Temperatures continued to run below average today, but were expected to top out around 20 F in the midafternoon, so Dylan and I headed back up to the mountain to check out the new snow and get in a ski tour. Not surprisingly, we found snow that was much improved over last week. At base elevations around 2,000’ we were finding 5 to 7 inches of powder atop the base, and up around 2,700’-2,800 where we topped out, depths were right around a foot.
Dylan is in the process of getting new equipment and gear since he’s outgrown so much of his stuff, so he was using E’s powder Telemark skis and Ty’s outwear. It all seemed to work really well for him though, and he was ripping up the powder when we found it. I’d say that was actually the main issue on the day; since the big storm was back on Monday and Tuesday, people have skiing that snow all week and large areas of untracked snow were at a premium on the lower slopes of Wilderness. We definitely got in some nice turns, but we had to really stick to the edges and seek out those spots that people has missed.
We’ve got yet another winter storm coming into the area tomorrow into Tuesday. This one’s expected to be a bit messy on the front end with some freezing rain, but it’s supposed to change over to snow as the system pulls off to the east. Whatever the case, it should all represent more material for building the base. It looks like there’s another storm expected toward the end of the week as well, so we’ll be watching to see how that will set things up atop the current base of snow.
The local ski resorts hadn’t picked up too much more than we had, but totals in the 6 to 10” range seemed typical, and that was certainly enough to entice me out for some early season turns. With that in mind, this morning I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to get in a ski tour and check out the new snow. With the fairly fluffy nature of the snow and based on what we’ve seen at the house over the past couple of days, I’m sure there had been some settling since it fell, but here’s the snow depth/elevation profile of what I found from the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road up to the local summit areas:
I started my ski tour around midday, when temperatures were just edging a bit above freezing at our house down in the valley, but above 1,500’, and certainly above 2,000’, temperatures never got above freezing so the snow was all winter consistency.
In terms of the skiing, it was undoubtedly early season, and rock skis would be your best bet if you’re going on anything with substantial pitch. I actually found the skiing better on the lower half of the mountain because there was a bit of a base there – I think more of the snow down in those elevations was melting on contact with the ground to create that dense layer. Up higher, the consistency of the snow was more straight fluff from top to bottom. As is often the case, most water bars had reasonable crossings at least at one point, but a few were dicey and took some extra navigation. There’s still running water in plenty of spots, and ponding in some flat areas. On my descent it was obvious that my skis got in contact with at least traces of that moisture, because about halfway down I had to pull out a credit card and spend probably 10 minutes doing a scrape down on the ski bases to really get things back in shape for gliding.
That effort was worth it though, because for the bottom half of my run I was on Lower Turnpike, and that offered what was unquestionably the best skiing of the tour. The combination of that bit of dense snow that accumulated as some base down in those elevations, plus some skier traffic packing down areas of the new snow as well, clearly created the best subsurfaces I encountered. On top of that you’ve got the fact that Lower Turnpike is essentially all grassy terrain, and it has a pitch that isn’t really overbearing for the amount of snowpack we’ve got, and it comes together for real winning combination. Even with some skier traffic, there was still plenty of powder to play around in throughout the trail, so that was a great way to finish off my run.
For anyone heading up, you may still want to hit the summit areas to check things out and get the exercise from a more substantial tour, but if you’re just looking to get out from some quality turns, Lower Turnpike is probably going to get you the most bang for your buck. It’s one of the designated ascent routes anyway, so there’s a nice skin track and it’s an efficient way to in some nice turns on the new snow.
I just got an alert on my phone this morning that we’re under a Winter Storm Watch in association with the next system. This one looks more substantial than this past one, but we’re still a day or two out so we’ll need to watch for any final refinements to the forecast.
It turns out that we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average. It probably feels like May snowstorms are rarer than that, maybe because, well… it’s May. By this point in the season it typically hasn’t snowed in a few weeks, we’ve had some warm weather, Memorial Day is approaching, and people are well along into thinking about spring and summer. But I felt as though I’d been out on fresh snow several times in May since we’ve been back in Vermont over the past decade or so, and being curious about the actual numbers during the lead up to our current storm, I checked my ski report archives to see. Indeed, with today’s storm that makes at least five significant May snowstorms in the past decade. Here in the Northern Greens we also don’t catch the brunt of every May snowstorm that hits the Northeast, especially with the Presidentials in the mix, so I suspect that for the region as a whole the frequency of May snowstorms averages out to somewhere around a storm each season.
“…we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.”
As expected, it was a cool, borderline wintry morning as I made my way to the mountain. Temperatures were in the upper-30s F in the mountain valleys, and mid-30s F at the resort base. I’d seen on Stowe’s web cams that the North Slope area had its typical late season residual snowpack, so I chose that for my ascent route. By the time I got out on my tour, the snow level was certainly rising relative to its lowest point overnight or this morning when there were more optimal temperatures and snowfall rates. New snow accumulations varied considerably depending on the underlying surface, with the best accumulations and retention found atop the existing snowpack.
“The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.”
Continuing up from the North Slope area, I headed through the Fourrunner Quad Summit and up the Toll Road past the Mt. Mansfield Stake to the Mansfield Summit Station at around 3,850’. Precipitation was snow at all elevations on my ascent, and it was fairly light for the most part until I got to the Summit Station along the Mansfield ridgeline. While I was hanging out there refueling and changing over for the descent, the intensity of the snowfall ramped up somewhat, with lots of tiny flakes at first. Eventually though, the snowfall picked up to a pounding of much larger flakes. There was definitely a lot of liquid coming out of the sky at that point, and my Gore-Tex® was getting a workout.
Observing the new snow accumulations along my ascent, the big jump in depths really seemed to happen between 2,000’ and 3,000’. Above 3,000’ I didn’t really see too much with respect to additional accumulation, so presumably temperatures were sufficient down to 3,000’ to maximize the snow from the available moisture right from the get go yesterday.
Here’s the elevation profile for the accumulations I found this morning:
The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns. Of course, the density also meant that the snow was Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete and you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a lot of work. It is mid-May though, so even dense powder turns this time of year are always a treat, and getting the workout is a big part of the experience anyway.
“…you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a LOT of work.”
In some cases it wasn’t just the descent that added an extra challenge due to the dense snow. I followed a pair of skin tracks on my ascent and noticed that in some spots the new snow had stuck to their skins. I wasn’t having that issue with my skins, but I eventually caught up to the gentlemen who were making the skin tracks, and they said for them it was an issue when they traveled over areas without an existing snowpack. I was able to pay them back for their helpful skin track by setting the track for the second half of the ascent, and while I didn’t see them on the descent, I saw them back at my car and at Edelweiss Deli where I grabbed a sub for lunch (great minds think alike) and it sounds like they had a great tour.
Wintry conditions in May are typically quite ephemeral, so I guess we’ll be back to spring skiing soon, but these late season powder days are always a treat. There’s a certain mystique with these late season elevation snow event because it feels like you were in another world when you get back to the strong sun, spring warmth, and rapidly emerging greenery in the valleys.
This weekend we took advantage of the great off-season rates and stayed slope side at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which I learned has now been renamed “The Lodge at Spruce Peak”. My sister and her family were in the area and staying at the Lodge for a couple of days, so this gave us a chance to catch up with them as well stay right by the slopes for some easy access to skiing on Mt. Mansfield.
We arrived at the Lodge yesterday afternoon, dropped off the car, and then got settled into our room while we caught up with my sister’s family. This time we tried out one of the one bedroom suites, similar to what we’ve had in the past at places like the Tram Haus Lodge. It’s definitely nice to have a bit more space and the multiple rooms, especially now that the boys are older (and bigger). The additional space was also convenient for when my sister’s family came over to visit. During the evening we generally relaxed, the kids headed to the pool/hot tub area for a bit, and we all had a great dinner at the Hourglass Lounge. There was snowfall all the way down to the base elevations in the evening, and as we had dinner we’d occasionally see windy whiteouts from all the blowing snow. It looked quite wintry, but temperatures were fairly marginal at the base elevations, so there was really only a trace of accumulation visible by morning.
I was the only one planning to ski today, so after we checked out of our room and had breakfast at Solstice, E and the boys dropped me off at the Midway Lodge. There were probably two to three dozen cars in the Midway parking lots, and people were heading out from there for ski tours along various routes. Chin Clip Runout looked pretty quiet, and it, along with Switchback is one of my favorite ascent routes, so I headed that way and started skinning.
On my ascent, I observed that additional snow accumulations seemed rather minimal below about 2,500’ – there was a windswept inch or two that was really scattered around atop the old base, and much of that was probably there from Saturday’s snow. The new snow had collected in pockets here and there, but I didn’t really see any substantial consistency until I started getting into the upper half of the terrain. Around the 3,000’ mark I started getting some solid 6 to 7 inch depths of reasonably dense, dry snow along the climber’s right of Perry Merrill. I saw some folks continue their ascents up above the Gondola into the alpine via Cliff Trail Gully, but I was a bit leery of what coverage would be like with the new snow over previous melting among the rocks. If the new snow depths continued to increase above the 3,600’ range then it could have been quite nice up there.
“The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.”
Being underwhelmed by the accumulations I’d seen on my ascent of the main Gondi terrain, I headed toward Cliff Trail for my descent. The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas. That was really nice, and while the depth gradually decreased as I headed down Cliff Trail, the skiing there was quite good throughout. There were a few tracks on the trail, but only a handful of skiers had been down at that point. I’d say that the junction with Nosedive at around 2,700’ was right about where the best snow petered out. The elevation was part of it, but the change to Nosedive with its more open nature and higher levels of skier traffic made for a very obvious break in the availability of the new snow. That would have been an excellent spot to stop a descent if one was looking to lap the best snow up high.
We’ve got some fairly cool days coming over the next week, so the new snow should stick around for a while up high, although the quality may deteriorate somewhat from the typical spring temperature cycling.
After watching it snow all morning on the Bolton Valley Web cam, I decided to head up for a ski tour around midday to see how the new snow was settling in over the old snowpack. Similar to our house, the precipitation was rain and there was no snow at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, but driving up I encountered residual winter snowpack starting at ~1,400’. The rain changed over to snowfall right after that, around the Timberline Base at 1,500’.
I found a couple inches of new snow as I parked the car in the Bolton Valley Village around 2,000’, and that depth only increased slowly to roughly 3 inches at the 2,500’ level. I noticed a bit of a jump in depths when I hit the 2,600’ to 2,700’ range though, so that seemed to be a threshold of sorts for accumulations during this storm. .
Here’s the new snow depth profile with respect to elevation based on my observations from today’s tour:
“…with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.”
On the ascent I was a bit worried that the snow was going to be sticky with respect to turns, but the temperature up top around 3,000’ was roughly 30 to 31 F. So it was certainly below freezing up there, and the new snow was dense, but definitely dry enough for some nice powder turns. I only found sticky snow to be an issue during the final couple hundred feet of descent to the main base area at 2,100’. I made my initial descent down Alta Vista, then worked my way over toward Wilderness, and with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there. Powderfreak reported some nice turns today at Stowe as well, and he found similar accumulations to what I encountered on my Bolton Valley tour.
The models and forecasts suggest that after a lull this afternoon, there’s a chance for more snow tonight into tomorrow as the back side of the system comes through. We’re planning to stay at the Lodge at Spruce Peak tonight, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head out for some turns on Mansfield tomorrow.
Today seemed to be the better option for some sunny afternoon weather this weekend, so the family headed up to Bolton Valley for a bit of spring skiing. Timberline, with its western-facing slopes and lower elevation, is starting to melt out in areas, but coverage on the main mountain is looking quite good. Temperatures were into the 60s F, even up at the 2,000’ level, so there were no concerns about whether or not the snow would soften enough for good turns.
“We descended Spillway on the upper mountain, and it had some beautifully smooth corn snow that everyone seemed to enjoy. E commented that the snow was some of the best she can recall in quite a while with regard to spring touring.”
There were several cars in the upper lot near the main base lodge, and it was obvious that most of them belonged to people who were out ski touring because you could seem them coming and going with their gear as they enjoyed the beautiful sunny afternoon. Our goal for today’s tour was to head up to the Vista Summit, and the boys rocketed right off ahead of us as we ascended Beech Seal. They didn’t pull any punches, and went right up in the Hard Luck area to get to the summit as fast as they could. That’s a pretty steep approach, but they told me they did put in some switchbacks. E and I headed over a couple of trails and took Schuss to Alta Vista, which makes for a more reasonable grade overall. At the summit we all paid a visit to the Vista Peak Fire Tower, and while it was still relatively warm, the wind was certainly blowing strong.
We descended Spillway on the upper mountain, and it had some beautifully smooth corn snow that everyone seemed to enjoy. E commented that the snow was some of the best she can recall in quite a while with regard to spring touring. Temperatures today were just right for the state of the snowpack to soften up an inch or two of the corn snow without getting too far into the base. The fact that there hasn’t been much skier traffic on the mountain also helped to make for such smooth surfaces.
It looks like the mountains could have a bit of fresh snow coming on Monday night into Tuesday, but longer term we’ll hopefully have several more weeks of spring skiing to enjoy.
Today was another one of those days where I really hadn’t expected to ski. We had a great lift-served family ski day on Saturday, and then I went on a backcountry reconnaissance tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail and Woodward Mountain yesterday, so I’d already had a decent dose of weekend skiing. Today was going to be a bit chillier, and I was happy to simply catch up on some work at home, but Mother Nature seemed to have other plans. It snowed all morning at our house in Waterbury, with big, fluffy, champagne flakes, and we’d picked up 3 to 4 inches of new snow by noontime. If it was snowing like that down at our house, I could only imagine what might be going on 2,000’ higher up at the mountain, so I decided that I should do a quick ski tour and find out.
“I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder.”
It was still snowing rather vigorously when I got up to the mountain, and it was hard to tell exactly how much new snow had fallen over the previous layers of powder, but it seemed to be at least as much as we’d picked up down at the house. The approach section of the tour along Broadway went smoothly, and I’d quickly wrapped around on the Telemark trail and reached the ridgeline in the Holden’s Hollow area. I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder. That snow was very high quality, similar to what I’d found on the west side glades on Woodward Mountain during yesterday’s tour, and the run was over way too quickly.
I skinned back up to the ridge, and headed northward a bit more to gain some additional elevation for a front side descent. The front side Holden’s Hollow Glades had definitely seen some traffic, and I found that I was touching down to the subsurface in areas that been previously packed out by skier traffic. I ended up heading a bit to the skiers right of the glades there to catch the best snow.
This time, for my return trip to the car, I put my skins back on to cross the flats in the Pond Loop area, instead of just managing the traverse on skis alone. It’s hard to say if it made the trip back to the car faster overall with the time required to stop and reapply skins, but it was definitely nice to make the trek without ever sliding backwards.
When snow conditions are good, and the snowpack is like this from top to bottom, it’s a great time to consider some of those longer backcountry descents that really make use of all the vertical around here. The trip that came to mind today was the Woodward Mountain Trail. E was feeling a bit under the weather, but I figured I could take the boys on the tour, and E said she could still help out with the car shuttling. We didn’t have a full day to spend, so I wasn’t going to initiate the tour unless we could get it done fairly expeditiously. I’d scoped out the bottom of the trail and found the most efficient exit on a tour last March, but my touring in the Goose Pond area had only gotten me mildly familiar with the start of the trail up on the ridge line. I decided to check my copy of David Goodman’s classing backcountry guidebook “Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont and New York” to get a better feel for the ridgeline part of the trail. After the initial descent from the Vista Peak Fire Tower the guidebook mentions that the trail “climbs gently, but steadily up a ridge”. That was enough to convince me that I needed to do a bit more reconnaissance before bringing the boys, so I set my sights for today on an exploratory tour along the ridge line.
“The snow there was spectacular bottomless powder with no tracks.”
Arriving at Bolton Valley, my tour kicked off with a ride on the Vista Quad, which whisked me right up to the Vista Summit. I stopped in to check on the views from the Vista Peak Fire Tower, and then continued on the Woodward Mountain Trail. The first few minutes were on terrain that I’d been on before – the descent from Vista Peak down to the col that separates it from Woodward Mountain. As advertised, the trail rose gradually after that point. I opted to go without skins for a few minutes, but eventually decided that putting on my skins would be the way to go. I’d say that was the right choice, because there was at least another 10 minutes of climbing before the trail began to level off. I followed the trail out to the point where it began to descend through some of the route’s open glades, then turned around and headed back up to the Woodward Mountain summit area.
I still had a bit of time to explore, so I decided to check out some of the glades on the west side of Woodward Mountain as well. I followed a prominent spur trail the headed west off the Woodward Mountain Trail, and it eventually led down to some nice open glades dropping into the prominent valley that drains Goose Pond and is surrounded by Bone Mountain, Woodward Mountain, Vista Peak, and the Timberline Summit. The snow there was spectacular bottomless powder with no tracks. It was hard to pull myself away, but with the time I had available I had to skin back up to the Woodward Mountain Trail after only a partial descent of the glades. An excellent tour option would be to continue skiing on down the valley and hook back up with the resort by connecting to the Timberline Base the way we did on our Bone Mountain tour. That potential tour will have to wait for some time in the future though, so I’ll just have to add it to the ever growing list along with the Woodward Mountain Trail.
After doing some clearing of the driveway this morning, I headed up to the Timberline area at Bolton Valley to get in a quick ski tour before work. Temperatures have been warming throughout this storm, so I was greeted by some very nice temperatures way up into the 20s F at the Timberline Base. I was also greeted by pounding snow in the range of 1 to 2 inches per hour, with huge flakes and zero wind. The big flakes were coming down so hard that my jacket was turning white just a few minutes into my tour. The intense snowfall, big flakes, and no wind are fantastic conditions for building up fluff, and that was a welcomed addition to the accumulations from this storm cycle; based on what I saw from my snow analyses at the house, there is probably some upside-down character to the initial accumulations we’ve had on the front end of this event.
“The accumulations I found from this storm so far were 9-10” at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base and about 12-13” at 2,500’ at the Timberline Summit.”
The Timberline Base was really deserted when I was up there this morning; there was just one other car in the lot, and the skin track had already picked up three inches of new snow since the last person had used it. I guess filling in the skin track doesn’t take too long when it’s snowing at an inch or two per hour, but it was still surprising. The accumulations I found from this storm so far were 9-10” at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base and about 12-13” at 2,500’ at the Timberline Summit. That pounding snowfall probably did bump up that upper number a bit, even over the course of just a half hour ascent.
The trip down Intro was fun, since the initial snow’s hefty density meant great coverage even in spots that might typically get scoured a bit by the wind. Below the Timberline Mid Station, I opted for Twice as Nice, because the only skier traffic I could see there was the vestiges of one old track. Boy did the mountain get a resurfacing though – you had to really try hard to find the old subsurface, and for the most part, it’s now just a distant memory. Winter Storm Maya has definitely been a shot in the arm for the snow conditions so far though, and there’s plenty of snow still to come. The 3 to 4 inches of fluff on top of the denser snow definitely set the skiing right-side-up this morning, so turns are looking really nice for the foreseeable future.
Today the family headed to Brandon Gap for some backcountry skiing. Dylan’s friend Ivan is visiting, and he joined us as well for his very first backcountry skiing experience. He doesn’t actually have any backcountry ski gear, but we were able to set him up with some Alpine Trekkers and a pair of Erica’s older skins that fit his skis almost perfectly. We also had the advantage of nicely warming temperatures today, so we waited until the afternoon, and arrived at the Bear Brook Bowl Access and Trailhead on Vermont Route 73 to cloudy skies and temperatures around 20 F.
There are multiple trail pods at Brandon Gap, but for this tour I chose to stick with the same No Name Backcountry Area that I’d visited last March. It’s an efficient touring area that heads right up from the parking lot with almost zero approach, and I didn’t expect we’d have too many curves thrown at us since I had a good idea of the lay of the land.
“The powder we found was beautifully light and dry, and generally 12 to 24 inches in depth, with the highest reading I obtained at 26 inches.”
The skin track was well established as usual, and in this case it was almost a bit too well packed because there was some occasional slipping on the steeper pitches. We quickly found that all you had to do was slide a bit to the left or right into the untracked snow and you’d find sufficient purchase. Ivan had to get used to using the Alpine Trekkers, but by the end of the ascent he was really getting it down. There had been about a dozen other vehicles in the parking area, but we only saw one other group out in the No Name pod.
For our descent we headed far to the skier’s left, father than I’d traversed on my previous visit, and we got to ski one of the leftmost glades that had perhaps three or four previous tracks. The terrain is generally in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range or so, and the snowpack is quite prodigious. It was too deep for me to easily estimate based on any pole measurements, but there really aren’t any deficiencies and everything you could possibly want to be covered certainly is. The powder we found was beautifully light and dry, and generally 12 to 24 inches in depth, with the highest reading I obtained at 26 inches. The composition of the subsurface was pretty inconsequential because you just weren’t having to get anywhere near it, but from what we could tell it didn’t seem overly crusty. Temperatures stayed very comfortable, and the skies were just cloudy until about midafternoon when it started to snow in association the new small system that’s coming into the area.
We stopped off in the Mad River Valley for some Mad Taco on the way home, and business appeared to be booming based on how packed it was. I’m sure resorts throughout the state were loaded with visitors today thanks to the great conditions and moderate temperatures.