Stephen and Johannes had planned to head up to Bolton Valley for some skiing today to take advantage of the opening weekend of the Wilderness Chair, and I headed up in the late morning to hopefully catch up with them and get in some rides the Wilderness Chair myself. Temperatures were up into the teens F today, so a bit warmer than yesterday, and riding the lift was reasonably comfortable.
Stephen saw me in my car as I was arriving, and unfortunately they were just heading home because Stephen’s heel was bothering him a bit, but I got some solo runs and did some exploring. For the terrain above the Wilderness Mid Station, only the Peggy Dow’s side is open. The conditions weren’t bad, although the usual wind scoured areas were slick. Below the mid-station was where I found the best conditions, with nice soft surfaces on piste and powder depths of about a foot, similar to what we encountered yesterday. The Wilderness Woods were in nice shape, as was the Wilderness Lift Line, and for untracked powder, I enjoyed some nice variations in the Snow Hole and Branches area.
It would have been great if the upslope system we’ve had in the area over the past couple of days delivered more than an inch or two of new snow, but putting that on top of the 9” from the midweek event has definitely kept the off piste conditions respectable at Bolton Valley. The resorts is reporting 11” new in the past week, and the bulk of that must be the sum of those two events. Not surprisingly, that powder has settled a bit over the past few days, and that actually helps out somewhat with respect to how it skis. When that first round had fallen on Wednesday, it really was so incredibly dry that you sank right through it and got down to that relatively firm subsurface, but the settling, and the addition of a couple more inches that wasn’t quite as dry, gives you a bit more underfoot to cushion things.
I was hearing noise from skiers and riders even on low angle groomed terrain today, and it wasn’t as if it was horribly icy, but the noise revealed that there was at least something firm there. It could just be a traffic issue on the groomed slopes – I’m not sure how much liquid equivalent the mountain ultimately got from the two rounds of snow, but it probably wasn’t more than a quarter of an inch, and that’s only going to hold up so long with on piste skier traffic.
I focused my time in the trees today, and I found the conditions there were far superior to the groomed terrain. I spent my time exploring more of the sidecountry off Wilderness that I’d visited last Saturday. There was plenty of snow for good powder turns on low-angle terrain, and even moderate and steep terrain weren’t too bad where people had skied and sort of packed the new snow into the base. The trees were the place to be though – the snow was protected from the wind in there, and I’d say there was plenty that had been blow off the trails as well.
Temperatures were in the mid-teens F when I was out this afternoon, which is certainly nothing to complain about in terms of cold, but there was plenty of wind around, especially up high. We had some peeks of sun, but in general it was cloudy with some light flakes in the air, and it just sort of had the feel of a hum drum midwinter day. Being in the trees meant that I was out of the wind, but as I’ve heard other folks around here expressing, I could certainly use some warmth. I definitely found myself missing the nice temperatures up around the freezing mark that I encountered last Saturday, even if that storm did bring a touch of mixed precipitation.
I gotta say, the turns were really nice out there today.
Ty and Dylan had hit the mountain on Wednesday and reported nice soft conditions thanks to some warming temperatures, but then E was out Thursday night and said the snow was quite hard and icy, at least on piste where she had been skiing on the main mountain. I figured that made sense with temperatures cooling back down, and that’s what I thought would be the theme out there on the mountain today.
“Happy Saturday, Boltonites! Today is a great day to get some snow under your feet. We have 38 groomed trails for you this morning and tons of fresh snow still hiding in the woods. Yesterday afternoon there were sightings of 6 inch stashes of powder still in Sleepy Hollow woods and Bolton Outlaw woods!”
That sounded just a bit too good to pass up, and it tipped the scales to get me to head up to the hill.
We’d been getting snow this morning at the house, but it had just started to transition over to mixed precipitation while I was getting ready to head to the mountain in the early afternoon. The precipitation was generally sprinkles of light rain as I headed up to the Bolton Valley Access Road and eventually changed over to sleet as I rode the Wilderness Double Chair and got up near 3,000’. During my second run, the mixed precipitation decided to change back to snow, and there was a nice period with some big fat flakes coming down.
“…I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today. I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’ – 3,000’ elevation range.”
Bolton definitely got in on that Thursday snow, and I think my wife must have just been on those wind scoured trails on the front face of the main mountain, because that’s not at all what I experienced at Wilderness. The groomed slopes were quiet, and the off piste was covered with up to a foot of dense powder. That seems like more fresh snow than there really should have been based on the snow report, so I’m not sure what to think. I also couldn’t even find any signs of crust below the most recent snows, so I’m not sure what to think about that either. I probed all over the place in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, and the only real crust I found was a bit of sun crust on the surface of the snow in a couple of exposed areas. Maybe this was one of those setups where the new snow comes in, starts out wet, and bonds to any crust below to sort of remove the demarcation of that layer a bit. Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today. I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’-3,000’ elevation range. That makes decent sense, with the snowpack now at 55” on Mansfield at 3,700’.
I spent my entire session at Wilderness this afternoon, and the Wilderness sidecountry and nearby backcountry terrain have actually seen a decent amount of skier traffic. Seeing that, and being alone with plenty of time to explore whatever I wanted, I decided to go a bit farther afield, hitting a lot of terrain beyond White Rabbit, Snow Hole, and Jamie’s. Being on mid fat Tele gear, I figured I’d just see where my travels took me in search of untracked powder, and if I ended up on the backcountry network, I’d just skate my way back to the Wilderness Chair as needed. It actually ended up being a bit of a revelation with regard to traveling in that area, because on my first run, I hit Gardiner’s Lane, and then simply followed it until I came to the junction with Snow Hole. All it took was probably 60 seconds to herring bone up to the Snow Hole return to the Wilderness Chair, so as long as you’re on something with good mobility like reasonably light Tele gear, you can easily return to the base of the Wilderness Chair. I even discovered a new area in my explorations today called “Branches” off to the right of Snow Hole. I guess people are always putting in their own little areas out on the backcountry network, so I don’t know how long that’s been around, but it’s always fun to find new areas for skiing that you didn’t know about.
It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March. Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs. The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.
The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base. It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth. My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.
“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”
The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole. Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.
Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow. The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.
This week wasn’t especially snowy, but we had at least some modest accumulations, with Bolton Valley reporting 9 inches during the period. Overall ski conditions have been quite good as of late though, so we expected there to be plenty of good powder skiing in the usual stashes with just these recent rounds of snow.
E and Ty were both a bit under the weather, but Dylan and I headed up to the mountain with our Tele skis for a good session of powder turns and exploration. Temperatures were really nice, well into the upper 20s F for our midmorning arrival at Timberline.
We caught some really nice powder turns, and it was hard to say exactly how much of the surface snow was new, but it was certainly several inches. We had fun checking snow depths around the 3,000’ mark, and you could simply push your pole down into the snow right up to the handle… and then keep going deeper if you wanted to. While the powder today wasn’t quite as fresh as what we experienced last weekend, it’s all just great skiing at this point.
“In the past 72 hours Mother Nature has dropped 25 inches of snow on Bolton Valley, and with the first part of that accumulation coming in quite dense, it’s been a great resurfacing of the slopes.”
We got to Timberline not long after the opening of the Timberline Quad, and encountered some briefly heavy snowfall that ended up sticking around in lighter intensity much of the morning to add a bit of freshening to the slopes. Temperatures were forecast to be in the mid-20s F, but it certainly felt a bit colder than that with the snowfall and some wind. We kicked off the day with an initial top-to-bottom run on Timberline to get a sense for how high the freezing line had gone yesterday, and the effects were definitely a gradient with respect to elevation. There was no obvious sharp line to note, but above 2,000 the effects seemed to be fairly minimal. Even below that elevation though, the mountain has seen several additional inches of accumulation, so there actually was great powder skiing all the way down to 1,500’. The areas that created the most trouble in our experience were where grooming had kicked up some chunks of dense snow to create an irregular subsurface.
We headed over to the main mountain to take advantage of the additional elevation and catch some lunch after a bit more skiing. We had a great run on White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and indeed the depths of powder and quality of the subsurface just kept getting better and better the higher you went. We relaxed with a good lunch at the James Moore Tavern, and seemed to get in there just before it started getting busy.
After lunch we headed up The Crack, found a lot of nice powder in Maria’s, then worked our way back to Timberline. We were still finding a lot of powder even at that point in the day, so we hung around for some additional Timberline runs, catching things like the Tattle Tale headwall, that was looking very steep and appealing to Dylan, and then some fun and games in the KP Glades where everyone seemed to get themselves covered in powder through various crashes or others purposely lacing them with the white stuff.
It is technically a holiday weekend, and while the resort was bustling, lift queues were almost nonexistent since the entire resort is open and everyone is well spread out. We even got word from Stowe that while the free days on our passes were certainly working there, the resort was really busy due to the holiday, so people should be prepared for that. Overall though, it’s just great that the resorts are getting such excellent conditions for a big holiday weekend and upcoming vacation week.
With help from our most recent winter storm, Bolton Valley is reporting 6 to 9 inches of new snow over the past several days, so Ty and I decided to head up today to ski a bit of that powder. We got to the Village in the late morning, and were surprised to find the upper parking lots were hitting capacity. We poked around in the lots for a bit though, and eventually got a spot from someone who was leaving. Parking at the main base was at an unusual premium today because there was a big Nordic race taking place. They certainly had a really fantastic day for the event – the sky was a mix of sun and clouds, and temperatures were just edging above freezing at the 2,000’ level.
With temperatures expected to rise a few degrees above freezing, Ty and I quickly got on our way over to Wilderness to make sure we could get in some powder turns before any potential temperature effects on the snow. We started off with a warm up on Bolton Outlaw, connecting down to the Wilderness Woods area and Lower Turnpike, where we found plenty of powder along the edges of the runs. I was definitely leery of the subsurface on Bolton Outlaw based on my experience over at Timberline on Thursday, but I ended up being really impressed with the overall conditions we found. The new snow has settled some and it’s now had a chance to form a much better bond to the underlying surface. In addition, there’s definitely been some additional liquid equivalent added to the surface snow relative to what I found earlier in the week. There was plenty of loose snow on Bolton Outlaw, but even when you got down to the subsurface there was substantial grip. Steep, natural snow trails like Bolton Outlaw being in good shape bodes well for the overall surface conditions on the mountain, so it’s not surprising that most terrain has been reopened now.
“There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.”
Ty and I also visited White Rabbit, where we found just a couple of tracks and acres of fresh powder. The freezing level was rising, so we had to start paying attention to aspect and sun protection, but the effects on the powder were still fairly minimal overall. There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.
The forecast suggests we’ve got a small system coming in to the area tonight, and then another couple of larger systems in the coming week, so folks should be alert for more potential powder turns in the near future.
Although today really was the President’s Day holiday, it didn’t feel like it to me because everyone seemed to have to go to school or work anyway. My plan was to head to the office as well, but being a holiday, it seemed silly to miss out on the fantastic ski conditions that are out there, so I had to stop in at Bolton Valley for a few runs en route.
Today was the third in a string of really nice ski days featuring soft, midwinter snow conditions and temperatures in the upper 20s F at elevation. You really couldn’t ask for much better timing for all the visitors to the resort over this long holiday weekend. Figuring that the powder from our recent storms would be pretty tracked out by the plentiful skier traffic from the big weekend, my plan was to just work the legs a bit with a few on piste Telemark runs.
“…Only at Bolton Valley are you going to be able to find such a ridiculous amount of untracked powder after a busy holiday weekend.”
But, as soon as I started down Vermont 200 I started began to look off piste and saw that there was simply too much good snow out there to resist. Once I got into the trees I was finding untracked lines everywhere, and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of my ski session today.
I visited a number of spots that I hadn’t been in quite a while, including places like Glades Right, Snow Hole, and White Rabbit, and the skiing was so good that I had to visit some of them more than once. I was amazed at how little traffic those places had seen as I glided my way through the powder and thought, “Only at Bolton Valley are you going to be able to find such a ridiculous amount of untracked powder after a busy holiday weekend.” That’s of course one of the things that makes the mountain so great.
Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains. We haven’t had much in the way of large storm cycles up in the Northern Greens this season, so this was our largest to date, and it showed some interesting distributions with respect to snowfall density. Some areas received extensive periods of large, fluffy flakes, and other locales had some very fine flakes that fell as very dense snow. For instance, the first round of the storm at our location on Thursday night delivered some very dense, 13% H2O snow. That’s actually just what the snowpack needed for building. Whether the snow was dense or not, in the end, the mountains received well over an inch of liquid, and that liquid equivalent was really what was necessary to bolster the natural snowpack. It was enough snow that Bolton Valley had finally opened all the terrain at Timberline, and we were psyched because that had been an inordinately long time coming this season.
“Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains.”
We decided to get a relatively early start on the mountain today, and even though we weren’t expecting the Timberline Quad to open until 10:00 A.M., when we drove by at 9:30 A.M. it was already running, so we pulled right in and parked. There were a couple of dozen cars in the lot, but it was still fairly quiet. That was good, because being a holiday weekend, having the biggest storm of the season just hit, and then having great weather to enjoy it, we were worried about how many people were going to be out. It was business as usual though at Timberline, with no lift queue and just a small group of people out to hit the terrain.
During our first lift ride we could see that the snow looked quite good, and there had definitely been a major resurfacing of the slopes. People had skied the area yesterday, so it wasn’t entirely fresh snow, but there were plenty of untracked areas, and a few more inches had fallen last night to cover even areas that had seen traffic. With almost two feet of new snow having fallen at Bolton Valley, we planned on hitting a lot of the steep off piste terrain that we’d yet to ski this season, so E decided to go with her fat alpine skis instead of Telemark skis. The boys had their powder skis, and I had my fat Teles, so we were ready to tackle whatever Pax had delivered. We had really great weather to enjoy the snow too – the temperatures were in the upper 20s F, there was no wind, and a little snow associated with our next storm system was floating through the air and adding a fresh coating to the slopes.
“The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top.”
Everyone took turns choosing trails, and E kicked things off with Twice as Nice. That turned out be a great idea for a warm up. The trail was generally tracked, with some untracked snow off to the sides, but there had been such a thorough resurfacing with all the dense snow that it hardly mattered where you went. I was really feeling my AMPerages bust through the heavy snow with gusto, yet at the same time they were light and quick – I was really happy with the combination of skis and snow because everything just seemed to flow. On our next ride up the quad, E commented on how we’d had the entire trail to ourselves for the whole run, except for a ski patroller who seemed to enjoy watching us from the side and generally surveilling the lay of the land in a very casual way. Next up was Dylan’s choice, which was Adam’s Solitude. I’m glad Dylan chose that early, because while the snow was quite good, a few bare spots were already starting to make their presence known. It was easy to see that once the trail received a bunch of traffic, the skiing wasn’t going to be quite as free and easy as what we were experiencing. With the rugged terrain present on Adam’s Solitude, it’s going to take another couple synoptic storms to really get it in shape for lots of skier traffic. The roller coaster section that the boys love at the bottom is already in great shape though, and they had a blast. I really enjoyed mixing in Telemark and alpine turns as the terrain dictated, and today was one of those days where mixing both techniques on the fly just came rather easily.
It was off to the main mountain next, where in order to add some fun in getting over to the base of Wilderness, we did a run off the Mid Mountain Chair. I treated E and the boys to a run through Glades Right and Nixon’s; both areas had great snow and coverage, and the boys were impressed. Wilderness was finally running today, and I led E and the boys on an attempted run through Super Snow Hole, but it was tough to find the entrance and we had to settle for regular Snow Hole. There had been very little traffic on Snow Hole, and it could actually use a bit more people venturing in to pack it down a bit with the generous depths of the recent snows. Ty called for a run on Turnpike, with an entry via Cougar, which the boys said they always seem to ski during the Olympics. They made sure to practice their Olympic victory “raising of the arms” at the bottom.
Since the boys had really earned some lunch after the morning’s adventures, especially the off piste venturing around in the deep powder in the Snow Hole area, we got a pie from Fireside Flatbread and some appetizers from the downstairs cafeteria. The lodge was definitely packed, and that’s not surprising on a Saturday of a holiday weekend.
The afternoon started with a run through the “trifecta” of Buena Vista, Dynamite, and Sleepy Hollow. The snow was excellent, and traffic had been fairly light. Dylan requested a run through the Progression Park, and then we headed back toward Timberline to finish off the day. I was amazed that we’d seen Upper Tattle Tale open, and from below it looked somewhat scoured, but Lower Tattle Tale was really good. The Twice as Nice Glades were OK, but still a bit bony, and I’d actually say that they are due for a round of brush clearing. I took everyone down Quintessential, but it definitely needs a couple more storms to really be ready.
You really couldn’t ask for a much better day today, with such great fresh snow and weather. The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top. At some point there was some dry fluff in there, and then some snow with smaller flake fell on top. You’d sometimes find areas of untracked powder where you could drop right through that middle layer. The fat skis were definitely the tools to help with that though, doing a great job of keeping you floating vs. sinking under the topmost layers of dense snow. In terms of base, essentially everything is skiable, but I’d like to see a couple more synoptic storms to get the base wall to wall on all the steepest and most rugged natural terrain. Being mid February, that should really be expected by this point, but when snowfall is somewhere south of 80% relative to average, and January has multiple warm storms, that steep, natural terrain in the lower elevations just isn’t going to be flawless yet. We’ve actually got some nice fluffy upslope snow falling tonight in association with the next winter storm called “Quintus”; we’ll have to see how much the mountains can pull of the sky to top off what’s out there.
“Depths of powder above whatever firmer subsurface lay below were in the 8-12″ range, with a bit of that melt layer in there in the lower elevations or on south facing terrain.”
I devised a somewhat ambitious tour for today, at least with respect to what the boys might be willing to accommodate. It would be an opportunity to show E and the boys the two glades that I discovered last month on the 19th and the 27th. The plan was to skin up Bryant to the Bryant Cabin, descend through the first glade, then connect over to the alpine trail network, catch an assist from the Wilderness Lift to the Wilderness Summit, traverse out on Heavenly Highway, ski the second glade, and return to the car via the Nordic/backcountry network. If we couldn’t complete the whole tour we’d have some opportunities to truncate it as needed. The forecast called for some sun and temperatures in the 20s F today, so it looked like we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone getting cold too quickly.
We arrived up in the Bolton Valley Village in the late morning period, and the main parking lots were getting pretty full, but we were able to get a trailside spot right on World Cup in the lower tennis court lot. There were plenty of people about as we began our ascent, including a number participating in the “Bolton to the Barns” event. We ran into Alex, one of my former students on his descent with the event group, and learned that he is now at Tufts Medical School, although he seemed very happy to be back in Vermont visiting Bolton Valley. Dylan asked for just one break on the ascent, and we pulled over into the sunshine along the top section of World Cup and had a snack.
Near the start of our tour when we’d passed by the Courtside 1 Condos on Broadway, we ran into a Nordic skier who was pausing there. She inquired about the substantial width of E’s fat skis, and E indicated that they were for powder skiing. The woman seemed puzzled because as far as she could tell there was no powder around. She wished us luck on finding powder, but you could tell she figured it was a lost cause. It was very interesting to hear her speak that way when just a few feet away from her off the side of the trail, you could see the powder sitting there. People certainly have some unique perspectives on snow conditions. As a Nordic skier, perhaps she’s got a totally different idea of what powder snow actually is, or she may have just been oblivious to what conditions were like off the groomed runs of the Nordic trails. Anyway, in terms of the actual snow conditions, out near the car a bit above the 2,000′ mark there were 2 to 3 inches of fluffy snow above a bit of a melt/sun crust, but I suspected that crust would disappear as we got out of exposed areas and headed up in elevation. Indeed, pretty quickly in shaded areas I found that the powder was deeper and the melt crust underneath was disappearing, and after a few hundred feet of ascent it was essentially gone. Depths of powder above whatever firmer subsurface lay below were in the 8-12″ range, with a bit of that melt layer in there in the lower elevations or on south facing terrain.
We found the Bryant Cabin in use with the woodstove pushing a fragrant plume of smoke out the chimney. When we talked to one of the guys using the cabin, he said that the resort is no longer renting it or regulating the usage; you can just use it on a first come, first serve basis. I’m guessing that also means that they aren’t supplying wood, which is why we frequently saw him browsing around for dead stuff to throw on the fire. Some people may have loved the idea of this, and have wondered if they should get a prefab log cabin of their own. For us, it was a place to rest for a bit. We sat down and had lunch off to the side of the cabin clearing, and enjoyed hot soup, cocoa, and other items we’d brought. Various groups of skiers made their way past while we were there; it was probably one of the busier days I’ve seen out there on the backcountry network, and it was nice that all the people were out supporting the use of the trail system. Hopefully the initiative to buy the land with the help of Vermont Land Trust will go through and people will be able to continue enjoying it as public land.
“We found the Bryant Cabin
in use with the woodstove
pushing a fragrant plume
of smoke out the chimney.”
Our first descent was in the North Slope and Gardiner’s Lane areas, and the powder was very good in the upper elevations. On our first pitch dropping from North Slope, conditions were just right so that both Ty and Dylan made some nice Telemark turns. Later, Ty dropped a nice Telemark-style jump turn launching off one of the steeper pitches, and he was very proud of that. The boys threw in a good amount of alpine turns, especially when they wanted to go faster, but it was all around great practice for them. Like I’d noticed on our ascent, the last couple hundred vertical of the descent featured some of that melt crust below the powder. We were on a south-facing slope, so that certainly wasn’t surprising. I found my fat AMPerages to be really helpful in that terrain, and E had some nice turns on her Elements, but she’s still finding them hard to get up on edge in packed snow due to their width. We’re wondering if the play in her boots is just too much and it’s ruining the ability to convey the necessary pressure into the ski.
We connected over to the Wilderness Double Chair and took it to the Wilderness Summit as planned, but Ty was pretty insistent on a quick descent without additional skinning. So instead of heading across on Heavenly Highway to drop through the second glade I’d chosen for the day, we opted to descend on Peggy Dow’s to quickly get to Snow Hole. There was decent powder in Snow Hole, although it was certainly more tracked and packed than what we’d seen in the backcountry glades. I got off to the sides of the main route a good deal though and got a number of fresh lines, and at times the boys would follow me. We did make a good connection back onto the Nordic network and caught a few final turns on the Telemark Practice Slope and other lower mountain glade areas before heading back to the car. We’ll be planning another tour at some point to catch that second glade; I still want to show it to E and the boys.