Bolton Valley, VT 12MAR2022

An image of the parking lots containing cars covered with snow during Winter Storm Quinlan at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing strong winds and heavy snow drifting during Winter Storm Quinlan at the Wilderness Summit area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
40 to 50 MPH winds and heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Quinlan raked the Wilderness Summit today.

Our latest system, Winter Storm Quinlan, was just getting going today, but once it got rolling, it was quite a ride, and I’d say that term applies to both the skiing and the driving.  Snowfall rates down here at the house were running at around an inch an hour during earlier day, and the higher elevations were obviously doing at least that well.  With that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain in the afternoon, by which point there should have been a good chance at a solid resurfacing of the slopes.  I had no idea how long the lifts were going to hold out in terms of the wind, so I packed midfats and fat skis, with skins for both.  It’s always a good insurance policy to have the skins on hand for these types of storm days.

E opted out of heading up with me, since she suspected the driving on the access road was going to be outrageously hairy, and that the storm conditions on the hill were going to brutal.  She was, of course, correct on both accounts.  On the drive up the Bolton Valley access road, I saw two cars that had ditched on their descents.  That wasn’t bad compared to some storms, but it was certainly a sign.  Both vehicles had gone off at those steep bottom pitches of the access road as it makes its final dive into the Winooski Valley, which is a common area for cars to bail.  For one of the vehicles, a tow truck was just getting set up to pull it out, and it looked like the operator was going to need to take up the entire roadway to do it.  Thankfully, he waved me by just as he was about to rig up.  In the midst of the heavy snowfall, the scene felt like something out of “Highway Through Hell”.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a big rig off the road, but the weather fit the bill.  I could see that there were multiple plows working the road to try to keep up with the snowfall, because it was constantly pouring down and making the driving rough.

An image of heavy snowfall in the Bolton Valley Ski Resort Village in Vermont during Winter Storm Quinlan
Heavy snowfall in the Bolton Valley Village this afternoon during Winter Storm Quinlan

Up above 2,000’ at the resort, Quinlan was going full tilt in terms of both snowfall rates and wind.  Obviously the skiers and riders were dressed for it and took it in stride, but you could see that Village elevations had already taken quite a pounding during the day.  By that point, the storm had put down 8-10” of new snow in the Village, and the parking lots hadn’t been plowed since the morning.  Moving through the lots was tough with all that snow, and cars without 4WD/AWD and clearance, were definitely struggling to get around.  I got a spot right in the top lot from someone who had recently left, but I spent a good amount of time packing and checking my spot to ensure that I was going to be able to get out later.

I hopped on the Snowflake Lift and took a run on Sprig O’ Pine to find that indeed there had been quite a resurfacing of the slopes.  That 8-10” of snow certainly wasn’t fluff, and it had started out quite dense, allowing it to bond to the subsurface.  The Vista Quad and Wilderness Chair were already down on wind hold, and just as I skied up to the entrance of the Mid Mountain Chair, it went down on wind hold as well.  When Mid Mountain goes down, you know the wind is serious.

I could have done some additional laps on Snowflake or headed down to the Timberline Quad, but I really didn’t have a sense for how long they might be able to keep running with the winds.  So, I grabbed my skins from the car and headed to the Wilderness Uphill Route.  The Lower Turnpike area was sheltered from the winds as usual, but above 3,000’ on the ridgeline, the winds were just brutal.  The winds had to be 40 to 50 MPH sustained, and when I hit the final traverse of Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness Summit, I almost couldn’t skin across because there were already waist-high drifts blocking the route.  I had to break trail along the eastern edge of the traverse and cut between the drifts and the trees.  Conditions at the Wilderness Summit were a maelstrom, and even in the most sheltered spot I could find, it was still so windy that packing up my skins was a struggle.  I laughed to even think of the upper lifts running under those conditions.

I’d say the snowfall accumulations at that point were rough 8-10” at ~2,000’ and 10-12” at 3,000’, and the skiing, as one would expect, was excellent.  As noted, there had been dense snow at the start of the storm, and everything of moderate pitch, or even higher angle pitch if the subsurface was smooth, had been resurfaced.  I’d seen a couple small groups of folks descending while I was heading up, but after that, I saw nobody.  I essentially had the entire main mountain area to myself at that point, and it was just point, go, and ski lots of fresh powder.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow during Winter Storm Quinlan at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With all the upper lifts down on wind hold, I had the run of the mountain and plenty of powder on today’s descent from Wilderness.

An image of the Miso Kome restaurant Menu with snow from Winter Storm Quinlan in the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWith the solitude I’d experienced out on my tour, the intensity of the ongoing storm, and the fact that it was already after 4:00 P.M., I expected to return to a deserted base area.  But that wasn’t the case; the Snowflake Lift and Mighty Mite were still running, and some folks were even skiing.  After being up in the 40-50 MPH winds, the 20-30 MPH winds around the base area did feel a bit tamer.  I couldn’t believe that the new Miso Kome Japanese food stand outside the base lodge was operating, but I’d yet to have a chance to try it, so despite the stormy conditions, I took it as a sign.  If they were willing to stay open during a storm like this, then hey, I’ll take the opportunity to try out their food.  While attempting to read their menu, which was on a sign pitched several feet away from the stand, it was snowing so hard that I had to keep wiping off the new snow just to get through the various items.  It had to be snowing at around 2”/hour at that point.  Inside the lodge, everything appeared to be quite normal, and I was even able to grab a couple of pizzas from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to the family.  So I guess storm or no storm, the services roll on at the resort.

An image of the base are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont during Winer Storm Quinlan
Despite the fury of Winter Storm Quinlan, a few brave skiers and riders were still out and about around the base area at Bolton Valley this afternoon

The final part of Saturday’s outing was the descent down the access road.  I’ve obviously been down that road in many, many storms, but the timing of this one with the heavy snowfall rates made it one of the more challenging descents I can recall.  We were crawling down the road.  Cars were moving at a snail’s pace because the intense snowfall made it hard for the plows to keep up, and the road surface was so slick that you’d almost be slipping off the edge at a full stop.  On more than one occasion, I opted to ride the crown of the road because just the natural drainage slope in your lane wanted to guide you off.  About halfway down, we caught a nice boost from a plow that was on the way up and set up some added traction to the center of the road.  I used that slice of extra traction as much as possible for the remainder of the descent.

It was great to get home with the food and talk about the whole experience at dinner, and all told, that was certainly one of the more eventful ski outings of the season.

Bolton Valley, VT 23JAN2022

An image of a couple of people sitting in the Gazebo in the Village Circle at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of untracked snow in the Snow Hole and Branches area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting ready for some lines in the untracked powder around Snow Hole today as I hit Bolton Valley for the first weekend of Wilderness Chair operation

Stephen and Johannes had planned to head up to Bolton Valley for some skiing today to take advantage of the opening weekend of the Wilderness Chair, and I headed up in the late morning to hopefully catch up with them and get in some rides the Wilderness Chair myself.  Temperatures were up into the teens F today, so a bit warmer than yesterday, and riding the lift was reasonably comfortable.

Stephen saw me in my car as I was arriving, and unfortunately they were just heading home because Stephen’s heel was bothering him a bit, but I got some solo runs and did some exploring.  For the terrain above the Wilderness Mid Station, only the Peggy Dow’s side is open.  The conditions weren’t bad, although the usual wind scoured areas were slick.  Below the mid-station was where I found the best conditions, with nice soft surfaces on piste and powder depths of about a foot, similar to what we encountered yesterday.  The Wilderness Woods were in nice shape, as was the Wilderness Lift Line, and for untracked powder, I enjoyed some nice variations in the Snow Hole and Branches area.

Bolton Valley, VT 22APR2021

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow after a late April storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow accumulations from a late April snowstorm in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our latest April storm brought 8 to 10 inches of snow to the Bolton Valley Village, with as much as a foot of snow higher on the mountain.

Since daylight lingers so long into the evening now, I stopped off at Bolton on the way home from work today for a ski tour.  I hadn’t had the time to get out yesterday, but it kept snowing much of the day today as well, so this gave me the chance to see how all the snow had accumulated from this most recent April storm.  Valley temperatures had edged a bit above freezing in the afternoon, but on the mountain the temperatures were down in the 20s F.

Accumulations from this storm went right down to the lowest valleys, and even the broad, low valleys down near sea level like the Champlain Valley had accumulations that stuck around.  At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~340’ there were a couple inches of accumulation, and naturally, the depths just went up from there.  The wind had kicked up by this afternoon on the back side of the system, and that really pushed the snow around a lot, but using the typical calmer, unaffected spots, here’s the accumulations profile I observed during today’s outing:

340’: 2”
500’: 2-3”
1,000’: 3-4”
1,500’: 5-6”
2,000’: 8-10”
2,500’: 10-12”
3,000’: ~12”

“So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches.”

The snow from this storm was certainly not as dense as what last week’s storm delivered, but the initial accumulations were substantial enough to set up a good base, and then in typical Northern Greens style, the upslope came in after to boost the depth and polish things off.  Overall, the snow put down by this storm cycle was right side up, just as PF noted in his post at the American Weather Forum.  We picked up roughly ¾” of liquid equivalent at our site, and I’d say they’d had at least 1” of liquid in the snow on the mountain.  So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches.  There was also still some snow left from the previous storm in spots, so that bolstered up the base a bit more.

An image of low clouds and whisps of falling snow looking west toward the Champlain Valley during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The low cloud deck and wisps of falling snow from an incoming burst of precipitation were visible as I looked back westward toward the Champlain Valley.

Anyway, turns were great with the right-side-up deposition, with midwinter consistency all the way down to the Village areas at ~2,000’ this afternoon.  I didn’t tour down to 1,500’, but even there at the base of Timberline the snow was still powder as of early evening.

Bolton Valley, VT 06MAR2021

An image from a parking area in the Village on a typical ski day in March at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Hotel in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snow atop the Bolton Valley Hotel reveals the layers upon layers of snow in the snowpack from the past couple months of winter storms in the area.

It would have been great if the  upslope system we’ve had in the area over the past couple of days delivered more than an inch or two of new snow, but putting that on top of the 9” from the midweek event has definitely kept the off piste conditions respectable at Bolton Valley.  The resorts is reporting 11” new in the past week, and the bulk of that must be the sum of those two events.  Not surprisingly, that powder has settled a bit over the past few days, and that actually helps out somewhat with respect to how it skis.  When that first round had fallen on Wednesday, it really was so incredibly dry that you sank right through it and got down to that relatively firm subsurface, but the settling, and the addition of a couple more inches that wasn’t quite as dry, gives you a bit more underfoot to cushion things.

I was hearing noise from skiers and riders even on low angle groomed terrain today, and it wasn’t as if it was horribly icy, but the noise revealed that there was at least something firm there.  It could just be a traffic issue on the groomed slopes – I’m not sure how much liquid equivalent the mountain ultimately got from the two rounds of snow, but it probably wasn’t more than a quarter of an inch, and that’s only going to hold up so long with on piste skier traffic.

I focused my time in the trees today, and I found the conditions there were far superior to the groomed terrain.  I spent my time exploring more of the sidecountry off Wilderness that I’d visited last Saturday.  There was plenty of snow for good powder turns on low-angle terrain, and even moderate and steep terrain weren’t too bad where people had skied and sort of packed the new snow into the base.  The trees were the place to be though – the snow was protected from the wind in there, and I’d say there was plenty that had been blow off the trails as well.

An image showing the view from the Wilderness at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A northward view from the Wilderness Summit looking out toward Mt. Mansfield that’s just barely visible though the gray clouds and light snow that covered the sky much of the afternoon

Temperatures were in the mid-teens F when I was out this afternoon, which is certainly nothing to complain about in terms of cold, but there was plenty of wind around, especially up high.  We had some peeks of sun, but in general it was cloudy with some light flakes in the air, and it just sort of had the feel of a hum drum midwinter day.  Being in the trees meant that I was out of the wind, but as I’ve heard other folks around here expressing, I could certainly use some warmth.  I definitely found myself missing the nice temperatures up around the freezing mark that I encountered last Saturday, even if that storm did bring a touch of mixed precipitation.

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 28APR2020

An image taken from Interstate 89 of Mount Mansfield in Vermont covered with snow after a late-April snowstorm
An image of sunshine and snow on evergreens after a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sun came out and offered brilliant views of the fresh snow today at Bolton Valley.

It cooled back down overnight, and with continued snowfall, I suspect the snow levels dropped based on the fact that it was down into the 30s F at our place in the valley.  I would have liked to see where accumulations stood as of this morning, but I had a car maintenance appointment, so I couldn’t stop by the Village until about midday.  All that new snow at elevation made for some impressive views as I drove on I-89 returning from Burlington, and I stopped at Williston Southbound Information Center in I-89 to get a few images of the Green Mountains.

 

An image of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont taken from the Southbound Information Center on Interstate 89 near Williston after a late-April snowstorm
Looking out from I-89 in Williston today toward the snowy slopes of Bolton Valley

By the time I got up to Bolton today I’d say accumulations were generally back to what I reported yesterday, so accumulations were really only beginning to appear up near the Bolton Valley Village elevations.  Temperatures had risen well above freezing by that point as well, so the snow was getting quite wet and dense.  As the brilliant late-April sunshine appeared, it felt downright hot out as I was touring.  The sun created fantastic views of the fresh snow gleaming white on all the trees, and the views had an almost midwinter feel.  The temperatures and sunshine had the snow pretty quickly melting off the trees on aspects facing toward the sun, so the sound of dripping water and crashing piles of snow was the most prominent thing accompanying me on my tour.

With the new snow getting quite wet by the time I was out, the descent portion of the tour was pretty much just a free ride down with a few turns here and there, but there weren’t really notable powder turns like we had yesterday.  It was of course still great to be out in the fresh snow getting exercise on such a beautiful day.

We’re almost on to May now, but it does sound like snow potential is going to stay around for a couple of weeks with the weather pattern, so we’ll see what Mother Nature brings us.

Bolton Valley, VT 10MAR2018

An image of E and Dylan in the car at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Snowfall over the past few days has built up some great powder at Bolton Valley, and today was a day for getting out and finding it!

Although Bolton Valley was only reporting an inch of new snow in this morning’s report, they’ve picked up more than a foot of snow in the past couple of days from Winter Storm Quinn.  Combined with modest midweek skier traffic, that was already a recipe for some great skiing today, but even more snow was expected to arrive as the day wore on to further freshen up the slopes.

E and Dylan had some obligations in the morning, but Ty and I were free to ski and had plans to meet up with Stephen at the resort.  We parked at Timberline, alerted Stephen with a text, and headed up the Timberline Quad for a run.  Although I couldn’t find any slopes that hadn’t been thoroughly resurfaced at the resort during yesterday’s outing, I can finally say that I found at least one today.  I figured we could try a run on Lost Girlz, which would be a really tough test of the resurfacing.  Unfortunately, the combination of dense evergreen canopy above, and very steep pitch were too much; the coverage just wasn’t enough.  So, we high tailed it over to Tattle Tale for a run.  The snow was certainly good there, but in general it had seen much more traffic than usual because the Tattle Tale headwall was open.

An image of Ty skiing in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fun in the Villager Trees

We met up with Stephen and did a full run of Tattle Tale so that we could really take in the headwall experience.  It was a bit windblown at the very top, but coverage was quite good overall and it was definitely worth the trip. 

An image of Stephen skiing in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Stephen getting just what he was looking for today… powder for his fat skis!

The rest of the morning was dedicated to getting Stephen some deep untracked powder, and that we delivered in spades with trips to The Crack, Villager Trees, and White Rabbit.  Stephen seemed quite happy floating around on his fat alpine touring skis.  The powder was easily a foot or more in untracked areas, and it was definitely delivering great turns with that right-side-up density gradient that Winter Storm Quinn had set up.  In addition, new snowfall was ramping right up as we approached midday due to an incoming mountain upslope snow event that’s developing in the area.

An image of a water bottle and some ski gloves at the Fireside Flatbread bar at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe three of us headed to Fireside Flatbread for some lunch, and E and Dylan joined us for a bite once they arrived at the resort.  We all did a Cobrass/Five Corners run together before Stephen had to head back to pick up Johannes, and the rest of us finished off the day with some Timberline runs.  E and Dylan had skied Spell Binder earlier and it got a great recommendation.  It lived up to the expectations, especially that skier’s left that Dylan enjoyed ripping up so much.

“As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.”

As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.  There’s a vertically stacked low pressure sitting in Northern Maine, and that’s typically a great setup for snowfall in the Northern Greens when the low pressure wraps in deep moisture from the Atlantic.  You know there’s some potential for continued snowfall when the National Weather Service in Burlington speaks about difficulty in finding the off switch for the snowfall in their forecast discussion:

“Another good problem to have is trying to find the off switch to the upslope snow machine…looks like a brief break develops Sunday afternoon into Monday…before more accumulating snowfall for Tuesday into Weds.”

Bolton Valley, VT 28NOV2017

An image of fresh snow on the branches of a yellow birch tree at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
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 04JAN2016

An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of the snow depth at the top of the Wilderness Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Up to eight inches out there today at Bolton Valley made for some great turns.

After Winter Storm Goliath last week, we moved into a pattern of snow showers with minor accumulations here and there ahead of a cold front that passed through the area yesterday. The approach of the cold front intensified the snowfall, resulting in snow totals of up to a foot in the Northern Greens. Unlike the dense snow from Winter Storm Goliath, these latest rounds of snow have been light and dry, with densities of 3-6% H2O based on my analyses. With this fluff on top of the dense snow, it was actually a setup for some great powder skiing. The temperature drop with the arctic cold front was notable, with highs expected to be only in the single digits F today, but I still wanted to get out for some turns and exercise, so I decided to go for a ski tour up at Bolton Valley this morning.

Despite temperatures running in the low single digits as expected, I was happy to find that there wasn’t much wind as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road. I swung into the Timberline parking lot at 1,500’ on my way up the road, and measured 4-5” of powder over the old base. Although likely serviceable for some turns on appropriate terrain, I know that the base snow is a bit thinner down at that elevation, so I continued on up to the Village at 2,100’ to start my tour. It was right around 0 F up at the Village, and there was the occasional bit of breeze blowing things around, but it was nothing like that wind from last Tuesday during Winter Storm Goliath. I ascended via the designated Wilderness route, and for the first time this season it felt like it was worth a trip all the way to the Wilderness Summit. Indeed that was the case, as the new snow kept getting deeper and deeper, eventually reaching a point where even black diamond terrain was quite skiable. The person before me who had set the skin track up to the summit had descended via Bolton Outlaw, and the turns looked quite nice.

An image of sunlit evergreens in the morning behind a skin track used for ascending the slopes of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Following the skin track in the Peggy Dow’s area

Here’s the summary of the snow depths atop the old base up to the Wilderness Summit at various elevations, with the 500’ value being from our house:

500’: 2-3”
1,500’: 4-5”
2,100’: 5-6”
2,500’: 6”
3,000’: 7-8”
3,150’: 8”

I can’t say that all the snow up on the mountain was necessarily from the past 24 hours, but it’s very easy to distinguish the new powder from the dense base snow that we picked up from Winter Storm Goliath.

An image showing the total depth of snow at 2,700' at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont on January 4th, 2016Wanting to go for something with a bit more pitch lower down, I passed by Bolton Outlaw and headed to Upper Fanny Hill so that I could also ski its lower portion. Upper Fanny Hill has a healthy black diamond pitch, and in terms of coverage it’s easily good to go now with the dense base covering up everything but the obvious major obstacles. I did find a good representative spot from which I could assess total snowpack depth at around 2,700’, and found it to be 14-15”. There’s a lot of single-black terrain at appropriate elevations that I suspect is good to go for at least the touring crowd, although I’d say one more good shot of liquid equivalent (an inch or so) would be needed to get things going for lift-serviced levels of traffic. I’m sure the mountain could open some natural terrain consisting of mellow pitches at this point if they chose to.

“Upper Fanny Hill has a healthy black diamond pitch, and in terms of coverage it’s easily good to go now with the dense base covering up everything but the obvious major obstacles”

In any event, the powder turns were excellent this morning, with my only complaint being that it was “slow snow” due to the very cold temperatures. Even with 115 mm fat skis keeping me afloat, I had to go steeper than the pitch of typical green terrain for a good ride – in that respect, Fanny Hill was a better choice than Lower Turnpike as I suspected. We’ve got a couple of potential storms coming up this weekend that may deliver something more like Winter Storm Goliath in terms of liquid equivalent. They probably won’t deliver the type of Champlain Powder™ we had with this event, but if they play out well they could set up the base to open a good amount of natural snow terrain.

Bolton Valley & Backcountry, VT 17JAN2015

An imae looking down the Grizzwald Glade with pristine powder snow in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image looking down Randy's glade on the back side of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down into the Cotton Brook area on today’s backcountry ski tour near Bolton Valley.

Best… Bolton… backcountry… tour… ever. That’s really the only way to start this trip report, because even after years of exploring the backcountry around Bolton Valley, that’s what today’s tour was for me. I can’t say that this tour was tops in every category; the powder was fantastic, but there have been numerous days that top it, and E and the boys weren’t with me, so it was a solo outing. What made the tour so great though was the combination of great powder on all aspects, the good distances covered to provide a nice workout, but most importantly, the breadth of the backcountry network used and the substantial number and variety of glades visited. The tour spanned all the way from the alpine trails of Wilderness to the Cotton Brook area, and featured nine different glades. What also made the tour so outstanding was that I could use my knowledge of the area to connect all those glades very efficiently; in terms of powder turns that meant getting the most bang for my buck.

“…we just keep getting “small” snowfalls to freshen the slopes and top off the powder, but of course around here that’s meant 1 to 2 feet in the past week.”

It’s a holiday weekend, which typically means lots of visitors to the ski resorts, and the forecast today called for fairly chilly temperatures in the single digits for the mountains. That’s a combination that just calls out for some backcountry touring, and that’s the plan that gradually evolved this past week as I watched the forecast. Although we haven’t had any huge storms in the past week or two, the snow out there in the Northern Greens is simply fantastic – we just keep getting “small” snowfalls to freshen the slopes and top off the powder, but of course around here that’s meant 1 to 2 feet in the past week. And, the January weather just keeps all that powder pristine.

Ty was out at a dance until late last night, and friends came back to our house and stayed overnight to play with him and Dylan. I wasn’t about to pull them away from that this morning, and in fact, I wasn’t really planning to ask anyone if they wanted to ski with only single digits in the mountain forecast. I knew it was going to be one of those days where it could be uncomfortably cold if you didn’t keep moving, so going out by myself meant that I could keep the tour at whatever pace I chose. Knowing that I was going out solo also let me devise a more ambitious tour than if I was heading out with the whole family. After considered the many options, I decided that a lift-assisted tour out toward the Cotton Brook area would be a good option. There are glades farther to the north there that I’ve yet to explore, and at a decent pace, it looked like I’d be able to put together a solid tour out to that area and back in the three to four hour window of time I had.

The Wilderness Chair was scheduled to start running at 10:00 A.M., so I headed up to the mountain a bit after that and found that parking had reached the third tier of the main Village lot. That’s actually less than I’d expect for a Saturday on a holiday weekend, but I think the cold weather kept some folks away. I was able to wrap around and get a spot in the first tier, and then headed right over to the base of the Wilderness Chair to start my tour with a lift assist. Temperatures were certainly on the chilly side, probably somewhere in the single digits, but there was no wind, and that made quite a difference in terms of sitting out there lift. The lift ride gave me a chance to check out the on piste conditions, since I haven’t been to the resort since our trip back on the 4th of the month, and what I saw today looked really good. I didn’t hear any hard sounds as some snowboarders passed below me, and off in the Wilderness Woods to my left, I watched a boy glide through the powder in silence. I’d say ¾ of the terrain in Wilderness Woods was still untracked, so there was a lot of good skiing to be done there. I was even tempted to take a run, but keeping on track for my tour was a necessity.

An image showing a sign for the Heavenly Highway trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VemontFrom the Wilderness Summit I skied down the top of Peggy Dow’s to the junction with the backcountry network at Heavenly Highway. I let my momentum carry a bit of the way into the forest, and then stopped to put on my skins. At that point I definitely felt the cold – it had the bite of below zero cold up there around 3,000′, and having just sat on the lift for a while meant that I wasn’t producing much heat. As I got my skins on another skier appeared, coming from Heavenly Highway. We exchanged greetings and I saw that he was heading for a descent on the alpine terrain. I got my skins on quickly, and headed northward on the trail. My goal was to head down Devil’s Drop and get on the Catamount Trail, and I made good time through those high elevations. I checked the depth of the surface powder as I moved across the ridge line on Heavenly Highway, and generally I found about 13 inches. I saw a couple other skiers along the way toward Devil’s Drop, but as usual it was pretty quiet. For Devil’s Drop, I debated taking off my skins and really having some fun on the descent, but opted to just keep them on. I did switch my binding to ski mode so that I could make some Telemark and alpine turns as needed. I actually had first tracks Devil’s Drop, and if I’d been with others it probably would have been worth pulling off the skins and skiing it hard with some pictures.

As I neared the bottom of Devil’s Drop I saw a group of eight skiers below heading northward on the Catamount Trail. That’s one of the larger groups I’ve seen out there, and then seemed pretty organized; as I caught up to them they all pulled over to the right in near unison and let me pass. Within another few minutes I’d passed Birch run and reached the border of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. I continued on a bit more until I was just below “The Glades”. My goal actual goal was down below, but I had the time and energy, and there were few tracks in The Glades, so I continued up to add another couple hundred vertical to my descent. That’s when I really started to warm up, and I had to hit the side zips on my pants and open the vents in my helmet. I actually think the air temperature was starting to warm a bit as well as southerly flow was starting to kick in ahead of our next storm. The ascent overall there was really quick though, and soon I was at the top of The Glades switching over to descent mode.

I hadn’t really gotten the feel of the skiing since I’d had my skins on at Devil’s Drop, but now I had them off and could dive into those turns in the Glades. The turns were excellent; there was a good foot or more of midwinter powder that easily kept me floating on my fat skis. I continued straight on below the Catamount trail onto “Randy’s”, which began with a modest pitch, and then dropped right off into a nice steep, open drainage. The pitch was close to 30 degrees in spots, and I can imagine this is quite a spot after big dumps of snow. The powder there was the deepest I’d seen on the day, but even that wasn’t quite enough to keep from touching down to the subsurface in a few spots because it was just so steep. That’s some really sweet terrain down there though, and there was just one or two other ski tracks in there, so the untracked lines were plentiful. Below that I got into “Great White Way”, where the pitch mellowed out a bit relative to Randy’s. The route just kept going, and as far as I understand, you can essentially take it all the way down to Waterbury Reservoir if you want, but after about 700-800′ of vertical I decided to call it a descent so that I could stay on track with the rest of my tour.

I skinned up along the edge of Great White Way, using a skin track that others had put in place. It would great to have a skin track that was totally out of the way of the trail, but the pitch is reasonable enough that you can head straight up the trail. As I approached Randy’s, the pitch really steepened of course, and the skin track had to make some pretty tight switchbacks. Fortunately, a more official, off trail skin track is quickly offered that heads up toward Birch Loop; there’s even a sign to let skiers know where that ascent route is, and it’s marked by blue blazes. That ascent was excellent, with a well-established skin track, and it delivers you right back that the Catamount trail just below The Glades.

“The depth and consistency of the powder came together perfectly for the pitch, and by the time I hit World Cup I was saying “Yes, Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”… mostly to myself of course.”

I left my skins on and zoomed across the flats toward Bryant Cabin. I didn’t stop inside, but instead continued along Gardiner’s Lane and up to North Slope to set up my final descent of the day. I stopped at the top of Upper JJ’s as my starting point. Since it was my final descent, I pulled out some tomato soup from my thermos, let it cool while I removed my skins, and then chugged the soup down and got on my way. The turns were beautiful, and I continued on Gardiner’s Lane, noting that there was a nice line above A1A that I hadn’t recalled seeing. I’ll have to check that out in the future. When I got to Grizzwald’s I found it completely untracked, and bounded my way down the steep pitch with some deep, fluffy turns. I contemplated a look at Alchemist, since it faces south and might be well preserved in this cold weather, but I saw what looked like just a track or two heading toward Gotham City and my skis just ended up pulling me that way. I skied Girls, and I think those might have been my favorite turns of the day. The depth and consistency of the powder came together perfectly for the pitch, and by the time I hit World Cup I was saying “Yes, Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”… mostly to myself of course. I hit two more glades on the descent before I was down to Broadway, but I don’t really know the names of those – the snow was good to the very last drop though.

A Google Earth image showing GPS tracking data from a backcountry ski tour in the Bolton Valley backcountry in Vermont
The GPS tracking data from today’s tour in the Bolton Valley backcountry plotted on Google Earth

I really can’t think of a tour I’ve done in the Bolton Valley backcountry that delivered such a huge amount of perfect turns in so many different areas, so this one really does go down as my best tour in that regard. The lift assist really allowed this tour to fit into a reasonable window of time while covering some good distances. There are really limitless combinations to do out there in terms of tours, but I know I’ll visit parts of this one again because it delivered so well.