Tag Archives: Skiing

Stowe, VT 07FEB2016

An image of a snowy evergreen by the Cliff House on Mt. Mansfield at the top of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Although it hasn’t been especially wintry by any stretch of the imagination in Northern Vermont this week – the area below The Chin of Mt. Mansfield still seems to produce when it comes to snow.

I typically start off my daily ski trip reports with some discussion of the recent winter storms and how they played out with respect to the local powder and snowpack. This week though, there’s really not much to cover in that regard. Our most recent storm of note was last Saturday, which definitely offered up some powder for my visit to Bolton Valley, and then Sunday featured slightly milder temperatures that produced some nice soft snow on piste at Spruce Peak. Since then though, snowfall has really been flat.

We’ve cooled down somewhat since earlier last week, but that’s not a great recipe for good conditions without some new snow to soften things up. Nonetheless, today was a BJAMS ski program day at Stowe, so we headed off for our usual Sunday afternoon session. Today E decided to promote “service with a smile”, one of the themes from Catholic Schools Week, by assembling the student groups according to grade level instead of ability. The goal was to let the more advanced students in each group help the others work on their skiing. I was with Dave today coaching the fifth graders, which included Dylan, Molly, Calvin, and Ryan. I went with my Telemark skis since I figured I’d be able to handle everything at Molly’s pace, and it was my only outing for the weekend so I wanted to maximize my workout.

An image of the ice rink in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out some of the facilities surrounding the new ice rink in the Spruce Peak Village while the kids take an early run before our ski program

There’s really not much one can do to sugarcoat a description of the general on-piste conditions though; although not quite at the level of “we just had a massive rainstorm and moonscape-generating flash freeze”, 80-90% of the trails were still heinously icy. I’d say some of the worst culprits we visited were Cliff Trail, Upper Nosedive, and Perry Merrill. Cliff Trail was insanely bad, simply due to its narrowness combined with the fact that its snow settles in like a half pipe and there are very few spots along the edges of trail to actually ski – in most spots trying to ski the edge means attempting to ride a huge double fall line.

An image showing four inches of snow near the Cliff House on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.Fortunately there were some bright spots out there with decent, and at times even excellent, snow. The lower half of Spruce Peak had some nice spots, presumably due to being low enough in elevation and south facing to get the snow softening a bit. I’d say the very best snow of the day was from 3,000’ on up at the Gondola. Roughly 4 inches of recent snow had accumulated up there, and the powder along the edges of the trails and even the snow that people had pushed there was just so superior to most of what was available on the mountain. I will say that even in the worst of weather patterns, it’s hard to keep those upper elevations below The Chin down when it comes to snow. That area is an absolute snow magnet and skiing there definitely reminds one of what good snow is like. There were also plenty of areas with excellent snow along the edges of trails that had built up over the course of the day. In some cases you could go for dozens and dozens of turns and not even have to think about hitting any ice, but those accumulations along the trail edges can be hit or miss – sometimes they just disappear and you’re left dealing with the regular trail surface

“I’d say the very best snow of the day was from 3,000’ on up at the Gondola. Roughly 4 inches of recent snow had accumulated up there, and the powder along the edges of the trails and even the snow that people had pushed there was just so superior to most of what was available on the mountain.”

In any event, the kids did really well in terms of working on their short radius turns to ride the trail edges and stay in the good snow. Ryan had an especially good section on Lower Nosedive that left me very impressed. One goal was for the students who were more advanced in their skiing to help their peers by simply serving as models for those who were learning. Dylan did a great job in that regard by showing everyone just how tight turns can be when skiing those trail edges.

Fortunately we don’t have to ski next weekend because there’s no ski program due to the holiday, so perhaps Mother Nature will get her act together over the next couple of weeks to bring the conditions up to par for the second half of February. We do have some days of snow coming this week based on the forecast. There aren’t any big storms on the horizon, so we’ll have to see what the mountains do with the more modest events that are currently in the pipeline.

Stowe, VT 31JAN2016

An image of Jay, Jack, Emma, and Dylan on the Meadows Quad Chair at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today was Jack and Emma’s first time riding the Meadows Chair and exploring some of the Meadows terrain during the BJAMS ski program at Stowe.

E was short on instructors for our BJAMS ski program at Stowe today, so I took on a different group than my usual cadre of experts. I was with Jack, Emma, and Nolan, who are beginner skiers making generally wedge turns. Dylan came along to help me, and Nolan’s brother Lucas was also able to assist. Although our three beginning students have ridden the Inspiration Chair already, I started them off by ascending the small slope up to the magic carpet to let the kids work on edging. We proceeded with a couple of magic carpet runs to check speed control and wedge turns. That went swimmingly, so we moved to Inspiration and worked on wedge turns until everyone had successfully complete the short course of gates that was set up there. Then, it was on to the Meadows Chair.

Today’s visit to the Meadows Chair was the first for Jack and Emma, so naturally that was very exciting for them. Nolan was able to stick with his brother Lucas, which meant that Dylan and I were able to work with the others and give them specific attention. We took the easiest route down from the top of the Meadows Chair, which included some of the gentle terrain features (banked slalom, humps, spines) that the resort has set up for beginners. Both of the kids did a great job (Jack loves the banked slalom), and this was aided by the superb snow conditions that were available today – temperatures in the 30s F created snow that was beautifully soft but not mushy. Jack and Emma are both pretty much at the Stem Christi stage now, and I was able to start working with Emma on that during our last run after Jack had to leave. She’s in fact already done those types of turns before and is certainly ready to improve upon them, so I think she’ll only be incorporating more and more parallel components into her skiing as the next few weeks progress.

It looks like the coming week will be generally mild with some mixed precipitation, so I suspect the slopes will generally be soft until temperatures drop to more February-like levels. At that point surfaces will likely tighten up, so hopefully plenty of new snow will be on the way.

Bolton Valley, VT 30JAN2016

An image of the Wilderness Chairlift at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Catching some powder beneath Bolton Valley’s Wilderness Chair today

The local ski resorts along the Green Mountain Spine from Stowe to Middlebury were reporting 3-5” inches of new this morning thanks to an Alberta Clipper that moved through the area. The snow was reasonably dense based on my analyses here at the house, and early reports from the slopes indicated that the skiing was quite good with the infusion of the new snowfall. I was busy much of the day, but by midafternoon I decided that I could head up to Bolton Valley for a few turns.

The Village was looking pretty wintry when I arrived, with some fresh snow and rime covering all the trees. The temperature was around 30 F at the base as I hopped on the Vista Quad and headed to the summit. There was a slight breeze up there, but it was another one those generally comfortable days of which we’ve been having a lot this season. I started my run down Alta Vista and found the snow pretty tired as one might expect at the end of a weekend day. The center 80% of the trail was pretty scratchy, and the skier’s left that usually holds the best snow was reasonably soft, but certainly not up to the level that I often find it. I made my way over to Wilderness to see how the powder was faring, and on the traverse over found 16”-17” in protected areas in the 2,600’-2,700’ range. Aside from the areas that had been hit by the wind, I found some sweet bottomless turns on the Wilderness Liftline. I wanted to explore around the mountain a bit more, but that was definitely worth coming back to depending on what else was available. The available powder lessened a bit as I descended to areas where traffic increased and less snow had fallen, but I still found some good untracked snow in spots along the skier;s left of Lower Turnpike.

An image of the snow depth at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont

Snow depths seemed decent for some exploration in some of modest-angle off piste areas, so I set my sights on the Village Trees area for the next run. Unfortunately patrol had already closed off the Cobrass area as they were switching over to night skiing mode, so I couldn’t head that way. I checked out some options as I continued on Sherman’s Pass, but any thoughts of Hard Luck had pretty much passed by the time I’d made my first lift ride – I could hear the sound of skis scraping across the icy surface there all the way from the lift, and that’s never a good sign. Not spotting any other obvious routes that seemed to be able to top what I’d already skied, I found my way over to Wilderness again and scored another great run with powder. This time I stayed on the Wilderness Liftline and worked the snow along the edges; the powder tapered down as on the previous run on Lower Turnpike, but it was available up to the point where I merged back toward the Vista trails.

I grabbed a couple of Fireside Flatbread pies for E and the boys, and slowed a bit to check out the snow down at Timberline on my way home. Coverage looked decent, and it would probably be worth a look to see what the powder was like. They did have the shuttle bus running and I saw a few skiers descending, but I’ll have to wait until my next visit if I want to get over there. Hopefully we’ll get some decent storms as we head into February to finally get the base depths at Timberline up to where they need to be.

Stowe, VT 24JAN2016

An image of ski tracks in powder at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The powder from our early week storm was still holding up well at Stowe today, although we did have to travel around a bit to get to it.

We had another beautiful midwinter day on tap today, so I planned to make good use of it with my BJAMS ski group at Stowe. It’s been a few days since our most recent snowstorm, but from my tour yesterday on the Bolton Valley backcountry network, I knew that the powder was holding up well. The only trick on a Sunday afternoon of course was to pay a visit to those lesser-used spots at the resort to get the kids some fresh tracks.

My group today was Ty, Dylan, Luc, Jonah, and Elizabeth, and after they took a quick warm-up run on Sunny Spruce, we met up and headed right over to the Gondola. We worked our way down into the Nosedive Glades, knowing that the main lines would be pretty tracked up at this point, but the snow would be of much higher quality than what would generally be available on piste. The snow was good, and there were still lots of untracked areas to be found if you wanted to venture around a bit of the beaten path, but I knew we’d find plenty of untracked snow on the southern end of the resort so we didn’t belabor the searching at that point. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Nosedive had been hit with a massive amount of manmade snow. There were huge 10-15-foot snow wales all down the slope, and the kids love playing on those, but they were also very impressed with the surface conditions. Instead of worn down scratchy surfaces, everything was chalky manmade, and although not quite as good as natural packed powder, it was really quite pleasant. You could hold an edge anywhere you wanted.

After a trip up the Fourrunner Quad we made our way to the lower angle glades on the southern end of the resort. There will still plenty of areas with untracked snow in the in the Chapel Glades/Birch Glades area, but we continued below that down to the Toll House for long run through the trees with almost limitless powder. The Toll House is a great place to when much of the resort is tracked out, but it’s especially good right now with the snowpack a bit on the low side and Stowe’s steepest glades still a bit too bony for safe skiing.

An image of an ice sculpture at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The winner of the ice sculpture contest with some impressively spindly legs!

After a good powder session in the Toll House trees (and even trails) we headed back to the Spruce Peak Village in time to make the hot chocolate and s’mores session. They’ve got it right alongside the new ice rink, and it’s a great setting. I took a tour around the rink and surrounding structures and they’ve got some really nice spots for gatherings and events, including a barn-like building at the south end of the rink with a huge fireplace. After our break I took one more run with the kids on Sunny Spruce where we went to some of our favorite powder stashes off the west end of the mountain, and the snow was still holding up well. I’m still impressed at how eminently skiable most of the trees are despite the low snowpack. More snow will obviously continue to open more lines but with the moderate to even semi-steep terrain that we were able to ski today, it’s hard to complain.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 23JAN2016

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Girl's trail on the backcountry skiing network at Bolton Valley ski resort in Vermont
The snowpack may be low for this time of year, but you’d never know it based on the great powder skiing I found today on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.

Thanks to a storm affecting the Northern Greens in the first half of the week, we picked up nearly a foot of snow at our house in Waterbury, and some of the local peaks picked up more than a foot and a half of the white stuff. The new snow I measure here at the house was super dry, with densities as low as 1-2% H2O, so it’s settled quite a bit over the past few days. I’m sure the same thing was going on in the mountains, but it’s been seasonably cold and I knew that the powder out there would be well preserved and ready to offer up some potentially fantastic turns.

I was busy with a bunch of work at the house today, but with the recent powder, a solid base below it, and afternoon blue skies with temperatures in the 20s F, it was just too nice of day not to get out. I decided to head to the mountain for a quick backcountry tour up to Bryant Cabin and down through some of numerous glades below it. The resort was really hoppin’ with visitors, and with the gorgeous afternoon and people probably making up for lost ski time during out slow December, it wasn’t surprising. Fortunately, I was quickly able to get a parking spot right along the Nordic trails in one of the tennis court lots.

I got on my way and checked the depth of the powder at Village level. Bolton Valley had reported 18 inches from the storm in their higher elevations, and I found that settled powder depths today at ~2,000’ were 10-12 inches. I could see that coverage was excellent as I skinned my way up the Bryant Trail; there really aren’t any concerns about bare spots on the main routes at this point. Up at the cabin at ~2,700 I found that the depth of the powder had bumped up a couple of inches to the 12-14” range. It was a gorgeous time to be out on the trails in that last hour before sunset, and I saw a few other Nordic and backcountry skiers out there enjoying the scene as well.

“I’ve got to say, you know the Northern Greens are a pretty sweet spot for snow when we’re currently running in the bottom 5% of ski seasons on terms of snowfall, and there’s still plentiful base and powder for midwinter-quality powder skiing.”

I took a descent route through several of my favorite glades in the North Slope/Gardiner’s Lane area including Grizzwald and Girl’s, others that I’m not sure of the names, and still others that I don’t think have names because they’re likely just areas of the forest that are naturally appropriate for skiing. The powder turns were fantastic; the base is plenty deep and the amount of powder for even blue and black pitches was plenty for bottomless floatation on my fat skis. I’ve got to say, you know the Northern Greens are a pretty sweet spot for snow when we’re currently running in the bottom 5% of ski seasons on terms of snowfall, and there’s still plentiful base and powder for midwinter-quality powder skiing. I suspect the very steepest terrain is probably not quite there yet in terms of coverage, but from what I skied, you’d almost never even guess that snowpack is only in the 2 to 3-foot range. The only hints I had that things weren’t quite at the typical Northern Greens midwinter depth were those instances where you might feel a slight pressure/bump where a log sits under the base, vs. never even knowing it exists. In any event, the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network is in great shape, so get out and enjoy it. There’s certainly something to be said for having the base elevation above 2,000’.

An image of a ski line with powder snow in the Girl's area of the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I really didn’t find much underbrush on a lot of powder lines today; they were looking in midwinter form.

I managed to catch fresh tracks through various glades and tree areas all the way down to the bottom of World Cup, and then skied out and hiked to the Village to order up some sandwiches and pizza to bring back for E and the boys. They were busy and/or tired today so I didn’t pressure them much to head up to the mountain, especially since I was unsure of the conditions, but I definitely let them know how great it was when I got back.

Stowe, VT 18JAN2016

An image of Erica skiing some deep snow in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Mother Nature has been dropping a lot of snow on Mansfield as of late, and the powder continues to build up.

We’re in the midst of a fairly snowy stretch here in the Northern Greens, and thanks to the MLK holiday, E and the boys and I were able to head to Stowe for some skiing today. They’d reported up to 4 inches of new snow overnight, and it was still coming down when we arrived at the mountain in the morning. The continued snow was a welcomed sight, but unfortunately there was also an absolutely brutal wind out there today that came along with it. We parked in the Mansfield lot and made our way to the Over Easy as quickly as possible to get out of the wind and over to the Spruce Peak Base Area.

An image of breakfast cooking on a griddle at the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe had some breakfast at the Great Room Grill while we waited for Jack and Norris, who were the reason that Ty and Dylan were so excited for the day. They were going to head off as a foursome on their own, similar to what they’d done last season. It’s hard to beat hanging with your buddies with total freedom on the slopes. That meant that E and I would get to spend some time skiing alone together, which we haven’t done in quite some time.

“Right on one of the cat tracks I checked with my pole and found a healthy 22 inches of snow above the base. It wasn’t all from the current storm, but boy where you found undisturbed snow it was very deep and bottomless.”

The boys headed on their way up Spruce Peak, and E and I were off to Mansfield to ride the Gondola. It seemed like the way to go with those ferocious winds, and everyone at the resort seemed to have the same idea so there was quite a queue. Winds were actually fairly minimal up at the Cliff House itself thanks to its position below the ridge, but I knew that in general the trees would be the place to go to seek protection. We headed toward the Nosedive Glades and found impressive amounts of powder out there. Right on one of the cat tracks I checked with my pole and found a healthy 22 inches of snow above the base. It wasn’t all from the current storm, but boy where you found undisturbed snow it was very deep and bottomless. We didn’t return to the Gondola due to the queue, but headed over to the Mountain Triple Chair and Fourrunner Quad, which were deserted. We found some excellent snow in the Chapel Glades/Birch Glades area; base depths are easily sufficient for those glades. The powder in undisturbed areas was typically in the range of a foot there, being lower on the mountain. We were warmed up enough after that run that we braved the winds on the Fourrunner Quad, and went back into the Nosedive Glades from the other side because the snow had been so good in there.

An image showing 22 inches of snow in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Deep snow in the Nosedive Glades

We warmed up at the Midway Lodge near the fireplace, and then made another Gondola run to hit some of the terrain in that area since the lift queue had disappeared. We checked out Waterfall and Switchback and found some pretty nice snow. I dipped into a few glades to check them out, and there are some lines that flow, but most need just another storm or two. The boys had called from the Octagon with plans to meet back at the Great Room Grill for lunch, and they made it back well ahead of us and snuck in a bit more skiing on Spruce Peak while they waited.

An image of snowy evergreens in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Tons of snow clinging to the evergreens in the Nosedive Glades

By the time we’d finished lunch it was after 3:00 P.M., but the boys were interested in checking out some of the lines that E and I had skied with the great snow in the Nosedive Glades. Traffic had been pretty light in the afternoon, and with continued snow falling the conditions were excellent. We even sampled a few more glades on the lower mountain on that run; it’s still hit or miss with the current base depths, but there are certainly some decent shots available. On piste conditions were generally a mix of great new snow with a reasonably soft base in areas of low traffic, but firm in areas that had seen typical levels of holiday weekend skiers. Things should only be getting better over the next couple of days with the continued snow; Winter Weather Advisories are already up for the upslope region of the Northern Greens for the snow coming into the area tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 17JAN2016

An image showing almost a foot of powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort on the Show Off trail
Snow from the past few days have really put down a nice layer of powder that’s still around in low traffic areas.

Yesterday we picked up a quick inch of snow at the house, but I was surprised to find out that Bolton Valley had received up to 4 inches out of the deal. It was fairly dense snow as well, and combined with more snow from a couple of days ago, that gave them 8 inches in the past 72 hours. I know we haven’t had quite a large enough storm for a real resurfacing of the slopes, and it is a holiday weekend with higher than usual skier traffic levels, but that snow was enough to inspire me to head out for at least a couple of runs today.

It was a real nice winter day to be out in any case, temperatures were comfortably around 30 F as I approached the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100’. Holiday visitors were in full effect, which was great to see for the resort. The upper parking lots in the Village were just about full, but I was able to grab a spot one tier from the bottom thanks to someone who had left. Wilderness and Timberline aren’t yet in operation this season, but the remaining lifts were doing a decent job of supporting the holiday traffic. Even the line at Vista wasn’t past the corral ropes, and it was probably 5 minutes or so of a wait for the quad queues. I hopped in the singles queue since I was solo, and that was just a couple of minutes.

An image of skiers in a lift queue at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Welcomed holiday visitors patronizing Bolton Valley today

Being solo, I rode with other parties and got to hear their conversations, and everyone seemed happy with the conditions. Steeper trails with manmade snow had the usual sort of firm surfaces you’d expect without a decent resurfacing in a while, but it was well up above where things would be post-thaw thanks to the recent snows. There are some new additions to the trail lineup, with Hard Luck available thanks to manmade snow. I headed right there on my first run, and the middle 80% was pretty much the slick sort of surface you’d expect from snowmaking and traffic on a steep slope, but the sides held plenty of loose snow, both from the natural over the past few days and whatever skiers had pushed there. Unfortunately, there were still some large chunks leftover from snowmaking, grooming, or whatever, and they weren’t ice, but they were pretty firm and really marred what would otherwise be some excellent conditions on the sides.

“That was where I really hit gold. There had been no snowmaking to deteriorate the natural snow, and there was a substantial base with generally 7 to 8 inches of powder on top. In some places there was as much as a foot of loose snow.”

I picked my way down the first half of Hard Luck along the edge, and then dove into the Hard Luck trees to find ample base and another 8+ inches of powder atop that. The total snowpack depth in there is still just shy of 18 inches, so it’s not quite game on, but you could hit some of the cleaner lines if you wanted to, and people had certainly been doing that. My plan was actually to continue on through to Show Off, since it was open below the Hard Luck crossover, and it looked really good from the lift. That was where I really hit gold. There had been no snowmaking to deteriorate the natural snow, and there was a substantial base with generally 7 to 8 inches of powder on top. In some places there was as much as a foot of loose snow. Few skiers had actually been though there, so there was plenty of powder turns left of the taking. It was so good that I immediately hit it again on my next run, that time starting from the very top Hard Luck connection that was open. The resort has unfortunately left some higher brush on Show Off so that limited a few lines, but those should be available with another foot or two of snow.

On the lower mountain I made my way over to Snowflake to check out how those trails were doing, but the trails to the south of the lift were roped off, so that left Butterscotch as the main route. Skier’s right of Butterscotch held some decent snow, but there was still some contamination from manmade snow, and the powder wasn’t as deep as higher on the mountain so it couldn’t quite compare. I also checked out Glades on the lower mountain, which has opened on natural snow. It’s seen a lot of traffic, so even it has firm surfaces in the middle, and something similar to Butterscotch along the sides without any manmade snow.

An image from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont showing Whiteface Mountain disappearing into the clouds of an approaching winter storm
Our next storm is closing in as Whiteface Disappears into the clouds

It was definitely worth the trip today for those turns on Show Off though; it made me wonder what the powder turns were like for those hiking at Wilderness or the backcountry network. I suspect sheltered spots at similar elevations are providing some great turns. I stopped in at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery and ordered some sandwiches to bring home, and by the time I was heading down the hill the Timberline shuttle bus was running and there were already three rows of cars in the Timberline lot. That’s more great news for the resort considering that they had to be closed for much of the holiday week. We’ve got another storm coming into the area tonight, and we should be in a rather snowy regime right through Wednesday, so I expect we’ll see some improving conditions and additional trails opening. Clouds were already lowering when I was at the mountain when I was out, and by the look of the local radar snow is just about on our doorstep as I write this.

Bolton Valley, VT 13JAN2016

An image of ski tracks on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
My first sign of ski tracks today confirmed that I’d be able to find some decent powder turns on the slopes of Bolton Valley’s Timberline area.

The Alberta Clipper system that affected the area yesterday was expected to drop fairly modest amounts of snow in the 3 to 6-inch range, but I began to suspect we might do a bit better than that when the snowfall really cranked up in some areas last night. When we’d already picked up half a foot by late evening here at the house, I planned to check the mountain reports in the morning before heading off to work. Bolton Valley was reporting 5 to 7 inches of snow, and although it was very dry, Champlain Powder™ fluff (2 to 5% H2O based on my analyses down at the house), that was just enough accumulation to convince me to stop by the mountain to check it out. The base snow is very firm right now, but with fat skis and appropriate terrain, there would likely be some good turns out there.

The season has been off to an incredibly slow start, but today I finally decided to pay a visit to the Timberline area for some turns. I found 4 to 5 inches of new snow in the Timberline lot at 1,500’, which jived nicely with the report of 5 to 7 inches higher up at the main base area. There were a couple of cars in the lot, and a skin track heading up along the usual Twice as Nice route. A quick survey of Twice as Nice revealed the most protected powder along the skier’s left of trail, and the lone skier who had descended Twice as Nice earlier had made a good choice in that regard. Looking for something with a fairly consistent but mellow pitch, I made my way over to Spell Binder just below the headwall. The combination of powder and pitch was just what I was looking for, and there was a descent track already in place from a previous skier that confirmed that.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sight of some nice turns on Spell Binder this morning

With the super dry snow, I was easily touching down on intermediate pitches, and even at times on mellower pitches, but the fat skis certainly helped keep me afloat and the turns were really fun. It was certainly worth a quick trip. We’re not quite to the land of bottomless powder skiing glory yet, but the weather pattern at least looks decent going forward with chances for storms. Timberline will still need a decent synoptic storm with an inch of liquid equivalent or so, or a few smaller events, before the resort could open the terrain without snowmaking.

Stowe, VT 10JAN2016

An image of Dylan carving a turn on the Liftline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan cuts hard into a carve today at Stowe, where soft, spring-like snow was in plentiful supply.

The forecast for today has looked dicey for a while. With a warm storm passing west of the area there was the chance for rain, but depending on the timing of the precipitation, one could encounter just warm temperatures and soft snow. As the forecast was refined it began to look like it would be rain for Sunday afternoon ski program at Stowe, and indeed it was pouring when we arrived at the mountain a bit before noon. With the intensity of the rain, and the addition of some wind, I wasn’t planning to bring my group on the slopes, but fortunately by 1:00 PM when we assembled for program, the rain have moved out to reveal just cloudy skies.

An image of a boy wearing multiple pairs of ski goggles for funWe had a small group today of me and the boys, along with Jack and Norris. There were few enough people that Ken and Luke were able to come along with us as additional chaperones. We started off with a run on the Meadows Quad, and found the snow nice and soft as expected. We stepped it up to the Sunny Spruce Quad and started to hit some wind near the top, but it was still pretty tame and didn’t suggest that we needed to avoid going higher.

An image of Ty carving a turn and pushing some soft snow on the Liftline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty cuts into some soft snow on the steep terrain of Liftline

In general, the rain we’d experienced had been pretty light, so we decided to venture over to Mansfield and see what conditions were like on the big mountain. The Gondola was on wind hold, so we caught a ride on the Fourrunner Quad and encountered minimal wind until the last few hundred feet of the trip near the Octagon. Up there it was a wind driven rain, so we quickly started on our way down and headed to Liftline because it seemed to have a lot of fun contours left over from snowmaking whales. The snow was beautifully soft, which is certainly atypical of the usual conditions there, and the boys couldn’t get over the “giant moguls the size of coach busses”. Indeed you could have a lot of fun playing around on those huge features, using them as jumps, quarter pipes, spines, or whatever. The boys enjoyed it so much that we had to do it again the very next run.

Following that, the boys deemed it time for a break at the Octagon, so we went in and had a snack. It seems as though our timing was good, because while we were inside it seemed to be a real wind-driven tempest outside. That bout of rain had settled down significantly by the time we were ready for our next run, where we skied Nosedive as a good option to get us heading back toward the Spruce Peak Base. We’d ridden up with another skier who said that Nosedive was totally deserted, and groomed nice and smooth, so we were happy to pay it a visit to cruise a nice long run. Indeed below the upper switchbacks, Nosedive was just as he said, so with the boys hitting it at Mach 5 I decided that it was a good run to go for nonstop and really burn the legs. There was a quick pause at the junction with National, but other than that it was a great way to earn one’s dinner. Crossing back on the Over Easy, Ken and I both agreed that in general the conditions today were such that you could just forget about the surface – your skis were simply going to hold in the soft snow and all you had to do was let them carve. There still was a spot or two with hard snow out there, and they would definitely catch you off guard when you were so used to just blithely cruising the slopes.

Back at Spruce Peak, Ken, Luke, and I did one more run on the Sunny Spruce Quad, but the boys kept lapping it until it shut down. In the lodge it sounded like we’d timed our break at the Octagon quite well, because it had rained pretty hard and soaked some folks during that period. This latest infusion of liquid into the snowpack is going to create a bomber base as temperatures cool down overnight, but surfaces are clearly going to be hard until we get enough snow for a resurfacing. We’ve got some snow chances this week however, so that should get things going in that direction.

Bolton Valley, VT 09JAN2016

An image of pizza at Fireside Flatbread at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The mountain is gearing up as wintry weather persists, and Fireside Flatbread is back in action with their great pizza!

It’s been a slow start to the season, but Bolton Valley has finally started running the Vista Quad to offer lift-served skiing from the Vista Summit, so on the way back from some errands in Williston, we stopped in for some turns. We had a bit of new snow in the area this morning, but it was just cloudy when we arrived at the mountain. Temperatures were quite comfortable, sitting in the low 30s F in the Village.

“I thought conditions might be a bit spring-like with temperatures near freezing, but it was immediately evident that surfaces were full on wintry at all elevations.”

We were in that sort of transition time between the day and night skiing, so we caught a great spot right at the top of the main parking area, suited up, and headed right for the Vista Quad. The night skiing lights were just coming on as the daylight was fading, which is always a fun time to be out on the mountain. I thought conditions might be a bit spring-like with temperatures near freezing, but it was immediately evident that surfaces were full on wintry at all elevations. The areas with snowmaking and high traffic were somewhat scratchy as one would expect, but boy was there great snow off to the side of the trails and on natural snow terrain. I was surprised to find that that there was even powder off piste, just like I’d experienced on Monday, albeit with a bit more settling. Down at our house in the valley the powder has gone through a number of thaw-freeze cycles and become crusty, but clearly that hasn’t been the case up at elevation. I had some fantastic turns along the skiers left of that first long stretch of Sherman’s Pass – between the natural snow and what the day’s skier’s had thrown there on top of it, it was really soft. There was a lot of contour as well, with all sorts of dips and rolls in which to play with your turns.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on the Sherman's Pass trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ski conditions have been great this week thanks to new snow early on and cold temperatures maintaining it.

Everyone but Dylan was on Tele gear, and Ty is still in E’s boots since we haven’t picked up any larger ones for him yet. It was evident today that he needs something with softer flex though, because despite his foot size, he really doesn’t have the weight to properly flex E’s boots. As we’ve often seen before, there were a lot of skiers in military attire, one of the local mountain divisions etc., but what we noticed was that they were on some sort of alpine touring gear now. That makes total sense as far as I’m concerned, because they shouldn’t have to try to learn to ski in free-heel equipment with the modern types of bindings that are out there. A lot of those guys aren’t hard-core skiers, so working with fixed heel bindings is hard enough.

A sign for Fireside Flatbread Pizza at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe Vista Quad seemed to go on wind hold for a bit, so we did a run on the Mid Mountain Lift and then headed up to Fireside Flatbread for some dinner. The football playoffs were on the big screen, and they were running a special with $2 slices and $2 drinks. The boys renewed their love affair with Fireside’s great crust, and it was three rounds of slices before they were finally satiated. Terrain is still somewhat limited on the mountain at this point, but it was great to finally get back for a lift-served session and some food. It looks like we’ve got a reasonably cold week coming up with the potential for some natural snow, so I’d expect to see some terrain expansion coming by next weekend.