As soon as I left the house and rounded the first corner on Route 2, I was shown a bright visage of white-covered peaks across the valley. These elevation-based snowstorms typically produce some great views, and the accumulations from this one varied a bit with aspect, so that made for some exciting scenery as I headed through the Winooski Valley.
Once I was on the Bolton Valley Access Road, the first traces of white appeared at roughly 900’, and the accumulations slowly increased to 2-3’ at the Timberline Base, and 3-4” in the Village. Temperatures were below freezing from probably 1,000’-1,500’ on up, so the new snow above that point was dense, but dry. There was a notable jump in accumulations just above 2,000’ or so as the profile below shows. Above that though, there wasn’t a lot of increase, so presumably the snow line crashed down to that ~2,000’+ level pretty quickly without spending a lot of time at 3,000’+.
Here’s the accumulations profile observed on this morning’s outing:
“I’d planned on a quick tour over in the lower elevations of the Wilderness area, but once I was over there out of the wind, I saw that the accumulations were solid enough to warrant a more extended tour into the higher elevations.”
I’d planned on a quick tour over in the lower elevations of the Wilderness area, but once I was over there out of the wind, I saw that the accumulations were solid enough to warrant a more extended tour into the higher elevations.
As mentioned, the snow was dense but dry, so it skied fairly well. On 115 mm fat skis I was typically sinking in a couple of inches, and there was a surfy consistency to the setup that really let you have some fun and smear your powder turns easily if you wanted. The snow provided plenty of cushion for low to low/moderate-angle terrain, and up above 2,800’ or so, old snow and snow bridges were still in place, so that made any water bars less of an issue.
“As mentioned, the snow was dense but dry, so it skied fairly well. On 115 mm fat skis I was typically sinking in a couple of inches, and there was a surfy consistency to the setup that really let you have some fun and smear your powder turns easily if you wanted.”
There were a few folks out and about in the Village, but out on the mountain itself it was pretty quiet. All I saw was a red fox that ran in front of me on Lower Turnpike, and a guy on a fat bike up near the summit. I was surprised to see him up at that point because there was a half foot of snow, and due to their weight those fat bikes are total dogs with respect to climbing, so I’m sure he’d put in plenty of work. There were some packed areas of snow due to resort operations traffic and wind scouring, so I’m guessing he made good use of that.
We’ve had a few nice snowstorms over the past few weeks, and this latest one was a nice way to kick off the month of May with a ski tour.
Since daylight lingers so long into the evening now, I stopped off at Bolton on the way home from work today for a ski tour. I hadn’t had the time to get out yesterday, but it kept snowing much of the day today as well, so this gave me the chance to see how all the snow had accumulated from this most recent April storm. Valley temperatures had edged a bit above freezing in the afternoon, but on the mountain the temperatures were down in the 20s F.
Accumulations from this storm went right down to the lowest valleys, and even the broad, low valleys down near sea level like the Champlain Valley had accumulations that stuck around. At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~340’ there were a couple inches of accumulation, and naturally, the depths just went up from there. The wind had kicked up by this afternoon on the back side of the system, and that really pushed the snow around a lot, but using the typical calmer, unaffected spots, here’s the accumulations profile I observed during today’s outing:
“So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches.”
The snow from this storm was certainly not as dense as what last week’s storm delivered, but the initial accumulations were substantial enough to set up a good base, and then in typical Northern Greens style, the upslope came in after to boost the depth and polish things off. Overall, the snow put down by this storm cycle was right side up, just as PF noted in his post at the American Weather Forum. We picked up roughly ¾” of liquid equivalent at our site, and I’d say they’d had at least 1” of liquid in the snow on the mountain. So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches. There was also still some snow left from the previous storm in spots, so that bolstered up the base a bit more.
Anyway, turns were great with the right-side-up deposition, with midwinter consistency all the way down to the Village areas at ~2,000’ this afternoon. I didn’t tour down to 1,500’, but even there at the base of Timberline the snow was still powder as of early evening.
Since the snow totals from our latest storm were a bit higher to the south of our area, E and I decided to mix things up a little and head down to Pico for some turns today. The accumulating snow levels for this storm in our part of the Winooski Valley were generally around 1,000’ or so, and you could tell that the snow line was a bit lower as you headed south. The lowest elevations of the White River Valley were still generally devoid of snow though.
Pico certainly got a nice shot of snow from this system. With temperatures above freezing at around 2,000’ in the base area, it wasn’t surprising that we were seeing a bit of melting and consolidation there. In general, settled new snow depths we found around the base this morning were in the 9-12” range. There were about 40 to 50 cars in the main parking lot this morning, and some were from people who were staying in the lodging areas there at the base, but many were also from folks who were there for some skiing.
During our ascent we found that the new snow depth increased quite quickly on the bottom half of the mountain, and at times it felt like every 100’ of vertical we’d climb we’d find another inch of depth. It wasn’t quite that quick, but by the time we’d hit the 3,000’ elevation range the depth was in the 15-17” range. The snow depth didn’t increase nearly as quickly on the upper half of the mountain, and it topped out around 18” up around 4,000’. Here’s the rough snow depth profile with respect to elevation:
As the elevation profile data suggest, you’re essentially looking at a foot and a half of new snow on the upper half of the mountain – and it is certainly not fluff. There’s got to be at least two inches of liquid equivalent in that new snow, so there’s been a full resurfacing up there (or in places that didn’t have existing snowpack, a full recovering).
Up on the mountain it also snowed during the entire time we were out on our tour from mid-morning onward. The snowfall was generally light in intensity, but increased with elevation and was borderline moderate at times up near the 4,000’ level. You could see that the new snow, and/or other recent snow from the later part of the storm was helping to take a bit of the density out of the topmost layer of snow up high. The best turns were unquestionably up in the 3,500’ to 4,000’ elevation range, where you had a few inches of drier snow atop the rest of what the storm left. I’d say that may have been where the freezing line was located at that point, so you had dense, but dry powder for the top few to several inches. Below that, there was an increasing density gradient, but it went pretty quickly to snow that was 10%+ H2O in the vein of typical winter-style Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete. It was still quite skiable though, and you’d certainly sink in several inches, so it wasn’t that super dense stuff that has your just riding on the surface.
All told though, since there’s a foot and a half of that snow, you’ve got a bomber subsurface in place. We spoke with a guy who told us that the 49er and Pike were the routes with the best snowmaking base before this storm, so they were good options in terms of coverage, but it really didn’t matter. With 2+ inches of liquid equivalent in place, you could pretty much ski anything you wanted. There were water bars to watch out for the lower you went, but even all the way back down to the base elevations, you could ski just about anything, whether it had existing base or not. The challenging part was handling the denser/wetter snow down low, and fat skis or a snowboard were unquestionably your tool of choice. Width was the best bet in general for the most fun riding, but especially down low where temperatures were above freezing and the snow was getting a bit wetter.
For the best quality turns today, laps on the upper half of the mountain would have been a good bet if you had the time, but experienced skiers and riders would be able to handle the lower mountain conditions. We skied the bottom half of the mountain with a couple of older guys on fat Telemark gear like us, and it was well past manageable; the turns were definitely fun even in that wetter snow.
As I mentioned, it was snowing most of the time above the base elevations, and to further reduce the visibility we were often well up in the clouds on the upper mountain. This of course made the ski photography a fun challenge up high, but I’d say we still got some nice images to document the experience.
After finding such nice conditions yesterday, E and I headed up for another session at Bolton this morning. Based on the forecasts I saw, those temperatures and humidity should have preserved the powder beautifully – and they definitely did; the powder was just as good as yesterday. It seemed to have settled a touch, but all the liquid equivalent was all still there, so it kept you off the subsurface and skied just as nicely.
The groomed terrain on the upper mountain that had been blasted by the wind yesterday was much improved today, I guess due to another round of the groomers pulverizing it with the new snow mixed in, and this time without the winds scouring it away.
We were talking about how the resort’s essentially come full circle on the season as it often does, and we’re back to the way it can be in November and early December when the focus is on the main mountain, but the other pods that aren’t open have enough snow to ski. All you have to do is traverse out to the powder.
We both remarked at what a fantastic late winter day it was, with the powder, the Colorado blue skies, and humidity to match. We were just starting to find a few spots in the direct sun where the powder was beginning to get sun-affected around midday when we were leaving, but it really was holding up quite well with these low humidity levels.
The precipitation changed fully over to snow today not long after my morning CoCoRaHS observations at the house. I headed up to Bolton for some turns, and found the following storm accumulations starting from near the Bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road:
The biggest jumps in accumulation certainly appeared to be in the 1,000’ to 2,000’ elevation band. The resort is reporting 9” in the past 48 hours on their snow report, so that seems in synch with what I found up at the main mountain.
When I was out today at Bolton I saw that the front face trails on Vista had been absolutely hammered by the wind, which is not surprising with the way they face west, but apparently even areas of the east side of the Green Mountains got hit pretty hard as well. Timberline is usually a nice place to go to get away from the wind, but it’s not open right now because coverage just isn’t great down that low, but lower Wilderness is another good option for sheltered terrain, and that was serving up some great powder.
I started skiing not too long after opening today, and it was really dumping when I arrived thanks to a fresh push of moisture that hit in the morning. The old base snow is just so consolidated and hard after a couple weeks of spring weather and no new snow, that I didn’t really find any of the steep groomed terrain that had really improved. Either the wind had blown everything away, or it was exposed enough to the wind that the groomers couldn’t do much with it. Low and moderate angle groomers on the bottom half of the mountain seemed to have incorporated the snow nicely though – turns were nice and quiet, so the new snow must have stayed put and been churned in by the groomers.
Low and moderate angle powder terrain was the way to go though. I’d thrown both fats and midfats on the car today, and ended up using the midfats and found they had plenty of float. There’s was definitely enough L.E. in the snow to set up everything below black diamond pitch.
After skiing, I found that it continued to snow all the way in to Burlington. The snowfall intensity actually kept increasing as I headed into the Champlain Valley, but temperatures were a few degrees above freezing so the roads just stayed wet. During the day today in Burlington we had some periods of heavy snow with huge flakes during that banding, and it accumulated to an inch or two. At our house in Waterbury it continued to snow, but outside that heavy snowfall band off to our west, the snowfall intensity was just too light to accumulate to more than a tenth of an inch at valley elevations in our area.
We picked up most of our snow at the house with a subsequent round of precipitation that came through in the afternoon, and we’ve been having another round of that around here this evening as well.
I wanted to head up before that colder air was supposed to move in later in the afternoon, so I hit the mountain in the late morning. With those strong winds blowing from the northwest, it wasn’t at all surprising to see in the snow report that the Vista Quad and Wilderness Double, being the highest elevation lifts, were on wind hold. With that in mind, I decided to make it a hybrid outing of both riding the lifts and skinning to get efficient access to the fresh powder. The Mid Mountain Chair was running, so I ended up using that for a quick elevation assist over to the Wilderness area. I followed some folks that were using a nifty access route around the mid-mountain snowmaking pond to get to Wilderness.
I generally found powder depths topping out around 6” just like the snow report indicated, aside from wind scoured or drifted areas, or trails that had been groomed during the storm. Low angle terrain on fat boards was what I’d been planning to hit, and that definitely delivered. The lift assist from the Mid Mountain Chair was just right for cycling the bottom half of the Wilderness terrain, which had the kind of pitch this snow called for. Anything with moderate pitch or above was just too steep for the available snow, and you’d be hitting the scratchy subsurface unless you were in a drifted area.
The BTV NWS forecast discussion said that the precipitation would be somewhat cellular during the day, and indeed that’s just what I experienced out on the mountain. At times it would be whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility, and at other times that snowfall would wane and it would almost look like the sun wanted to break through. Temperatures started out in the 20s F, but were down into the teens F by the time I was leaving, so that colder air was moving in as scheduled.
My plan was to hit some low-angle stuff on my fat skis, and that was indeed about the only terrain that offered up bottomless turns today. Anything above that angle and you were hitting the subsurface – and that subsurface snow on anything that hadn’t been groomed is indeed loud. Moderate angle turns were still decent with that new snow to push back on, but the low-angle powder was the best. I had some nice turns on the mellow inclines of Villager and Spur in the fresh snow. Groomed terrain was also pretty nice where they’d been able to till up the old stuff and get some new snow into it, although that depended on the time they’d groomed. Some spots were groomed before the new snow fell, so it was powder on top of that. The resort was being cautious and hadn’t even open the ungroomed terrain today, and that was probably wise, since the powder made it dangerous in some cases by simply hiding the moonscape below.
“I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range. I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.”
I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range. I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.
My boys headed up for some turns in the afternoon, and my younger son said it was pretty hilarious in that “It was like skiing powder, but still skiing on the base.” We were talking tonight at dinner about how what they skied was literally the antithesis of “bottomless powder”. I guess one could call that “bottomful powder” in that line of terminology. “Dust on crust” also gets that point across, although I typically don’t think of 6-8” of snow when I think of dust. With those snow ratios in the range of 30 to 1 or even 70 to 1, and the temperature cycling that the existing snow had seen, I knew it was going to be pretty much a “dust on crust” setup. But with a half foot of snow, at least it’s more of a “Northern Greens” sort of dust on crust experience.
In any event, it was a good aesthetic refresher for the pack both down at the house and up on the hill, and hopefully we’ll have a bit more to add in the next couple of days.
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.