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Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, Vermont 22JAN2011

An image of a track from powder skiing in the Bolton Valley backcountry
There was some fantastic powder out there in the Bolton Valley backcounty today.

After a great powdery outing with Dave up on Bolton’s Nordic/backcountry network on MLK Monday, our next snow event began the following day.  It was one of those low pressure systems in the Great Lakes that redevelops as a coastal, and as has been the trend this season, Northern New England was outside of the areas of heaviest precipitation.  However, we did manage to get some snow out of the event.  While there was no snow falling in Waterbury at the house when I left in the morning on Tuesday, a couple of hours later it had started up in Burlington.  When I got home that evening I found 4.2 inches of new snow on the snowboard, and it turned out to be some reasonably dense, base-building material.

In the valley we wound up with 6.5 inches of snow comprised of 0.63 inches of liquid with that event, and then a similar system came in for yesterday.  We were even farther out of that one though, and would up with just 1.6 inches of total snow at the house.  As expected, the mountains did somewhat better, and Bolton had picked up over a foot of snow for the week.

The big weather event for this weekend isn’t snow however, it’s the cold.  Highs are expected to be around 10 F today, and then perhaps not even get above zero tomorrow.  E and the boys decided not to ski based on the cold forecast, but today’s temperatures seemed like they would be pretty nice for a backcountry tour.  I waited until about midday for the temperatures to warm, and warm they had!  Driving toward Bolton, the temperature was almost 20 F in the valley, and it seemed quite a bit warmer than initially thought.  Even up in the village above 2,000’, the temperature was already 10 F and rising.

Kicking off my tour, I headed up Bryant as usual, and was treated to blue skies and lots of white trees.  I could feel that the temperature was cooling down as I gained elevation, but I still had my hat off at times to keep cool.  Once I reached the Bryant Cabin I assessed some tour options.  Ty was having some friends over for a birthday party starting at 4:00 P.M., and I still had to do some grocery shopping on my trip home, but it looked like I had time for a longer tour that just a Bryant lap.  I decided to head out north for a bit along the Bolton-Trapp/Catamount Trail and catch some turns off there.

The trip through the flats to the North of the cabin was fairly quiet, with more white trees and lots of deep snow visible on the steep slopes to the east.  I saw one other skier in the flats on what looked like lighter touring gear, and then I saw another pair of skiers at the top of the drop in for the Cotton Brook trail.  I kept going and assessed some glade options on the high side of the trail.  There were a few tracks, but plenty of lines that hadn’t been visited, and the powder looked fantastic both above and below.  To read about the descent and see all the pictures from the day, head to the full report from the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network today.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 17JAN2011

An image of Dave in very deep powder in the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, Vermont
Dave grabbing some of that beautiful Champlain Powder in the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network today

Dave stayed over through today, and the plan was to get in another day of skiing.  With the amazing powder conditions I’d encountered on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, combined with additional snowfall, it was a no brainer to try and make some turns on the holiday.  We had contemplated lift-served skiing at Bolton or Stowe, but with the forecast high of roughly 10 F in the valley, E and the boys decided to take the day off from skiing, and Dave and I ultimately decided that it was a day to avoid sitting on lifts.  The plan was set for another round of skiing on Bolton Valley’s Nordic/backcountry network.

I’d brought Dave for his first tour in the Bryant region of the trail network back on January 1st, and since the warm weather had turned the powder to mush at that point, the touring was actually the focus, and the ski descent was more peripheral.  The skiing at that point, while still fun, was really more useful as an efficient way to get around.  On that earlier outing though, I specifically told Dave to envision what the area would be like if it was filled with powder, because that’s that way it is most of the time.  With the efficient setup of trails, skin tracks, and glades, along with the incredibly convenient access from the village, it’s quite an amazing resource.  This time around, Dave was going to have the chance to see the area in top form.

Up at the village, we stopped in at the Nordic/Sports Center so Dave could grab a Nordic ticket.  Having a season’s pass, I only stop in the sports center occasionally, and hadn’t noticed what a nice place it is in terms of a day lodge.  There’s a snack bar, and lots of space to change.  I saw a mother and daughter changing in there, and they had the entire place to themselves.  Dave and I had already planned to gear up at the car, but it made me think about using the area in the future, especially with the boys.  E has been planning to bring the boys up there for swimming etc., but in a total coincidence in terms of my visit, Johannes was also up there today with his mom and sister doing just that.  Johannes wrote about his experience at the Sports Center on VTSkiReport.com in an article entitled “When it’s too cold to ski…”, so for those that are interested in learning more about the options at the sports center, check that out.  With the way Bolton’s season’s passes are including access to everything this season, it’s a great perk.

For our part, Dave and I decided that it wasn’t too cold to ski, especially when powering our own ascents.  We headed over to the usual tennis court parking along the edge of the trail network at about 2,050’, prepped our gear, and got skinning.  Although my car thermometer was reading in the low single digits, there was no wind, and the sunshine was really doing its thing.  We hadn’t been long on the trail before we were heating up and removing clothing.  Dave even had to take his hat off.  We had a fairly quick and steady ascent up to the Bryant Cabin (2,690’) checking out some of the glades along the way.  We could see that there were descent tracks on some of the more popular runs, but plenty of fresh powder was waiting.  Check out all the text and deep powder pictures by clicking through to the full report from Bolton Valley today.

An image of Jay catching air while Telemark skiing in the powder today on Bolton Valley's Nordic & Backcountry Network in Vermont
Jay grabbing some air among the deep powder in Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry Network today – Dave was having a blast firing away with his Canon EOS 7D.

Bolton Valley, VT 16JAN2011

An image of Jay about to take a face shot skiing deep powder at Bolton Valley, Vermont
Jay skiing the deep powder in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley today - let's just say that the skiing was GOOD!

Dave had heeded my late week alert about the good skiing, so yesterday evening we worked out a Sunday morning Timberline meeting.  The clipper system that had started up midday yesterday dropped roughly 4 inches of new snow at the house by 6:00 A.M. this morning, with most of that coming in at 3.7 to 3.8% H2O according to my analyses.  What it meant for the local mountains was more fluff on top of fluff, so the powder skiing just continued to get deeper.  Dylan had a midday birthday party (shouldn’t there be a Vermont state law mandating only evening birthday parties during ski season?), and E was taking him to that, leaving just Ty and I to join up with Dave.  On the upside it meant that Dave and I could really run Ty ragged as we marauded our way through Bolton’s powder stashes… and apparently run him ragged we did.

Bolton had only reported 3 inches of new snow in the morning, but based on what we got at the house, combined with what we found on the hill, I think it was a bit underreported.  Conservative snow reports are generally appreciated though.  While we waited for Dave to arrive at the mountain, we took a warm up run on Spell Binder, and I found 6 to 8 inches of snow on much of the trail.  Ty really ripped it up on there and he was off to a great start.  Continue on with all the powdery pictures and text at the full report from Bolton Valley today.

An image of Dave waist deep in the powder in the Adam's Solitude area at Bolton Valley, Vermont
Dave, waist deep in some of the powder today above Adam's Solitude up at Bolton Valley

Bolton Valley, VT 15JAN2011

An image of Ty skiing powder in the trees off Wizard Way at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty hits up some of Bolton Valley's powder in the Wizard Way trees today.

Last week’s midweek system had continued the excellent stretch of snow, yielding a great dose of dry Champlain Powder™ up at Bolton for Thursday, and then snowfall from that system continued at a slower pace right into the holiday weekend where a clipper was due to add more fluff.  Today, the whole family headed up to the mountain to try and catch up with Stephen his kids for the reopening of Wilderness.  Ty was a bit out of sorts at first, so Dylan and I took a mid mountain run on Timberline to get going.  The snow quality was excellent on piste, not quite perfect in coverage since there were a couple of spots to watch out for as we skied the skier’s right of the Showtime headwall, but any coverage issues there were pretty minor.

Once everyone was set, we headed over to the main mountain and hooked up with Stephen, Johannes, and Helena.  With all the kids, the makeup of the group was constantly in flux, but on my end I had a couple of ripping runs through the Turnpike bobsled tracks with the Ty and Johannes.  We hit those banked corners like race cars.  On another run I was guiding Ty, Johannes, and Helena through some of the Wizard Way trees, and the end result literally saw Helena swimming the backstroke through the deep powder to get back to the trail.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of that, but I did grab one of Ty in there working the powder.

Johannes and Stephen were also out getting pictures, and they put together a substantial slide show along with Johannes’ report from the day at VTSkiReport.com.  Amanda was out on the Nordic network for a tour, and it sounds like she had quite an adventure, but I really liked her description “It felt like walking through clouds” with regard to going through the powder.  It certainly was that kind of snow.  I was happy to have my first Kurt Ries sighting of the season, and learned that he has the same Telemark skis as me!  A definite thanks goes out to Icelantic at First Tracks for turning me onto those.  I actually saw no less than four pairs of RT 86s at the mountain on Saturday, all mounted Tele, so they seem to be quite popular.  To check out the rest of the story, head to the full report from Bolton Valley today.

Bolton Valley, VT 13JAN2011

An image of deep trakcks in the snow from powder skiing at Bolton Valley
This morning it was skiing in the trenches at times with one to two feet of Champlain Powder blanketing the slopes of Bolton Valley.

I was too busy to get out on Monday for the bounty of upslope snow that followed the weekend’s inverted trough system, but overall it was quite a nice event.  By the time it finished up on Tuesday we’d reeled in a total of 18 inches of snow at our location in the valley to make it our second largest storm of the season, and as usual the mountains were piling it up even more.  Fortunately, right on the heels of that system was another Nor’easter, and it looked like I would have a little time to make a trip to the slopes.

I got some work done at the house in the morning, and then headed up to the hill a bit after opening time.  It was windy up in the village, and while booting up I could see that neither the Vista nor Mid Mountain lifts were running; I threw my skins in my fanny pack just in case it came down human-powered powder acquisition.  It turned out that the skins were able to stay in the pack, as I hopped on the Snowflake Lift and found out that Timberline area, in all its beautiful wind-protected Champlain Powder™ nirvana goodness, was ready to roll.

The first skiers were already descending Spell Binder as I made my way to the Timberline base, and I couldn’t help but stop for a couple of minutes, absorb the scene, and grab a few photos.  The quiet of the powder morning was disrupted only by the erupting “Woos” and “Yeeee Haaaas” of the skiers.  Several people passed as they headed for another lap, and not one of them could seem to contain their vocal exuberance.  It was already obvious that the snow was fantastic, but if discerning midweek Bolton skiers were this excited, the powder skiing was likely to be top notch.  To check out the rest of the story, continue on to the Bolton Valley trip report from today.

Stowe, VT 09JAN2011

An image of our Subaru Forester covered with snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
At the end of our day at Stowe today, I found our Subaru covered in a deep coating of fresh snow that had accumulated during the afternoon.

Today was our first school program session of the season, so we were off at Stowe for the afternoon.  With the level of skier traffic, especially weekend skier traffic that Stowe sees, Sunday afternoons don’t typically offer optimal snow surfaces.  However, last season had to be a low point in that continuum; not only was the snowfall below average, but an inordinate number of times the next round of snow seemed to come in for Monday, after we were done skiing.

So far this season however, things have been much better.  We had fresh snow for our training day back on Sunday, December 12th, and as we moved into our first session with the students, it looked like Mother Nature was going to try to help out with fresh snow again.  On Friday, an inverted trough system had set up shop over New England, and while the focus was south of our area, we’d managed to pick up a couple more inches last night.  This morning’s snowfall report from the house at 6:00 A.M. revealed that we’d already picked up almost a half foot of snow, and it’s easy to imagine what the skiing was like at Stowe today when the snow just kept pounding down – for all the details and pictures, head to today’s trip report from Stowe Mountain Resort.

Bolton Valley, VT Nordic & Backcountry 01JAN2011

An image of a spruce bough with beads of water
We caught some great pictures of the surrounding forest as we ascended the Bryant trail on our backcountry outing up at Bolton Valley today.

We’d found that temperatures had cooled down a bit yesterday afternoon at the end of our Bolton outing, and slopes that were not in the sun had begun to tighten up.  In general though, temperatures stayed relatively warm, and there was no new snowfall through this morning.  We hung out at the house in the A.M., and as skies brightened a bit in the afternoon, Dave and I headed up to Bolton.  Since there weren’t going to be any substantial changes in the spring-like snow conditions we’d experienced yesterday, and some of the natural snow trails were going to be closed due to the warmth, we decided to do a tour on the Nordic/backcountry trail network.  Dave had never been on Bolton’s backcountry network, so he needed to at least get a taste of the plentiful options for turns.

Up in the village, there was one other car in the corner of the tennis lot providing quickest access to the Broadway area, so I’m guessing they had the same idea as us.  In general though, things were quiet aside from a few Nordic skiers moving around the trails.  We skinned the skis and headed toward World Cup where we found a group of patrollers checking passes.  I can’t recall the last time I had my pass checked on the Nordic network, but I’ve heard the mountain is doing it more frequently this season so that’s nice to see.  We chatted with the patrollers for a bit – they were initially wondering if we were planning to stay at the cabin, but we let them know we were just out for a quick tour.

We headed up the Bryant trail and it was a really pleasant ascent.  Temperatures were in the 40s F so we stopped frequently for photography to capture the sights.  At one photography stop, a couple of patrollers stopped by and we talked for a while.  We chatted about skis, cameras, and some of the new glades, and then they headed on their way up to take care of a tree that had fallen onto one of the trails.  Coverage on Bryant and in the surrounding backcountry was excellent, with generally a couple feet of settled snow.  We did see a couple of small openings in streams along the side of the trail, but they were more an opportunity for photos than anything.  Any stream crossings on Bryant were in fine shape and there was no open water across the trail.  To check out the rest of the text, images, and GPS track, continue on to the full Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry report from today.

Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2010

An image of Dave and the boys laying on the snow
Dave and the boys relaxing in the warm sun

Today our friend Dave came up from Boston for a skiing visit, arriving in the late morning with his dogs.  Like yesterday, we headed up to the mountain around midday, and the found that the trend of moderating temperatures had continued as suggested by the forecasts; we’d seen high temperatures in the low 30s F yesterday, and today’s temperatures topped out around 40 F.  The weather was again often sunny, but not quite as brilliantly sunny as yesterday had been.

We’d never left the Timberline area during yesterday’s outing, but I’d received an email from Stephen that evening telling me that the mountain had fired up the Wilderness Lift.  We decided that we’d head over for our first lift-served Wilderness turns of the season, and Dave and I rode up Timberline with one of the ski patrol who said that getting in our turns over there as soon as possible was a good idea.  With the temperatures remaining warm through Saturday/Sunday, she said that they might need to shut the lift back down by the weekend.  We stopped in at the main base so I could grab a ticket for Dave, and while I was in the lodge, he and the boys dropped down on the snow and enjoyed the sun and warm temperatures.  To see all the pictures and text, head to the full Bolton Valley report from today.

Bolton Valley, VT 30DEC2010

An image of Jay skiing the glades
Jay enjoys some deep snow in Bolton Valley's glades today.

After Tuesday’s great outing with the boys, the whole family headed out for more turns today.  The skies had been somewhat gray on yesterday, but the sun was back today and consistent with the forecast trends, the temperatures were climbing to the low 30s F.

There hadn’t been any new snow, so we didn’t find ourselves out to the slopes until midday, but the Timberline area still seemed to be following the trends I’ve seen over the week and most visitors were presumably over at the main mountain.  We kicked things off on Spell Binder, and the most obvious change in on piste conditions from Tuesday was that the powder and chowder had been replaced by packed powder.  I found that there was still powder to be had if I went very tight to the edge of the trail, but it had to be helmet-scraping tight.

We then headed off to the trees for a bit to get in some powder skiing – E had gone with alpine skis for the day so that we could explore some steeper lines and see how they were faring.  Our first test was the steep terrain dropping into the KP glades, which revealed that tight evergreens at around the 2,000’ elevation had still not seen enough snow to support much traffic or aggressive skiing.  The evergreens had not allowed enough snow to fall to the forest floor, but the mixed evergreen/hardwood glades below were in prime form and yielding great untracked turns.  To check out the rest of the details and see all the pictures from today, head to the full December 30th, 2010 trip report from Bolton Valley.

Bolton Valley, VT 28DEC2010

An image of Ty skiing in the Wood's Hole Glades at Bolton Valley
Ty tackling some steep terrain in the Wood's Hole Glades

After finding excellent snow conditions at Timberline near the end of the Nor’easter yesterday afternoon, it looked like lift-served skiing was going to be fantastic on today.  E was a little under the weather and wanted to get some things done around the house, so it was going to be a ski day for the boys.

We got up to Timberline around 10:15 A.M., and conditions were looking good.  The temperature was 20 F, skies were clear, and the wind had abated.  The Bolton Valley website had indicated a planned Timberline opening of sometime in the 9:00 A.M. – 10:00 A.M. range, and I’m not sure what time they’d finally started loading, but there was hardly anyone there when we arrived.  After experiencing lift queues at Vista on Thursday and Friday, it was very nice to have Timberline open again.

We kicked things off with a run down Spell Binder to get the boys warmed up, and Ty was really enamored with the snow and pitch on the headwall.  He’s definitely been waiting for the season to get going so additional steeper terrain could open, and he was really hootin’ and hollerin’ on that run and exclaiming how “awesome” it was.  It wasn’t untracked, but as usual the skier’s right held lots of chowder, with plenty of deep loose snow and a really nice subsurface.  Both boys had fun making their sloughs, or “avalanches” as they call them, slide down the slope.  Below the headwall, there was still ample fresh snow along the skier’s right to provide lots of powder turns.  I generally found 12-18 inches of powder along there depending on how far I got towards the trees, and although it wasn’t Champlain Powder™, it was at least medium weight fluff protected from the wind and it skied really well.  While I worked the powder, the boys were generally in and out of there often playing in the chowder and taking lots of jumps off the remnants of the water bars.  To see all the pictures and read the rest of the story, click through to the report from Bolton Valley today.