Tag Archives: Skiing

Stowe, VT 11JAN2015

An image of Kenny jumping off a rock as he skis in the Chapel Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Kenny holds no punches as he drops into the Chapel Glades at Stowe today.

Today marked the start of the season’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe, so the whole family was excited to once again hit the slopes with friends, classmates, and faculty. I was also quite interested in finding out what the ski conditions were like on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield. We’d headed out into the Jay Peak backcountry yesterday after hearing about the good snow that the area had seen this past week, and the conditions we found certainly didn’t disappoint; there was roughly a foot of midwinter powder out there. I knew Mansfield had picked up some good snow in the past couple days based on Powderfreak’s pictures on American Weather, but was it on par with what we’d found farther north, and how would it hold up to all the weekend visitors to the resort? I hedged my bets after seeing the pictures, and decided to bring my Rossignol Sin 7 skis for the day – I had a hunch that we’d be able to spend a good amount of time off piste and I suspected I’d want my wider, rockered boards instead of my on piste carvers.

“While riding the lift I caught sight of a couple of kids skiing in the trees above meadows, and as I watched the powder spraying off their skis, I knew it was going to be game on in the off piste.”

On our way up Route 100, we could see that the Greens were lost in snowfall off to the west, and fluffy flakes soon began to fill the air down in the valley. The snow globe flakes stayed with us all the way to the resort and put quite a spirit in the air as we kicked off the ski program season. With all the construction going on for the new facilities in the Spruce Peak Village, parking is at a real premium, but our ski program participants are being allowed to use the parking area at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. It’s a bit of a walk for the kids, but everyone was really appreciative of the resort allowing that use; I think the logistics of transferring over from the Mansfield side are even more challenging with all the little ones.

Our usual ski group would be growing today with the addition of Wiley and Jonah – everyone felt that they were more than ready to join us in our usual off piste escapades, and both boys were excited to get at it. Although our group had now increased to a total of eight students, Ken was joining us as well, so we had a pair of adults to keep tabs on everyone. Having a lower ratio of students to coaches is nice, but it’s especially helpful with the amount of off piste skiing our group does. It’s much easier to get separated among the trees than out on the trail, so it’s important to have as many eyes on the group as possible. We’ve found that if we have one or two of the older or more experienced students leading, that can free up one coach to be the tail guide and a second coach can then keep their eyes on things from the middle of the pack and follow individuals that might take different routes. Ken and I have done it with similar groups before, so we were ready for the increased numbers today.

“…when the powder is looking good down at the bottom of Spruce Peak, you know it’s going to be good on Mt. Mansfield.”

We kicked things off with a ride on the new Meadows Quad Chair, which has replaced the Alpine and Easy Street Chairs. This new chair is a fixed grip quad, but it has one of those moving carpets underneath for efficient loading – the chairs are spaced quite close together on the new chair, and presumably the moving carpet lets them load a higher volume of skiers overall. While riding the lift I caught sight of a couple of kids skiing in the trees above the meadows area, and as I watched the powder spraying off their skis, I knew it was going to be game on in the off piste. The boys inquired about jumping into the trees, and I told them that we’d do a warm up run on the trails first, but we’d be getting into the trees right after that; when the powder is looking good down at the bottom of Spruce Peak, you know it’s going to be good on Mt. Mansfield.

Our group made its way over to the Gondola on Mansfield and as we traversed across the initial flats of Perry Merrill, I headed off to the skier’s right to check on the depth of the powder. A quick check revealed almost a foot and a half of champagne fluff, further confirming that we were going to be able to find plenty of soft snow. We worked our way down into the north side of the Nosedive Glades, and found lots of soft snow as expected. The good conditions weren’t too surprising, since Luc had told me he’d already been in there earlier today and found it quite good. Still, it’s always nice to really get you feet on it and find out for yourself. There was a solid foot of powder on untouched lines, and I’ve got to say, there was really just about the same amount of fluff as what we found in the Jay Peak backcountry. Mighty Mansfield has clearly done well in the snowfall department over the past several days. There was the usual amount of ice in the middle of snowmaking trails, but just about everywhere else it was not only the powder that was impressive, but the underlying and on piste surface as well.

An image of Luc, Julia, and Kenny lining up to drop into the Chapel Glades area at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Lining up for the drop in on Chapel Glades today

We worked our way over to the Fourrunner Quad and visited the Chapel Glades and Sunrise Glades. As usual all you had to do to get some untracked lines was just venture a bit farther afield. As we finished off that run I started exploring any woods shot that I came across, and was very impressed to see Wiley and Jonah right behind me on all those adventurous forays. With attitudes like that, I think they’re going to have a lot of fun in our ski group. And, they weren’t just handling it, they looked really comfortable following my traverses and lines through the deep powder.

An image of Dylan's ski boot liners warming up on the heater at the Octagon building at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAfter a break in the Octagon, and a trip down Liftline to retrieve Kenny’s gloves that he’d dropped from the lift, we worked our way over to Nosedive Bypass and down through the glades again. Wiley really seems to have a nose for powder, and I often found him poking around the same areas as me as we sought out the best snow. I think one of the best treats today, aside from the fact that Stowe had picked up such a good amount of snow this week, is how much of it people had missed over the course of the weekend. Ken and I just kept finding good snow slightly off the beaten path, and that’s really nice for a Sunday afternoon.

Big Jay Basin, VT 10JAN2015

An image of Dylan skiing in some powder snow out in the Vermont backcountry in Big Jay Basin
Out for some backcountry powder in Big Jay Basin today

All of Vermont has seen a number of modest snowfalls this past week, and with the squally nature of some of them, snow totals were quite variable at the ski resorts up and down the spine of the Greens. As is often the case though, the Jay Peak area did quite well in the snowfall department, with a seven day snow total of over two feet. After seeing a couple of photos showing the delectable powder at Jay Peak on Thursday, and knowing that even more was on the way for Friday, a visit the Jay Peak area backcountry was sounding very appealing. I mentioned the idea to borderwx on the American Weather Forum, since he lives right in the area and is a regular at the resort and local backcountry, and he got back to me with a number of options. Previously we’ve skied Gilpin Mountain using a car shuttle off Route 242, and I was initially thinking of a variation on that theme, but borderwx also mentioned some options for tours in Big Jay Basin. There were variations starting from Jay Pass, as well as the parking areas down on Route 242 where Big Jay Basin drains out. After weighing the options, and consulting the nice Google Earth map of the Big Jay area put together by Guru Gered in his Big Jay Powder Day trip report at the Nor’easter Backcountry Blog, E and I decided that an out-and-back tour from the lower parking area at the outlet of the basin was the most practical with the boys. We really didn’t want to drive two cars to set up a shuttle, temperatures were expected to only be in the 10 to 15 F range, and this was our first tour in the area. A simple out-and-back meant that we could stop and descend at any time should the need arise.

“The quality of the powder remained very good all around, with just a few windswept areas, and the depth had quickly increased to the 8 to 12-inch range.”

Temperatures were right around 20 F in the Waterbury area as we left at noontime today, but the thermometer gradually dropped with our travel northward until it was 12 F at the Big Jay Basin parking area at ~1,500′. There were about a half dozen cars parked there, and we saw one guy just prepping his gear and starting on a tour. We could see he was using the prominent skin track right across the road, so as soon as we’d geared up, we followed suit. An initial depth check right there at the base of the skin track revealed 7 to 8 inches of powder, so even down at that elevation, the Jay Peak area had clearly picked up a decent amount of new snow this week. The powder was cold, fluffy, midwinter stuff… just like you’d expect out of January.

An image of Dylan, Erica, and Ty on a skin track heading up toward Big Jay Basin in Vermont at the start of a backcountry ski tour
The skin track began in the rather open surrounds of a logging road and surrounding fields.

The skin track was indeed well established, and easy to follow as it worked its way up at a gentle pace on what appeared to be a logging road. We traveled along the road through areas of dense and sparse vegetation, as well as some acreage cleared by logging. The quality of the powder remained very good all around, with just a few windswept areas, and the depth had quickly increased to the 8 to 12-inch range. I’m not actually sure how deep the base snow was, but aside from a few windswept areas it was quite plentiful; we never really had to deal with underlying obstacles due to thin snow. Along with the skin track, we could see that people also used this route for descent out of the bowl, and that was clearly evident when we had to make way for a couple of groups skiing down. They appeared to be having a really good time as judged by their greetings and attitudes.

“It turns out that the bowl we were seeing off to our east wasn’t the main expanse of Big Jay Basin, but a smaller bowl below the col between Big Jay and Little Jay.”

After about a half mile, the skin track left the logging road and headed off generally to the right into the trees. From here the pitch increased a bit, and the skin track wound through the slightly tighter confines of the forest. Around 2,150′ we came to an obvious open spot that seemed to be the base for a broad collection of skiable lines. The skin track continued off to the left, and there were no longer ski tracks around it – it seemed like this was the point where people were converging to the track from the various ski routes above during their descents. It also seemed to be a popular spot to use for people skiing laps above the final runout back to the road. The skin track steepened here, and there were a few spots where it was a little steeper than it probably should have been, but we managed our way through them. Since I knew the boys wouldn’t want to do a huge tour, I’d set an elevation mark of ~2,500′ as a good stopping point from which to descend. That would make for a respectable descent in the range of 1,000′ of vertical. At an elevation of ~2,450′, we came across a very nice flat area along the western edge of a bowl somewhere below Big Jay on the western fringe of Big Jay Basin. The spot had a nice view down into the various areas of open ski terrain within the bowl itself. It was slightly shy of the 2,500′ mark, but a quick look around revealed that it was the obvious choice for a comfortable respite and preparation for descent in the immediate area. It turns out that the bowl we were seeing off to our east wasn’t the main expanse of Big Jay Basin, but a smaller bowl below the col between Big Jay and Little Jay. For perspective, our route can be seen on the Google Earth map available at the end of this report.

“All of us made a lot of alpine turns though, since the confines were just a bit too tight to really open it up all the time with slower, Telemark turns.”

We had some hot soup and cocoa that we’d brought along, removed our skins, and generally geared up for the descent, but we didn’t linger long because it was definitely chilly. While we were there though, we saw a few skiers descend through the more open terrain in the middle of the bowl, and the skiing looked nice. As soon as we were ready, we dropped into the bowl. The snow quality was excellent, there was about a foot of powder over a generally smooth base. There were a few windswept spots with hard snow here and there, which was sort of strange because the area was generally sheltered. I’d say that the tree spacing and amount of smaller saplings was a bit too constraining though. It looked better a bit up from where we were, so I think that we’ll explore up there the next time we head into the bowl. A couple more feet of base would really help in those lower reaches of the bowl that we skied, since it would bury some of the smaller saplings and open up more lines. With that said, there were some nice lines in there and we managed some good turns. All of us made a lot of alpine turns though, since the confines were just a bit too tight to really open it up all the time with slower, Telemark turns. We made our way generally back in the direction of the logging road, and once we got there we skied a combination of on and off-road lines, depending on the pitch and spacing of the trees. The trees were actually pretty tight down along the logging road, and although the pitch was fairly shallow, it’s about as much as you’d want. There were some areas where the pitch was shallow enough that skiing on the partially packed logging road was the only option, but there were still shots of powder along the edges of the road to catch.

“We were the last car in the lower parking lot, so he was really thankful that we were there and able to give him a ride back up to the top of the pass.”

As we were packing up our gear back at the car, a group of four skiers emerged from the forest about 100 yards up the road from where we were. One of them grabbed my attention and asked if he could get a lift up to the top of the pass where his vehicle was parked. He’d started a tour from there, and had intended to finish there as he’d done in the past, but somehow he got into a different drainage or something. He’d actually run into the other skiers along the way, who were presumably in a similar predicament, and they teamed up to make sure they all got out OK. We were the last car in the lower parking lot, so he was really thankful that we were there and able to give him a ride back up to the top of the pass. He let the other guys know that he’d be back soon to pick them up. The delivery to his car went fine, and he was happy to have avoided a 1.5-mile hike up the road. There was a good amount of traffic on the road though, so I’m sure he could have found a ride pretty quickly if we hadn’t been there. I’m just glad we had space in the car for one more!

An image of the Jay Peak tram docking at its summit station back lit by light of the setting sunOn our drive to the area earlier in the day, we’d taken the Montgomery Center route, since it was closer to where we were touring, but on the way home we continued east down the pass and stopped in at Jay Peak Resort for a bite to eat. We went to Howie’s at the Stateside Base, which we’d last visited about a year ago during our Christmas trip to Jay Peak with my family. We had some appetizers (including poutine of course) and got to watch the start of the Patriots playoff game against the Ravens. There were a number of people at the bar, but we had the table area to ourselves as the resort wound down from the day and darkness descended. This evening when I was at a work function in Burlington, a colleague mentioned that he’d heard the trails at Bolton Valley were really icy, and I said that we’d suspect that might be the case and headed up to the Jay Peak backcountry for a tour. After hearing his comment, I’d say we made the right choice today and got some good powder skiing out of it.

An image showing GPS tracking data on a Google Earth map for a backcountry ski tour in the Big Jay Basin area near Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
The GPS tracking data from today’s backcountry ski tour plotted on Google Earth: our tour took us up into terrain below the col separating Big Jay and Little Jay, along the west edge of Big Jay Basin.

Looking at the Google Earth map of our GPS track, it’s really easy to see that we were quite far on the western fringe of Big Jay Basin, so we’ll certainly want to explore a bit farther to the east in the big bowl next time we visit the area. A start from Jay Pass would certainly get us in there, I just think spotting a car appropriately for the exit might be difficult. Aside from the large parking area that we used on the south side of Route 242, we didn’t see any other obvious spots between it and the pass. Another option would be to simply tour out and back to the pass, but of course that means finishing with an ascent.

Bolton Valley, VT 04JAN2015

An image of the Glades trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Soft conditions today at Bolton Valley after several inches of dense snow fell overnight

Snow began falling in the middle of the afternoon yesterday in association with our most recent winter storm, and it fell at an average of roughly ½ inch per hour through the evening down here at our location in the Winooski Valley. Around midnight the snow was starting to mix with some sleet, but it had essentially come to a halt anyway. When I check my snow measurement boards this morning I found minimal additional accumulation, and a perusal of the snow reports from the Vermont Ski Areas revealed a general 4 to 6 inches of new snow for the northern mountains.

“I did a check on the new accumulation there at the Vista Summit and found 5-6″, which was right in line with the snow report.”

We hadn’t made definite plans to head up to the mountain today based on the uncertainty of the results from any mixed precipitation, but it sounded like crust wasn’t an issue, so by mid morning we’d made our way up to the Bolton Valley Village. A few rain showers on the way up the Bolton Valley Access Road had us concerned about the appearance of mixed precipitation on the mountain, but as I dropped E and the boys off at the Village Circle, it appeared as though we were just dealing with passing showers.

“…this storm has covered up a lot of the old base and should be a good shot in the arm for the overall state of the subsurface going forward.”

We headed up the Vista Quad and found a good shot of dense snow up there. I did a check on the new accumulation there at the Vista Summit and found 5-6″, which was right in line with the snow report. Winds were generally light aside from the summit, and temperatures were relatively mild at somewhere around the freezing mark. We worked our way down to Hard Luck to check out some steep, on piste terrain, and found that the mountain had received a decent resurfacing. Packed terrain skied well, with a little stickiness in spots, and the off piste held dense powder that gave you a bit more of that stickiness to deal with. On the lower half of the mountain we skied Glades, which had good coverage among skier packed snow and snow that was a little wetter than it had been up higher on the mountain.

An image of Ty and Dylan skiing some dense snow on the Glades trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Soft snow on the Glades trail below Mid Mountain

An image showing the tip portion of a pair of 2014 Rossignol Sin7 skisSince my everyday RT-86 Telemark skis are currently at the Nordic Barn to get a broken binding repaired, I decided to pull out new my Rossignol Sin 7 alpine setup for the very first time. I’d been expecting to get the Sin 7 setup out when an appropriate day arose during our school ski program at Stowe, but this storm seemed like the perfect opportunity to put the skis into action with my midfat Teles sidelined. I’d already tested out the Sin 7 (128/98/118) at the end of last season, so I knew what to expect. Their width was definitely nice in that dense fresh snow, and I at ~100 mm at the waist, I could certainly feel that width on the groomed snow relative to my 108/70/101 Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots. But, I know they would still be quite spritely on the quick turns despite that width, and they were a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get them out in some lighter snow and put them through a good school program day with all the kids at Stowe.

“Their width was definitely nice in that dense fresh snow, and I at ~100 mm at the waist, I could certainly feel that width on the groomed snow relative to my 108/70/101 Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots.”

We took an Alta Vista/Schuss/Fanny Hill run next, finding plenty of good turns, but some sticky snow as well. Knowing that the snow was only going to be getting wetter as time went on, we skied down to the car after that. It was definitely worth getting out for turns today though; this storm has covered up a lot of the old base and should be a good shot in the arm for the overall state of the subsurface going forward. We’ve got a number of opportunities for snow this coming week that should continue to enhance the conditions.

Bolton Valley, VT 02JAN2015

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh, fluffy powder from a passing cold front coated the slopes today.

We haven’t had much in the way of new snow over the past week, so there hasn’t been much to get us out on the slopes since we had that great family outing at Bolton Valley at the beginning of last week. There’s been some decent snow falling today however, and when a post from Powderfreak on American Weather indicated that accumulations were approaching half a foot at the 3,000′ elevation at Stowe, my interest was piqued. A look at the Bolton Valley Web Cam showed lots of big snowflakes falling, so I decided that it was time to head up to the mountain to see just what this new powder might be doing for the conditions on the slopes.

“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.

An image showing six to seven inches of accumulated snow along the Peggy Dow's Trail near the top of the Wilderness Lift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe 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.

An image of the outdoor sign for the Bolton Valley Grocery and Deli taken from inside the Deli at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontI 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.

Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2014

A picture of Erica skiing in fresh snow on the Show Off trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A few inches of dense snow at Bolton Valley today produced some great skiing

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.

An image of Dylan with powder snow on his face and helmet at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontDylan’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.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2014

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Timberline Run trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Back out in the powder at Bolton Valley today

We had family staying over with us this weekend, so we hadn’t really planned on doing any skiing, but they’d actually departed by late morning today. E and Dylan happened to be out until later in the afternoon due to a birthday party, so Ty and I found ourselves unexpectedly home alone. I finished up some cleaning from the weekend, but we really had no obligations until a Christmas party in the evening, so as you can probably imagine based on this report, we found our way up to the slopes. Bolton Valley has actually expanded their terrain substantially in the past couple of days by opening up the Wilderness Chair, but the mountain had still seen a weekend’s worth of traffic by this afternoon. With that in mind, and recalling the good snow that I’d found during my ski tour on Friday, I figured that a little more touring would be a quiet way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon. With the knowledge gained from my previous outing, I also realized that I could further optimize the tour I’d done to get Ty the best powder with the least effort.

“The roughly eight inches of dense powder that I’d encountered on Friday was still sitting there…”

Timberline was very quiet as we arrived in the early afternoon – aside from a couple of workers dealing with some equipment in the lower parking area, there was only one vehicle parked in front of the base lodge. We’ve had slate gray skies in the area today but no snow falling, and with temperatures in the 20s F and winter solstice light, it’s one of those days where it’s easy to stay indoors if there isn’t something to lure you out. Fortunately, that powder is still out there, and we were thankful for that as we began our tour and got the blood pumping. We followed the skin track up Twice as Nice and got to watch a group of four skiers and snowboards descending the last pitches of the trail. They were encountering some crust and it was making the turns difficult. Ty was cringing a bit at the conditions he saw, and most notably heard, but I told him they were descending in totally the wrong location. They at least seemed to be having fun, enjoying the descent as a group, but they clearly hadn’t poked around on the terrain enough to find where the good snow was located. Even if they’d skied over on our side of the trail they’d be finding much better snow; you just needed to avoid the most exposed areas to stay away from the crust.

An image looking down toward the Winooski Valley from the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view down the valley from Timberline

We stopped our ascent at the Timberline Mid Station instead of heading up to Brandywine as I’d done on Friday. I hadn’t encountered much in the way of good snow in the extra terrain above that point, and I knew that Wood’s Hole would offer some great snow due to the way it’s so sheltered. We took a short break as we switched over for the descent, and once we got going we indeed found that Wood’s Hole had nice snow. The passage through Wood’s Hole was a bit more challenging than it should have been though, as there are a few trees down across the trail. Presumably they fell due to some of that heavy snow from Winter Storm Damon.

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in the Lost Boyz glade at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty makes use of that durable powder left by recent December snowstorms

We continued across to Lost Boyz, finding it in essentially the same condition as it was when I’d skied it on Friday. There were a couple of tracks on their in addition to mine, but it really didn’t look like there had been much for skier traffic in there. We were fine with that of course, and found plenty of untracked lines to ski. The roughly eight inches of dense powder that I’d encountered on Friday was still sitting there – that rather dense snow really holds its own in terms of staying consistent, which is generally the case when the snow doesn’t have much settling to do. Ty was even feeling comfortable enough to send himself off some of the ledges in there, and at one point he pulled quite the acrobatic move as he skied with one leg behind himself after his ski tip got caught in the snow.

“…that rather dense snow really holds its own in terms of staying consistent…”

Below Lost Boyz we stuck to the same route I’d used for my tour on Friday, since I’d found generally good snow where I’d traveled on Spur and Timberline Run. Even though it was essentially the same route, it was fun exploring it with Ty, since he’d have different takes on the terrain and it got me venturing into pockets of snow that I might not have otherwise encountered. It was a great reprise of that route that served me well on my solo outing. The forecast calls for some warming during the middle of this week, but until that happens, it looks like that powder is going to stay where it is for those that want to get some smooth turns.

Bolton Valley, VT 19DEC2014

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Timberline Run trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today’s ski tour at Bolton Valley’s Timberline area features some smooth turns in that recent round of dense snow.

On my way back down from the mountain yesterday, I stopped off at the base of Timberline to check on the depth of the new snow and assess the prospects for skiing in the Timberline area. The terrain looked like it had been well covered with a smooth coat of snow when I had driven by earlier during daylight hours, but I wanted to check first hand to see the just how much new snow had been picked up down there. There was easily 2 to 3 inches of that dense snow in place, with even more in some spots. It certainly seemed like it was worth a visit, so at that point I knew I’d head up for a ski tour if I could find the time.

“…I cut into the trees and really hit pay dirt on Lost Boyz – the entirety of the glade was covered with 8″ of that dense snow without crust, and it skied beautifully.”

My fat Telemark skis have actually been sitting in a ski bag with their skins on for several days – I had them prepared for some skiing last week during the big cutoff low pressure system, but I never quite found the time to get out and use them. This morning I decided that I had time to make some turns before heading in to Burlington, so I loaded the rest of my gear into the car and headed toward Bolton Valley. I was a bit leery of the potential ski conditions because we picked up a bit of freezing drizzle at our house along the Bolton/Waterbury line last night. If that sort of stuff had fallen up on the mountain, it would put a crust atop the snow. In fact, the freezing drizzle did affect parts of the mountain, but there was quite a lot of variability with respect where its effects were felt.

An image of rime and ice on a branch at the base of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAt the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, in roughly the 300′ – 700′ elevation range, the trees didn’t really have any sort of accumulations on them; presumably down at these elevations it was warm enough to melt everything off. From around 700′ up to 1,200′ along the road, the trees actually had a coating of fluffy snow. Then suddenly at around 1,200′ near the bottom of that big S-curve in the road, the trees all had a coating of ice on them. This was the situation I found at the base of the Timberline area at 1,500′, and there was an ice crust on the snow there as well. That observation left me pretty skeptical with regard to the quality of turns I’d be able to get on the slopes, but the crust was thin enough to be breakable, so I figured I’d head out for the tour anyway. It wasn’t immediately obvious, but as is typical, there was a well-established skin track along the edge of Twice as Nice.

An image showing a depth of 10 inches of new snow from the middle elevations of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThere was ice on the trees as I headed up the skin track, and then remarkably at around 1,800′, it quickly switched from ice to rime. The trees all become white, and the crust atop the snow dissipated. As I continued along the skin track, I was pushing my measurement pole down into as much as 10″ of that dense snow. It didn’t look especially drifted or anything, so I was really curious as to how I wasn’t running into the old base at a shallower depth. The snow definitely wasn’t as deep in areas that had been hit by the wind, but I found those areas with such deep snow quite surprising. There was little if any ice until I approached the Timberline Mid Station at ~2,250′, and then the snow surface started to get crusty again. That crustiness was around up to where I finally stopped my ascent in the 2,300′ – 2,400′ elevation range.

I began my ascent on Brandywine, and found the snow highly variable – you could get good snow on one side of the trail, but much of the rest had crust. Sheltered areas seemed to have missed the crust, so I cut into the trees and really hit pay dirt on Lost Boyz – the entirety of the glade was covered with 8″ of that dense snow without crust, and it skied beautifully. I continued my descent on Spur and then Timberline Run, and got in a lot of quality powder turns. All the best turns today were creamy and smooth thanks to that dense powder, and it’s got plenty of staying power to hang around for a while.

I can tell you one thing – that dense snow from the cutoff low pressure system last week is going to be paying us dividends for a long time. I was able to go over ledgy areas today on Lost Boyz that I would never expect to be so well covered with this amount of snow, but that storm put down such a shellacking of dense material that it covered underlying objects really well. Anyway, there is plenty of good snow out there at Bolton Valley right now; if you choose wisely and avoid the areas with crust, you are in for a treat.

Bolton Valley, VT 18DEC2014

An image of trees with rime and snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fresh rime and snow among the low clouds this evening at Bolton Valley.

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.

 

Bolton Valley, VT 14DEC2014

An image of Ty skiing dense snow left by Winter Storm Damon at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting out to Bolton Valley this afternoon to surf some of the bounty left by Winter Storm Damon

‘Tis the season for being very busy around our house, but the boys and I did find a bit of time to head up to the mountain this afternoon to see what Winter Storm Damon had done for the slopes. We’ve had some periods of sun this weekend, such as the ones we experienced at Stowe yesterday, but temperatures have been staying generally at or below freezing in the mountains to keep the recent snow in midwinter form. So, we anticipated finding some great conditions today on the slopes of Bolton Valley, which thanks to winter storm Damon, has most of its terrain open on the main mountain. A couple feet of dense snow can do that.

“With 2 to 2 ½ feet of dense snow, the ascent was easily twice as hard as it would have been on skins.”

Low clouds hung over the upper half of the mountain as we rode that Vista Quad, and being well into the afternoon, the mountain was really starting to quiet down. The overall feel at the resort was exactly in line with one of those dark December days; the base was plentiful, the snow surfaces were well preserved, and the low clouds seemed to lock in an intimate feeling across the mountain. It’s the holiday season before the commotion of the main holiday week, and with the current amount of terrain and quality of snow surfaces available, it’s a great time to be skiing the resorts around here in Northern Vermont.

An image showing a rock with a smiley face on the Show Off trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe coverage and snow quality was saw from the lift looked simply outstanding, even on the steep trails of the upper mountain, so the boys and I jumped right onto Hard Luck to test out the snow with some real pitch. All you can say is that Damon set down a really solid resurfacing – there’s just a lot of deep, dense snow out there. You can just carve the surface snow away and be confident that there’s simply more of that below. The only real downside that I’ve seen from the storm was that the powder skiing hasn’t been quite up to the quality we typically get around here with lighter snow. The rounds of fluffy snow at the end of the storm cycle weren’t quite substantial enough to keep you off of the denser snow below, so you’re still getting into that thicker stuff, and of course it doesn’t ski like champagne powder. Still, I don’t think I’d trade this recent storm for fluffier powder; it was just too perfect for setting up the core of this season’s base snow.

The powder was still skiing reasonably well for being rather dense, so we headed over to Wilderness on our next run to get into some untracked snow. Although we were only skiing in the top few inches of the snow, untracked areas were silky smooth and a lot of fun. It was enough fun that when I asked the boys if they wanted more, I was hit with a resounding, “Yes!”

An image of some delicate rime crystals on a tree branch at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWith that in mind we set off on the next run for the summit of Wilderness. There was a skin track in place for the ascent, and a bit of a boot track that comingled with the skin track in places, but that boot pack wasn’t very well established. Since we hadn’t brought our skins, that meant we had to go the boot pack route, which was a real slog at times. The rudimentary boot pack that was in place helped us some, but it contained plenty of post holes that required extra effort to climb out of, and then there were times when I’d post hole my way into the snow unexpectedly, which is always a big waste of energy. With 2 to 2 ½ feet of dense snow, the ascent was easily twice as hard as it would have been on skins. I made sure to explain to the boys that this was the perfect example of why you want to skin up the mountain whenever possible vs. trying to walk in your boots.

An image snowing 28 inches of snow depth on the Upper Crossover Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont thanks to Winter Storm Damon
Ty uses his measurement pole to reveal just how much snow was in our path.

After a brief break at the summit, we descended via Bolton Outlaw in the gathering dusk. The powder was dense like we’d experienced elsewhere, but there were plenty of good turns to be had. This is where the boys would have profited from having their powder skis, but they were on their regular carving alpines based on the fact that we’d planned on mostly on piste skiing. Dylan had a couple of prereleases that send him crashing into the powder, and I’m sure the skinnier nature of the skis wasn’t helping the matter. But some good turns were had by all, despite the fact that it was really dark and foggy as we descended the lower half of the mountain.

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Wilderness are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan riding atop some of that dense powder from Winter Storm Damon

I had to head off to a Christmas party once we got home, so I’d actually tried to call in a pizza order from Fireside Flatbread for E and the boys when I was up on the Wilderness Summit. I didn’t have a great signal, but it didn’t matter… unfortunately they don’t open until Friday. I ordered instead from Zachary’s in town, but it meant we had to go a couple miles past the house. The James Moore Tavern seemed to be running at full steam tonight though, so that’s currently an option for those seeking après ski fare.

On the weather front, it looks like we’ve got a weak system coming through in the midweek period, and the models show the potential for another storm toward the end of next weekend, but that’s a long way out so we’ll have to see what develops with that one over the next several days.

Stowe, VT 13DEC2014

An image of the some of the trails in the Gondola area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A gorgeous day at Stowe for our annual ski program training

Today was our annual training day for Stowe’s ski program with the local schools, and indeed it was a great one. We’ve often had fresh snow on these mid-December training days, but the past few days featured a cutoff nor’easter that delivered 2 to 2 ½ feet of snow to the Northern Vermont ski resorts. And, the snow wasn’t just fluff either; there were roughly three inches of liquid equivalent in that snow, so it was a major boost to the natural base depths. The snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake just pushed past 30 inches with that storm, and it probably won’t be settling too much due to the density of the snow.

“…there was just so much of that deep packed powder that it didn’t even make you want to head off the beaten path for untracked snow.”

The forecast for today was looking great; with the low pressure system finally weakening, there was the chance for some sun, and temperatures would be in the 20s F. With the hefty amount of construction going on over at the Spruce Peak Base Area, the meeting place for today’s session was in the Midway Lodge. The space actually felt much better than the old day lodge where we would typically meet, and a lot of that seemed to be because the space was simply configured better. Everything was well organized when we arrived, and since we had almost an hour before we’d get together with our group, I headed over to the Spruce Peak Base for a bit to eat at the Great Room Grill. The new structure that’s going in over there is still at the stage of steel framework, but it should ultimately have plenty of space for the children’s programs and whatever else they’ll be putting in there.

We got together with Joe and Emile from BJAMS for our ski group, and had Steve Dever as our instructor for today, who is actually Emile’s neighbor. Each year we seem to get a little something different out of the training session, and this year Steve spent a lot of time on techniques for safety, such as strategies for where to stop on the trail and how to position your body to ensure maximal visibility of oncoming skier traffic. On the technical side, we talked a lot about pole work and “finishing” turns with regard to speed control.

We were generally on piste today, but conditions were simply fantastic on the groomed runs as one might expect after two feet of dense snow. Those first couple of runs on Perry Merrill were simply divine as far as groomers go. We headed over to the Fourrunner Quad for the second half of the morning, skiing some of the usual routes out toward Sunrise. Steve stopped us above the Chapel Glades, pointing out how that was a great one to do with the kids, and the snow looked good enough that a number of our group headed in and met up with everyone else on the other side of the glade. I checked with my measurement pole and found 21 inches of snow there, so there was more than enough coverage. We’re well past the 24-inch mark at the stake, and the fact that so much of that is dense snow makes it even more substantial. Coverage really wasn’t an issue in there, and there were areas of packed snow where there had been enough skier traffic. There was plenty of powder in there was well though, so getting into the powder off piste is definitely an option on appropriate terrain now.

The sun was out a good bit this morning, and with temperatures probably around 30 F at the base, you couldn’t really ask for much more. You could certainly see the quality of the groomed snow drop a bit on the popular routes as the morning wore on, but there was just so much of that deep packed powder that it didn’t even make you want to head off the beaten path for untracked snow. If I’m not searching out powder to ski in, that’s a definite sign of some seriously good snow on piste. It was a little hard to pull away in the early afternoon, but we wanted to pick up the boys from Norris’ house in time for him to get off for his Nordic skiing program. The next snowstorm appears to be coming in the middle of the week, so we’ll see what we get out of that one.