Big Jay Basin, VT 21FEB2021

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in deep powder from Winter Storm Viola in the Big Jay Basin backcountry near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan dropping into a Telemark turn in powder during a backcountry ski tour out in the Big Jay Basin area near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
Dylan dropping into a Telemark turn in the powder during our ski tour out in Big Jay Basin today.

When I headed up to Jay Peak yesterday and found that quality subsurface base snow with up to 16” of new Champlain Powder™ on top, it was hard not to think about going back for another visit.  The snow just kept accumulating throughout the time I was there yesterday, but that wasn’t the end of it.  Here at the house, the snowfall really ramped up overnight, and I figured it had to really be unloading up there in Big Jay Basin.  So, I told the family all about it, and we all headed out for a tour today.

The weather was quite a contrast between yesterday and today – yesterday was relatively low visibility with constant snowfall, but today there was hardly a cloud in the sky.  The basin area had definitely picked up more snow since I’d left yesterday, but it was most notable above the road elevation (~1,500’).  Yesterday I found powder in the 8-12” range down in that elevation range, and we found something closer to a consistent 12” today.  Up higher, I’d found 12-16” in the 2,500’ range, but my measurements show that the powder depth had increased to roughly 20” when we were there today.  If one considers how dry that snow was, and whatever settling occurred, that was obviously another impressive shot of snow overnight.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Big Jay Basin backcountry area near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
Ty drops into another turn in the powder on today’s Big Jay Basin tour, while E looks on from above.

Based on my adventures yesterday, I had no plans to bring E and the boys way up toward the east face of Big Jay; the terrain is really too steep for efficient skinning, and there’s so much great ski terrain in Big Jay Basin itself, that there was little point anyway.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s report, during the approach, it was somewhere above 2,000’ when I found the first obvious split in the main skin track – I literally came to a “T” junction with a skin track to the left, and the other option to the right.  It was interesting guiding the family around today though, as the situation with visible routes was quite different.  There had been a lot more skier traffic, so there were skin tracks and descent tracks all over the place, and the obvious distinction of those skin track routes had been obliterated.  There were so many ski tracks and descent tracks around that the most efficient one’s I’d taken yesterday got missed in a couple of places, but they were all generally leading to where we wanted to go.

“Yesterday I found powder in the 8-12” range down in that elevation range, and we found something closer to a consistent 12” today. Up higher, I’d found 12-16” in the 2,500’ range, but my measurements show that the powder depth had increased to roughly 20” when we were there today”

The skiing, as expected, was excellent.  We topped out at an elevation of roughly 2,700’ in the basin, and worked our way generally back toward the parking area following the typical routes.  There was plenty of powder, although since the area had seen additional skier traffic, we didn’t quite have the run of the place like I did yesterday, and we had to move around a bit more for fresh lines.  I brought up the idea of just skiing straight down the basin to Route 242 and making the short walk back to the car on the road, because I saw some people that seemed to have taken that approach on my outing yesterday.  E and the boys wanted to hit some of that open terrain that’s available near the bottom of the approach though, so we headed that way.  Heading straight down out of the basin will be something I’ll have to try on a future trip, but it could be a nice way to avoid having to traverse to the right as much during the ascent and get a more direct fall line run.

A map showing GPS data on Google Earth for a backcountry ski tour in the Big Jay Basin area near Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
A map of our backcountry ski tour in the Big Jay Basin area today with GPS data mapped onto Google Earth

Since the trip is an hour or so from home, we used it as an opportunity to get Dylan some of his required driving hours, and that was a win-win.  There was still some snow to navigate on the roads so that he could work on dealing with slushy areas, but it was probably good that he wasn’t dealing with the heavy snowfall and low visibility that I had frequently encountered yesterday.

Big Jay & Big Jay Basin, VT 20FEB2021

An image showing a skin track through Big Jay Basin near Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont, with large areas of nicely spaced trees for glade skiing in powder
An image of a road sign for Route 100 in Vermont during a bout of February snow
Throughout my ski tour in the Jay Peak backcountry today, as well as my drive, snowfall obscured the sun and frequently made visibility quite low.

Earlier this week when Winter Storm Uri hit the area, mixed precipitation pushed pretty far north, and we even got a bit of it up here in Northern Vermont.  That put at least a mild crust atop the snow in our immediate area, but reports I’d been seeing indicated that the mixed precipitation really hadn’t made it up to Jay Peak.  That seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of town for a few turns in the Jay Peak area backcountry, and while it’s not just up the hill like Bolton is, it’s still pretty convenient because it’s only about an hour away up Route 100.

The skiing held even more promise today because we’re currently in the midst of another system, Winter Storm Viola, which dropped over 3 inches of 1.3% H2O champagne at the house as of this morning.  The resorts were reporting a few inches of new snow as well, and it was expected to continue snowing throughout the day and into the overnight.

An image of heavy snowfall at a parking area for access to the Jay Peak backcountry in Vermont
The snowfall was quite heavy at times today, including a the Route 242 parking area when I was starting my tour.

My drive up toward the  Jay Peak area gave me a chance to see what had happened with respect to accumulations from Winter Storm Viola thus far.  The Froude Numbers have been forecast to be relatively low, meaning that the western slopes were more likely to pick up accumulations than areas east of the spine, and indeed my travels showed that there have definitely been some notable differences in snowfall around the area.  The rounds of fluff we’ve been getting here along the spine at our house have covered up the old snow pretty well, and monitoring that aesthetic during my travels today turned out to be a decent way to see who’d recently gotten snow.  Heading east from our place, accumulations definitely dropped off toward the Waterbury Village area, and indeed, all along through the east slope towns of Waterbury Center, Stowe, and Morrisville, there really hadn’t been much new snow that I could see.  Either that, or what’s fallen had sublimated and disappeared quickly off the snow banks.  I’m sure accumulations increase as one heads westward up the mountain road and Mt. Mansfield, but down in Stowe Village, I could see that they need a refresher.  There was still light snow falling in all those east side towns, but once I left Morrisville and rose up into the Hyde Park area, the increase in snowfall intensity was obvious.  That continued right on through Eden.  The snowfall was squally, and quite heavy at times, and I was continually having to turn on my headlights and fogs when I’d get into those more intense areas of snowfall.  That increased snowfall definitely showed itself with accumulations – up in that area, all the roadside snowbanks were covered up with a solid coating of new snow.  I’d say the snow was in general a bit less through Belvidere and Montgomery Center, but once I headed toward the pass on Route 242… well, we know what happens up there.  Even from just a quick glance at the side of the road, it was obvious that even down at the roadside elevations, a lot more snow had fallen than I’d seen anywhere else on my drive.

An image of a tractor pulling a sled in the snow with the word "KIND" spelled out among midwinter snow in the Waterbury Center area of Vermont
Today’s drive yielded lots of midwinter Vermont views, including this one in Waterbury Center.

As we’d done on our last backcountry ski trip in the area, I parked at the lower access lot on the east side of the pass to start my tour.  The elevation there is about 1,500’ and right from the start of the tour, I was finding 8-12” of new champagne atop the older snow.  Above 2,000’ there was 12-16” of accumulation.

An image of a ski slope in the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont with a ski measurement pole showing a snow depth of nearly 40 inches
Finding a snowpack depth of nearly 40 inches as I make my way up through one of the glades in Big Jay Basin

I was also checking snowpack depths along my tour, and I was already getting 40” snowpack readings at just 2,000’.  On top of that, it snowed the whole time I was there – most of the time it was what I’d call moderate, probably in the 0.5”/hr range, but there were also stints where it bumped up to the 1”/hr range.  The snowfall was typically large, upslope-style flakes, which can make it a little tough to gauge the snowfall rate because they just stack up so fast.

It’s firsthand experiences like this though that have me rolling my eyes every time somebody gets going with the smack talk about Jay Peak and their snow reporting.  My actual experiences reveal again, and again, and again that they really get a ridiculous amount of snow in that area.

My ski tour had me on Big Jay itself, and in the Big Jay Basin area today, and that southeast side of Jay Peak really seemed to be the epicenter for this shot of continuing snowfall.  I can’t say when all of it fell, and I believe I only saw 3” new on the snow report for the resort this morning when I checked.  Reports I heard about said that the resort side of the peak didn’t pick up nearly what the east side did, so the Jay Peak cloud was dropping its bounty there.  Whatever the setup has been in terms of wind direction and Froude, etc., that Big Jay Basin area today was definitely getting hit.  Something similar was going on with Hyde Park and Eden as well, to a lesser degree of course.

An area of open terrain on one of the approach routes to Big Jay Basin in the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont
The lower areas of the approach offer lots of open terrain for skiers returning to the parking area

Indeed, my numerous checks on the snowpack today revealed that the area definitely avoided any real crust from Winter Storm Uri, so obviously that’s going to help a lot with respect to the quality of the subsurface.  The resort reported 6-8” from that storm, and although there wasn’t a crust, that snow was still dense.  The skiing was indeed fantastic with as much as 16” of that champagne powder in that area, but compared to last weekend, one can definitely nitpick a bit on the quality of the powder skiing.  This most recent snow is so ridiculously light that it’s easy to get down to the dense Winter Storm Uri snow if you’re on more than moderate/blue pitch.  Then you get to that region of dense snow, and if you pressure hard enough, you’ll collapse that layer a bit because the powder below it is less dense.  Essentially, the snowpack’s got an upside down issue with respect to those second and third layers down.  We’re very much talking first-world powder problems here of course, but I figured it would be good to get the beta out there for anyone else thinking of heading out.  Naturally, going as fat as you can will help with respect to staying up in the champagne layer, and heck, if it dumps more tonight, that surface layer of powder will be bolstered to make it even better.

An image of some of the glades in Big Jay Basin the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont
The glades were just everywhere in Big Jay Basin, with a skin track providing access right across the bottom.

Relative to Big Jay, I could definitely see the convenience of hitting Little Jay when coming from that lower parking lot on Route 242Last time I was up there with the family in the general Big Jay Basin area, we actually did head more toward Little Jay, and we were in that drainage between Big Jay and Little Jay.  I specifically went out today with the intention of just making turns in Big Jay Basin, but I left the option open to head up toward the main lines from Big Jay (in that general Jailbird Chute area) depending on what skin tracks were in place.  There turned out to be a well-established skin track that headed right to that area, so my plan was to continue on it until it either disappeared, or I felt that ascending on skins was getting pointless.

On today’s tour, it was somewhere above 2,000’ when I found the first obvious split in the skin track – I literally came to a “T” junction with a skin track to the left, and the other option to the right.  I was heading to the right toward Big Jay Basin, but the left option would have been a good choice for the Little Jay area.

“…right from the start of the tour, I was finding 8-12” of new champagne atop the older snow. Above 2,000’ there was 12-16” of accumulation.”

As I approached the 3,000’ elevation mark on Big Jay today, the ascent was starting to get pretty silly on skins because progress was just so slow.  It was around that point when I found myself sidestepping up a steep, narrow area between some trees where the person setting the skin track had essentially done the same.  It was basically just a ski’s width area, so you really couldn’t even make any sort of switchback.  That was the point where I knew I wasn’t going to push too much longer on the ascent.  The skin track still continued a bit farther, and I stuck with it a little while longer until the track really just became hard to follow in the packed snow of the main chute area.  I followed a skin track (perhaps the same one, perhaps not) off to climber’s right briefly before that seemed to disappear, and then I decided I would stop my ascent as soon as I found a reasonable spot for deskinning.  I side-stepped up about an extra 30 feet or so through fairly deep powder to a nice sheltered spot where I deskinned and had a snack.

I’d been there for just a few minutes when a group of five skiers, ascending on skins, appeared below me.  They said hi, and thanked me for setting the skin track.  I let them know that I was just following an old one made by others and was stopping where I was.  It seemed like they were just going to stop there as well, but they started breaking their own trail above me and continued pushing on.  I actually debated putting my skins back on and following now that someone else was breaking trail, but after watching them get maybe another 50 feet or so over the course of 5 to 10 minutes, I knew I’d made the right choice.  As a group, I think they were having fun together with respect to the challenge of trying it on skins, and that’s probably the way to approach it.

An image of deep powder snow on the steep slopes of Big Jay in the Jay Peak area backcountry of Vermont
The terrain was getting steep, and the powder quite deep as I made my way up the east face of Big Jay today

I wanted to get back down into the lower basin because the powder skiing was far better down there anyway, simply because it’s just so steep up on that face of Big Jay.  You’re not getting bottomless turns up there unless there’s 2 to 3 feet of powder.  The 12-16” of champagne was really nice up there, but you want even more for that upper terrain.  Overall it’s some fantastic steep skiing of course, but I was on fat Tele gear and planning for undisturbed powder on more blueish and blackish pitches, not semi-tracked super steeps.

So where I topped out was in the 3,000’ – 3,100’ elevation range, and I’d argue that it was already boot pack territory.  Boot packing up there would also be quite slow though because you’re pushing up very steep terrain with lots of powder.  It would be a serious slog through the snow once you were off your skis if someone hadn’t already broken trail, although you could stick to the more packed snow in some of the main chutes and that might offer some efficiency.  I don’t know how far that group of five went, but if they were going all the way to the summit at ~3,800’, it must have been a lot of work.  I’m sure one can make it up to the Big Jay summit by skinning that route, but it’s probably something to do if you’ve got a lot of time and want the challenge, it’s certainly not the efficient way to go.  I do wonder if there’s an approach from the Little Jay side that perhaps gets it done in a practical way.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour in the Jay Peak backcountry in Vermont on February 20th, 2021
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for today’s tour in the Jay Peak Backcountry

One definite theme out there today was a lot of visages of the sun through moderate to heavy snow with big flakes.  It was pounding snow a lot on both my tour and my drive, so it made for some nice, snowy scenes.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 14FEB2021

An image of Erica skiing out through powder in the trees below the Buchanan Shelter in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the privy building by the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the snow up by the Buchanan Shelter near the start of our descent on today’s ski tour.

Yesterday I toured in the Beaver Pond area of the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, and the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.  The boys were both working during the middle of the day today, so we headed up during that window to do some additional exploring based what I’d discovered yesterday.

“…the powder I found was so exquisitely good, that I had to get E out there for some turns as well.”

Thanks to my explorations on trails like Moose-Ski and Grand View, I knew the most efficient and direct approach route to the Buchanan Shelter was to simply take the Catamount Trail to Beaver Pond.  I’d taken this as my final route out on yesterday’s tour, and it really worked well as a rather direct and efficient gravity traverse back to the car.  Indeed, it was quite the efficient route for the approach today, and it’s such a gradual incline that before you know it, you’ve gained several hundred feet of elevation.

During yesterday’s tour, I was pressed for time, so on my descent from the Buchanan Shelter, I had to stick near Upper Beaver Pond.  Today we had plenty of time, so we were able to explore more to the east to find the best lines.  There’s plenty of open forest for turns, and we were able to pick some fantastic lines that brought us right back down on Deer Run near the junction with Beaver Pond.  We also had plenty of time to enjoy additional turns in some of the low-angle powder on the return to the car.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS Tracking for today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlaid onto Google Earth

The powder was just as excellent today as it was yesterday, so it was a great ski outing.  And, the fact that it just ended up being the two of us was sort of neat in the context of Valentine’s Day.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13FEB2021

An image looking across from the Moose-Ski trail in the beaver ponds area of the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network toward the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a bucket loader covered with snow on a ski tour of the Nordic and Backcountry trail network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Views along today’s ski tour – a bucket loader covered with snow shows the various layers in the snowpack that have accumulated from recent storms.

Today was expected to be fairly chilly, with temperatures topping out in the teens F, and without any fresh snow in a couple of days, backcountry touring seemed to be the call.

I was looking for something new to explore, so I planned a tour in the southwest corner of Bolton’s Nordic & Backcountry Network.  I’ve only just scratched the surface of this part of the network in previous visits, so I was eager to see what options there were for descents with good tree skiing.  My anticipated route was to start from the Catamount Trail parking lot on the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~1,200’, head up through the expansive beaver pond meadows in the Mt. Mansfield State Forest, and top out around the Buchanan Shelter at 2,150’ below the Long Trail.

On my ascent I was on the lookout for potential descent options, exploring trails on the network such as Moose-ski.  The terrain was nice, but generally rolling, so while there were some nice short descents, it would be challenging to incorporate these into an efficient tour once my climbing skins were removed.  The views from that area across the beaver ponds did provide some great views back toward the alpine trails and the Village area.

An image of an old ski track in the powder near the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic and Backcountry trail Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Beginning my descent through the powder today near the Buchanan Shelter.

The best powder skiing terrain on the tour was definitely on the slopes below the Buchanan Shelter, with some nice areas of open forest.  The only sign of skiing in that area was an old ski track from someone that must have been there at least a couple of storms ago.  I suspect traffic is generally light in this area because it requires an approach that’s close to two miles, vs. much quicker access in many other spots on the network.  There’s a vast area of terrain for good descents off the ridge where Buchanan Shelter is located, enclosed by the Long Trail, Goat Path, Lower Maple Loop, Deer Run, and Beaver Pond.

Even without new snow in a couple of days, the snow preservation has been so good, that the quality of the powder is simply spectacular.  The snowpack I found was generally in the two- to three-foot range, but there’s such good density in the bottom layers that anything of concern is well covered.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

I was unsure how smooth the traverse out was going to be via the direct route back to the Catamount Trail, since I’d come in by an alternate route using Grand View and Moose-Ski.  Indeed, the direct route out on Beaver Pond is quite quick – it’s essentially a gravity traverse with a few spots that require glide and kick or double polling, but there are even spots below Caribou’s Corner where it’s steep enough that you can get additional turns in the powder outside the skin track.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 31JAN2021

An image of snow-covered branches overhanging a ski trail after Winter Storm Nathaniel on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow covering a stump in the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out on my ski tour today at Bolton Valley, I found that there was still lots of powder stuck to everything.

I hadn’t been up to the mountain for a couple of days while I waited for the arctic hounds to head out of town, but things were definitely warming up this afternoon, so I hit the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network for a tour.  Temperatures were in the mid-teens F, and with brilliant sunshine and no wind, it was definitely getting much more comfortable out there.

I wanted a relatively quick tour and hadn’t yet visited the trails on the western side of the network below the North Ridge this season, so I headed out in that direction.  At the 2,000’ elevation around the Village I was quite consistently getting settled snowpack depths right around 24”, and in the 2,300’ – 2,400’ elevation near the top of my route, I got a 26” measurement.  Although that’s not especially deep, there’s a lot of liquid in the snowpack, so everything is surprisingly well covered and there aren’t any major ground obstacles to worry about.  Even steep terrain like C Bear Woods and the Holden’s Hollow Glades had plenty of coverage.  I’m sure there would be a few coverage issues on steep terrain for lift-served levels of skier traffic, but with just backcountry traffic, there’s more than enough coverage to ski everything without concern.  Although it had only been a couple of days since the last snows, there had actually been a pretty good amount of traffic on the main routes I traveled, so I had to go off the edges for fresh powder.

A map showing GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network superimposed onto a Google Earth map

There has definitely been some settling of all the fluff in the forest over the past few days, but there’s still a lot of snow covering everything.  It will be interesting to see what the snow from this next storm does in terms of sticking to what’s out there already.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 23JAN2021

A snowy scene with a skier and cars from the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after some January snowstorms
An image of a snow-covered sign indicating one of the entrances to the backcountry and trail information at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The recent upslope snows were seen covering and clinging to everything today while I was out on a backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley.

The consistent snows and temperatures we’ve had over the past several days had me pretty certain that the snow quality was there for lift-served skiing today, but the arctic hounds coming in on those northwest winds led me to go touring instead.  When I saw projected highs in the single digits F for Bolton Valley today, there was no way I wanted to sit still on the lifts in the wind vs. generating my own heat down in the protection of the forest.

I got up to the Village around midday, and temperatures were indeed in the mid-single digits F as the forecast had suggested.  Between all the backcountry touring and Nordic folks that I saw, there were plenty of people out on the lower trails, but farther out into the higher trails by the Bryant Cabin, I saw probably a handful of groups. Overall, you could tell by the vibe that people felt it was great weather for these types of activities.

An image of a snow-covered evergreen and house after a week of January snows in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snowy scenes were everywhere today around the Bolton Valley Village.

The additional 4 inches of fresh champagne that the resort had just picked up really served to top off the already crazy levels of fluff that covered everything.  I saw some great images of the recent snows as soon as I arrived in the Village, so before gearing up for my tour, I took a quick walk around the Village and grabbed some scenic shots.  Once I started my tour and got into the forest, the amount of snow on all surfaces was just amazing – it was caked so heavily on the trees that you were surrounded by it on all sides.  Starting up the Bryant Trail was like walking into some sort of white cathedral.

I made depth measurements of the snowpack during my tour, and I found generally 26-27” around the 2,000’ level, and many spots that are getting dangerously close to 40” up near 3,000’.  That’s pretty consistent with what the Mt. Mansfield Stake is showing.  The powder skiing was great, although we could still use another storm or two just to push the snowpack depth past that 40” benchmark.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data from today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

At the start of my tour off Heavenly Highway I was on some steep, 30+-degree slopes, and I was setting off sloughs that definitely spoke to the relative snowpack instability from the continuous day after day after day of snows without consolidation.  I was perfectly safe where I was the very dense forest, but I immediately though about how I wouldn’t want to be exposed in spots like the ravines of the Presidentials.  So I guess it wasn’t entirely surprising when I discovered posts in the American Weather New England Skiing Thread about slides in Tuckerman.

Bolton Valley, VT 17JAN2021

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in fresh powder from Winter Storm Malcolm while we wait for the Timberline Quad chair to start loading at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing in fresh powder from Winter Storm Malcolm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Once the Timberline Quad started loading this morning, we got in some great turns in the fresh powder from Winter Storm Malcolm, as Ty shows here on Spell Binder.

The family was up at Bolton Valley for a ski session this morning, and the mountain reported an additional 6” of snow as of their early report today, making for a 14” storm total at that point.  That will probably go up a bit more for tomorrow since it was still snowing while were there, and indeed the snowfall was heavy at times.

They had a resort-wide power outage in the morning (presumably some heavy, wet snow and/or winds brought something down on the Bolton Valley Access Road), so that delayed opening a bit.  We’d planned to just do lift-served skiing on alpine gear today, but catching wind of the power outage via the snow report, we brought Telemark gear as well, and ascended via the Timberline uphill route to make a quick run there while we waited for the Timberline Quad to open.

An image of Erica skiing on the Twice as Nice Trail during Winter Storm Malcolm at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow from Winter Storm Malcolm continues to fall as Erica enjoys some morning Telemark turns on Twice as Nice.

We switched over to alpine gear once the Timberline Quad started loading, and the skiing was great.  While we were hanging out, we checked total snowpack depth on the Spell Binder trail at around the 2,000’ elevation mark, and generally got depths of 18-20”.

An image of a snow depth measurement stake in Waterbury Vermont with delicate upslope snow sticking to the top and sides of the stake
Back at the house, delicate upslope snow clings to one of our snow stakes out in the back yard. This morning’s liquid analysis revealed the most recent snow came in at 3-4% H2O.

Due to high winds, the uppermost lifts (Vista Quad and Wilderness Double) never opened, so we ended up skiing in just the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range on Timberline.  I know from my experience at the resort yesterday that the snow was notably drier on the upper mountain, so what we skied today in those lower elevations was a bit on the denser side.  The powder had certainly become drier overall with the overnight addition of upslope snow vs. just the dense snow from yesterday, but I bet the snow is even drier in the upper elevations of the main mountain.  With that said, the snow at Timberline was still fantastic, with lots of untracked powder available as ski patrol did their checks and other work to get new trails open.

The mountain is planning to run all the lifts tomorrow as long as the winds die down, so there could be some nice turns on the lifts that didn’t open at all today.

Bolton Valley & Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry, VT 09JAN2021

An image of the Telemark Practice Slope during a ski tour on the Nordic, backcountry, and alpine terrain at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image showing snow in the woods during January at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Although the base is still quite shallow, the mountains are definitely beginning to have that midwinter look after a week with some additional snows and excellent temperatures for snow preservation.

I was last out at the mountain on Sunday, and although we’ve only had a few additional inches of snow since then, it seemed like today was a good day to head on up for a tour and check out the conditions.  We’ve continued to be treated to temperatures that are well above average, which in January around here actually makes for some very nice temperatures in the 20s F.

I didn’t check out any of the manmade or lift-served terrain today, but I started my tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network and then connected over to the Wilderness area.  After several outings following the standard Wilderness Uphill Route right from the base over the past few weeks, I wanted to mix things up today.  So, I started out down by the Nordic Center, headed up Bryant until I got to World Cup, and then continued over to Lower Turnpike via the connector trail used by the mountain operations crew.  It was a fun variation with some new views, and it let me check out the conditions across a number of trails, including the Telemark Practice Slope, which looked to be in such good shape that I skied it on my descent.  Starting out on my tour in one of the tennis court lots, I actually had my pass scanned by a resort associate with a handheld scanner.  This was the first time I’ve been checked since Bolton Valley has switched to RFID.  It’s great to see that they’re checking, and it’s a good reminder to be sure you bring your pass, even if you’re going to be touring!

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The GPS tracking data plotted on Google Earth for today’s tour, which brought me from the Nordic trails over to the Wilderness area.
An image showing the depth of the snow at Village elevation of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I generally found 6-12″ of surface snow at the 2,000′ Village elevations today, but in some places there’s little to no base snow below that.

The Colorado-esque weather regime over the past few days has definitely been outstanding with respect to snow preservation.  In areas that haven’t been skied, all the recent snows are just sitting there in the form of midwinter powder, and I found depths of generally 6-12” at the 2,000’ elevation and 8-12” up around 2,700’, which was as high as I went on my tour.  I toured on my midfats today instead of my fat skis, assuming powder would be fairly hard to come by after a week of modest snowfall, settling, and skier traffic.  I’d still go that route again based on what I chose to ski, but there is definitely some fat ski-worth powder out there in many areas.  I’d say the main issue is still the base below that snow.  It’s quite variable, and down at 2,000’ in the Village elevations there’s nothing at all below the powder in unprotected areas.  In the higher elevations the base is a bit less variable, but there’s still nowhere near enough base for steep terrain.  I could tell that the mountain had opened up some of the natural snow terrain on Wilderness for lift-served skiers connecting over from Vista, because there were surprising number of people skiing the Wilderness Lift Line and Wilderness Woods.  I saw a group of four kids in Wilderness Woods having a lot of fun, although it’s still a bit thin and you could hear them hitting the occasional stump or rock.

“I toured on my midfats today instead of my fat skis, assuming powder would be fairly hard to come by after a week of modest snowfall, settling, and skier traffic. I’d still go that route again based on what I chose to ski, but there is definitely some fat ski-worth powder out there in many areas.”

What I saw that impressed me most on today’s tour was the state of skier-packed natural terrain.  Areas like Lower Turnpike, Telemark Practice Slope, Bryant Trail, and Nordic trails like World Cup (some of these may have been machine-packed) were in very good to excellent shape.  Presumably, these areas of packed snow held up well against the warmth around Christmas, and now the additional snows of the past week or two have reinforced that base.  Lower Turnpike had nearly perfect coverage, and all this packed terrain is going to make for some excellent powder skiing when the next storms come.

All in all, though, you could definitely feel that winter has settled in for the mountains, even if the snowpack/base is on the low side.  The water bars I encountered today were all sufficiently frozen, although most of them are still visible and require a bit of navigation.

Bolton Valley, VT 03JAN2021

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm John at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm John while ski touring in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in a little powder during today’s tour as he tests out his Rossignol Soul 7 HD skis for the first time. The powder from Winter Storm John is getting harder to find with lots of people touring at Wilderness, but the snow is holding up well on low and moderate-angle terrain.

Yesterday delivered some decent lift-served turns, as well as a quick Wilderness tour with some powder, so today I headed back up to the mountain for a ski tour with Dylan.  With more time than I’d had yesterday afternoon, we went a bit farther afield in the Wilderness area in search of untracked powder.  The untouched snow was definitely harder to come by this afternoon, because there has been heavy ski touring traffic this weekend.  The amount of traffic is relative of course, and nothing like you’d get with lift-served skiing, but after an entire holiday weekend worth of people touring, the untracked snow on the trails of Wilderness had been just about picked clean.  One factor in the apparently heavy traffic is that folks aren’t yet using all the acreage of tree skiing; the trees were generally untouched because people know that it’s still just a bit too thin in there for the skiing to be practical.  I saw an occasional track of people who had headed into the trees, but you could tell they weren’t quite ready.  If we get one more good snowstorm with an inch of liquid, then the low-angle trees will be in play.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm John at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Although the trails in Bolton’s Wilderness area have seen a lot of skiers due to extensive use of their uphill route, Dylan and I were still able to get into some very nice powder from Winter Storm John on our tour today.

We picked up some take-out from Fireside Flatbread for the first time this season, and the process is similar to what the resort is doing at the Village Deli and The Mad Taco – they’re not taking orders in person.  In this case it looks like the preferred method is to go through the Toast online ordering service.  I actually found this approach to be quite quick though; I was easily able to put in my order on my phone, and they accept Apple Pay, so all I had to do was authorize that with my fingerprint, and we were good to go!

The weather looks generally quiet this coming week, but by the early to middle part of next week we could get back into a more typical Northern Greens bread-and-butter pattern of modest systems to freshen up the slopes.  We still need a solid synoptic storm with an inch of liquid equivalent (or something similar from a series of smaller systems) to really get the base depths to more respectable levels, but Winter Storm John was a godsend to at least get a bit of base down and have some snow to see us through the next week.

Bolton Valley, VT 02JAN2021 (P.M.)

An image looking westward down the Winooski Valley of Vermont near the Bolton Flats area after some snow from Winter Storm John
An image of Holiday lights outside The Mad Taco restaurant in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some of the snow-covered holiday lights at dusk in the Bolton Valley Village after my ski tour today

With the way it had been dumping inch/hr snowfall when I headed home around noontime, I decided it would be worth another session in the afternoon.  This time I went for a tour on Wilderness, which had its uphill route officially reopened as of today thanks to the accumulations from Winter Storm John.  There had been additional snow, and I’d say 6-10” of powder above the base snow would represent a good summary of what I found overall in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, which was a combination of the snow from this storm on top of the accumulations from previous events.  With Bolton Valley providing access to the entire Wilderness Lift area of moderate-angle, cut trails all starting above 2,000’, I’m sure a lot of folks see it as a very good option with the rather thin base currently in place at lower elevations.  That, and the fact that it was a holiday weekend, meant that there was a lot of uphill traffic.  Fortunately, there was still decent access to untracked powder along the edges of trails, and the turns were quite good and bottomless on low and moderate-angle terrain with the recent snow we’ve picked up.

An image of the sign for "The Mad Taco" restaurant in Waitsfield, VermontWe’d been looking for an opportunity to try out The Mad Taco Bolton, so I place my order from the car before I started my ascent, and then timed my tour to be able to make the pick-up.  It worked quite well, and I got to see the way they’ve set up the restaurant for the first time.  It looks like there are a number of tables in there that folks will be able to use once in-person dining is back in action, although for now it’s takeout only.  The food was great though, just like we’ve had from their other locations!

An image of a vehicle covered in snow from Winter Storm John in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the snow from Winter Storm John on a nearby vehicle as I start my tour in the Wilderness are today