The boys and I had a field trip this morning, but we were done with enough time left to make it to Bolton Valley for a short photo session with some of the resort staff. Indeed today was a great one for ski photography – there was plenty of snow from Winter Storm Stella, clear blue skies, and temperatures in the upper 20s F.
We met Josh at his office, and he let us know that we’d be working with Tucker and Kyler today. The plan was to get some shots over at Wilderness with the afternoon views, and we started with some scenic photos from the deck of the Wilderness Summit Ski Patrol Hut. After the photos, we still needed to wait for another family to arrive up top, so the boys promptly decided to make use of the deep powder sitting just below the deck by launching themselves into it. Some of the folks coming up on the lift felt that it looked like so much fun that they joined in as well. By the time everyone was together it was just about time to shut down the Wilderness Lift, and we watched as they put the “Last Chair” sign in place.
Our photo session took place on Peggy Dow’s and the Wilderness Lift Line, and the guys generally did shots of trios of skiers with background scenery. Once we were done I asked the boys if they wanted to take any more runs, but they said they were good based on the anticipation of skiing more over the coming weekend. Hopefully we’ll have the time this weekend to get the whole family out together for some turns in all the great snow.
Not wanting to miss the chance to check out all that new snow up at the mountain, I headed up to catch a few runs this morning. The potency of the storm was immediately evident as I saw some of the vehicles that had been parked in the Village parking lots over the past couple of days – they were buried in deep drifts, and some were barely visible.
“ I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches.”
I got in line for the opening of the Vista Quad, but the lift operator felt that it was going to be on wind hold for a bit, so I headed up Snowflake and was happy to find that Timberline was already open. On the way over I cut the traverse over to Tattle Tale, and with two to three feet of snow in the way it took a good deal of effort. I found Tattle Tale untracked, and the powder very deep. There were also pockets of super light powder scattered among slightly denser snow, and when you hit one of those pockets, any support you found in the powder would simply disappear as if the floor was dropping out on you. I had on the fattest skis I own, with 115 mm width at that waist, and even that couldn’t stop the free fall in that snow. On my first encounter with one of those pockets, I quickly went over the handle bars on my Tele skis and had to extract myself from the deep powder. The snow was so deep that even with my fat skis combined with the steepest pitches, I had to straight-line it. I didn’t get to make many turns there, but it was definitely a neat experience.
I stayed at Timberline the entire morning, and found great turns on Twice as Nice. It was actually nice as the powder started to get chopped up a bit, because you could keep plenty of momentum going to hop in and out of the untracked areas. The turns were simply fantastic all around though; Winter Storm Stella definitely provided one of the more thorough resurfacings I’ve witnessed around here. Since the storm dropped over 2 inches of liquid equivalent down at our house, you know the mountains were well above that. I did a run on Adam’s Solitude, and it was my first visit there in quite a long time. I opted for the Secret Solitude option, and got first tracks down one of the lines with a number of small cliffs. At the top of that section I contoured across the hill, and with the pitch of the slope, the powder was up to my shoulder. Adam’s Solitude is famous for catching some well-protected powder, and the depth was very impressive. I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches. After seeing that, I knew I could just straight line my way right down through the ledges, and that was indeed one of those lines where the snow is just up and over your shoulders.
By the time the morning was over, the Tele turns had cooked my legs and my body was craving some food, so I stopped in for a burrito at South of Solitude. I kicked back and did some browsing on my phone while I ate, which seemed to be a popular option for the handful of folks populating the lodge. The Vista Quad was running by the time I got back to the main base, but my legs had definitely had their workout, so I skied down to the car and headed out.
In general, most areas I found offered up powder in the 24 to 30-inch range, similar to what we found at Stowe Yesterday. There are no major warm-ups in the near future, so we should have some excellent conditions going into the weekend.
“As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches.”
Some of the biggest nor’easters are actually picked up fairly early on the weather models. These very large storms are associated with an alignment of such prominent weather features that they produce a signal that the models can really key in on. That was the case with Winter Storm Stella. The buildup was impressive on the weather boards and in the national media, and although it didn’t deliver massive amounts of snow to the big coastal cities in the Northeastern U.S., areas farther inland (such as Northern Vermont and Upstate New York) made out like gangbusters. Reports were coming in of over 40 inches of snow in Upstate New York, and the Vermont resorts.
Unfortunately Dylan was a bit under the weather today with a cold, and while he was bummed to miss out on some great powder, he probably made the right decision to stay home and rest up with the way he felt. Although he could stay home alone, E felt that if she was home with him he’d do a much better job of taking care of himself. So, Ty and I headed off alone to Stowe for some turns this morning.
“We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep.”
It was still snowing steadily at the house when we left, but the roads weren’t bad because the plows were out working hard. In terms of snow accumulations and snowfall rates around the area, they tapered off somewhat as we headed from the house to Waterbury and Waterbury Center, and surprisingly, snowfall rates dropped to just flurries along the Stowe/Waterbury line. That was the nadir in terms of snowfall intensity, and then it gradually ramped back up as we headed through Stowe Village and up to the mountain.
We decided to focus on the Gondola terrain today, so we parked in the Midway area, and got suited up in the Midway Lodge. There were very few people in the lodge at that point, which was probably a good sign with respect to crowds. At the Gondi, the lift queue was a few minutes long, but that’s really not bad for such a storm day.
As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches. This storm gave the whole resort quite an impressive resurfacing. We started off with Waterfall, and then headed to Gondolier and eventually we found ourselves on Ravine. That’s where we started getting into the untracked powder, and boy was it deep. We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep. It was actually pretty easy to get buried in the snow if you fell, so we were definitely watching out for each other.
We’d skipped breakfast to save time, with the intention of getting it at the Midway Lodge. So, we stopped in quickly for a couple of really good breakfast sandwiches, and then got right back into some additional Gondola runs. We actually spent a lot of time over by Perry Merrill skiing the powder along the sides of the trail and exploring new terrain along the edge of the Hazelton Zone. We found a lot of untracked shots, and I pulled out the camera for some of our favorites. On our last run Ty blasted me with a massive wall of powder and covered everything, my clothes, my camera, my open bag, all of it. He described what I looked like all covered in white with my mouth agape.
We stopped to grab some sandwiches for lunch on the way home at Edelweiss Mountain Deli, one of Ty’s favorite options. I could tell that it continued to snow at home because I’d check on our web cam while riding the Gondola, and watched it as the snow got so deep that all the camera could see was white. The settled snow on the deck is now deeper than the level of my web cam, but I pulled away some snow and adjusted the angle so the settled height of the snow is once again visible.
As of this evening, we’re approaching 40 inches of accumulation at the house, and earlier, Jay Peak was already reporting 72 inches of accumulation, so Winter Storm Stella has been quite the event around here.
For the first time in a while, none of the family had anything else on their agenda, so we were all free to ski together today. Winter Storm Pluto wound down on Thursday night, which meant that unfortunately the resorts would have been pretty tracked up after all of Friday’s visitors. Based on my Friday morning tour at Bolton Valley though, I knew the powder from upslope portion of Pluto was really good, so that had me thinking a backcountry session was the call (not to mention it’s a holiday weekend for the resorts). But where to go? We’ve basically hit the point where lines are viable essentially all the way down into the mountain valleys, at least on the east side of the Greens, so basically everything there is on the table. The west side in general did well with Winter Storm Pluto, bit even with that boost, the base there is still lagging well behind the east side. With temperatures expected to head above freezing by midday, I was looking for a protected area with some north-facing lines, and ultimately decided on Lincoln Gap. Ty and I had visited Lincoln Gap back in February of 2015, and I was simply in awe of the massive acreage filled with steep open lines through the hardwoods. This was our chance to show the area to E and Dylan.
Knowing that we had only until around midday before temperatures might be a concern with respect to the quality of the powder, we got a relatively early morning start. We were heading out into a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid-20s F as we passed through the Mad River Valley. One thing that stuck me during our drive was that in the bottom of the Mad River Valley there only seemed to be about half the amount of snow on the ground relative to what we’ve got at our house, so I’m guessing the valley itself didn’t make out quite as well in the recent storms as we did farther north. As usual, snowpack certainly wasn’t an issue as we headed up to closure area on Lincoln Gap Road.
When Ty and I were last at Lincoln Gap to ski, we headed to the south side of the gap road, where there are a lot of popular north-facing lines. I was hoping to try something on the north side of the road this time – the terrain looks a little bit mellower for those getting their Tele legs. With the sun out and temperatures rising though, I didn’t dare risk sticking around on those southerly-facing areas, so we ultimately decided to once again use the route to the popular north-facing terrain that Ty and I had used last time. Once we got to the base of the main terrain area, I decided to alter our ascent from what Ty and I had done. There’s a nice skin track that follows the forest road and wraps beneath some of the terrain, and while it’s got a nice gentle grade, it’s quite circuitous. With concern for the warming temperatures, my plan was to instead just break a skin track right up the main north face. It was extra work, but we were able to direct ourselves right toward areas that looked good. And boy was there a lot of terrain that looked good, really good. I’d actually forgotten what a gold mine of ski terrain the whole Lincoln Gap area is, but I was quickly reminded and spent a lot of time gawking at amazing lines as I broke trail for the skin track.
We’d covered about half the potential vertical on that north face before I decided that we’d get a good run, and we’d hopefully outrun the warming temperatures. As for the snow, my probes during the ascent generally revealed about 18 inches of powder over the subsurface. I can’t say exactly which storms the powder should be attributed to, but it was looking great. There wasn’t a single track in the various gullies and spines that we’d surveyed on our ascent, so we had the pick of whatever lines we wanted. Everyone struggled at least a bit with their Telemark turns in the deep powder, but very, or at least moderately-fat skis were certainly helping. Temperatures were pushing past the freezing mark as we finished our descent, so it was really comfortable out there. The snow wasn’t quite as outrageously deep and light as the time that Ty and I went to the area by ourselves last, but I think E and Dylan were impressed with the area, so I suspect we’ll head back at some point.
As we drove back down the Lincoln Gap Road, it suddenly felt like the calendar had flipped to March. The gravel/dirt portion of the road was already starting to have some mud on it! For lunch we went to The Mad Taco, and low and behold, Chris was right at the bar and spotted us. We caught up on lots of stuff (including his ski trip to Idaho to see friends) and being quite the regular at The Mad Taco, he gave us the lowdown on everything. They make tons of different hot sauces all the time, and list them on various blackboards in the establishment. They’re even numbered on a 1 to 10 scale based on how hot they are, but Chris said watch out because the numbers aren’t always right. For sauces I tried “It Tingles” (2) and “Bad Hombre” (1) and both had a decent amount of spice. The food was fantastic, and so was the atmosphere. I suspected I was going to like the scene when I jump in line to place my order and Joy Division is coming through the speakers. We’ll definitely be back, and Chris said he’d be happy to grab take-out for us anytime he’s heading toward our place.
On a final note, today was my third time using my iPhone to plot my GPS data from a ski tour in place of my old handheld GPS unit. I’ve been using the MotionX-GPS app, and I’m totally sold. It only costs a few bucks, it does basically everything my old GPS unit did, and it makes it all 10 times easier. It’s so much more sensitive to picking up GPS signals as well – I can basically store it anywhere on my person or in my pack and the signal is fine. I really enjoy the feature of announcing your speed, distance and tour time at various intervals. Since it’s on my phone, which I’m carrying anyway, that means one less item I have to carry. Anyway, I’m sold, so if you’re looking for a GPS app for your phone that acts like a real GPS, check out MotionX-GPS.
“I dove in and encountered the kind of snow that makes you feel like the bottom of the world is falling out, and you’re dropping down an elevator shaft into infinitely deep feathers.”
Snow from Winter Storm Pluto was still pounding away when I arrived up at Bolton Valley’s Timberline area this morning. It was quiet, with just a couple other cars in the lot. The skin track up Twice as Nice wasn’t even in place yet, and I feared that I’d have to break trail, but fortunately Showtime had recently been groomed. It held about an inch of new snow over the packed base, and I was really thankful for the efforts of the groomers on that one.
I had time for a quick run down Spell Binder, and a probe on the skier’s right of the headwall revealed close to two feet of ridiculously fluffy Champlain Powder™. I dove in and encountered the kind of snow that makes you feel like the bottom of the world is falling out, and you’re dropping down an elevator shaft into infinitely deep feathers. So, yeah, last night’s snow analysis told the story, and the snow out there today was indeed incredibly dry.
Today’s ski session was great, but it really wasn’t the one I was expecting. Since E and the boys were off from school for a snow day, and I had some time in the morning, it seemed like a great chance to all get in some skiing together. My first inclination was to visit Bolton Valley, which is right on my way into Burlington and very convenient, but lifts weren’t opening until 10:00 A.M., which on the late side based on the time I had. So, we decided on Stowe, which opened at 8:00 A.M. However, what we found on the Mountain Road was traffic backed up all the way to Harvest Market. That’s miles away from the resort. I figured it had to be because of an accident, but people in touch with E indicated that it was just bumper to bumper all the way down from the resort. I’m not sure how long it would have taken to travel all those miles, but we didn’t really have the time to find out. We switched our plans to Bolton Valley, figuring we’d take at least a few runs, but winds were keeping the Vista Quad on hold, so the available terrain would be quite minimal. It was just one of those crazy days where getting us all together to ski was going to be a challenge.
So in the end, I wound up stopping at Bolton for some earned turns on my way into Burlington, just like I often do. It simply took me a lot longer than usual to get to that point. Fortunately, just as one would expect thanks to the recent visit from Winter Storm Orson, the snow is simply spectacular. I skinned up the usual Timberline route, and while there were some tracks on Twice as Nice from skiers who had visited earlier, it was still snowing big, fat, fluffy flakes, and their tracks were rapidly disappearing. Today seemed like a great day to make a run on Twice as Nice, and it delivered bottomless turns all the way. The depth of the powder I found there today was generally 8 to 10 inches at the Timberline Base elevation, with nearly a foot in may spots higher up. The density gradient of the powder was fantastic, since we’ve been getting some really light fluff on the back side of the storm. It was funny to come full circle back to what I probably would have done if E and the boys hadn’t had the day off, and while it was a crazy path getting me there, the quality of the turns was definitely worth it.
We’ve got Winter Storm Orson underway in the area this evening, and for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe we were able to enjoy the storm’s front end snow as it started to unload on Mt. Mansfield. Snowfall began around midday, and ramped up throughout the afternoon, so it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run. There were already a few inches of powder down ahead of the storm, consistent with what I’d seen at Bolton Valley yesterday, but it really wasn’t enough to keep you off the crusty subsurface snow in all cases. By the end of the afternoon though, there was a good half foot of powder or more above the crust depending on elevation, and that firm subsurface was starting to become a memory. Coming into the afternoon, the snow quality was already quite good in spots where skier traffic had pulverized the thick layer underneath, so that terrain was getting really fun.
For our tour of the mountain today we headed right over to Mt. Mansfield and kicked things off with a trip down Ravine. Some of the ice falls are hardly noticeable right now, which says a lot about the snowpack in mid-February. We headed to the Kitchen Wall, and then down through the Nosedive Glades to Nosedive, where we discovered that the microburst zone was actually open! No doubt that the deep snowpack is allowing that, but it’s the first time I’ve skied there extensively since it was closed. It’s really fun in there though, naturally it’s a bit more open than it was before, but it offers up some novel lines. One of my initial plans for today was to visit the Sunrise Glades, Chapel Glades, and Birch Glades in case lower-angle terrain was going to allow us to stay off the crusty subsurface snow. Even with conditions much better than I’d expected, that was still on the hit list, so we had an excellent trip through all those zones. We’d caught up with Nolan just before that during an Octagon break, and he joined us on his Telemark gear. We finished off the day back at Spruce Peak with some Sensation Quad runs, and had Spruce Line all to ourselves. The wind and snow were ripping up at the Spruce Peak Summit area, but down out of the wind in places like Green Acres, there was some excellent powder.
“…it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.”
As of this evening, we’ve picked up at least 8 to 9 inches down here at the house from Winter Storm Orson, and I expect tomorrow’s turns to be excellent. We’ve actually got the potential for another storm in just a couple of days, so we’ll be watching that one to see what it might deliver. The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake was already at roughly 80 inches today, and it should continue to climb this week.
In any event, I decided to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs to see just where conditions sit ahead of our next potential large winter storm (Winter Storm Orson) that is expected to start up tomorrow. Temperatures were down in the single digits F in the morning, so I waited until later in the afternoon to head up to Bolton Valley’s Timberline area. By then, the temperature was around the 20 F mark and it felt quite comfortable outside.
Watching the skiers below me as I rode the Timberline Quad, the groomed terrain seemed pretty nice, although I could certainly hear their turns, so that wasn’t a great sign. I dropped into Showtime myself and found some decent groomed snow along the skier’s left. My mid-fat Tele skis don’t have much for edges at this point, and I noticed it when I’d get to the occasional firmer spot. I could see that there was some nice powder in the Twice as Nice Woods, so I dropped off the edge of the trail and into the trees. Even though that terrain is roughly intermediate pitch, it was still a bit too steep for the amount of powder available. I was touching down on the dense layer below, and occasionally slipping out on it or breaking through. It was just too inconsistent to make for good skiing so I headed back to the groomed terrain of Showtime to finish my run.
On my next run I took Sure Shot and made my way to the lower angle slopes of the KP Glades. I was able to get some decent powder turns at times, but even there it was possible to bust through the dense layer and the skiing was still just too inconsistent. I finished out my run, and Timberline was closing anyway, but a couple of runs were enough to reveal that there really wasn’t much going on today with regard to off piste skiing. It’s good that we’ve got Winter Storm Orson coming into the area tomorrow because it should be able to get the off piste conditions back to something more consistent and typical for midwinter around here.
It’s been two days since Stowe’s “Big Friday” powder extravaganza, but we were definitely excited for the BJAMS ski program this afternoon knowing that the snow quality would be great and there would be plenty of untracked lines left in the lesser-used areas. The overall setup for the day looked quite comfortable, with temperatures around 30 F depending on elevation, and some snow from our next Alberta Clipper coming in near the end of the day.
We were with Nolan, Evan and Sophie again today, and with the snowpack now up to 76 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, I knew I could continue to introduce them to more of Stowe’s many off piste areas with no constraints. With that in mind, two areas that I had on my hit list were Angel Food and the Hazelton Zone. I started everyone off with Angel Food just in case folks were interested in going all the way down to Route 108, but the general consensus was to head back via the main traverse, so that’s as low as we went. We followed that up with a run on Chin Clip where Nolan and I worked on bump technique with all the kids. Chin Clip is in classic top-to-bottom bump mode right now and serves as a great spot for bump practice. After a Midway Lodge break we hit a combination of Nosedive Glades and Hazelton Zone. The streams down in the Hazelton Zone are generally well covered, but perhaps a bit less filled in than some seasons due to some stronger melt flows back in December and January.
We headed back to Spruce as the end of the day approached, and folks generally got on their way a bit early with the Super Bowl coming up in the evening, but Dylan and I decided to head off together and catch another powder run. We explored from the Spruce side down to Route 108 and found some really fun lines. We didn’t run into any other skiers, but we did find a group of ice climbers working on a small section of ice not far from the resort. We made our way back on one of the access roads to the houses they’re building right along Route 108, and got to see an up-close view of one of the huge ones that’s got some massive retaining walls built to accommodate the steep slopes down to the road. It can’t really have much of a yard with the way the terrain is so steep, but it’s got some amazing landscaping, architecture, and fantastic views of Mansfield.
Light snow began to hit the resort in the last hour or two of the day, and we’ve got snow accumulating here at the house this evening, so I’m sure they’ll have a bit of fresh to report from the resort in the morning.
There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week. As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct. We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order. What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area. Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.
“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”
From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning. E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later. From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere. Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder. I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats. For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day. It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow. We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.
Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E. We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season. Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season. The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge. I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito. They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!
After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area. We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation. A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season. Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.
It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it. We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.