as the sun was beginning to set, and all in all it was a great first family ski outing of the season.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder from a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan gets behind the camera and captures Dad enjoying some of today’s powder turns.

We’ve actually got a couple more storms on the way over the next several days that hold the potential for additional snow.  There’s one on the way for Tuesday which could be similar to this past one, and then another one near the end of the week that bears watching as well.

Stowe, VT 21APR2018

Erica, Ty, and Dylan standing around the fire pit outside the Solstice Restaurant at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing some fresh snow in late April on the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today we were able to get out into some of the powder from our recent upslope snowstorm on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield, topped off with a convenient stay right at the Stowe Mountain Lodge.

Since school was out of session due to vacation week, E’s been thinking about some sort of getaway for the family.  Quebec City and Maine came up as possible destinations, but with the Green Mountains having just reeled in some great powder due to our recent upslope event, doing something more local seemed like an obvious choice.  That decision was heavily reinforced after E and I skied some great powder at Bolton Valley yesterday, and after weighing a number of options we ultimately decided to head to Stowe for some earned turns and a stay at the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  They’ve got some fantastic amenities, and the rates this time of year are great because they’re in between the winter and summer seasons.

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont with fresh snow on a sunny day in April
The fresh snow on Mt. Mansfield was astonishingly white today in the late April sunshine.

We kicked things off this morning with a start at the Midway Lot, which had dozens of vehicles in it from folks with similar ideas.  It was approaching mid-morning when we arrived, so I was surprised at how many people were heading right up Gondolier in the sun.  With that morning sun and warming temperatures, I was leery of how well the winter snow would hold on the Gondola side.  E and the boys and I opted to head toward Nosedive, which generally has much more protected snow when sun and warmth are a concern.  The Nosedive area had certainly seen some skier and rider traffic already, and there was a nice double skin track in place that made for easy conversation and passing options during the ascent.  Ty was feeling really good on the climb and cruised ahead of the rest of us, eventually waiting for us up around the 3,000’ mark.  We joined up and topped out at the 3,300’ plateau just below the Nosedive switchbacks.

An image of the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
Nosedive today

We stopped below the switchbacks because the snow quality was good, and the narrow width of the trail above that elevation meant that the snow was pretty much tracked out.  The consistency of the snow had definitely changed substantially over the course of the ascent.  At base elevations it was already getting rather wet with the rising temperatures, and by the time we finished our ascent it was fairly dry, dense powder.  There wasn’t any sharp transition zone for the snow consistency, it had just changed ever so gradually with each step we’d ascended.

“The broad upper slopes of Nosedive definitely held the best snow we found today. The powder was dense, but dry, and there were plenty of areas of untracked snow to crank out some nice turns.”

The broad upper slopes of Nosedive definitely held the best snow we found today.  The powder was dense, but dry, and there were plenty of areas of untracked snow to crank out some nice turns.  The whole descent was definitely fun, although the last few hundred vertical feet, where we’d actually switched over to Lower National to get to some snow that had seen less traffic, held snow that had gotten pretty wet in the warming temperatures.  The best snow could be found on the shady side of the trails, and I even jumped into the trees in several spots on the lower half of the run and found some excellent turns.

An image of Erica skiing some fresh snow on the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont with Ty and Dylan looking on
E and the boys out in some of the fresh snow on Nosedive today

When the skiing was done, we checked in at the Stowe Mountain Lodge and had some appetizers at the Hourglass Lounge.  E and the boys did some swimming, and we had dinner at Solstice, which was a real treat.  They were taking part in Vermont Restaurant Week, and my first course was an amazing smoky tomato soup.  The boys and I headed out later in the evening for some night swimming, which was definitely a bit thrilling in the chill of a cold clear evening.  Naturally we spent a good amount of time in one of the hot tubs, although the pool was also a nice temperature for cooling back down a bit after that heat.

I think everyone would be up for doing a similar trip again in the future, especially if we can order up some of these late season April snowstorms atop such a deep snowpack!

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2018

An image of Ty skiing in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A bit of snow fell yesterday and overnight to freshen up the slopes at Bolton Valley.

A modest winter storm came into the area on Friday and left up to 8 inches of new snow at the Vermont ski areasBolton Valley was reporting 3 inches up top, which seemed like a fairly minimal covering over the base snow that’s seen plenty of spring cycling, but we figured it was worth heading up for a couple of runs to see how the accumulations had settled in.  Sometimes 3 inches can ski like 3 inches, or sometimes it can ski like more, depending on how it was distributed and how densely it settled.

Ty and I headed up fairly early to find bright April sun among some on and off clouds, and temperatures in the upper 20s F.  We took an initial run on the Snowflake Chair to make our way over to the Vista Quad, and while we found the groomed terrain was skiing nicely, we didn’t really find that the snow was enough to get the skiing shaped up off piste, at least down there below the 2,500’ mark.

An image from the base of the Snowflake Chair at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Base of the Snowflake Chair

We still wanted to check out how accumulations had played out at the Vista Summit up above 3,000’, and Alta Vista revealed a few good turns off the usual protected left side, but they were in the minority.  We headed over toward Wilderness and did find some nice turns in the Wilderness Woods, but as Ty nicely put it, “You just couldn’t trust it on every turn”.  Indeed you could get a few nice turns on low angle terrain, but then you’d run into a spot that had been hit by the wind and you’d be back to contacting the hard spring surface below.

“I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.”

The opening of the Wilderness Lift had been delayed a bit due to winds, but it had recently opened as we approached the bottom, so we figured it was worth at least one trip.  It was running slow due to winds though, so we dropped off at the mid station and headed down Cougar.  I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.  We had first tracks on the lower part of Cougar as well, and where the snow was undisturbed by the wind the turns were quite nice.  We finished off dropping in and out of the Wilderness Woods, and for some reason, (perhaps the bright sunlight, or perhaps the deep spring snowpack?) they just seemed very open and smooth everywhere.  There were very few tracks in there, so we had our pick of fresh lines.  You still couldn’t “trust” every turn, just as Ty had said earlier, but we definitely had some good smooth lines through the trees in many spots.

An image showing a Sonar Silver lens for Anon's M2 gogglesIn line with the bright April sun, Ty and I both had a chance to try out the Sonar Silver lens for the Anon M2 Goggles.  It only lets through 6% of the visible light, so it’s even darker than the Sonar Red lens that we’d used last weekend at Magic Mountain, which lets through 14% of the visible light.  We swapped between the two actually, but you could definitely notice the difference – you could easily look toward the sun with the Sonar Silver lens and not be too strained, and I can see it’s going to be another great one for these types of bright, late season days.

“…Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.”

We finished off with a trip to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab some subs, and it was around lunchtime, so a crowd was building.  Although temperatures were wintry today, and there was some wind, that April sunshine easily warmed you up and you could see that folks were generally quite comfortable out there on the slopes.  It looks like temperatures will be warming up next week for some spring skiing, and Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.  From what I can see in some of the weather models, we may not be quite done with snowfall in the mountains yet either.

Magic Mountain, VT 31MAR2018

An image of a resort bus with a logo at Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont
An image of Ty and Dylan underneath the sign for the Warlock trail at Magic Mountain in Vermont
The boys pose with the sign for Dylan’s “namesake” trail at Magic Mountain today.

I knew that our Bolton Valley All Access Season Passes were part of the Freedom Pass, getting us lift access at a number of smaller, out of the way ski areas like Black Mountain in New Hampshire, Plattekill Mountain in New York, Ski Cooper in Colorado, and Lost Valley in Maine.  What I hadn’t noticed though, that is until Stephen pointed it out about a week ago, was that Magic Mountain in Southern Vermont was also on that list.  There are very few mountains in Vermont that I haven’t skied, but Magic Mountain is one of them… or at least it was until today. 

My first impression seeing the mountain in person was indeed, “Hey, that’s steep!”

In fact, none of the family had ever been to Magic Mountain, and I don’t think the boys had even skied anywhere south of Killington.  Living in Northern Vermont with so many great ski areas close by, it takes a bit of extra incentive to head south, and finding out that Magic was on the Freedom Pass was just what we needed.  Today’s forecast for sunshine and temperatures well up into the 40s F sealed the deal, and we made plans to head down to Magic for the afternoon.

I’ve always heard of Magic Mountain being referred to as the “Mad River Glen of Southern Vermont”.  The main reason for the comparison has traditionally been Magic’s steep and challenging terrain, akin to what’s offered at Mad River Glen.  Magic’s terrain stands out especially well because in general, the ski areas in the southern half of Vermont aren’t as steep as what’s up north.  Magic bucks that trend, and now having explored the mountain I can tell you that it bucks that trend hard.  The mountain has a lot of impressively steep terrain, and I especially noticed it in their numerous areas of glades.

An image of a sign at Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont stating "You've now officially take the road less traveled - Welcome to Magic"On our way to Magic, we found that the snowpack was minimal down in the Connecticut River Valley, but it increased consistently as we headed westward along Route 11 into the Green Mountains.  Above 1,000’, snow depths were actually a couple of feet in some people’s yards.  My first impression seeing the mountain in person was indeed, “Hey, that’s steep!”  When we we arrived we were a little worried when we saw a sign indicating that parking lot A was filled, but we sort of laughed once we realized that “Lot A” really only looks like it holds about 30 to 40 cars, and “Lot B” is just another couple hundred feet past it.

“It was a bit tricky to find the entrance, but we eventually did, and boy did it have some seriously steep pitch.”

E really liked the feel of the base area.  The people were very friendly, and she said it had a bit of a Bolton Valley vibe with what she called a “log cabin” smell.  The woman who got us our Freedom Pass tickets was quite cheerful, and all of us adults had fun when Ty and Dylan were a little thrown off by the old fashioned metal wickets.  Ty actually remember how it worked thanks to our recent mountain biking trip to Burke, but both boys have used them many times…  it’s just been so many years since they’ve skied with one that they seemed extremely foreign.

An image taken from a trail map of Magic Mountain ski area in Vermont showing the Warlock double black diamond trailSki conditions today were an interesting mix because despite the full sun and mild temperatures, shaded areas actually remained plenty firm.  Also, there haven’t been enough freeze/thaw cycles to fully convert the snow to corn yet, so many areas in the sun featured sticky snow  The best skiing we found was between in what we called “The Goldilocks Zone” – most trails had a shady side, and a sunny side, and right in between the turns were awesome.  We really enjoyed the trail named “Trick” because of its good snow, and from what we heard it’s actually one of the main routes down the mountain.  The mountain’s trails are generally named with a magical theme, and we were all interested in checking out the “Warlock” glade, since that’s the type of character Dylan plays in the video game “Destiny”.  It was a bit tricky to find the entrance, but we eventually did, and boy did it have some seriously steep pitch.  Coverage was already getting a bit lean in there, so we had to pick our way down in spots, but it was a lot of fun.

An image showing the Base Camp 1400 area of the Black Line Tavern at Magic Mountain ski area in Vermont
At Base Camp 1400 (we’re guessing that’ the elevation in feet) you can easily order food from the Black Line Tavern.

We had a fantastic lunch at the Black Line Tavern, with burgers cooked at the grill right outside on the deck, and the boys had fun on the huge “Connect Four” game they’ve got set up in the dining area.  Our lunch break was well into the afternoon, but we were able to get in a couple more runs after that thanks to the mountain running the lifts until 5:00 P.M.  Naturally with the warm temperatures and spring snow, it was only a matter of time before the boys started getting into battling with snowballs on the slopes.  E and I were the usual victims.  An image showing a Sonar Red lens for Anon's M2 gogglesWith today’s bright sun, it was a great chance for me to try out the Sonar Red lens for the Anon M2 Goggles.  It only lets through 14% of the visible light, so it’s great for days like this.  It’s also got a variable tint so that up top where the sun is going to be in your field of vision, more sunlight is blocked.  I did get to try out the Sonar Infrared lens as well today, since the boys and I were swapping lenses around to see how they fared in today’s light.  Sonar Infrared lets through 57% of the visible light and seems to give the world a much more neutral color (vs. the reddish coloring of the Sonar Red) but I didn’t find myself needing to squint with those lenses on either.

An image showing a view of the Enchanted Forest glade at Magic Mountian ski area in Vermont
The Enchanted Forest glade right up near the top of the Red Chair

As is typically the case with just about any mountain that you don’t get a chance to visit with two feet of powder, we all want to head back to Magic at some point with fresh snow to try out more of those glades.  Unfortunately, with how steep a lot of the mountain’s terrain is, and average snowfall of only about 200 inches a season, it’s got to be tough to really get those glades in prime form a lot of the time.  I can see why they are emphasizing more snowmaking to keep things going through the tougher stretches, even if that won’t help out the steep glades.  In any event, there are certainly going to be those stretches where the mountain really makes out well in the snowfall department and has sufficient natural base snow in place (such as much of March this year) to really offer some amazing skiing. 

Well, with today’s visit to Magic Mountain, the only major ski area in Vermont that I’ve yet to ski is Stratton.  Next after that would be Suicide Six, but then we start to get into the really small areas that don’t even get covered on the Ski Vermont website.  Those are still interesting places to visit, but it takes a bit more effort to track them down and find out when they’re open.

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield Chin, VT 25MAR2018

An image of Jonah skiing Mt. Mansfield below the Hourglass Chute with the Mt. Mansfield Adam's Apple in the background
An image of Robbie, Dylan, Wiley, and Ty getting set to descend the Hourglass Chute above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Robbie, Dylan, Wiley, and Ty are poised in the steep upper section of Mt. Mansfield’s Hourglass Chute as they get set to drop in on their first descents of this famed run in the alpine terrain above Stowe Mountain Resort.

Thanks to Winter Storm Skylar, the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit the 100-inch mark around the middle of the month.  When the snowpack starts getting that deep up there, it’s time to really think about heading above tree line into the alpine, because everything is filled in and the skiing really gets good.  While last Sunday’s weather in the higher elevations was frigid, with wind chills well below zero F at the summits, today’s forecast with minimal winds and temperatures in the 20s F was looking perfect for some above tree line adventures on Mt. Mansfield.  With the weather looking good, my only remaining concern was how much spring cycling the alpine snow had seen in the recent stretch of sunny days we’ve had around here.  Either way though, that wasn’t going to be a deal breaker, so I had E inform any interested students and coaches from our BJAMS ski program that we’d plan to hike up above Stowe’s terrain into Mt. Mansfield’s alpine for our Sunday afternoon session.

An image of Dylan ascending the Climbing Gully in Mt. Mansfield's alpine terrain above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan heads up toward the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline and The Chin under sunny skies as he ascends the boot ladder in the Climbing Gully.

We ultimately had a crew of eight for today’s alpine adventures, with our usual suspects from my group along with Jonah and his brother and dad, who was willing to make the trip with the boys even though he’s got one injured arm in a sling!  As soon as program started in the afternoon, we headed right up to the Climbing Gully and found an excellent boot pack in place.  With some pretty decent southern exposure, the snow in the Climbing Gully had softened in the sun and sat somewhere between winter and spring consistency.  Once we hit the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline though, the consistency of snow was all winter, and that allayed at least some of my fears about the consistency of the snow above tree line.  You could feel the nice cool breeze along the ridgeline doing its job to keep the snow from baking in the late March sun, and I knew that any terrain without strong southern exposure up in the alpine was going to be in fine midwinter form.  The views were stupendous, so we took a few minutes to enjoy the scene and fuel up.  Ty had been silly and not eaten much in the morning, so he’d been bonking on the climb up the Climbing Gully.  I made him quickly have a couple packets of GU around the middle of the ascent, and then I told him to get at least one granola bar into him on the ridge to make sure he’d have enough in the tank for the rest of the tour.

An image of Josh taking a photo of Agi and Jonah on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline during an ascent to the Chin of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont
Josh snaps a photo of Agi and Jonah as today’s ski groups takes a break on our ascent to the Chin to enjoy the views from the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline.

“Profanity was loaded with snow, and up at those elevations, even south-facing terrain had a surface that was a chalky midwinter consistency.”

After our ridgeline break, we headed up to The Chin, and I first checked out the condition of Profanity Chute, which was my initial plan for today’s descent.  Profanity was loaded with snow, and up at those elevations, even south-facing terrain had a surface that was a chalky midwinter consistency.  I knew from Powderfreak’s pictures and comments that Winter Storm Skylar had really dropped a ton of liquid equivalent on the mountain and filled everything in, but it’s still most impressive to see it firsthand.  Even more impressive to me than how filled in Profanity was, was just how plastered all the usual windswept areas of the summit were.  The Chin is so exposed to the wind that it’s more typical to see a mix of rocks and snow vs., the area being covered wall-to-wall in white, but that’s how it’s been since Winter Storm Skylar.  People were even skinning all the way to the summit, which you’ll only see when you get a storm of plentiful, dense snow that really covers all the rocks.

“From what I can find in the SkiVT-L archives, where Stephanie McConaughy reported measuring the slope of Hourglass, the pitch tops out around 50 degrees at the throat.”

While the group congregated at the summit, I also took a look down at Hourglass Chute, and I was very impressed with what I saw.  The snow quality and coverage looked excellent.  Hourglass is narrower and steeper than Profanity, and I’ve never brought to boys down it, but it was starting to look like today might be the day.  It was hard to pass up the great aesthetic look of Profanity with the current snowpack, but the boys have now skied it a number of times, and after surveying everyone to see who was interested, the boys were definitely game to give Hourglass a shot.  Looking down on Hourglass from above, it’s a pretty intimidating view with plenty of exposure.  From what I can find in the SkiVT-L archives, where Stephanie McConaughy reported measuring the slope of Hourglass, the pitch tops out around 50 degrees at the throat.  That’s a pretty impressive pitch wherever you are, and with the apparent exposure of the chute from above, I was sort of dumbfounded that none of the boys even gave it a second thought.  Jonah, Wiley, Robbie, Ty, and Dylan were all simply ready to jump right in, and they seemed confused as to why I was even making a big point to thoroughly confirm that everyone was on board.  I was worried that it might just be ignorance on their part, but they stood there right atop the chute with a clear view of everything and didn’t even blink, so it is what it is I guess.

An image looking down Hourglass Chute at the top of Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A look down Hourglass Chute from above as Robbie just finishes passing through the throat onto the apron below

I dropped down above the throat of the chute (Hourglass is so named because of the relatively open upper headwall and apron areas, with a tight, rock-lined middle section) and set up for some photography of the boys.  I had the wide-angle Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM on my camera body at that point, and the spot I was in was a bit too steep to comfortably change it out, so I ended up sticking with it.  Even at 22 mm it was too wide to really get nice shots of the boys going through the throat of the chute, but I did give a nice side-angle shot of everyone above the chute as they waited, and you can get a good idea of the pitch of the slope.  Everyone ultimately did fine skiing the chute, although Dylan did take a tumble at the end of the throat as he was doing a jump turn, and I heard that Jonah also had a tumble down there.  Fortunately, even with that steep pitch, it’s still not “No Fall Zone” terrain with the decent snow conditions we had.  I saw Dylan slide headfirst for a time after his fall, and Ty was below ready to help him arrest, but he’d stopped before that point.  Anyway, everyone seemed to have a great time skiing Hourglass, and all the snow was a fantastic midwinter consistency.  Even after skiing it, none of them seemed to feel that it was a very big deal, so I guess I was much more impressed with how they did than any of them.

“…they stood there right atop the chute with a clear view of everything and didn’t even blink…”

We caught some steeps along the apron, managing our descent as much as possible to make for an easy cruise over toward and around the Adam’s Apple to catch the Hell Brook Trail.  The Hell Brook Trail was in its usual state for this time of year, with terrain exposed to the south/sun getting crunchier and crunchier as one descended in altitude, but the sheltered snow on the skier’s right of the gully was continually fantastic.  The whole area is really loaded with snow now, and in conversations with Ty and Dylan during the descent, we all really loved those steep, open faces on the south side of the gully that held the protected winter snow.  Although he’d skied Hourglass beautifully, Ty was feeling off his game and heavy on his feet in the tighter sections of the Hell Brook gully (probably because of not initially fueling up properly), so he was really enjoying those more open areas that didn’t have any moguls.

An image of Robbie on a snow-covered Route 108 near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont as he returns to the ski area after descending the Hell Brook Trail from the Chin of Mt. Mansfield
You’re not going to break any speed limits returning to the resort from the bottom of the Hell Brook Trail on a snowboard, but we saw plenty of people like Robbie making it work.

The ski out was relatively quick because the snow wasn’t sticky at all, although I hadn’t noticed that Wiley and Robbie had chosen a route without a good bridge across the final stream, so they had to take some time working their way through the lower woods to find a good crossing.  Robbie was of course a trooper doing the whole thing on his snowboard, both above and below the Hell Brook Trail there are plenty of spots that are no big deal on skis, but can be a headache on a board.  Down there on Route 108 it totally felt like spring, with lots of sunshine, and winter recreationalists out enjoying any manner of snow and ice travel.  I’d had a lot of fun on today’s outing because I guess it’s been about 20 years since I last skied Hourglass Chute.  Hopefully it won’t be so long before I get to do that again!

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont and the Mt. Mansfield Chin featuring Hourglass Chute and the Hell Brook Trail
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for today’s ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort and the Mt. Mansfield Chin featuring Hourglass Chute and the Hell Brook Trail

Both Dylan and I got to try out our new Anon M2 Goggles, the same model of goggles that Ty got at Christmas with the magnetic interchangeable lenses.  Dylan and I were both in need of new goggle for various reasons, and it seemed like a no brainer to get the same model that Ty has to be able to quickly share all the lenses between us.  We even got a few extra lenses for various conditions – we’ll just have to be good about not fighting over them! 

an image of Ty, Jay, and Dylan wearing Anon M2 goggles with various lenses with the trails of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in the background
Dad and Dylan joining Ty as they try out their new Anon M2 goggles today!

By the time we got back to Spruce Camp, the program session was just about over.  I do like that a typical hike to The Chin with a Hell Brook run is just about perfect for one of our afternoon program sessions, since everyone is pretty cooked by the end anyway between the hike in and the traverse out.  Ty was famished, so we headed up to the Great Room Grill for some food with Mom, and Ty got one of their huge burgers.  He devoured it, not surprisingly, and E and had time to remind him not to try pulling ski outings like that on a nearly empty stomach.  There’s nothing quite like a hearty meal after being famished from a good winter tour, but you have to know your metabolism and where the empty line is on your tank or you can easily get into trouble before you get to that next feast.