“…the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.”
Thanks to my explorations on trails like Moose-Ski and Grand View, I knew the most efficient and direct approach route to the Buchanan Shelter was to simply take the Catamount Trail to Beaver Pond. I’d taken this as my final route out on yesterday’s tour, and it really worked well as a rather direct and efficient gravity traverse back to the car. Indeed, it was quite the efficient route for the approach today, and it’s such a gradual incline that before you know it, you’ve gained several hundred feet of elevation.
During yesterday’s tour, I was pressed for time, so on my descent from the Buchanan Shelter, I had to stick near Upper Beaver Pond. Today we had plenty of time, so we were able to explore more to the east to find the best lines. There’s plenty of open forest for turns, and we were able to pick some fantastic lines that brought us right back down on Deer Run near the junction with Beaver Pond. We also had plenty of time to enjoy additional turns in some of the low-angle powder on the return to the car.
The powder was just as excellent today as it was yesterday, so it was a great ski outing. And, the fact that it just ended up being the two of us was sort of neat in the context of Valentine’s Day.
On my ascent I was on the lookout for potential descent options, exploring trails on the network such as Moose-ski. The terrain was nice, but generally rolling, so while there were some nice short descents, it would be challenging to incorporate these into an efficient tour once my climbing skins were removed. The views from that area across the beaver ponds did provide some great views back toward the alpine trails and the Village area.
The best powder skiing terrain on the tour was definitely on the slopes below the Buchanan Shelter, with some nice areas of open forest. The only sign of skiing in that area was an old ski track from someone that must have been there at least a couple of storms ago. I suspect traffic is generally light in this area because it requires an approach that’s close to two miles, vs. much quicker access in many other spots on the network. There’s a vast area of terrain for good descents off the ridge where Buchanan Shelter is located, enclosed by the Long Trail, Goat Path, Lower Maple Loop, Deer Run, and Beaver Pond.
Even without new snow in a couple of days, the snow preservation has been so good, that the quality of the powder is simply spectacular. The snowpack I found was generally in the two- to three-foot range, but there’s such good density in the bottom layers that anything of concern is well covered.
I was unsure how smooth the traverse out was going to be via the direct route back to the Catamount Trail, since I’d come in by an alternate route using Grand View and Moose-Ski. Indeed, the direct route out on Beaver Pond is quite quick – it’s essentially a gravity traverse with a few spots that require glide and kick or double polling, but there are even spots below Caribou’s Corner where it’s steep enough that you can get additional turns in the powder outside the skin track.
I hadn’t been up to the mountain for a couple of days while I waited for the arctic hounds to head out of town, but things were definitely warming up this afternoon, so I hit the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network for a tour. Temperatures were in the mid-teens F, and with brilliant sunshine and no wind, it was definitely getting much more comfortable out there.
I wanted a relatively quick tour and hadn’t yet visited the trails on the western side of the network below the North Ridge this season, so I headed out in that direction. At the 2,000’ elevation around the Village I was quite consistently getting settled snowpack depths right around 24”, and in the 2,300’ – 2,400’ elevation near the top of my route, I got a 26” measurement. Although that’s not especially deep, there’s a lot of liquid in the snowpack, so everything is surprisingly well covered and there aren’t any major ground obstacles to worry about. Even steep terrain like C Bear Woods and the Holden’s Hollow Glades had plenty of coverage. I’m sure there would be a few coverage issues on steep terrain for lift-served levels of skier traffic, but with just backcountry traffic, there’s more than enough coverage to ski everything without concern. Although it had only been a couple of days since the last snows, there had actually been a pretty good amount of traffic on the main routes I traveled, so I had to go off the edges for fresh powder.
There has definitely been some settling of all the fluff in the forest over the past few days, but there’s still a lot of snow covering everything. It will be interesting to see what the snow from this next storm does in terms of sticking to what’s out there already.
The consistent snows and temperatures we’ve had over the past several days had me pretty certain that the snow quality was there for lift-served skiing today, but the arctic hounds coming in on those northwest winds led me to go touring instead. When I saw projected highs in the single digits F for Bolton Valley today, there was no way I wanted to sit still on the lifts in the wind vs. generating my own heat down in the protection of the forest.
I got up to the Village around midday, and temperatures were indeed in the mid-single digits F as the forecast had suggested. Between all the backcountry touring and Nordic folks that I saw, there were plenty of people out on the lower trails, but farther out into the higher trails by the Bryant Cabin, I saw probably a handful of groups. Overall, you could tell by the vibe that people felt it was great weather for these types of activities.
The additional 4 inches of fresh champagne that the resort had just picked up really served to top off the already crazy levels of fluff that covered everything. I saw some great images of the recent snows as soon as I arrived in the Village, so before gearing up for my tour, I took a quick walk around the Village and grabbed some scenic shots. Once I started my tour and got into the forest, the amount of snow on all surfaces was just amazing – it was caked so heavily on the trees that you were surrounded by it on all sides. Starting up the Bryant Trail was like walking into some sort of white cathedral.
I made depth measurements of the snowpack during my tour, and I found generally 26-27” around the 2,000’ level, and many spots that are getting dangerously close to 40” up near 3,000’. That’s pretty consistent with what the Mt. Mansfield Stake is showing. The powder skiing was great, although we could still use another storm or two just to push the snowpack depth past that 40” benchmark.
At the start of my tour off Heavenly Highway I was on some steep, 30+-degree slopes, and I was setting off sloughs that definitely spoke to the relative snowpack instability from the continuous day after day after day of snows without consolidation. I was perfectly safe where I was the very dense forest, but I immediately though about how I wouldn’t want to be exposed in spots like the ravines of the Presidentials. So I guess it wasn’t entirely surprising when I discovered posts in the American Weather New England Skiing Thread about slides in Tuckerman.
I was last out at the mountain on Sunday, and although we’ve only had a few additional inches of snow since then, it seemed like today was a good day to head on up for a tour and check out the conditions. We’ve continued to be treated to temperatures that are well above average, which in January around here actually makes for some very nice temperatures in the 20s F.
I didn’t check out any of the manmade or lift-served terrain today, but I started my tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network and then connected over to the Wilderness area. After several outings following the standard Wilderness Uphill Route right from the base over the past few weeks, I wanted to mix things up today. So, I started out down by the Nordic Center, headed up Bryant until I got to World Cup, and then continued over to Lower Turnpike via the connector trail used by the mountain operations crew. It was a fun variation with some new views, and it let me check out the conditions across a number of trails, including the Telemark Practice Slope, which looked to be in such good shape that I skied it on my descent. Starting out on my tour in one of the tennis court lots, I actually had my pass scanned by a resort associate with a handheld scanner. This was the first time I’ve been checked since Bolton Valley has switched to RFID. It’s great to see that they’re checking, and it’s a good reminder to be sure you bring your pass, even if you’re going to be touring!
The Colorado-esque weather regime over the past few days has definitely been outstanding with respect to snow preservation. In areas that haven’t been skied, all the recent snows are just sitting there in the form of midwinter powder, and I found depths of generally 6-12” at the 2,000’ elevation and 8-12” up around 2,700’, which was as high as I went on my tour. I toured on my midfats today instead of my fat skis, assuming powder would be fairly hard to come by after a week of modest snowfall, settling, and skier traffic. I’d still go that route again based on what I chose to ski, but there is definitely some fat ski-worth powder out there in many areas. I’d say the main issue is still the base below that snow. It’s quite variable, and down at 2,000’ in the Village elevations there’s nothing at all below the powder in unprotected areas. In the higher elevations the base is a bit less variable, but there’s still nowhere near enough base for steep terrain. I could tell that the mountain had opened up some of the natural snow terrain on Wilderness for lift-served skiers connecting over from Vista, because there were surprising number of people skiing the Wilderness Lift Line and Wilderness Woods. I saw a group of four kids in Wilderness Woods having a lot of fun, although it’s still a bit thin and you could hear them hitting the occasional stump or rock.
“I toured on my midfats today instead of my fat skis, assuming powder would be fairly hard to come by after a week of modest snowfall, settling, and skier traffic. I’d still go that route again based on what I chose to ski, but there is definitely some fat ski-worth powder out there in many areas.”
What I saw that impressed me most on today’s tour was the state of skier-packed natural terrain. Areas like Lower Turnpike, Telemark Practice Slope, Bryant Trail, and Nordic trails like World Cup (some of these may have been machine-packed) were in very good to excellent shape. Presumably, these areas of packed snow held up well against the warmth around Christmas, and now the additional snows of the past week or two have reinforced that base. Lower Turnpike had nearly perfect coverage, and all this packed terrain is going to make for some excellent powder skiing when the next storms come.
All in all, though, you could definitely feel that winter has settled in for the mountains, even if the snowpack/base is on the low side. The water bars I encountered today were all sufficiently frozen, although most of them are still visible and require a bit of navigation.
Dylan and E were off to a sledding party this afternoon in Morrisville, but it was such a gorgeous day that getting out for a ski tour was definitely on my mind. Ty had to work until noon, and was heading to a friend’s house at 4 P.M., but we definitely had enough time to sneak a tour in that window. Once Ty was back and we’d gear up, we headed right to Bolton Valley.
You almost couldn’t ask for better weather today – we had blue skies, and temperatures at Village elevation were right around 30 F. That’s nice and comfortable for touring, but not warm enough to really start adversely affecting the powder. Visitation at the resort looked strong, but there were still available parking spots and we were able to get one right along the trails in the upper tennis court lot.
“The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough.”
We toured over toward Holden’s Hollow today, and the theme was definitely efficiency. Ty is in really great shape, so his pace is even faster than mine, and within about 25 minutes we were already in position for a descent. Based on how fast we’d moved, I said we’d easily have time for a couple of laps, so we set up for an initial descent through a nice glade on the back side of the ridge. Ty worked on deskinning with his skis still on, and was quite fast with it, so our transition speed only enhanced just how efficient and quick we were overall.
We had first tracks for our descent of the glade, and the conditions were excellent. I’d actually describe the conditions as even better than what we encountered last Saturday when I was out at Bolton with Dylan – and that already wasn’t too shabby. The powder skiing on that outing with Dylan was decent, but there was a marginal buried crust present in some areas that knocked the overall feel down a notch. The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough. Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend. The powder was more consistent today though with any crust buried deeper. That 20 inches of powder is fairly settled at this point of course, so we’re not talking about sinking down 20 inches into fresh champagne, you’re more like 6 to 12 inches down in the powder, but the rest is serving as fantastic cushion above the base. Our first run was on a fairly south-facing slope, but the trees offered a good amount of protection from the sun. A few spots were just starting to get that first phase of the powder being affected by the sun, but those were few and far between.
Once we were back down at the Telemark Trail, we switched over for another ascent, and I was much more efficient at the transition, so told Ty I’d start the ascent and he could catch up. This time, I broke trail through the powder beyond our previous lap, and headed up to the top to access the east side of the ridge. Ty caught up to me just as I was cresting, so it worked out perfectly.
“Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend.”
We descended in the C Bear Woods area that I’d visited back during my tour on the 1st of the month. We had first tracks there as well, but the powder wasn’t quite as good as what we’d found on our first ascent – I think wind effects up on that part of the ridge were the main culprit. The sun was also doing a bit more work on that snow, so in some areas it had lost a bit more of its winter fluff texture.
Back down at the bottom of that run, Ty and I skinned up for the final return to the car, and we found that we’d less than 90 minutes for the whole tour. It was fun getting things done so efficiently, and we really weren’t even pushing ourselves, it was just overall solid pace and good transitions between skinning and skiing.
We’ve got another potential winter storm coming later this week, and it looks pretty nice for the mountains around here from what I’ve seen on the models. The initial snow might be dense since it not an especially cold storm, but unless things change dramatically it looks like another nice shot of liquid equivalent for the snowpack. Some of the models also show extended upslope snow on the back side of the cycle, which would be great to top off the powder skiing conditions.
Temperatures were really in a sweet spot today – they were just a bit below freezing, which meant that they were extremely comfortable, but not warm enough to ruin any of the powder. I think a lot of people know that today was going to be spectacular out there, because even the lots down by the Nordic Center were filling up when I arrived around 10:00 A.M. The upper tennis court lot was already filled, so I had to head to the lower one, but I got a nice trailside parking spot that let me gear up and jump right onto Broadway.
“The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.”
I needed to pick up Ty from work at noon, so my plan was a quick tour out to the Holden’s Hollow area to get in some powder turns. Consistent with the parking lots, there were people all over the Nordic trails, and a number heading out onto the backcountry trails as well. Once I got up onto the Telemark Trail I didn’t see anyone else around however, and based on the skin track it looked like only about 3 or 4 people had even been out on that part of the network recently.
I had to break trail on the final stretch up to the ridgeline above Holden’s Hollow, and once I’d crested I found myself with a vast area of untracked snow below me. The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.
As I switched over for the descent, I noticed a trail sign just down the ridgeline from me, and figured it was one of the markers for some of the Holden’s Hollow Glades. Once I headed over to it though, I saw that it read “C Bear Woods”, and I realized it was a sign I’d never seen before. The sign looks new, so it’s either an area that was recently updated for skiing, or perhaps folks just got around to putting up a sign. Whatever the case, the glade below me was entirely untracked, and the powder was excellent. As I encountered on Thursday, there was a bit of a crust buried within the pack in some spots, but in this case it was either absent or buried deep enough that it was inconsequential.
I was surprised to find that the run actually brought me down on the back side of the ridge, which would have been great for doing another lap, but unfortunately I didn’t have time. I cut eastward through the trees and got myself over to the east side of the ridge where I was able to descend back to the Telemark Trail and Broadway with more untracked powder turns.
From the pump house/bridge area, I re-skinned my skis for my return to the Village – I’ve learned the investment of a couple minutes into putting on your skins is well worth it for that return trip with its slight uphill inclines.
When I got back to my car a bit before noon, even the lower tennis court lot had filled, and the parking lots in general looked packed to the gills. The mountain was definitely doing a booming business, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising on a midwinter Saturday with a recent resurfacing of the slopes, full operation, and perfect temperatures.
I really hadn’t planned to ski today. During the midweek period we picked up some snow from Winter Storm Indra, but there was mixed precipitation with that system that would certainly require some resurfacing to softened up the slopes. Between the dense, backside snow from that storm cycle, as well as additional lake-effect snow from the past day or so, we’d picked up 2 to 3 inches of new accumulation at the house, but I really hadn’t thought the mountains would be quite ready for prime time. I was thinking the bit of snow we’re expected tomorrow would just about be enough, so I was happy to relax and spend the day inside getting some work done.
It was midafternoon by the time I’d figured out about all the snow, but just so Mother Nature could drive the point home about how much she’d been doing in the snow department, I arrived in the Village to find a steady light snow falling. A quick check on the powder depths at the 2,000’ Village elevations revealed 6 inches, and as I began my trip up the Bryant Trail I found that the trees all around me were loaded with snow. The recent snows had fallen with minimal wind, so evergreens and deciduous trees alike were just caked in fresh powder.
“The new snow depths continued to increase with elevation, and by the time I was getting up near the 3,000’ mark I was finding 8 to 9 inches of powder in many places.”
The new snow depths continued to increase with elevation, and by the time I was getting up near the 3,000’ mark I was finding 8 to 9 inches of powder in many places. I’d initially been thinking about a fairly low-angle tour like the one I’d done back on December 27th, but my plans quickly changed when I saw how deep the powder was getting. I continued on up past the Bryant Cabin to Heavenly Highway to extend my tour a bit more and incorporate some steeper terrain.
I put together a classic descent that brought me through Gotham City as well as a host of other glades, it definitely delivered some great powder turns. In terms of bottomless quality, there were certainly differences between those depths up around 3,000’ and the depths down around 2,000’ – there was a lot more flexibility with respect to slope angle up high, with moderate and even steeper angles easily in play. Another important factor that I discovered during my tour was that open areas and deciduous trees were the way to go for the deepest powder. The dense evergreen areas, which are often an excellent bet for snow protection when it comes to wind, offered much shallower powder today. Since the snow in the trees had been unloaded during the midweek storm, and the recent snows fell with minimal wind, the boughs had been reloaded with all the powder, keeping a lot of it off the ground. Open glades with substantial amounts of deciduous trees like Gun Sight were great examples of the effects of letting the new snow get down through the trees.
I did stop by the deli after the tour today, but we already had dinner planned so I decided to grab some of their maple lattes for the family. That’s definitely a fun offering that they have now, and the flavor is certainly very “Vermonty”. E described it as “homey” compared to some other maple lattes she’s had.
On the weather side of things, we’ve got a small system and associated cold front expected to come through the area tomorrow, and then a bit larger storm in the midweek period that should continue to improve the powder even further.
Today’s temperatures were a few degrees warmer than yesterday’s, but earning turns in the backcountry still seemed like good way to fight off the chill. E and the boys were up for some skiing today, so with yesterday’s trip to Holden’s Hollow serving as reconnaissance, I set up what I hoped would be a fun ski tour for them.
The temperature was right around 10 F in the Village when we arrived in the midafternoon, and with afternoon sun and no wind it was actually quite comfortable as we headed up the Bryant Trail to begin the tour. It wasn’t long before we came to the top of Cup Runneth Over, and everyone was surprised that I had them taking off their skins for our first descent. The descent there was excellent, with about a foot of powder over a soft base. I was very impressed to find that even the steep final section of the glade was in excellent shape. E was really enjoying the quality of the snow, but also the peace and quiet of the trees and all the unique formations that the fluffy snow had built upon the vegetation.
“I was worried that they would be a bit steep for E and the boys on their Telemark gear, but the powder was deep and soft enough that they had no problems with the turns.”
Once we finished our descent down to the pump house, we put out skins back on and began our ascent on Telemark. This was a slightly different route than what I’d taken yesterday, but Telemark looked like a nice option to ascend to the top of the Holden’s Hollow Glades and I was interested in exploring that route. It turns out that Telemark takes a nice mellow grade as it wraps around the ridge with Holden’s Hollow. On the trip around we discovered that there are also more glades on the back side of Holden’s Hollow. They looked quite inviting, but we didn’t quite have time to incorporate those into our tour this time.
“E said that overall she had a really great time because the quality of the snow was just so good.”
We stopped on the ridge at the top our ascent for some hot chocolate, then headed down through the Holden’s Hollow Glades. I was worried that they would be a bit steep for E and the boys on their Telemark gear, but the powder was deep and soft enough that they had no problems with the turns. In the lower sections of the glade, Dylan said he wished it was even steeper to accommodate the amount of powder that was there. E said that overall she had a really great time because the quality of the snow was just so good. We’re often out on the backcountry network when the powder is more marginal and not quite enough to hold up on the lift served terrain, but this time everyone was getting top notch midwinter powder and loving it.
With our recent winter storm dropping 2½ to 3 feet of snow at the local resorts, the ski conditions are simply fantastic. However, the storm also brought some cold air with it, and that’s now in place over the area. Temperatures were expected to top out in the single digits F today, which isn’t horribly cold, but cold enough that I’d rather be skinning for turns than riding lifts.
Temperatures were indeed in the mid to upper single digits F when I arrived at the Village around midafternoon, and not surprisingly with the fantastic snow conditions, there were a ton of Nordic skiers out on the Network. I headed right over toward the Holden’s Hollow area via Pond Loop, and found myself on the Telemark Trail briefly before I cut right to Holden’s Hollow. My ascent on Holden’s Hollow made me realize just how expansive that area is – there are a lot more sections of maintained glades around there than I knew, not to mention the amount of natural terrain that is skiable on its own.
“In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common.”
Being well on the leeward side of Oxbow Ridge and North Ridge, the snow in the Holden’s Hollow area is well protected from winds, and boy is the quantity and quality of the powder impressive. In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common. I’m sure the powder has settled some since it initially fell (my analyses at the house were revealing densities in the 3% H2O range near the end of the storm) but all the snow out there is incredibly light and dry, with a fantastic soft base underneath it. The turns were essentially as you’d expect with snow like that – simply outstanding. I guess the only complaint I can muster would be that a few skiers had already been through the area so I had to hunt around off the main lines a bit for fresh tracks. However, this is the kind of powder that’s so deep and plentiful, it’s still amazingly good even after it’s seen a few passes from other skiers. That’s indeed what’s out there right now in the backcountry, so get out and enjoy it if you’ve got the chance!