Tag Archives: November

Bolton Valley, VT 28NOV2017

An image of ski tracks in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A couple of quick storms over the past couple of days brought the Northern Greens some of their best skiing of the season.

Sunday into Monday we had a couple of small systems that combined to deliver some respectable amounts of snow to the Northern GreensBy Monday morning, resorts were already reporting roughly a foot of snow, and the snow continued to fall.  The usual suspects had been out at Stowe throwing up big clouds of powder, and by midday Monday, the resort was reporting 14” of new snow, and the power skiing was looking quite good.  Mother Nature was putting a little extra effort into the event up at Jay Peak, producing some great turns, and a reported storm total near two feet as of this morning.

“The turns were definitely the best I’ve had this season.”

While I didn’t have time to head out for any turns yesterday, I was able to find a little time for a ski tour at Bolton Valley this morning.  Overnight low temperatures were down in the teens F, pretty chilly by November standards, but the air was calm so it was quite comfortable, especially while skinning.  I headed up the Lower Turnpike ascent route, which had a well-established skin track.  There had been a decent amount of traffic on Turnpike itself, so when I got up to the final corner of Peggy Dow’s, I headed toward the Wilderness Lift Line where skier traffic had been rather light.

As usual, I made an effort to monitor snow depths throughout the ascent, and what I found should represent the state of the snow with yesterday’s additional snowfall, plus settling through this morning.  It was a bit tough to discriminate between the newest snow and what was below, so the numbers I’m reporting below represent what I found for total snowpack depth starting at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road.

340’: 2”
1,500’: 8-9”
2,100’: 10-12”
2,500’: 12-16”
3,000’: 12-18”

An image showing the snow depth at 2,500' elevation at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

Although it was hard to get an idea of where the base snow stopped and where the surface snow began, I do have some info.  Down at 1,500’ it seemed like there was maybe an inch or so of base, so most of that was new.  Up at 2,100’ there were a couple of inches down, and probably around four inches at 2,500’.  I’d guess six inches of base at the 3,000’ level.  The wind in the higher elevations made for a larger range of depths, but I didn’t find a huge increase relative to 2,500’.  Now that the resort has reported in with 10 inches, that seems like it makes reasonable sense.  There may have been a bit of settling, but I’d say snowfall of 10-12” was probably what they picked up.

With respect to the descent, the skiing was great!  The turns were definitely the best I’ve had this season.  The upper mountain had that substantial base with close to a foot of powder on it, and while overall depths were a bit less on the lower mountain, it was fine on the lower angle terrain there.  The snow was definitely on the dry side, so the fat skis were certainly in order for maximizing floatation, minimizing contact with the base, and planing on the lower-angle terrain.

Bolton Valley, VT 21NOV2017

An image of ski tracks in powder snow and snowflakes in the air at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Thanks to a surprise storm yesterday afternoon, Bolton Valley offered up some fluffy powder turns this morning.

I certainly hadn’t anticipated skiing today, but yesterday afternoon into the evening, Mother Nature dropped a surprise storm on us that really put a fresh coating down on the slopes.  Things began looking a bit suspicious yesterday in the late morning hours, and by midday it was snowing in the Champlain ValleyEven the National Weather Service in Burlington was caught off guard, and before we knew it, it was snowing 1 to 2 inches per hour out in the mountains, and travel on I-89 was getting tricky.  By the time the storm was tapering down in the evening, we had a new half foot of snow at the house, with more in the mountains.

“Even with fat skis, it can be a challenge to float in snow that dry unless you’ve got a lot of it.”

I wanted to see how the storm played out on the slopes, so I stopped for a quick ski tour at Bolton Valley this morning.  My calculations had revealed that the snow was very dry, down around 2% H2O, so fat skis seemed to be in order this time around.  Arriving up at the Bolton Valley Village, I’d describe the weather as having a very Colorado-esque vibe.  The ground was covered with desert-dry, champagne powder and temperatures were in the mid-20s F.  Even before the sunshine hit you, the air just had that comfortable feel, and with the clear skies, the day just held that promise of being sunny, dry, and warm.  I guess it also reminded me of a March ski day to some degree.

An image of fresh snow in a streambed at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI haven’t seen an official report on snow accumulations from the resort, which is not too surprising since they’re still in pre-season, but based on settled depths of the new powder and the rate of settling I’d seen at the house, I’d guess the Village elevations around 2,000’ picked up a half foot of snow.  That’s similar to what we picked up down at the house.  I’d tack on another couple of inches higher in the mountain, which would put accumulations there similar to the 7” reported at elevation for Stowe.  With the 7-8” of fluff, the total snowpack depth I was finding on the upper half of the mountain was in the 10-12” range.  I see that the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake came in at 11” as of tonight’s reading.  The high temperature up there was only 32 F, so that snow probably didn’t undergo much melting and is likely comparable to what I found at Bolton this morning.

An image of fat Telemark skis in snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Changing over for the descent at around 2,800′

The skiing was good, although the powder certainly wasn’t bottomless on every turn.  Even with fat skis, it can be a challenge to float in snow that dry unless you’ve got a lot of it.

Bolton Valley, VT 18NOV2017

An image of a skin track on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ski touring up at Bolton Valley this morning, I found some great turns and more snow than I’d expected.

I was attending the BJAMS Thanksgiving lunch with Dylan on Thursday, and that gave me a chance to check out how the snow was doing in some of the local mountains.  From what I saw at both Stowe and Bolton Valley, the natural snow was just a bit too thin for skiing, but it was getting close.  As of Friday morning though, the mountains had picked up a few more inches, and today I had a chance to head back up to Bolton Valley to see if the slopes were ready for some turns.

“…with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.”

I headed up for a ski tour at the mountain this morning because it seemed the best part of the day to catch some winter snow before warming temperatures affected it.  At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snow depth is similar to what we’ve got here at the house – generally 1 to 2 inches.  As the recent snow reports from the local ski resorts suggested, there wasn’t a massive increase in snowfall amounts with elevation from our storm earlier this week.  Snow depths increased slowly as I headed up the access road, with about 2” at the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign (1,000’), 2-3” at the Timberline Base (1,500’), and then 3-4” around 2,000’ in the Bolton Valley Village.

An image of a Bolton Valley shuttle bus with a coating of snow in the Bolton Valley Village

There were a few other skiers in the Village who were coming and going on tours, so that seemed like a good sign that the snow was decent.  Indeed, as I headed up Lower Turnpike, the snow depth increased to a half foot at the 2,500’ level.  I had actually planned for a quick tour up to ~2,500’ if the snow wasn’t that good, but with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’. 

Below I’ve got a summary of what I saw for snow depths today with respect to elevation:

340’: 1-2”
1,000’: 2”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 3-4”
2,500’: 6-7”
3,000’: 7”

An image of the snow depth at 2,500' elevation at Bolton ValleyThere was a crust on the snow in places, and I couldn’t figure out the trend in its distribution for a while, but I eventually figured out that areas with the most northwest exposure has the most crust.  The crust wasn’t actually too thick, so it was still fairly easy to ski the snow there, but there’s no doubt that the very best turns were in the crust-free zones – the snow was smooth, mid-weight powder in those areas.  I had some really nice turns on parts of Sherman’s Pass, and probably the day’s best on Work Road, but Lower Turnpike offered the longest consistent lines.

Bolton Valley, VT 23NOV2016

An image of Jay skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We had to hunt a bit more to find good powder today – but it was still out there.

When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard.  It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished.  Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there.  This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.

“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”

We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing.  The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.  It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.

“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”

As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder.  It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder.  We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees.  While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis.  She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon.  While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.

An image of Erica removing skins from her skis on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E and her slick de-skinning

I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below.  I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go.  It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder.  You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.  Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine.  In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you.  I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation.  We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing.  If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the whole family out for a ski tour, Dad gets a chance to get out from behind the camera today.

Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up.  That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation.  He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.

“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”

In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.  We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week.  And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 22NOV2016

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We’re onto our third day of snow from Winter Storm Argos, and the powder skiing at Bolton Valley just keeps getting better!

Based on the way the snow had picked up during my tour at Bolton Valley yesterday, I knew the resort would be reporting more snow today, but when I was checking on the snow totals for the Vermont Ski areas this morning, I was surprised to see that Bolton’s storm total was already up to 25 inches.  That definitely called for a morning visit to the hill on my way into Burlington, and with the numbers they were reporting I suspected depths would be sufficient for my first visit to Timberline this season.  It was a pleasant morning, with reasonable visibility despite snow showers touching off in the higher elevations.  Winds had died down somewhat, allowing snow to more easily collect on trees in the mountains, and I enjoyed the whitened views of the peaks as I headed down the Winooski Valley.

An image of the snow depth behind the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm ArgosIndeed the snow depths at Timberline looked great, and there were several cars in the south parking lot belonging to eager skiers and riders out earning turns.  As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.  That was encouraging.  I took a quick measurement above the Timberline Base Lodge and found a fairly consistent 15 inches of depth.  It seemed like a good mix of denser snow below, and some fluffier stuff on top – if that was representative of what was out on the trails, it would mean good protection from underlying obstacles and smooth turns on top.

“As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.”

I hopped on the Twice as Nice skin track and made my way upwards until I cut over below the Spell Binder headwall in preparation for my descent.  There was some drifting around, but Timberline is pretty sheltered in its lower elevations, so there was a lot of unadulterated powder out there.  I changed over for the descent, dropped in for my first turns, and promptly headed over the handlebars in classic Telemark style.  Even with my 115 mm fat skis, the buoyancy of the snow had just dropped out from under me as I hit a pocket of powder that was 24 inches deep.  I took that under advisement, adjusted my style to be a bit more prepared for any buoyancy changes, and cruised my way down through some fine November powder.  The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.

“The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.”

As is often the case with storms in the upslope areas of the Northern Greens, the effects linger, and the remnants of Winter Storm Argos are still delivering snow to the area today.  Bolton Valley was reporting a 26” storm total as of this afternoon.  We’re still getting snow even down here at the house this evening, so there should certainly be a bit of freshening in the mountains for anyone heading out for turns tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 21NOV2016

An image of a ski track in powder snow partially filled in by the wind at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The effects of the wind were evident out on my tour at Bolton Valley today as seen in the faded tracks of previous skiers

While the heaviest snows from Winter Storm Argos had been off to our south and west, the main low pressure system was expected to move a bit today to put the Northern Greens in position for some of their classic upslope snow.  Ahead of that uptick in snow though, temperatures in Northern Vermont had dropped enough to bring snow accumulations all the way to the valley floors, and I decided to swing by Bolton Valley this morning for a quick ski tour.

“Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.”

The additional accumulations were immediately evident in the lowest elevations.  The base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ had an inch or two of new snow vs. the faint trace that was there yesterday afternoon.  As soon as I got up into the main Village parking lot it was also obvious that the wind had changed direction from what we’d encountered yesterday, and heavy snowfall of at least 1”/hr was moving in.  I had the back of my vehicle open for just a couple minutes while I changed boots, and being on the windward side I found my gear half covered with snow in just that amount of time.

An image of a skin track partially filled with snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The main skin track was almost filled with snow at times due to the wind.

The new influx of snow and wind since yesterday was a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to snow quality.  There’s no doubt that the base has been substantiated between the wind and additional snow – the wind moved snow around, packed it down a bit, and just generally gave the snowpack more girth.  Where I touched down in a couple of spots yesterday there would be no issue today.  With those changes came more inconsistency in the snow density due to wind crust, so turns weren’t as light, airy, or consistent as yesterday from a powder skier’s perspective.  Each powder day is different though, and it was nice to be able to charge a bit harder and not worry as much about touching anything under the snow.

I toured up to roughly 2,800’ on Peggy Dow’s, and fairly heavy snowfal continued for the hour or so that I was up there, with small to moderate size flakes.  From the Village elevations on up it looks like ~3” of new snow fell by early morning.  Below I’ve updated the total snow depths I found (yesterday afternoon –> this morning), and it looks like the resort had generally hit that 1-foot mark for settled depth on the upper mountain:

340”: Trace –> 1-2”
1,000”: 1” –> 3”
1,500”: 4” –> 6”
2,000”: 5-7” –> 8-10”
2,500”: 9” –> 12”
2,700” 9”+ –> 12”+

A check on Bolton Valley’s snow report, showed them reporting 9-12” as of ~9:00 A.M. this morning, which seems right in line with what I encountered.

With the lower valleys around here finally getting in on the snow action today, I was able to see a lot during my travels to and from the Burlington area.  This afternoon, heavier snow pushed eastward from the Champlain Valley where it had been focused, and the drive home from Burlington to Waterbury was the classic journey from no precipitation into an ever-thickening maelstrom of big flakes.  Roads were actually dry in Burlington, became wet by the Williston area, and then snow-covered past Richmond.  Those who drive Route 2 or I-89 eastward know some of the spots with those long views down the trench-like Winooski Valley, and at each one today, the visibility to the east simply dropped another notch.  Consistent with the visibility trend, the intensity of the snowfall was greatest once I got past Bolton.  There was a van sideways on I-89 just before Exit 11 that had me in slow traffic for about 15 min, but I was able to get home by 5:00 for observations and liquid analysis on our recent snows.  I was greeted by almost a half foot of new snow at the house, and it’s really come down in density.  My analysis revealed ratios in the 30 to 1 range, which is going to supply some great powder provided it wasn’t totally blasted by the wind.

Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.  Even though they aren’t planning to run the lifts until December 10th, storms like this are a great way to start the season.

Bolton Valley, VT 20NOV2016

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The boys and I got out this afternoon for some Telemark touring and powder turns compliments of Winter Storm Argos.

Since our winter storm cycles back in October, it’s been a fairly mild and uneventful period, but the weather models have been offering the potential for a quick and potent return to winter.  A storm was predicted to cross the country, move through New England, and position itself to our northeast to set up the Green Mountains for an extended period of upslope snow.  Indeed the storm formed, acquired the name Winter Storm Argos, and as of last night it began affecting our area.  Snow levels dropped to the summits of the Greens early this morning, and finally dropped to the elevation of our house sometime before 10 A.M.  It was too warm to accumulate much snow down in the valley bottoms, but the mountains were definitely getting hit, and Bolton Valley had already accumulated several inches by mid-morning.

An image of fresh snow on a fence in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow piling up in the Bolton Valley Village today

With the timing of the storm, our plan today was to hold off until mid-afternoon to let accumulations build up in the mountains.  E was feeling a bit under the weather, but the boys and I eventually headed up to the mountain to hopefully catch a ski tour and some turns before dark.  Similar to what was going on at our house, the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ was right on the verge of accumulating snow, and you could see whitened areas in spots.  Seeing at least minimal accumulations right down at that elevation suggested good things up high though.  By 1,000’ there was a solid coating of an inch or so, and although we didn’t stop in at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ to formally check, I’d estimate accumulations of ~4”.  Up in the Village parking lots at ~2,000 Dylan measured 5” on the parking lot surface, but most surfaces revealed depths in the 5-7” range.

“Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever…”

Temperatures were a couple of degrees below freezing, and moderate snow fell around us as we geared up for the tour.  We watched other folks around the Village, some out on ski tours of their own, and some playing with their dogs or just out walking in the snow, but you could tell that they were all excited for winter’s return.  We ascended up the usual Lower Turnpike route, and the boys has a chance to test out lots of new gear that they’d acquired in the off season.  Ty was on a new Telemark setup with 160 cm skis, and being 20 cm longer than anything he’d skied before, I was curious as to how it would work out for him.  Dylan was really happy to finally be into a pair of Voile Switchback bindings and out of the old three-pin setups.

An image showing the depth of snow from a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThere was a nice skin track in place, and it had picked up an additional inch or so due to the continued snowfall, but it was a really smooth and swift ascent.  By the time we reached the 2,500’ elevation mark the snow depth was up to ~9”, and we continued our ascent up to ~2,700’ on Cougar before we decided that going higher wasn’t necessary.  We knew that the descent would be a little slow in lower-angle spots based on a couple people we’d seen going down earlier, but we were all on fairly wide boards and floatation definitely wasn’t an issue.  The boys had a blast and were skiing well, and not only did Ty have no issues with the longer skis, he actually made some of his best Tele turns ever.  Perhaps the extra ski length and the floatation that comes with it were just what he needed to make a jump in his Telemark skiing.  Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever, and along with the fun conditions I think some of that comes from getting stronger each season and finding that the touring is that much easier for them.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying some storm day turns on a great November day

The depth of the base snow isn’t quite what it was on my October outing with almost 20 inches of dense paste, so we had to negotiate a couple of bigger rocks (I failed in one case with the fading light) but there’s supposedly plenty more snow to come with this storm.  We got to finish the tour around dusk, which always sets a fun mood with the Village lights amidst the snowfall of a storm.  It looks like we’ve got more chances for snow coming during this Thanksgiving holiday week, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to head back out again soon.

Stowe, VT 15NOV2015

An image of melted snow pouring off the roof of the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Warming up after yesterday’s new snow

I wasn’t able to head out to the slopes back in October when we had our first notable storm of the 2015-2016 winter season, but the storm affecting the area this weekend looked like it was going to be a bit bigger in the Northern Greens, so I was hoping to find a way to get out to the snow. With this storm, snow started falling in the mountains on Friday afternoon as the temperatures came down, and by Saturday morning the freezing level had dropped all the way to the valley floors and we woke up with a coating of white on the ground at the house. It continued to snow at our place all morning, and with temperatures staying cold, it would have been a great day to head to the mountains and make some turns in the fresh powder. Unfortunately, I was still under the effects of a cold that had come on at the end of the week, and I was in no condition to head out into the cold and snow.

This morning though, I was feeling notably better, and it seemed like a trip to the snow would be in order. Assessing what I’d seen for coverage on the Bolton Valley Web Cam at 2,100’, and comparing the pictures that Powderfreak posted yesterday from ~2,500’ on Mansfield, it looked like Stowe had picked up the better accumulations, so I set my sights there. Around midday I was ready to head out. I knew that the snow wasn’t going to be dry in the lower elevations, because temperatures were already well up into the 40s F, but even if the snow turned out to be sticky, I’d still get a nice hike out of the deal.

The first traces of snow along the Mountain Road appeared in the 900’ – 1,000’ elevation range just below The Matterhorn, and up at the Mansfield Base Lodge there was about an inch of patchy wet snow. A quick survey of the area had shown me that North Slope had some of the best-looking coverage, and apparently, that was because the resort had actually made some snow there. I threw my skis on my pack, unsure of whether or not I’d be skinning, and headed up the stairs to the base of the lifts. I just happened to run into Claire and Luc, who were up because Luc was anxious to get in some turns on the available snow. We hiked together at various stages, and since she was hiking back down, Claire stopped at the Crossover elevation while I switched over to skins, and Luc and I continued up to the top of the next pitch of North Slope around 2,400’. There were actually a fair number of people out and about for the “day after” the storm, but I guess it wasn’t too surprising with the nice warm temperatures.

An image of a snowboarder jumping at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of many folks out enjoying the day at Stowe

Luc headed down before me to catch up with Claire, and when I finally started my descent, I found out that the snow conditions were quite good. I’d been worried about the warm weather making a mess of the snow, but the combination of natural and manmade snow, along with some skier traffic, turned a good portion of the route into dense, spring-like snow that skied very well. I hit Tele turns where the snow was good, stuck in some alpine turns where conditions were more variable, and had quite a good ride for a quick outing. We’ve got a warmer week coming up, with highs in the mountains generally in the 40s F, but it looks like we might have more cold and snow as we head toward the weekend and Thanksgiving week, so we’ll see what chances that period brings for additional turns. For now though, I’d say there’s enough snow on North Slope to last through some warm days for people interested in earning some turns this week.

Bolton Valley, VT 30NOV2014

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the Old Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley
Visiting Bolton Valley today for some Telemark skiing in the leftover Thanksgiving powder

We’ve had some good snows over the past several days courtesy of the Thanksgiving Nor’easter that dropped about a foot at the Vermont ski areas, and a smaller upper level system that came through a couple days later and delivered a few more inches to the Northern Vermont resorts. We were traveling a lot visiting family during the timeframe of the storms, but we had a chance to head up to Bolton Valley and check out the snow today. Temperatures began to push above freezing this morning, so I knew that the powder was going to be getting a bit heavier, but it still seemed like it would be worth a quick trip up to the mountain. Ty was anxious to try out his new Telemark setup, so he certainly wanted to go, but knowing that the powder was going to be on the heavy side, E and Dylan decided to hold off for better snow and get some other stuff done instead.

Temperatures were already a couple of degrees above freezing when we arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village and made our way over to the base of Wilderness where we found 6 to 7 inches of snow. There were a couple of nice skin tracks in the Turnpike area, and the ascent went smoothly. Ty really enjoyed the free pivot on his Voile Switchback bindings for the ascent – he’s been waiting for a while to have bindings with that feature. We stopped our ascent on Old Turnpike before the pitch got to steep to support decent skiing with the available snow – there was actually about 10 inches up there, but there’s not much base yet, so steep, rockier pitches would definitely be rough on the ski bases.

An image of old Jack-o'-lanterns near the base of the Wilderness ski lift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont in November
As always, there were interesting sights along the tour.

The descent was fun, but a bit slow at times with the snow density increasing. Ty did well working on his Telemark turns, and having handled this dense snow, we both agreed that he’s really going to have a blast on his new gear when we get some higher quality powder. He’s got the Switchbacks mounted on a pair of the 2014 Völkl Gotama Junior skis, and at 118-86-111, these are actually a bit wider than previous versions of the ski that he’s had, which were more in the range of 113-80-105. These later versions may even have a bit more rocker in them, but in any event, they look like they’ll be great skis for powder. We stopped in at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab a bit of food before heading back down into the valley, where the temperature had climbed into the upper 30s F. Although not great for the powder, these temperatures have really made clearing the snow from the driveway easy – it’s mostly gone simply from melting by warmth from above and below, so we haven’t had to shovel at all except for the berm left by the plow along the road.

 

Stowe, VT 22NOV2014

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Switchback trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Back to back surprise storms have left us with plenty of powder on Mt. Mansfield.

On Wednesday, Mt. Mansfield managed to pull an impromptu foot of snow from the sky, basically catching everyone off guard. The potential for some accumulation was definitely out there thanks to spillover from the big lake-effect snow event taking place in the Great Lakes off to the west, but the forecasts weren’t calling for that much snow. It was even more surprising though when the same thing happened again yesterday, just two days after the first event. The lake-effect snows were essentially over by that point, so it’s hard to figure out exactly where that moisture had come from. Somehow Mt. Mansfield just makes this sort of stuff happen. Whatever the case, Powderfreak gave us the usual heads up in the Northern New England thread at American Weather. Powderfreak tells it like it is, and the pictures don’t lie. When he says that “Snow is going over the windshields of snowmobiles up there.” it’s time to take notice, grab those skis, and head for the mountains.

With this new snow on top of the already decent snow I saw on my trip to the mountain Thursday, it sounded like ski conditions were going to be even better than what I’d experienced. E and Dylan and I headed north to BJAMS in Morrisville to help with the moving of some school library books and to pick up Ty from an overnighter at Kenny’s, so we got to see the changes in snowpack throughout the local mountain valleys. These last couple of storms that have targeted Mt. Mansfield have also targeted Stowe Village and points north, so from snow depths of an inch or two in Waterbury, the snowpack more than doubles in the Stowe/Morrisville area. After helping move some bins of books into the school’s new library area, we got Ty suited up, and he joined me and Dylan for a trip to Mt. Mansfield. Unfortunately E’s back has been a bit sore the past few days, so she decided not to stress it with skiing and stayed at school to work. Thus, it was just us boys for today’s ski tour.

Temperatures were a bit below freezing as we approached the Midway Lot at ~1,600′ near the base of the Gondola, and we could see plenty of activity over at the main Mansfield Base Area since it was Stowe’s opening day for lift-served skiing. The snow we found on the ground was definitely deeper than what I’d found at Midway on Thursday – a general 3 to 4 inches had turned into 5 to 6 inches. For today, I outfitted the boys with their alpine powder skis and Alpine Trekkers for skinning. We’ve still got to get skins for Ty’s new Telemark setup, but I’d prefer that they get a chance to ski on their alpines to get their season going anyway. The early season powder can be tricky, and I’d rather they just get the chance to have fun and not take on the added challenge of working on Telemark turns. I went with my fat Tele skis; they had worked quite well on Thursday, and the conditions were even more optimized for them today.

We followed a similar ascent route to the one I’d taken on Thursday – up Chin Clip Runout, onto Switchback and Gondolier, with some Perry Merrill thrown in as well. We finally stopped at around 3,500′ on Switchback because it didn’t look like there was much above that in the way of great snow. But, the boys had made the entire ascent, perhaps incentivized a bit by the fact that I told them they’d earn some sushi from Sushi Yoshi if they could manage it. That prize is sort of a win-win for everyone in the family, and they’re definitely at the stage that they can easily make that ascent now, but having that incentive there sure does keep everyone’s spirits high! While the snow surface contained a lot of wind slab where we stopped, just below that, the snow was deep and soft. The depth of the powder had increased by about an inch for every 500′ of vertical during most of our ascent, getting up to around the 8 to 9 inch range by 3,000′ or so, but above that it really jumped up. In areas out of the wind on the upper part of Switchback, we were finding 14 to 15 inches of settled snow, with pockets over two feet in depth. We knew that was the kind of snow where we’d really be able to lay into those powder turns and not worry about touching down on anything.

After a break at the top of our ascent, in which the boys took part in their nearly requisite play in the snow (this time in some deep stuff off in some nearby trees), we started down. That deep snow we’d seen up there on Switchback offered up some great powder turns as expected, and below that we just worked our way down the mountain choosing the best covered and least tracked routes we could find. We hit some nice powder on the skier’s left of Gondolier, and found a lot of good turns even lower down on Switchback. Coverage was indeed improved over what I’d seen Thursday, and the powder was staying fairly fluffy even though it was a day old. On the lift-served side of things, Stowe was offering 20 trails today, and it sounds like conditions were pretty decent due to the recent cold and snow. We’ve had some nice November conditions so far, and it looks like there may be some continued storminess this month – hopefully the snowpack can continue to grow.

Today’s tour gave us the first chance to out the Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera that we’d brought along. The 7D Mark II is Canon’s new APS-C sports shooter, and it’s weather sealed extremely well, has a 65-point autofocus system that is among the best in the world, and is built like a tank… just the way you’d want a camera to be made for dealing with the elements. It’s got twice the frame rate, two and a half times the number of pixels, and usable ISO values roughly ten times higher than what my Canon EOS 30D has, which is not surprising considering it’s about five generations newer and a step up in Canon’s performance lineup. It really is built for just the type of shooting we do, and it certainly seemed to live up to its reputation today. Late afternoon light on a cloudy Vermont day in November will give the light sensitivity of any camera a challenge, but I was still able to shoot the boys at 1/1,600 of a second due to the high useable range of the ISO. And, the ability of that focusing system in the low light conditions was very impressive. I also got to test out the video with a short clip of the boys playing in the snow, and my Canon EOS 30D doesn’t even have the option of video. We’ll hopefully have many more chance to put the camera to use this season as we learn all of its nuances and find the settings that fit our needs.