There’s a frontal boundary spread across New England right now, and up here in Northern Vermont we’re on the cold side. That’s given us a decent amount of fresh snow today, especially in the mountains where more than a half foot has fallen in some cases. Bolton Valley was already reporting 4 to 6 inches of new snow as of mid-afternoon, so Ty and I decided to head up to check it out and grab some dinner for the family.
“…the snow surface was dense, buttery powder with a really good shot of resurfacing liquid equivalent in it.”
It was surprisingly quiet for such a spectacular night skiing evening, but I suspect concerns about the roads kept a lot of people home. There’s definitely been some mixed precipitation around, but the precipitation was mostly snow while we were up at the mountain. Flakes varied from granular types all the way up to massive 1” aggregates, and the snow surface was dense, buttery powder with a really good shot of resurfacing liquid equivalent in it. Tonight looked like it was one of those evenings where weather conditions were coming together to make for some great turns under the lights, and indeed that was the case – the temperature was right around 32, there was no wind, and there was lots of fresh snow.
Ty and I focused on Spillway, and it was great letting those steep turns fall away in the dense powder. I brought my Tele midfats, but I definitely could have gone with the full fats and had a blast. It’s no wonder the skiing felt like there had been such a solid resurfacing; we’re already past ¾” of liquid equivalent with today’s snow down in the valley at our house, and up high they’ve certainly had more.
With the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake back around the 100-inch mark, it was finally time to bring my BJAMS ski group up into the Mansfield alpine for our weekly Sunday session. My initial plan was a run down Profanity Chute with a return toward Chin Clip, followed by a trip to the Outer Planets. Nolan wasn’t going to be with me since he was still in the process of returning from Montreal, but fortunately Rick was going to join us and that gave me a second adult. With Rick’s added knowledge of the area, I felt comfortable enough to kick things up a notch and bring the boys to the Hell Brook Trail for the bottom part of the run.
The weather forecast was also a big part of opting for the alpine today – highs up around 4,000’ were expected to be in the 20s F and wind was supposed to be minimal. The Climbing Gully was in great shape, with lots of snow and one of the best boot ladders I’ve seen. The March sun had done some work on slopes with southern aspects, but up high the effects seemed to be pretty minimal – the packed snow in Profanity Chute was quite wintry, and there was some nice powder still available in the open area on the right side of the chute. I wish I’d had the camera out for when Rick skied that because the powdery turns looked fantastic.
We cut left following the normal Profanity route, and then traversed below the east face of The Chin containing the Hourglass Chute and connected to the Hell Brook Trail. The north-facing aspects in the Hell Brook area held some fantastic snow, but surface conditions deteriorated the more southerly the aspect. At times we had to ski some of those more southerly-oriented aspects, so that made for some very challenging turns on either crusty snow or powder with a sun crust on it. But the boys all did quite well on what is a very challenging run that simply goes on, and on, and on. By the time we traversed back to Gondola and headed over to Spruce Camp we’d covered over 5.5 miles and 2,900’ of vertical.
Although there are roughly 100 inches of snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake right now, I don’t think coverage on Profanity was quite where it was on our last visit with the kids a couple of seasons ago. With Winter Storm Stella we really just made back the snow that had settled or melted during the previous couple of weeks, so the snowpack doesn’t seem to have quite the coverage of a 100-inch pack that grew throughout the full season. In any event, there’s a lot of snow up in the high elevations and things look good for the slopes heading into spring.
We finally had the chance to get the whole family together today for some turns, so we headed up to Bolton Valley around midday. We’d planned to head to Timberline, but as it turned out the resort was asking people to park there anyway because the upper lots had filled up. The weather was much like yesterday, with clear skies and temperatures in the upper 20s F, so lots of people were interested in getting out to ski. It’s actually pretty impressive to have such a large number of people visiting the slopes this late in the season, so that should be good news for the resort.
We made our way to the Vista Summit and then took a run down Cobrass and ventured into the Villager Trees. The condition of the snow remained excellent thanks to temperatures staying consistently below freezing. There was still plenty of powder skiing off piste, and the boys spent some time jumping into the powder from some of their favorite ledges.
Heading back to Timberline we found lots of partially cut up powder still left on the lower half of Tattle Tale – Dylan had decided to use his Telemark skis today, and he really ripped it up on that snow. The lower reaches of Timberline were getting a bit affected by the sun, and we found this to be the case on Twice as Nice. It hadn’t been groomed, so it was skier packed, but there was lots of terrain contour still present. Dylan struggled with his Telemark turns on that surface, so for the bottom half of the run he and I switched over to the groomed surface of Showtime and he fared much better.
Around 2:30 P.M. or so we stopped in at South of Solitude for some food, but they’d clearly had a lot of patrons today because they were just about out of everything. They put together some plates of burrito and taco ingredients along with tortilla chips for us for a reduced price of $6 and that worked out really well. The mountain was definitely humming with business today.
The boys and I had a field trip this morning, but we were done with enough time left to make it to Bolton Valley for a short photo session with some of the resort staff. Indeed today was a great one for ski photography – there was plenty of snow from Winter Storm Stella, clear blue skies, and temperatures in the upper 20s F.
We met Josh at his office, and he let us know that we’d be working with Tucker and Kyler today. The plan was to get some shots over at Wilderness with the afternoon views, and we started with some scenic photos from the deck of the Wilderness Summit Ski Patrol Hut. After the photos, we still needed to wait for another family to arrive up top, so the boys promptly decided to make use of the deep powder sitting just below the deck by launching themselves into it. Some of the folks coming up on the lift felt that it looked like so much fun that they joined in as well. By the time everyone was together it was just about time to shut down the Wilderness Lift, and we watched as they put the “Last Chair” sign in place.
Our photo session took place on Peggy Dow’s and the Wilderness Lift Line, and the guys generally did shots of trios of skiers with background scenery. Once we were done I asked the boys if they wanted to take any more runs, but they said they were good based on the anticipation of skiing more over the coming weekend. Hopefully we’ll have the time this weekend to get the whole family out together for some turns in all the great snow.
Not wanting to miss the chance to check out all that new snow up at the mountain, I headed up to catch a few runs this morning. The potency of the storm was immediately evident as I saw some of the vehicles that had been parked in the Village parking lots over the past couple of days – they were buried in deep drifts, and some were barely visible.
“ I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches.”
I got in line for the opening of the Vista Quad, but the lift operator felt that it was going to be on wind hold for a bit, so I headed up Snowflake and was happy to find that Timberline was already open. On the way over I cut the traverse over to Tattle Tale, and with two to three feet of snow in the way it took a good deal of effort. I found Tattle Tale untracked, and the powder very deep. There were also pockets of super light powder scattered among slightly denser snow, and when you hit one of those pockets, any support you found in the powder would simply disappear as if the floor was dropping out on you. I had on the fattest skis I own, with 115 mm width at that waist, and even that couldn’t stop the free fall in that snow. On my first encounter with one of those pockets, I quickly went over the handle bars on my Tele skis and had to extract myself from the deep powder. The snow was so deep that even with my fat skis combined with the steepest pitches, I had to straight-line it. I didn’t get to make many turns there, but it was definitely a neat experience.
I stayed at Timberline the entire morning, and found great turns on Twice as Nice. It was actually nice as the powder started to get chopped up a bit, because you could keep plenty of momentum going to hop in and out of the untracked areas. The turns were simply fantastic all around though; Winter Storm Stella definitely provided one of the more thorough resurfacings I’ve witnessed around here. Since the storm dropped over 2 inches of liquid equivalent down at our house, you know the mountains were well above that. I did a run on Adam’s Solitude, and it was my first visit there in quite a long time. I opted for the Secret Solitude option, and got first tracks down one of the lines with a number of small cliffs. At the top of that section I contoured across the hill, and with the pitch of the slope, the powder was up to my shoulder. Adam’s Solitude is famous for catching some well-protected powder, and the depth was very impressive. I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches. After seeing that, I knew I could just straight line my way right down through the ledges, and that was indeed one of those lines where the snow is just up and over your shoulders.
By the time the morning was over, the Tele turns had cooked my legs and my body was craving some food, so I stopped in for a burrito at South of Solitude. I kicked back and did some browsing on my phone while I ate, which seemed to be a popular option for the handful of folks populating the lodge. The Vista Quad was running by the time I got back to the main base, but my legs had definitely had their workout, so I skied down to the car and headed out.
In general, most areas I found offered up powder in the 24 to 30-inch range, similar to what we found at Stowe Yesterday. There are no major warm-ups in the near future, so we should have some excellent conditions going into the weekend.
“As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches.”
Some of the biggest nor’easters are actually picked up fairly early on the weather models. These very large storms are associated with an alignment of such prominent weather features that they produce a signal that the models can really key in on. That was the case with Winter Storm Stella. The buildup was impressive on the weather boards and in the national media, and although it didn’t deliver massive amounts of snow to the big coastal cities in the Northeastern U.S., areas farther inland (such as Northern Vermont and Upstate New York) made out like gangbusters. Reports were coming in of over 40 inches of snow in Upstate New York, and the Vermont resorts.
Unfortunately Dylan was a bit under the weather today with a cold, and while he was bummed to miss out on some great powder, he probably made the right decision to stay home and rest up with the way he felt. Although he could stay home alone, E felt that if she was home with him he’d do a much better job of taking care of himself. So, Ty and I headed off alone to Stowe for some turns this morning.
“We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep.”
It was still snowing steadily at the house when we left, but the roads weren’t bad because the plows were out working hard. In terms of snow accumulations and snowfall rates around the area, they tapered off somewhat as we headed from the house to Waterbury and Waterbury Center, and surprisingly, snowfall rates dropped to just flurries along the Stowe/Waterbury line. That was the nadir in terms of snowfall intensity, and then it gradually ramped back up as we headed through Stowe Village and up to the mountain.
We decided to focus on the Gondola terrain today, so we parked in the Midway area, and got suited up in the Midway Lodge. There were very few people in the lodge at that point, which was probably a good sign with respect to crowds. At the Gondi, the lift queue was a few minutes long, but that’s really not bad for such a storm day.
As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches. This storm gave the whole resort quite an impressive resurfacing. We started off with Waterfall, and then headed to Gondolier and eventually we found ourselves on Ravine. That’s where we started getting into the untracked powder, and boy was it deep. We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep. It was actually pretty easy to get buried in the snow if you fell, so we were definitely watching out for each other.
We’d skipped breakfast to save time, with the intention of getting it at the Midway Lodge. So, we stopped in quickly for a couple of really good breakfast sandwiches, and then got right back into some additional Gondola runs. We actually spent a lot of time over by Perry Merrill skiing the powder along the sides of the trail and exploring new terrain along the edge of the Hazelton Zone. We found a lot of untracked shots, and I pulled out the camera for some of our favorites. On our last run Ty blasted me with a massive wall of powder and covered everything, my clothes, my camera, my open bag, all of it. He described what I looked like all covered in white with my mouth agape.
We stopped to grab some sandwiches for lunch on the way home at Edelweiss Mountain Deli, one of Ty’s favorite options. I could tell that it continued to snow at home because I’d check on our web cam while riding the Gondola, and watched it as the snow got so deep that all the camera could see was white. The settled snow on the deck is now deeper than the level of my web cam, but I pulled away some snow and adjusted the angle so the settled height of the snow is once again visible.
As of this evening, we’re approaching 40 inches of accumulation at the house, and earlier, Jay Peak was already reporting 72 inches of accumulation, so Winter Storm Stella has been quite the event around here.
The sunny weather and soft spring skiing from yesterday carried right into the second half of the weekend as we visited Stowe this afternoon for the BJAMS ski program. Ken’s tweaked knee from last Sunday was diagnosed as a sprained MCL, so I’ve heard he’ll be off skis for four weeks while it heals. Erica had to do a bunch of shuffling around of today’s groups due to various absences this week, and I actually wound up with a group of 10 students. That’s a substantial group even with both Ken and I to manage it together, but fortunately Big Luke was able to step in for his dad and give us a reasonable ratio of coaches to students. All told then with students and coaches, our group was a dozen strong, and I suspected that anywhere we went with our crazy crew… people were definitely going to know that we were around.
“There’s not too much else to say about today’s skiing – the snow is in spring mode and so are the students, so it’s simply bumps, and jumps… and more jumps.”
There was no question about the softness of the snow today at any elevation, and with my group ready promptly and raring to go at startup time, we headed right over to the Gondi for a sampling of its terrain. I could see that there were plenty of bumps on Gondolier, so we tackled that first with a quick photo session in one of the first bump lines. From there were moved over to the Fourrunner Quad and it was lap after lap with spring snow and visits to the terrain parks due to very high demand within the group. By around 3:00 P.M. it was time to head back to Spruce for the s’mores session, and everyone finished the day off with what appears to be becoming the customary “post s’mores free skiing session” off the Sunny Spruce Quad. I think almost all the skiers in the group, even Big Luke, dropped their poles for their final runs. And with our snowboarders Cole and Ryan as part of the crew, I may have been the only person left with poles at the end of the day. Those huge snow whales on West Slope are still going strong, and as you can imagine it was quite a raucous time out there on that terrain with the afternoon sun and continued soft snow.
I finished up a bit early and was able to hike up for a bunch of extra photos on West Slope, and man what a treat it was to be able to photograph with so… much… light! I had the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM out for the first time in a while, and was able to run at a shutter speed of 1/8000 sec and still stay down around ISO 100. The bright March sun on glaring snow was almost too much, and I nearly had to stop down a bit to avoid overexposing the images. For now though, it worked out at F/2.8 once I got all my settings tweaked, so hopefully folks will enjoy the sampling of action shots I’ve put with the report. One of my favorite images from the day was definitely Big Luke in the Tyro Terrain Park – he actually requested the shot, so I had plenty of time to set it up just the way I wanted. He aired it out and I think he’ll be pleased with the result.
There’s not too much else to say about today’s skiing – the snow is in spring mode and so are the students, so it’s simply bumps, and jumps… and more jumps. We’ll see what next weekend brings, but the weather models are certainly showing murmurings of a potential winter storm about a week out. We’ll have to see if we can finally get one of these to take a decent track or whether we’ll get another one of the many raw deals we’ve had this season, but I suspect the winter weather enthusiasts are going to have an interesting week of model watching to see what this potential storm does.
Today was a sunny, spring-like day in Northern Vermont, with temperatures in the 50s F in the valleys and snow corning up nicely on the mountain slopes. Dylan’s friend Cole was coming over in the mid to late afternoon to stay for the night, and since he had his snowboard for tomorrow’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe, we headed up to Bolton Valley for a few sunset runs.
There was still probably an hour of daylight left when we arrived, and after a quick warmup run on Beech Seal off the Mid Mountain Chair, we headed up to the Vista Summit. We just missed our chance to catch Hard Luck before patrol closed it for the night, but it looked quite nice with the soft spring snow. On our next run we did get to hit Alta Vista, and the skier’s left that often holds powder was again delivering the goods in the form of beautiful spring corn snow. I’d say that was my favorite area of the day, and I heard Cole mention how he liked it as well. I was worried that the snow would start to tighten up as the sun went down, but it stayed quite soft at least up to the point we left at around 6:00 P.M.
Aside from the skiing, one of the most fun parts of the day was playing with the spring snow while we rode the chair, tossing snowballs from one side of the chair, up and over the tow cable, to be caught by the person at the other end. Our record was 8 in a row before that snowball finally disintegrated, but the boys are already excited to try it some more tomorrow at Stowe – it looks like we’ve got another find spring day on the way tomorrow based on the forecast.
Based on my tour of the Bolton Valley backcountry yesterday, I didn’t anticipate skiing much powder today with our BJAMS ski group today at Stowe, and therefore I packed narrower skis for me and the boys. I’d say it was the right call, because we spent most of our time on piste, and aside from our initial runs on the softened slopes of lower Spruce Peak, the snow we found was roughly 20% decent and 80% crap.
Fortunately for us, we did start out on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak for the beginning of this afternoon’s session, and off the Sunny Spruce Quad the snow had softened in the sun from top to bottom. The boys had taken some earlier runs, and announced that we should head for Freddie’s Chute. I couldn’t believe that they were serious, because Freddie’s has all natural snow, faces south, and is loaded with ledges and rocks that quickly catch the sun and burn out the snow. Low and behold though, the coverage was there, so even though we haven’t had any really great winter storm cycles in the past few weeks (or at all this season for that matter) the storms of mixed precipitation that we have had are substantiating the snowpack in the mountains to some degree.
After some good turns on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak, we decided to do a few runs off the Sensation Quad. I hadn’t taken the group there at all this season, so it seemed like a good day to do it with no plans for our typical Mansfield powder explorations. I was actually surprised to see all of Spruce Line open for business aside from the initial headwall, and that’s amazing because patrol never seems to open that even when we have a ton of snow. We decided to make our way there by dropping into Green Acres, and that was where we undeniably found some of the best snow of the day. The high elevation and evergreen protection kept the snow soft and powdery in there, and it was deep enough that it was one of the few times today that I wished I’d brought wider skis. Spruce Line had some good shots, but the snow was generally dense or wind-packed, so while good, there wasn’t any of the powdery snow that we’d found in Green Acres. We did some additional runs off Sensation, hitting Sterling, Upper Smugglers, and Main Street Headwall, but they were all generally a mess of ice and firm snow with decent surfaces few and far between. Ken’s description of the worst areas was “plate ice”, which is that glare ice that’s got no redeeming qualities aside from the novelty of seeing the treads of the groomers carved into it. It’s just hideous stuff that really nobody in their right mind should have to ski.
Clouds were moving in at times, and with afternoon temperatures cooling down, snow that had softened in the sun was starting to firm up, so we headed back down to the lower slopes to finish off the day. We did a few more laps off the Sunny Spruce Quad, and even down there the snow wasn’t as soft as it was earlier, so it was changing from corn to frozen granular and becoming much less inspiring. We found that a number of us have similar boot sized and we started to switch around skis – I got to try Jack’s 163 cm Nordica Bad Mind skis (120-84-109), and that was a lot of fun because unlike my Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots, they’ve got some edge. I stayed on them for the rest of the day, and I thank Jack for the demo. Not only did his skis have edges, but they’ve only got a half season on them, so they’ve still got plenty of pop in them unlike my Salomons that are over a decade old.
As the boys finished off the last few runs on their own, Ken and I took a run through the Ridge Glades and down in the glades below along the right of East Run. Some of that terrain off to the side of East Run is really steep, probably 35 degrees, and in horrible shape. Ken came into one of those steep lines very aggressively and had a pretty big tumble where his equipment went everywhere. He was generally OK, although he did say he tweaked his knee a bit and something popped, so he’s going to have to assess how things go over the next few days to see if it’s anything serious. That area of trees definitely fit in with the general 20% decent/80% crap, where there was probably 20% decent snow on the whole slope, and the rest was a combination of ice, roots, stumps, dirt, and whatever else isn’t snow – it’s just hideous. We do appear to have some snow coming into the area tomorrow, so hopefully that will add a bit more to the snowpack in areas that need it.
It’s not too often in Northern Vermont that we have winter temperatures and no access to powder, but today was pretty close. Generally, even for winter weather systems with mixed precipitation, there’s at least some snow on the back side of the storm to provide a bit of powder for skiing. As usual, that was the case with Winter Storm Quo that came through earlier this week. The storm dropped 4 to 5 inches on the resorts in the Northern Greens, and the precipitation even remained frozen throughout the event. After the dense accumulation in the middle of the storm, there was some lighter powder, but it was fluffy, and based on the way it has really settled down over the past couple of days here at the house, I suspected things would be similar up in the mountains.
With that in mind, I inquired with E and the boys to see if any of them wanted to go for a ski tour up at the mountain, but didn’t push too hard because I didn’t suspect the conditions would be quite up to the level of what we found last Saturday on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. It was a nice sunny day though, with temperatures around the freezing mark down in the valley, so whatever the conditions, it was going to be nice to get out in the fresh air.
Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F up at the resort, and it looked like business was good based on the number of cars in the Village lots. Although Winter Storm Quo didn’t deliver a ton of powder, it did substantiate the base depths at the resort, and the open trail count was as high as it’s been in a while. I hopped onto Broadway and headed right up toward Bryant Cabin. The powder had settled to about a half inch at Village level, and I was hoping that it would build with elevation the way it had last weekend, but it never really did. Even up at the cabin I only found about an inch or so of fluff above the base. The overall minimal availability of the powder skiing was pretty evident due to the fact that I saw more people out on the trails today on snowshoes vs. skis.
Noting the minimal powder, I decided that I ski some of the mellow trees between the Bryant Trail and Gardiner’s Lane. The skiing was surprisingly good because thanks to little if any liquid precipitation, the base below wasn’t really icy, it was mostly just dense. The turns there got me interested enough that I headed off toward North Slope to check out some of the glades there. I tried out a new area back down to Gardiner’s Lane, and then poked around in the trees and found some new glades in the A1A area that I don’t think I’d skied before. They brought me right down to the junction of Bryant and Coyote, where I skied Coyote out to World Cup and connected over to the base area. I had some good turns here and there, with some nice ones off in the untouched snow off to the sides of the groomed Nordic trails.
Back in the Village I grabbed some food for E and the boys and called it a day. Over the next week it looks like we’ll have some spring warmth and sun moving into the area, but the weather models do show the potential for some storms, so we’ll have to see if they bring some snow to the mountains.