The boys opened up some early Christmas presents today, so there was no way I was getting them up to the hill, but I was able to join up with Stephen and his kids for some turns. In the past we’ve had some great Bolton outings on Christmas Eve, with some nice natural snow terrain available and the mountain almost to ourselves. However, due to the sizeable amount of visitors we’d seen yesterday, we were wondering what today would bring. Would more people have the day off, or would that be counteracted by more holiday obligations? Well, the visitors were back in a big way, apparently even bigger than what we’d seen yesterday. On the way up to the main base, I stopped in for a look at Timberline, and it looked quite ready for the planned Sunday opening.
Conditions were very similar to yesterday, and a bit of wind had actually reset some of the powder to provide repeat fresh tracks. The wind also put down some wind crust, but it was pretty weak and didn’t change the snow too much. The weather and snow were both great, but with the lines and afternoon holiday obligations were all left around noontime. On the way down the road I saw that two Timberline lots were being used for additional parking, so business was certainly good. To check out all the pictures with the text, head to the complete Bolton Valley report from today.
We joined up with Stephen, Helena, and Johannes and hit our usual favorite areas for powder. With the composition of the group we didn’t spend too much time in the trees, but occasional jaunts I’d make into the woods revealed that there was awesome tree skiing to be had. Since many places were already skiing pretty well over the weekend, the bolus of new denser snow definitely bumped it up another notch. Overall the snow was awesome as usual, and the sides of the lesser used trails were holding enough powder that heading into the trees wasn’t really necessary to get great turns. To see all the pictures and get the rest of the details, head to the full report from Bolton Valley today.
We had a busy day of holiday-related activities planned today, so I headed out early to earn some powder turns up at Bolton Valley before things got going. Although I’d been hearing great things about the snow at Timberline, and I’d driven by and seen the tracks there a number of times, I decided it was finally time to check out just what all the fuss was about. Indeed, as I found out, the quality of the powder there is in fact worthy of a fuss. To see all the powdery details and images, go to the full Bolton Valley trip report from today.
We had one of those weeks where it snowed almost continuously at the house and in the local mountains, but there haven’t been any huge synoptic storms to make people really stand up and take notice. We’ve actually had over a foot of snow this week at our location in the Winooski Valley, and 1.5 to 2 feet in the local mountains, but when it comes in doses of just a few inches a day and it’s very light and dry, it’s hard to know if it’s really adding up on the slopes. Well, after heading up to Bolton yesterday we can definitely say that it’s been adding up in a big way.
Since it wasn’t an obvious powder day, we didn’t rush and headed up for a mid morning start. After dropping E and the boys off at the village circle, I parked in the bottom row of the main lot, right above the sports center. That lot was still mostly empty at that point, so I had the sense that the number of visitors wasn’t going to be quite as big as it was last Saturday for opening weekend.
I hadn’t looked at the snow report for the day, so we just played it by ear and discovered all the new ropes that had been dropped during the day. Patrol has opened routes like Cobrass, Glades, The Enchanted Forest area, Vista Glades, Alta Vista, Vermont 200, Schuss, Beech Seal, etc., most of them just on the natural snow that has fallen. I’m not sure exactly when all those trails opened, but most of them were not open when we were at the mountain last weekend. According to SnoCountry Mountain Reports, Bolton was 45% open yesterday, and based on the snow we saw, I bet they could be 80% open if they wanted to. They haven’t even fired up the Wilderness, Timberline, or Snowflake lifts yet, so while some of the Wilderness and Snowflake terrain can be accessed from Vista, there is a lot of potential terrain that’s just not open due to lack of lift access. I did notice that snow was being blown down at the bottom of Timberline, and have heard that plans are to open it after Christmas. I also noticed work being done at the bottom of the Wilderness lift yesterday, perhaps it was some preparation to get it going.
Anyway, as far as the skiing went yesterday, we rotated run choice among the family, so we managed to mix it up among the terrain options fairly well. On the announcement board at the bottom of Vista they had a sign that said “LOTS OF FLUFFY SNOW”, and they weren’t kidding. We found that most areas, even those with some manmade underneath were really nice packed powder due to all the natural snow that has fallen on top of the base, and on the sides there was plenty of untracked powder. Areas where we did find icy snow were the top half of Alta Vista, where it was pretty horrible at the end of the day, and a few smaller spots on Beech Seal where there were snowmaking whales that hadn’t been covered with enough natural snow. I didn’t ski it, but it also sounded like Hard Luck Lane was in similar shape to Alta Vista, which is not surprising with the way they are exposed to summit winds and the amount of traffic they get. We didn’t ski Cobrass, since we only realized that it was open toward the end of the day, so I don’t know how much snow they blew and what it was like. Coverage was clearly not perfect on steep, natural snow runs like Vermont 200, and patrol has thin cover signs up, but the coverage seemed quite manageable on what they had open. On that note, we did ski Glades, which is on all natural snow, and it was very easy to avoid any thin areas even in the steep sections. There were still some pockets of powder on Glades in areas that are awkward to access, but for the most part it was packed powder. I’d forgotten how much fun even packed powder can be on a trial with lots of natural terrain features on which to play. To read the rest of the details and see all the pictures from the outing, continue on to the Bolton Valley trip report from today.
E and I headed out to Stowe yesterday for the school program training session, wondering what we were going to experience in terms of weather. Happily, the first flakes appeared just after we arrived at around 8:00 A.M., the snowfall quickly ramped up in intensity, and then it dumped hard all morning and into the afternoon to make for great riding conditions.
This year we both decided to go with the snowboard training session, since out of necessity E seems to spend most of her time boarding instead of skiing, and it would supply me with some additional tools to serve as an alternate snowboarding coach when needed. We joined up with Stan Biasini’s group, since he would be advising everyone on how to work with the students that were early in their snowboard progression. We started out with techniques for the “never evers” at the Magic Carpet, then stepped it up to Inspiration, followed by the Alpine Double, and finally the Sunny Spruce Quad. We got a raft of good teaching techniques, and Stan made ample time to ensure that everyone got plenty of their own instruction as well. I learned that Stowe no longer requires leashes for snowboards, and that the slope of the Inspiration trail is an impressively consistent 8% grade for teaching. Continue reading the text and see all the pictures by going to the full trip report from Stowe today.
The morning’s outdoor adventures got started right on the ascent of the Bolton Valley access road. Once we got up to the big steep S-curve pitch at around 1,200’, we could see that traffic was stopped. It turned out that a couple of cars were struggling with the ascent. The road didn’t seem that bad from our perspective, but I later heard some comments suggesting that it wasn’t prepared as well as usual. In any event, the benefits of 4WD/AWD were obvious, not just for getting up the slick road, but having the ability to start right back up and get going from a dead stop on a steep slope. I met Stephen right in the parking lot as he was getting out of his car, and we made plans to meet up later.
While I was parking the car, the boys had warmed up on the Mighty Mite, and then I brought E and the boys right over to Wilderness based on my experiences from the previous day. I knew that the fresh snow and moderate pitch over there would be great for E to work on here Telemark turns off the groomed. In places that had seen some traffic, we found about 4 inches of new, but there were still spots that hadn’t been touched on Friday and had a good foot of powder. To check out the rest of the story and see the pictures, click through to the full report from today at Bolton Valley.
This morning I headed up to Bolton to catch some opening day turns and check out the four feet of new snow they’d picked up over the week. On the way up I could see that Timberline was just loaded with tracks from all the folks that had been earning turns there. We’d had our coldest temperatures of the season this morning, and although it was still somewhere in the single digits when I arrived at the mountain, the wind was calm and it turned out to be very comfortable.
They had the usual early season options going, but also some natural snow terrain such as the lower part of Wilderness. I saw that VT 200 was open at the top, but it still looked somewhat bony. I found that Wilderness and the routes over there were the places to be though, one could get some nice steeper turns in about a foot or so of powder in the junction areas of Swing, Lower Crossover, and Work Road, and then down on the Wilderness lift line it was mellow powder cruising. To check out the rest of the details and see all the pictures from the day, head to the full Bolton Valley Trip Report from today.
By this morning, enough snow had accumulated that we decided to head up to the higher elevations and check it out. Without much of a base, we didn’t expect the skiing to be too great, but it would be a good chance for Dylan to get on his skins and see how everything was working for him.
We first stopped in up at Bolton Valley, where accumulations appeared to be in the 2-3 inch range at the main base (~2,100’). I took a look around to see if any manmade snow had been put down outside the areas of current snowmaking operations, but didn’t see any on the lower mountain. A good amount of snow had been made in the Mighty Mite learning area, a fan gun was blowing snow above the lodge, and I could see at least one other gun going underneath the Mid Mountain Chair. The snow was certainly light and dry, and the powder had accumulated up to a foot in some areas. We hung out for a bit and let the boys play in the snow, then we headed off to Stowe to see if any ski options were available atop manmade base snow at Spruce Peak.
As we drove toward Stowe, we could see that the valley snow accumulations were quite variable. We had an inch or two at our house on the Waterbury/Bolton line, and there was a bit less in the center of Waterbury. North of Colbyville however, the ground was bare, and between there and the Stowe’s Lower Village, there was only the occasional dusting visible on the ground. As Powderfreak had mentioned in one of his reports to Americanwx.com, we saw a sharp increase in snowfall amounts as one entered the center of Stowe, where they had picked up a fluffy few inches earlier in the morning.
Up at the mountain base, accumulations were similar to what we’d seen at Bolton, with roughly 2 to 3 inches on the ground at the Mt. Mansfield Ski Club building. We were surprised to see that lift-served skiing was going on over at Spruce (Easy Street area), so we decided to skin up above that elevation and check out the options. We headed up toward the Sunny Spruce Quad, and found about 4 to 5 inches of fluff as we approached the top of East Run. The snow was definitely fluffy, so good turns could be had on grassy slopes, but beyond that it was sketchy. It was definitely rock ski/junkboard territory, although with all of the extra snow we’ve had in the past couple of days, that will be changing. To continue with the rest of the text and see all the pictures, click through to the Stowe trip report from today.
My thoughts of heading south to Killington were suppressed somewhat around 8:30 P.M. that evening. After checking on our rain gauge a couple of hours earlier, I hadn’t looked outside at all, as a massive sword and ball battle had kept me busy in the basement with the boys. When I finally did look out back, I was very surprised to see that it was snowing… all the way down at our elevation of roughly 500 feet. The air temperature had dropped to 33.3 F and the precipitation was big flakes of snow, without even any rain mixed in. The snowfall lasted for a couple of hours, long enough to put down 0.3 inches of slushy accumulation on the snowboard and coat the ground white. Eventually as the precipitation slowed down, the temperature began to warm up and it all changed back over to rain. I knew that if we were getting snow all the way down to the lower valleys though, then the local mountains must have been getting pounded, so I suspected that Mt. Mansfield would come through with sufficient snow to make it worth skiing.
The next morning we had steady rain at the house, and valley temperatures in the low 40s F as Ty and I headed off to Stowe. The snow level had clearly risen up overnight, as we didn’t see any signs of snow at all until the slopes of Spruce Peak came into view. We headed to the base of the Gondola (~1,600’) which seemed to have the best accumulations of snow at low elevations. The temperature was in the upper 30 s F, and there was a gusty wind in the parking lot. Although a little thin, coverage was still enough that one could start skinning from the lot if they wanted, but we decided to hike for a bit to get some variety in the ascent. Snow depth at the bottom of Perry Merrill was 2-3 inches, but with the warming temperatures any disruptions in the snow were seeding its melting. The footprints of earlier hikers were already holes in the snow with colorful foliage showing through. To continue with the full text and all of the pictures, click through to the full trip report from today at Stowe.
“The combination of settling and the thin breakable crust in some spots made things tricky at times, but it was all soft and fun.”
With the snowfall thoughts in mind, the plan was to do some skiing off the west side of the Camel’s Hump/Mt. Ethan Allen area. Unfortunately, on Friday we found out that Tom had tweaked his knee and ankle at soccer, so the ski group for the day was going to be just James, Ty, and myself. We met up with James in Huntington Center a bit after 9:00 A.M., and decided on an initial plan of heading up the Forest City Trail to do some skiing on the lower flanks of Mt. Ethan Allen (3,674’), the next prominent peak south of Camel’s Hump. We headed up Camel’s Hump Road, finding that the access to the Forest City trailhead was going to be difficult because the road there wasn’t plowed in the winter. There was a little room along the snowbank to potentially park a couple of cars, but a more important factor in our case was the added distance to get to the trailhead. Ty’s backcountry range is not that great yet, so we weren’t looking for a big approach. There was the option to connect over to the Forest City Trail from the Burrows Trailhead area, but we decided to just do something simple off the Burrows Trail. James had commented to me earlier that there was going to be a temperature inversion in effect, and that was indeed what we saw on our ascent of Camel’s Hump Road. From down in Huntington Center (690’) where the temperature was somewhere in the middle single digits, the temperature was up around 10-11 F at the trailhead parking area (~1,900’). The lot was about half full, and while we geared up, we could see that several parties of people were heading out for hikes on snowshoes.
Starting up on the Burrows Trail, I checked the snowpack and found a couple inches of fluff on top of a generally thin crust, atop a lot more settled powder. A few of the lower elevation stream crossings on the trail were open with small gaps, and that represented a bit of a challenge for Ty, but he managed well. We didn’t have any lofty goals in mind other than getting in a little skiing, since our ultimate destination would likely be affected by Ty’s mood and stamina. Our pace was pretty slow with Ty taking his time, but it was an easy go, and everyone’s skins were working well on the packed trail. There were lots of dogs, lots of people on snowshoes (including a bigger group that seemed to be from the UVM Outing Club), and we also saw a party of about four skiers that passed us on their way up the trail. One of the more interesting sights was a woman coming down trail at breakneck speed on a sled that looked like a booster seat. We made sure to move out of her way, but she seemed to be very conscious of the uphill traffic and stopped easily. James inquired about how her sled worked, and she demonstrated that for braking, you just lean back. I know that people like to use those Mad River Rocket-style sleds on the trail and elsewhere, but this was the first time I’d seen what this woman had.
Up to about the 2,300’ elevation mark the surrounding vegetation was on the brushy side, but above that point it began to thin out and the potential for skiable lines looked a little better. Off to our right, we could see some open, moderate angle slopes across the big gully that had begun to parallel the trail, and off to the left we could see the more obvious lines that steepened on the way up to Bald Hill (3,041’). Ty had some good bursts of skinning speed when we kept him motivated, but as inquiries about how far we were going and when we would get to ski became more frequent, we decided it was time to think about our descent route. Heading off to the left for the lower slopes of Bald Hill was going to make things easiest for getting back to the trailhead for Ty, so a bit above 2,500’ when we hit one of the skin tracks breaking off the Burrows Trail and going in that direction, we took it. The change of scene was enough to keep Ty motivated for a little bit longer, since we were able to tell him that we’d be able to descend soon.
We headed up into the glades a little farther, reaching an elevation of about 2,700’ before Ty seemed to be getting just a bit too antsy. There were plenty of good lines available with untracked snow, but we could see that taking them would mean dropping right back down to the Burrows Trail almost immediately. So, we continued to contour westward to get something that might drop a little more directly to the trailhead. We could only traverse so far though, since Ty knew we were close to skiing and his inquiries started up again. When we finally called it on the traverse, James and I skinned up a little farther to catch a nice looking line, while Ty waited just below us.
The skiing was good, and definitely worth the hike, but certainly not perfect or quite up to what I’d found off the Monroe Trail the previous weekend. The combination of settling and the thin breakable crust in some spots made things tricky at times, but it was all soft and fun. Ty stuck with just alpine turns, but had a lot of fun catching air and working on his jumping technique. Our extra traversing had bought us a little longer descent, but we still dropped back to the Burrows Trail pretty quickly. Instead of trying to ski on and near the trail, we took a traverse out to the west with the aim of eventually dropping back down to the parking lot to finish our run. I used the GPS for route finding, and as is often the case, James went by his natural sense of direction. The biggest issue with the traverse was that like on the Burrows Trail itself, a few streams were still open from the previous warm weather. They weren’t too hard to cross since there were still snow bridges around, but Ty’s smaller skis definitely set him at a disadvantage for spanning some gaps. We helped him across when needed. Even with the aid of the GPS, I overshot the parking area by about 100 feet or so and had to swing back during my final descent, while James nailed it right on.