Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2020

An image of a snow-covered tree against a brilliantly blue sky in the background at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a ski track in powder snow after some small storms dropped 8 to 10 inches at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
This morning’s ski tour revealed some excellent ski conditions with up to 8-10″ of powder on the upper mountain in undisturbed areas.

Today turned out to be sort of a bit of a midwinter gem, which is pretty nice considering winter just started.  I hadn’t expected it to be quite so stunning, but with the recent snows, it was clearly a good day to head up to Bolton for a tour and check out how the powder had settled in.

In the morning, before any clouds rolled it, the sun and sky were simply brilliant.  And that’s the first thing I noticed when I got out of the car at the mountain.  And I couldn’t believe how hot the sun felt.  We’re up near 45 N latitude, and this time of year is just about as low a sun angle as we get, so all I can think is that I’m just not used to actually having the sun shining on my face.  I had a 23% VLT lens in my goggles, figuring that sure, it was sunny, but it’s late December way up here in the north.  Well, I could have easily gone with something sub-10% VLT; it was that bright.

“The powder definitely exceeded expectations today – I found settled depths of roughly 5-7” above the subsurface at 2,000’, and many spots with 8-10” up near 3,000’.”

The powder definitely exceeded expectations today – I found settled depths of roughly 5-7” above the subsurface at 2,000’, and many spots with 8-10” up near 3,000’.  I initially couldn’t figure out where all of it had come from, but then I realized that since the 4-5” from Winter Storm Gail, it’s just continued to snow with these past couple of smaller systems.

An image of someone pushing a stroller on snow with a ski on the front wheel at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out for a snow stroll around the base area

The Wilderness skin track was in excellent shape, and it almost looked like the resort had groomed the adjoining Turnpike trail because it was so smoothly packed.  It’s possible that it was just very nicely packed by skier traffic, but for folks looking for groomed turns in the Wilderness area, it’s good to go.

Off the main route though, there was tons of untracked powder available, and it was definitely right-side-up, midwinter quality stuff.  That synoptic snow from Winter Storm Gail, topped off with the drier snow from these last couple of systems has really put together a quality surface.  Low-angle stuff is good to go, and even moderate-angle slopes are nice if the snow is protected from the wind and there hasn’t been any skier traffic.  Above those angles though, the snowpack is definitely not ready yet; the base is just not deep enough.

An image of the exterior of the Mad Taco restaurant location at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We can’t wait to try out the Mad Taco outpost that they’ve added to Bolton Valley this season!

It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out for this next week.  This next storm looks to consolidate the base, and there are a couple of potential systems behind it that could make some nice conditions atop that if they came to fruition on the snowy side of things.

Bolton Valley, VT 10DEC2020

An image of the village circle area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a small December snowstorm
An image of fresh snow with some buried ski tracks from a small December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the beautiful scenes from Bolton Valley this morning, showing a few old ski tracks on Lower Turnpike

Yesterday, an upper-level disturbance/Alberta Clipper-style system began to affect our area, and as of this morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 4-8” of new snow in the past 24 hours, and 10” in the last 48 hours.  Although we haven’t had too much base snow yet this season, those accumulations, as well as the view on the Bolton Valley Main Base Webcam, suggested that there was enough snow out there for a tour.

Temperatures up in the Bolton Valley Village were in the upper 20s F, and I generally found 7-10” inches of snow from the Village elevations upward.  There’s decent substance to the snow (i.e. it’s not just fluff), but as expected, there’s really not too much base below that snow from what I saw.  I just don’t think there was any dense snow, or rain-affected snow that had a chance to consolidate below these most recent accumulations.  The snow quality is good though; the snowpack I encountered was right-side up with some medium weight density snow below fluffier powder on top.

Here are the snow depths I observed from the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road and up above the Bolton Valley Village:

340’:  2”
1,000’:  3-4”
1,500’:  4-5”
2,000’:  7”
2,500’:  8-9”
2,700’:  9-10”

Roughly 2,700’ was as high as my tour took me today, so I can’t provide observations above that level, but snow depths probably would have increased a bit more with elevation.

An image of fresh snow on an evergreen bough after a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the recent snow on a spruce bough

I’m surprised to see a depth of only 8” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 3,700’ as of the most recent report, but I’m not sure when that depth was last updated.  Based on the amount of liquid equivalent that seemed to be in the snow, and the sub-freezing temperatures up there, this would likely be the start of the winter snowpack unless we get a really warm/wet, long-duration event.  Consolidating the snow that’s there right now and/or adding some water to it would certainly help form a base.  We certainly want to get in a decent synoptic winter storm to substantiate the base, but the mountains have got at least a minimal start with this system.  I’m not sure if the snow we have in the valleys around here is quite enough to mark the start the season’s snowpack, but it’s possible.  We’ll see what the next couple of weeks bring as we head into the busy holiday season.