Bolton Valley, VT 08DEC2018

An image of snow on railings and tables in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

Since Winter Storm Carter last weekend, we’ve had numerous rounds of snow here in the Northern Greens.  Although it accumulated fairly slowly over the course of the week, snow totals at the resorts were in the 1 to 2-foot range by Friday morning.  In yet another pre-season bonus day, Bolton Valley opened for lift-served skiing yesterday, but I suspected skier traffic would have been fairly light and we’d still have plenty of untracked areas to get in some powder skiing on this week’s additions.

An image of Johannes skiing powder in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Johannes out in some of that dry Wilderness Powder at Bolton Valley today

The biggest concern on the slopes today certainly wasn’t the snow quality, but the temperatures.  We had below zero readings overnight, and single digits F were the rule this morning at opening time.  Even with plenty of powder available, I didn’t tempt anyone from the family to head up to the mountain, but I knew Stephen and Johannes would be out there right from opening bell.  I planned to catch up with them as soon as I could, so I sent out a text when I arrived to hopefully synch up.

An image of the Bolton Valley Hotel in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The Bolton Valley Village is simply loaded with snow after the past few weeks of snow and several rounds of fluffy powder in the past few days.

 Fora first run I rode the Vista Quad and headed over to Wilderness to check out some powder.  I stuck mostly to Wilderness Woods,which had seen some traffic in the main lines, but it was pretty much untracked beyond that.  I measured settled snow depths of roughly a foot just about everywhere I went, so even though the resort was only reporting 14 inches, they must have had a bit more than that to still have a foot after the settling of what was very much dry Champlain Powder™.  For any terrain with a black pitch or greater, you would still be touching down on the subsurface at times, but moderate angle terrain and below was typically bottomless and smooth.

An image of snowy evergreen boughs at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

I measured settled snow depths of roughly a foot just about everywhere I went…

I got the word from Stephen that they were taking a warm-up break in the lodge,so I caught up with them there and we spent the rest of the morning together.  We toured around over in the Wilderness area, hooking up from the Vista Quad at first, and then riding the Wilderness Chair once it opened.  Powder turns were very easy to come by, and we hit some great spots like Wilderness Woods, Wilderness Lift Line,and Snow Hole.  We had to break trail through the powder to get to Snow Hole,and the exit needs a bit of negotiating because one stream bed crossing isn’t fully filled in, but the effort was definitely worth it for some fantastically fluffy turns.

Temperatures were up into the teens F by the time we left at midday, and they’re expected to be much warmer tomorrow for those that are thinking of heading out to enjoy all the new snow.

More Vermont snow on northwest flow

A weather radar image showing upslope snow coming into the Green Mountain of Vermont from the northwest in an October snow event
A weather radar image from midday on Sunday showing the continuous push of moisture from the northwest hitting the Northern Green Mountains and giving us continuous light snowfall.

After a simply gorgeous fall day on Saturday, Sunday kicked off cold and blustery, and once the snow showers got started in the morning, they literally kept going all day with that classic upslope flow from the northwest.  There were still a few flakes coming down, even around midnight last night.

We had numerous rounds of transient snow accumulations during the day, and it stuck around better after dark when the temperatures had dropped a bit, but there was still nothing around as of this morning.  I recorded one of the early 0.1” accumulations, and then a 0.2” accumulation later in the day after one of the heavier bouts of snowfall, but what I found in the rain gauge this morning was a bit under 0.01” so liquid goes down as a trace.

“…once the snow showers got started in the morning, they literally kept going all day with that classic upslope flow from the northwest..”

This event was the second accumulating one at our house this month, and the fourth one for the mountains.  Looking ahead, there seems to be some potential for snow in the midweek timeframe, and then again out toward the weekend.

First October snow for the Green Mountains of Vermont

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont with a bit of October snow atop the Chin
Today you can still see a bit of snow atop Mt. Mansfield above 3,500′ or so.

It hasn’t been an especially cool fall thus far in Vermont, and in fact we had some rather warm days with temperatures up to 90 degrees F for the Champlain Valley last month.  It’s hard to think of potential snow with temperatures like that!  Due to the heat, we actually delayed our September apple picking trip to Boyer’s Orchard with the Bennetts and the Burseys for one week to wait for a more autumnal feel.  The temperatures and generally fair weather have certainly made for some fantastic outdoor activities, but the warmth may have altered the timeline for the development of the fall foliage color.  In any event, by the beginning of last week I could already see that we were past peak color in the Winooski Valley.  Bare trees were numerous throughout the hillsides, leaving at least small gaps in the colorful views.

It’s funny, but despite the warm weather in recent weeks, we actually had some September snowfall on Mt. Mansfield and other peaks in the region.  We don’t get September snow every year, so it’s quite interesting that things came together to put some white on the peaks so early during a warm period.

With the fall foliage around and especially with the colors now beginning to wind down, more snow usually isn’t far behind, and indeed today’s dramatic drop in temperatures from the 70s F we had just yesterday evening made it really feel like we were transitioning further into fall.  We never got out of the 40s F in the valleys, so there was definitely a bit of a bite out there with wind on top of those temperatures.  While heading to a class today here on the UVM campus, it absolutely felt like one of those days where it could easily be snowing along the spine.  And, lo and behold, when I later checked in on the Northern New England fall thread on the American Weather Forums, Powderfreak was already reporting accumulating snow down to 2,700’ on Mt. Mansfield.  He posted some additional pictures later, showing how the snow had a hard time accumulating on the warm ground in most areas and was typically found on the trees.  He did report snowfall down as low as 1,500’ in elevation though, probably via help from the orographics of the Green Mountain Spine.  The Bolton Valley Facebook page also posted an image of flakes getting down to the Village, and I’m sure many of the local mountains saw flakes as well.

I hear Killington also took advantage of the cooler temperatures to test the snow guns, so we’re certainly on our way.  The longer range forecasts suggest a possible stretch of colder weather near the end of the month into November, so we’ll see what potential that brings with regard to manmade or natural snow.

Stowe, VT 07MAY2017

An image at the top of the Starr trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

An image of the Nosedive trail in May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
There’s still plenty of snow on Nosedive as of today.

I was hoping to head out for a ski tour when the weather cleared up yesterday afternoon, but it happened just a bit too late to fit any skiing in among the rest of the things I had to do in the evening.  Today however, we got a more substantial break in the weather around late morning, so I decided to take advantage of that window and head off to Stowe.

An image of green grass and early spring foliage in the mountains of Northern Vermont around Stowe
Spring is slowly making its way into the mountain valleys throughout Northern Vermont

The forecast called for scattered rain showers today, but we know how Mother Nature works when it comes to Mt. Mansfield, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to find her scattering a lot more of the showers in that direction.  Indeed as I drove the final 10 minutes to the mountain, the rain steadily picked up from sprinkles to a steady light to moderate rain by the time I was at the Mansfield Base preparing my gear.

I ascended via the North Slope route, figuring there’s less time left to explore that area vs. the long-lasting Nosedive option.  I found the snow sun cupped in a lot of spots, but coverage was almost completely continuous until I got up into the areas where Toll Road crossed my route.  Unfortunately, they’re plowed the road for vehicles, so that put some substantial gaps in the coverage.  I had hoped to descend via something similar to my descent route, but eventually resolved to head to Nosedive because the plowing had just cut things up too much.

“The overall ascent was quite enjoyable with the variety of weather dancing around Mansfield and the surrounding peaks; there was blue sky, an occasional sprinkle or rain shower, breezes, low clouds skimming the summits, and everything in between.”

The overall ascent was quite enjoyable with the variety of weather dancing around Mansfield and the surrounding peaks; there was blue sky, an occasional sprinkle or rain shower, breezes, low clouds skimming the summits, and everything in between.  It was one of those days where you really wanted to have your gear for the various conditions, and I made use of just about everything I’d brought.  One minute the hood of my shell was up, the next I needed a light hat, then suddenly it was time for my sunglasses.

A view of the Green Mountain in spring from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Some of today’s weather views

The snow was decent, although I actually would have like it a bit softer.  It only gets so soft without consistent the warmth of the sun though.  I did notice it softened up a bit more on the lower half of the mountain, simply due to the slightly warmer temperatures.  Nosedive does provide some of the best snow on the mountain in terms of skiing though – there have been enough people skiing it that it has a level of “human grooming” to keep the sun cups at bay.

Nebraska Valley, VT 25JAN2015

An image showing a car parked in the overnight lot for recreational use in the Nebraska Valley near the Lake Mansfield Trout Club

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on a backcountry ski outing in the Nebraska Valley area of Vermont
Gliding through some backcountry powder in the Nebraska Valley area today

The weather yesterday was very comfortable, with highs in the local mountains around 30 F at ski resort base elevations. Today was a different story though; mountain temperatures were expected to start in the single digits and drop in the afternoon to produce wind chills well below zero. With that forecast looming, E and Claire decided to cancel today’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe to avoid any frostbite issues with the students. The program can make up the session later in the spring anyway, hopefully on a nice warm day.

“The ski lines were obvious and everywhere, there’s no hunting around necessary if you’re looking for some moderate angle powder to ski.”

With the chilly forecast and some extra time in the afternoon, I decided to head out for a backcountry ski tour in the Nebraska Notch area. Some of the higher elevations of the Northern Greens did pick up as much as 4 to 6 inches of snow overnight, so that added a little extra incentive to get out and see how conditions were faring. I’ve wanted to do an exploratory tour near Nebraska Notch for a while, and I’m familiar with the tour highlighted in David Goodman’s book that starts on the west side of the notch. I’d been through some of that area this past summer when our family was on a backpacking trip with the Handler’s, so I thought that something on the east side would be a fun alternative. From Jacquie, I’d heard about the backcountry skiing potential above the overnight parking area near the Lake Mansfield Trout Club, so I decided I’d give that a shot. It’s a quick trip from our house in Waterbury, and I’d be able to take care of some necessary grocery shopping on the way home as well.

“I’m not sure how deep the base was, but surface powder was 13-14″ in the trees just above the parking area (~1,100′), and pushing two feet up high depending on prior wind and sun exposure in underlying layers.”

Heading up Nebraska Valley Road, I noticed that as I approached the 1,000′ elevation mark, the snowpack really took a jump. It went from the 8-12″ that we’ve currently got in many of the lower mountain valleys of the Northern Greens to something more, and you could really see how the higher elevations of the Nebraska Valley were holding the snow. I pulled into the lot for overnight recreational parking, and it was empty. There was probably space for 20 cars, but mine was it. I guess it’s just another one of those harbingers of the overuse and overcrowding associated with skiing in the Vermont backcountry. In any event, I could see an obvious, although apparently lightly used skin track off to the right heading up into the forest. More importantly, I could see the associated ski terrain looming right above me; well-spaced hardwoods appeared to fill the entire slope, and you could immediately see that there was some great skiing right down to the parking area.

An image showing a skin track heading off into the forest for backcountry skiing in the Nebraska Valley area of Vermont
An old skin track from the parking area marked an obvious route of ascent.

An image showing an old chain on a hook hanging from a tree along a backcountry skin track in the Nebraska Valley area of VermontThe skin track ascended through the hardwoods on what appeared to be an old logging road, and it sliced right through an impressive chunk of ski terrain. The ski lines were obvious and everywhere, there’s no hunting around necessary if you’re looking for some moderate-angle powder to ski. After looking at the area on Google Earth this morning, I’d decided to explore a drainage off to the northwest of the parking area, and conveniently that’s just where the logging road and skin track headed. After a few hundred feet of ascent I could see that there were a number of ski options, but three main ones were very evident: You could ski the logging road itself, which was relatively narrow and contained the skin track, but would serve up some decent turns. Much more expansive options were to either contour off to the east and make turns in the vast face of terrain containing the hardwoods, or head westward and ski steep gullies down into the drainage. I had plenty of time to survey the topography and decide on descent routes as I continued up the skin track; it’s set at a very nice, consistent pitch with none of these steep spots that might promote slipping.

An image of a "Tubbs Snowshoe Trail" blaze on a trail along the Sky Top Ridge on the north wall of the Nebraska Valley in the Green Mountains of VermontAt around 2,100′, evergreens began to mix in with the hardwoods, and the logging road gradually gave way to a skin track that worked its way more tightly through the forest and ascended small streambeds. By 2,500′ I was into exclusively evergreens, and the available snow was getting deeper. I’m not sure how deep the base was, but surface powder was 13-14″ in the trees just above the parking area (~1,100′), and pushing two feet up high depending on prior wind and sun exposure in underlying layers. I hit the ridge line (Sky Top Ridge east of Dewey Mountain) at an elevation of roughly 2,800′, and headed off to the east on the ridge line trail. Appropriately, the trail on the ridge is known as the Skytop Trail, and David Goodman’s Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont & New York book has a specific chapter on touring there. I found it marked with red blazes, but I also noticed a “Tubbs Snowshoe Trail” sign as well. I continued on the Skytop Trail for another few minutes until I hit a local high point where I decided to halt my ascent.

“Some exploring would have been fun, but with the time of day, cold temperatures, and being solo, there really wasn’t much margin for messing around.”

Up there on the ridge it was cold, noticeably colder than the 10 F at the parking area. I was out of the wind, but it wasn’t a temperature to hang around in. I poured some soup and let it cool a bit while I changed over for the descent. My plan was to head back down in the area of the skin track for that first chunk of the descent, since I hadn’t come across any obvious lines in other areas. Some exploring would have been fun, but with the time of day, cold temperatures, and being solo, there really wasn’t much margin for messing around. During the ascent I’d seen that there were plenty of steep, ledgy areas above the open hardwoods. Those ledges and some dense evergreens lay right below me, and from what I’d seen it would be very easy to get cliffed out up there. Any exploration of that terrain will have to wait for another time.

“Being south-facing, it’s not the kind of terrain that one would want to ski on sunny days when temperatures are getting marginal, but on a midwinter day like today, the snow was great.”

The descent up high along the general area of the skin track was very nice – the powder was deep and there were occasional options of ski lines that cut corners or veered away temporarily from the track. When I was back into the open areas of hardwoods, I cut left of the track following a previous skier’s lead, and traversed out into the face of terrain that sat well above the parking area. It was classic Vermont hardwood ski terrain; there weren’t any obvious maintained lines, but you didn’t need them. It was pretty much see it and ski it. The powder was a little shallower on some pitches, no doubt a function of that fact that the terrain faces south and can get plenty of sun due to the leafless deciduous trees. Being south-facing, it’s not the kind of terrain that one would want to ski on sunny days when temperatures are getting marginal, but on a midwinter day like today, the snow was great. I eventually ran into the skin track again, and cut to the other side as I saw some attractive ski lines heading in that direction. I finally had to do a short traverse to get back to the last pitch above the parking area, but with the open nature of the forest, navigation was pretty easy.

An image showing GPS data on Google Earth for a backcountry ski tour in the Nebraska Valley area of Vermont
The GPS tracking data of today’s backcountry ski tour in the Nebraska Valley of Vermont plotted on Google Earth

I’d say today was a great first visit to the area; those hardwoods are exceedingly skiable, with the main downside being that it’s south-facing, so the quality of the snow needs to be watched with respect to recent weather trends. The snowpack isn’t even especially deep right now, and I only encountered the occasional underlying obstacle to contend with. As usual, if you throw another couple feet of base down, more and more lines will simply open up and get even cleaner as additional saplings and other trees get buried. On that note, there’s another winter storm (Juno) coming into the area over the next couple of days – it sounds like the bull’s-eye areas are down to the south, but it’s expected to give us a moderate shot of synoptic snow up here as well, which should further improve base depths.