Tag Archives: Powder Skiing

Stowe, VT 09DEC2017

An image of the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the Spruce Camp Base Lodge today with the sun disappearing as clouds approach from Winter Storm Benji.

Today was our annual training day for the local ski programs at Stowe, and since Ty has now graduated from BJAMS and is out of the age range for being a student in the program, he’s actually going volunteer as a chaperone.  So, Ty joined E and I for the training today, which added a nice new dimension to the annual session.

“ There was one section where Ty and I decided that our midfats were definitely the tools for the job vs. our groomer skis…”

We certainly had a decent November with respect to snow in the Northern Greens, and while the snowfall slowed down a bit for the first week of December, a big change in the overall weather pattern this past week brought a large trough to the eastern U.S. and the snowfall is ramping back up.  Lake-effect snows from Lake Ontario drifted into the northern parts of Vermont in the midweek timeframe, bringing several inches of fresh snow to the resorts.  The recent snows were very obvious today at the resort, with 6 to 8 inches or more of powder available off piste at elevation, and several inches visible even near the base elevations.  The base depths aren’t quite there to do too much exploring the off piste yet, but it was easy to get into plenty of powder simply by sampling the edges of many trails.

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow in the Meadows area of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Tracks in powder showing some of the recent snow picked up by the local ski resorts

Those samplings aside, our main focus today was definitely on piste with our instructor Steve that we’ve had a few of these sessions now.  E, Ty, and I had the rare treat of checking out some fresh corduroy as we kicked off the day at Spruce Peak, and the recent snows have been mixed into the snowpack quite nicely to produce some pretty decent groomed surfaces.  We did a lot of fairly “free” skiing with Steve as he focused heavily on safety, and the minimal crowds at Spruce Peak kept the snow in really good shape.  Some terrain off the Gondola is available, so we skied Perry Merrill as a group.  Unfortunately, with only part of Gondolier open, the skier density on Perry Merrill was really too high to keep the snow in good shape.  The good part about the number of skiers on Perry Merrill was that they had already pushed a good amount of snow to the edges of the trail, which combined with the available powder, made for some really soft skiing.  There was one section where Ty and I decided that our midfats were definitely the tools for the job vs. our groomer skis, but overall, the skinnier carving skis were the right call for today’s outing.

That one run on Perry Merrill was enough to show us how good we’d had it over at Spruce Peak, so we headed back there for the rest of our session.  The main training drill that we practiced with Steve was a double pole plant drill that will aid students in getting their weight forward.  Lunch at the Great Room Grill was great as always.  The Taqueria was open, so Ty and I each got a burrito – they had three kinds of meat and we massive.  Two people could easily split a single order if they wanted.

Early morning sun today was pretty quickly obscured by Winter Storm Benji, which was approaching the area from the south.  The more notable accumulations have certainly been off to the south and east of our area, although we have picked up almost an inch of snow from the storm at our house.  The forecast suggests that we’ve got more snow coming this week, and with wintry temperatures in place, the ski conditions should make a nice increase in quality with surfaces softening even more.

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 08APR2017

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We were treated to another winter storm and more powder today at Bolton Valley.

Just like last Saturday, another storm came through the area over the past couple of days and dropped a round of fresh snow to give us some great April powder.  For the first time in quite a while, the whole family was available to ski, so we headed up to Bolton Valley this morning for some turns.

Down at the house, snowfall was fairly intense at 6:00 A.M. observations time this morning, but it started to taper off after that, and it was pretty much done down here when we headed up to the mountain.  There was some snow falling up at Bolton Valley, but accumulations were pretty much done there as well.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontIn terms of the snow we found, I’d say they were actually a bit conservative with the 9” value at the top of their accumulation range.  More typically I was able to find about 11” as a general depth of the surface snow at most elevations, although I did find up to two feet in spots.  The powder from this storm was even drier than what we found from last weekend’s storm – most folks would be hard pressed to complain about the snow even in midwinter, because it was midwinter dry.  It wasn’t Champlain Powder™ fluffy, but that was probably more a function of flake structure than any above-freezing temperatures – it was well below freezing at all elevations of the resort this morning.  It was actually downright chilly, and folks were often getting cold when we’d pause for setting up a photo session.

An image o Dylan Telemark skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont

I mentioned all the underutilized powder we encounter last Saturday, and this Saturday was even more extreme.  For much of the morning you could literally ride the Timberline Quad, count the number of tracks on a trail, and then on the next lap you’d be able to see exactly how many (if any) additional riders had been down it.  It was hard to pull ourselves away.  While we were finishing up back at the main base area and getting ready to hit the Village Deli to grab some lunch, we were able to watch some of the snowmobilers in the Rock The Hills Snowmobile Hill Climb.  The Village parking lots were full of snowmobile trailers, so the resort got a great additional influx of visitors.

Stowe, VT 02APR2017

An image of Ty skiing some powder in terrain above the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
High elevations were still holding onto some dry powder at Stowe today, but lower elevations were affected by warming temperatures.

Today was our final BJAMS ski program session of the season, and it took place right on the heels of Winter Storm Theseus, which dropped anywhere from 10 to 18 inches of snow up and down the spine of the Green Mountains.  The powder was in pretty nice shape when Dylan and I visited Bolton Valley yesterday, but temperatures were expected to warm up today, and that had us worried about the state of the snow – without some freeze-thaw cycles to turn it to corn, it could just become mushy or sticky.

Initial reports from Spruce Peak as we began our ski program in the afternoon suggested that indeed the snow was getting quite sticky in the sun, so we took our group over to Mt. Mansfield to get to higher elevations and find north-facing terrain that would see the best protection from the warming temperatures.  From our experience on trails like Nosedive and even Cliff Trail, we found that snow quality was quite nice on roughly the top half of the mountain, but the bottom half was certainly sticky enough to be a nuisance.  It was one of those days where you wish Stowe had some upper mountain lifts.

With the sticky snow, the group was happy to take an extended break for some s’mores and a visit to the Great Room Grill before we went out for a few more runs on Spruce Peak to close out the day.  A highlight of those last runs was hitting the ruts of the race course on Competition Hill.  They had been well traveled, so the snow was plenty fast and lots of fun.  Ty and I raced for the gold on our final run, and I won, but it was because he let me choose the track and I opted for the faster one on the left.  While that’s it for official ski program days this season, there’s still lots of snow left in the mountains, so we’ll see what the rest of April brings us for skiing.

Bolton Valley, VT 01APR2017

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Today we got out in the powder at Bolton Valley thanks to Winter Storm Theseus.

The latest weather system to come into the area has been named Winter Storm Theseus.  Snow associated with the storm started up on Friday and left nearly a foot of at some of the local ski resorts, so Dylan and I headed up to Bolton Valley this morning for what we hoped would be some great powder skiing, and we weren’t disappointed.

An image of skiers on the Timberline Chairlift at Bolton Valley ski resort on Vermont
Everyone who as at the mountain today got treated to one of those low-key late-season powder days.

Temperatures edged above freezing down in the valley, but the freezing line really stayed below 1,500’ this morning from what we saw, so that kept surfaces wintry at all elevations of the resort.  The snow was certainly less dense the higher you went, but it wasn’t until probably below 1,800’ that the quality of the powder skiing started to fall off a bit – it was just getting a bit too dense for optimal turns.  Really though, that’s just last few hundred feet of vertical at Timberline, and everything at the main mountain was well above that.  It snowed all morning to keep the wintry appeal going and keep things fresh.  The flakes were small so additional accumulations weren’t too hefty, but it was definitely coming down at times – we had to pull out the lens hoods for some photography sessions because of the intensity of the snow.

An image of Dylan skiing powder on the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan having fun after catching the rope drop for Upper Tattle Tale

We started off on the morning on the main mountain with a trip up the Vista Quad, but we knew that by the time we’d worked our way down the trails we’d be able to catch the opening of the Timberline Quad.  We had a good time down there, catching the rope drop on Upper Tattle Tale, just after we’d skied the lower half from the crossover.  We did some exploring and found the entrance to House Line, a shot I’ve been looking to ski for a while.     Dylan decided to go Telemark again today, and he was definitely ripping up that powder.  We eventually made our way back to the main base and finished off the ski day on Wilderness, then grabbed some food at the main cafeteria and the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery.

An image of the central circle in the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
In the Bolton Valley Village today

Bolton’s got their 48-hour total at 9 inches for the higher elevations, and I’d say 9 to 10 was where we found things topping out with the addition of this morning’s snow.  Anyway, it was a great way to start off this month’s skiing, and of course another perk of the day was the fact that we’re in April, and visitation at the resorts really starts to fall off.  There were certainly visitors, but there were still a number of trails with just a few tracks on them when we were leaving around midday, so folks who were out really got treated to one of those kind of powder days. 

Dylan was anxious to do some photography with one of the DSLRs today, so I had the Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, and he had the Canon EOS 30D with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM  lens.  Toward the end of the morning, we swapped lenses to mix things up a bit.  Dylan got some great images, so enjoy the gallery!

Stowe Sidecountry & Bruce Trail, VT 26MAR2017

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today’s BJAMS ski program featured a great run on the Bruce Trail.

It’s March, the season for deep snowpack and long days in Northern Vermont.  That also means that it’s prime time to make use of that ample snowpack and enjoy some of our legendary sidecountry and backcountry ski routes.  For last week’s BJAMS ski session we focused on The Chin and put together a nice tour featuring Profanity Chute and the Hell Brook Trail.  Today it was time to switch action to The Nose for a combination of Old Nosedive and the Bruce Trail.  We’ve had a great run of storms and wintry weather during this second half of March, and it’s definitely time to make hay.

An image of Joe and Gianni out on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontA number of students were unable to attend ski program today, so there were some small groups, and any of them that were interested in a trip down the Bruce joined up with us.  From the top of the Fourrunner Quad, those that wanted to ascend joined me for a trip up Old Nosedive, which I find is a nice way to get in a bit of hiking and extra turns before diving into the Bruce.  The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.  It was quite wintry up top, but even in the lowest elevations the snow was dense enough to hold up well for fresh turns, just like Dylan and I had experienced yesterday at Bolton Valley.  There was still ample untracked powder available off the sides of the Bruce, and as usual once we were down into the open hardwood areas there were lots of great lines to explore in the trees.

“The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.”

This morning, Dylan said that we should go with Telemark skis for today’s session if our focus was going to be the Bruce Trail, and while I’d planned to go alpine, I agreed and ended up going Tele.  It was totally the right choice, especially since the coverage and snow conditions were so optimal.  I was happy because I felt really dialed in and my transitions felt incredibly quick, and Dylan was also really psyched because he skied so well today.  He says that he always wants to run the Bruce on Telemark gear now.  Of course he got to experience it on a great day.  I’d put today in the top 25% of conditions for the Bruce – there was so much soft snow and powder around, and even those most difficult to cover, south-facing shots were virtually blemish free.

A map showing the GPS track overlayed onto Google Earth from a ski tour on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of today’s tour down the Bruce trail overlayed onto Google Earth

We capped off the run with a trip to the Notchbrook General Store for snacks, and a ride on the Mountain Road Shuttle back to the Spruce Peak Village.  Greg said that the last time he skied the Bruce Trail was about 35 years ago, so it was really neat that he got the chance to do it again after such a long hiatus.  We had time for a few more runs on Spruce once we got back, and found that the quality of the snow was still really nice.  This was just the way a March ski day should be!

Bolton Valley, VT 25MAR2017

An image of Jay skiing in the Villager Trees area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Friday’s new snow was still yielding some great turns this afternoon at Bolton Valley.

Temperatures edged up into the mid-30s F down in the mountain valleys today, and that had me curious about how much warmth there was in the higher elevations.  Ty and I had some great turns in the fresh snow last night at Bolton Valley, and if that snow was holding its consistency it would definitely be worth getting out for more skiing.  We were attending a bridge-breaking competition at Lyndon Institute in support of some of the BJAMS students in the morning, but while I was there, I checked on the Village temperatures at Bolton Valley and saw that they were holding below freezing even down at 2,000’.  That meant the powder would probably be staying in great shape.

“We found that the condition of the snow did deteriorate a bit as we got down toward the freezing line, but with the density of this snow it actually holds up quite well even at those temperatures.”

Ty had some work to do at home with E, but Dylan and I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon for a few runs.  Temperatures were just above freezing at the Timberline Base (~1,500’), but we hit the freezing line somewhere between 1,500’ and 2,000’.  Up at the Vista Summit (3,150’) it was actually pretty chilly, and it was amazing how much of difference there was in air temperature between the base and summit elevations.

An image of Dylan skiing powder snow in the Villager Trees area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan starting in on another line in the Villager Trees

We found that the dense powder from yesterday had indeed held up quite well, especially in the elevations above the freezing level, so Dylan and I had a great time exploring lines in the Villager Trees.  I’d been thinking that my fat skis would have been great in that type of snow, so I brought them today and they really did the trick.  We found that the condition of the snow did deteriorate a bit as we got down toward the freezing line, but with the density of this snow it actually holds up quite well even at those temperatures.   This latest snow should be a nice addition to the snowpack as we head into April.

Bolton Valley, VT 24MAR2017

An image of Ty night skiing in a snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow under the lights tonight at Bolton Valley

There’s a frontal boundary spread across New England right now, and up here in Northern Vermont we’re on the cold side.  That’s given us a decent amount of fresh snow today, especially in the mountains where more than a half foot has fallen in some cases.  Bolton Valley was already reporting 4 to 6 inches of new snow as of mid-afternoon, so Ty and I decided to head up to check it out and grab some dinner for the family.

“…the snow surface was dense, buttery powder with a really good shot of resurfacing liquid equivalent in it.”

It was surprisingly quiet for such a spectacular night skiing evening, but I suspect concerns about the roads kept a lot of people home.  There’s definitely been some mixed precipitation around, but the precipitation was mostly snow while we were up at the mountain.  Flakes varied from granular types all the way up to massive 1” aggregates, and the snow surface was dense, buttery powder with a really good shot of resurfacing liquid equivalent in it.  Tonight looked like it was one of those evenings where weather conditions were coming together to make for some great turns under the lights, and indeed that was the case – the temperature was right around 32, there was no wind, and there was lots of fresh snow.

An image of snowfall at the Vista Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
At times we had some huge flakes tonight at Bolton Valley

Ty and I focused on Spillway, and it was great letting those steep turns fall away in the dense powder.  I brought my Tele midfats, but I definitely could have gone with the full fats and had a blast.  It’s no wonder the skiing felt like there had been such a solid resurfacing; we’re already past ¾” of liquid equivalent with today’s snow down in the valley at our house, and up high they’ve certainly had more.