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.
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.
Although I haven’t seen it being an issue at Bolton Valley, we’ve purposefully stayed off the mountain for the past couple of weeks as we learned that the local ski resorts have asked people to refrain from touring because of potential crowding at base areas. As of today though, with the strong positive strides Vermont has made in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through its social distancing, Governor Scott took another notable step in relaxing the restrictions. The new order states that, “Expanding on Addendum 10, outdoor businesses, construction operations and recreation maintenance work may operate with a maximum of five total workers per location. (Effective April 27). It’s only outdoor work that is being phased in at this point, but that makes sense to ramp that activity up first where people are not in the close confines of interior spaces. With respect to the pandemic, we’ve been fairly lucky here in Vermont with our small total population, and relatively low population density, so the spread of the virus appears to be on the decline locally. Modeling was already reflecting the positive trends here as of 10 days ago, with Vermont being one of only four states that could potentially begin loosening social distancing measures as early as May 4th.
“…the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.”
From down here in this part of the Winooski Valley, even this morning at the coldest part of the day, you wouldn’t know that there was a solid amount of snow falling with this storm if it weren’t for some of the resources like Bolton’s webcams. I don’t think I’ve seen a flake here at 500’, and even our local hills surrounding the valley that top out around 2,000’, don’t have signs of white on them.
Seeing what was on the webcams though, it was obvious that snow was falling and accumulating at least down to the elevation of the Bolton Valley Village. My trip up the Bolton Valley access road allowed me to get a sense for what was going on with the accumulations. I knew the snow line had to be way up there, but I just kept climbing and climbing, and there were no signs of new snow anywhere. The first signs of old snow from the remaining winter snowpack were around 1,400’, but even at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, the precipitation was all rain. The rain didn’t even change over to snow until about 1,900’, just before I reached the Bolton Valley Village. That’s also right about where I saw the first accumulations of new snow taking hold. The snow accumulations picked up quickly with 1-2” at the main parking lots at 2,000’ and 2-3” at 2,100’ near the base of the main lifts.
The snow was dense, but not really wet, and the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations. Thankfully there were some skin tracks to use, because as the depth of new snow surpassed a foot, breaking trail was tough in many areas. The skiing was definitely challenging in the dense snow, akin to the snow from that storm that Erica and I encountered when we skied at Schweitzer Mountain Resort back in 2001. This storm didn’t drop four feet of that dense stuff all at once, but I’d brought my mid-fat Telemark skis because I hadn’t anticipated the depths I found, and my fat skis would have certainly been the better tool for the conditions. Some of the best turns I had on my mid-fats today were actually in the middle elevations around Five Corners, where the snow depths were still more than plentiful for bottomless turns, but not so deep that they pushed your skis around with strong resistance.
Here’s the full accumulations profile for this storm as of ~5:00 P.M. based on what I saw up to the Village and beyond. It gives a pretty good sense for the elevation ranges with the largest jumps in accumulation, but on average it looks like once accumulations took hold, they increased by more than an inch per 100’ of elevation gain:
Morning revealed some additional snow accumulation at our house at 500’ in the Winooski Valley, and as we climbed the road up toward Bolton Valley we could see that the snow levels had indeed come down compared to what I’d seen on my tour yesterday. After whatever settling occurred since that point, total accumulations at 2,000’ in the Village were now up to roughly 8”. We topped out at around 2,800’ on today’s tour, and accumulations are a foot plus from there on up. The elevation profile from yesterday’s tour is updated below with the addition of today’s total new snow depth numbers, which are in bold below:
So with depths of new snow hitting a foot or more in the higher elevations, and snow continued to fall during our tour as well, the skiing was of course even better than yesterday. Indeed, the snow was deeper and drier, and the turns were even more bottomless and effortless. We saw a few other skiers out there on the slopes, but traffic was quite light and fresh tracks were in great supply. I gave Dylan my Canon EOS 30D with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens, so we had a couple of cameras available to document the outing, and it was great to be out with the family. Ty was working in the morning, but he would definitely had been there if he was free.
As the forecasts have been hinting at over the past several days, a late season winter storm has moved into the area as we close out the week. The forecasts have been suggesting the potential for a foot or more of snow along the spine of the Northern Greens, and as is common in these late season events, substantially lower accumulations were expected upon descent down into the valleys.
The snow really struggled to accumulate in the valleys today, but up in the mountains it was a different situation. By midafternoon as I checked on the Bolton Valley live webcams I’d say there was already an inch or two at 2,100’ in the Village. For the local mountains, the slightly lower temperatures had definitely helped promote accumulations today relative to yesterday, where you could see the new snow down at the main base kind of accumulate and melt back to expose areas of old snow. Those areas of snow were pretty well covered up this afternoon. From images shown by the Vista Peak cam, it was clear that there had been at least a few inches of snow up at 3,150’, but it was hard to get a detailed sense for the new snow due to the winds.
What I’d seen from the webcams by the afternoon was certainly enough to get me to head up to the mountain for an exploratory tour, but I wasn’t quite sure enough of conditions to entice the rest of the family to go.
At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at roughly 340’, there were no signs of snow accumulation, but right around 900’ you could see the first traces of white, and they quickly jumped up by the time you hit the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign at ~1,000’. There were a couple of inches of new accumulation at the Timberline Base, and continuing on up to the Village. I found a solid 4-5” in the parking lots. Heading farther upward with my tour in the Wilderness area revealed the following elevation profile with respect to storm totals:
Right near the start of my ascent on Lower Turnpike, a skier cam swishing by through the powder on his descent and shouted “Don’t head up, it’s not worth it!”, but I laughed in reply because it was obvious he was being sarcastic. The turns looked fantastic and belied his remark even down at that elevation with a nice 5-6” of medium-weight powder.
Indeed, despite this being a late season storm, the snow wasn’t really wet at all out there today (at least where I was touring in the 2,000’+ range). It was reasonably dense and offered plenty of bottomless turns, but certainly not unlimited bottomless turns on all the steepest pitches. We’ve had roughly 1.25” of liquid equivalent from this event down at the house, so there’s certainly a decent amount of L.E. in that snow at elevation where they’ve had little if any rain. Today I toured up to the Wilderness Summit, then around to Bolton Outlaw and on back down toward Lower Turnpike. The turns were excellent and there had been very little skier traffic.
It was interesting up on the mountain today because a bit of sunshine appeared near the start of the tour, but by the time I was finishing up it was pounding heavy snow made up of big flakes. It was in the 20s F and snowing so hard in the Village at that point that it felt like it had to be accumulating down in the valley, but it was an impressive gradient as I headed back down the mountain and the snow still wasn’t really accumulating much below the 1,000’ level.
As of last week, the ski areas in the state had ceased operations, which obviously has the potential to be a blow to many employees and ancillary businesses. All things considered, this timing hasn’t been too bad for the resorts, since they would all be tapering down winter services and staffing in the next few weeks to some degree anyway. From the skier’s perspective, the timing of these resorts hasn’t been horrible either – weather has been in that spring doldrums stage for the past couple of weeks. The usual thaw-freeze cycles that we get at this time of year have taken place, and we haven’t had any big storm cycles to resurface the slopes nor beautiful warm days with copious sunshine to soften them up. We last skied back on the 8th for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe, and regardless of the ski area closings, there hasn’t been much to entice us out since then.
“Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more.”
Since the resort is not posting snow reports now that they’re closed, we didn’t have a sense for how much snow Bolton Valley picked up in the storm, but Dylan and I finally had time around late morning to head up for a ski tour. On the way up the access road we stopped in at Timberline to check on the snow depth, and found about 7 inches of settled new accumulation at the base. We also noted that there were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot from folks that were out ski touring.
I was unsure of the base depths at Timberline, and figured they would be more substantial at the main mountain, so we continued on up to the Village. New snow depths were similar there, and indeed fairly similar all the way up to the Vista Summit. So overall, there really didn’t seem to be much change in accumulation with respect to elevations – from what we saw today, even up above 3,000’ the storm totals looked about the same as what we picked up in the valley at 500’
The turns we had today were very nice. The powder was of medium to perhaps slightly higher density, and temperatures were well below freezing even in the Village at 2,000’. The snow had a nice surfy consistency, with enough buoyancy for bottomless turns on even steep pitches in the black diamond range. You could certainly hit bottom on the very steepest pitches, but we focused on medium-angle terrain and it was bottomless all the way.
“Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing. As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.”
With many people not going to work right now as the state strives to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and a fresh dump of powder on the slopes, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how many people were out for turns. The number of people touring seemed notable though – between Timberline and the Village, there were at least several dozen cars out there. Where we really noticed that ski touring traffic was up was by the number of tracks on the trails. D and I definitely had to work a bit to find trails that had only seen a few tracks, but we just poked around until we found them. Fanny Hill delivered pretty nicely with only about four or five tracks on it and plenty of untouched snow. Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing. As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.
There are a few early signs of another potential storm about a week out, but there’s nothing notable in the more immediate term, so we’ll be watching that timeframe to see if anything pops up.
For today’s BJAMS session at Stowe, Dylan and I were joined by Viviana, as well as Jessica and Sienna who were back from vacation. Viviana has progressed to the point where Erica feels confident enough grouping her up with Sienna, and I’d say that was a good choice.
Before session started, Ty, Dylan, and I had the chance to take a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad to get a sampling of the snow. Winter Storm Odell has wound down now, but it left 40 inches of new snow at Stowe, and the effects were still very obvious. When the boys and I ventured off piste, we found that the powder skiing was simply amazing, and this was after a day or two of settling. As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better. It’s hard to say whether it was simply the extra 10 inches, or if the snow at Stowe happened to be just a bit lighter and drier, but the snow quality was indeed at that next level. We skied the powder along the edge of Slalom Hill, and I just couldn’t believe the quality of it. And, this was on south-facing terrain down near the 1,500’ base elevations of Spruce Peak. One can only imagine what the snow quality was like up at 3,000’ on Mansfield. Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine too much – Powderfreak’s over-the-head white-room photos from the mountain on Friday pretty much told the tale.
“As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.”
We started out today’s session with a warm-up run off the Meadows Quad to make sure Sienna was up to speed after missing a number of ski program days due to illness, and her skiing was in great shape. She’s skiing notably faster than Viviana, although Sienna isn’t quite progressing toward parallel the way Viviana is.
The Toll Road experience turned out to be a great success. The route was well within everyone’s abilities, and it allowed them to ski a really long, continuous run on a scale that they’d never done before. The groomed snow quality was excellent, and the quality of the powder off to the sides of the trail was simply amazing. Dylan was constantly playing around in the powder off piste, and the overall snow conditions were forgiving enough that everyone started to join in. Jessica was raving about the experience, and that was great to hear. Not every storm cycle is going to bring 40 inches of snow to set things up like what they experienced today, but they’re all certainly ready for another run over there from the top of the Fourrunner Quad.
Although Jessica and Sienna had to leave early, we got in a few more Meadows Quad runs with Viviana, and she got to do more trips through the Easy Street Trees. She also began to venture into the various little chutes and tracks that are available off the sides of her usual Catwalk run, and navigating those was actually a good challenge with respect to controlling her speed.
There aren’t any huge storms in the forecast for the coming week, but we could have snow from some smaller systems toward the end of the week, so we’ll see how those set us up for next weekend.
We dropped Ty off at work at 8:00 A.M., and the rest of the family headed up to Bolton Valley for some powder runs. We were still well ahead of the 9:00 A.M. opening of the Vista Quad, so we waited in the lodge and were recognized by a gentleman from Connecticut named Tom who follows the reports on our website.
“We woke up this morning to reports from the Northern Greens ski resorts touting storm totals of nearly 40 inches at Stowe, and roughly 30 inches everywhere else.”
We headed to Devil’s Playground for our first run, since we hadn’t been in there at all yet this season, and there had definitely been enough snow from Odell to support that steep terrain. As I expected with yesterday being a Friday of the local school break week, the main lines were very much tracked out and packed out. The only real untracked powder we were finding was by heading off into more obscure spots with tough entries, some traversing, or ending in relatively flat areas. The skiing was fine, but even with a bit of additional snow overnight, it was very obvious that yesterday was the day for skiing this storm.
We made our way toward Timberline next, hitting a run off The Knob on the way. There were some nice long untracked lines in there, with the full storm’s worth of powder that had not been touched. The powder skiing was definitely quite good, and enough so that it impressed E above and beyond anything else we’d skied to that point.
At Timberline we were surprised to find a lot of untracked snow on Tattle Tale, even the steep upper headwall, so we did a couple runs in there before even thinking about going into the trees. As much as I wanted to bring D and E to check out some of my favorite tree lines in the area, it was too hard to pass up so much quality powder right on trail. It was really just walk-on skiing from the Timberline Quad with no queue to speak of, and the powder was much more plentiful than what we’d seen off the Vista Quad, so we just stayed there and skied the good snow until we had to leave to pick up Ty.
“There were some nice long untracked lines in there, with the full storm’s worth of powder that had not been touched.”
The skiing had been good enough that D and I actually headed back out for another Timberline session in the late afternoon. We visited spots that we hadn’t had a chance to check out in the morning like Doug’s Solitude and Adam’s Solitude. It certainly wasn’t insane over-the-head powder skiing since it’s fairly low elevation and somewhat south-facing, but it was definitely worth getting out for a bit more powder in spots that we’d missed in the morning. The overall skiing is just really nice with the thorough resurfacing from Winter Storm Odell, so even if one was just out skiing the soft snow on the groomed runs it was a fantastic day to be out. Another bonus of the late session was of course grabbing some take-out from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to everyone for dinner.
I decided to go for a quick tour at Timberline, and arrived to find some fairly steady snowfall continuing. Temperatures were pretty comfortable, although there was a bit of wind that had filled in the skin track with a few inches of new snow since it was last used. I knew that elevation was a notable factor with this storm, and indeed that was verified with my measurements of the powder during my tour. I found about 6 to 7 inches of powder down at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, but 8 to 12 inches up around 2,250’.
I headed toward Spell Binder for my descent, and the huge drifts at the top suggested that a lot of snow had fallen. I dropped in and cut huge, bottomless arcs down the left side of the headwall. It felt like I’d just covered a third of the trail in seconds. The 8 to 12 inches of powder I’d found on level ground led to areas as deep as 20 inches in some spots, and there was plenty of density to ensure that I was nowhere near touching the base. I know I let out some “Woo Hoos” during the descent, not that anyone else was around to hear it. I spotted a couple vestiges of old tracks that had nearly been obliterated by the wind and continuing snowfall, but as far as I could see I had the only tracks on the trail.
“I dropped in and cut huge, bottomless arcs down the left side of the headwall. It felt like I’d just covered a third of the trail in seconds. The 8 to 12 inches of powder I’d found on level ground led to areas as deep as 20 inches in some spots, and there was plenty of density to ensure that I was nowhere near touching the base.”
I learned today on the Bolton Valley website that skinning at Timberline is actually closed in the 5:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. period for mountain operations. It was actually around 9:00 A.M. when I was starting my tour late today, so I was after that closed window, but it’s something to consider if you’re planning to earn turns at Timberline. During that window when Timberline hiking is closed, visitors are supposed to hike on the Wilderness ascent route.
Dylan and E were off to a sledding party this afternoon in Morrisville, but it was such a gorgeous day that getting out for a ski tour was definitely on my mind. Ty had to work until noon, and was heading to a friend’s house at 4 P.M., but we definitely had enough time to sneak a tour in that window. Once Ty was back and we’d gear up, we headed right to Bolton Valley.
You almost couldn’t ask for better weather today – we had blue skies, and temperatures at Village elevation were right around 30 F. That’s nice and comfortable for touring, but not warm enough to really start adversely affecting the powder. Visitation at the resort looked strong, but there were still available parking spots and we were able to get one right along the trails in the upper tennis court lot.
“The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough.”
We toured over toward Holden’s Hollow today, and the theme was definitely efficiency. Ty is in really great shape, so his pace is even faster than mine, and within about 25 minutes we were already in position for a descent. Based on how fast we’d moved, I said we’d easily have time for a couple of laps, so we set up for an initial descent through a nice glade on the back side of the ridge. Ty worked on deskinning with his skis still on, and was quite fast with it, so our transition speed only enhanced just how efficient and quick we were overall.
We had first tracks for our descent of the glade, and the conditions were excellent. I’d actually describe the conditions as even better than what we encountered last Saturday when I was out at Bolton with Dylan – and that already wasn’t too shabby. The powder skiing on that outing with Dylan was decent, but there was a marginal buried crust present in some areas that knocked the overall feel down a notch. The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough. Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend. The powder was more consistent today though with any crust buried deeper. That 20 inches of powder is fairly settled at this point of course, so we’re not talking about sinking down 20 inches into fresh champagne, you’re more like 6 to 12 inches down in the powder, but the rest is serving as fantastic cushion above the base. Our first run was on a fairly south-facing slope, but the trees offered a good amount of protection from the sun. A few spots were just starting to get that first phase of the powder being affected by the sun, but those were few and far between.
Once we were back down at the Telemark Trail, we switched over for another ascent, and I was much more efficient at the transition, so told Ty I’d start the ascent and he could catch up. This time, I broke trail through the powder beyond our previous lap, and headed up to the top to access the east side of the ridge. Ty caught up to me just as I was cresting, so it worked out perfectly.
“Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend.”
We descended in the C Bear Woods area that I’d visited back during my tour on the 1st of the month. We had first tracks there as well, but the powder wasn’t quite as good as what we’d found on our first ascent – I think wind effects up on that part of the ridge were the main culprit. The sun was also doing a bit more work on that snow, so in some areas it had lost a bit more of its winter fluff texture.
Back down at the bottom of that run, Ty and I skinned up for the final return to the car, and we found that we’d less than 90 minutes for the whole tour. It was fun getting things done so efficiently, and we really weren’t even pushing ourselves, it was just overall solid pace and good transitions between skinning and skiing.
We’ve got another potential winter storm coming later this week, and it looks pretty nice for the mountains around here from what I’ve seen on the models. The initial snow might be dense since it not an especially cold storm, but unless things change dramatically it looks like another nice shot of liquid equivalent for the snowpack. Some of the models also show extended upslope snow on the back side of the cycle, which would be great to top off the powder skiing conditions.
Cold temperatures in the single digits F were in the forecast today on the back side of the storm, but Dylan and I decided to head up for a few runs anyway – the bounty of new snow was just too good to miss. Our timing was pretty good such that we took our first run off the Vista Quad and headed right down to Timberline to catch the opening of the Timberline Quad. The top of Vista was absolutely frigid, with an air temperature below zero, but as we made our way down toward the Timberline Base we found that the temperature went up significantly.
“We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow.”
At Timberline, the sun was out, the snow was great, and there was essentially no line at the Timberline Quad, so we simply stayed down there and skied until we were ready to go. We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow. So, the snowpack is ready for prime time from the top to bottom elevations of the resort.