Stowe, VT 02FEB2020

An image of a beautiful February day at the base of the Spruce Peak area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Inspiration learning trail at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The Inspiration Trail today at Stowe with its excellent packed powder conditions and Dylan helping Viviana with her turns on the far left

Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th.  For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction.  We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful.  It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills.  In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.

An image from inside the Magic Carpet beginner lift at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan leads Viviana on the Magic Carpet today as we make a few initial runs there.

We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink.  Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair.  She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.

There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run.  The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent.  There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn.  The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.

“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”

We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having.  As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next.  I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.

Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration.  Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today.  We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.

Bolton Valley, VT 30JAN2020

An image of Ty along the edge of the Beech Seal trail during night skiing at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica Telemark skiing at night at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica out for some night tuns as we joined James and his family for an evening of good snow at Bolton Valley

For James, Jack, and Lizi, this was the last week of their Bolton Valley ski program, so E managed to get us all coordinated for a trip up for some night skiing with them this evening.  This was good timing with respect to conditions – the local resorts picked up roughly a foot of dense snow from the system earlier this week.  It was my first time up to the mountain since the four days of protracted snowfall we had, and up around 2,000’ as you approached the Village, you could really see the impacts of the new snow.  All the snow banks were substantially larger, the trees were coated with an impressive layer of white on every branch, and any area that was lit with lights revealed a dramatic scene of white trees against the backdrop of night.

“We ventured off piste a bit along the edges of the trails and there was roughly a foot of powder.”

Since it was night skiing we were mostly on piste, and conditions were quite good.  The dense snow gave the slopes a solid resurfacing and really buried any underlying firm layers.  We ventured off piste a bit along the edges of the trails and there was roughly a foot of powder.  A few exposed spots seemed to have picked up a bit of a thin crust a few inches down into the snowpack, but it wasn’t present in areas that were protected by aspect or trees.

After James and the kids had to catch their bus, we did a final run and stopped in at Fireside Flatbread for some slices.  Night ski racing had been taking place, so the après ski scene was quite popular and they seemed to be doing some nice business!

An image from the Fireside Flatbread restaurant after a night skiing session at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some slices and atmosphere of Fireside Flatbread after an evening ski

Stowe, VT 26JAN2020

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Kitchen Wall area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty jumping near the Kitchen Wall area on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty blasting through the snow today up high on Mt. Mansfield

We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend.  This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces.  The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.

We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions.  Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense.  The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.

“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”

A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session.  We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain.  After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic.  It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it.  With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers.  We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.  Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.

An image of Dylan blasting through powder in the Kitchen Wall area of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan blasting that powder!

Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’.  That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces.  I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.

It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday.  The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.

Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2020

An image of Erica getting some powder turns and Dylan looking on from behind during Winter Storm Jacob at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder from Winter Storm Jacob in January 2020 at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Thanks to Winter Storm Jacob, the whole family got out today for skiing in the fresh snow. We got to the mountain just as the Vista Quad was starting up, and Dylan loved all the fresh tracks!!

The snow from Winter Storm Jacob began yesterday while Dylan and I were out on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, and the intensity continued to ramp up while we finished our tour.  The winds increased and flakes were flying while we packed up our gear at the car, and I definitely had to take it easy coming back down the Bolton Valley Access Road with the accumulating snow.  The snow was falling in the form of relatively small flakes, so the accumulations were coming in quite dense.  By morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 5 inches of new snow with more to come during the day.

Ty wasn’t scheduled to work today, so the whole family had the chance to ski together and we decided to head up to the mountain early enough to hit the lift openings.  The Vista Quad was opening at 9:00 A.M., and we got there right as folks began loading.  We had an excellent run down Alta Vista, and especially Fanny Hill, and everywhere that hadn’t been groomed held several inches of dense powder that contributed to a solid resurfacing of the slopes.

“That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.”

Timberline has finally come on line this weekend thanks to the recent snows, so we next chose to head over that way and catch it near the lift opening.  Cobrass still isn’t open, but we were able to take Preacher and a combination of various glades to get us over to Five Corners and onward to Timberline.  That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.

Timberline still needs a bit more snow to open all the terrain, but we had an excellent run down Sure Shot and in and out of various sections of trees and nearby trails.  Being a holiday weekend with fresh snow, people were arriving at the resort in droves, and when we stopped in at the Timberline Lodge for a quick break, the ticket line inside was roughly 150 feet long.  That line was a sign of what was going on throughout the resort, and indeed a substantial lift queue was forming at the Vista Quad when we returned to the main base.  Seeing that, we did a couple of quick, powder-filled runs on Snowflake and called it a day because we’d had our fill.

An image of Dylan skiing powder during Winter Storm Jacob in the Cobrass area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the powder on our run over to Timberline

Cars full of holiday visitors continued to stream into the resort as we were leaving, and the Timberline lots must have been filled because they were already starting to have cars parallel park on the access road.  The number of visitors today must have been great for the resort, even if it meant there were some lift queues at times.  We’d seen Stephen and Johannes right when we’d arrived, and we didn’t get to do any runs with them, but they apparently had a big group with a number of Johannes’ friends.  Stephen also said that he rode the Wilderness Chair, so the opening of the Wilderness area must have been a nice addition to disperse all the holiday visitors.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 18JAN2020

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in some January powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan below the Gotham City sign in the backcountry ski trail network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in Gotham City during today’s ski tour as snow begins in association with Winter Storm Jacob

So far, this week has done a nice job of rejuvenating the local ski conditions, with a total of four storms expected to affect the area.  We had a couple of very minor storms earlier in the week that dropped a few inches in total for the mountains, and then a larger storm that hit the area on ThursdayThat one actually wound up being our largest storm of the season to date here at the house, dropping almost a foot of snow.

I suspected that the most recent storm wasn’t going to be quite enough to get the backcountry into perfect shape, but the forecast called for chilly temperatures topping out in the 10-15 F range, so earning some powder turns in the new snow seemed like the way to go.  Dylan joined me in my plan to head up and take a quick tour on some moderate terrain on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.

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

“Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.”

The idea for today’s tour was to head partway up the Bryant Trail, connect over to Gotham City, catch some turns in the Gun Sight area, and then finish off the run with some lower glades.  Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.  There were some nice powder turns in that snow, but the base depths are very inconsistent.  In some spots the base snow was sufficiently deep, but in others there was little to no base, and obstacles like rocks and logs definitely needed to be avoided.  Dylan’s most memorable quote of the day came after he had an altercation with some sort of obstacle under the snow and took a tumble.  He was on Erica’s fat skis, and we were really hoping it wasn’t a rock.   D quickly reassured me… “It was a log”.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the shelter of the trees and nice powder on today’s backcountry ski tour

We’ve actually got our next significant weather system, Winter Storm Jacob, starting to affect the area this afternoon.  I’m not sure exactly when the snow from the storm first started to appear, but around 4:00 P.M. we were in Gotham City finishing our ascent, and I realized it was snowing.  It’s kind of fun when you’re touring in the forest like that with limited views and protection from the elements, and before you know it you’re getting covered with fresh snow.  The density of snow from this next storm will probably be on the high side, so it should make a solid contribution to the base to cover some of the obstacles we’ve been encountering.

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

Stowe, VT 12JAN2020

An image of Ty and Dylan getting their ski gear on in the locker area of the Spruce Camp base lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.
The boys get suited up for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season by the lockers in Spruce Camp.

Today we were at Stowe for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season.  In terms of weather, this was one of those days where we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to the slopes if it weren’t for the program.  We’ve been in the midst of Winter Storm Isaiah over the past couple of days, and it’s been a warm storm that has switched last week’s wintry conditions over to spring conditions.  That actually wouldn’t be a deterrent for skiing, but the anticipated strong winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s F through the afternoon were concerning.

We were at the mountain early enough that I took a couple of runs with E and the boys, and we found conditions to be spring-like and decent.  We had a touch of rain, which quickly changed over to snow in the higher elevations and made its way down to the base.

“It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming. ”

During my instruction session today I was working with a student named Viviana, an absolute first-time, never-ever skier.  We worked on the magic carpet all afternoon, with one break in the middle where we got to hang out with E and the boys, their ski groups, and a number of other people from the program while we had some good food at the Great Room Grill.  Viviana spent her ski time figuring out how to pressure her wedge to slow herself down and make turns, and she had progressed quite a bit by the end of the day in having the strength to stop herself.  That actually says a lot, because the soft conditions we had at midday gradually changed to very hard conditions by the end of the afternoon.  The cold air moved in, the groomed surfaces became much slicker, and the ungroomed surfaces became a frozen moonscape.

Strong winds put the Over Easy Gondola on hold at the end of the day, so we had to take one of the shuttles back to our car at Mansfield, and the wait for the shuttle felt like forever because of the frigid winds.  It was only about five minutes of course, but many of us had dressed for the gondola vs. being out in the open.  We found our car was encased in quite a layer of refrozen material from the wet snow that had fallen, so it took a bit of time to warm it up and melt that off.

It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming.  There are four potential winter storms in the next six days, so depending on how they play out, it could set things up very nicely for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Bolton Valley, VT 01JAN2020

Ty cranking a turn in the fresh snow t at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder after Winter Storm Gage at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out for some Telemark turns today on the great snow put down by the past couple of storms

With the addition of snow from Winter Storm Gage Sunday through Tuesday, ski conditions have seen substantial improvement over the past few days.  I was already pleased in general with the conditions I found at Bolton Valley yesterday, and I expected them to easily move up another notch with the follow up system that came into the area last night.  As of this morning in the valley we’d already picked up over a half foot of snow (with a solid shot of liquid equivalent) between the two storms, and yet another round of snowfall was building in as we headed up to the mountain around noon.

An image of Dylan making a Telemark turn at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan was really laying down some great turns today as he tested out Ty’s Tele skis

“I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.”

Today was actually the first day of the season that the whole family had a chance to ski together, or at least the first day where both schedules and snow conditions made it happen.  Unlike yesterday, the mountain was really busy today, and we parked in the lowest tier of the main lots down by the Sports Center.  We even had to wait for a couple minutes to get on the Vista Quad, but that wasn’t bad considering the other mains lifts aren’t running yet.  Temperatures were still relatively nice in the 20s F, but there was some wind in the higher elevations.  D was having fun buttoning up with his magnetic Anon MFI Tech Balaclava and his helmet-compatible hood on his Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket just to see how everything came together.  I have the same combo and think it’s fantastic for keeping out the wind.

An image of Erica in her ski gear with a bit of snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontFrom the Vista Summit we skied Alta Vista, and in discussions about the conditions, E and D said it was definitely better than the last time they’d been on it back on the 24th.  All the snow from these past couple of storms has really put some quality coverage above the old base, so the trail edges were quite nice with hardly a sound from hard snow.  We also had some time to visit Wilderness, which is still seeing just a modest amount of traffic from people using the uphill route.  Conditions over there were very good, building on what I found yesterday.  I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.  D was actually trying out Ty’s Telemark skis today for the first time, and he was really taking to them.  His Tele turns looked strong on both the groomed slopes and in the powder, so I see him using those skis a lot until he gets his own new Tele setup.

Looking ahead, we’ve got the chance for another modest system this coming weekend, so conditions could get another shot in the arm if that system delivers something similar to what we’ve just received.

Bolton Valley, VT 24DEC2019

An image of Dylan skiing on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty on his snowboard on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty out today on his snowboard riding Bolton Valley’s Alta Vista

There hasn’t been any new snow since our ski outing on Saturday, but Ty was planning to head up to the mountain for a bit of snowboarding with his friend Liam, so the rest of the family decided to get in a few runs as well.

I had to head into town for an errand in the morning, but I headed up to the mountain to meet everyone after that.  Not seeing any of the family at the base of the lifts, I did a quick run off the Mid Mountain Chair and took the mellow Bear Run route to get a feel for the surfaces.  The grooming had set the snow up pretty nicely – surfaces were moderately firm, but not bad thanks to relatively low skier traffic.

I’d checked my phone when I got off at Mid Mountain, and E and D let me know they were in the lodge, so I caught up with everyone there.  We had snack, Liam and his family headed out, and our family decided to go for a run off Vista.  E and D showed me where the best snow was located based on their previous runs, and it was in those areas where skiers had pushed the snow to edges.  The spots provided some nice turns in a few inches of loose snow, and D really enjoyed carving it up on his new slalom skis.

Overall the mountain was very quiet today, presumably because folks know that it’s really just groomed runs for now until we get more snow.  Fireside Flatbread wasn’t even open, but Bolton Valley will likely have everything going for the holiday week.

The next couple of weather systems (a smaller one on Friday, and then a larger one starting Sunday) in the flow have generally looked like mixed precipitation, but the back side of the second one seems to consistently show snow potential in the models.  It’s interesting that some models like the ECMWF and CMC show more wintry potential in that second system, but the BTV NWS doesn’t even mention anything about that in their discussion, so I wouldn’t lend it much credence at this point.  For now, I’d certainly watch that Monday/Tuesday period for potential ski options depending on how the back side of the storm cycle plays out.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2019

An image of Dylan skiing in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont in mid-December after a couple of small snowfalls
Dylan catching some turns today on the natural snow over at Wilderness

We’ve had just a couple of modest systems bringing fresh snow this week, Winter Storm Finley on Tuesday/Wednesday, and then an arctic front with snow squalls soon after that.  In combination they brought 6 to 7 inches of snow down here at the house, and close to a foot up at Bolton Valley.  We had some warm storms last week that firmed up the slopes, but a photo of Powderfreak’s from Wednesday showed some gorgeous powder skiing thanks to the new snow.

“Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.”

Although Ty was at work today, E and Dylan and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to check out the new accumulations and overall conditions.  Temperatures have been quite chilly over the past couple of days, with highs only around 10 F or so, but today they were getting nicely up into the 20s F in the afternoon.

Lift-served trail options are fairly limited right now since natural snow trails off Vista don’t have nearly enough snow to support those levels of skier traffic, but we rode the Vista Quad and eventually made our way over to Wilderness to see what the terrain over there offered  With mostly skinning traffic on that part of the mountain, many areas on the lower slopes of Wilderness are in great shape.  Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.  We only saw three folks skinning up during the course of our descent, so skier traffic seemed light, in line with the conditions we found.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in the Wilderness area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica masquerading as Ty by borrowing his ski clothes for today’s outing.

Pizzas set up at Fireside Flatbread at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe stopped in for some slices at Fireside Flatbread before leaving, and there was modest midafternoon crowd enjoying the atmosphere.  The pizza was fantastic as always!

The forecast actually looks fairly benign over the course of the next week, but the weather models due hint at a couple of possibilities for snow.  We’ll be watching to see if anything develops.

Bolton Valley, VT 16NOV2019

An image of ski tracks in some November powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in some November powder on the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
Getting Dylan out for his first turns of the season today, we found up to a foot of powder in some areas thanks to the three storms we had this past week.

Since last week’s ski outing up at Bolton Valley, we’ve had three additional rounds of snow.  The first one at the beginning of the week was the most significant, with roughly an inch of liquid equivalent going into the snowpack in the form of some dense snow.  The next two systems later in the week were smaller, but featured drier snow that topped off the denser base snow with some nice powder.

Temperatures continued to run below average today, but were expected to top out around 20 F in the midafternoon, so Dylan and I headed back up to the mountain to check out the new snow and get in a ski tour.  Not surprisingly, we found snow that was much improved over last week.  At base elevations around 2,000’ we were finding 5 to 7 inches of powder atop the base, and up around 2,700’-2,800 where we topped out, depths were right around a foot.

Dylan is in the process of getting new equipment and gear since he’s outgrown so much of his stuff, so he was using E’s powder Telemark skis and Ty’s outwear.  It all seemed to work really well for him though, and he was ripping up the powder when we found it.  I’d say that was actually the main issue on the day; since the big storm was back on Monday and Tuesday, people have skiing that snow all week and large areas of untracked snow were at a premium on the lower slopes of Wilderness.  We definitely got in some nice turns, but we had to really stick to the edges and seek out those spots that people has missed.

We’ve got yet another winter storm coming into the area tomorrow into Tuesday.  This one’s expected to be a bit messy on the front end with some freezing rain, but it’s supposed to change over to snow as the system pulls off to the east.  Whatever the case, it should all represent more material for building the base.  It looks like there’s another storm expected toward the end of the week as well, so we’ll be watching to see how that will set things up atop the current base of snow.