Bolton Valley, VT 16NOV2019

An image of ski tracks in some November powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in some November powder on the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
Getting Dylan out for his first turns of the season today, we found up to a foot of powder in some areas thanks to the three storms we had this past week.

Since last week’s ski outing up at Bolton Valley, we’ve had three additional rounds of snow.  The first one at the beginning of the week was the most significant, with roughly an inch of liquid equivalent going into the snowpack in the form of some dense snow.  The next two systems later in the week were smaller, but featured drier snow that topped off the denser base snow with some nice powder.

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 09NOV2019

An image of the Vista Peak area of Bolton Valley taken from near the Wilderness midstation after an early November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing some snowmaking taking place in early November at the main base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A bit of early season snowmaking going on at the main base area today

The end of the week brought our first significant snowfall to lower elevations here in Northern Vermont, with a couple inches accumulating in most valleys by Friday morning from the initial passing of the cold front.  Friday continued to bring additional snow however, with another 5 inches coming down at our house during the morning in the span of just a few hours.  By the time the system had wrapped up on Saturday morning, we’d accumulated over 7 inches at the house and the yard had been transformed from stick season into winter.

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:

340’:  1-2”
1,000’:  2-3”
1,500’:  3-4”
2,000’:  4-6”
2,500’:  6-7”
3,000’:  7-9”

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.

An image of drifted snow atop some of the condominiums near the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after an early November snowstorm
Enjoying the wintry views at the end of my tour as drifted snow adorns some of the condos by the base of the Wilderness Lift

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.

Stowe, VT 14MAY2019

An image showing the snow line on Mt. Mansfield at the start of a ski tour in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of some ski trails signs in the Nosedive area with fresh snow during a May ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today was quite the snowy day in the local mountains as I got out for a ski tour in the fresh May powder on Mt. Mansfield.

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.”

Whatever the actual frequency is for these May snowstorms, we’ve got one going on now.  We’ve been monitoring the potential of this current storm for several days in the New England forum at American Weather, and the mountain snowfall was well under way last night.  That meant that this morning was time to get a sense for what happened where and decide on a good location for some turns.  After checking out the accumulations on the various mountain webcams this morning, I decided to head to Mt. Mansfield for a ski tour.  I hadn’t seen any obvious differences in accumulations at the various resorts from the webcams, so I opted for Stowe because they seemed to have the most substantial existing snowpack right down to the base elevations.

An image showing a dusting of May snow at an elevation of 1,300 feet near the base of the Toll House chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
As I approached the mountain today, the first signs of fresh snow were at around 1,300′ just above the base of the Toll House Lift.

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.

An image showing the Mt. Mansfield snow stake area during a May snowstorm near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Stopping for a look at the healthy snowpack still present at the Mt. Mansfield stake as I pass by during today’s ski tour

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:

500’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,300’:  T
1,500’: ½”
2,000’:  1”
2,300’:  3-4”
2,500’:  5”
2,700’:  6”
3,000’:  7-8”
3,500’:  8”
3,850’:  8”

An image showing the Summit Station/Visitor Center atop Mt. Mansfield in Vermont during a May snowstorm
Snowfall picked up when I was on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline by the Visitor Center today, with huge flakes and reduced visibility for a time.

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.

Stowe, VT 28APR2019

An image snowing some of the snow cats from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont assembled above the Midway Lodge
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
A little more snow overnight topped off the accumulations from yesterday to produce some nice turns starting at around 3,000′ at Stowe today.

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.

Over the past couple of days we’ve had a storm in the area that’s been dropping some fresh snow in the higher elevations, and my ski tour at Bolton Valley yesterday revealed 4 to 6 inches of fresh, dense powder up around the 3,000’ mark.  Powderfreak reported similar accumulations in the upper elevations during his tour at Stowe yesterday, and images of the powder skiing looked quite decent, so that bode well with respect to getting in some good turns in association with our visit to the Lodge.  While there was expected to be a lull in the snowfall on Saturday afternoon, the forecast suggested that it would pick back up in the evening with the chance to tack on some additional accumulations as well.

An image of people in one of the hot tubs by the pool at the Lodge at Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica, Jill, and the kids out for time in the hot tub and pool on Saturday afternoon/evening.

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.

An image of rime ice on some branches high on Mt. Mansfield near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowstormOn 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.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow along the edge of the Perry Merrill trail up near 3,500 feet on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
Catching some nice powder turns off the side of Perry Merrill up around 3,500′

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2019

An image of the Mid Mountain Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
An image of new snow on evergreens during a late April storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I found a good 4 to 6 inches of fresh snow up in the 3,000′ elevation range today at Bolton Valley thanks to the storm that’s currently affecting the area.

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:

340’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,500’:  T-1”
2,000’:  2”
2,500’:  3”
3,000’:  4-6”

“…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.

An image of a brook with fresh snow along the edges during a late April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow accumulations along one of the brooks flowing with spring meltwater in the Wilderness area on today’s ski 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.

Bolton Valley, VT 13APR2019

An image of the Bolton Valley wind turbine with Lake Champlain and Whiteface Mountain taken from the Vista Peak Fire Tower at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in spring snow on the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan ripping it up out there today on some of the excellent spring snow at Bolton Valley

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.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in spring snow on the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Jay enjoying some of the smooth, steep turns today on Spillway

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.

An image of ski racks stacked up behind the main base lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The off-season period is definitely beginning with ski racks stacked up behind the base lodge.

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.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 18FEB2019

An image of snow falling in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a glade in the Holden's Hollow area in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Vestiges of a couple old ski tracks in some of the glades I skied today on the back side of the Holden’s Hollow area

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.

With a short Bolton Valley tour in mind, I decided to follow up on a tour I’d made with E and the boys about a month ago.  On that tour we wrapped around to the back side of Holden’s Hollow, and there were some nice glades in that area that I wanted to explore.  Now that I’m familiar with the layout there, I know that’s a great setup for a quick tour.

“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.

An image showing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network overlayed onto Google Earth

Woodward Mountain Trail & Woodward Mountain, VT 17FEB2019

An image of the fire tower atop Vista Peak at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Visiting the Vista Peak fire tower to take in some of the views on today’s tour at Bolton Valley and the Woodward Mountain Trail

The snowpack is currently in great shape here in Green Mountains of Northern Vermont, with the Mt. Mansfield Stake up near 4,000’ recently hitting 100 inches.  Solid depths are evident at all elevations though, even down to the lowest mountain valleys.  At our house, which sits at an elevation of roughly 500’ near the bottom of the Winooski Valley, the snowpack has been in the 2½ to 3-foot range since the end of January.  Snow conditions are also great right now, with Bolton Valley Resort reporting 25 inches of snow in the past few days.

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.

An image showing some of the open gladed ski terrain on the west side of Woodward Mountain near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the open glades on the west side of Woodward Mountain

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.

A map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour at Bolton Valley and the Woodward Mountain Trail overlayed onto Google Earth
A map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour at Bolton Valley and the Woodward Mountain Trail overlayed onto Google Earth

Bolton Valley, VT 13FEB2019

An image showing very heavy snowfall at the Timberline Base at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing snow accumulation on a ski jacket due to intense snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snowfall was so intense on my ski tour at Timberline this morning, that my jacket was turning white just a few minutes into my ascent.

The current storm affecting our area has been named Winter Storm Maya, and as of this morning it’s already delivered a solid addition to the local slopes with snow containing more than an inch of liquid equivalent.  Snowfall began yesterday afternoon, and the flake structure has been producing some very dense snow – my analyses from at the house were revealing water content in the snow as high as 13-16% H2O!

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.

An image of heavy snowfall at the Timberline Mid Station area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snowfall continued to pound down as I reached the Timberline Mid Station this morning.

“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.

An image showing a skin track for ascending on skis at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the upper part of the skin track on Timberline this morning as it slowly disappears in the heavy snowfall.

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.

Brandon Gap, VT 02FEB2019

An image showing Erica, Ivan, Dy;an, and Ty skiing powder in one of the great backcountry glades created by the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trail Alliance at Brandon Gap in Vermont
An image of Ivan jumping in powder snow at RASTA's Brandon Gap backcountry recreation area in Vermont.
Ivan blasts through some of the powder we found today on our ski outing at RASTA’s Brandon Gap backcountry recreation area.

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.

An image of Ivan and Dylan looking at the map at one of the trailheads at RASTA's Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area in Vermont
Dylan and Ivan check out the map as we begin our ski tour at RASTA’s Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area this afternoon.

“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.

An image of Erica removing the skins from her skis at the top of the No Name section of RASTA's backcountry recreation area at Brandon Gap in VermontFor 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.

An image of Erica and Dylan helping Ivan out of the powder snow during a ski tour at the Brandon Gap Backcountry Recreation Area in Vermont
Erica and Dylan have fun chaining up to try to help Ivan out of the powder today at Brandon Gap.

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.