After skiing yesterday’s fresh powder out on the hill, I hadn’t really planned to ski today, since the forecast called for gray skies and temperatures heading above the freezing mark. We were thinking we might have left one of our water bottles up around 2,800’ on Wilderness during yesterday’s ski tour though, so that was incentive enough to get me out for another go. If in doubt, it’s generally good to get out and get some exercise anyway.
I made my way up to Bolton Valley around midday, and whereas temperatures yesterday were in the upper 20s F when we’d arrived, today they were in the upper 30s F. Some of the new Friday/Saturday snow had definitely melted back, and that effect decreased with increasing elevation, but the freezing line was still somewhere above the 3,000’ mark. So, I never encountered any snow yesterday that had been fully preserved below freezing. With that said, the snow skied really well. On the upper mountain, the new snow had seen little settling, and untracked areas skied like dense powder vs. any sort of mush. At all elevations, even where the snow was transitioning due to the above freezing temperatures, it seemed to be doing it in a subtle way. It wasn’t sticky, just dense, and perhaps that slow change was due to the cold overnight temperatures and the overcast keeping away dramatic warming from direct sunlight. In thinner areas where the new snow had melted back, the skiing typically transitioned right to the underlying corn snow, and that skied really well. It was sort of strange to move from areas of dense powder skiing, right to spring corn snow, but somehow it worked.
In any event, the water bottle ended up being right where we thought it was, so that part of the tour was quite successful! I of course used the opportunity of being up at the resort to grab another Spicy Tuna onigiri from the Miso Toh Kome stand, and I brought some onigiri home for the boys as well.
With the snow from this latest storm, E and I headed up to Bolton for a session today with Ty, who’s back from school on spring break. We got to the mountain reasonably early, with some concern about how the powder was going to hold up as the day warmed, but even as of midday that wasn’t a concern at elevation. It was probably in the 20s F when we arrived, and combined with the breeze, it was chilly. It was excellent touring weather, and the powder stayed cold and dry. Even at midday, the higher elevation snow was dry, although snow in the mid to lower elevations in directly sunlight was starting to be affected by the sun.
The mountain was reporting 4 inches of new snow, but I’d say that was a fairly conservative report – I was finding 5-6” new at the 2,000’ elevation, and as much as 8” up above 3,000’. We started our session with a tour at Wilderness up to ~2,800’ or so. Wilderness is 100% natural snow, so the decent amount of base in many spots was impressive, but the usual windswept or sunny spots were lean on coverage. Those areas of lean coverage were fine for grassy and/or low angle slopes, but you wouldn’t have wanted to tackle anything steep that didn’t have existing base.
I’d say the very best snow we encountered yesterday was on Alta Vista – the ridgeline and skier’s right of the headwall were windswept as usual, but the protected left side of the headwall held some nice, semi-packed snow. Below that though was the real gold mine. They had groomed the skier’s left of the trail, but the skier’s right held about 8 inches of chowder that was mostly bottomless, and we couldn’t believe how good the skiing was there. We were wishing they hadn’t groomed anywhere if it could have meant the snow would have been like that. The Vista Quad was on wind hold until about midday though, so we were up on Alta Vista not too long after the lift started running, and I think that helped set up the incredible snow quality there.
It was great to catch a day of skiing with Ty while he was back. Although he’s got plenty of breaks between Thanksgiving, the long holiday break, sinter break, and spring break, you still never know when schedules and good snow might line up. Ty said today was probably his best Telemark day ever in terms of comfort level and confidence with his turns, so that was exciting to hear. He’s still learning and improving, even at this age. He also finally got to visit the Miso Toh Kome stand for the first time, and he’s a total sushi fiend, so he loved it. I’ve been sending him pictures every time I’ve gotten food from there over the past few weeks to build it up… and maybe give him a bit of a hard time about missing out as well!
With the way it was pounding heavy snow when I left Bolton yesterday, and their morning report indicating a foot of snow for the storm total at that point, I figured another ski session was in order today.
Snow levels had dropped all the way to the valleys yesterday, but they really didn’t start picking up much accumulation at those lower elevations until the evening. Even the valleys were coated in white this morning, so accumulations started there, and the mountains just tacked on more.
When I first got up to the mountain this morning, I encountered blizzard like conditions due to the snowfall and wind, and the wind was certainly stronger than I saw at any point yesterday. Like yesterday, the snow would often come in pulses – you’d have light to moderate snowfall with a brightening of the sky, and then visibility would drop and you’d encounter heavy snow. At one point on today’s tour, intense snow came on so fast that visibility dropped to ~100 feet in just seconds. I was in the middle of taking some photos, and had use some of the initial exposures because part of what I was shooting about 200 feet away literally became invisible behind the snowfall, and I just had to move on.
The temperatures this morning was pretty cold, down in the single digits F, so I found the snow a bit slow except for the less settled/lower density areas. The more consolidated areas of powder with the finer grains or wind-based compaction were just on the slow side due to the combination of temperatures and the snow density
“Based on my ski sessions from yesterday and today, I wouldn’t put the current skiing in the top 20% of the season’s turns, but probably into that next quintile down. It was definitely good, but even in this fairly lackluster season, we’ve had a number of better storm cycles in terms of both total liquid equivalent, subsurface quality, and powder quality/dryness.”
Based on my ski sessions from yesterday and today, I wouldn’t put the current skiing in the top 20% of the season’s turns, but probably into that next quintile down. It was definitely good, but even in this fairly lackluster season, we’ve had a number of better storm cycles in terms of both total liquid equivalent, subsurface quality, and powder quality/dryness. With the continued snowfall, today’s additional liquid equivalent was enough to bump up the resurfacing to really encompass blue and some black terrain. The biggest bump I think this most recent event gets when it comes to the overall quality of the ski experience was due to skier numbers, which were way down. I was touring in the late morning today and there were only 3 or 4 tracks coming down Lower Turnpike where the Wilderness Uphill Route is located. A typical midseason day would definitely have seen more activity by that point. Sure, it was a Monday, but yesterday was sort of the same; it’s just that time of year when many people don’t have the drive to ski because it’s not wintry where they are, or they’ve moved on to other activities, or whatever. That’s of course one of the reasons March and April are so great in the mountains – we keep getting snow, and the availability of fresh tracks is a little easier.
I’ve updated yesterday’s accumulations profile with the additions I saw this morning:
340’: 0” -> 1-2”
1,000’: T -> 2”
1,200’: 1” -> 2-3”
1,500’: 2” -> 3”
2,000’: 4” -> 5”
2,500’: 5” -> 6”
Today’s tour only brought me up to ~2,700’, so I can’t update those numbers from the higher elevations, but the trend between the additional snowfall and settling seemed to be to tack on another inch or two to what was present yesterday afternoon.
We may have another storm coming into the area for next weekend, so we’ll see if we get some turns out of another spring storm cycle.
Even with Powderfreak’s timely snow updates providing knowledge of how much snow fell and how it was skiing on Mansfield today, you never really know quite how it’s going to be until you get up on the mountain. I’d seen Bolton’s initial morning report of 1-3” in the 2,000’-3,000’ elevation range, so when I found 2” at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ on the way up the Access Road, I knew the accumulations had been increasing through the morning.
Arriving at the main base, I started out the ski day with a tour up to the Wilderness Summit at ~3,150’, and someone had also broken trail up Ricker Mountain, so I followed that for a bit and probably topped out around 3,300’. This was one of those days where it was definitely nice to be able to start touring above 2,000’ with the elevation dependence of the snowfall.
The powder skiing was great, so after my tour, I hung around for some lift-served laps as well. There was plenty of fresh snow in those runs, since I was able to connect over to parts of Wilderness on those runs for powder laps. As of midday, there was already a solid resurfacing of the low angle terrain, so aside from any scoured areas, the powder on that terrain was skiing beautifully. Even low-angle terrain that had been skier packed was excellent, so this new snow had adhered nicely to the subsurface. On one of my lift-served runs, I saw this in play with the quiet turns of skiers on Bear Run and Sprig O’ Pine as I passed over on the Vista Quad.
I’m not sure how much liquid equivalent has been put down at elevation with this storm, since we’re certainly not getting as much liquid down here in the valley as the mountains are. We’ve had about 0.12” of liquid from this event down here, but based on how the powder turns felt today, the mountains had probably seen 0.3-0.5” up high as of midday? Anyway, medium angle terrain was a mixed bag in terms of sufficient resurfacing. In areas of untracked powder over at Wilderness, I was generally getting bottomless turns even up to some single black terrain. There were some great turns in areas that hadn’t been scoured. When I was over skiing the lift-served terrain on Vista though, you were definitely getting down to the old base on the blues and blacks – there certainly hasn’t been enough liquid equivalent put down with this event to hold up to those levels of skier traffic.
Today it was snowing all the way down to the valley floor, but accumulations didn’t start until ~1,000’. Here’s the new snow accumulations profile I found around midday:
Once above the 2,000’ level, there weren’t any massive increases in accumulations that I saw, just sort of slow, steady increase, as the profile shows. The powder was meaty as Powderfreak had indicated in his report, so powder turns were great.
The snowfall today ranged from huge, pounding flakes, to lighter episodes where the snow continued, but the sky would brighten. It was really pounding when I left, and made me want to stay for another run or two. I’m not sure if it can keep up at today’s snowfall pace overnight, but tomorrow would obviously be another great day if it did.
In terms of not quite knowing what it’s going to be like until you get there, today definitely delivered. Overall, the snow was great, and so was the scenery. It was often snowing hard with those big flakes, but the light levels and visibility were often pretty high because it’s now late March.
Our latest system, Winter Storm Quinlan, was just getting going today, but once it got rolling, it was quite a ride, and I’d say that term applies to both the skiing and the driving. Snowfall rates down here at the house were running at around an inch an hour during earlier day, and the higher elevations were obviously doing at least that well. With that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain in the afternoon, by which point there should have been a good chance at a solid resurfacing of the slopes. I had no idea how long the lifts were going to hold out in terms of the wind, so I packed midfats and fat skis, with skins for both. It’s always a good insurance policy to have the skins on hand for these types of storm days.
E opted out of heading up with me, since she suspected the driving on the access road was going to be outrageously hairy, and that the storm conditions on the hill were going to brutal. She was, of course, correct on both accounts. On the drive up the Bolton Valley access road, I saw two cars that had ditched on their descents. That wasn’t bad compared to some storms, but it was certainly a sign. Both vehicles had gone off at those steep bottom pitches of the access road as it makes its final dive into the Winooski Valley, which is a common area for cars to bail. For one of the vehicles, a tow truck was just getting set up to pull it out, and it looked like the operator was going to need to take up the entire roadway to do it. Thankfully, he waved me by just as he was about to rig up. In the midst of the heavy snowfall, the scene felt like something out of “Highway Through Hell”. Thankfully, it wasn’t a big rig off the road, but the weather fit the bill. I could see that there were multiple plows working the road to try to keep up with the snowfall, because it was constantly pouring down and making the driving rough.
Up above 2,000’ at the resort, Quinlan was going full tilt in terms of both snowfall rates and wind. Obviously the skiers and riders were dressed for it and took it in stride, but you could see that Village elevations had already taken quite a pounding during the day. By that point, the storm had put down 8-10” of new snow in the Village, and the parking lots hadn’t been plowed since the morning. Moving through the lots was tough with all that snow, and cars without 4WD/AWD and clearance, were definitely struggling to get around. I got a spot right in the top lot from someone who had recently left, but I spent a good amount of time packing and checking my spot to ensure that I was going to be able to get out later.
I hopped on the Snowflake Lift and took a run on Sprig O’ Pine to find that indeed there had been quite a resurfacing of the slopes. That 8-10” of snow certainly wasn’t fluff, and it had started out quite dense, allowing it to bond to the subsurface. The Vista Quad and Wilderness Chair were already down on wind hold, and just as I skied up to the entrance of the Mid Mountain Chair, it went down on wind hold as well. When Mid Mountain goes down, you know the wind is serious.
I could have done some additional laps on Snowflake or headed down to the Timberline Quad, but I really didn’t have a sense for how long they might be able to keep running with the winds. So, I grabbed my skins from the car and headed to the Wilderness Uphill Route. The Lower Turnpike area was sheltered from the winds as usual, but above 3,000’ on the ridgeline, the winds were just brutal. The winds had to be 40 to 50 MPH sustained, and when I hit the final traverse of Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness Summit, I almost couldn’t skin across because there were already waist-high drifts blocking the route. I had to break trail along the eastern edge of the traverse and cut between the drifts and the trees. Conditions at the Wilderness Summit were a maelstrom, and even in the most sheltered spot I could find, it was still so windy that packing up my skins was a struggle. I laughed to even think of the upper lifts running under those conditions.
I’d say the snowfall accumulations at that point were rough 8-10” at ~2,000’ and 10-12” at 3,000’, and the skiing, as one would expect, was excellent. As noted, there had been dense snow at the start of the storm, and everything of moderate pitch, or even higher angle pitch if the subsurface was smooth, had been resurfaced. I’d seen a couple small groups of folks descending while I was heading up, but after that, I saw nobody. I essentially had the entire main mountain area to myself at that point, and it was just point, go, and ski lots of fresh powder.
With the solitude I’d experienced out on my tour, the intensity of the ongoing storm, and the fact that it was already after 4:00 P.M., I expected to return to a deserted base area. But that wasn’t the case; the Snowflake Lift and Mighty Mite were still running, and some folks were even skiing. After being up in the 40-50 MPH winds, the 20-30 MPH winds around the base area did feel a bit tamer. I couldn’t believe that the new Miso Kome Japanese food stand outside the base lodge was operating, but I’d yet to have a chance to try it, so despite the stormy conditions, I took it as a sign. If they were willing to stay open during a storm like this, then hey, I’ll take the opportunity to try out their food. While attempting to read their menu, which was on a sign pitched several feet away from the stand, it was snowing so hard that I had to keep wiping off the new snow just to get through the various items. It had to be snowing at around 2”/hour at that point. Inside the lodge, everything appeared to be quite normal, and I was even able to grab a couple of pizzas from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to the family. So I guess storm or no storm, the services roll on at the resort.
The final part of Saturday’s outing was the descent down the access road. I’ve obviously been down that road in many, many storms, but the timing of this one with the heavy snowfall rates made it one of the more challenging descents I can recall. We were crawling down the road. Cars were moving at a snail’s pace because the intense snowfall made it hard for the plows to keep up, and the road surface was so slick that you’d almost be slipping off the edge at a full stop. On more than one occasion, I opted to ride the crown of the road because just the natural drainage slope in your lane wanted to guide you off. About halfway down, we caught a nice boost from a plow that was on the way up and set up some added traction to the center of the road. I used that slice of extra traction as much as possible for the remainder of the descent.
It was great to get home with the food and talk about the whole experience at dinner, and all told, that was certainly one of the more eventful ski outings of the season.
We had comfortable temperatures in the 20s F, and found about 3 inches of new snow starting at the 1,200’ elevation. My initial plan was to head up to at least the Caribou Corner intersection, and then see how we felt at that point in terms of snow conditions and timing. Even at a casual, conversational pace, Ty and I were quickly at Caribou Corner, and I figured we could go on past to see what the snow looked like beyond the beaver ponds. Surface snow depths were generally in the 3-4” range, but we did find a few spots of up to 7” by the beaver ponds. We finally stopped our ascent around the Moose-ski trail on a local rise that set us up with an initial descent of relatively low angle pitches.
Even on low-angle terrain, we were still touching down to the base with any substantial edging, and only occasionally would be find just the right combination of snow depth and pitch where we could get in some bottomless turns. Those spots where you could make a gentle turn without much angulation were the ones that delivered.
A fun aspect of the day was interacting with the Husky that seems to live at that house/cabin that’s about 10 minutes up the hill along the Catamount Trail. It’s a really well-behaved dog that seems to interact nicely with most people who are out on that area of the network. On our ascent, we parted company with the Husky a few minutes after passing the house, when it joined a group of children who were sledding in a spot just below the Catamount Trail. On our descent, the Husky was right at the Bolton Lodge, and joined us for the rest of the descent back to the cabin, where we met the owner. What a great back yard that Husky has! With the Catamount Trail and Bolton’s Nordic and Backcountry Network right there, I bet there’s hardly even a shortage of people to play with.
With today’s high temperatures expected to be in the single digits F at elevation, touring seemed like the far better ski option, so I paid a visit to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network. Overall ski conditions remain excellent thanks to the 1½ to 2 feet of snow that the local mountains just picked up from Winter Storm Landon, so despite the chilly temperatures, it’s time to get out there and make use of that great snow.
Today I toured over in the Holden’s Hollow area of the network, approaching from the back side of the ridge using the Telemark trail, and then sampling some descents on both the west and east sides. Today’s tour had me in the 2,000’ – 2,500’ elevation band, and I’d say total snowpack depths at those elevations are in the 2 to 3 foot range. In terms of surface snow, we’ve got enough different layers in the snowpack now, and they’re blending together enough, that it’s getting a bit tricky to actually decide what constitutes surface and subsurface snow/base. If you’re very delicate with your measuring, you can find a bit of a dense layer about 16 inches down. I think it’s safe to say that top section of the snowpack is the settled powder from Winter Storm Landon. The dense layer below that is presumably some denser precipitation, perhaps from the start of the storm when temperatures were coming down and there was a mix of rain and snow. Based on Powderfreak’s observations from Thursday, it doesn’t sound like there was too much rain at elevation, and since that layer is rather subtle, that would argue for that and/or a very good transition/blending with the drier snow above.
Past that denser band, you’re into another 6 to 8 inches of powder before you hit something more solid that can really serve as a potential base. That’s typically where I’d find that my poles could finally gain purchase, and it sounds like that’s similar over at Bretton Woods based on Alex’s comment yesterday here in the thread. Having backcountry baskets would probably help a little bit in that regard.
There are a couple of other dense bands down in the snow there that I could detect when probing carefully, but I’d say the solid base is down there in the 22 to 24-inch range for those low to mid elevations, and I’ve got an image of my pole hitting that approximate depth with this report. So if you’re first on an ascent and breaking in the skin track, plan on a good workout. Thankfully, most of the route for my tour had seen some previous traffic, and I only had to break one section with perhaps 100’ of vertical, but it was a good deal of extra work.
Right now in terms of the backcountry skiing around here, I’d argue that you really need black pitches or greater to have a reasonable descent without getting too bogged down or simply having to straight-line it too much. I was on 115 mm skis that I’d just waxed, and I still had to seek out those pitches if the snow was untracked. As long as you get the right pitch though, the powder skiing is excellent as one would imagine.
Today is Ty’s birthday, and the whole family was around with time to do something together. Ty’s broken collarbone has healed to the point where he doesn’t have to wear a sling, and light activities that don’t put stress on it are fine. On Sunday, Ty and E and I went for a snowshoe tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network, and after some discussion today, we decided that some ski touring on mellow terrain would be fine.
D is still trying to find some new Telemark boots that fit better, so he just hiked in with his snowboard – most of the approach is either road, or packed trails, so it didn’t turn out to be a problem. Ty did give D a ride on the backs of his skis at times, which was sort of neat. Ty said it was a lot of work, but D could help out the process a lot by using his poles.
I’d found total snowpack depths of ~18” at the 1,500’ elevation when I toured in the Timberline area on Tuesday, and even starting down at an elevation of 1,200’ today there were no major issues with the base. The powder out there in the backcountry is still in excellent shape – depth checks I did today in the 1,200’ – 1,700’ elevation range revealed powder depths of 12-13”. That’s actually a bit deep for some of the lower angle spots on today’s tour, but the descent was still nice. We also hit some of those slightly steeper shots around the Bolton Lodge, and those pitches offered up some great powder turns.
Temperature in the single digits combined with wind seems a bit cold for riding lifts this morning, but the back side of Winter Storm Izzy came through with several inches of additional snow atop what fell yesterday, so I was definitely interested in getting out for some skiing. With Bolton reporting 16 inches of new snow, just about any terrain at the resort would be able to support some decent turns.
I was unsure about whether I was going to aim for touring on Wilderness, the Backcountry Network, or even Timberline. On my way up the access road, I saw several cars parked at Timberline from people who were earning turns, so I decided to check it out. The parking lots weren’t really plowed, so it was little tough moving around all the new snow, but enough cars had packed down areas to make it manageable.
Although the Timberline Uphill Route is not listed as officially open, it seems like it’s seen a lot of traffic – it’s well established and in very good shape. The coverage on Twice as Nice was excellent, with just a few tracks. Upon reaching the Timberline Mid Station, I decided to continue on to the Timberline Summit – the Intro trail looked somewhat scoured as is often the case, but there were still some decent areas of snow on the skier’s right.
I chose Twice as Nice for the main part of the descent, and the turns there were outstanding. The powder was deep and the consistency was fantastic for turns on the powder boards. I checked the snow depth in various spots on both the ascent and descent, and my best estimates of overall settled snowpack depth were ~18” at 1,500’, ~22” at 2,000’ and ~24” at 2,500’. The resort wasn’t making snow at the Timberline Base, but they were making it up at the Timberline Summit, so I assume they’re on the way towards opening the area if temperatures continue to stay cold.
It continued to snow after my session at Bolton yesterday, and with the impressive conditions I found during the touring part of my trip, E and I decided to head up for some touring today.
The recent rounds of snow have been great overall for the resort, and they’re reporting 7 inches of new in the past 48 hours. All the new snow is a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to touring on the Wilderness terrain though. In this morning’s Bolton Valley snow report, it was already announced that a number of natural snow trails had been opened on Vista, so I assumed it was only a matter of time before ski patrol opened up lift-served access to the lower slopes of Wilderness as they typically do in these situations.
With temperatures hovering around 0 F in the early morning we waited until late morning to head up to the mountain to take advantage of the warmer part of the day. While we were on our ascent we could see that the terrain was already getting rather tracked up, and indeed a big part of that was likely because patrol dropped more ropes, and lift-served skiers were coming over from Vista. The resort did have an associate checking passes at the base of the Wilderness Lift though, so they were enforcing the need to have your pass on you, even for touring.
“The recent rounds of snow have been great overall for the resort, and they’re reporting 7 inches of new in the past 48 hours.”
In terms of conditions, natural coverage is quite good on the lower slopes of Wilderness, as the trail openings for lift-served skiers would suggest. I’d say the depth of the powder was about the same as what I found yesterday – a couple more inches had been added with the additional snowfall, but there was probably a similar amount of settling. The snow was slower though today due to the colder temperatures, so that knocked the flow of the turns down a bit on the low-angle terrain of lower Wilderness.
Although the Timberline Uphill Route isn’t open yet down at the 1,500’ elevation, the terrain there is actually looking pretty close to being ready for non-lift-served traffic based on what we saw as we passed by. Barring any major warming events, even a moderate storm would probably get that terrain in play for touring.