Pico, VT 17APR2021

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in 18 inches of new snow that fell from an April snowstorm at Pico Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing snow from an April snowstorm at the base of Pico Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The snow accumulations we encountered today at the base of Pico Mountain as we began our ski tour

Since the snow totals from our latest storm were a bit higher to the south of our area, E and I decided to mix things up a little and head down to Pico for some turns today. The accumulating snow levels for this storm in our part of the Winooski Valley were generally around 1,000’ or so, and you could tell that the snow line was a bit lower as you headed south.  The lowest elevations of the White River Valley were still generally devoid of snow though.

Pico certainly got a nice shot of snow from this system.  With temperatures above freezing at around 2,000’ in the base area, it wasn’t surprising that we were seeing a bit of melting and consolidation there.  In general, settled new snow depths we found around the base this morning were in the 9-12” range.  There were about 40 to 50 cars in the main parking lot this morning, and some were from people who were staying in the lodging areas there at the base, but many were also from folks who were there for some skiing.

An image of skiers skinning up the Pike trail after an April snowstorm at Pico Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading up on the ascent – it was quickly apparent that a LOT of new snow had fallen, especially higher on the mountain.

During our ascent we found that the new snow depth increased quite quickly on the bottom half of the mountain, and at times it felt like every 100’ of vertical we’d climb we’d find another inch of depth.  It wasn’t quite that quick, but by the time we’d hit the 3,000’ elevation range the depth was in the 15-17” range.  The snow depth didn’t increase nearly as quickly on the upper half of the mountain, and it topped out around 18” up around 4,000’.  Here’s the rough snow depth profile with respect to elevation:

2,000’:  9-12”
3,000’:  15-17”
4,000’:  18”

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in snow from an April snowstorm at Pico Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
E on the descent today enjoying Telemark turns in some of that April snow

As the elevation profile data suggest, you’re essentially looking at a foot and a half of new snow on the upper half of the mountain – and it is certainly not fluff.  There’s got to be at least two inches of liquid equivalent in that new snow, so there’s been a full resurfacing up there (or in places that didn’t have existing snowpack, a full recovering).

Up on the mountain it also snowed during the entire time we were out on our tour from mid-morning onward.  The snowfall was generally light in intensity, but increased with elevation and was borderline moderate at times up near the 4,000’ level.  You could see that the new snow, and/or other recent snow from the later part of the storm was helping to take a bit of the density out of the topmost layer of snow up high.  The best turns were unquestionably up in the 3,500’ to 4,000’ elevation range, where you had a few inches of drier snow atop the rest of what the storm left.  I’d say that may have been where the freezing line was located at that point, so you had dense, but dry powder for the top few to several inches.  Below that, there was an increasing density gradient, but it went pretty quickly to snow that was 10%+ H2O in the vein of typical winter-style Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete.  It was still quite skiable though, and you’d certainly sink in several inches, so it wasn’t that super dense stuff that has your just riding on the surface.

An imager of Jay Telemark skiing in some deep powder after an April snowstorm at Pico Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Although it certainly wasn’t midwinter champagne powder, the upper mountain held some light snow atop the snowpack, and in general you could get right down into the snow for some very enjoyable turns.

All told though, since there’s a foot and a half of that snow, you’ve got a bomber subsurface in place.  We spoke with a guy who told us that the 49er and Pike were the routes with the best snowmaking base before this storm, so they were good options in terms of coverage, but it really didn’t matter.  With 2+ inches of liquid equivalent in place, you could pretty much ski anything you wanted.  There were water bars to watch out for the lower you went, but even all the way back down to the base elevations, you could ski just about anything, whether it had existing base or not.  The challenging part was handling the denser/wetter snow down low, and fat skis or a snowboard were unquestionably your tool of choice.  Width was the best bet in general for the most fun riding, but especially down low where temperatures were above freezing and the snow was getting a bit wetter.

An image of Erica skiing some powder on the lower mountain after an April snowstorm at Pico Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The snow was wetter on the lower half of the mountain, and a little more challenging to ski than the drier snow up high, but the turns ended up being quite enjoyable throughout today’s tour.

For the best quality turns today, laps on the upper half of the mountain would have been a good bet if you had the time, but experienced skiers and riders would be able to handle the lower mountain conditions.  We skied the bottom half of the mountain with a couple of older guys on fat Telemark gear like us, and it was well past manageable; the turns were definitely fun even in that wetter snow.

As I mentioned, it was snowing most of the time above the base elevations, and to further reduce the visibility we were often well up in the clouds on the upper mountain.  This of course made the ski photography a fun challenge up high, but I’d say we still got some nice images to document the experience.

Bolton Valley, VT 03APR2021

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica standing by some snowy evergreens after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A shot of Erica and some of the beautiful fresh snow hanging around at the resort today as we head out toward Wilderness to ski some powder

After finding such nice conditions yesterday, E and I headed up for another session at Bolton this morning.  Based on the forecasts I saw, those temperatures and humidity should have preserved the powder beautifully – and they definitely did; the powder was just as good as yesterday.  It seemed to have settled a touch, but all the liquid equivalent was all still there, so it kept you off the subsurface and skied just as nicely.

The groomed terrain on the upper mountain that had been blasted by the wind yesterday was much improved today, I guess due to another round of the groomers pulverizing it with the new snow mixed in, and this time without the winds scouring it away.

We were talking about how the resort’s essentially come full circle on the season as it often does, and we’re back to the way it can be in November and early December when the focus is on the main mountain, but the other pods that aren’t open have enough snow to ski.  All you have to do is traverse out to the powder.

An image of the Vista Peak area of Bolton Valley Resort after an April snowstorm
A sunny view toward Vista Peak from Bolton’s Wilderness area

We both remarked at what a fantastic late winter day it was, with the powder, the Colorado blue skies, and humidity to match.  We were just starting to find a few spots in the direct sun where the powder was beginning to get sun-affected around midday when we were leaving, but it really was holding up quite well with these low humidity levels.

Bolton Valley, VT 02APR2021

An image of ski tracks in powder after an April snowstorm in the Wilderness terrain area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fresh snow from an April snowstorm in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow fell at all elevations in the area today, with a fresh blanket covering everything up in the Bolton Valley Village to kick off the month of April.

Another winter storm was expected to move into the area for the late week period into the weekend, and Winter Storm Watches went up for the Adirondacks starting on Tuesday.  Those watches were eventually extended into Northern Vermont, and finally converted over to Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Warnings on Wednesday as the storm became more imminent.  Frozen precipitation began to mix in at our house in the valley not too long after midnight last night, and it was obvious because I could hear the sleet hitting off the windows and checked outside to see what was up.  I suspect it stayed mixed like that much of the night because there was nothing more than a trace of frozen accumulation this morning at our CoCoRaHS observations time.  The mountains were easily accumulating snow though, and looking up into the local hills, the accumulating snow line seemed to be around 1,000’ or so.

The precipitation changed fully over to snow today not long after my morning CoCoRaHS observations at the house.  I headed up to Bolton for some turns, and found the following storm accumulations starting from near the Bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road:

500’:  0.5”
1,000’:  2”
1,500’:  5”
2,000’:  7”
2,500’:  8”
3.000’:  9”

An image of snow on evergreens after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sights out on the mountain today were beautiful, with up to 9 inches of fresh snow in the higher elevations.

The biggest jumps in accumulation certainly appeared to be in the 1,000’ to 2,000’ elevation band.  The resort is reporting 9” in the past 48 hours on their snow report, so that seems in synch with what I found up at the main mountain.

When I was out today at Bolton I saw that the front face trails on Vista had been absolutely hammered by the wind, which is not surprising with the way they face west, but apparently even areas of the east side of the Green Mountains got hit pretty hard as well.  Timberline is usually a nice place to go to get away from the wind, but it’s not open right now because coverage just isn’t great down that low, but lower Wilderness is another good option for sheltered terrain, and that was serving up some great powder.

I started skiing not too long after opening today, and it was really dumping when I arrived thanks to a fresh push of moisture that hit in the morning.  The old base snow is just so consolidated and hard after a couple weeks of spring weather and no new snow, that I didn’t really find any of the steep groomed terrain that had really improved.  Either the wind had blown everything away, or it was exposed enough to the wind that the groomers couldn’t do much with it.  Low and moderate angle groomers on the bottom half of the mountain seemed to have incorporated the snow nicely though – turns were nice and quiet, so the new snow must have stayed put and been churned in by the groomers.

Low and moderate angle powder terrain was the way to go though.  I’d thrown both fats and midfats on the car today, and ended up using the midfats and found they had plenty of float.  There’s was definitely enough L.E. in the snow to set up everything below black diamond pitch.

An image of the Wilderness lift after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the beautiful wintry view from Wilderness today.

After skiing, I found that it continued to snow all the way in to Burlington.  The snowfall intensity actually kept increasing as I headed into the Champlain Valley, but temperatures were a few degrees above freezing so the roads just stayed wet.  During the day today in Burlington we had some periods of heavy snow with huge flakes during that banding, and it accumulated to an inch or two.  At our house in Waterbury it continued to snow, but outside that heavy snowfall band off to our west, the snowfall intensity was just too light to accumulate to more than a tenth of an inch at valley elevations in our area.

We picked up most of our snow at the house with a subsequent round of precipitation that came through in the afternoon, and we’ve been having another round of that around here this evening as well.

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 03MAR2021

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow below the Timberline Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fresh powder snow in front of our house in Waterbury, Vermont after a quick overnight dump of nearly half a foot
We picked up a quick half foot of champagne powder at our house last night, with water content in the 1.5 to 3.0% H2O range, prompting a quick trip up to the mountain today to make a few turns.

I had just a bit of time to stop in at Bolton Valley for some turns on my way in to Burlington today, so I visited Timberline to see how the conditions were faring with the addition of the fresh powder.  We expected to get at least an inch or two, but when we picked up roughly 3 inches at the house last night in less than an hour, and had close to a half foot by this morning, it seemed it was worth a trip to the hill.

My plan was to hit some low-angle stuff on my fat skis, and that was indeed about the only terrain that offered up bottomless turns today.  Anything above that angle and you were hitting the subsurface – and that subsurface snow on anything that hadn’t been groomed is indeed loud.  Moderate angle turns were still decent with that new snow to push back on, but the low-angle powder was the best.  I had some nice turns on the mellow inclines of Villager and Spur in the fresh snow.  Groomed terrain was also pretty nice where they’d been able to till up the old stuff and get some new snow into it, although that depended on the time they’d groomed.  Some spots were groomed before the new snow fell, so it was powder on top of that.  The resort was being cautious and hadn’t even open the ungroomed terrain today, and that was probably wise, since the powder made it dangerous in some cases by simply hiding the moonscape below.

“I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range. I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.”

I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range.  I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.

My boys headed up for some turns in the afternoon, and my younger son said it was pretty hilarious in that “It was like skiing powder, but still skiing on the base.”  We were talking tonight at dinner about how what they skied was literally the antithesis of “bottomless powder”.  I guess one could call that “bottomful powder” in that line of terminology.  “Dust on crust” also gets that point across, although I typically don’t think of 6-8” of snow when I think of dust.  With those snow ratios in the range of 30 to 1 or even 70 to 1, and the temperature cycling that the existing snow had seen, I knew it was going to be pretty much a “dust on crust” setup.  But with a half foot of snow, at least it’s more of a “Northern Greens” sort of dust on crust experience.

In any event, it was a good aesthetic refresher for the pack both down at the house and up on the hill, and hopefully we’ll have a bit more to add in the next couple of days.

Bolton Valley, VT 27FEB2021

An image of sidecountry terrain with powder near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I was quite surprised to find bottomless powder and a lack of crust out there on the mountain today as I made some sidecountry explorations off the Wilderness Chair.

I gotta say, the turns were really nice out there today.

Ty and Dylan had hit the mountain on Wednesday and reported nice soft conditions thanks to some warming temperatures, but then E was out Thursday night and said the snow was quite hard and icy, at least on piste where she had been skiing on the main mountain.  I figured that made sense with temperatures cooling back down, and that’s what I thought would be the theme out there on the mountain today.

But there was also all that great snow that PF reported on from Thursday as well, which was at least 8” up above 2,000’, and Chasing Flakes said it was feeling like 10”+ at Jay Peak.  It was hard to know what to think, and I was somewhat ambivalent about skiing today.  But then while I was working on the computer this morning, I checked the Bolton snow report, saw that they’d picked up 6” in the past 48 hours, and read this text in their detailed report:

“Happy Saturday, Boltonites! Today is a great day to get some snow under your feet. We have 38 groomed trails for you this morning and tons of fresh snow still hiding in the woods. Yesterday afternoon there were sightings of 6 inch stashes of powder still in Sleepy Hollow woods and Bolton Outlaw woods!”

That sounded just a bit too good to pass up, and it tipped the scales to get me to head up to the hill.

An image of snow on the roof of the hotel in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some of the interesting snowy views up in the Bolton Valley Village today

We’d been getting snow this morning at the house, but it had just started to transition over to mixed precipitation while I was getting ready to head to the mountain in the early afternoon.  The precipitation was generally sprinkles of light rain as I headed up to the Bolton Valley Access Road and eventually changed over to sleet as I rode the Wilderness Double Chair and got up near 3,000’.  During my second run, the mixed precipitation decided to change back to snow, and there was a nice period with some big fat flakes coming down.

“…I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today. I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’ – 3,000’ elevation range.”

Bolton definitely got in on that Thursday snow, and I think my wife must have just been on those wind scoured trails on the front face of the main mountain, because that’s not at all what I experienced at Wilderness.  The groomed slopes were quiet, and the off piste was covered with up to a foot of dense powder.  That seems like more fresh snow than there really should have been based on the snow report, so I’m not sure what to think.  I also couldn’t even find any signs of crust below the most recent snows, so I’m not sure what to think about that either.  I probed all over the place in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, and the only real crust I found was a bit of sun crust on the surface of the snow in a couple of exposed areas.  Maybe this was one of those setups where the new snow comes in, starts out wet, and bonds to any crust below to sort of remove the demarcation of that layer a bit.  Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today.  I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’-3,000’ elevation range.  That makes decent sense, with the snowpack now at 55” on Mansfield at 3,700’.

An image snowing the Branches area of the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out in the Branches area of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network today

I spent my entire session at Wilderness this afternoon, and the Wilderness sidecountry and nearby backcountry terrain have actually seen a decent amount of skier traffic.  Seeing that, and being alone with plenty of time to explore whatever I wanted, I decided to go a bit farther afield, hitting a lot of terrain beyond White Rabbit, Snow Hole, and Jamie’s.  Being on mid fat Tele gear, I figured I’d just see where my travels took me in search of untracked powder, and if I ended up on the backcountry network, I’d just skate my way back to the Wilderness Chair as needed.  It actually ended up being a bit of a revelation with regard to traveling in that area, because on my first run, I hit Gardiner’s Lane, and then simply followed it until I came to the junction with Snow Hole.  All it took was probably 60 seconds to herring bone up to the Snow Hole return to the Wilderness Chair, so as long as you’re on something with good mobility like reasonably light Tele gear, you can easily return to the base of the Wilderness Chair.  I even discovered a new area in my explorations today called “Branches” off to the right of Snow Hole.  I guess people are always putting in their own little areas out on the backcountry network, so I don’t know how long that’s been around, but it’s always fun to find new areas for skiing that you didn’t know about.

Big Jay Basin, VT 21FEB2021

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in deep powder from Winter Storm Viola in the Big Jay Basin backcountry near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan dropping into a Telemark turn in powder during a backcountry ski tour out in the Big Jay Basin area near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
Dylan dropping into a Telemark turn in the powder during our ski tour out in Big Jay Basin today.

When I headed up to Jay Peak yesterday and found that quality subsurface base snow with up to 16” of new Champlain Powder™ on top, it was hard not to think about going back for another visit.  The snow just kept accumulating throughout the time I was there yesterday, but that wasn’t the end of it.  Here at the house, the snowfall really ramped up overnight, and I figured it had to really be unloading up there in Big Jay Basin.  So, I told the family all about it, and we all headed out for a tour today.

The weather was quite a contrast between yesterday and today – yesterday was relatively low visibility with constant snowfall, but today there was hardly a cloud in the sky.  The basin area had definitely picked up more snow since I’d left yesterday, but it was most notable above the road elevation (~1,500’).  Yesterday I found powder in the 8-12” range down in that elevation range, and we found something closer to a consistent 12” today.  Up higher, I’d found 12-16” in the 2,500’ range, but my measurements show that the powder depth had increased to roughly 20” when we were there today.  If one considers how dry that snow was, and whatever settling occurred, that was obviously another impressive shot of snow overnight.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Big Jay Basin backcountry area near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
Ty drops into another turn in the powder on today’s Big Jay Basin tour, while E looks on from above.

Based on my adventures yesterday, I had no plans to bring E and the boys way up toward the east face of Big Jay; the terrain is really too steep for efficient skinning, and there’s so much great ski terrain in Big Jay Basin itself, that there was little point anyway.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s report, during the approach, it was somewhere above 2,000’ when I found the first obvious split in the main skin track – I literally came to a “T” junction with a skin track to the left, and the other option to the right.  It was interesting guiding the family around today though, as the situation with visible routes was quite different.  There had been a lot more skier traffic, so there were skin tracks and descent tracks all over the place, and the obvious distinction of those skin track routes had been obliterated.  There were so many ski tracks and descent tracks around that the most efficient one’s I’d taken yesterday got missed in a couple of places, but they were all generally leading to where we wanted to go.

“Yesterday I found powder in the 8-12” range down in that elevation range, and we found something closer to a consistent 12” today. Up higher, I’d found 12-16” in the 2,500’ range, but my measurements show that the powder depth had increased to roughly 20” when we were there today”

The skiing, as expected, was excellent.  We topped out at an elevation of roughly 2,700’ in the basin, and worked our way generally back toward the parking area following the typical routes.  There was plenty of powder, although since the area had seen additional skier traffic, we didn’t quite have the run of the place like I did yesterday, and we had to move around a bit more for fresh lines.  I brought up the idea of just skiing straight down the basin to Route 242 and making the short walk back to the car on the road, because I saw some people that seemed to have taken that approach on my outing yesterday.  E and the boys wanted to hit some of that open terrain that’s available near the bottom of the approach though, so we headed that way.  Heading straight down out of the basin will be something I’ll have to try on a future trip, but it could be a nice way to avoid having to traverse to the right as much during the ascent and get a more direct fall line run.

A map showing GPS data on Google Earth for a backcountry ski tour in the Big Jay Basin area near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
A map of our backcountry ski tour in the Big Jay Basin area today with GPS data mapped onto Google Earth

Since the trip is an hour or so from home, we used it as an opportunity to get Dylan some of his required driving hours, and that was a win-win.  There was still some snow to navigate on the roads so that he could work on dealing with slushy areas, but it was probably good that he wasn’t dealing with the heavy snowfall and low visibility that I had frequently encountered yesterday.

Big Jay & Big Jay Basin, VT 20FEB2021

An image showing a skin track through Big Jay Basin near Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont, with large areas of nicely spaced trees for glade skiing in powder
An image of a road sign for Route 100 in Vermont during a bout of February snow
Throughout my ski tour in the Jay Peak backcountry today, as well as my drive, snowfall obscured the sun and frequently made visibility quite low.

Earlier this week when Winter Storm Uri hit the area, mixed precipitation pushed pretty far north, and we even got a bit of it up here in Northern Vermont.  That put at least a mild crust atop the snow in our immediate area, but reports I’d been seeing indicated that the mixed precipitation really hadn’t made it up to Jay Peak.  That seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of town for a few turns in the Jay Peak area backcountry, and while it’s not just up the hill like Bolton is, it’s still pretty convenient because it’s only about an hour away up Route 100.

The skiing held even more promise today because we’re currently in the midst of another system, Winter Storm Viola, which dropped over 3 inches of 1.3% H2O champagne at the house as of this morning.  The resorts were reporting a few inches of new snow as well, and it was expected to continue snowing throughout the day and into the overnight.

An image of heavy snowfall at a parking area for access to the Jay Peak backcountry in Vermont
The snowfall was quite heavy at times today, including a the Route 242 parking area when I was starting my tour.

My drive up toward the  Jay Peak area gave me a chance to see what had happened with respect to accumulations from Winter Storm Viola thus far.  The Froude Numbers have been forecast to be relatively low, meaning that the western slopes were more likely to pick up accumulations than areas east of the spine, and indeed my travels showed that there have definitely been some notable differences in snowfall around the area.  The rounds of fluff we’ve been getting here along the spine at our house have covered up the old snow pretty well, and monitoring that aesthetic during my travels today turned out to be a decent way to see who’d recently gotten snow.  Heading east from our place, accumulations definitely dropped off toward the Waterbury Village area, and indeed, all along through the east slope towns of Waterbury Center, Stowe, and Morrisville, there really hadn’t been much new snow that I could see.  Either that, or what’s fallen had sublimated and disappeared quickly off the snow banks.  I’m sure accumulations increase as one heads westward up the mountain road and Mt. Mansfield, but down in Stowe Village, I could see that they need a refresher.  There was still light snow falling in all those east side towns, but once I left Morrisville and rose up into the Hyde Park area, the increase in snowfall intensity was obvious.  That continued right on through Eden.  The snowfall was squally, and quite heavy at times, and I was continually having to turn on my headlights and fogs when I’d get into those more intense areas of snowfall.  That increased snowfall definitely showed itself with accumulations – up in that area, all the roadside snowbanks were covered up with a solid coating of new snow.  I’d say the snow was in general a bit less through Belvidere and Montgomery Center, but once I headed toward the pass on Route 242… well, we know what happens up there.  Even from just a quick glance at the side of the road, it was obvious that even down at the roadside elevations, a lot more snow had fallen than I’d seen anywhere else on my drive.

An image of a tractor pulling a sled in the snow with the word "KIND" spelled out among midwinter snow in the Waterbury Center area of Vermont
Today’s drive yielded lots of midwinter Vermont views, including this one in Waterbury Center.

As we’d done on our last backcountry ski trip in the area, I parked at the lower access lot on the east side of the pass to start my tour.  The elevation there is about 1,500’ and right from the start of the tour, I was finding 8-12” of new champagne atop the older snow.  Above 2,000’ there was 12-16” of accumulation.

An image of a ski slope in the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont with a ski measurement pole showing a snow depth of nearly 40 inches
Finding a snowpack depth of nearly 40 inches as I make my way up through one of the glades in Big Jay Basin

I was also checking snowpack depths along my tour, and I was already getting 40” snowpack readings at just 2,000’.  On top of that, it snowed the whole time I was there – most of the time it was what I’d call moderate, probably in the 0.5”/hr range, but there were also stints where it bumped up to the 1”/hr range.  The snowfall was typically large, upslope-style flakes, which can make it a little tough to gauge the snowfall rate because they just stack up so fast.

It’s firsthand experiences like this though that have me rolling my eyes every time somebody gets going with the smack talk about Jay Peak and their snow reporting.  My actual experiences reveal again, and again, and again that they really get a ridiculous amount of snow in that area.

My ski tour had me on Big Jay itself, and in the Big Jay Basin area today, and that southeast side of Jay Peak really seemed to be the epicenter for this shot of continuing snowfall.  I can’t say when all of it fell, and I believe I only saw 3” new on the snow report for the resort this morning when I checked.  Reports I heard about said that the resort side of the peak didn’t pick up nearly what the east side did, so the Jay Peak cloud was dropping its bounty there.  Whatever the setup has been in terms of wind direction and Froude, etc., that Big Jay Basin area today was definitely getting hit.  Something similar was going on with Hyde Park and Eden as well, to a lesser degree of course.

An area of open terrain on one of the approach routes to Big Jay Basin in the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont
The lower areas of the approach offer lots of open terrain for skiers returning to the parking area

Indeed, my numerous checks on the snowpack today revealed that the area definitely avoided any real crust from Winter Storm Uri, so obviously that’s going to help a lot with respect to the quality of the subsurface.  The resort reported 6-8” from that storm, and although there wasn’t a crust, that snow was still dense.  The skiing was indeed fantastic with as much as 16” of that champagne powder in that area, but compared to last weekend, one can definitely nitpick a bit on the quality of the powder skiing.  This most recent snow is so ridiculously light that it’s easy to get down to the dense Winter Storm Uri snow if you’re on more than moderate/blue pitch.  Then you get to that region of dense snow, and if you pressure hard enough, you’ll collapse that layer a bit because the powder below it is less dense.  Essentially, the snowpack’s got an upside down issue with respect to those second and third layers down.  We’re very much talking first-world powder problems here of course, but I figured it would be good to get the beta out there for anyone else thinking of heading out.  Naturally, going as fat as you can will help with respect to staying up in the champagne layer, and heck, if it dumps more tonight, that surface layer of powder will be bolstered to make it even better.

An image of some of the glades in Big Jay Basin the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont
The glades were just everywhere in Big Jay Basin, with a skin track providing access right across the bottom.

Relative to Big Jay, I could definitely see the convenience of hitting Little Jay when coming from that lower parking lot on Route 242Last time I was up there with the family in the general Big Jay Basin area, we actually did head more toward Little Jay, and we were in that drainage between Big Jay and Little Jay.  I specifically went out today with the intention of just making turns in Big Jay Basin, but I left the option open to head up toward the main lines from Big Jay (in that general Jailbird Chute area) depending on what skin tracks were in place.  There turned out to be a well-established skin track that headed right to that area, so my plan was to continue on it until it either disappeared, or I felt that ascending on skins was getting pointless.

On today’s tour, it was somewhere above 2,000’ when I found the first obvious split in the skin track – I literally came to a “T” junction with a skin track to the left, and the other option to the right.  I was heading to the right toward Big Jay Basin, but the left option would have been a good choice for the Little Jay area.

“…right from the start of the tour, I was finding 8-12” of new champagne atop the older snow. Above 2,000’ there was 12-16” of accumulation.”

As I approached the 3,000’ elevation mark on Big Jay today, the ascent was starting to get pretty silly on skins because progress was just so slow.  It was around that point when I found myself sidestepping up a steep, narrow area between some trees where the person setting the skin track had essentially done the same.  It was basically just a ski’s width area, so you really couldn’t even make any sort of switchback.  That was the point where I knew I wasn’t going to push too much longer on the ascent.  The skin track still continued a bit farther, and I stuck with it a little while longer until the track really just became hard to follow in the packed snow of the main chute area.  I followed a skin track (perhaps the same one, perhaps not) off to climber’s right briefly before that seemed to disappear, and then I decided I would stop my ascent as soon as I found a reasonable spot for deskinning.  I side-stepped up about an extra 30 feet or so through fairly deep powder to a nice sheltered spot where I deskinned and had a snack.

I’d been there for just a few minutes when a group of five skiers, ascending on skins, appeared below me.  They said hi, and thanked me for setting the skin track.  I let them know that I was just following an old one made by others and was stopping where I was.  It seemed like they were just going to stop there as well, but they started breaking their own trail above me and continued pushing on.  I actually debated putting my skins back on and following now that someone else was breaking trail, but after watching them get maybe another 50 feet or so over the course of 5 to 10 minutes, I knew I’d made the right choice.  As a group, I think they were having fun together with respect to the challenge of trying it on skins, and that’s probably the way to approach it.

An image of deep powder snow on the steep slopes of Big Jay in the Jay Peak area backcountry of Vermont
The terrain was getting steep, and the powder quite deep as I made my way up the east face of Big Jay today

I wanted to get back down into the lower basin because the powder skiing was far better down there anyway, simply because it’s just so steep up on that face of Big Jay.  You’re not getting bottomless turns up there unless there’s 2 to 3 feet of powder.  The 12-16” of champagne was really nice up there, but you want even more for that upper terrain.  Overall it’s some fantastic steep skiing of course, but I was on fat Tele gear and planning for undisturbed powder on more blueish and blackish pitches, not semi-tracked super steeps.

So where I topped out was in the 3,000’ – 3,100’ elevation range, and I’d argue that it was already boot pack territory.  Boot packing up there would also be quite slow though because you’re pushing up very steep terrain with lots of powder.  It would be a serious slog through the snow once you were off your skis if someone hadn’t already broken trail, although you could stick to the more packed snow in some of the main chutes and that might offer some efficiency.  I don’t know how far that group of five went, but if they were going all the way to the summit at ~3,800’, it must have been a lot of work.  I’m sure one can make it up to the Big Jay summit by skinning that route, but it’s probably something to do if you’ve got a lot of time and want the challenge, it’s certainly not the efficient way to go.  I do wonder if there’s an approach from the Little Jay side that perhaps gets it done in a practical way.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour in the Jay Peak backcountry in Vermont on February 20th, 2021
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for today’s tour in the Jay Peak Backcountry

One definite theme out there today was a lot of visages of the sun through moderate to heavy snow with big flakes.  It was pounding snow a lot on both my tour and my drive, so it made for some nice, snowy scenes.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 14FEB2021

An image of Erica skiing out through powder in the trees below the Buchanan Shelter in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the privy building by the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the snow up by the Buchanan Shelter near the start of our descent on today’s ski tour.

Yesterday I toured in the Beaver Pond area of the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, and the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.  The boys were both working during the middle of the day today, so we headed up during that window to do some additional exploring based what I’d discovered yesterday.

“…the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.”

Thanks to my explorations on trails like Moose-Ski and Grand View, I knew the most efficient and direct approach route to the Buchanan Shelter was to simply take the Catamount Trail to Beaver Pond.  I’d taken this as my final route out on yesterday’s tour, and it really worked well as a rather direct and efficient gravity traverse back to the car.  Indeed, it was quite the efficient route for the approach today, and it’s such a gradual incline that before you know it, you’ve gained several hundred feet of elevation.

During yesterday’s tour, I was pressed for time, so on my descent from the Buchanan Shelter, I had to stick near Upper Beaver Pond.  Today we had plenty of time, so we were able to explore more to the east to find the best lines.  There’s plenty of open forest for turns, and we were able to pick some fantastic lines that brought us right back down on Deer Run near the junction with Beaver Pond.  We also had plenty of time to enjoy additional turns in some of the low-angle powder on the return to the car.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS Tracking for today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlaid onto Google Earth

The powder was just as excellent today as it was yesterday, so it was a great ski outing.  And, the fact that it just ended up being the two of us was sort of neat in the context of Valentine’s Day.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13FEB2021

An image looking across from the Moose-Ski trail in the beaver ponds area of the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network toward the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a bucket loader covered with snow on a ski tour of the Nordic and Backcountry trail network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Views along today’s ski tour – a bucket loader covered with snow shows the various layers in the snowpack that have accumulated from recent storms.

Today was expected to be fairly chilly, with temperatures topping out in the teens F, and without any fresh snow in a couple of days, backcountry touring seemed to be the call.

I was looking for something new to explore, so I planned a tour in the southwest corner of Bolton’s Nordic & Backcountry Network.  I’ve only just scratched the surface of this part of the network in previous visits, so I was eager to see what options there were for descents with good tree skiing.  My anticipated route was to start from the Catamount Trail parking lot on the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~1,200’, head up through the expansive beaver pond meadows in the Mt. Mansfield State Forest, and top out around the Buchanan Shelter at 2,150’ below the Long Trail.

On my ascent I was on the lookout for potential descent options, exploring trails on the network such as Moose-ski.  The terrain was nice, but generally rolling, so while there were some nice short descents, it would be challenging to incorporate these into an efficient tour once my climbing skins were removed.  The views from that area across the beaver ponds did provide some great views back toward the alpine trails and the Village area.

An image of an old ski track in the powder near the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic and Backcountry trail Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Beginning my descent through the powder today near the Buchanan Shelter.

The best powder skiing terrain on the tour was definitely on the slopes below the Buchanan Shelter, with some nice areas of open forest.  The only sign of skiing in that area was an old ski track from someone that must have been there at least a couple of storms ago.  I suspect traffic is generally light in this area because it requires an approach that’s close to two miles, vs. much quicker access in many other spots on the network.  There’s a vast area of terrain for good descents off the ridge where Buchanan Shelter is located, enclosed by the Long Trail, Goat Path, Lower Maple Loop, Deer Run, and Beaver Pond.

Even without new snow in a couple of days, the snow preservation has been so good, that the quality of the powder is simply spectacular.  The snowpack I found was generally in the two- to three-foot range, but there’s such good density in the bottom layers that anything of concern is well covered.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

I was unsure how smooth the traverse out was going to be via the direct route back to the Catamount Trail, since I’d come in by an alternate route using Grand View and Moose-Ski.  Indeed, the direct route out on Beaver Pond is quite quick – it’s essentially a gravity traverse with a few spots that require glide and kick or double polling, but there are even spots below Caribou’s Corner where it’s steep enough that you can get additional turns in the powder outside the skin track.