Bolton Valley, VT 24MAR2020

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy in the Fanny Hill area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out today getting some much needed exercise as we enjoy the fresh powder delivered by Winter Storm Quincy

Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of us have witnessed a dramatic change in daily life here in Northern Vermont as varying levels of social distancing and self-isolation are being practiced to slow the pandemic associated with COVID-19.  Measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 have been ramping up in the form of people doing extensive telecommuting, a state of emergency declared for Vermont back on the 13th,  the closing of bars and restaurants on the 17th, and beginning tomorrow at 5:00 P.M. an executive order to stay home/stay safe.

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.”

That situation began to change yesterday though, as Winter Storm Quincy moved into the area and began dropping snow.  I was returning from a meeting at work in the late afternoon, and the roads were already taking on some fresh accumulations.  As of my 6:00 P.M. snow observations at the house we’d already picked up a couple of inches of snow.  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.  I got a text alert around 7:30 P.M. that we’ve been put under a Winter Storm Warning here in Washington County, no doubt due to the continued heavy snowfall.  By midnight, we’d picked up over 8 inches of snow at the house, composed of 0.65 inches of liquid equivalent.  This storm was definitely entering the realm of a decent resurfacing for the slopes.

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’

A wide-angle image of Dylan skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan floats down through some of the powder today during our ski tour at Bolton Valley.

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.

An image of Jay from behind as he Telemark skis in powder from Winter Storm Quincy at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan was behind the lens of one of the cameras today as well, getting some shots of Dad when he had the chance.

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.

Stowe, VT 01MAR2020

An image of Ty and Dylan exploring some of the recent deposits of snow left by Winter Storm Odell at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Spruce Peak Village view during our food break at the Great Room Grill this afternoon

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.

Based on Erica’s suggestion, we took the whole group over to Mansfield ski Toll Road.  Neither Jessica, Sienna, or Viviana had ever been over there, so it was going to be a whole new adventure for all of them.  We decided to access the Toll Road only from the Mountain Triple Chair, since we were unsure how difficult it would be for the girls to navigate from the top of the Fourrunner Quad to the Toll Road area, and they already had some trepidation about the new environment.  The trip was also exciting in that it meant the use of three new lifts for Viviana, the Over Easy Gondola, the Mountain Triple Chair, and the Toll House Double Chair.

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.

An image from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
At the Great Room Grill this afternoon following everyone’s big Toll Road adventure

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 29FEB2020

An image of Dylan tossing up a spray of powder snow from Winter Storm Odell while skiing the headwall of the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica spraying powder snow from Winter Storm Odell as she skis at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica skiing the bountiful snow from Winter Storm Odell, which has hit Vermont with 30 to 40 inches of snow at the resorts of the Northern Green Mountains

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.  The backside upslope & lake-effect snows from Winter Storm Odell had continued to deliver overnight, and it was still snowing.

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.

An image of Erica skiing powder from Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica floating down one of her favorite lines of the day as we take a run off The Knob

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.

Dylan creating a wall of powder as he skis fresh snow form Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontAt 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.

An image of Dylan catching air on his skis in the Doug's Solitude area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan airing it out today on Doug’s Solitude as we head back out to Bolton Valley today for an afternoon skis session

Bolton Valley, VT 28FEB2020

A snowy view of the Timberline Base Lodge during Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder during Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting some fresh turns out in Winter Storm Odell today at Bolton Valley

We’ve had a fairly average to slightly below average ski season here in the Northern Greens thus far.  There have certainly been some decent days, but not much that has really lined up to get me out for earning early turns before work.  That changed today though with the snow that Winter Storm Odell is bringing to the area.  As of this morning we’d picked up over a half foot of snow here at the house, and the local resorts in the Northern Greens had reached accumulations of 20 inches.

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’.

An image of the skin track on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The Twice as Nice skin track, disappearing under the new snow of Winter Storm Odell

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.”

The only notable deviation I found in snow quality was below roughly 1,800’ in elevation.  Below that level the powder was notably denser and didn’t ski quite as beautifully as it did higher up.  That’s pretty consistent with the way this storm started up though – for quite a while yesterday the snow line was around 2,000’, so below that point that snow was getting wet.  The storm is continuing today though, with snow levels all the way down to the lowest valley floors, so even that lower elevation snow should be getting covered up with lighter and drier stuff.

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.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 22FEB2020

An image of Ty powder skiing though a glade on Backcountry Trail Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in some powder on a sunny February day on the Backcountry Trail Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty drops into a line through some of the great snow we found today on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

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.

Ty cranking a turn in the powder on the Backcountry Trail Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe 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.

An image of an untracked glade filled with powder snow on the Backcountry Skiing Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An unblemished canvas for Ty to get first tracks on our initial descent of the tour

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.

A Google Earth Map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Ski Network on February 22nd, 2020 at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS Tracking data mapped onto Google Earth for today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 15FEB2020

An image of Dylan in the snow laden trees off piste at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after recent snows from Winter Storm Kade, Winter Storm Lamont, and Winter Storm Mabel.
An image of Dylan skiing the trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out today at Bolton Valley enjoying some of the powder off piste on Maria’s

Today started out very cold.  We bottomed out below -15 F here at the house, so nobody was really in a rush to get out skiing this morning.  Last Saturday, Dylan and I skied in temperatures around 0 F to catch the fresh snow from Winter Storm Kade, but today we took our sweet time and waited well into the afternoon when temperatures were predicted to be up around 20 F.

It was a bit after 3:00 P.M. when we arrived up at the Village, and we were able to grab a parking spot in the first tier and load right on the Vista Quad.  We headed toward Maria’s for some powder, and a chance for Dylan to try out his new Rossignol Sky 7 skis for the first time.  His skis were supposed to arrive last weekend, but in a nice piece of irony they were delayed because of Winter Storm Kade.

“We probed total powder depths above the old base and generally found 20 to 22 inches.”

In any event, Dylan’s skis were a great tool for today’s snow.  The powder currently consists of snow from Winter Storm Kade last weekend, topped off with snow from four additional storms that included Winter Storm Lamont on Sunday into Monday, and Winter Storm Mabel that just hit the area at the end of the week.  We probed total powder depths above the old base and generally found 20 to 22 inches.  There was a breakable crust present within the snow from some mixed precipitation that occurred during Winter Storm Mabel.  In some areas the crust was absent altogether, and in others it was anywhere from 2 to 8 inches down in the snowpack.  The presence and depth of the crust depended on things like aspect, wind effects, and protection from that part or the storm by trees or other terrain features. 

An image of Dylan skiing powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in the powder on Maria’s testing out the float of his new Sky 7 skis

Overall the powder skiing was good, although of course not up to the level of last Saturday with the fresh snow from Winter Storm Kade.  The crust is thin enough that it’s breakable, and buried enough that it’s inconsequential in many spots, but it definitely makes the powder skiing variable enough that you have to be on your toes.  Putting down some additional fresh snow and burying the crust deeper will definitely help the off piste conditions, so we’ll have to see how the expected storms this next week play out.

Bolton Valley, VT 08FEB2020

An image of Dylan skiing in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after nearly two feet of snow from Winter Storm Kade
Dylan out there in the Bolton Valley powder today from Winter Storm Kade

Over the past couple of days, we’ve had Winter Storm Kade affecting the area, and it’s been our largest storm cycle of the winter so far.  It began on Thursday with some dense snow and mixed precipitation, then on Friday came heavy snowfall that was enough to even cause UVM to close down for the afternoon.  By the time the storm wound down overnight, we’d picked up 17 inches of snow here at the house, and the local resorts in the Northern Greens were reporting up to 2 ½ feet of snow.  The storm has been an excellent addition to the snowpack, with 1.86 inches of liquid equivalent here at home, and that must have meant more than 2 inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains.  That’s an all-around solid resurfacing of the local slopes.

An image of railings covered with fresh snow on a slopeside house at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm Kade
Viewing the snowy scenes from Winter Storm Kade as we make our way over to the Timberline Base

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 QuadThe 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.

We probably would have stayed for a few more runs if the temperatures were warmer, but eventually we wanted to warm up and get some food, so we headed back to the main base and had some slices at Fireside Flatbread before heading out.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake has finally caught up to average with this storm, and it looks like we could have some additional snow in the coming week.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 01FEB2020

An image of the logo on the Bolton Valley Backcountry promotional vehicle at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the C Bear Woods area sign on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
At the top of the C Bear Woods area today in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

I was out on the slopes Sunday at Stowe during the recent protracted snowstorm that affected our area, and I got out again for a bit of night skiing on Thursday, but today was my first chance to really see how things had unfolded in the off piste areas.  I had a feeling that the storm was just what the local backcountry needed though, so I decided to make today’s outing a tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network.

Temperatures were really in a sweet spot today – they were just a bit below freezing, which meant that they were extremely comfortable, but not warm enough to ruin any of the powder.  I think a lot of people know that today was going to be spectacular out there, because even the lots down by the Nordic Center were filling up when I arrived around 10:00 A.M.  The upper tennis court lot was already filled, so I had to head to the lower one, but I got a nice trailside parking spot that let me gear up and jump right onto Broadway.

“The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.”

I needed to pick up Ty from work at noon, so my plan was a quick tour out to the Holden’s Hollow area to get in some powder turns.  Consistent with the parking lots, there were people all over the Nordic trails, and a number heading out onto the backcountry trails as well.  Once I got up onto the Telemark Trail I didn’t see anyone else around however, and based on the skin track it looked like only about 3 or 4 people had even been out on that part of the network recently.

I had to break trail on the final stretch up to the ridgeline above Holden’s Hollow, and once I’d crested I found myself with a vast area of untracked snow below me.  The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.

An image of the C Bear Wood area in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting ready for some untracked turns through the C Bear Woods area today.

As I switched over for the descent, I noticed a trail sign just down the ridgeline from me, and figured it was one of the markers for some of the Holden’s Hollow Glades.  Once I headed over to it though, I saw that it read “C Bear Woods”, and I realized it was a sign I’d never seen before.  The sign looks new, so it’s either an area that was recently updated for skiing, or perhaps folks just got around to putting up a sign.  Whatever the case, the glade below me was entirely untracked, and the powder was excellent.  As I encountered on Thursday, there was a bit of a crust buried within the pack in some spots, but in this case it was either absent or buried deep enough that it was inconsequential.

I was surprised to find that the run actually brought me down on the back side of the ridge, which would have been great for doing another lap, but unfortunately I didn’t have time.  I cut eastward through the trees and got myself over to the east side of the ridge where I was able to descend back to the Telemark Trail and Broadway with more untracked powder turns.

From the pump house/bridge area, I re-skinned my skis for my return to the Village – I’ve learned the investment of a couple minutes into putting on your skins is well worth it for that return trip with its slight uphill inclines.

A map with GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the 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 Backcountry Network

When I got back to my car a bit before noon, even the lower tennis court lot had filled, and the parking lots in general looked packed to the gills.  The mountain was definitely doing a booming business, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising on a midwinter Saturday with a recent resurfacing of the slopes, full operation, and perfect temperatures.

Bolton Valley, VT 30JAN2020

An image of Ty along the edge of the Beech Seal trail during night skiing at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica Telemark skiing at night at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica out for some night tuns as we joined James and his family for an evening of good snow at Bolton Valley

For James, Jack, and Lizi, this was the last week of their Bolton Valley ski program, so E managed to get us all coordinated for a trip up for some night skiing with them this evening.  This was good timing with respect to conditions – the local resorts picked up roughly a foot of dense snow from the system earlier this week.  It was my first time up to the mountain since the four days of protracted snowfall we had, and up around 2,000’ as you approached the Village, you could really see the impacts of the new snow.  All the snow banks were substantially larger, the trees were coated with an impressive layer of white on every branch, and any area that was lit with lights revealed a dramatic scene of white trees against the backdrop of night.

“We ventured off piste a bit along the edges of the trails and there was roughly a foot of powder.”

Since it was night skiing we were mostly on piste, and conditions were quite good.  The dense snow gave the slopes a solid resurfacing and really buried any underlying firm layers.  We ventured off piste a bit along the edges of the trails and there was roughly a foot of powder.  A few exposed spots seemed to have picked up a bit of a thin crust a few inches down into the snowpack, but it wasn’t present in areas that were protected by aspect or trees.

After James and the kids had to catch their bus, we did a final run and stopped in at Fireside Flatbread for some slices.  Night ski racing had been taking place, so the après ski scene was quite popular and they seemed to be doing some nice business!

An image from the Fireside Flatbread restaurant after a night skiing session at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some slices and atmosphere of Fireside Flatbread after an evening ski

Stowe, VT 26JAN2020

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Kitchen Wall area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty jumping near the Kitchen Wall area on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty blasting through the snow today up high on Mt. Mansfield

We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend.  This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces.  The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.

We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions.  Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense.  The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.

“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”

A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session.  We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain.  After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic.  It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it.  With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers.  We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.  Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.

An image of Dylan blasting through powder in the Kitchen Wall area of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan blasting that powder!

Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’.  That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces.  I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.

It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday.  The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.