Tag Archives: Skiing

Bolton Valley, VT 08FEB2014

An image of E skiing some powder among ski tracks in the Wilderness are at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Conditions are still below average for this time of year around here, but Wilderness delivered great snow today as it often does.

With over half an inch of liquid equivalent delivered, our midweek winter storm, “Nika”, was certainly a mini boon for the local slopes.  I checked out the fresh snow on Wednesday and Thursday, but today was our chance to see how conditions fared now that things have settled a bit, and traffic and grooming have worked the new snow into the base.  There’s no question that the recent shot of moisture from Nika provided a bump in snowpack for Bolton Valley – many additional trails have come on line, and as of this morning, the only areas that patrol haven’t opened are upper Wilderness and the natural snow trails of Timberline.

Of course the fact that we’re approaching mid February and even having to talk about those areas not being open speaks to just how poor a January the area had to endure.  The snowfall data that I monitor at our house parallels the local mountains quite nicely, especially in mid winter, so my numbers provide a very good sense of how it went for the ski areas of the Northern Greens.  With just 15.8 inches of snow, this past January was the lowest in my records by a notable margin.  Granted, I only have eight seasons worth of data, but this past January wasn’t just lower than any January in my records, it was lower than any December, January, or February in my records.  Looking at all those months puts a lot more into the data set, so for January to come in well below all of the other months is quite notable.  And, the statistics back that up, with this January being a whopping 1.86 standard deviations below the midwinter monthly mean of 39.4 inches, putting this January in THE BOTTOM 3% OF ALL MIDWINTER MONTHS according to my data set.  So if you felt that January was horrendously low with respect to snowfall in the Northern Greens, you were correct.

Fortunately we’re on to February now and the past week was at least somewhat average with respect to snowfall.  E took a look at the Bolton Valley Web Cam and noted that there wasn’t much of a line at the Vista Quad, so after a quick lunch, we headed up to the mountain.  Timberline had a good number of cars, and the Village lots were near capacity, so clearly the resort had a lot of visitors – I dropped E and the boys off at the Village Circle and had to park in the bottom tier of parking down near the recreation center.

After they’d taken a couple runs on Snowflake, in which Ty really seemed to be getting some nice air in the terrain park, I met up with E and the boys and we headed up the Vista Quad for a run on Spillway.  That was Dylan’s choice, and I was optimistic that the ridge on the skier’s right would yield some good snow, but it was definitely underwhelming.  I found soft snow in a few spots, but in general there wasn’t much of it and the hard, manmade snow predominated on the left side of the ridge and even made its presence known on the right side of the ridge.  It wasn’t until we neared the connection onto Sherman’s Pass that we were able to get into some good powder on the edges, and then the Vista Quad Liftline below held soft natural snow as well.  The snow we’d experienced up on Spillway had him calling for some trees, which was timely, because that was the plan.

An image of Ty skiing powder in Maria's Woods at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Although the trees are still a bit lean for this time of year, there are lots of good areas to be found

The next run was my choice, and with the recent opening of the Cobrass suite of trails, I decided we should check out Cobrass and head to Maria’s for some soft snow in the trees.  The snow on Cobrass was just horribly icy, and we couldn’t get down it fast enough.  Even the skier’s right, where soft snow often holds, was meager like we’d found on Spillway.  Either the trails with snowmaking have seen too many skiers or not enough natural snow, or perhaps a combination of both.  Fortunately, the snow off piste was blissfully soft, with generally about a foot of powder on Maria’s.  The only problem is that the base is still lean – we need another big synoptic storm, this time with an inch or two of liquid equivalent to really get the off piste terrain into prime, midwinter form.  The snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake is just above that 40” mark, so as one might expect, the off piste skiing is in play, but you can’t rely on everything to be covered yet.  You still need to take it cautiously in general.  Maria’s did offer up some nice shots of powder, and we found some nice deep shots, but until we get another storm or two you just won’t be able to go top to bottom with full confidence.

With the snowmaking terrain generally too firm, and the off piste terrain passable but not ready for prime time in all areas, our next course of action was obvious.  It was time for a run over at Wilderness.  Before we could do that though, Dylan needed to warm up his toes, so we took a break for a bit in the lodge.  The boys got some snacks, and everyone warmed up for what we planned to be our last run.  From the top of the Vista Quad we took Alta Vista, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more soft snow available on the side there than what we’d experienced on Spillway or Cobrass.  I’d say it was simply due to lower skier traffic, because it seemed like very few people had skied there.  We connected over to Wilderness and got some nice powder on the Wilderness Lift Line, which was followed up with an excellent run down Turnpike.  Boy that Turnpike just always seems to deliver.

So, there’s certainly some decent skiing out there thanks to the recent storm “Nika”, but overall things are certainly subpar for February in Northern Vermont.  We’re definitely keeping our eyes peeled for that next big synoptic storm that could get things closer to average – based on the current depth at the stake we need about a foot to a foot and a half of base depth increase to get there.

Bolton Valley, VT 06FEB2014

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley
Some of the great powder out there today at Bolton Valley

Yesterday’s snowstorm finished up with a few more inches overnight, bringing the local ski area storm totals to the 9-12” range.  Just as important though, was the amount of liquid that the snow held, and based on the fact that we received 0.56” of liquid equivalent at our house, and Mt. Mansfield picked up at least 0.60”, Bolton Valley should have been well above the half inch mark.  An inch or two of liquid equivalent would have been even better, but even a half inch is more than we’ve had in recent storms.

The amount of liquid in the snow seemed substantial enough that I decided to see how Timberline was skiing this morning.  The last time I’d looked, it wasn’t quite there, but after our past couple of storms, plus somewhere near 9 inches of additional snow from this latest one, it was worth a look.  As I parked at the Timberline Base, I met another couple of skiers who had just come down from a run, and were preparing to go back up for another one after a quick break.  When I asked about the snow, one of them said, “It’s @#$%(#$%^ awesome!”  I took that as a good sign.

I followed an excellent skin track up Twice as Nice, and generally found 9 to 10 inches of settled powder.  However, in the lowest elevations there was often little to no base below that snow.  I hate to say it, but rolling the trail with a snow cat would probably be the best thing to do in terms of preserving the snow, turning it into a base, and getting it ready to support lift-served skiing.  The tracks of previous skiers definitely spoke to the quality of the powder though – it was classing Timberline fluff that had settled nicely with no wind.

I ended up making my descent on Spell Binder, and indeed the snow was awesome, just as that skier had indicated.  The main detractor from the experience was that there just isn’t enough base snow yet to take the steep terrain with reckless abandon.  I found 15 inches of snow atop the Spell Binder headwall, but I had to play it safe on that steep terrain since there are rocks lurking.  So, even with the great snow, that offered champagne on top and a very nice “right side up” density gradient, I have to give the skiing a middle of the road sort of score because of the base.  One more big storm and some settling of what’s out there now, and Timberline will probably be ready for some lift served skiing.  Actually, the resort was planning to open at least the main snowmaking routes over there today, so a lot of the area should be ready to go if more snow comes.

Bolton Valley, VT 05FEB2014

An image of the Vista Beast at the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The Vista Beast was out showing everyone what they should be doing today.

Our largest snowstorm of the year has been affecting Northern Vermont today, and while snow totals are generally under a foot, the event still represents a huge, sorely needed addition to the mountain snowpack.  The snow was just starting up early this morning, and there was only 1.1” on at the house when I made my 6:00 A.M. observations for CoCoRaHS.  What was very interesting was the density of the snow – it came in at a surprisingly dense 13.6% H20.  That’s great snow to start out a storm and provide a cushion above the subsurface.  The timing of the storm didn’t really lend itself to a powder morning, so I decided to try for some turns later in the afternoon on the way home from Burlington.  Indeed it snowed all day, with snowfall rates up to 1 to 2 inches an hour at times.  Winds had been pretty minimal with this storm, so as the snow fell, the ski conditions were just getting better and better.

“Indeed it snowed all
day, with snowfall
rates up to 1 to 2
inches an hour at
times.”

I arrived up at Bolton Valley in the mid afternoon timeframe, and quick estimates from the parking lot at ~2,100’ suggested roughly a half foot of new snow had fallen.  I’d brought both mid fats and full fats, but decided it was enough to go with the fat boards, so I stowed the appropriate skins in my fanny pack with my camera, and headed up the Vista Quad.  Since people had been skiing the snow all day, you had to head to the edges for powder, but it was a good combination of denser snow and some dry snow on top, and that let you float.  I skied Hard Luck up top, and on the bottom of the mountain I got to pay a visit to Glades for the first time this season.  Coverage was definitely sufficient, but you will still contact icy surfaces below if you went in heavy traffic areas.

An image of the depth of the powder over at the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont showing 16 inchesI decided to skin over to the top of Wilderness on my final run, and followed an ascent track that had just been made by another skier and a couple of snowboarders.  They were post-holing their way along, but even though it wasn’t a pristine skin track, it was still a huge help to have their track set for me – measurements I made along the way revealed 16” of powder resulting from these last few storms.  Breaking trail through that would have been significantly slower, even with the float of my fat skis.  The rewards of the trip over were good though, with tracks on Peggy Dow’s in the deep.  I was definitely glad that I had my fat skis for planing purposes, because the depth was getting to be too much for some of the lower angle slopes on the lower mountain.  It was a fairly short and sweet session this afternoon, but the quality of the turns was very high.  There’s been more snow falling this evening though, so there could be some great turns out there tomorrow.  I actually saw a snow cat working at the base of Timberline, so perhaps the resort is getting ready to open it for the first time this season.  This storm may not have been quite enough to get those lower slopes ready to support lift-served skiing, but it could be close.

An image of a ski track in powder on the Peggy Dow's trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fun powder lines amidst today’s flakes

Stowe, VT 02FEB2014

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Lower Tyro trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Out at Stowe today enjoying some of the overnight snow

Our latest modest snowstorm delivered as expected overnight, with 5 inches reported in the upper elevations at Stowe this morning.  That was enough to get us to head out for a relatively early start today, so we met Jeff at the Children’s Adventure Center to get Kenny and Liana, who planned to join us for some skiing during the morning before our afternoon BJAMS ski program.  We had some breakfast at the Great Room Grill to fuel up (I got to try one of their highly talked about breakfast sandwiches), and by the time we were done eating, all the lifts on the mountain were open.

The snow from this storm was fairly standard in terms of density, but I’d heard that the driest and lightest snow would be found in the higher elevations. We therefore decided to head over to the Gondola instead of making runs on Spruce, where much of the terrain is at lower elevations.  Although it was Super Bowl Sunday, there were plenty of people out on the slopes in the morning, and the queue for the Gondola was several minutes long.

“Indeed the snow had plenty
of liquid in it and the mountain
 had seen a decent resurfacing,
at least outside the high traffic
 areas.”

From the Gondola summit we took a run that featured plenty of time on Switchback, and there was a lot of good snow.  Indeed the snow had plenty of liquid in it and the mountain had seen a decent resurfacing, at least outside the high traffic areas.  The sides of the trails held great snow, and E and I worked with everyone on short radius turns that could keep them in the good snow.  We followed up that first run by working our way over to the Fourrunner Quad, where we skied Hayride, got into the Chapel Woods, and got into plenty of other stuff.

An image of Kenny skiing soft snow on the Lower tyro trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Kenny getting after some of today’s fresh snow with gusto

What I quickly noticed in the morning was that Kenny and Liana had improved their skiing a lot since I’d last hit the slopes with them – they’re now skiing in one of Stowe’s programs on Saturdays as well as our usual Sunday program, and that’s meaning a lot of time on snow.  In Kenny’s case, it meant a dramatic enough improvement that he’d be comfortable skiing with our group on Sunday afternoon.  I spent much of the morning assessing what he would need to work on to really bring his skiing up to that next level, and that included slowing down and making both more and shorter-radius turns, separating his upper and lower body even more, and keeping his hands up for more centered balance.  By the end of the morning I was confident that he’d be able to ski with our group, especially since I knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere too crazy because the snowpack just isn’t quite ready yet.

An image of Erica skiing soft snow on the Lower Tyro trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Even E got to get out and enjoy some of the fresh snow before her ski program duties today.

The morning had already been quite a workout, so we headed back to the Great Room Grill for some lunch, and then jumped into afternoon ski program to continue tracking down good snow.  Luke joined out group with Ty, Dylan and Kenny, and we headed off for more fun on the Gondola, Quad, and Triple.  We had a couple of good runs through part of the Nosedive Glades, which are definitely ready for prime time.  Kenny definitely held up fine with today’s runs, and I think that he’s really going to have the opportunity to keep working on advanced techniques if he can keep following the other members and noting the techniques that they use to tackle steep and often tight terrain.

An image of Kenny drinking some hot chocolate after ski school program at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont Next up on the weather front is the potential for another modest system in the midweek timeframe.  We’ve still yet to have a really notable storm this far north this season, but these modest storms are definitely helping to build the snowpack, even if they do so at a slower pace.

Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry, VT 01FEB2014

An image of Ty making a Telemark turn in powder on the "Cup Runneth Over" glade in the backcountry skiing network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out for a short tour on Bolton’s Backcountry Network today to get some powder turns with the boys

Down at the house, snow from our current storm was just starting to fall around 3:00 P.M. today when I headed up to Bolton Valley with the boys.  E had headed off to get some work done at school, so it was just the guys at home, and I figured that we should get out and enjoy the snow for a bit.  After getting a closer look at the Cup Runneth Over glade on Sunday, it seemed like a nice, short touring option to try with the boys.

“Skiing in the upper section
of the glade was pleasant.
Even though there were a
number of sets of tracks,
there was still untouched
powder around, and a good
6+ inches of it.”

The temperature was in the mid 30s F at the house, and the flakes that were falling here and there quickly began to intensify into a steady light snow as we headed down the Winooski Valley through Bolton Flats.  Looking out ahead of us toward the west, we could see that that more intense snow was heading our way.  With the marginal valley temperatures with this event, the mountains are expected to do notably better with the snowfall, and indeed that was borne out as we headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road and got into sub-freezing air.  Snow was already accumulating on the road above ~2,000’, and the snowfall was much more intense up in the Village.  The boys quickly covered up with their hoods as we got out of the car and into our gear, because the snowfall would quickly wet you down if you didn’t get yourself under something waterproof.

An image of Dylan holding up one of the Cheeze-It and snow sandwiches he made on our backcountry ski outing at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontLights were starting to come on for the alpine trails, and skier traffic was scant on the Nordic network as we skinned along World Cup and then Bryant.  The boys hardly believed me when I told them that we were in for just a few minutes of climbing before we’d reach the start of our descent.  Indeed that was the case, and we stopped along Bryant at the entry spot I’d seen for the upper section of Cup Runneth Over on Sunday.  We relaxed and hung out along the top of the Glade, enjoying the snowfall and the comfortable temperatures just below freezing.  Dylan immediately dove into his pack for some snacks, and ended up creating sandwiches comprised of Cheez-It® crackers with snow in the middle.  One lone skier passed by us as she made an ascent up Bryant, but, aside from her, all we saw were a couple other Nordic skiers and a guy on snowshoes.  With the fairly late hour, it wasn’t surprising that we didn’t see many people.

Skiing in the upper section of the glade was pleasant.  Even though there were a number of sets of tracks, there was still untouched powder around, and a good 6+ inches of it.  The boys practiced some Telemark turns and stopped down at the intersection with World Cup where the glade starts to dive down a steeper slope.  I began the steeper descent, but after I’d made a couple of turns, the boys asked if they could ski World Cup and work on their Telemark turns; they just weren’t feeling confident enough with their turns to take on the steeper part of the glade, and that was probably a good choice for them because I did find the coverage a bit bony.  They were definitely enamored with the clean, groomed look of World Cup, made all the more enticing with the coating of fresh snow that was approaching an inch by that point.  The boys certainly had a lot of fun on World Cup, trying different variations on their Telemark turns as they pushed around some of the fresh snow.

A GPS map on Google Earth showing data from a ski tour on the Bolton the Nordic & Backcountry trail network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The GPS tracking data from today’s short tour with the boys plotted on Google Earth

Once we were back at the car, I decided that boys could get a snack at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery, and we ended up also grabbing a couple of pizzas at Fireside Flatbread to take home for dinner.  I’ve wanted to make use of having the pizza right there in the lodge for a while now at the end of one of these evening tours, and today it worked out perfectly.  We had it in hand in roughly 10 minutes, so the guys at the oven were right on top of it.

We headed down from the mountain around 5:30 P.M., and roughly an inch of new snow seemed to be the total at that point, with continued moderate snowfall.  This is a storm where areas farther north are expected to get more snow, so we’ll have to see how Stowe does overnight, but there could be some nice skiing tomorrow if the snow keeps up for a while.  And the pizza from Fireside Flatbread was excellent as usual – their crust is one of my favorites anywhere.

Bolton Valley Backcountry, Nordic, and Alpine, VT 26JAN2014

An image of the "Cup Runneth Over" glade on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The backcountry season is definitely underway at Bolton Valley now.

After our fresh snow and reprieve from cold temperatures yesterday, today it was back into the arctic air with highs predicted to be in the single digits F or even hovering around zero in the higher elevations.  And of course that didn’t factor in the wind, which brought the effective temperatures down well below zero.  Since that was the forecast, E and Claire cancelled our BJAMS ski program at Stowe today; there’s just no reason for dozens of kids to risk frostbite, especially when many of them are so focused on learning to ski that they’re oblivious to what’s going on with their skin.

“Many, many glades have
been included on the latest
version of the backcountry
map, and there are now
more than two dozen of
them on there.”

With the prevailing temperatures, I wasn’t all that excited about riding ski lifts myself, but since the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake came in at 36 inches yesterday, that got me thinking about a backcountry tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.  With three feet at the stake, much of the terrain on the network should finally be in play, and I was eager to see how things were going up there with $40,000 having been invested since the state took over a large portion of the land in June.

Temperatures were in the low single digits when I arrived in the Village, but as I parked down along the edge of Broadway I could see that the Nordic scene was definitely hopping.  Numerous skiers swished by as I prepared my gear, including three patrollers heading off to monitor the trails.  I definitely felt cold as I geared up, but once I started moving, that welcomed warmth of activity quickly came on, and I rapidly found that pleasant temperature balance between movement and winter cold.  Checking the powder depth near the base of the network at ~2,100’ revealed 7 inches, which was encouraging.

“That actually made for
quite a unique tour
overall, one that
brought me from the
Nordic/backcountry
network back to the
alpine network.”

I started out with only a vague plan to head up to Bryant Cabin and assess the state of coverage on the trail network, so that gave me the opportunity for some exploring along the way.  For a while I’ve wanted to check out the glade called “Cup Runneth Over”, which I’d read about a while back on the Bolton Nordic Blog, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it.  I had printed out Art’s directions to the glade on a piece of paper that I keep in my backcountry pack, and with the help of those and a little poking around, I quickly found it.  The coverage looked a little on the lean side, but as I glanced around, I could see that not only does the glade drop below World Cup, it starts up above it – and there was a track on that upper section that clearly showed how the snow was sufficient for turns.  I skinned up through that upper section of the glade until it reached the Bryant Trail, and made a mental note of that upper start point for future reference.  I can’t believe how many times I’ve passed by that spot on Bryant and never noticed the glade starting off to the left, but that’s what exploring is all about.

An image of the Bryant Trail on the Bolton Valley backcountry network approaching the Bryant Cabin
The evergreens were choked with snow today on the upper sections of the Bryant Trail.

It was indeed nice to finally get to see part of Cup Runneth Over, but I wanted to keep exploring, so I merged onto Bryant and headed upward.  I noticed what looked like some open trees in the forest below Possum, and did a quick tour through the area to see what it offered.  The terrain there really needs no glading, as the natural make-up of the forest would lend itself to plenty of turns.  The pitch is such that it would be great after one of those events that deliver 4 to 6 inches of light powder over a smooth, firm base.  Much more than that amount of snow though, and the pitch is just not there – even today it would have been slow with the 7 or 8 inches of medium weight snow atop the snowpack, but that was also in part due to the snow being slow because of the cold temperatures.  Continuing upward on Bryant, I saw tracks on fairly steep lines like A1A, JJ’s, and Big Blue, and the coverage certainly looked sufficient.  I eventually got into the areas of protected evergreens that really hold the snow, and you could see that they were choked with powder.  Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ I found the powder to be in the 8 to 9-inch range.

“The snow had settled a
bit more, some wind had
affected it in spots, and
it was slow due to the
cold temperatures, so
while fun, it couldn’t
compare to yesterday.”

I decided to continue my tour out along North Slope, and when I finally hit one of the local high points I stopped to take off my skins and have a break with some of the hot soup from my pack.  The scene was peaceful, although I could occasional hear the hoots and yelps of other skiers around on the network.  I began to descend on North Slope, and actually decided to ride it all the way out to the end because I’d never done that.  There are actually a couple of notable uphill sections that require a few minutes of work, but it wasn’t enough that I needed to put my skins back on.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Finishing off today’s tour on Lower Turnpike

Although I saw some good potential in some of the glades, I stuck with my plan to run North Slope all the way out to Lower Turnpike and ski down there, because after yesterday’s experience, I knew it was a sure thing in terms of coverage.  That actually made for quite a unique tour overall, one that brought me from the Nordic/backcountry network out to the alpine network.  Most of the time I’m using the lifts and going the other direction, so this was a fun change.  North Slope has a nice little connecting trail with Lower Turnpike that I’d never seen.  There were only a few tracks on Lower Turnpike, so there was plenty of fresh snow, but it didn’t ski nearly as beautifully as yesterday.  The snow had settled a bit more, some wind affected it in spots, and it was slow due to the cold temperatures.  So while fun, it couldn’t compare to yesterday.  I finished off my run with an interesting route through the Village below the Liftline Condos – it actually turned out to be a pretty slick connection with some backyard powder turns that dropped me right down onto Broadway.

A GPS/Google Earth map of a ski tour at Bolton Valley on the Nordic, backcountry, and alpine trail systems at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The GPS/Google Earth map of today’s tour from the Nordic/Backcountry Network back to the alpine trails

Another great discovery came this evening, when I visited the new Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry website while writing up my report.  I checked out the map of the network that they have available, and it’s the most expansive I’ve seen yet.  Many, many glades have been included on the latest version of the backcountry map, and there are now more than two dozen of them on there.  It really gives one an idea of just how expansive the opportunities are out on the trial network, and it’s going to be great to see how things go with the new, clearly energized, participation in maintaining the area.  As for the trails, everything I saw today looked to be in excellent condition.  And, with the snowpack below average for this point in the season and just getting to sufficient levels for backcountry skiing, I’d expect that problems would be relatively easy to see.  Thanks to all the folks that worked on the trials this season, and put out that great new map of the backcountry network!

A map of the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network for the 2013-2014 ski season
The updated map for Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network now has more than two dozen glades listed

Bolton Valley, VT 25JAN2014

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on the Wilderness Lift Line at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Another Alberta Clipper meant another round of fresh powder at Bolton Valley today.

While we’ve still yet to get hit by a big synoptic snowstorm in Northern Vermont this season, another Alberta Clipper system came through the area today, and it began delivering a reasonable shot of fresh snow, just like the one last weekend.  With the snow just starting up this morning, we waited until mid afternoon to head up to the mountain for skiing.  By that point we’d picked up a couple of inches down at the house, and the snow was continuing at a good clip.  Today also offered to bonus of being a somewhat warm reprieve from the arctic air, with temperatures around 20 F in the valley and up on the mountain at Bolton Valley.

I dropped E and the boys off at Snowflake, parked the car, and got my gear together fast enough to catch them on their second run.  Ty was raving about the snow on Butterscotch in general, but E didn’t quite find the overall setup quite as nice as what we found on Monday.  She said that the middle of the trail was good with the new snow, but the powder on the skier’s right didn’t cover and even out the subsurface in quite the same way that it had last time.  Those subtleties aside, you could tell that there been another nice addition to the snowpack, and the snow from this storm was definitely denser than what we received on Monday.  In fact, although it was still fairly dry at ~7% H2O according to my analyses from down our house, that’s still roughly twice as dense as the last storm.  The snow certainly had some heft that helped cover up the old surfaces, but it wasn’t going to be flying in your face the way the snow from the last storm did.

“…the snow from this
storm was definitely
denser than what we
received on Monday.”

Heading next to the Vista Quad, we took Spillway, finding some good turns, but again a notch below what we’d found on Monday.  Ty worked the terrain with fresh snow off to the skier’s right, but wasn’t interested in setting up any photos; clearly the snow couldn’t quite inspire him the way the last storm did.  E wasn’t feeling comfortable enough on her Teles today to stick tight to the soft snow on the edge of Spillway, so spending more time toward the middle of the trail, she had to deal with some icy, high-traffic spots.  As we descended toward Mid Mountain, the boys toured us through some nooks and crannies of access roads in order to ski under a big bent over tree.  That was a bit of a slow route, but you could get a feel for just how much snow was starting to build on the natural terrain.  We checked out Beech Seal on the lower mountain – I hit the usual soft snow on the skier’s right and found it performing right in line with the other terrain we’d skied.  The skiing was great, just a notch below the last storm.  I hadn’t seen where Ty had gone on Beech Seal, but it turns out he’d snuck over into the little lane of terrain on the right beyond the racing fence.  He gets a kick out of being over there, and of course he’s probably one of the only people who can comfortably fit in there and loves the fact that the powder is untouched.

An image of Dylan skiing powder on the Wilderness Lift Line at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan, picking up where things left off last weekend

With Swing finally open, we next headed over toward Wilderness to sample some of the powder over there.  Checking on the powder depth at 2,775’ on Lower Crossover like I’d done on Monday, I got a reading of 9 inches.  That’s actually an inch lower than what I recorded on Monday, but that’s not surprising after several days of settling and now some denser snow on top.  Most importantly, the net content of liquid in the snowpack has increased again with this storm. Every storm continues to bolster the snowpack over there, and we definitely had our best run of the year on Turnpike.  It’s really been our go-to trail this season when snow has been lean, and it was just a heck of a lot of fun with all the new powder.

An image of Ty jumping over a clump of brush on the Wilderness Lift Line trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty later told me that he was working on his body positioning in the air with this jump – nice!

Although we still had daylight, the night skiing lights continued to come on as the resort shifted into night skiing mode.  It was 4:15 PM, and I had to be in Burlington for dinner, but we decided to catch a final run off the Mid Mountain Chair – Ty really wanted another chance to ski his line behind the racing fence on Beech Seal.  The snow continued to pour down, now with some larger flakes more reminiscent of upslope, and as we skied along I commented to E on how conditions were almost of the type we like for night skiing – fresh snow, no wind, and relatively warm.  For those that went out last night to the slopes, I’d say they chose a good one.  Ty got to ski his line, and Dylan followed along as well, continuing on to the second fence where the line ends in a bunch of brush.  Dylan extricated himself easily though, and came out smiling.

We skied right back down to the access road through the trees near the Wentworth Condos, which is always a nice way to end the day.  I’d say the mountain had picked up at least 2 to 4 inches by the time we’d left, and a half foot would be a reasonable way to expect the event to finish off.  We’ve got a chance for another Alberta Clipper on Monday, and a steady diet of these is certainly a nice way to go until a bigger storm comes through to really give us a big jump in base depths.

Bolton Valley, VT 20JAN2014

An image of Dylan skiing deep powder on the Cougar Trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
It’s amazing what a little of that Champlain Powder can do for the skiing.

When Bolton Valley reported another four inches of snow this morning, we knew that we’d be heading up to make some turns.  That amount of snow, on top of the four to five inches that I’d found when I visited the mountain yesterday, was definitely going to bring the skiing up a notch.  As it turned out, it brought the skiing up several notches and turned it into what was for us, unquestionably the best ski day of the 2014 calendar year.  That’s actually not saying much with the way the past few weeks had gone in terms of weather around here, but when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.

“…when Ty gets talking about
having to ski blind because
there’s too much powder in his
face, it’s a sign that conditions
are on the mend.”

The approach of an arctic front brought an inch and a half of snow to the house overnight, but as the cold air continued to filter in, more snow was wrung out, and we received snowfall of various intensities through the morning.  Snow was falling up at the mountain as well, and with updates on the website indicating that new trails were opening, it sounded like conditions were getting better and better.  While we had initially started to discuss both skinning and lift-served options for today’s outing, the opening of new terrain sealed the deal in favor of the latter; we knew that meant that the recent accumulations had resulted in substantial changes in coverage.  In the end, with so many additional terrain options opening, it was clearly the right choice.

We finally headed up later in the morning to find the parking lot only about half filled, and after dropping E and the boys off at the base of the Snowflake Chair, I quickly got a great spot to park down near the end of one of the top rows with help from one of the parking attendants.  I’d spoken with him before, and as I got my gear on, we chatted about how nice it was to have some consistent temperatures back – the past few weeks have been a real roller coaster with systems passing though off to the west, and he said that he had to pack a ridiculous amount of clothes each day just to keep up with the weather.  In any event, winter was definitely in place, and as I look around at the falling snow and ski vehicles covered in white, it was a much more familiar look for the Northern Greens in winter.

An image of ski vehicles and falling snow in the village parking lot at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Back to reality

By the time I got to the base of Snowflake, E and the boys had already completed a couple of runs, and Ty was raving about the conditions.  They’d taken Butterscotch, and Ty said that there was powder off to the sides, but even if you didn’t go into the powder, the conditions were great.  We hit one more run there, and then boarded the Vista Quad to hit some steeper terrain.  We spent the midday hours trying out the steepest available terrain like Spillway, Hard Luck, and then Alta Vista.  Not surprisingly, there were some firm surfaces on the middle areas of the trails where manmade snow predominated, but off to the sides where traffic was low, the snow was generally softer and there was plenty of chopped up powder and even untracked powder at times.  The skier’s right of Spillway held a lot of great snow over the edge of the trail where the terrain fell away.

An image of Ty skiing the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty finally getting his chance to ski some of Bolton’s steeper terrain on the great snow today.

After a few runs, E was getting a bit cold, and Dylan was ready for a break, but Ty was just too jazzed to go in.  He wanted to stay out with me and shoot some photos, so I told him that I had two specific runs in mind.  We kicked things off with a run down Spillway, where he dissected all the potential powdery lines off to the skier’s right, coming up with his own lines and photos that he wanted me to shoot.  He was one fire on that steep terrain, taking on everything, even the occasional massive death cookie that got sent that way from the groomers.  On our next run we headed over toward Wilderness.  Although Swing was roped off, closing the upper entrances, another track was available off Sherman’s that gave us some lower access.  I checked the snow depth as we headed over, and found 10 inches of settled powder.  The Wilderness Lift Line was in nice shape with plenty of coverage and plenty of powder, and Ty managed some nice face shots.

An image of Ty getting a face shot of powder on the Wilderness Lift Line trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty encountering some of today’s visual impairment.
An image of Ty skiing deep powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty keeping his head above water

We stopped in the lodge for some lunch with E and Dylan, and then brought Dylan out for one more run in the powder on Wilderness.  They boys got some deep turns on Cougar, followed by a delightful cruise through the powder on Turnpike.  Actually, we had to use the tracks of others at times on Turnpike, because the powder is now getting almost too deep for some of the pitches there.  The snow had let up, and the sun came out for that final run to really punctuate the day.  The coming week is looking quite cold, with single digits for high temperatures, but at least the snow is going to be well preserved for the near future.  It was interesting to note what Powderfreak said in the Ski Tread at American Weather – that this week we just managed for the first time in 2014 to have an average snowfall week here in the Northern Greens.  With that being the case, an above average week should be really fun.

Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2014

An image of a snow-covered car at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A couple of modest storms have helped replenish the powder at Bolton Valley over the past few days, and there could be more on the way tonight.

It’s been two weeks since I was last out on the slopes, because there hasn’t been much to draw me out in the interim.  We finally got a small snowstorm on Wednesday though, and with another few inches of snow at the mountain overnight into this morning, it seemed like it was time to check out how the powder was building up.  Actually, the potential exists for a few more inches of snow tonight with the passage of an arctic frontal boundary, so my real goal was to make a reconnaissance run to see how the snow might be set up for tomorrow.  If things come together to offer up some quality turns, it could be time to entice E and the boys up to the hill.

“The snow wasn’t overly deep
with just 4 to 5 inches, but the
 pitches fit that depth quite well,
the turns were mostly bottomless
 on the fat skis, and it was some
 damn fine powder skiing.”

After hanging out at home and watching some of the AFC Championship game featuring the Patriots, it was almost 4:00 P.M. before I got headed up to Bolton Valley.  I knew that it was going to be getting toward dusk by the time I got on the snow, but I also knew that it would be quite peaceful, and I’ve really been enjoying these tours that I get to finish off while descending to the lights of the Village.  Comfortable temperatures in the upper 20s F down at the house in Waterbury, gave way to somewhat chillier temperatures and snowfall as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road.  Our little system from earlier today had dropped a couple inches at the house, and 2 to 3 up at Bolton, but there had been a snowfall lull during the middle of the day.  As evening approached however, snow associated with the upcoming frontal passage was making its presence felt, and as usual, it was starting in the higher elevations.  The intensity of the snow increased as I ascended, and the road began to take on a light accumulation of snow at ~1,200’.  With no night skiing going on tonight, numerous cars inched their way down the road as they finished off their ski day.  I made a brief stop at the Timberline Base to check on the snow situation at 1,500’, and indeed as expected, I found that the snowpack is still a bit too lean down at that elevation to be supporting comfortable skiing without rock skis or junkboards.  There was only 1 to 2 inches of powder down at the base lodge, and that was on top of a fairly thin base.  The snowpack was much improved up in the Village at 2,100’ though, where there was a decent base of several inches, and a consistent 4 inches of powder.

An image of snowbaorders hiking up the Lower Turnpike Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Other late-day turn-earners

I geared up and began my ascent of Turnpike, watching three snowboarders ahead of me that appeared to have similar thoughts.  In a couple of minutes however, they stopped along the trail just after the junction of Turnpike and Wilderness Lift Line, cracked open some beers, and kicked back in the snow.  Good times.  We exchanged greetings as I passed, tossing around comments on the joys of the new snow, and I continued upward.  There was a nice skin track at times, although it did get disrupted as ski tracks merged and diverged from it, or the end of the occasional deeper water bar forced it away from the trail’s edge.  Steady light snowfall continued, and an occasional gust of wind worked its way into the protected confines of the trial.

Being a trial run, and paying some respect to the growing darkness, a decided to stop at the connector between Turnpike and the Wilderness Lift Line around 2,500’.  The depth of the powder had increased just a bit by that point, and measurements were in the 4 to 5-inch range.  There was some untracked snow still remaining on Turnpike, but despite being a bit more exposed to winds, the Wilderness Lift Line had seen a lot less traffic and seemed like the way to go for fresh tracks.  There were some tracked areas off to the left and right, but excellent lanes of powder showed themselves near the middle of the trail, even in the darkened view allowed by my goggles.  The turns, as I’d later describe them to E, were what I’d call “par for the course” for that area over the past few weeks.  The snow wasn’t overly deep with just 4 to 5 inches, but the pitches fit that depth quite well, the turns were mostly bottomless on the fat skis, and it was some damn fine powder skiing.  The only complaint would be that the snow was a little cold and slow in spots, so maybe an extra coat of wax would be in order if we try something similar tomorrow.

There were no signs of the snowboarders by the time I reached the bottom of my run, but the Village was abuzz with lights, and televisions that were probably set to the Patriots game.  I stopped in for a few minutes at the big screen set up next to Fireside Flatbread in the lodge, and it wasn’t looking good for the Patriots – the Broncos were up 20 to 3.  Outside, the snow had redoubled its efforts, and was coming down at a moderate pace.  I had to take some time to wipe the snow off the car, as there was a good coating on the leeward sides.  Snowfall that was initially more minimal down here at the house has picked up as the evening has progressed, so we’ll have to see where things stand tomorrow with the new snow.  Winter, and fortunately powder skiing, is certainly back after its earlier hiatus.

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2013

An image of Ty jumping in some powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting the boys out into the powder today

Although I never made it up to the main mountain yesterday, the skiing I found at Timberline was quite good, and suggested that the snow would be even better at higher elevations.  That snow, combined with the continued moderating temperatures expected to rise through the 20s F into the 30s was a recipe for some very nice skiing.  The forecast has been predicting these conditions for a while, and E and the boys were on board for getting up to the mountain today as well.  I’d told E about yesterday’s turns, so we had to decide if we wanted to go for some of that powder at Timberline, or ride the lifts and ski at the main mountain.  We decided that it would be good for the boys to get in some lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, since they’ve yet to do that at all this season.  We also realized that we could still work in some Timberline powder if we spotted a car at the Timberline Base, and that would get the boys a little of everything.

“I have to admit, I
could really tell the
difference between
being on my mid-fats
today, and being on
my fat skis yesterday.”

When I was checking out the Bolton Valley website yesterday evening, I noticed that they were having a special promotion today – it was the first of four Subaru/Hyundai days in which owners of those vehicle brands could get a free lift ticket for the afternoon.  Also, additional guests could get tickets at 50% off.  I wouldn’t have been more than a passing thought, except that E was thinking of getting out with Gabe, one of our BJAMS students, to let him practice snowboarding before our regular season program begins at Stowe next week.  I told E about the promotion this morning, and although it turned out that she didn’t get together with Gabe, we had another potential student that could use a ticket.  E was planning to get together with Claire to work out the ski groups for the ski program, and during their planning, they realized that Luc could come and ski with us using a free ticket.

Claire dropped of Luc with plans to meet with E again later, and we headed up to the mountain.  Heading up the access road, it was right as we approached the Timberline area that we realized our day was going to be a bit different than we’d expected.  The sign was already up indicating that the upper parking lots were full, and that meant that there were a lot of visitors at the mountain today.  Although we could probably have found a spot up in the Village lots from people that were leaving, we decided to park the cars at the Timberline Base, since we’d already been planning to end up down there anyway.  It was about three runs of the shuttle before we were able to get on, but once we did, the boys loved it since it was their first opportunity to ride the Bolton Valley shuttle bus.

“I guess when half the
state owns Subarus,
you’re going to get a
response to such a
promotion.”

As if the need to initiate parking down at Timberline hadn’t been enough of a signal, at the base area, it was immediately obvious that the Subaru/Hyundai promotion was a hit.  I guess when half the state owns Subarus, you’re going to get a response to such a promotion.  The lift queue at the Vista Quad was quite long, and had to be at least 10 minutes.  We decided to take a run on Snowflake, since the queue wasn’t too long, and the snow on the Butterscotch slope looked quite good.  Indeed the snow was quite good, with some powder off to the edges, but it was just too short a run to be waiting 5 to 10 minutes to ski it, so we decided to make the next run down to Timberline.

An image of Dylan skiing powder along the edge of the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan making quick work of the powder out there on Brandywine

From my Timberline explorations yesterday, I knew that there would be plenty of decent skiing even if we just followed out the Timberline Lane traverse to Brandywine, so that’s what we did.  When we got there it was immediately obvious that there were more tracks than yesterday, so it was more challenging to find fresh snow.  Also, folks were finding the skiing a bit tricky, due to the snow composition and coverage.  I have to admit, I could really tell the difference between being on my mid-fats today, and being on my fat skis yesterday.  Typically that difference in powder performance is more subtle, but not today – the fat skis had kept me that little bit higher in the snow yesterday, and that meant minimal interaction with the base or any crust that was sandwiched in between the layers of powder.  Also, with the areas of untracked snow not as vast as yesterday, it limited line choice.  Although the conditions were a bit challenging for E and the boys at times, there were still a lot of great sections of powder, so great turns were made.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Northern Vermont
Even without getting in on the biggest accumulations, the Northern Greens have been doing their thing to the best of their ability.

Back down at the cars, it was mid afternoon, and the combination of lift queues and conditions on Timberline that while OK, certainly didn’t have E and the boys raring to go for more, and that made it an easy decision to just call it a day.  We headed back to the house where E and Claire spent some time working out all the groups for the ski program.  I’m not sure how many extra tickets were sold today for the promotion, but it certainly brought people out.  The fact that it was a nice mild day after the recent cold weather probably played into it as well.  Hopefully they can have some of the other main lifts open for the next one of these promotional days, because that wouldn’t put so much pressure on the Vista Quad.  With the base snow that is out there, all that’s needed is one good synoptic snowstorm to hit the area without going too far south or north and most terrain would be able to open.