I was attending the BJAMS Thanksgiving lunch with Dylan on Thursday, and that gave me a chance to check out how the snow was doing in some of the local mountains. From what I saw at both Stowe and Bolton Valley, the natural snow was just a bit too thin for skiing, but it was getting close. As of Friday morning though, the mountains had picked up a few more inches, and today I had a chance to head back up to Bolton Valley to see if the slopes were ready for some turns.
“…with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.”
I headed up for a ski tour at the mountain this morning because it seemed the best part of the day to catch some winter snow before warming temperatures affected it. At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snow depth is similar to what we’ve got here at the house – generally 1 to 2 inches. As the recent snow reports from the local ski resorts suggested, there wasn’t a massive increase in snowfall amounts with elevation from our storm earlier this week. Snow depths increased slowly as I headed up the access road, with about 2” at the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign (1,000’), 2-3” at the Timberline Base (1,500’), and then 3-4” around 2,000’ in the Bolton Valley Village.
There were a few other skiers in the Village who were coming and going on tours, so that seemed like a good sign that the snow was decent. Indeed, as I headed up Lower Turnpike, the snow depth increased to a half foot at the 2,500’ level. I had actually planned for a quick tour up to ~2,500’ if the snow wasn’t that good, but with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.
Below I’ve got a summary of what I saw for snow depths today with respect to elevation:
There was a crust on the snow in places, and I couldn’t figure out the trend in its distribution for a while, but I eventually figured out that areas with the most northwest exposure has the most crust. The crust wasn’t actually too thick, so it was still fairly easy to ski the snow there, but there’s no doubt that the very best turns were in the crust-free zones – the snow was smooth, mid-weight powder in those areas. I had some really nice turns on parts of Sherman’s Pass, and probably the day’s best on Work Road, but Lower Turnpike offered the longest consistent lines.
Our protracted stretch of pleasantly warm and sunny weather has continued this week, and it’s allowed the ground to dry to the point that on Tuesday, I headed out for a mountain bike ride to sample some of local terrain by the house and into town. Indeed even some of the typically wettest terrain down by the Winooski was dry enough for riding, so things are ready on that front, but after seeing Powderfreak’s ski report from yesterday at Stowe, it reminded me that I should probably get back out on the slopes while the snow is available. I can still see bright areas of white snow on the slopes of Bolton Valley from my office in Burlington, but from that distance it’s hard to know exactly how continuous the coverage is. I popped up the image from the Bolton Valley Web Cam and could see that there were only patches of coverage on Beech Seal on the bottom half of the mountain, but it looked as if the snow at the bottom of Bear Run might be stretching upward for some substantial coverage.
I headed up to the resort with plans to at least get in a hike, since the areas without snow already looked pretty dry. I saw the first signs of snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road at the base of Timberline at 1,500’, and it was clearly leftovers of manmade snow. Up in the Village it was very quiet, and I’d thought about getting a sandwich from the Deli, but it was closed. This is probably one of the quietest times of the year, so I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising. I took a quick walk up to the slopes and could see that Spillway had some large areas of snow, and it was enough to suggest that I should throw my skis on my pack and bring them along.
The visible snow near the base that appeared to head up to Bear Run was the start of a reasonably long section that went about halfway up the trail, and from there to Mid Mountain the coverage was a lot more fractured or nonexistent. Above Mid Mountain I began to hike toward Spillway, since I’d seen the snow up there, but once I saw far more substantial coverage on Sherman’s Pass, I switched my route in that direction. I stopped my ascent at around 2,600’ near the top of the steeper Sherman’s Pass terrain above Mid Mountain, since there was another gap in coverage at that point.
For the descent, I found that the snow definitely had some sun cups and dirty areas, but there were a variety of areas with decent turns, and the coverage there basically brought me down to Mid Mountain before I took off my skis to connect to the lower half of Bear Run. That bottom part of Bear Run offered the longest stretch of continuous snow, and it carried me to within about 50 yards of the base lodge. With Bolton’s western exposure and more limited snowmaking than some of the larger resorts, May turns are often spotty, and this year was fairly typical in that regard. Based on what I saw, today’s turns were likely my last of the season at Bolton Valley, so that’s probably it until the fall. There’s a ton of snow left at Stowe and some of the other resorts around, so hopefully I can get out to some of those spots for more turns this month.
“Up top there I found 6-7″ of fluff in those areas out of the wind, and I measured 9″ on the corner of Peggy Dow’s at that entrance to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.”
The lifts were just opening up as I got my gear together at the house, and the snowfall outside had really picked up as I finally got on my way up to the hill; there was a steady moderate snow coming down with some decent dendrites and clumps of flakes. It was very dry, fluffy snow, but it was coming down at a pace that you’d need to use the wipers on the car to clear it off when the vehicle wasn’t in motion. The snow continued at a steady clip right along through Bolton Flats, and visibility was around ¼ mile. Snowfall intensity was similar up at 2,100′ in the Bolton Valley Village, and a quick check in the parking lot there revealed a couple inches of fluff.
“I measured 5-6″ there, and between that and extra snow that people had pushed over there from their skiing, buoyancy was good and I was getting mostly bottomless turns with just my midfats.”
I rode the Vista Quad, and aside from the new snow, you could see that Spillway on that front face was just a glaciated mess of windswept ice. I don’t believe it was open, but it didn’t look like anything people would really want to ski anyway under the conditions. Getting off at the Vista Summit (~3,150′), I went straight ahead into the open area there to get a depth measurement in the undisturbed snow, and found 4-5″. That was certainly encouraging. I descended via Alta Vista, and there was some excellent snow along the skier’s left where it usually settles in. I measured 5-6″ there, and between that and extra snow that people had pushed over there from their skiing, buoyancy was good and I was getting mostly bottomless turns with just my midfats. The snow depth gradually tapered down as you descended to the lower elevations, but I headed over toward Wilderness and finished off my run on Lower Turnpike, and even 3-4″ was enough for bottomless turns on that pitch.
The Wilderness Chair was running, so I took a run on that as well. Up top there I found 6-7″ of fluff in those areas out of the wind, and I measured 9″ on the corner of Peggy Dow’s at that entrance to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. I worked my way into the Wilderness Woods, and the skiing was OK, but without that smoothly groomed base, the subsurface was just too uneven for the smoothest skiing or consistent floating. I quickly made my way back out onto Lower Turnpike for those smoother powder turns. With the lift open, Lower Turnpike had seen more traffic though, so getting untracked lines was becoming more difficult. And, this new snow is so light and dry that it doesn’t have a ton of staying power with respect to skier traffic – you really don’t want more than second tracks for decent powder turns because beyond that level of traffic you’ll find yourself essentially skiing on the subsurface.
The snowfall had just about shut off by the time I finished that run on Wilderness, and based on what I’d found, it seemed like a good time to call it a morning. The best of the untracked snow on groomed runs had been skied, and it wasn’t quite prime time for the off piste. As I was taking off my skis in that little snowy landing area down below the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery, an older gentleman came by, having just finished his morning of turns. He was talking about how he was done for the day, having skied the best part of it. It was obvious that we were on the same wavelength, and the fact that the snowfall had stopped really amplified the sentiment.
I stopped off at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab a sandwich, and chatted with Ian behind the counter after he inquired about my camera. He was curious if I worried about falling and damaging it while skiing. I let him know that I do actually fall frequently enough when I’ve got the camera with me, but fortunately it was built like a tank and made for exactly what I was doing with it.
It looks like we’ve got a more significant storm coming this weekend; there’s some mixed precipitation expected, but a good shot of liquid equivalent as well, so it could help with some resurfacing of the slopes.
It started snowing last night on the front end of our current storm system, and although we only had about a half inch of snow here at the house, the mountains picked up a good 3 to 4 inches containing some real substance. I hadn’t prepared much of our gear ahead of time since I was unsure whether or not this storm was going to deliver, but everyone got up and rolling pretty quickly once we’d made the decision to hit the mountain. I checked the Bolton Valley website for the latest on the lifts and trails, and our timing was looking good because lifts didn’t start running until 9:00 A.M. It really feels like it’s a holiday today because we’re so close to Christmas and school is out for E and the boys, but at for the resort it was just a standard midweek day. We don’t get to ski a lot of those though, so we were excited for that.
Precipitation had been a light mix of snow and rain, but it had generally tapered off by the time we arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village. I dropped E and the boys off at the Village circle and was able to easily grab a parking spot right in the top lot because there were only a couple dozen cars in total. Apparently today really was just another midweek day. I met E and the boys near the back of the base lodge and we headed up to Vista for a run.
As we rode the lift you could immediately see that the resort had been plastered with snow overnight. The evergreens had a fresh coat of white that added yet another layer on top of all the rime and snow they already held, the groomed slopes looked great, and even the off piste was supplying quiet turns. It wasn’t until we got near Spillway that we could hear skiers contacting the subsurface, so we knew that the new snow wasn’t quite enough to support bottomless turns on the steepest pitches. Temperatures were comfortable at just a few degrees below freezing, but there was a stiff wind as we got into the higher elevations.
I’d read that Schuss was the run of the day, so for our first run we headed down Alta Vista to make our way toward Schuss. There was a bit of scouring at the very top of Alta Vista, but below that the groomed snow was excellent. Of to the skier’s left we found several inches of fresh powder, with as much as a foot in some spots. We’d been prepared to just take a run or two if the conditions weren’t that great, but it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen; the conditions were simply fantastic. Down on Schuss we did come in contact with the base in some spots since it’s quite a steep trail, but fresh snow was plentiful as there was only a track or two or two before we got there. On the lower mountain we caught Bull run to Moose Run to Glades, and the trails were either totally untracked or had a track or two on them. Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what those midweek days are like. As we hit the last hundred or so feet of vertical above the base lodge, you could really feel the snow starting to get a bit wet, so the freezing level must have been rising.
On our next ride up the Vista Quad, Dylan proposed that we each take turns picking a route to ski, so Ty went next. He followed up with another trip down Alta Vista, taking us through the lower parts of Vista Glades, and then finally over to Fanny Hill. We really got to rip up the powder there along the skier’s right, dodging in and out of the trees. I stuck with Ty in that powder right along the edge, and by the bottom of the run my legs were definitely getting cooked from Telemark turns.
Dylan’s run choice was next, and he stuck with an Alta Vista start, eventually brining us to Sleepy Hollow. He’d wanted to get in there on our first run, but now that everyone was warmed up, we were ready to rip through those trees. If anyone had been in there up to that point, they must have been few and far between, because it looked like the whole glade was untracked. I directed the group to some lines I know off to the left, and some seriously good turns were had by all. There was no problem with the new snow keeping us off the base on those pitches. Kudos go out to Dylan for a great run choice.
The fourth run was E’s selection, and she really didn’t have much of a preference aside from visiting the Glades run again; she’d really started to connect with her Tele turns there and wanted to get more of that type of terrain. So, for the upper mountain we dropped into Show Off, and we got images of the boys skiing around the rock with the big smiley face on it. On the upper half of Snow Off, the pitch was steep enough that we were making contact with the base snow, but on the bottom half of the run, the pitch had mellowed just enough to let us float through our turns quite well. Glades was nice and still held plenty of untracked snow, although the snow on the bottom half was starting to get a bit wet as the freezing level seemed to have risen.
It was approaching midday after that run and we broke for lunch at the James Moore Tavern next. The bar was hopping, but there were only a few tables with people at them. I had their grilled tuna sandwich, which was nicely done, although I’d probably opt out of the Dijon mustard-style sauce next time since it’s not one of my favorite flavors. Dylan got the homemade macaroni and cheese, and in his case he definitely had to get it with the optional bacon. I tried some and it was really good… and really rich. We had enough extra that I even had to run leftovers down to the car.
We decided to take a final run after lunch to see how the Wilderness area was doing. We took the Vista route over, but were surprised to see that the Wilderness lift was actually running. That meant that the terrain wasn’t quite as untracked as it might have been with just Vista access, but there was we caught some good lines on Work Road and in Wilderness Woods. The freezing line had continued to creep upward though, so the quality of turns in the lowest elevations had dropped a bit more.
There’s no doubt that the morning offered the best turns of the day today, and that was the time to be out because they were really good. Temperatures are going to be warm with this system for the next couple of day before they cool down, so some snow will be required at the point to get surfaces back to something soft. There are some chances for snow though over the next week, so we’ll see what falls.
On the way home this afternoon, I stopped in at the mountain to make a few turns and check out the conditions in association with today’s new snow. Even in the mountains, temperatures rose above freezing yesterday on the front end of our current storm system, and that was likely to mean firm snow surfaces as the temperatures came back down today. Fortunately some snow also fell on the back side of the system, and Bolton Valley was reporting 4 inches as of this morning. Depending on the density of those 4 inches of snow, and how they fell, they could make for some nice skiing.
“…I got to side of the trail and found out that indeed there were 3 to 4 inches of dense snow covering the old base. And, it skied quite nicely.”
The skies were overcast today with on and off snow in the mountains and rain/snow in the valleys. Temperatures were hovering around 35 F in the Winooski Valley as I made my way eastward into the mountains, but once I arrived up in the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100′, the temperature was in the upper 20s F and grainy snow was falling. The clouds were low, sinking right down to the elevation of the Village, and combined with precipitation and late-day December light, visibility was very poor. The clouds only seemed to get thicker as I ascended on the Vista Quad, and if the visibility wasn’t already low enough, rime was precipitating out of the clouds and forming on everything… including my goggles. There was a brisk northwest wind in effect by the time I got to the Vista Summit, and temperatures must have been in the low 20s F – it was feeling extremely wintry up there.
“…I think that run was even better because I knew where all the best pockets of powder were hiding.”
From the lift, my initial impressions of the skiing weren’t all that favorable – I could hear the sounds of snowboarders on Butterscotch, and it didn’t sound good. But, once I actually got on the snow and got down through the windswept areas above Sherman’s Pass on my first run, I got to side of the trail and found out that indeed there were 3 to 4 inches of dense snow covering the old base. And, it skied quite nicely. I could smoothly glide right through the powder without hitting anything underneath. I found this same snow on the edges all along Sherman’s, and I was surprised at how much snow had been left untracked at the end of the day. I guess traffic had been somewhat lighter since it was a midweek day. The snow was good, but what made the skiing challenging was the visibility. If you ever wanted to work on your balance while skiing, this afternoon’s low light and fog as dusk approached would get you there. The visibility was the main consideration when I was thinking about taking that next run, but indeed the snow had been good enough that I headed up the lift for another. I took the same route, and even though the light had faded to darkness and the night skiing lights were all that was available, I think that run was even better because I knew where all the best pockets of powder were hiding.
I definitely give a thumbs up for this latest round of snow in terms of covering up the old base, and it sounds like Powderfreak’s impressions at Stowe were very much the same. It looks like this is going to be about it for snow chances until we get into a storm next week, but fortunately there’s some decent powder out there. It should have plenty of staying power based on its density.
“The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base.”
Temperatures were in the upper 30s F down in the Winooski Valley with light rain/mist, and as I headed westward through Bolton Flats, the intensity of the precipitation picked up. The rain changed over to snow at ~1,200’ on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and first signs of new snow accumulation were at the Timberline Base at 1,500’. I suspect that accumulations had reached lower based on that image that PF showed earlier from 800’ in Nashville, but it seemed like the snow line had already risen a bit by the time I was up there. As I continued to ascend the road beyond the Timberline Base, the deciduous trees took on a picturesque coating of white, and gradually the ground began to fill in with white as well.
The Village was quiet as is typical for late April, and as I pulled into the upper lot near the base lodge, I saw a skier just returning to his car after a run. We chatted for a bit, and he said that he’d just come down Cobrass and that the skiing was great. I looked around and saw what looked to be about an inch of fresh snow atop all surfaces, and even the base snow appeared to be soft. Unsure of exactly what I was going to find, I’d brought both fat and mid fat Tele skis, and after finding out how soft the subsurfaces were, I felt confident that going with the fatter AMPerages was the call. I strapped on skins and headed upward, just as another car with three skiers arrived to take the place of the lone skier that had just left.
Light snow continued to fall as I began skinning up above the lodge, and I could see that skier traffic had been very light. There were signs of just a couple of skiers that had skinned up in the new snow, and a couple of addition sets of footprints from people that had hiked. As I was ascending near the top of Beech Seal, a skier passed me on his descent, and I definitely liked the sound of his turns… or more appropriately, the lack of sound as he came by. That quiet schuss was a good sign regarding the subsurface below the new snow, and I with the good coverage I saw, I made a note to consider Beech Seal on that part of the descent. At Mid Mountain the depth of the new snow was about 2”, and I continued over toward Cobrass on my ascent to see what that other skier had experienced. I don’t think I’ve ascended Cobrass yet this spring, so it also gave me a chance to use that route. I could see the other skier’s descent track, and pretty quickly I knew that descending Cobrass was not going to be the call for me. With its southern and western exposures, there was just too little base in various spots. I suspected things would be much better on a trail with northern exposure. I could see that the Cobrass Café picnic table had reappeared from its winter burial; it’s been looking a bit worse for wear over the past couple of seasons, but it’s hanging in there.
At the Vista Summit, I checked the depth of new snow again, and it was right around 3”. There were actually no tracks of any kind over near the patrol house or the top of the Vista Quad, and it was just pristine snow, so I suspected that whatever trail I chose, I’d be able to get first tracks. I downed a GU and some water, switched over to descent mode, and headed down Alta Vista. Aside from the wind scoured section along the skier’s right at the top, the base coverage was wall to wall, and the new snow on top was wholly untracked. The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base. I was very happy with my ski choice, as the AMPerages were in their element – I was planing pretty quickly atop the dense snow, and had a lot of fun drifting some of my turns. The new snow was only partially bonded to the subsurface, so you could easily let it slide as much as you wanted as you sloughed the snow away.
I thought about a number of options once I was down to Sherman’s Pass, but stuck with Sherman’s because I was sure of the base snow. It also meant that I could catch Beech Seal, which I knew was a sure thing. The turns on the lower half of the mountain were good, and certainly soft, but the upper half of the mountain took the prize for conditions. The temperature had risen at the base since I’d started my tour, and I could see that much of the snow had melted out of the deciduous trees down at the Village elevations as I departed. The snow line had risen another few hundred feet as I was heading back down the mountain, so it was definitely one of those days to get at it sooner rather than later. It’s actually continued to be a slow April in terms of snowfall, but the forecast does show the potential for additional shots of snow in the midweek period and then next weekend, so we’ll see if we get anything like this event in the next several days.
“Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind.”
The temperature was still in the low 20s F when I rolled into the Bolton Valley Village this morning, and it looked like midwinter as much as it did mid April. I began skinning right up the well established skin track on Beech Seal, and as one might expect from a well consolidated skin track, it meant that the surrounding slopes had seen plenty of ski traffic. There were some nice looking turns out there though – I saw some beautiful, smooth looking powder turns in the low-angle terrain coming out of the Jungle Jib terrain park. New snow depths and ski conditions were fairly similar to what we found yesterday at Stowe – I found 3 to 5 inches of new snow on the lower half of the mountain, and around a half foot up top near Vista Peak. Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind. In the usual spots, the new powder was scoured down to the crusty surface below, so I could see that it was going to be one of those days where choosing aspect, trail, and trail side, was going to be extremely important in seeking out the best powder turns.
“Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder.”
The skin track took me up Sherman’s, Schuss, and finally Alta Vista, to where I stopped just below the top of the Vista Quad beneath where the snow was all scoured away. The skier’s left of Alta Vista offered up some nice powder turns, although I still encountered some areas of wind-packed snow. I ventured off into the lower reaches of Vista Glades, and found some smooth turns there, since the snow was generally protected. Having seen so many tracks and plenty of wind affecting the trails above the base lodge, I headed over toward Wilderness for the bottom part of my run. Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder. Like yesterday, the turns weren’t completely bottomless, but there were still a lot of them, and I was happy to have the AMPerages and their floatation to help out. The Village was still incredibly quiet as I was heading back to my car, but I did run into Josh as he was heading into the office. He’s already getting ready for next season, enjoying a quieter scene now that the lifts have stopped. Based on the snow that’s up there though, there’s still plenty of skiing to be done this season.
We’ve had some decent temperatures to get the corn snow cycle going over the past week, and this weekend has been much better than last weekend in terms of warming up the snow on the slopes. Yesterday was pretty nice in terms of weather, but today was even warmer, and the sky was crystal clear. In terms of the mountain snowpack, Stowe is looking great down to pretty low elevations based on Powderfreak’s latest pictures, but I know the snow at Bolton Valley isn’t going to last as long due to its western exposure and late-day heating. With that in mind, I decided to make it a Bolton tour today, and since I haven’t been up since my April 14th tour at Timberline, it was a good time to check on the snow situation at the local hill.
“I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal…”
I headed up in the late afternoon, with valley temperatures around 70 F. There’s no visible snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road until one reaches the 1,500’ elevation, where there’s a big patch at the base of the Timberline area. There’s really not much snow visible on the Timberline trails below the 2,250’ elevation though, and I suspect most of what is there is leftover manmade snow. After passing Timberline, I next saw natural snow appearing a bit below the 2,000’ elevation as I approached the Village. Temperatures were in the low 60s F up at the main base area, and on the slopes in that area there’s snow right down to the main base lodge, but it’s not continuous on all trails. I had to walk a couple hundred feet in the flats above the lodge before I could put on my skins and ascend Beech Seal. From there on up though, the snow is basically continuous on Beech Seal, Sprig O’ Pine, Sherman’s Pass, and Spillway right to the Vista Summit. I took the Sherman’s Pass ascent, and there is some pretty dirty snow in protected areas that haven’t seen much sun. That sun was glorious today though, and I definitely brought along the sunscreen because we’re talking about an August-like sun angle now. On the upper half of the mountain, there’s actually a good mix of manmade and natural snow options, although the trails that received manmade snow are the ones that will really give you those continuous runs with good snow coverage. I stopped my ascent at the Vista Summit right beyond the top of Spillway Lane, ripped off my skins, and got into descent mode. There was just the slightest breeze, but the wind turbine was making good use of it and spinning along.
There are some sun cups starting to form that make the snow surface uneven in spots, but Spillway has smooth options just about everywhere so you can get in some really nice turns. Spillway’s steep pitch felt good as usual, and the snow is indeed nice after this week’s corn cycling. I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal; perhaps the lower elevation let it warm a bit more than what’s up on Spillway. In any event, the softening was far superior to what we experienced last weekend on either Saturday or Sunday – those temperatures were just a bit to cool to get things to where I found them today at Bolton. At the bottom of my run, I took off my skis and threw them back on my pack to walk through the couple big broken patches of snow in the flats above the lodge, but you can essentially ski all of the ~1,000’ of vertical on the main mountain for now. There’s no snow or even cool temperatures in the forecast this week; it looks fairly mild and sunny, so I’m not sure what the situation will be on the mountain next weekend. There will still be snow for skiing, but I don’t think it will be continuous with the melting that could take place in the sunny, warm afternoons we look to have on tap in the coming days.