Bolton Valley, VT 04FEB2012

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in the powder on Spell Binder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some Telemark turns today in that Bolton Valley powder

If it seemed like we had a lot of mixed precipitation events in Northern Vermont this January… that’s because we did.  Many winter seasons will have some sort of January thaw, where the weather pattern shifts or resets and the temperature temporarily bumps above freezing, but according to Roger Hill, this year we had seven January thaws.  None of these storms posed snow coverage issues for the local mountains; they were just winter storms with snow on the front and back ends, but warm temperatures with mixed precipitation in the middle.  But even though they weren’t notable thaws for the mountains, each time the precipitation changed over to something other than snow, that was snow we weren’t stockpiling into the base depths for the season.  The mixed precipitation was substantiating the total liquid equivalent in the snowpack, but once temperatures came back down after warming, the potential for hard snow surfaces arose.    Fortunately, the Northern Greens worked their magic, pulling out enough snow on the back end of each storm to provide a decent shot of powder to get things back to normal.  Last weekend at Stowe was a perfect example; we didn’t think the skiing was going to be any good, but Mt. Mansfield pulled that Champlain Powder™ out of the sky, and we found ourselves making fluffy laps off the Sensation Quad on Sunday afternoon.

Our latest mixed precipitation event came through during the Tuesday through Thursday period this week; snow started up on Tuesday, warmer precipitation mixed in on Wednesday, and then everything was back to snow on Thursday.  There wasn’t much snow on the back end of that event, but sure enough, another system came through yesterday and today that dropped another half foot of powder in the mountains.  Over at Americanwx.com, Powderfreak posted text and pictures about the skiing at Stowe yesterday, so it looked like we were back in business in terms of powder skiing.

I was feeling down with a touch of stomach flu this morning, but we decided to head up to Bolton for some turns in the afternoon because the day was looking just too fantastic to miss.  There was bright sunshine, temperatures in the upper 20s F, and fresh snow to boot.  When Stephen called us around mid morning today, we let him know we’d be up to the mountain later, and that we were planning on making a special run for some extra fresh tracks.  With the Timberline Quad still not running, we decided to spot a car down there and catch a nice long run of powder from the Timberline Summit.  We let Stephen know about our plan, and with both Johannes and Helena in full day ski programs/lessons, he was totally free to join us.  Since we didn’t head up to the mountain last Saturday, we were eager to catch up with him and make some turns.

We parked a car at the Timberline Base, noticing about a half dozen other vehicles that were also there from people doing the same thing or earning turns, then dropped of our skis at the Village Circle and got a parking spot in the main Village lots.  The lots were pretty full, but since it was around 1:00 P.M., spots were opening up we were able to get one down near the recreation center.  E and I changed into our ski boots at the car, and the combination of sunshine and warm air was so mellifluous we could have just spent the entire afternoon right there.  We rang Stephen, who said he was just getting off the top of Wilderness and would meet us at the base.

An image of one of the Bolton Valley resort vehicles in the village circle with a coating of snow
A coating of snow covers one of the resort’s vehicles in the village circle this afternoon.

Ty wanted to do a warm up run on Snowflake, so we did, with a run through the Butterscotch Terrain Park as the boys often request.  There was powder available off to the skier’s right as usual, so Stephen, E and I naturally availed ourselves of that.  It was sometimes deep enough to get us floating, sometimes not, but even the subsurface was not half bad as Powderfreak had indicated; we were anticipating some very nice options over at Timberline.

With the warm up run out of the way, we could move on to getting ourselves over to Timberline.  We rode the Vista Quad and opted for the Cobrass route.  Stephen had warned us that the top, south-facing portion of Cobrass was icy, and he was right.  We had to pick out way through that, with even the normally soft skier’s right featuring little in the way of nice snow.  Once below that though, things improved on Cobrass Run, and improved even more once we got to Five Corners, where the skier’s right was filled with a delightful combination of powder and chowder.

An image of powder-coated snow whales on the Villager trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We discovered a layer of glorious Champlain Powder atop the snow whales on Villager.

Finding ourselves at the Five Corners intersection, it was time to make our way up Villager.  Although the trip up to the Timberline Summit is relatively short, E and I had our skins so that we could carry the boys’ gear more easily.  I was in the process of strapping the boys’ skis to my pack, when Ty decided that he wanted to ascend with one ski on and one ski off.  I warned him that it might be a bit tiring and inefficient, but he actually made it look pretty easy.  The hike up Villager was glorious, with sunshine and temperatures in the 20s F just as advertised.  We even got the occasional sunshower of snow when a breeze would blow some of the delicate fluff out of the trees.  I was excited because despite the stomach ailment that had plagued me in the morning, I was feeling just about 100%.  On the hike I checked on the depths of the new snow, and throughout the ascent we generally found 5 to 7 inches of powder over the old base.  Previous rounds of snowmaking had produced some large whales up and down the trail, and now that they were coated with that beautiful blanked of fluff, the boys made good use of them for some sliding.  It was fun watching the powder explode around the boys as they slid off the huge mounds, knowing that we’d hopefully be skiing that same stuff soon.  In some leeward spots, we found up to 20 inches of powder that had blown in, and the breezes that put it there must have been quite gentle because it was just as light and fluffy as the powder that hadn’t seen any wind.  I took it as a good sign that we’d be able to find some excellent powder on the descent.

An image of Ty and Dylan sliding in powder off one of the snow whales on the Villager Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty and Dylan dive off one of the Villager snow whales as fluffy powder explodes around them.

At the Timberline Summit we took our time and enjoyed the weather, with the boys playing around in the snow near the summit station of the lift.  Eventually E and I finished getting the gear readied, and with Dylan anxious to start skiing, we got on our way with the descent.  We headed down Brandywine and Intro to get access to the trails below the mid station, and the powder was indeed very good; consistent with what we’d seen on the way up Villager, there was roughly a half foot of classic Champlain Powder™.  It wasn’t ultra light, so there was plenty of substance for a lot of floating, and even when you weren’t off the base, the subsurface was unblemished and reasonably soft such that even that skiing was great.  There were some areas that had been hit by wind up high, but we able to find good powder on most pitches and knew that the effects of the wind would be even less below the mid station.

An image of Erica skiing in the powder on Upper Brandywine on a sunny day at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E testing out the powder on Upper Brandywine near the beginning of our descent

I was going back and forth in my head about whether we should head for Twice as Nice, with its consistent pitch, or Spell Binder, with its lower traffic and steep headwall.  The headwall isn’t always the best option if we haven’t had a dump large enough to provide floatation in the steeps, but with the quality of the subsurface we’d observed, I decided we’d give it a shot.  It turned out to be a fantastic choice.  I headed down first, keeping to the skier’s right for the best snow at the top, and then cutting back left as I got into the lower part of the headwall.  Even with only midfat skis, speed got one floating, and the smooth, undisturbed nature of the subsurface with the quality fluff on top made for an impressive ride.  I pulled up a good distance below the headwall, and got out the Canon to catch the descents of the others.  The boys went first and were looking extremely good, carving some big, high-speed turns down the headwall.  In anticipation of the powder, we’d brought their fat skis, so with their light body weight, the girth of their skis, and the high speeds, they had no problem floating.  Seeing Dylan with the confidence to arc down the slope at high speed was especially exciting, and it’s obvious the strides he’s making in his skiing this season; sifting through today’s action shots and observing his form really bore that out.

An image of Dylan carving a huge arc down the headwall of the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan slices a huge high-speed arc through the powder on the Spell Binder headwall.
An image of Stephen cutting tracks through the powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen carving his way through the powder on Spell Binder today

Once below the headwall we all enjoyed a long run of powder cruising, gliding our way through the fluff that was most protected from the wind.  The dips and berms of the water bars were still occasionally visible, but fortunately the snowpack is well past the stage where they’re of much concern.  We did another couple rounds of photography, taking advantage of the great light and excellent snow.  The depth of the powder did decrease with elevation, but there were a few inches present even down to the 1,500’ level to make for quite a complete run.  If we’d had the time and the boys had had the inclination, it would have been fun to run some additional laps on the terrain, but the day was wearing on and since the Patriots were playing, we were thinking of watching some of the Super Bowl.  Stephen also had to pick up Johannes and Helena from their lessons… and let them know what they’d missed of course.

An image of Erica skiing a vast area of powder on the Spell Binder Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E enjoys the expanse of powder available on Spell Binder today.

We dropped Stephen off at the Village Circle and headed back to our car to complete the circuit.  We definitely need to get in more of these days, although I suspect Timberline will be opening soon.  There’s always spring though when the mountain shuts Timberline back down.  The weather pattern appears to be changing, and it looks like we’ll be trading in all the mixed events for something different.  Hopefully we can keep the precipitation coming in the form of snow.  E and I started up a two-day chili recipe yesterday, and the final stage was when it cooked in the crock pot today, so it was ready when we got home.  It was very good… very good – my only regret was that I had to take it easy due to what my stomach had been dealing with earlier.  Fortunately it stores very well!

Stowe, VT 29JAN2012

An image of Greg and some of the boys in our ski group on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort, with tracks visible in the powder on the lift line trail below
Greg and some of the boys riding Sensation today between laps in the powder below

There haven’t been any major snowfalls in the area since the storm that dropped up to two feet in the mountains around mid month, so when I assessed the monthly snowfall at the house through yesterday (27.2”), it wasn’t surprising that we were well below the January average I’ve calculated from the past five seasons worth of data (40”+).  Even without any huge storms though, the Northern Greens have been doing their thing to keep the slopes fresh as they capitalize on the moisture from more modest systems or make their own upslope snow.  Today was another perfect example, as we found ourselves amidst massive flakes when we arrived at Stowe around midday.  It was a bit of a surprise to see all the snow in the air and the cars covered in white, since all we’d seen at the house were a few flurries, but that’s Mansfield being Mansfield.

An image of arriving at the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont with snow falling and a couple of trails on Mt. Mansfield just visible in the background
Our snowy arrival in the Spruce Peak Village today

“Every week we seem to
get one of those mixed
storms to make a mess
out of the slopes, and
Mansfield pulls another
7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or
whatever out of the sky
to bring back the powder
skiing.”

The day was set up as a nice comfortable one with temperatures in the 30s F for the mountain valleys, and a high of around 25 F on Mt. Mansfield.  Naturally, the combination of nice temperatures and fresh snow had us excited to hit the slopes, so with some extra time before our coaching session began, I grabbed Ty and Dylan and we rode the Alpine Double for a run in the terrain above Meadows.  Consistent with the latest temperature fluctuations above and below freezing over the past week (which seems to be a theme this month) there was certainly a crusty layer under the powder, but the turns were very good with all the new snow, even down at the low elevations near the Spruce Peak Village (~1,500’).  In fact the snow was nice enough that when we met up with our group for the day, which consisted of Jack, Luke, and Greg Pause as a second coach, we headed right back up to do the same run.

An image of Greg and the boys stopping in the powdery woods for a photo during one of our trips on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching Greg and the boys on one of our snowy Sensation runs

Seeing how nice the skiing was down low with the new snow, we didn’t want to wait too long to get higher up on the mountain, so we caught Sunny Spruce to make our way over to Sensation.  While on the lift, we saw a few tracks on Spruce Line, but loads of untracked snow, so we worked our way through the trees to get there.  The boys were challenged by some difficult routes through the trees, but Ty encouraged everyone, letting them know that they could really handle it, and they did.  Indeed the powder skiing was excellent up at that elevation with the additional depth of new snow afforded by 1,500’ of increased elevation.  One aspect of the run that had everyone grinning was the fact that nobody else was skiing the area, so we had it all to ourselves.  We continued on down to Whirlaway, where the snow remained quite good, and then decided that it would be a shame if all the untracked snow on Spruce Line went to waste, so we did the exact same run again.  We concluded our Spruce Peak session with one more Sensation run, hitting the steep terrain of Upper Smuggler’s down to Side Street, then back to the Spruce Peak Base Area to catch the Over Easy to Mt. Mansfield.

“It was a bit of a surprise
to see all the snow in the
air and the cars covered,
in white, since all we’d
seen at the house were a
few flurries, but that’s
Mansfield being Mansfield.”

The second half of the afternoon was spent over on Mt. Mansfield exploring areas serviced by the gondola.  Waterfall continues to have good snow, so we enjoyed its somewhat steep terrain as a good variation down to Gondolier.  We played around a lot in the Switchback trees, and a quick check on the powder there revealed 7 inches of depth for the mid to lower mountain elevations.  We did a run on Perry Merrill as well, and worked our way back to Switchback for a variation on the trees we’d skied before.  The snowfall had slackened during the middle of the afternoon, but it resumed for the end of the ski day, and gave everyone a renewed sense of excitement.  The boys finished off their last run as they do with most gondola runs, the requisite trip through the small terrain park below Midway.  We headed back to Spruce as the light began to fade and the snowfall ramped up.

An image of Ty jumping over a sloped box in the small terrain park near the Midway Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching that last terrain park run in the fading light
An image of a pair of skis leaning on a carved wooden bear at the entrance to Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Spruce Camp entrance

We headed to the Great Room Grill for après ski, and the snow continued to fall; the forecast calls for up to another 6 to 8 inches tonight on top of what fell today, so I suspect that conditions are going to be even better tomorrow.  It certainly makes me want to hit the slopes instead of heading in to Burlington.  I’ve got to say, Stowe really continues to impress this season in terms of conditions.  Sometimes the heavy traffic at the mountain can really wear things down, but in this season of low snowfall, big temperature swings, and mixed precipitation, Mansfield just keeps coming through.  Every week we seem to get one of those mixed storms to make a mess out of the slopes, and Mansfield pulls another 7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or whatever out of the sky to bring back the powder skiing.  I really thought this was going to be the weekend in which the conditions wouldn’t make it back in time, with this week’s mixed precipitation storm coming so late in the week, but damn if there wasn’t some fine skiing out there today.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 21JAN2012

An image of Ty skiing a glade below the Heavenly Highway trail on the Nordic/backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty glides through some Champlain Powder today in a glade below Heavenly Highway.

There was some warmth in the area in the early part of the week that put a crust on snow surfaces, but then the mountains picked up in excess of a half foot of snow in the Thursday/Friday storm, and that remedied the issue pretty quickly.  And, although the current storm has been focused down along the south coast of New England, the local Northern Vermont resorts reported another 2 to 3 inches of fluff to top the powder off further.  This latest addition was extremely dry snow, classic Champlain Powder™.  With only about 8 inches or so of new snow atop the old base, and the top of that being some of our ultra fluff, it wasn’t going to be extremely durable when stacked up against resort levels of skier traffic, so it seemed like a great day to head out for some backcountry turns.  It also turned out that Dylan had to go to a birthday party today, so it meant that Ty and I could ski together; we’d be able to cover ground a little faster and extend our tour a bit compared to an outing in which Dylan was with us.

“…we were surrounded by
accumulations of that 2%
water-content Champlain
Powder™ that I affectionately
call ‘see-through’ snow.”

Ty and I spent the morning around the house, and light snow was in the air because we were on the northern periphery of that storm off to the south.  The snowfall transitioned from small 1-2 mm diameter flakes in the early hours, to huge, 1-inch monsters by mid morning.  The small flakes deposited just a couple tenths of an inch, but by noon we’d picked up another couple of inches thanks to the loft from those huge flakes.  My noontime snow density analysis revealed that the water content of the snow was just 2%; indeed it was as light as feathers.  While I prepared the ski gear, Ty grabbed his sled and hit the front yard slope to enjoy some of the fresh fluff.  Even though the top coating on the snowpack wasn’t all that deep, it was so dry that it easily exploded up around him as he cruised through it on his sled.  We talked about why this snow behaved that way, and I pointed out the fact that since this snow was 2% water, that meant it was also 98% air.  Looking at it that way really puts a perspective on just how delicate and airy such accumulations are.   One great thing about living so close to Bolton Valley, is that when we get snow like that at the house, we know that they’ve received at least that much (and almost always significantly more) up on the resort’s slopes.

An image of Ty sledding in extremely dry, 2% water content powder at our house in Waterbury, Vermont
Champlain Powder comprised of just 2% water explodes around Ty this morning as he takes a run on one of the sledding hills at the house.

It continued to snow lightly at the house, and we’d picked up another half inch of fluff by the time we headed up to the mountain around 1:00 P.M.  We skinned up Bryant, and I figured that with Ty’s energy level, we’d be able to head up past the Bryant Cabin and add in some of the higher elevation glades to our descent.  The trip up Bryant was very serene, as we were surrounded by accumulations of that 2% water-content Champlain Powder™ that I affectionately call “see-through” snow.  Indeed, the snow piles up with such loft on tree branches and other objects that you can actually see right through it in certain spots.  As we ascended along the trail, touching the snow-loaded branches would produce the most amazing effect, as hundreds of huge crystals would scatter and float ever so slowly toward the ground in a brilliant, shimmering storm.

An image of an evergreen branch coated with super-dry, 2% water-content "Champlain Powder" along the Bryant Trail on the Nordic/backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Branches along the Bryant trail coated with some of that 2% H2O “see-through” Champlain Powder

Once we approached the Bryant Cabin, we found out that it was occupied by a group that had rented it out for an overnight to enjoy some backcountry skiing, and they invited us to join them inside.  They had the woodstove running, and it was delightfully warm in there.  Ty and I pulled out our snacks and hot chocolate, and had a great time chatting as Ty intermittently explored the cabin.  I can’t recall exactly where the group was from, but I think at least some of them were from parts of Southern New England, so it was great to see that they had been able to come up and enjoy the snow – as deficient as our snowfall has been so far this season in Northern Vermont, farther south, the dearth of snowfall seems even worse.  While we were there, various members of the group were in and out getting in some touring, and it was just what you’d expect to see at the Bryant Cabin in the heart of winter.

An image of the Bryant Cabin with smoke coming from the chimney on the Nordic/backcountry trail network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Smoke from the chimney foretold a warm welcome at the Bryant Cabin today

After our brief stay, Ty and I bid everyone at the cabin adieu, thanked them for the “warm” hospitality, and headed out to gain a bit more vertical before our descent.  We used Birch Loop to connect to Heavenly Highway, and then continued up for a few more minutes to get to the higher glade that drops us down to Gardiner’s Lane.  While switching gear, I initially couldn’t figure out why my pack smelled so much like hot chocolate, but then I saw that my thermos had leaked a little liquid into the pack’s interior.  The thermos has one of those recessed valves in it that enables you to pour out the liquid without removing the inner cap, but it’s easy to forget to close that valve (and you often can’t tell at a quick glance whether it’s open or closed).  Indeed, simply screwing the outer cup/cap back on the top of the bottle was not liquid-tight.  The spill wasn’t too large, but I did smell like hot chocolate for the rest of the tour and learned a good lesson about those valves – since it’s difficult to tell whether they are open or closed, close them as soon as you are done pouring so you don’t need to worry about it.

 

An image of Ty skiing a glade near the World Cup trail on the Nordic/backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Finishing off the day in the backcountry glades with the golden light of the afternoon sun.

That first glade dropping from Heavenly Highway has some pretty steep pitches, and even with all the new snow that had fallen, we would still encounter the underlying crust at times.  Ty had an advantage, as he floated on top of the snow better than I did, and he even worked a few Telemark-style turns into the pitch.  We both managed some nice turns though, since there are plenty of open spots in that area.  We next headed down to JJ’s, and since the trail itself had seen a good deal of traffic, we opted to check out some trees off to the side.  The tree spacing was just too dense for the pitch of the slope combined with the consistency of the snow, so we didn’t get a lot of great turns in there.  We got back into some really awesome turns though once we hit the lower elevation glades down near World Cup.  The pitches there are more moderate, and there were just a couple of old, partially buried tracks from other skiers, so that set us up for some beautiful floating through the trees in the golden light of the setting sun.  It was definitely a stupendous way to end the day.

Stowe, VT 16JAN2012

An image of Ty half buried in powder in one of the gullies in the Hazelton Zone at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting buried in powder wasn’t a problem today at Stowe.

The Northern Vermont ski areas picked up 1.5 to 2 feet of snow from the winter storm that hit the area at the end of the week, and we’ve been doing our best to make good use of it with some Bolton Valley night skiing on Thursday, followed by another outing there on Saturday, and a solo outing for me at Timberline yesterday.  It’s been cold the past couple of days though, with a reading of -15.3 F at the house this morning for the coldest of the season thus far, but the forecast for today called for a good rebound in temperatures and we planned to get in some skiing at Stowe.  We didn’t start too early due to those sub zero temperatures, but by late morning the early morning lows were already well on the rise.  Knowing the forecast for great temperatures in the afternoon, we were probably like many folks; we didn’t start until late morning and focused on the second half of the day.

Ty had stayed at Kenny’s house overnight as planned, so E, Dylan and I decided to get in some runs before picking him up around midday.  It was tough finding a parking spot on the Spruce Peak side of the resort in the later morning period today, probably due in part to so many people thinking like us and going with a later morning start, so I dropped E and Dylan off at the lodge and they started skiing while I took care of the car.  After some searching, I eventually got lucky with a great spot right outside the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  E was working with Dylan on his Telemark skiing on Easy Street, and once I met up with them it was time for E to head to Morrisville to get Ty, but I made sure to keep Dylan’s Telemark groove going.  We worked in some runs off Easy Street as well as the Inspiration trail off the Adventure Triple, and I shot some video with E’s camera.  As designed, the pitch of Inspiration is really consistent and good for learning, so Dylan had some nice turns there.

An image of the fish tacos available in the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Fish tacos for lunch today – yum!

Once lunch time approached, Dylan and I headed in and ordered up lunch at the Great Room Grill.  I tried the fish tacos for the first time and they were excellent; I suspect I’ll get them again at some point.  When E returned with Ty, he got into his ski clothes, she had a quick bite to eat, Dylan switched to alpine gear, and we got ready to head back out for more turns.  We also picked up Luke, since he’d been skiing with his mom during the morning, but she had to head off to take care of some work.

We headed over to Mt. Mansfield for some runs off the gondola, and right from the gondola summit, I was excited to see that the very top of Waterfall was open – with plenty of coverage and great packed powder.  I’m not sure if it’s just my timing, but that area never seems to be open, so that says something about the coverage and snow quality that have been attained due to the recent storm.  We worked our way down to Perry Merrill, and after poking around a bit, we got sucked into the Hazelton Zone because the coverage and powder looked so good that it was just too hard to resist.  There was more than a hint of trepidation in Luke’s voice as we dove into the trees – he’s not nearly as comfortable as Ty and Dylan with being led off into the great unknown by me.  He’s survived trips with me before though, so he knows that he can do it, even if we’re well outside his comfort zone.

“He came down carrying good
speed, but crashed in an
intense blizzard of white,
and when the smoke cleared,
we could only see the
bottom part of him.”

We began dropping into one of the many Hazelton gullies, and got some OK turns in the powder, but didn’t want to fully commit to the base of the gully since coverage was still a bit marginal in spots for really exploring with reckless abandon.  Therefore, we kept ourselves on the slope marking the skier’s left of the gully with a healthy dose of traversing.  I was leading and breaking trail, making it easier for the kids to work their way through the deep snow, but navigating the combination of steep terrain, trees, and bottomless powder was still challenging for some.  At one point, E found a nice route, and suggested that Luke follow her.  He might have had to back up or navigate a bit of a steeper slope, but E heard him emit some sort of exclamation, and when she asked if he was OK, he replied with and exasperated “Nooo!”  Fortunately he was OK, just stuck in the powder and generally discombobulated.  E asked Dylan to check on Luke, but before he could even do that, Luke had managed to regain his footing and was back on track.  I think he’s learning more about dealing with powder all the time.

Not long after that, we found a nice steep pitch of powder in the streambed that we decided to ski.  Ty agreed to be the guinea pig, and check out the slope for the other boys.  He came down carrying good speed, but crashed in an intense blizzard of white, and when the smoke cleared, we could only see the bottom part of him.  The front half of his body was obscured under the powder, and he wasn’t moving.  Initially he didn’t respond to our inquiries about his status, but after a few moments he responded from beneath the snow with “Am I in heaven?”  We pulled him out and he was fine, but not surprisingly, the other boys weren’t overly enthusiastic about dropping into the line themselves.  We resumed our traversing along the skier’s left of the gully, and eventually made out way back out to Perry Merrill, and I’m sure Luke couldn’t have been more relieved.  We saw some other riders having fun in some lines on the other side of that gully, and there are definitely lines opening up in there, but a couple more storms are going to be needed to really get all the lines flowing in there for the boys.

“After experiencing the
mountain first hand
today, I’m not surprised
that Stowe was able
to open 100% of their
terrain as of Saturday.”

We made another run off the gondola, taking it easy on the boys and not venturing off piste to any great degree, and then we worked our way over to the Fourrunner Quad.  In general, there were amazing on piste conditions on the hill – I’m usually less than impressed with the conditions on the snowmaking trails at Stowe because of how that manmade snow turns to ice with skier traffic, but conditions on many of the trails were head and shoulders above what I’ve seen on them in quite a while.  For whatever reason, perhaps the good combination of dense snow/mix followed by fluff, there was a layer of natural snow that really had staying power to mask the manmade stuff underneath – runs like Centerline and Hayride come to mind (I think they’ve both got snowmaking).  The steepest pitches still got down to that slick stuff, but wow, last week’s storm was a great one for producing some packed powder conditions.  Coverage was quite impressive as well – at one point E said she couldn’t believe that we were in the midst of a low snowfall season.  After experiencing the mountain first hand today, I’m not surprised that Stowe was able to open 100% of their terrain as of Saturday.  Temperatures ended up topping out around 20 F at the base elevations, which wasn’t overly warm, but certainly fine for mid January, and there were no temperature issues for any of the boys.  Also, Luke survived another day with us on the slopes.  When we dropped him off in town with his dad, Luke seemed like he was pretty exhausted, but I think he was satisfied with his day.

A westward view from near the top of Mount Mansfield in Vermont showing the beginnings of a January sunset
Approaching sunset as the ski day winds down

Bolton Valley, VT 14JAN2012

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan smiles away as he blasts through the powder at Bolton this afternoon.

The complex winter storm that has been affecting the region finally wound down today, and it’s been a great boon for the Vermont ski areas.  The storm began on Thursday morning when it delivered some fairly standard synoptic snowfall, and through Thursday evening we’d picked up 3.7 inches of 9.2% H2O snow at the house, with the mountains picking up about a half foot.  Thursday night into yesterday morning we were in the dry slot of the storm, and then yesterday afternoon the second round of snow began… and boy did it come on strong in the evening.  While the first half of the event had favored the eastern slopes of the Greens, the second half pounded the western slopes, and that was very evident as I headed home from Burlington on Friday evening.  Our bus took Route 2 instead of I-89 because of storm-related travel issues, and at one point yesterday evening at the house we picked up roughly 3 inches of snow in an hour.  After last night’s snow, the storm totals wound up at 11.7 inches for our location in the valley, and in the 1.5 foot range up in the mountains, with Jay Peak approaching 2 feet.  It was ultimately enough snow to get Stowe’s ski terrain 100% open.

The downside of the new snow was that cold air came with it – it was approximately 10 F this morning at the house, and 3 F up in the Village at Bolton Valley.  Fortunately, there wasn’t any wind, but we still brought hand and foot warmers for the boys in case they needed to take the edge off the chill while skiing.  E wasn’t all that impressed with the conditions on Sprig O’ Pine after their preliminary run while I parked the car, but I was hoping that was due to effects of the wind and the exposure of that terrain.  After a little debate, the boys decided that they were cold enough that they would head into the lodge to fire up some of the hand warmers and put them in their boots and gloves, and then we headed back out into the cold in search of more powder.

Leaving the Mid Mountain Lift, we quickly saw that the Enchanted Forest looked extremely powdery with little traffic up to that point, so we headed in.  We found the coverage and powder to be pretty nice, but in general the snow just felt a little “slow” with the cold temperatures.  With this in mind, we headed to Glades to get a little more pitch, and that helped move things along a little better.  Glades had seen a fair bit of traffic to track up the snow, but we found some good shots of untracked in the jug handle area.

An image of Erica in a Telemark turn in the fresh snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E arcing through a Telemark turn in the fresh snow on Bolton Valley's Glades trail

The snow was decent, but none of us really seemed to be grooving, and Ty appeared especially glum and ornery about the day up to that point.  It turned out that his hands were still cold despite the hand warmers, so we decided to make another trip inside and have lunch in the process.  When we got into the lodge, we were astonished to discover that all the hand warmers the boys were using were stone cold.  That was extremely disconcerting, as we’d bough a big box of them at Costco, and were expecting them to work.  We fiddled around with them for a bit, and I also headed down to the ski shop and bought a couple packets of a different brand for comparison.  The new packets fired up right away and got quite hot.  With a little more shaking and processing we were actually able to get our original packets going as well, but they didn’t cook like the new ones, they just seemed to be of the “slow burn” variety and only got up to lukewarm relative to the hot ones.  Once we were done with lunch, we hooked the boys up with a combination of the “slow” and “fast burn” varieties of hand warmers, and headed out to see if we could finally get that groove going.

To get some challenge and potentially find Ty some “satisfying” turns, we headed up on the Vista Quad and descended via Vermont 200.  That turned out to be a good choice, with generally great coverage, lots of good snow, and only a couple of icy ledges to navigate.  Ty definitely got some of the turns he had been seeking, and everyone enjoyed the challenge and powder/chowder we found.  Below Mid Mountain we headed back to Glades and hit the jug handle area as we’d done before.  Both boys seemed to have fun ripping that up.

An image of Ty skiing fresh powder in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty cruising through that fresh powder in the Villager Trees

To continue with the positive energy, we sought out some untracked snow in the Villager Trees, and found an impressive snowpack for what has been a slow season for snowfall – I stuck my measurement pole in a representative protected area at ~2,600’ and got a depth measurement of 30 inches.  While we explored around, the boys amused themselves by taking down some huge icicles from one of the ledges.  On the descent, the powder was deep and thoroughly bottomless, and while many fun turns were made, the powder was almost too deep for some of the pitches in there.  The turns were so good though that we were able to call it a day after that and finished off with more powder on the sides of Lower Bentley.  It had actually gotten sunny and warmed up a bit as well, into the high single digits, and with the hand warmers cranking the boys didn’t have any more issues with the cold.  Back at the car we found out that the “fast burn” hand warmers had already burned themselves out after just a couple of hours, while those of the “slow burn” variety were still going.  At that point everything seemed to make sense – a combination of the two types would really be optimal.  So after a slow start today, things really picked up and we managed some decent powder from what has been the biggest winter storm of the season up to this point.

Significant mid-January winter storm for Vermont

Over the past couple of days we’ve been affected by a fairly significant, two-part winter storm that has really resurfaced the slopes.  The storm began on Thursday with some synoptic snow, where we accumulated 3.7 inches of snow comprised of 0.34 inches of liquid equivalent at the house, and the mountains picked up about a half a footWe headed up to Bolton for some skiing in the evening, and we found pleasant temperatures and nice powder.  Yesterday we were generally in the dry slot of the storm, but toward the afternoon and evening, the back part of the system came through and it really started to unload fluffy Champlain Powder™ in both the mountains and valleys.  Here at the house we picked up almost 3 inches of snow in one hour while the snowfall pounded the area around dinner time, causing temporary road closures and prompting the issuance of Winter Storm Warnings for the western slopes of the Green Mountains:

An image of the Winter Weather Warnings map put out by the National Weather Service in Burlington in the evening on January 13, 2012
Due to the heavy snowfall yesterday evening with rates of 3 inches per hour in some locations, Winter Storm Warnings went up for the western slopes of the Green Mountains.

Down here in the valley, the storm finished up today with a total of 11.7 inches of snow comprised of 0.91 inches of liquid equivalent.  Up in the mountains, snow totals were generally around 1.5 feet, with Jay Peak topping out around 2 feet.  The north to south storm totals list for the Vermont ski areas is listed below:

Jay Peak: 23”
Burke: 12”
Smuggler’s Notch: 15”
Stowe: 18”
Bolton Valley: 15”
Mad River Glen: 16”
Sugarbush: 18”
Middlebury: 13”
Suicide Six: 8”
Pico: 14”
Killington: 14”
Okemo: 8”
Bromley: 10”
Magic Mountain: 12”
Stratton: 12”
Mount Snow: 11”

The National Weather Service Office in Burlington generated a snowfall map for the second part of the storm, where totals in the Stowe area pushed past the 1-foot mark:

National Weather Service map of snowfall totals from January 14, 2012 for Vermont during the second half of  the two-part mid-January snowstorm
Snow totals topped the 1-foot mark for the second half of the storm alone in parts of the Stowe area.

For more full details on this storm, head to the detailed report at the winter weather section of our website.

Bolton Valley, VT 12JAN2012

An image of E skiing fresh powder at night on the Sprig O' Pine trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E cruising through some fresh powder tonight on Sprig O’ Pine at Bolton Valley

The incoming multi-part winter storm started to affect the region today with the first round of snow.  The snow started falling at our location in Waterbury right around 6:00 A.M. this morning when I was making my observations for CoCoRaHS, and there was probably a half inch of accumulation when I left roughly an hour later.  There was the potential for downsloping on the western slopes of the Greens, and indeed, just a few miles west of the house, the snow really tapered off.  There was little if anything falling in Jonesville and Richmond as I drove through, and nothing going on in Burlington.  Later in the morning though, it did start snowing in Burlington, and there was roughly a half inch of accumulation when I left around 5:00 P.M.

When I got back to the house this evening, I found 3.7 inches of snow on the snowboard; the snow seemed fairly dense but it was still medium weight stuff at 9.2% H2O.  Up in the mountains, afternoon reports were indicating about a half foot of snow from the event, with the higher totals toward Central and Southern Vermont where the snow had come in a little earlier and stronger.  Here’s the north to south list of totals from some of the ski areas as of this afternoon:

Burke: 4”
Smuggler’s Notch: 5”
Stowe: 3”
Bolton Valley: 4”
Sugarbush: 5”
Suicide Six: 4”
Pico: 7”
Killington: 7”
Stratton: 7”
Mount Snow: 6”

Knowing that we’d picked up 3.7 inches down below in the valley, it was likely that Bolton had done better than 4 inches of snow reported in their early afternoon update, but even that was enough to get us thinking about an evening session of turns with the boys.  There are only so many times a season when the right combination of new snow, comfortable temperatures, and minimal wind come together to make for that optimal night skiing experience, and tonight was looking like one of those nights.

After dinner we headed up to Bolton; we were in the dry slot portion of the storm system at that point, so precipitation was minimal and the Bolton Valley Access Road was in good shape.  Arriving at the village (2,100’) we found a temperature of 30 F, and the only precipitation was some small snow grains/mist.  I dropped E and the boys off at the Snowflake Lift so that they could take a run, and made it back up to the loading area before they’d even finished their descent.  While I waited for them, I got to speak with our friend Matt who was checking tickets that evening.  He said that the mountain had received a decent shot of snow, and that they were even thinking of opening up Timberline for the weekend.  That will likely depend on how things look over there after the rest of the storm system comes through, but that was encouraging to hear.

When E and the boys returned to the lift, we headed up for another Snowflake run.  They had taken the Butterscotch Terrain Park on their descent, and conditions didn’t sound all that inspiring in terms of softness and powder since they had taken the main area with the big snow whales.  For that next trip we visited Sprig O’ Pine, and found some very nice powder off to the skier’s right before the area where it merges with Bear Run.  The 4 inches that the resort had reported seemed about right for the lower mountain, although I suspected there would be a bit more on the upper mountain with the continued snowfall.  We took one more Sprig O’ Pine run to enjoy that powder we’d found, and it continued to serve up some nice turns since it was dense enough to keep you from bottoming out.  Our 3.7 inches of snow down at the house was made up of 0.34” of liquid equivalent, so with Bolton presumably picking up at least that 0.3” to 0.4” of liquid, that was plenty of cushion above the base snow.

Next it was time for a summit run off the Vista Quad.  As we glided above Spillway on the lift, we were astonished by how good the coverage looked, and how many tracks were on it; it almost looked like it was open. We looked around for all the detritus that litters the trail, and it was really hard to find anything sticking out; I actually questioned if they had made snow on it because of how buried everything was.  Clearly it wasn’t open though, as there was a patroller stationed at the bottom to catch folks who were bending the rules.  More than likely, the new snow was just hiding all those object lurking below the surface, making for a very dicey descent.  Up at the Vista Summit the air temperature had cooled a bit down to 24 F, but it was still quite nice overall.  We took Sherman’s Pass, which generally had a nice surface for carving, and we had a really good time in the fresh snow off to the skier’s left above the Mid Mountain area.  Ty was making so much noise and having so much fun coming down through there, that the patroller stationed in the area checked to make sure we hadn’t poached Spillway.

An iamge of Dylan in front of snow-covered evergreens lit up by the night skiing lights at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan pauses on Sherman’s Pass as the night skiing lights illuminate some of the fresh snow on the trees.

Since it was a school night for the boys, we didn’t stay too much longer, but it had definitely been worth getting out for a few runs; it felt great to have the skis dig into that soft, fresh snow.  The recent snow was deep enough that we were able to ski right across the access road to the parking lot, and in terms of ski conditions, that’s typically a great sign to be able to comfortably ski across main roads to your car.  E had a good time and we’ll certainly be back for another evening session if circumstances line up appropriately again.  This front end dump has already featured plenty of snow and liquid equivalent to get some additional terrain going, because there were plenty of areas that were very close.  If some decent upslope comes in on the back end of this system tomorrow, that will provide additional help.  I’d say everyone is excited about where the mountains will be after this event, which all told may bring up to a foot and a half of snow.

Bolton Valley, VT 07JAN2012

An image of Dylan skiing powder on the Wilderness Lift Line at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the powder at Wilderness

There weren’t any large snowstorms in Northern Vermont over the past week, but we did have three small storms that brought a total of 4.8 inches of snow to the house and probably a half foot or so to the mountains.  Today was again expected to be one of those comfortable days in the 30s F, and since it appeared as though there was some warming in the middle elevations based on Powderfreak’s early morning report from Stowe, we got a relatively early start in case the powder on the lower mountain was going to thicken too much with the warming temperatures.

I checked in on the temperature history for the Bolton Valley Weather Station at 2,100’, and it had only gotten up to 35 F overnight at that elevation.  As we drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road around 9:30 A.M., we could see that the mid level temperature inversion was in effect though; at the house (500’), the temperature was around freezing, and it was 37 F in the village (2,100’).  That still wasn’t too bad depending on how dry the air was, and it was likely cooler than that above the base elevations.

A plot of the temperatures from a weather station at the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont 07JAN2012
Temperatures at the base of Bolton Valley rose to 35 F overnight, and the mid to upper 30s F during the day today, but the summit elevations stayed below freezing and the powder remained light and dry on the upper half of the mountain.

The resort had finally opened up the Snowflake Lift for the season, so I dropped E and the boys off there to let them take a run or two while I parked the car and got changed.  When I finally met back up with them, they’d already taken a couple of runs, and the boys were really enjoying the skiing in the Butterscotch Terrain Park.  The mountain hasn’t even created the big jumps yet, but they’ve started to amass snow in the area, and there are some knolls and steep drops.  Ty enjoyed taking them at speed and sailing a good distance while being just inches off the ground.  The embryonic terrain features were nice, but I was more interested in powder along the edge of the park.  There were a couple inches of new snow atop the base, and it was skiing nicely – there certainly weren’t any temperature issues with the powder at that point.  We met up with Stephen and his group of Helena and Thomas, as well as Claire and her group of Luke and others, and took a few runs in that area before finally deciding to check out the higher elevations.

An image of Erica skiing a couple inches of fresh powder along the edge of the Butterscotch Terrain Park at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E enjoying some of the powder along the edge of the Butterscotch Terrain Park

From the Vista Summit we decided to head down Alta Vista, and this is actually where I found some of the best turns of the day.  I checked out the snow on the skier’s far left, and found an impressive accumulation composed of the recent rounds of powder, bolstered by snow that people had pushed off the trail.  I told the others in the group to check it out as well, because it was really impressive.  We’ve certainly had some good skiing so far this season, but it was something about the combination of steep, soft turns along that left side spine that really hit that next level.  As I was composing my thoughts about the turns I’d just had in an effort to crystallize a description, Ty, who had followed my advice to take that line, came to a stop at the bottom of the steep pitch and said, “That was really satisfying!”  I must have laughed out loud.  That was the perfect description of that skiing – Ty had really nailed it.  It was steep enough, and deep enough, and fast enough, that is just hit that combination that we hadn’t seem too much of yet.  The mantra for the day became that “satisfying” line, and we deemed Alta Vista as our “go to” run from the top.  Obviously, with the great snow we’d found, temperatures were not at all an issue up at the top of the mountain; it was easily below freezing and the snow was staying light and dry.

We headed over to Wilderness next to get into some untracked powder, and found that a few hundred feet lower the snow was still holding up well.  The boys were in really good spirits after the great skiing we’d found on Alta Vista, and they next hit some untracked areas on the Wilderness Lift Line.  Ty caught a nice jump on his line, and Dylan finished off his line with an impressive straight-line, figure-11 schuss.  It was really nice to see him being so aggressive, although he did have an unfortunate end when he came into a water bar that wasn’t quite filled to the brim with snow and took a tumble in the powder.  Fortunately, the biggest issue ended up being all the cold powder that got under his clothes.  Below that, E had some really nice Telemark turns in the open areas of powder; the powder was a little dense, but without the effects of the wind, the snow was easier to manage than what we’d encountered last Friday.  The boys and I popped into Wilderness Woods, and coverage is clearly adequate based on how heavily they had been skied.  Still, one can’t quite go around with reckless abandon in there yet, and a big synoptic dump of snow is what’s needed to get that area to the next level of coverage with more comfortable skiing.  Farther along, we ventured onto Lower Turnpike.  Just like we’d seen last Friday, the kids were still there having a session on that backcountry kicker.  There was still plenty of untracked snow to be found, although now that we were on the lower half of the mountain we could feel it getting thicker due to temperatures a bit above freezing.

An image of Ty catching air amidst the powder on the Wilderness Lift Line at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty catching a little air on the Wilderness Lift Line

The boys called for lunch, so we headed into the lodge.  Surprisingly, even though the holidays were over, the lodge was much more crowded than we’d found on our previous Bolton outing a week ago on New Year’s Eve.  That day had low clouds on the upper mountain that probably kept a lot of people away, but a big factor in the number of visitors today was probably the fact that all the season-long kids programs were starting up.  After a quick look for a table, we just decided that we’d grab a quick bite in the James Moore Tavern instead.  It was our first time in the tavern this season and we had a pleasant lunch with the usual great atmosphere.  The tavern was really filling up by the time we were done, so it looks like they were doing some really good business.  Stephen popped into the tavern during lunch and said that he’d be free in the afternoon for some skiing; Helena was going to take a lesson, and Johannes would still be in his Mountain Explorers group for the remainder of the day.

An image from inside the James Moore Tavern at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some ski area ambiance from inside the James Moore Tavern at lunch today

After lunch we did a Mid Mountain run on Beech Seal, and some precipitation started to fall.  We actually thought it might be rain at first, but it was just a bit of sleet that soon transitioned over to snow.  We met up with Stephen and Thomas, and enjoyed the fresh round of snowfall as we rode the Vista Quad and headed toward the summit.  The snow was gradually transformed into higher quality flakes as time and elevation passed, and it was snowing hard enough on the upper half of the mountain that we put up our hoods to keep from getting covered.  I was riding the chair with Ty and Dylan, and we all had fun with various methods of capturing snowflakes in our mouths.  The snow didn’t last too long, but at least it put down a coating and brought in and extra dose of winter spirit.

An image of Ty catching snowflakes on his tongue while we ride the Vista Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty going for some snowflakes during one of our rides on the Vista Quad today

We introduced Stephen and Thomas to what we’d found on Alta Vista, and then headed back over to Wilderness.  It had warmed a bit more, so the turns in the untracked snow on Lower Turnpike were more challenging, and we learned that we’d definitely been smart when we’d hit it as early as possible.  While the skiing was still manageable, it was getting sticky enough that it wasn’t quite worth making the trek all the way over there, especially when contrasted to the way the snow was staying so cold in the higher elevations up on Alta Vista.  With that thought in our heads, we headed back up for another go at Alta Vista.  Ty actually nailed the steep, “satisfying” section better than me on that one, although I came right back at him and said that I’d like to see him handle it with some quality Telemark turns.  On the lower mountain, E and I opted for the steeper turns on Beech Seal, while Thomas and the boys took Bear Run for its jumps.  Even with the good snow, we were done at that point, so we skied on down to the road and headed to the car.  I think Ty would agree that it was a pretty “satisfying” day – we got a taste of steep, natural snow and we’re ready for Mother Nature to deliver something that will allow more access to more.  There could be a substantial storm in the later part of the upcoming week, so we’ll just have to see how that plays out.  The mountain is primed and ready with respectable base snow at all elevations, even down to Timberline, so a big synoptic dump could open a lot of terrain.

Another storm for the holiday week, another foot of snow for the northern mountains

We were very happy when the local mountains got about a foot of snow from our Christmas Day Storm, a few days ago, but apparently Mother Nature wasn’t quite done delivering the goods for the holiday week.  We just had another storm drop similar amounts of snow thanks to upslope conditions on the back side.  The storm was actually rather warm, and it cut right through Northern New England such that mixed precipitation was expected in the middle of the event, leaving us unsure if it would be a big net gain for the slopes.  Fortunately the slopes did get quite a net gain in liquid equivalent, with snow on the front and back ends, and only modest amounts of rain or mixed precipitation in the middle.

I followed the storm down at the house, and it began yesterday with a front end shot of snow that gradually mixed with sleet and went to a bit of rain overnight.  The morning, the back side of the storm came through with plenty of snow.  It started up in the morning, and then pounded the mountains and mountain valleys today with snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour.  In the end we wound up with 9.7 inches of total snow at the house, and the local mountains topped out at around a foot of snow.  Below is the list I’ve seen for storm totals for the Vermont ski areas using their 48-hr snow totals.  The list is from north to south along the spine of the Greens:

Jay Peak: 8”
Smuggler’s Notch: 12”
Stowe: 8”
Bolton Valley: 11”
Mad River Glen: 8”
Sugarbush: 12”
Middlebury: 6”
Pico: 10”
Killington: 10”
Okemo: 4”
Bromley: 0”
Magic Mountain: T
Stratton: 1”
Mount Snow: 0”

While last time around with the Christmas Day Storm, the Stowe area was the sweet spot for accumulations, this time around the east side of Addison County seemed to do the best with some locales topping the one foot mark for snowfall as indicated in the map of snowfall totals from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington:

A map of snow totals from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington Vermont for the snowstorm on December 27-28, 2011
While the Christmas Day Storm delivered the highest snowfall totals in the Stowe area, this storm seemed to hit hardest in the mountains to the east of Addison County.

For the full details on this storm, head to the detailed report at the winter weather section of our website.

Bolton Valley, VT 28DEC2011

Our current winter storm started up yesterday afternoon with some snow that gradually changed over to sleet and other mixed precipitation overnight.  As of this morning though, the precipitation was back to snow, and this afternoon we got pounded with 1 to 2 inch per hour snows in the local mountains and mountain valleys.  The snow was so intense that the northbound lane of I-89 between exits 10 and 11 (Bolton Flats area) had to be closed due to accidents.

With all the fresh snow, I decided that I’d head up to Bolton to check out the accumulations and get in a few late afternoon/evening runs.  Driving along Route 2 I noticed what seemed to be more cars than usual, but I knew the reason once I could see all the cars backed up on I-89.  I was thankful for my short trip to Bolton, because the driving was a bit tricky.  I did eventually run into travel issues on the Bolton Valley Access Road however.  At the big S-curve below Timberline I saw several cars stopped, and it looked like most of the snarl was due to what appeared to be a two-wheel drive vehicle having trouble on the hill.  I was even slowed down in the Subaru for a bit because I had to come to a dead stop and then get over into the snowier downhill lane to pass.  Our tires on the Subaru are getting close to the time for replacement, so it took a few attempts to really get the traction to get around that car while avoiding the downhill traffic.  It was definitely a greasy situation with the intense snowfall, which was falling too fast for the plows to keep up with it.  I even overheard a guy say that he was having trouble getting up the road with studded Hakkapeliitta tires.  Up in the village there was decent wind at perhaps 20 MPH, and moderate to heavy snowfall.  The new snow probably came in quite fast on the mountain while people were skiing – I saw a car having to be helped out by a tow truck in the relatively flat parking lot.

An image of a tow truck helping a stuck car int he Bolton Valley village during heavy snowfall from a storm on Decmeber 28, 2011
Amidst heavy snowfall, a tow truck helps out a stuck vehicle in one of Bolton Valley parking lots this evening.

The Vista Quad had been shut down with the high winds earlier in the day, but the Mid Mountain Chair was still running and I caught a ride.  From Mid Mountain I hiked up about 100 feet to see what the accumulations were like higher on the mountain, and I found about 7 inches of new snow in the areas that didn’t seem to have been hit by the wind.  The light was fading, but I caught some turns up there and they were very sweet – whoever gets out tomorrow in wind-sheltered locations is going to have some great turns.  I stuck around for another couple of lift-served runs off Mid Mountain, and conditions were of course very nice with the new snow.  The only issue was that the temperature was dropping quickly and the snow was actually starting to get “slow”.

An image of Bolton Valley's night skiing lights obscured by heavy snowfall - December 28, 2011
It was a white maelstrom tonight for skiing under the lights at Bolton Valley.

Although still quite snowy and slick, the drive back down the access road was uneventful, and the traffic was moving on I-89, but it was still backed up for quite a distance in the northbound lane.  Down here at the house I found 5.7 inches of new snow on the snowboard, representing the snowfall during the 12:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. collection period.  Relative to mid afternoon, the snow had definitely been getting fluffier; I estimated that it was probably in the range of 4 or 5% H2O.  The radar still shows the moisture stacked up against the Greens, and more snow has been falling this evening, so it looks like this will be a decent event.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the local mountains start to open up some natural snow terrain after this event.

An image of traffic backed up in the northbound lane of I-89 in the Bolton Flats area due to heavy snowfall on December 28, 2011
With the heavy snowfall, traffic was still backed up on I-89 when I headed home from the mountain.