Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 26JAN2019

An image of evergreens bent over with loaded snow in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow in a glade off the Heavenly Highway trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dropping into one of the glades off Heavenly Highway today to take advantage of the ample powder in the higher elevations at Bolton Valley.

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.

Well, things changed a bit when I was reading through the Northern New England thread at American Weather Forums, as saw Powderfreak’s post noting up to 8 inches of accumulation at Stowe.  I quickly checked Bolton Valley’s report and saw 7” in the past 72 hours, as well as the powder tracks on their web cam and realized it was definitely time to go for a tour.

An image from Bolton Valley's live webcam on January 26th, 2019
I checked Bolton Valley’s webcam today and things looked quite good, but when I saw those ski tracks in the powder on Valley Road, I knew it was time for a visit.

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.

An image of the Gun Sight area on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the way the evergreens captured snow snow from our recent storms, open areas like Gun Sight offered some of the best powder today

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.

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

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.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13JAN2019

An image of people ski touring on the Pond Loop trail near sunset with some of Bolton Valley Resort's alpine trails in the background
An image of Erica skiing the Cup Runneth Over glade on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica enjoying some beautiful powder on Cup Runneth Over today at Bolton Valley

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.

An image showing a formation in the powder snow that looks like a snail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the snow formations Erica saw out in the backcountry today that looked like a snail coming up out of the snow.

“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.

An image of Erica and Ty ski touring on the Telemark trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica and Ty make their way up the Telemark trail under the cover of beautiful snowy branches.

“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.

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map including GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 12JAN2019

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of the Holden's Hollow Glades on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fluffy snow coated everything in the Holden’s Hollow Glades today.

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.

I headed up to the Bolton Valley Village for a tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network, and with the time I had, I needed something fairly quick.  I decided on a short tour over in the Holden’s Hollow area, since it’s just a short jaunt across the lower Nordic trails, and I hadn’t been over on that side of the network since my trip there in March of last season.

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.

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

“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!

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2019

An image of Ty skiing powder in White Rabbit area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty enjoys the great weather and takes in some powder today on our visit to Bolton Valley

With help from our most recent winter storm, Bolton Valley is reporting 6 to 9 inches of new snow over the past several days, so Ty and I decided to head up today to ski a bit of that powder.  We got to the Village in the late morning, and were surprised to find the upper parking lots were hitting capacity.  We poked around in the lots for a bit though, and eventually got a spot from someone who was leaving.  Parking at the main base was at an unusual premium today because there was a big Nordic race taking place.  They certainly had a really fantastic day for the event – the sky was a mix of sun and clouds, and temperatures were just edging above freezing at the 2,000’ level.

An image of snow banks in the parking lots near the village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow covering snow banks today in the busy Bolton Valley parking lot

With temperatures expected to rise a few degrees above freezing, Ty and I quickly got on our way over to Wilderness to make sure we could get in some powder turns before any potential temperature effects on the snow.  We started off with a warm up on Bolton Outlaw, connecting down to the Wilderness Woods area and Lower Turnpike, where we found plenty of powder along the edges of the runs.  I was definitely leery of the subsurface on Bolton Outlaw based on my experience over at Timberline on Thursday, but I ended up being really impressed with the overall conditions we found.  The new snow has settled some and it’s now had a chance to form a much better bond to the underlying surface.  In addition, there’s definitely been some additional liquid equivalent added to the surface snow relative to what I found earlier in the week.  There was plenty of loose snow on Bolton Outlaw, but even when you got down to the subsurface there was substantial grip.  Steep, natural snow trails like Bolton Outlaw being in good shape bodes well for the overall surface conditions on the mountain, so it’s not surprising that most terrain has been reopened now.

“There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.”

Ty and I also visited White Rabbit, where we found just a couple of tracks and acres of fresh powder.  The freezing level was rising, so we had to start paying attention to aspect and sun protection, but the effects on the powder were still fairly minimal overall.  There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.

The forecast suggests we’ve got a small system coming in to the area tonight, and then another couple of larger systems in the coming week, so folks should be alert for more potential powder turns in the near future.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13MAR2018

An image of Stephen dropping off Heavenly Highway into some powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Stephen skiing powder in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen enjoying some of the great snow out there in the Bolton Valley backcountry today

Today was a big ski day for Stephen.  He’s been working hard, for what seems like years, to put together an appropriate alpine touring setup for backcountry skiing at a reasonable price.  Over the past few months, the final pieces have finally been coming together.  Despite his son Johannes “stealing” critical pieces of what appeared to be his final setup, the gear swapping, shop visits, adjustments, readjustments, and everything else that tried to get in the way, was eventually settled.  All that remained was finding a day in his busy schedule to actually use his fancy gear.  Today was that day, and the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network was the place.

An image out the window of the Bryant Cabin showing icicles in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe got a fairly early start to give us plenty of time for a tour of whatever length we chose, I figured I’d give Stephen a good introduction to some of my favorite parts of the network that he’d never visited.  We’d be able to adapt the length of the tour as needed to fit energy levels and any equipment issues.  Snowfall from Winter Storm Skylar was just getting started as we began our tour from the sports center, and it intensified on our ascent of the Bryant Trail.  We saw only one other person on our ascent, and with the Bryant Cabin vacant, we were able to check out the upgrades that had been done as we took a quick break.  Clearly the cabin has seen some recent use, because the icicles draped down from the roof were some of the largest I’ve ever seen.

The next leg of our journey took us up to “The Glades” above the Catamount Trail, where we stopped our ascent around 3,100’.  Although the storm occasionally brought us some slightly larger flakes, they were for the most part small, with diameters in the 1 to 2 mm range.  This meant that the new snow was fairly dense, and it was covering everything underneath it quite well.  We continued down into the Cotton Brook Glades on Randy’s and Great White Way, and found some impressive untracked lines.  Stephen had a few good explosions in the powder, but he seemed thankful for most of them as they helped cool him down after the long ascent.  Those steep, tight sections on Randy’s were certainly the most challenging, but Stephen had some of his best turns down in the mellower pitches of Great White Way.  I find that those lower angle areas are some of my favorites as well unless you’ve just picked up two feet of fluff and really need the steeper pitch.

The ascent up from the back side was quite a labor at times.  It’s always tough skinning out in a few spots of that Cotton Brook ascent.  It’s just steep and narrow near the bottom of Randy’s, and there’s no way around it, so you have to try your best to set in switchbacks.  We were fortunate to have use of the old skin track that’s in place, but we were slipping on the steepest pitches.  Stephen was definitely feeling it as he’d take one step forward and what felt like 10 steps back, especially as he was getting used his very first day on his skins, but we made it through that struggle and the pitch of the ascent improved dramatically.  When we cut Stephen’s skins for his skis at full width, I was telling him how I considered that approach a “no brainer” vs. going with anything narrower, and after today’s ascent up from the Cotton Brook area I know he agrees 100%.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a tour in the backcountry at Bolton  Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS tracking data for today’s tour into the Bolton Valley backcountry

We finished off the tour with a line below Heavenly Highway down to Bryant Cabin, then on to Gardiner’s Lane and JJ’s, which delivered one of the best runs I’ve had there.  We’d certainly accumulated a few fresh inches of snow from the storm by that point, which helped make the skiing extra soft.  The Telemark Practice Slope was also aided by all the new snow, and made a nice end to the tour.  Actually, the tour wasn’t quite over at that point because we added on one of the most important parts:  sandwiches at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery.  We even got to chat with Ralph Deslauriers while we were there, and naturally one of the topics of conversation was the very snowy week we’ve got to look forward to.  It sounds like Winter Storm Skylar is going to move up into Northern Maine and wrap some of that abundant Atlantic moisture into the Northern Greens, just like the way things happened last week after Winter Storm Quinn!

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03MAR2018

An image of people riding fat bikes on the Nordic Trails at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont March after a fresh snowfall
An image of the Prayer Flag trail on the Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down through a bit of fresh powder today on the Prayer Flag trail on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

Yesterday the Northeast was affected by Winter Storm Riley, a whopper of a system with wind gusts reaching 93 MPH in Barnstable on Cape Cod.  On the winter side of the storm, the Catskills were the epicenter for big snowfall, with accumulations reaching 40 inches.  Here in Vermont, the snow totals weren’t quite as outrageous, but the southern resorts still pulled in over a foot of accumulation.  Bolton Valley was reporting 4 inches of new snow from the storm, which seemed like just enough to temp me out for a tour in the new powder.

“I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.”

I headed up to the Village in the mid-morning timeframe with temperatures in the upper 20s F and mostly cloudy skies.  The parking lots were already getting quite full, but there were still a number of parking spots right along Broadway, and I was able to grab one of those.  I actually saw a few folks riding fat bikes on some of the lower Nordic Trails, and it looked like a perfect day to be out on those.  Actually, with the fresh snow, comfortable temperature, and peeks of sun, it was just a gorgeous day to be out on anything – I saw all manner of folks on the trails varying from the bikers, to snowshoers, to Nordic skiers, to backcountry skiers.

A direction arrow and snowy evergreens on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWith only a few inches of new snow, I was looking for some low-angle glades for today’s tour, and I decided to venture across to the west side of the valley for a change.  I kicked things off with a run on Prayer Flag, augmented by ascending a bit farther up the west wall of the valley above the flags to get some extra vertical.  I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.  Only when I had to cut hard to stop or adjust for a major obstacle would I get down to the subsurface.  Lower angle was clearly the way to go today though, because down on Brook Run I could see that steeper terrain like the Holden’s Hollow Glades will definitely need another storm before they’ll be back in top form.

Down at the pump house on Broadway, I reskinned my skis and headed back up World Cup to Bryant.  I skied the first half of Cup Runneth Over to start my next run, skipping the steeper bottom half because the new snow just wasn’t sufficient for that pitch.  Cup Runneth Over had seen a couple of skiers, but there was ample fresh snow remaining and the turns were generally very nice.  I finished out with some of the usual glades in the World Cup area, and even caught part of the Telemark Practice Slope, which had actually seen minimal traffic.

A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking Data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

The classic end to the tour was of course a visit to the Village Deli to grab some subs with that fantastic new bread they’ve got.  I didn’t see Gus today, but the Deli was really hummin’ with just about every table filled.  It sounds like we might have another storm affecting the area this coming week, so we’ll certainly be watching that potential over the next few days.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03FEB2018

An image of a Coyote trail sigh no the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a Coyote trail sign on the backcountry skiing network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Following a skin track out in the Bolton Valley backcountry today – the recent snow really started getting the backcountry conditions back on track.

As the forecasts suggested, we’ve moved back in a bit of a snowier weather regime after the past couple weeks of midwinter doldrums.  A system on Thursday ushered in some welcomed snow, with 4.4 inches down here at the house, and 6 to 8 inches at most of the resorts in the northern 2/3 of Vermont.

Today started out quite cold, with temperatures down near 0 F, but it was expected to get warmer throughout the day.  I waited until midafternoon, then headed up to Bolton Valley for a tour to check out how the new snow had settled in.  Temperatures were in the mid to upper teens F when I arrived, and checking the settled depth of the powder at the 2,100’ elevation level, I found it was 4 to 5 inches deep.

An image of an Old Goats trail marker on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Old Goats: The Bolton Valley Backcountry Network is probably the only place you’re ever going to see a trail marker like this.

Instead of going all way up to Bryant Cabin today, I decided to do a bit of an abbreviated tour.  I headed about halfway of the way up the Bryant Trail, then connected onto Coyote and made my way up to Gotham City.  I saw a nice skin track taking a novel route into the upper reaches of Gotham City, so I followed that for a few minutes and added on some additional vertical.  I topped out close to 2,500’, where the depth of the powder was roughly 6 inches.  The upper reaches of Gotham City that I skied were totally untracked and yielded some excellent turns, and I followed my run out through the usual assortment of glades available throughout the World Cup area.  The turns were excellent on low to moderate angle terrain, with only the occasional contact with the subsurface unless you got into steeper terrain or areas that had seen previous traffic.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the backcountry ski network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS Tracking Data for today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

Even that modest storm that we just picked up was all that was really needed to make a huge bump up in the ski conditions, but we’ve got another system on its way tomorrow that should help even more.  We’ll see how this next system plays out, but another several inches on top of what we just picked up will really get things back in midwinter form.

Ranch Valley & Stowe Cross Country Center, VT 07JAN2017

An image showing ice formations on Ranch Brook in Stowe, Vermont
An image of a sign for the Burt Trail on the trail network at Stowe Cross Country Center in Vermont
Out on the Burt Trail today for some backcountry skiing

It’s been a relatively slow week for snowfall in the Northern Greens, but Stowe did manage to pick up roughly a foot of snow between Wednesday and Thursday.  Since the Mt. Mansfield area seemed to be a sweet spot with respect to snowfall, I decided to head out for a backcountry tour in the Ranch Valley, which sits just to the south of the resort’s alpine trail network and is the location for Stowe’s Cross Country Center.  I’ve been through the area numerous times when coming down the Bruce Trail, and I’ve sampled some of the natural glades that populate the middle elevations in that area.  I could see that there was much more skiable terrain to explore though, so I decided to check out what the areas around the Burt Trail had to offer.

Temperatures were in the low to mid 20s F in the local mountain valleys as I headed up to the Stowe Cross Country Center to start my tour.  It turns out that Mrs. Blanck was behind the counter when I was buying my trail pass, so we were able to catch up a bit and she gave me an overview of some nice glades that she’d heard of as we reviewed the backcountry portion of the trail map.

My ascent route consisted of starting on the Timberlane Trail and using Cross Cut 2 to get to the Burt Trail.  The recent snows were certainly elevation dependent, so there was only about an inch of fresh snow atop the snowpack down near the base of the Cross Country Center at ~1,000’.  It did increase as I ascended, reaching a couple of inches by the time I hit the Burt Trail, and nearly 4 inches at the top of my ascent at the junction with the Underhill Trail.  Here’s the general depths of surface powder I found on my tour with respect to elevation:

1,000’:  1”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 3”
2,500’: ~4”

An image of a hut along the Burt Trail at Stowe Cross Country Center at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Passing a hut along the Burt Trail

The backcountry portion of the Burt Trail starts right around 1,500’ elevation, and getting to that point represents a pretty hefty approach of over two miles, so that’s about the minimum distance one will have to go on this route to get into terrain for potential descents.  The Burt Trail really starts to steepen above 2,000’, which one hits at close to three miles in.  At that point it’s comprised of switchbacks to accommodate the steeper terrain.  That area is still mostly hardwoods, with scattered evergreens, so tree density isn’t too bad and one can easily cut the switchbacks and ski through the forest.  That terrain is pretty steep though, so one would want a decent amount of powder for it to be optimal.  Based on darkness and trying to ensure that I made it back to the Cross Country Center by 5:00 P.M. since a sign that the parking lot gate would close at that point, I only ascended to the junction with the Underhill Trail, but I could see that there was plenty of similar terrain right up above me.

As for the skiing and conditions, one would definitely want more powder above the base than what I found today, but I was still able to get in some decent turns.  I had my midfat Tele skis, which were certainly not all that light in the overall spectrum of Nordic equipment, but I was thankful to have something that could handle the descent well.  I cut the Burt Trail switchbacks and skied the fairly open forest in some spots, but I could actually stay on the trail itself for the most part where it mattered.  Only one person had gone up ahead of me above 2,000’ on the trail and they must have descended another way, because there was no descent track.  So the Burt Trail itself was relatively untracked and I got some of my best turns of the afternoon simply by staying on it.  The terrain in the 1,500’ to 2,000’ range offers some options off the trail depending on the pitch of the terrain, but I just ran my descent out the trail itself based on the snow conditions and my time.  The whole runout back to the Cross Country Center is actually pretty fun, and you can really cruise along at times, but you will have to do some skating and deal with a couple of small uphill sections.  It’s quite similar to running out the Bruce Trail though, and indeed the route is identical in some spots, so if you’ve done that you’ll have a good sense for what this is like.

An image showing GPS data on Google Earth from a backcountry ski tour in the Ranch Valley of Vermont near Stowe Mountain Resort
Today’s backcountry ski route in the Ranch Valley

It looks like we’ll be in a fairly active weather pattern in the foreseeable future with some clipper-type events and larger synoptic systems with potential mixed precipitation, so we’ll see how these play out in terms of bolstering the snowpack.

Bolton Valley Nordic Center, VT 02JAN2017

An image of trail signs on the Bolton Valley Nordic Center at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the cover to the newest version of Bolton Valley's Nordic & Backcountry Trail Map
The beautiful cover to the newest version of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry Trail Map

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been out for a genuine cross country ski session, but that’s what I got to do today at the Bolton Valley Nordic Center.  E planned to take the boys up to the resort’s sports center for some swimming this afternoon, and with a fairly short window of time and not much new snow over the past few days, some cross country skiing seemed like the perfect fit.

The resort was again quite busy today with many people off from school and work, and indeed the lift queues looked fairly substantial as we passed by the base lodge.  We were able to park right down by the sports center and E and the boys headed roff to the pool while I got my gear together.  I took a nice round trip out on Broadway and Maple Loop, and enjoyed the ability to actually ski in the tracked lanes.  Where possible I used the tracks and skied classic, but also skated in some spots.  My skis aren’t really skate skis, but I was able to fumble through some strides.  I jumped into the powder off the sides of the trails a few times and even managed a few Telemark turns, but I was thoroughly reminded of just how unstable real cross country skis are.

An image from outside the Bolton Valley Nordic Center at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

The boys had a lot of fun catching balls as they jumped into the pool and did everything else they’ve missed since the last time they were in the water.  We walked up to get some sandwiches from the deli before we left, and could see the mass exodus of visitors heading back to their cars as the ski day ended.  Based on what we’ve seen over this holiday period, I think the resort has seen a lot of visitors thanks to fairly decent ski conditions, so hopefully that’s been a big positive during what is typically the biggest week of the ski season.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 10DEC2016

An image showing some ski tracks in powder snow in a high-elevation glade along the Catamount Trail outside of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the depth of powder on a glade along the Catamount Trail outside of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
In the backcountry today, the higher elevations held up to 20 inches of powder atop a roughly 10-inch base, indicating a snowpack of approximately 30 inches.

This is opening weekend for lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, but with only minimal terrain served by the lifts at the moment and fairly chilly temperatures in the forecast, I decided to make it my first visit of the season to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.  Although we haven’t had any big storms in the area in the past few days, we’ve had some lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes and additional snow from an arctic frontal passage that has given the mountains additional bouts of snow almost every day.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake is indicating a snowpack depth of 34”, and it’s definitely not just fluff.  With the high elevation and maintenance that goes on in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I’ll usually feel OK poking around on appropriate terrain once the stake kits 24” (depending on the composition of that 24”), so with 34” I figured it would definitely be ready to go.

I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon, and temperatures in the Village at ~2,000’ were in the mid-teens F, but fortunately there was minimal wind.  There was blue sky at times, but light snow was still falling off and on.  My goal was to head to the upper glades along the Catamount Trail out past the resort boundary.  Those glades are up around the 3,000’ elevation, so I suspected the snowpack would be more than sufficient.

An image of a new structure near Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I saw that there had been some recent construction up in the Bryant Cabin area.

I headed up the usual Bryant Trail, and the most interesting thing I saw was that there are some new structures going up around the Bryant Cabin.  One structure looked like a shed of sorts, and there was a larger structure that seemed to be partially built.  It also seemed that there had been some work done on the cabin itself.  In terms of snowpack depths, down at the Village at 2,000’ the surface snow was generally 14-15” of powder over a fairly thin layer of base snow.  Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ there was 16-17” of powder over a much more substantial base, and when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder.  I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range.  So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range, which seems pretty reasonable with the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 34”.

“…when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range…”

The skiing was generally excellent, especially in those upper glades.  Since it was afternoon there had certainly been some traffic up there, but I still found areas of fresh snow.  I made my way down via Gardiner’s Lane, and eventually decided to check out the Alchemist glade that I hadn’t visited in a while to the south of Gotham City.  It’s a south-facing glade, so conditions can be quite variable, but aspect almost doesn’t matter right now because we’ve had November/December sun over the past couple of weeks… and not much of it anyway, so south-facing terrain isn’t all that different from north-facing terrain.  One does have to watch out as they get down near 2,000’ though because the base below the surface snow does start to get pretty thin, so you don’t want to ski anything with many obstacles at that point.  One could easily just lap terrain up above 2,500’ though with minimal concern about base depths.  Skiing is definitely quite good up high right now.

A map showing a ski tour from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS/Google Earth plot of today’s backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley

There was a bit of accumulation of snow on my car when I got back to it after the tour.  It was rather minimal though, about ¼“ of new after 2 to 3 hours away.  Currently, Winter Weather Advisories are up ahead of our next storm that is coming into the area tomorrow.  I signed up for Washington County weather alert texts through VT-Alert, so I was notified of our Winter Weather Advisory just I was finishing up my ski tour today.  It was definitely nice to get that heads up right away without having to actively check, and it really doesn’t matter where you are.  Anyway, the advisory calls for a general 4-7”, which seems pretty consistent with what’s been expected of this event for a few days now.