Tag Archives: Skinning

Stowe, VT 03DEC2016

An image if a ski track in powder snow on the Chin Clip trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Over the past couple of days, a storm has dropped over 20 inches of dense snow on Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort. This storm is both building base and delivering plenty of powder.

There really wasn’t much lead up discussion on the American Weather Forum about the winter storm we’ve been having in the Northern Greens the past couple of days.  That’s because, while it looked like the mountains would muster up some snow accumulation, the models hadn’t really suggested that we’d be getting TWO FEET of accumulation.  But, once the snow levels dropped into the mountains, Mother Nature just continued to drive that moisture into the spine of the Greens, and it kept snowing.  It’s been snowing continuously now for two straight days.

While our last winter storm (Argos) hit Bolton Valley hard with over two feet of snow, the initial reports from Powderfreak indicated that Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort were really doing well with this one.  Stowe had picked up a half foot by Friday morning, and by early this morning Powderfreak was reporting a 16” storm total.  And, the snow just wasn’t letting up.  I had a number of great Bolton Valley ski days last week, and with the way the storm was going it looked like a perfect opportunity to mix things up a bit and head for the slopes of mighty Mt. Mansfield.

An image of the sign for Maxi's restaurant in Waterbury, VT
Snow filled the air down to the lowest mountain valleys today.

Temperatures were a degree or two above the freezing mark around in the lower mountain valleys at mid-morning when I was heading out today, and the precipitation was all snow, but accumulations were quite variable with the borderline freezing temperatures.  We had about an inch on the ground here at the house on the Waterbury/Bolton line, and that tapered off to much more patchy accumulations in Waterbury and Waterbury Center.  The accumulations picked back up again once I was into the Stowe Village area, fairly similar to what we had at the house.  At The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ mark I’d say the snow depth was roughly 2 inches.

“…and then there was that snow. There’s so… much… snow. Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing.”

Just making that jump up to ~1,500’ at the base of the resort resulted in a huge increase in accumulations.  My depth checks revealed ~10” of new snow at the base of the Gondola, and that measurement was fairly easy, since the old base had generally melted out down at that elevation.  I skinned up Chin Clip Runout, since I like the grade, seclusion, and protection from any wind more than heading right up Gondolier.  Actually though, winds today were pretty minimal in the lower mountain elevations, and with the temperature just a bit below freezing, it was really pleasant.

An image of icicles below the deck of the Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAbove mid mountain I started to get into the snow guns, and I meandered here and there from Switchback to Gondolier to Perry Merrill following various skin tracks to see if there were any quiet areas.  But aside from Chin Clip, they had guns running all over the place.  It’s noisy and ruins the natural snow in spots, but of course the resort has to blow snow when it’s time.  I actually only headed above the 3,000’ mark for the exercise and to see what was up at that elevation, because I knew the skiing was going to be much better below that point.  The winds were howling on that last section of Upper Gondolier, and pounding snow from the storm combined with snow guns every 50 feet or so blasting out their little ice particles made it a virtual whiteout.  It was absolutely miserable.  If you’ve ever wondered why people are willing to pay a premium for really high quality alpine/backcountry/ski outerwear, there’s an example.  It’s not as if it was even midwinter cold (somewhere in the 20s F), but with the snow guns added in, there was just so much liquid being blasted at you on the strong winds.  Gear was thoroughly put to the test today.  The skin track from the guy who was just a few minutes in front of me had absolutely vanished in that short amount of time.  All I could think as I struggled up that final pitch was that if I was ever going to Tweet something at that point it would have been #itsbrutaloutthere.  It was a major relief to be able to get out of the wind, snow, and the roar of the guns under the deck of the Cliff House.

Above the base elevations where the old snowpack had melted out, I did my best to try to measure on top of the old base snow/crust, and here’s the summary of my best estimates for settled accumulations from this event from the valley and up into the Gondi area below The Chin:

1,000’: 2”
1,500’: 10”
2,000’: 14”
2,500’: 17”
3,000’: 20”
3,600’: 20”+

That last number there from the Cliff House is just an estimate because as is often the case, the wind made it really tough to find a representative spot for measurement.

“The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great.”

Anyway, as much as that last, wind-exposed stretch of Upper Gondolier was brutal on the ascent, the skiing was actually fine.  But, just below that on Chin Clip was heavenly.  The air was calm, the noise of the snow guns was gone, the plentiful flakes falling form the sky were friendly… and then there was that snow.  There’s so… much… snow.  Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing.  I actually felt bad on the ascent for anyone that wasn’t skinning up because if you were trying to boot pack through this storm’s bounty, you were doing a lot of work.  There’s no walking though airy dendrites out there right now, this is hard-workin’, blue-collar stuff that’s just been put down.  Powderfreak is estimating this storm’s likely going to leave a couple inches of liquid equivalent all together.  That’s a season starter right there.  On my ascent I’d chatted with another guy near the bottom on Chin Clip Runout who was just coming down, and he said he never touched a thing below the snow… and he wasn’t kidding.  On 115 mm boards I’d say I was sinking in about 8 to 10 inches on hard pressured turns on steep terrain.  So you can imagine up high where there’s 20 inches of new stuff plus an old base below that, you aren’t touching anything.  Even back down near the base elevations though, where the snowpack was dropping below a foot, there were no issues.  The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great.  I actually found a bit of upside-down snow at times on my descent, no doubt due to some changing densities throughout the storm, but even for Tele turns it wasn’t too notable within the scope of the overall snow that was available.

An image of a snowy mountain in Waterbury, VT
Snowy views of the mountains on the drive home.

On the way back down into the valley on my drive home, I’d say that in general a bit more snow had accumulated during the morning/midday, but you could tell that the snow was struggling to accumulate too quickly with temperatures right around or slightly above the freezing mark.  Surprisingly, back in Waterbury Center and Waterbury, there were very sparse accumulations if any, but then accumulations picked back up again once I head toward the house and into the mountains.

The weather pattern is actually looking active and potentially snowy going forward, so we’ll see what Mother Nature wants to give us.  It would be really nice to get in even an average December after the past three running in the range of 50% of normal snowfall.  Even normal would feel quite snowy with the way things have been the past few seasons.

Bolton Valley, VT 23NOV2016

An image of Jay skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We had to hunt a bit more to find good powder today – but it was still out there.

When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard.  It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished.  Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there.  This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.

“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”

We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing.  The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.  It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.

“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”

As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder.  It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder.  We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees.  While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis.  She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon.  While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.

An image of Erica removing skins from her skis on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E and her slick de-skinning

I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below.  I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go.  It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder.  You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.  Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine.  In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you.  I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation.  We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing.  If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the whole family out for a ski tour, Dad gets a chance to get out from behind the camera today.

Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up.  That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation.  He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.

“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”

In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.  We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week.  And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 22NOV2016

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We’re onto our third day of snow from Winter Storm Argos, and the powder skiing at Bolton Valley just keeps getting better!

Based on the way the snow had picked up during my tour at Bolton Valley yesterday, I knew the resort would be reporting more snow today, but when I was checking on the snow totals for the Vermont Ski areas this morning, I was surprised to see that Bolton’s storm total was already up to 25 inches.  That definitely called for a morning visit to the hill on my way into Burlington, and with the numbers they were reporting I suspected depths would be sufficient for my first visit to Timberline this season.  It was a pleasant morning, with reasonable visibility despite snow showers touching off in the higher elevations.  Winds had died down somewhat, allowing snow to more easily collect on trees in the mountains, and I enjoyed the whitened views of the peaks as I headed down the Winooski Valley.

An image of the snow depth behind the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm ArgosIndeed the snow depths at Timberline looked great, and there were several cars in the south parking lot belonging to eager skiers and riders out earning turns.  As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.  That was encouraging.  I took a quick measurement above the Timberline Base Lodge and found a fairly consistent 15 inches of depth.  It seemed like a good mix of denser snow below, and some fluffier stuff on top – if that was representative of what was out on the trails, it would mean good protection from underlying obstacles and smooth turns on top.

“As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.”

I hopped on the Twice as Nice skin track and made my way upwards until I cut over below the Spell Binder headwall in preparation for my descent.  There was some drifting around, but Timberline is pretty sheltered in its lower elevations, so there was a lot of unadulterated powder out there.  I changed over for the descent, dropped in for my first turns, and promptly headed over the handlebars in classic Telemark style.  Even with my 115 mm fat skis, the buoyancy of the snow had just dropped out from under me as I hit a pocket of powder that was 24 inches deep.  I took that under advisement, adjusted my style to be a bit more prepared for any buoyancy changes, and cruised my way down through some fine November powder.  The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.

“The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.”

As is often the case with storms in the upslope areas of the Northern Greens, the effects linger, and the remnants of Winter Storm Argos are still delivering snow to the area today.  Bolton Valley was reporting a 26” storm total as of this afternoon.  We’re still getting snow even down here at the house this evening, so there should certainly be a bit of freshening in the mountains for anyone heading out for turns tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 21NOV2016

An image of a ski track in powder snow partially filled in by the wind at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The effects of the wind were evident out on my tour at Bolton Valley today as seen in the faded tracks of previous skiers

While the heaviest snows from Winter Storm Argos had been off to our south and west, the main low pressure system was expected to move a bit today to put the Northern Greens in position for some of their classic upslope snow.  Ahead of that uptick in snow though, temperatures in Northern Vermont had dropped enough to bring snow accumulations all the way to the valley floors, and I decided to swing by Bolton Valley this morning for a quick ski tour.

“Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.”

The additional accumulations were immediately evident in the lowest elevations.  The base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ had an inch or two of new snow vs. the faint trace that was there yesterday afternoon.  As soon as I got up into the main Village parking lot it was also obvious that the wind had changed direction from what we’d encountered yesterday, and heavy snowfall of at least 1”/hr was moving in.  I had the back of my vehicle open for just a couple minutes while I changed boots, and being on the windward side I found my gear half covered with snow in just that amount of time.

An image of a skin track partially filled with snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The main skin track was almost filled with snow at times due to the wind.

The new influx of snow and wind since yesterday was a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to snow quality.  There’s no doubt that the base has been substantiated between the wind and additional snow – the wind moved snow around, packed it down a bit, and just generally gave the snowpack more girth.  Where I touched down in a couple of spots yesterday there would be no issue today.  With those changes came more inconsistency in the snow density due to wind crust, so turns weren’t as light, airy, or consistent as yesterday from a powder skier’s perspective.  Each powder day is different though, and it was nice to be able to charge a bit harder and not worry as much about touching anything under the snow.

I toured up to roughly 2,800’ on Peggy Dow’s, and fairly heavy snowfal continued for the hour or so that I was up there, with small to moderate size flakes.  From the Village elevations on up it looks like ~3” of new snow fell by early morning.  Below I’ve updated the total snow depths I found (yesterday afternoon –> this morning), and it looks like the resort had generally hit that 1-foot mark for settled depth on the upper mountain:

340”: Trace –> 1-2”
1,000”: 1” –> 3”
1,500”: 4” –> 6”
2,000”: 5-7” –> 8-10”
2,500”: 9” –> 12”
2,700” 9”+ –> 12”+

A check on Bolton Valley’s snow report, showed them reporting 9-12” as of ~9:00 A.M. this morning, which seems right in line with what I encountered.

With the lower valleys around here finally getting in on the snow action today, I was able to see a lot during my travels to and from the Burlington area.  This afternoon, heavier snow pushed eastward from the Champlain Valley where it had been focused, and the drive home from Burlington to Waterbury was the classic journey from no precipitation into an ever-thickening maelstrom of big flakes.  Roads were actually dry in Burlington, became wet by the Williston area, and then snow-covered past Richmond.  Those who drive Route 2 or I-89 eastward know some of the spots with those long views down the trench-like Winooski Valley, and at each one today, the visibility to the east simply dropped another notch.  Consistent with the visibility trend, the intensity of the snowfall was greatest once I got past Bolton.  There was a van sideways on I-89 just before Exit 11 that had me in slow traffic for about 15 min, but I was able to get home by 5:00 for observations and liquid analysis on our recent snows.  I was greeted by almost a half foot of new snow at the house, and it’s really come down in density.  My analysis revealed ratios in the 30 to 1 range, which is going to supply some great powder provided it wasn’t totally blasted by the wind.

Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.  Even though they aren’t planning to run the lifts until December 10th, storms like this are a great way to start the season.

Bolton Valley, VT 20NOV2016

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The boys and I got out this afternoon for some Telemark touring and powder turns compliments of Winter Storm Argos.

Since our winter storm cycles back in October, it’s been a fairly mild and uneventful period, but the weather models have been offering the potential for a quick and potent return to winter.  A storm was predicted to cross the country, move through New England, and position itself to our northeast to set up the Green Mountains for an extended period of upslope snow.  Indeed the storm formed, acquired the name Winter Storm Argos, and as of last night it began affecting our area.  Snow levels dropped to the summits of the Greens early this morning, and finally dropped to the elevation of our house sometime before 10 A.M.  It was too warm to accumulate much snow down in the valley bottoms, but the mountains were definitely getting hit, and Bolton Valley had already accumulated several inches by mid-morning.

An image of fresh snow on a fence in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow piling up in the Bolton Valley Village today

With the timing of the storm, our plan today was to hold off until mid-afternoon to let accumulations build up in the mountains.  E was feeling a bit under the weather, but the boys and I eventually headed up to the mountain to hopefully catch a ski tour and some turns before dark.  Similar to what was going on at our house, the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ was right on the verge of accumulating snow, and you could see whitened areas in spots.  Seeing at least minimal accumulations right down at that elevation suggested good things up high though.  By 1,000’ there was a solid coating of an inch or so, and although we didn’t stop in at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ to formally check, I’d estimate accumulations of ~4”.  Up in the Village parking lots at ~2,000 Dylan measured 5” on the parking lot surface, but most surfaces revealed depths in the 5-7” range.

“Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever…”

Temperatures were a couple of degrees below freezing, and moderate snow fell around us as we geared up for the tour.  We watched other folks around the Village, some out on ski tours of their own, and some playing with their dogs or just out walking in the snow, but you could tell that they were all excited for winter’s return.  We ascended up the usual Lower Turnpike route, and the boys has a chance to test out lots of new gear that they’d acquired in the off season.  Ty was on a new Telemark setup with 160 cm skis, and being 20 cm longer than anything he’d skied before, I was curious as to how it would work out for him.  Dylan was really happy to finally be into a pair of Voile Switchback bindings and out of the old three-pin setups.

An image showing the depth of snow from a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThere was a nice skin track in place, and it had picked up an additional inch or so due to the continued snowfall, but it was a really smooth and swift ascent.  By the time we reached the 2,500’ elevation mark the snow depth was up to ~9”, and we continued our ascent up to ~2,700’ on Cougar before we decided that going higher wasn’t necessary.  We knew that the descent would be a little slow in lower-angle spots based on a couple people we’d seen going down earlier, but we were all on fairly wide boards and floatation definitely wasn’t an issue.  The boys had a blast and were skiing well, and not only did Ty have no issues with the longer skis, he actually made some of his best Tele turns ever.  Perhaps the extra ski length and the floatation that comes with it were just what he needed to make a jump in his Telemark skiing.  Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever, and along with the fun conditions I think some of that comes from getting stronger each season and finding that the touring is that much easier for them.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying some storm day turns on a great November day

The depth of the base snow isn’t quite what it was on my October outing with almost 20 inches of dense paste, so we had to negotiate a couple of bigger rocks (I failed in one case with the fading light) but there’s supposedly plenty more snow to come with this storm.  We got to finish the tour around dusk, which always sets a fun mood with the Village lights amidst the snowfall of a storm.  It looks like we’ve got more chances for snow coming during this Thanksgiving holiday week, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to head back out again soon.

Bolton Valley, VT 28OCT2016

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Taking advantage of our recent plentiful snows to get in my first turns of the season

We’ve had an impressive run of October snow over the past week in Vermont’s Green Mountains.  It started off with the big synoptic storm last weekend that dropped a foot or so of dense snow in the in the higher elevations.  After the system passed, we sat in the leftover cyclonic flow centered off toward the Canadian Maritimes for a few days, and that brought additional rounds of accumulating upslope snow.  And most recently, we had another large storm that started up yesterday.  It hit hard overnight and continued into today, delivering another 6 to 8 inches of hefty snow.  For local ski areas that have been keeping track of the accumulations, here’s what I’ve seen reported for totals this past week:

Stowe: 20”
Bolton Valley: 19”
Sugarbush: 19”
Killington: 17.5”

The snow that’s fallen is by no means just fluff – it’s really hefty stuff with a lot of water in it.  Thus there hasn’t been a lot of settling, and the snow has really put down quite a base.  Indeed, the ski resorts know what a substantial contribution this snow can represent to the start of their base building – Killington opened up for lift-served skiing starting on Tuesday, and even Stowe has started making snow, which they would never do in October if they didn’t think they’d be able to hold onto a good amount of it heading into November.

“…I was really psyched with how the turns felt – they were actually some of the easiest first turns of the season that I can recall in a long time, so I guess my legs are ready.”

I wasn’t able to get out for the last big storm on Sunday, but I had a bit of time this morning and had a chance to head up to Bolton Valley to check out what had transpired in the higher elevations and catch a few turns.  The bulk of the snow fell last night while it was dark, so I really only knew what was going on at our place down at 500’ in the Winooski Valley.  It was snowing for much of the evening, although it only accumulated to 0.2” due to the marginal temperatures in the 34 to 35 F range.  When I checked on the weather this morning, it appeared as though the snow level had crept upward a bit because our precipitation at the house was a mix of mostly rain with just a bit of snow.  That had me a little concerned about just how high the snow level had climbed, but so much liquid had fallen by that point (0.79” in our gauge) that there had to be a lot of snow up high.

An image showing heavy October snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Arriving in the Village to heavy snowfall

I assembled my ski gear for a tour, paying special attention to not miss any of those items that one can often forget on that first outing of the season, and headed up to Bolton.  On the way up the Bolton Valley Access Road I saw the first signs of what I think was vestigial snow from last night’s lower snow levels at around 1,000’.  Snow quickly began to appear more frequently above that point, and it was around 1,400’ when the precipitation changed over to all snow.  Up in the Village lots at 2,000’ it was dumping big, fat flakes up to 2” in diameter.  It was hard to get a handle on how much snow fell from this most recent event since it was on top of previous rounds of snow, but depending on when the last plowing happened, I was finding 4” new in the 2,000’ elevation lot.  The mountain was reporting 6-8”, which didn’t surprise me at all for the higher elevations.

“It was a great ascent, temperatures were right around the freezing mark, there was no wind, and those huge flakes just kept pouring down.”

I headed up the usual Lower Turnpike ascent route, and was happy to find that there was a skin track in place from a couple of earlier skiers.  It was a great ascent, temperatures were right around the freezing mark, there was no wind, and those huge flakes just kept pouring down.  I only had enough time to make it up to the intersection with the Wilderness Lift Line at ~2,500’, but I’d pressed a quick pace and got a decent workout nonetheless.  When I began my descent I was really psyched with how the turns felt – they were actually some of the easiest first turns of the season that I can recall in a long time, so I guess my legs are ready.  And, as I noted earlier, this snow is most certainly not fluff – it’s dense with lots of liquid in it.  There was no concern about hitting the ground on turns, and there’s actually hardly any brush even showing on the trails.  The skiing was great; they certainly weren’t the highest “quality” October turns I’ve had with respect to snow consistency, but the snow certainly wasn’t sopping wet. I was happy to be on my115 mm fats to keep myself from getting bogged down in that dense stuff though.  I’d recommend going fairly fat for anyone that is heading up for some turns in this snow.  The snow though dense, actually delivered some nice powder turns.

An image snowing the total snow depth on October 28th at an elevation of 2,500' at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontDuring my tour I checked total snow depth frequently, and I’d say it was something in the range of 8-12” at 2,000’, and a solid 15” at 2,500’.  I’m not sure how much more it increased above that point, but 15” at 2,500’ is obviously great for October.  All I can say is “wow” with regard to the coverage on those trails though.  It’s been an impressive series of storms up high, and I can’t wait until we can get into some more winter storm cycles, which at this point appears like it will be a week or two away in November.  Whatever the case, it would be nice to get at least a bit of a break from storms to take care of the lawn and everything else around the house that needs to be prepped for winter.

Stowe, VT 16MAY2016

An image of ski tracks in powder from a mid May snowstorm on the slopes of Mt Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
It may be May… but the powder turns on the upper slopes of Mt. Mansfield today would be considered fantastic in any month!

It’s not every May that we get great powder to ski, but this May will certainly go down as one in which we did.  The potential for snow from this current storm cycle has been on people’s minds since last week, so it certainly wasn’t a surprise, but of course you never know exactly how things will play out until they actually get going.  For me, it was pretty obvious that things were going OK when we were picking up frozen precipitation all the way down in the valley during the day yesterday.  Reports of accumulating snow were already coming in from the mountains as well.   Then, late last night we began to get some legitimate snow at our house, and it was obvious that the local mountains were going to continue with accumulations.

An image showing an antique truck with some May snow on it in Waterbury Center, VermontSnow was still falling at the house this morning, and if anything it was becoming drier as time went on, so that was encouraging.  I decided to head out to Stowe as planned, and I brought along a bunch of camera gear because I expected there would be some fun photo ops along the way.  As I traveled to Mt. Mansfield, it was clear that the lower mountain valleys in the 500’ to 1,000’ elevation range were right around the snow line, and that produced a fantastic amalgam of snow accumulations and touches of spring greenery.  Aspect wasn’t too critical in determining accumulations since it was quite cloudy, but the type of surface and whether or not it was elevated really played a big role.  Also, you could travel just a few hundred yards and see quite a variety of accumulations depending on which areas had been hit with heavier snow showers.  Some yards had snow on the grass, some had accumulations only on elevated surfaces, and some had neither.  In some spots only the rooves, or just sections of the rooves, held accumulations.  The precipitation I encountered was all snow, but temperatures were generally in the mid 30s F, so that contributed to the variable accumulations.

An image showing tracks from various methods of snow travel on one of the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Choose your highway!

Fairly continuous coverage on the ground really started once you got above 1,000’ in elevation, and up around 1,600’ at the Midway Lodge I found roughly an inch of accumulation.  My initial plans were to skin up Nosedive, since it’s always a good late-season bet, but from what I could see, the snow depth really didn’t jump up that quickly with respect to elevation.  With that in mind, I headed along Crossover toward the main North Slope route to hopefully find solid base coverage down to lower elevations.  The coverage on Crossover wasn’t quite enough to make skinning worth it, so I hiked along until I caught North Slope at around 1,800’ or so, where I was able to start skinning.  Indeed the snow depth was building slowly, as even at roughly the 2,000’ mark there was still only 1”-2” of new snow.

I was starting to think that I was going to be out for more of a hike than a real quality powder skiing session, when suddenly I got up around 2,500’ and the snow depth really began to jump up.  Here’s my best estimates of new snow depth based on measurement pole probing along my route:

1,600’: 1”
2,000’: 1”-2”
2,500’: 4”-6”
3,000’: 7”-8”
3,600’: 8”?

I didn’t really detect any notable gains in snow depth between 3,000’ and 3,600’, and the stronger winds made the measurements more challenging anyway, but my best guess was around 8” up at the Octagon.

An image showing the depth of snow just outside the Octagon at Stowe Mountain Resort after a May snowstormI stuck my pole right in the snow by the main Octagon doorway and found 14” – this was clearly due to some drifting, but that’s a decent idea of what you could find if you were hitting the deeper spots along the trails in the upper elevations.  The winds were nice in some respects though – they had erased most tracks from previous skiers without really hammering the powder.  For the most part it was a gentle sifting in of new snow without any formation of wind crust.  You could certainly see signs of old tracks in various locations, but in many cases the trails had been wiped clean, wall to wall.

“…those turns above 2,500’ would have held up as high quality in any season.”

Anyway, that top ~1,000’ of vertical offered up simply fabulous turns – the powder was mid to heavy weight, but not sticky at all and it had plenty of buoyancy to keep things bottomless right down to 2,500’ as long as you followed the deposition patterns along the trails appropriately.  I had decent turns back down to 1,800’ at Crossover, but they generally weren’t bottomless down there – laps above 2,500’ were the way to go depending on one’s time and how they set up their tour.  You’d have consistently very high quality turns with that approach.  The turns for me were clearly some of the highest quality I encountered this season, and certainly some of the most consistent at such a high level.  Granted, we know how this season went with regard to blowing away the record books on the low end, but those turns above 2,500’ would have held up as high quality in any season.  I had debated bringing my mid-fats today since I was unsure of how the accumulations were going to play out, but there was no question after my run – the fat skis were totally in their element and delivering just like they should.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 05MAR2016

An image of a ski track in powder off to the side of a Nordic trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a little powder off to the side of World Cup on Bolton’s Nordic trails.

It’s not too often in Northern Vermont that we have winter temperatures and no access to powder, but today was pretty close. Generally, even for winter weather systems with mixed precipitation, there’s at least some snow on the back side of the storm to provide a bit of powder for skiing. As usual, that was the case with Winter Storm Quo that came through earlier this week. The storm dropped 4 to 5 inches on the resorts in the Northern Greens, and the precipitation even remained frozen throughout the event. After the dense accumulation in the middle of the storm, there was some lighter powder, but it was fluffy, and based on the way it has really settled down over the past couple of days here at the house, I suspected things would be similar up in the mountains.

With that in mind, I inquired with E and the boys to see if any of them wanted to go for a ski tour up at the mountain, but didn’t push too hard because I didn’t suspect the conditions would be quite up to the level of what we found last Saturday on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. It was a nice sunny day though, with temperatures around the freezing mark down in the valley, so whatever the conditions, it was going to be nice to get out in the fresh air.

Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F up at the resort, and it looked like business was good based on the number of cars in the Village lots. Although Winter Storm Quo didn’t deliver a ton of powder, it did substantiate the base depths at the resort, and the open trail count was as high as it’s been in a while. I hopped onto Broadway and headed right up toward Bryant Cabin. The powder had settled to about a half inch at Village level, and I was hoping that it would build with elevation the way it had last weekend, but it never really did. Even up at the cabin I only found about an inch or so of fluff above the base. The overall minimal availability of the powder skiing was pretty evident due to the fact that I saw more people out on the trails today on snowshoes vs. skis.

Noting the minimal powder, I decided that I ski some of the mellow trees between the Bryant Trail and Gardiner’s Lane. The skiing was surprisingly good because thanks to little if any liquid precipitation, the base below wasn’t really icy, it was mostly just dense. The turns there got me interested enough that I headed off toward North Slope to check out some of the glades there. I tried out a new area back down to Gardiner’s Lane, and then poked around in the trees and found some new glades in the A1A area that I don’t think I’d skied before. They brought me right down to the junction of Bryant and Coyote, where I skied Coyote out to World Cup and connected over to the base area. I had some good turns here and there, with some nice ones off in the untouched snow off to the sides of the groomed Nordic trails.

A map of the Nordic and backcountry terrain network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A map of Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network with more than two dozen glades listed.

Back in the Village I grabbed some food for E and the boys and called it a day. Over the next week it looks like we’ll have some spring warmth and sun moving into the area, but the weather models do show the potential for some storms, so we’ll have to see if they bring some snow to the mountains.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 27FEB2016

An image of Dylan skiing powder on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan scoots off through one of Bolton Valley’s backcountry glades today as we take in some of the powder left by Winter Storm Petros.

I haven’t been on a backcountry ski outing since January 23rd, but the whole family got out to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network today for a tour. Winter Storm Petros left up to 9 inches of new snow at the local resorts yesterday, and with a clear beautiful day today, it was a perfect chance to get out.

Temperatures at the house were in the low to mid 30s F when we headed up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe, and it was just a bit below freezing up at the Village (~2,100’). It’s not quite spring weather yet, but the sun is certainly getting stronger, and it was pleasant as we put our ski boots on down along Broadway in one of the tennis court parking areas.

An image showing some snow crystals that had formed on a frozen stream on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontDepth checks at the start of the tour revealed that the new powder had settled to about 2-3” down at the Village elevations, and up at Bryant Cabin it was in the 4-5” range. The Bryant Trail was pretty quiet and we didn’t see anyone else, but you could tell by the various descent tracks and a well-established skin track in spots that people had certainly been out. Up at the cabin we stopped to have hot chocolate that E had made (with a special thermos of dark hot chocolate for Dylan that he was very excited about).

An image of Dylan removing his skins from his skis on a backcountry ski outing on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Everybody had a fun time working on skin removal without taking off their skis today.

I took everyone on one of my usual routes along Gardiner’s Lane, North Slope, and then down via Grizzwald through Gotham City. We skinned a bit past the cabin, and at the top of our descent everyone worked on removing their skins without taking off their skis. Everyone was ultimately successful, although I’d say Ty spent a good amount of time on the ground after things went a bit awry. We caught first tracks in some areas, and on the upper half of the terrain the powder turns were quite nice. I kept everyone off south facing terrain since I could see that it was pretty thin, but in fact I’d say this has to be the lowest snowpack that I can remember around here for the end of February. Fortunately that amount of snow is still enough to cover a lot of the glades well. Below Gotham City the snowpack and powder were notably thinner, so you had less line selection, but we still had some good turns down there. No doubt the way to go for the best turns is to stay above ~2,400’ if possible right now, but you can get some very nice powder if you know your terrain and aspects. It was really great to get the whole family out for some exercise today, since we haven’t had quite as many ski outings as usual with the low snowfall this season. The boys were in good spirits for the whole tour, I’d say probably the most positive backcountry attitude from them in quite some time!

An image of Erica sking powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E Teles through the powder today as we drop through one of the glades below North Slope

We’ve got another system in the area tonight giving us a bit of snow right now even here at the house, but it sounds like Jay Peak might really get the best shot out of this one.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 23JAN2016

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Girl's trail on the backcountry skiing network at Bolton Valley ski resort in Vermont
The snowpack may be low for this time of year, but you’d never know it based on the great powder skiing I found today on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.

Thanks to a storm affecting the Northern Greens in the first half of the week, we picked up nearly a foot of snow at our house in Waterbury, and some of the local peaks picked up more than a foot and a half of the white stuff. The new snow I measure here at the house was super dry, with densities as low as 1-2% H2O, so it’s settled quite a bit over the past few days. I’m sure the same thing was going on in the mountains, but it’s been seasonably cold and I knew that the powder out there would be well preserved and ready to offer up some potentially fantastic turns.

I was busy with a bunch of work at the house today, but with the recent powder, a solid base below it, and afternoon blue skies with temperatures in the 20s F, it was just too nice of day not to get out. I decided to head to the mountain for a quick backcountry tour up to Bryant Cabin and down through some of numerous glades below it. The resort was really hoppin’ with visitors, and with the gorgeous afternoon and people probably making up for lost ski time during out slow December, it wasn’t surprising. Fortunately, I was quickly able to get a parking spot right along the Nordic trails in one of the tennis court lots.

I got on my way and checked the depth of the powder at Village level. Bolton Valley had reported 18 inches from the storm in their higher elevations, and I found that settled powder depths today at ~2,000’ were 10-12 inches. I could see that coverage was excellent as I skinned my way up the Bryant Trail; there really aren’t any concerns about bare spots on the main routes at this point. Up at the cabin at ~2,700 I found that the depth of the powder had bumped up a couple of inches to the 12-14” range. It was a gorgeous time to be out on the trails in that last hour before sunset, and I saw a few other Nordic and backcountry skiers out there enjoying the scene as well.

“I’ve got to say, you know the Northern Greens are a pretty sweet spot for snow when we’re currently running in the bottom 5% of ski seasons on terms of snowfall, and there’s still plentiful base and powder for midwinter-quality powder skiing.”

I took a descent route through several of my favorite glades in the North Slope/Gardiner’s Lane area including Grizzwald and Girl’s, others that I’m not sure of the names, and still others that I don’t think have names because they’re likely just areas of the forest that are naturally appropriate for skiing. The powder turns were fantastic; the base is plenty deep and the amount of powder for even blue and black pitches was plenty for bottomless floatation on my fat skis. I’ve got to say, you know the Northern Greens are a pretty sweet spot for snow when we’re currently running in the bottom 5% of ski seasons on terms of snowfall, and there’s still plentiful base and powder for midwinter-quality powder skiing. I suspect the very steepest terrain is probably not quite there yet in terms of coverage, but from what I skied, you’d almost never even guess that snowpack is only in the 2 to 3-foot range. The only hints I had that things weren’t quite at the typical Northern Greens midwinter depth were those instances where you might feel a slight pressure/bump where a log sits under the base, vs. never even knowing it exists. In any event, the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network is in great shape, so get out and enjoy it. There’s certainly something to be said for having the base elevation above 2,000’.

An image of a ski line with powder snow in the Girl's area of the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I really didn’t find much underbrush on a lot of powder lines today; they were looking in midwinter form.

I managed to catch fresh tracks through various glades and tree areas all the way down to the bottom of World Cup, and then skied out and hiked to the Village to order up some sandwiches and pizza to bring back for E and the boys. They were busy and/or tired today so I didn’t pressure them much to head up to the mountain, especially since I was unsure of the conditions, but I definitely let them know how great it was when I got back.