Bolton Valley, VT 24MAR2020

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy in the Fanny Hill area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out today getting some much needed exercise as we enjoy the fresh powder delivered by Winter Storm Quincy

Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of us have witnessed a dramatic change in daily life here in Northern Vermont as varying levels of social distancing and self-isolation are being practiced to slow the pandemic associated with COVID-19.  Measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 have been ramping up in the form of people doing extensive telecommuting, a state of emergency declared for Vermont back on the 13th,  the closing of bars and restaurants on the 17th, and beginning tomorrow at 5:00 P.M. an executive order to stay home/stay safe.

As of last week, the ski areas in the state had ceased operations, which obviously has the potential to be a blow to many employees and ancillary businesses.  All things considered, this timing hasn’t been too bad for the resorts, since they would all be tapering down winter services and staffing in the next few weeks to some degree anyway.  From the skier’s perspective, the timing of these resorts hasn’t been horrible either – weather has been in that spring doldrums stage for the past couple of weeks.  The usual thaw-freeze cycles that we get at this time of year have taken place, and we haven’t had any big storm cycles to resurface the slopes nor beautiful warm days with copious sunshine to soften them up.  We last skied back on the 8th for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe, and regardless of the ski area closings, there hasn’t been much to entice us out since then.

“Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more.”

That situation began to change yesterday though, as Winter Storm Quincy moved into the area and began dropping snow.  I was returning from a meeting at work in the late afternoon, and the roads were already taking on some fresh accumulations.  As of my 6:00 P.M. snow observations at the house we’d already picked up a couple of inches of snow.  Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more.  I got a text alert around 7:30 P.M. that we’ve been put under a Winter Storm Warning here in Washington County, no doubt due to the continued heavy snowfall.  By midnight, we’d picked up over 8 inches of snow at the house, composed of 0.65 inches of liquid equivalent.  This storm was definitely entering the realm of a decent resurfacing for the slopes.

Since the resort is not posting snow reports now that they’re closed, we didn’t have a sense for how much snow Bolton Valley picked up in the storm, but Dylan and I finally had time around late morning to head up for a ski tour.  On the way up the access road we stopped in at Timberline to check on the snow depth, and found about 7 inches of settled new accumulation at the base.  We also noted that there were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot from folks that were out ski touring.

I was unsure of the base depths at Timberline, and figured they would be more substantial at the main mountain, so we continued on up to the Village.  New snow depths were similar there, and indeed fairly similar all the way up to the Vista Summit.  So overall, there really didn’t seem to be much change in accumulation with respect to elevations – from what we saw today, even up above 3,000’ the storm totals looked about the same as what we picked up in the valley at 500’

A wide-angle image of Dylan skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan floats down through some of the powder today during our ski tour at Bolton Valley.

The turns we had today were very nice.  The powder was of medium to perhaps slightly higher density, and temperatures were well below freezing even in the Village at 2,000’.  The snow had a nice surfy consistency, with enough buoyancy for bottomless turns on even steep pitches in the black diamond range.  You could certainly hit bottom on the very steepest pitches, but we focused on medium-angle terrain and it was bottomless all the way.

“Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing. As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.”

With many people not going to work right now as the state strives to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and a fresh dump of powder on the slopes, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how many people were out for turns.  The number of people touring seemed notable though – between Timberline and the Village, there were at least several dozen cars out there.  Where we really noticed that ski touring traffic was up was by the number of tracks on the trails.  D and I definitely had to work a bit to find trails that had only seen a few tracks, but we just poked around until we found them.  Fanny Hill delivered pretty nicely with only about four or five tracks on it and plenty of untouched snow.  Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing.  As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.

An image of Jay from behind as he Telemark skis in powder from Winter Storm Quincy at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan was behind the lens of one of the cameras today as well, getting some shots of Dad when he had the chance.

There are a few early signs of another potential storm about a week out, but there’s nothing notable in the more immediate term, so we’ll be watching that timeframe to see if anything pops up.

Stowe, VT 08MAR2020

An image of the Main Street Trail set yup for racing at the Spruce Peak area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Without his ski boots today, Ty spent time exploring the Spruce Peak Village and holding down the fort at the Great Room Grill.

Today at Stowe I was with a group that I’ve yet to ski with this season at any of our BJAMS ski sessions; I was with Shane’s group, which included Jack, Colby and Ez in attendance.  Ty is typically with this group, and was indeed supposed to be with us today, but he forgot his ski boots and the house and thus ended up spending time around the Spruce Peak Village for the afternoon.  He did get to do a bunch of exploring though, which included a lots of Pokémon Go and a good analysis of all the village’s good and bad Wi-Fi spots among the various available networks.  He happily relayed that to the rest of us, so I’ve got a much better sense of spots to check when I really need a reliable signal.

Temperatures were expected to be in the 30s F with lots of sun this afternoon, so I wasn’t worried about getting soft snow on the lower half of Spruce Peak, but I was unsure about its upper elevations, or what the snow would be like on Mansfield.  It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce, and I got to experience that quite frequently because the boys were ravenously lapping Whirlaway off the Sensation Quad.  We’d probably done half a dozen runs there before we finally broke off after Shane called for a bathroom break at the base.  I’m not sure if the boys would ever have moved away otherwise.  Whirlaway, combined with Sterling lower down, offered pretty much everything they could have wanted though.  There were bumps, groomers, some nice tree shots, and of course jumps.  These guys love their jumps.  Thankfully, the soft snow today was good for lots of jumps, and the ensuing crashes.

“It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce…”

With their long session on Whirlaway, by the time we’d finished our bathroom/food break in the lodge, there was only enough time for a couple more runs.  I suggested we check out the Gondola, since that terrain also should have softened in the sun.  By that point in the afternoon only about the bottom half of the Gondola terrain was really soft, but the upper half wasn’t actually too bad.  It was partially softened, but you’d still run into some firm areas, so the soft consistency wasn’t there up high the way it was lower down.

“Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable.”

On the instruction side of things, all three boys are at that intermediate stage where they can certainly ski parallel, but they revert to their wedge for steep and/or moguled terrain that challenges them to control their speed.  Being a bit of an interloper in the group, I didn’t work with them specifically on anything about the skiing, but I did give then a quick instructional lecture during one of our Gondola rides on what they should be thinking about if they want to progress to that next level.  They need to bring short radius turns into their repertoire to be able to be able to tackled those steeper slopes and terrain obstacles like bumps and trees without using a wedge.  They’re at least aware of that now, so time on snow and even mixing in a bit of that short-turn flavor will help them progress.

Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable.  But, openings are definitely starting to appear, and if this week is warm without much new snow, those types of south-facing shots are probably going to develop gaps that won’t be passable.  There are some chances for snow this week, generally on the back side of modest systems, but there aren’t any large snow events in the forecast.

Stowe, VT 01MAR2020

An image of Ty and Dylan exploring some of the recent deposits of snow left by Winter Storm Odell at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Spruce Peak Village view during our food break at the Great Room Grill this afternoon

For today’s BJAMS session at Stowe, Dylan and I were joined by Viviana, as well as Jessica and Sienna who were back from vacation.  Viviana has progressed to the point where Erica feels confident enough grouping her up with Sienna, and I’d say that was a good choice.

Before session started, Ty, Dylan, and I had the chance to take a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad to get a sampling of the snow.  Winter Storm Odell has wound down now, but it left 40 inches of new snow at Stowe, and the effects were still very obvious.  When the boys and I ventured off piste, we found that the powder skiing was simply amazing, and this was after a day or two of settling.  As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.  It’s hard to say whether it was simply the extra 10 inches, or if the snow at Stowe happened to be just a bit lighter and drier, but the snow quality was indeed at that next level.  We skied the powder along the edge of Slalom Hill, and I just couldn’t believe the quality of it.  And, this was on south-facing terrain down near the 1,500’ base elevations of Spruce Peak.  One can only imagine what the snow quality was like up at 3,000’ on Mansfield.  Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine too much – Powderfreak’s over-the-head white-room photos from the mountain on Friday pretty much told the tale.

“As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.”

We started out today’s session with a warm-up run off the Meadows Quad to make sure Sienna was up to speed after missing a number of ski program days due to illness, and her skiing was in great shape.  She’s skiing notably faster than Viviana, although Sienna isn’t quite progressing toward parallel the way Viviana is.

Based on Erica’s suggestion, we took the whole group over to Mansfield ski Toll Road.  Neither Jessica, Sienna, or Viviana had ever been over there, so it was going to be a whole new adventure for all of them.  We decided to access the Toll Road only from the Mountain Triple Chair, since we were unsure how difficult it would be for the girls to navigate from the top of the Fourrunner Quad to the Toll Road area, and they already had some trepidation about the new environment.  The trip was also exciting in that it meant the use of three new lifts for Viviana, the Over Easy Gondola, the Mountain Triple Chair, and the Toll House Double Chair.

The Toll Road experience turned out to be a great success.  The route was well within everyone’s abilities, and it allowed them to ski a really long, continuous run on a scale that they’d never done before.  The groomed snow quality was excellent, and the quality of the powder off to the sides of the trail was simply amazing.  Dylan was constantly playing around in the powder off piste, and the overall snow conditions were forgiving enough that everyone started to join in.  Jessica was raving about the experience, and that was great to hear.  Not every storm cycle is going to bring 40 inches of snow to set things up like what they experienced today, but they’re all certainly ready for another run over there from the top of the Fourrunner Quad.

An image from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
At the Great Room Grill this afternoon following everyone’s big Toll Road adventure

Although Jessica and Sienna had to leave early, we got in a few more Meadows Quad runs with Viviana, and she got to do more trips through the Easy Street Trees.  She also began to venture into the various little chutes and tracks that are available off the sides of her usual Catwalk run, and navigating those was actually a good challenge with respect to controlling her speed.

There aren’t any huge storms in the forecast for the coming week, but we could have snow from some smaller systems toward the end of the week, so we’ll see how those set us up for next weekend.

Stowe Sidecountry & Bruce Trail, VT 24MAR2019

An image showing the area near the Notchbrook Convenience Store near the end of the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a group of skiers by the Notchbrook Convenience Store having just completed a run of the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Snack Time! A good trip up to the Nose of Mt. Mansfield and down the Bruce Trail deserves a good snack, and here we’ve got most of today’s hearty crew enjoying a snack in the sun by the Notchbrook Convenience Store.

It’s March, and the snowpack is deep here in Northern Vermont, so we planned to take a trip down the Bruce Trail today during our BJAMS ski session.  E had recently been chatting with Brian and Joe in the program, and they were both interested in taking their kids on the Bruce, so we all joined together as a group for the run.

Knowing the round trip would take most of the afternoon, we started right off heading over to Mansfield and up the Fourrunner Quad.  I brought everyone up for the requisite visit to Old Nosedive to enjoy the views and add a bit of bonus vertical to the run.  Old Nosedive was packed with snow from our recent storm.  It was dense powder similar to what we experienced yesterday at Bolton, but it skied quite nicely.

“The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape. That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow.”

The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape.  That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow.  The snow consistency varied from dense powder and skier-packed powder up high, to thick creamy snow in the middle elevation trees, to more spring-like snow in the lower elevations.  The powder in the lower-elevation hardwoods was definitely getting a bit sticky with sun and warming temperatures, but it still skied quite well in all but the very sunniest spots.  Even in the lowest elevations down near 1,000’ on the Nordic area terrain, the snowpack is substantial.  Crossing over the bridges along the Nordic trails we found the snowpack to be at or above the level of the bridges’ railings – which are four to five feet tall!  You can literally stand on the railings simply by moving to the edges of the snowpack.

An image of Brian showing the four to five foot snowpack that is level with the railings of a bridge along the Ranch Brook in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The snowpack is level with the bridge railings!

The spring snow made the final part of the Bruce descent through the Nordic areas a bit slower than when the snow is more winter-like, but we all simply took our time and enjoyed the casual pace along the meanderings of the Ranch Brook on such a glorious late winter/early spring day.  We had plenty of time for snacks while we waited for the Mountain Road Shuttle, so we made ourselves some seats in the snowbanks near the Notchbrook General Store and soaked in some rays as we waited for the bus and discussed our day’s adventure.

A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour on the Bruce Trail in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bruce Trail in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort

With the deep spring snowpack we’ve currently got around here, the possibilities for skiing in Mansfield’s alpine terrain above the resort are essentially limitless, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to check out some of those options in the coming weeks.

Bolton Valley, VT 23MAR2019

An image of mailboxes near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont covered in spring snow after a big spring snowstorm hit the area
An image of Dylan skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Although our latest round of snow was rather dense, that helped it cover everything in the mountain and put down a solid resurfacing of the slopes. It may not have been the most “champagne” of powder, but it certainly skied nicely.

Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system.  Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing.  Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine.  It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains.  Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.

A car covered in dense spring snow on the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
What a spring storm! – a snow-covered car along the Bolton Valley Access Road tells the tale.

Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things.  By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there.  Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base.  This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance.  This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline.  We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances.  He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail.  It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.

An image of skiers and snowboarders hiking up the Villager trail at Bolton Valley in Vermont
Wind holds on various lifts at the mountain today made it challenging to get from the main base over to Timberline, so many folks made the trip up the Villager trail to get there.

“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”

In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine.  The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though.  The snow was quite dense, and often windblown.  We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up.  It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow.  The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated.  Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up

In related news, this storm pushed the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake past 10 feet, so the snowpack in the mountains is in great shape as we continue into spring.

Stowe, VT 17MAR2019

An image of Molly riding her snowboard in the Inspiration/Adventure Triple Chair area at Stowe Mountian Resort in Vermont after some back side snow from Winter Storm Ulmer
An image of Dylan snowboardinig in powder from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer in the Toll House Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Thanks to some fresh snow from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer, we were able to get in some powder boarding today at Stowe during our BJAMS ski program session.

Spring made some inroads around here at the end of the week, with temperatures reaching well up into the 40s F to finally prompt some melting/softening of the snowpack.  In typical spring fashion, when the  temperature dropped back down yesterday, it apparently made for some tough conditions on the slopes.

Those sort of temperature swings are a normal part of the cycle as we get into spring, but I wasn’t really looking forward to having to get out on that snow for today’s BJAMS ski program session – especially due to the fact that I was going to be on a snowboard.  Snowboards have plenty of issues, but dealing with them on icy surfaces is one of the worst.  Thankfully, Mother Nature had one of those “Northern Greens surprise refreshers” in her pocket.  It wasn’t entirely a surprise that we were going to get a bit of snow overnight last night, but it came in more robustly that we were expecting.  I looked outside last night around 10:00 P.M. to find that we’d already picked up over an inch of snow, and in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Discussion Forum, Powderfreak indicated that it had been snowing for about 30 to 45 minutes.  We’d picked up 1.6 inches of new snow at the house by 11:00 P.M., and a similar amount had fallen by the time I headed off to bed a bit later.

“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”

This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens.  We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions.  I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.  I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.

An image of Erica snowboarding in powder in the Toll House area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Erica catching some powder turns in the Toll House area this afternoon

E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift.  We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift.  I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods.  There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take.  We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along.  The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit.  We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.

An image of some of the trails on Mt. Mansfield from the Toll House Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The classic view of trails wiggling their way down Mt. Mansfield as viewed from Stowe’s Toll House Chairlift

We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip.  I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle.  Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something.  I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!

Stowe, VT 12MAR2019

An image of ski tracks in powder below the Sensation Quad Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort during Winter Storm Taylor
An image of ski tracks in powder snow beneath the Gondola from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Finishing off my morning with some powder turns below the Gondola after Winter Storm Taylor dropped more than a foot of fresh powder at Stowe

We’ve known about the potential upslope snow on the back side of Winter Storm Taylor for several days, and today looked like the optimal time period to get some of those Northern Greens powder turns.  But, you never know quite how much powder you’re going to get until it happens.  Scott Braaten laid out his thoughts yesterday at Braatencast, but I’d say Mother Nature delivered even better than expected.  The first thing we heard from Scott this morning in the Northern New England thread at American Weather Forums was: “The orographic lift came through last night.  That’s for sure.”  We knew it was game on, and we sure love it when the Northern Greens do their thing.

An image of the day's snow report with a foot of snow from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontI was planning to head to Bolton Valley for a bit of touring this morning, but when I saw they were reporting about 4 inches overnight, whereas Stowe had early reports of 8 or 9 inches, I switched up my plans and decided to do a few lift-served runs at Stowe instead.  My snow analyses from the morning indicated that the new snow had come in around 5% H2O, which was a setup for some great powder turns.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the West Slope are of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some powder and views as I run one of my laps on the Sunny Spruce terrain today.

I had a bit of interesting serendipity on this morning’s outing.  I parked in the upper Gondi lot, planning to do most of my skiing there, but I had a pass issue that required me to head over to Spruce.  Once I’d gotten things straightened out with my pass, I decided to just roll with it and catch some runs while I was over there.  I headed out to the lifts and noticed something surprising – the Sensation Quad was running, but the Sunny Spruce Quad was down.  The reverse is common if there are wind issues, but certainly not the combination they had today (it turns out it wasn’t a wind issue, it was mechanical I guess).  Anyway, with Sunny Spruce down, it was pretty much country club powder skiing on that terrain for the few folks that felt like accessing it.  I did an initial run on Sensation, which was pretty quiet aside from the NorAm races, and got some of the first tracks down Spruce Line.  After that I did a couple of laps on the vacant Sunny Spruce terrain, running a circuit with the Meadows Quad and Sensation Quad, and of course including a hike to the top of Spruce Peak each time to get in that extra powder and make up for the fact that I was riding lifts instead of skinning.

An image of a snowboarder riding in powder snow near the sumit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of the snowboarders I encountered surfing the powder as we hit the snowfields near the summit of Spruce Peak today

“It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22 to 24 inches.”

It was snowing nice fat flakes all morning, and the increases in snowfall intensity were often quite notable as you headed up in elevation.  It typically wasn’t an intense pounding snow, but often nice and steady, and sometimes you’d have that fairly decent snowfall with sunshine at the same time.  There were a couple of times with the perfect simultaneous combinations of flakes and sun that I had to stand there in awe and soak in the mountain scene.  And it was all gorgeous upslope flakes – the 5% H2O I’d found in my morning snow analyses was probably about what we had where the snow wasn’t affected by any wind.  It was simply great snow quality with some good right-side-up nature to it thanks to some dense snow that had fallen at the beginning of the storm cycle.

An image of the "Bob's Rash" sign in the Bench Woods are at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontMost off piste (and even some on piste) terrain I encountered was definitely delivering that 48-hour total of 13” that I’d seen in Stowe’s snow report.  My first depth check of the day was in the Meadows East Glades, and my measurement came right in at 12 inches.  I checked in spots off Upper Sterling and was typically getting 12-14”.  I eventually got back over to the Gondola terrain and was really impressed with the skiing in the Bench Woods.  It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22-24”.  I did push through some sort of slightly thicker layer in those measurements, but it must not have been too sturdy because I was definitely skiing a lot of lines where the snow had that “up to the thighs” feeling.  That’s typically in the two-foot realm vs. the one-foot realm.  I found a sign I’d never seen in that area that said “Bob’s Rash”, and I have no idea how much of the terrain that sign was meant to cover, but the lines below it were beautifully steep and loaded with the kind of powder that billows up above your waist.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Bench Woods area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Exploring the awesome powder in the Bench Woods area this morning during my ski session at Stowe

Today’s temperatures were cold enough to keep things light and dry, but certainly not January frigid, so it was an all-around great morning.  It was another world once I got back down into the valley – it was mostly sunny down low while it was still snowing away at the mountain.  We’ve had some nice storms over the past couple of Marches, with Winter Storm Skylar last March, and Winter Stowe Stella the March before that.  This year’s Winter Storm Taylor wasn’t quite as big as those, but it was an awesome sleeper storm that brought the goods without as much hypeThe snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is now sitting at around 120 inches, and the skiing is great at all elevations.  Who knows how many other big storms we’ll be getting this season, but we’ve got the rest of March and April to find out!

Stowe, VT 10MAR2019

An image of snowfall from Winter Storm Taylor at the skating rink in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some of the trails of Mt. Mansfield taken from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today it was Winter Storm Taylor that greeted us with some snowfall to freshen up our afternoon for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe.

We’ve got Winter Storm Taylor currently affecting the area, and this morning it brought a burst of snow that delivered a few inches to ski resorts around the state.  The snow is expected to continue on and off through Tuesday, and I’d on and off is what we experienced today at our BJAMS ski program at Stowe.  Around midday when we were arriving we had some nice flakes coming down in the Spruce Peak Village to help freshen the snow surfaces, and there were also some winds keeping the upper mountain lifts on wind hold.

My ski group today was exactly the same as I had at last Sunday’s session: Adrian, Sienna, and Sienna’s mom Jessica.  To get a sense for how the new snow had settled in, we warmed up with a run on the Meadows Quad.  There were at least a couple fresh inches of dense snow around on the lower traffic areas of the trails, and there was an especially deep area along the Meadows Catwalk as it wrapped back around below the lift.  It almost seemed as if half the trail there hadn’t been groomed, because there were several inches of dense snow there.  I urged everyone to check out that snow, especially since I know Jessica had been looking to get a feel for what it was like to ski in powder.  She took quite well to the soft snow, and enjoyed the fact that turns were easy without worrying about firm spots, so I continued to search out the powder for her throughout the afternoon.  Eventually I didn’t have to find the snow for her though, she was really seeking it out herself.

We’ve got Winter Storm Taylor currently affecting the area, and this morning it brought a burst of snow that delivered a few inches to ski resorts around the state.

Adrian dressed in his ski gear and smiling at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontConditions were overall much improved from last weekend, and with Adrian’s persistent inquiries I eventually decided that the group could try the steep face of West Slope.  It’s marked as intermediate, but it could easily pass for a modest black diamond as well.  We listened to the sounds of skiers making turns down West Slope while we rode the Sunny Spruce Quad, and hearing no noise from their skis, I knew conditions would be amenable to a run for the group.  I also knew that even with the nice snow, it was going to be quite a challenge for everyone.  Ultimately it was a very good push for Sienna, who needed to figure out how to engage her edges to hold her skis in place.  Getting on that steeper slope was just what she needed though.  Everyone had a successful run, and I’d say that was the most challenging slope that any of them had faced up to that point.  One great aspect of tackling West Slope is that they now get to easily view their accomplishment right from the Spruce Peak Base Area and every time they ride the Sunny Spruce Quad.

Bolton Valley, VT 09MAR2019

An image of Dylan wearing a silver ski goggle lens on a sunny day at the Timberline Base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder snow in the Snow Hole area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in the snow hole area at Bolton Valley today, working his way through some of the powder from the past few days

It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March.  Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs.  The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.

The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base.  It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth.  My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.

An image of Erica skiing powder in the Snow Hole area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Telemark turns, blue skies, and powder this afternoon for E!

“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”

The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole.  Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.

An image of the Waffle Cabin and skis at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The waffle cabin, adored with skis and starting to disappear under the snow, was a huge hit with today’s gorgeous weather based on the size of the line out front.

Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow.  The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.

Stowe, VT 03MAR2019

An image of the Over Easy Gondola from the Mansfield Parking Lot at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the macaroni and cheese from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ahhh that mac and cheese from the Great Room Grill. Dylan finally got to have it at lunch today after missing his chance when last week’s ski session was cut a bit short.

Today was our weekly BJAMS ski day at Stowe, but before our program in the afternoon, we got together with our friend Weston, who I know from back in graduate school.  Weston had to head back to Connecticut by midday to stay ahead of incoming Winter Storm Scott, but we got to ski a couple of early runs with him off the Fourrunner Quad.  We haven’t had much new snow this week, so conditions were fairly firm and unpleasant in general, but we did find a few areas with decent groomed snow on Sunrise and T-Line.

After Weston departed, we took an early lunch in the Great Room Grill, and Dylan got to have the mac-n-cheese that he unfortunately missed out on a week ago when Ty got injured and our afternoon got cut short.  It was good, and very hearty – enough so that he had to store half of it in a takeaway box for later.

“He said his legs were definitely cooked, but that’s an excellent way to be after a good ski session.”

Dylan wasn’t part of my group today, but after our morning session on alpine skis, he switched to Telemark skiing for his afternoon session.  E and I warned him that it can be quite a workout on Stowe’s long trails, but he said he’d just alpine as needed if he had to rest his legs.  I find that still requires a lot more work than regular alpine skis, but it sounds like he made it work.  He said his legs were definitely cooked, but that’s an excellent way to be after a good ski session.

My ski group for the afternoon included Sienna and her mom Jessica, and Adrian.  E’s student didn’t show up, so she was with us as well.  We had some great runs off the Meadows Quad, and everyone was doing so well that they all moved up to a run off Sunny Spruce.  That was a huge step up for everyone, and I pointed out to Jessica that what she skied today would be even easier and far more fun on better conditions.  She’s eagerly awaiting a powder day to see what the skiing will be like, so hopefully she’ll get a chance at one of those soon!

An image of an ice sculpture in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
It’s that time of year again – checking out one of the ice sculptures in the Spruce Peak Village today