Today was a chance for Ty and I to have the session we’d expected last week and work with Harrison during our BJAMS ski program day. Harrison has had some ski time, but we started right off from scratch at the magic carpet. The afternoon began with skis off as we worked with Harrison in his ski boots, showing him angulation, walking around, and getting him familiar with some of the positions his feet would be in. From there it was skis on and we used the magic carpet slope to have him work on engaging and disengaging his edges with side slipping.
With those first exercises under his belt, Harrison decided that a break was in order, so we headed to the Great Room Grill where he ordered up some mac and cheese that he loved. It really seemed to hit the spot because when we headed back to the Magic Carpet after the break, he began to work on his wedging and wedge stops with great success. When we felt he was comfortable enough to make smooth stops, we said that he could move on to the Adventure Triple and the Inspiration Slope, which had him very excited. We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and Harrison worked on speed control using his wedge, and finally began to get the idea of how to even turn in his wedge. He’s ready to really take off at his next session, providing it’s not too long before he gets back out there.
One of the things that really help Harrison progress today was the excellent soft, surface conditions. There weren’t any signs of scratchiness of Inspiration, and we even had some snowfall at times during the afternoon to freshen things up. Eventually a bit of mixed precipitation appeared at the very end of the day, so we’ll have to see how that affects the surface conditions.
Today the family headed to Brandon Gap for some backcountry skiing. Dylan’s friend Ivan is visiting, and he joined us as well for his very first backcountry skiing experience. He doesn’t actually have any backcountry ski gear, but we were able to set him up with some Alpine Trekkers and a pair of Erica’s older skins that fit his skis almost perfectly. We also had the advantage of nicely warning temperatures today, so we waited until the afternoon, and arrived at the Bear Brook Bowl Access and Trailhead on Vermont Route 73 to cloudy skies and temperatures around 20 F.
There are multiple trail pods at Brandon Gap, but for this tour I chose to stick with the same No Name Backcountry Area that I’d visited last March. It’s an efficient touring area that heads right up from the parking lot with almost zero approach, and I didn’t expect we’d have too many curves thrown at us since I had a good idea of the lay of the land.
“The powder we found was beautifully light and dry, and generally 12 to 24 inches in depth, with the highest reading I obtained at 26 inches.”
The skin track was well established as usual, and in this case it was almost a bit too well packed because there was some occasional slipping on the steeper pitches. We quickly found that all you had to do was slide a bit to the left or right into the untracked snow and you’d find sufficient purchase. Ivan had to get used to using the Alpine Trekkers, but by the end of the ascent he was really getting it down. There had been about a dozen other vehicles in the parking area, but we only saw one other group out in the No Name pod.
For our descent we headed far to the skier’s left, father than I’d traversed on my previous visit, and we got to ski one of the leftmost glades that had perhaps three or four previous tracks. The terrain is generally in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range or so, and the snowpack is quite prodigious. It was too deep for me to easily estimate based on any pole measurements, but there really aren’t any deficiencies and everything you could possibly want to be covered certainly is. The powder we found was beautifully light and dry, and generally 12 to 24 inches in depth, with the highest reading I obtained at 26 inches. The composition of the subsurface was pretty inconsequential because you just weren’t having to get anywhere near it, but from what we could tell it didn’t seem overly crusty. Temperatures stayed very comfortable, and the skies were just cloudy until about midafternoon when it started to snow in association the new small system that’s coming into the area.
We stopped off in the Mad River Valley for some Mad Taco on the way home, and business appeared to be booming based on how packed it was. I’m sure resorts throughout the state were loaded with visitors today thanks to the great conditions and moderate temperatures.
While the snowy weather at Stowe today was just what we’d all expected, the makeup of my ski day turned out to be dramatically different. I was scheduled to work on the Magic Carpet with Harrison this afternoon, but he ended up being a bit under the weather and we were informed that he wouldn’t be coming to the BJAMS ski program. Ty was supposed to be working with another group, but two out of the four student there didn’t show, and one of the remaining students was the son of the chaperone, so they were all set without Ty. When all was said and done, and we’d waited for any late arrivals, Erica said that Ty and I should just head off and ski together.
Wind holds were rampant today, with the Fourrunner Quad, the Gondola, and the Sensation Quad down at a minimum. Winds actually weren’t bad at all down low, but the Sunny Spruce had quite a lift queue with so many other lifts on hold. After a warm up run on the Meadows Quad, Ty and I decided to wait in the Sunny Spruce queue once, then go adventuring and take an exorbitantly long run to avoid dealing with any lift lines.
“As we finished up and headed back toward our car in the Mansfield Parking Lot, snowfall was in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range and slowed traffic leaving the resort, but it sure was impressive and will no doubt be freshening the slopes even further.”
Since we had all afternoon, my plan was to explore the lines that dive off toward the notch from the top of Sunny Spruce. I’d seen the obvious lines many times before, but I’d never take my group down there without some reconnaissance first. With just Ty and I, today was the perfect day to get that done. The route starts off steeply, with some obvious trimmed lines through mixed evergreens and hardwoods. The pitch then moderates a bit, and you get into hardwoods where natural lines abound everywhere. The new powder was only about 6 inches deep, so Ty and I sought out some of the shallower lines, but there are countless steep lines in there that would support powder of any depth.
We generally kept to skier’s left, shallowing out our lines and knowing that we had to head that way eventually. There were several sets of tracks in there, so it was clearly a traveled area, but I was bit surprised as we approached the bottom and saw a river instead of Route 108. It turns out that we were on the near side of the valley away from the road, but we were easily able to cross the frozen river, then hook up with the boardwalks coming from near Barnes Camp, and get back to the resort. We headed to the Midway Lodge for a break and a snack, and with the wind holds the Lodge was nearly deserted.
We finished off the day with a few more runs on Spruce Peak, and any lift queues had essentially evaporated by that point. The snowfall continued to intensify though, and the skiing just kept improving every run. As we finished up and headed back toward our car in the Mansfield Parking Lot, snowfall was in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range and slowed traffic leaving the resort, but it sure was impressive and will no doubt be freshening the slopes even further.
Temperatures were only expected to stay in the single digits F today, so I had initially planned on heading for some backcountry skiing to stay warm, but once we saw that there was zero wind and all of Bolton Valley’s lifts were running, our plans shifted to riding the lifts. We headed up to Timberline around midday and found continued snowfall that was robust enough to challenge both the road and parking lot plows to keep up with it.
“…with the storm cycles we’ve had recently it’s just been resurfacing after resurfacing. So, you can certainly go fast and big on the slopes, and that’s just what the boys had fun doing today on the steep and deep terrain.”
We started off with a quick run on Spell Binder to get warmed up, and the depth of the powder seemed to range from 15 to 25 inches. I’d say the low end values would represent what had come from this storm, with the deeper areas including snows from previous storm cycles. Anything in that range of depths was more than enough to keep you floating though, since it was fairly hearty mid weight powder.
That introduction on Spell Binder set the tenor for the day though, and it less us know that both the depths of the powder, and the degree of resurfacing called for steep terrain and plenty of it. With that in mind we spent the afternoon visiting a ton of powder-filled, steeply-sloped favorites like Lost Girlz, Thundergoat Pass, KP Glades, Sure Shot Trees, Doug’s Solitude, etc. Off piste coverage is excellent, and with the storm cycles we’ve had recently it’s just been resurfacing after resurfacing. So, you can certainly go fast and big on the slopes, and that’s just what the boys had fun doing today on the steep and deep terrain.
We took a mid-session break in the Timberline Base Lodge to have some food and pop in some hand/boot warmers, and seats were just about filled, but we were able to get a table within a minute or two. Food options are fairly minimal now from what we saw, but there were fries and chicken fingers for hot items. I’m sure it’s hard for the resort to manage the availability of food services at the Timberline Base Lodge because of the variability in its opening schedule, but we’d certainly be ordering more food if they had more available. We’d love to go back to the South of Solitude days as well!
Overall all though, it was simply fantastic to get the whole family out for a lift-served Timberline powder day, and I think this was our first one of those this season. As usual, Ty was very impressed with how the lot was quite full of vehicles, but people seemed to be nonexistent on the slopes. I guess the message is that they were well spread out. E was cold and didn’t come out for our last run, but it was a big hit with the boys, especially Dylan. We hit Doug’s Solitude to Adam’s Solitude, and he jumps off big ledges, lots of untracked powder, and a chance for Dylan to ride his favorite return track to the base with all its whoops, jumps, walls, and endless halfpipe nature.
Today’s temperatures were a few degrees warmer than yesterday’s, but earning turns in the backcountry still seemed like good way to fight off the chill. E and the boys were up for some skiing today, so with yesterday’s trip to Holden’s Hollow serving as reconnaissance, I set up what I hoped would be a fun ski tour for them.
The temperature was right around 10 F in the Village when we arrived in the midafternoon, and with afternoon sun and no wind it was actually quite comfortable as we headed up the Bryant Trail to begin the tour. It wasn’t long before we came to the top of Cup Runneth Over, and everyone was surprised that I had them taking off their skins for our first descent. The descent there was excellent, with about a foot of powder over a soft base. I was very impressed to find that even the steep final section of the glade was in excellent shape. E was really enjoying the quality of the snow, but also the peace and quiet of the trees and all the unique formations that the fluffy snow had built upon the vegetation.
“I was worried that they would be a bit steep for E and the boys on their Telemark gear, but the powder was deep and soft enough that they had no problems with the turns.”
Once we finished our descent down to the pump house, we put out skins back on and began our ascent on Telemark. This was a slightly different route than what I’d taken yesterday, but Telemark looked like a nice option to ascend to the top of the Holden’s Hollow Glades and I was interested in exploring that route. It turns out that Telemark takes a nice mellow grade as it wraps around the ridge with Holden’s Hollow. On the trip around we discovered that there are also more glades on the back side of Holden’s Hollow. They looked quite inviting, but we didn’t quite have time to incorporate those into our tour this time.
“E said that overall she had a really great time because the quality of the snow was just so good.”
We stopped on the ridge at the top our ascent for some hot chocolate, then headed down through the Holden’s Hollow Glades. I was worried that they would be a bit steep for E and the boys on their Telemark gear, but the powder was deep and soft enough that they had no problems with the turns. In the lower sections of the glade, Dylan said he wished it was even steeper to accommodate the amount of powder that was there. E said that overall she had a really great time because the quality of the snow was just so good. We’re often out on the backcountry network when the powder is more marginal and not quite enough to hold up on the lift served terrain, but this time everyone was getting top notch midwinter powder and loving it.
The first part of this storm had some mixed precipitation, so we were really in no rush to jump out on the slopes early, instead deciding to let some of the new snow build up during the day. Today’s snow here at the house was quite dense, coming in in the 10-13% H2O range based on my analyses, so while it wasn’t going to be the ultimate in fluffy powder, it certainly had the potential to further resurface the slopes.
“I did some depth checks in the trees and frequently found surface snow depths of 12 to 15 inches.”
While working today, I watched the Bolton Valley Live Webcam, and saw that the Vista Quad stopped running at some point around midday. I figured it was on wind hold, but Mid Mountain and Snowflake were still running, so we still headed up for a few lower mountain runs. The wind was certainly whipping around up there, but most of the lower mountain areas were reasonably sheltered, and the trees were especially nice because it seemed like a lot of snow had settled in there. I did some depth checks in the trees and frequently found surface snow depths of 12 to 15 inches. I’m sure some of that is from a previous storm or two, but as their afternoon report, the resort was indicating 7 inches of snow and overall there have been some healthy, dense accumulations from these past couple events. Indeed we found the new snow on the mountain to be dense as my analyses had suggested, but boy did it constitute a resurfacing of the slopes. If you were on the new snow there was no touching the subsurface, and you typically sunk into the powder just a few inches anyway because of the density.
As of about 9:30 P.M. this evening, the flakes falling have become much larger down here at the house, so the snow is getting fluffier. This drier snow on top of the dense stuff from earlier today is just what we like – the perfect right-side-up deposition for those powder turns.
Today was our first BJAMS ski program day of the season at Stowe, and I was assigned a snowboarding group consisting of Dylan and Molly. Molly has been riding for a couple of seasons, and Dylan has been snowboarding before, but it looks like the plan is to have him work on it more this year. He’s used Erica’s snowboard in the past, but this fall at the Waitsfield ski swap we got him his own brand new board, a Rome Mini Agent Rocker. It’s a bit smaller and lighter than E’s board, it’s got a softer flex, and it has some rocker as well, so we expected it to be a much better fit for him. He could already feel the differences when we were installing the bindings yesterday and he put on the board – he could flex it easily and said it felt great.
He confirmed those impressions today after his first run on Spruce Peak. I was still getting on my gear in the lodge, but he took an early run with Ty in the Meadows area and said he loved the feel of the board. He also indicated that the overall riding was fantastic with all the new powder out there, and that can’t help but make any appropriate board feel sweet.
“Indeed we had a small weather system in the area that started dropping snow overnight, and there was easily 4 to 6 inches of fresh powder out there for today’s session.”
Indeed we had a small weather system in the area that started dropping snow overnight, and there was easily 4 to 6 inches of fresh powder out there for today’s session. There have been some rounds of fluffy snow with this system, but overall I’d say the snow settled in to produce some medium-weight powder, and it did a great job of resurfacing the slopes from what we experienced in the Meadows area. We stuck to the Meadows Quad all afternoon because there really wasn’t a need to go anywhere else. There’s a top-to-bottom continuous fall line with no significant flat areas to deal with on the boards, there’s a gradient of pitches to use across the big open face, and we were essentially getting free refills on powder each run.
“The riding was simply glorious, and you could see how much fun Molly and Dylan were having as they surfed the powder.”
The riding was simply glorious, and you could see how much fun Molly and Dylan were having as they surfed the powder. Most of Dylan’s previous snowboard experience was in rather marginal/firmer conditions, so he really hadn’t experienced a day like this. Today he was on a new board with appropriate size and flex, and he was floating on powder. So as you can imagine, the snowboarding experiences of the past compared to today were like night and day for him. He was blow away by how much fun it was, and said he would love to snowboard a lot more if the experience was like today. I let both the kids know that this was the kind of riding that snowboards were initially designed for, so these are indeed great days to pull out the board.
Molly and Dylan are very competent making turns in both directions on their boards, and they can handle slopes up to black diamond pitch – especially with quality snow like we had today. You could see the confidence in their turns knowing that they wouldn’t have to deal with the hard subsurface. They’re at the stage where they’re just trying to smooth out their transitions and remove any jerky movements, so I discussed that with them and simply let them ride. Smoothing out those transitions will come with time on snow, and there’s no better time to enjoy that than with some good powder.
As noted, the snow conditions really were fantastic at the mountain, so the only weather-related issue we really had to combat today was the wind. It was strong, and blowing right at us as we rode the Meadows Quad. Dylan and I had brought our new Anon MFI balaclavas today to use with our M2 goggles, and I simply can’t overemphasize how great they were during each lift ride. Having that magnetic seal between the balaclava and the bottom of the goggles seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread as the wind washed over us. If you hate having to fiddle with your facemask or neck gaiter on every lift ride as you try to seal up those crevices where the biting wind gets in, definitely check out one the MFI-type magnetic systems.
We’ve got what looks like a snowy week coming for the mountains, so barring some drastic changes to the forecast, we should be looking at some great skiing and riding in the coming days.
With help from our most recent winter storm, Bolton Valley is reporting 6 to 9 inches of new snow over the past several days, so Ty and I decided to head up today to ski a bit of that powder. We got to the Village in the late morning, and were surprised to find the upper parking lots were hitting capacity. We poked around in the lots for a bit though, and eventually got a spot from someone who was leaving. Parking at the main base was at an unusual premium today because there was a big Nordic race taking place. They certainly had a really fantastic day for the event – the sky was a mix of sun and clouds, and temperatures were just edging above freezing at the 2,000’ level.
With temperatures expected to rise a few degrees above freezing, Ty and I quickly got on our way over to Wilderness to make sure we could get in some powder turns before any potential temperature effects on the snow. We started off with a warm up on Bolton Outlaw, connecting down to the Wilderness Woods area and Lower Turnpike, where we found plenty of powder along the edges of the runs. I was definitely leery of the subsurface on Bolton Outlaw based on my experience over at Timberline on Thursday, but I ended up being really impressed with the overall conditions we found. The new snow has settled some and it’s now had a chance to form a much better bond to the underlying surface. In addition, there’s definitely been some additional liquid equivalent added to the surface snow relative to what I found earlier in the week. There was plenty of loose snow on Bolton Outlaw, but even when you got down to the subsurface there was substantial grip. Steep, natural snow trails like Bolton Outlaw being in good shape bodes well for the overall surface conditions on the mountain, so it’s not surprising that most terrain has been reopened now.
“There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.”
Ty and I also visited White Rabbit, where we found just a couple of tracks and acres of fresh powder. The freezing level was rising, so we had to start paying attention to aspect and sun protection, but the effects on the powder were still fairly minimal overall. There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.
The forecast suggests we’ve got a small system coming in to the area tonight, and then another couple of larger systems in the coming week, so folks should be alert for more potential powder turns in the near future.
Ty and I headed up to Bolton Valley for a few runs this evening to catch up with my friend James and his kids Jack and Lizi. James is one of the chaperones for their school’s ski program, which has their sessions on Thursday nights at the resort. They’ve actually had some great Thursday nights so far with respect to conditions. They had a couple of nice days before the holidays, and they scored again tonight as well with the resort reporting 6 inches of new snow as of this evening.
Up at the mountain we quickly caught up with James and made a run off the Vista Quad. Like my tour at Timberline this morning, the overall weather was quite nice. Temperatures were well up into the 20s F, and another bout of snow had come in for the evening to further freshen up the slopes. Wind was pretty minimal as well, except for up near the Vista Summit where it was howling at times. The off piste was actually a bit better than what I found this morning, presumably due to some additional snow, but the groomed areas were really what I found to be impressive. You could still find scratchy areas, but a lot of new snow had been groomed into the base, and combined with the additional snow that was falling and had been pushed around by skiers, there were some really soft zones of snow throughout the available runs. The steepest slopes like Spillway weren’t open, which is probably a good idea with respect to safety, since that very firm subsurface is still sitting there lurking under the new snow.
“…a lot of new snow had been groomed into the base, and combined with the additional snow that was falling and had been pushed around by skiers, there were some really soft zones of snow throughout the available runs.”
We caught up with Jack and Lizi for a final run off the Mid Mountain Chair, and I was surprised to see that they headed right down Beech Seal vs, the easier Bear Run route. They get an hour of ski lessons on each of their program days, and it’s obvious that they’re really coming along in the way they easily tackled Beech Seal. I could tell that Jack was clearly comfortable by the way he flashed me a peace sign as he buzzed the camera while I was shooting photos.
James and the kids had to head out around 8:00 P.M., but Ty and I went for one more run off the Vista Quad before retiring to Fireside Flatbread for some pizza. We’d snacked at home a bit earlier, but we’d definitely been saving space all evening for some of their great pie.
It looks like we might have another small system coming through on Saturday night into Sunday, and then there’s the potential for another couple of larger systems midweek, so conditions may improve even further over the next several days.
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.
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.