Today’s ski session was great, but it really wasn’t the one I was expecting. Since E and the boys were off from school for a snow day, and I had some time in the morning, it seemed like a great chance to all get in some skiing together. My first inclination was to visit Bolton Valley, which is right on my way into Burlington and very convenient, but lifts weren’t opening until 10:00 A.M., which on the late side based on the time I had. So, we decided on Stowe, which opened at 8:00 A.M. However, what we found on the Mountain Road was traffic backed up all the way to Harvest Market. That’s miles away from the resort. I figured it had to be because of an accident, but people in touch with E indicated that it was just bumper to bumper all the way down from the resort. I’m not sure how long it would have taken to travel all those miles, but we didn’t really have the time to find out. We switched our plans to Bolton Valley, figuring we’d take at least a few runs, but winds were keeping the Vista Quad on hold, so the available terrain would be quite minimal. It was just one of those crazy days where getting us all together to ski was going to be a challenge.
So in the end, I wound up stopping at Bolton for some earned turns on my way into Burlington, just like I often do. It simply took me a lot longer than usual to get to that point. Fortunately, just as one would expect thanks to the recent visit from Winter Storm Orson, the snow is simply spectacular. I skinned up the usual Timberline route, and while there were some tracks on Twice as Nice from skiers who had visited earlier, it was still snowing big, fat, fluffy flakes, and their tracks were rapidly disappearing. Today seemed like a great day to make a run on Twice as Nice, and it delivered bottomless turns all the way. The depth of the powder I found there today was generally 8 to 10 inches at the Timberline Base elevation, with nearly a foot in may spots higher up. The density gradient of the powder was fantastic, since we’ve been getting some really light fluff on the back side of the storm. It was funny to come full circle back to what I probably would have done if E and the boys hadn’t had the day off, and while it was a crazy path getting me there, the quality of the turns was definitely worth it.
We’ve got Winter Storm Orson underway in the area this evening, and for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe we were able to enjoy the storm’s front end snow as it started to unload on Mt. Mansfield. Snowfall began around midday, and ramped up throughout the afternoon, so it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run. There were already a few inches of powder down ahead of the storm, consistent with what I’d seen at Bolton Valley yesterday, but it really wasn’t enough to keep you off the crusty subsurface snow in all cases. By the end of the afternoon though, there was a good half foot of powder or more above the crust depending on elevation, and that firm subsurface was starting to become a memory. Coming into the afternoon, the snow quality was already quite good in spots where skier traffic had pulverized the thick layer underneath, so that terrain was getting really fun.
For our tour of the mountain today we headed right over to Mt. Mansfield and kicked things off with a trip down Ravine. Some of the ice falls are hardly noticeable right now, which says a lot about the snowpack in mid-February. We headed to the Kitchen Wall, and then down through the Nosedive Glades to Nosedive, where we discovered that the microburst zone was actually open! No doubt that the deep snowpack is allowing that, but it’s the first time I’ve skied there extensively since it was closed. It’s really fun in there though, naturally it’s a bit more open than it was before, but it offers up some novel lines. One of my initial plans for today was to visit the Sunrise Glades, Chapel Glades, and Birch Glades in case lower-angle terrain was going to allow us to stay off the crusty subsurface snow. Even with conditions much better than I’d expected, that was still on the hit list, so we had an excellent trip through all those zones. We’d caught up with Nolan just before that during an Octagon break, and he joined us on his Telemark gear. We finished off the day back at Spruce Peak with some Sensation Quad runs, and had Spruce Line all to ourselves. The wind and snow were ripping up at the Spruce Peak Summit area, but down out of the wind in places like Green Acres, there was some excellent powder.
“…it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.”
As of this evening, we’ve picked up at least 8 to 9 inches down here at the house from Winter Storm Orson, and I expect tomorrow’s turns to be excellent. We’ve actually got the potential for another storm in just a couple of days, so we’ll be watching that one to see what it might deliver. The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake was already at roughly 80 inches today, and it should continue to climb this week.
It’s been two days since Stowe’s “Big Friday” powder extravaganza, but we were definitely excited for the BJAMS ski program this afternoon knowing that the snow quality would be great and there would be plenty of untracked lines left in the lesser-used areas. The overall setup for the day looked quite comfortable, with temperatures around 30 F depending on elevation, and some snow from our next Alberta Clipper coming in near the end of the day.
We were with Nolan, Evan and Sophie again today, and with the snowpack now up to 76 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, I knew I could continue to introduce them to more of Stowe’s many off piste areas with no constraints. With that in mind, two areas that I had on my hit list were Angel Food and the Hazelton Zone. I started everyone off with Angel Food just in case folks were interested in going all the way down to Route 108, but the general consensus was to head back via the main traverse, so that’s as low as we went. We followed that up with a run on Chin Clip where Nolan and I worked on bump technique with all the kids. Chin Clip is in classic top-to-bottom bump mode right now and serves as a great spot for bump practice. After a Midway Lodge break we hit a combination of Nosedive Glades and Hazelton Zone. The streams down in the Hazelton Zone are generally well covered, but perhaps a bit less filled in than some seasons due to some stronger melt flows back in December and January.
We headed back to Spruce as the end of the day approached, and folks generally got on their way a bit early with the Super Bowl coming up in the evening, but Dylan and I decided to head off together and catch another powder run. We explored from the Spruce side down to Route 108 and found some really fun lines. We didn’t run into any other skiers, but we did find a group of ice climbers working on a small section of ice not far from the resort. We made our way back on one of the access roads to the houses they’re building right along Route 108, and got to see an up-close view of one of the huge ones that’s got some massive retaining walls built to accommodate the steep slopes down to the road. It can’t really have much of a yard with the way the terrain is so steep, but it’s got some amazing landscaping, architecture, and fantastic views of Mansfield.
Light snow began to hit the resort in the last hour or two of the day, and we’ve got snow accumulating here at the house this evening, so I’m sure they’ll have a bit of fresh to report from the resort in the morning.
There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week. As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct. We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order. What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area. Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.
“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”
From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning. E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later. From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere. Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder. I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats. For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day. It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow. We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.
Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E. We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season. Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season. The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge. I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito. They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!
After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area. We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation. A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season. Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.
It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it. We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.
Ty and I had an appointment in Burlington this morning, which mean that we’d be arriving a bit late to our BJAMS ski program at Stowe in the afternoon. We were arriving just in time for the afternoon snows however. The first encounter was when we driving to the resort during the noontime hour. We could see snow moving in to our north as we headed through Waterbury, and it finally hit us as were rising up to the Waterbury/Stowe line near Chutesville Hill. Some fairly intense graupel was a big feature of the precipitation at that point.
There were on and off periods of snow throughout the afternoon at the mountain, and Ty and I worked our way over from the Gondola to the Fourrunner Quad trails around Tyro with a dip into the Chapel Glades. The snow surfaces were excellent in there, and there were plenty of spots with fresh tracks to be had. We continued all the way down into the Toll House terrain because we were looking for something mellow, and I’d say there has certainly been plenty of visitation to the mountain over the past couple of days based on some of the areas I saw with tracks in them. You typically don’t find too many people spending much time in the trees around the Toll House Lift, since the terrain is very low angle and the return to the rest of the resort exceedingly long on the slow double. I’ve never seen as many tracks in there as I did today though, and we’re not talking a week after a storm, we’re talking a day or two after a storm. It was unusual, but hopefully a lot of beginners got their chance to check out the awesome powder in the trees!
We made our way back to Spruce Peak for a final couple of runs of visiting some of our favorite powder stashes, and that last hour before closing definitely featured some of the heaviest snowfall of the day. I’m sure rates were an inch per hour or more at that point, and the photography was difficult during the heavy stuff, but we still fired away. Images captured successfully during intense snowfall are always fun anyway. In general I’d say we found about a foot of powder around the mountain in untracked areas, and the skiing was great. The quality of the powder was definitely very high, and it looks like it will stay that way with the upcoming forecast for the next week or so.
With Bolton Valley reporting nearly a foot of snow over the past two days, the family headed up this today to see just how it well it was settling into the terrain. The snow report let us know that some of the upper lifts would be delayed a bit due to winds, but they were opening just as we were arriving around mid-morning. The word was definitely out about all the new snow today – cars were already parking down to the lowest Village lot when we arrived, and more were coming in by the minute.
We started off with a quick run on Snowflake, and enjoyed some excellent powder on the side of Snowflake Bentley. Since he’s been Telemark Skiing and snowboarding up to this point, it was Ty’s first time on alpine boards all season, and he was really enjoying the powder turns much like a new sensation. There was no line for the Vista Quad by that point, so we hopped on and got to see the impressive rime up near the Vista Summit. Catching some of the first turns on the groomed Alta Vista was nice treat that we don’t usually experience, and it really was soft and carveable from edge to edge. We also got first tracks in the powder off to the ungroomed areas to skier’s left. The only downside in the powder there was occasionally hitting some old grooming chunks under the snow, but the new accumulations were deep enough to make them only a minor hindrance.
We made our way over to Wilderness and took a quick pass through part of the Wilderness Woods. The powder was really nice in there, and there had been little traffic up to that point. We finished off with some groomed and powder turns on Lower Turnpike, and found that the Wilderness Double Chair was running, but they weren’t quite loading it yet.
We stopped into the lodge for an early lunch, and by the time we came out they were loading the Wilderness Lift. Peggy Dow’s was in nice shape, but out favorite part was actually the Wilderness Lift Line, which had a lot of powder left on it. Everyone had so much fun there that we would have easily done it again, but a bit of a queue was forming at the Wilderness Lift so we decided to call it a morning.
When we were leaving, a woman was more than willing to wait for our parking spot way down by the sports center, so obviously the lots were really filling up. Even the Timberline lots looked full when we passed by. Temperatures were in the upper 20s F today, so folks were definitely out in force to enjoy it with the new snow – we’d even heard comments on one the local weather reports about just how good a ski day it was going to be. The current trends with the snow will probably go on for a couple more days, so conditions should stay quite good.
I haven’t been up to the mountain for turns since last week, but today when I arrived at Bolton Valley I was reminded just how popular skiing can be over the holidays. I pulled into the Timberline lot expecting to find a few cars from folks earning turns there, but found it nearly full of vehicles. The main lots had presumably filled up, and I could see that the shuttle was ferrying people to and from the Timberline lots.
Although the Timberline Quad isn’t running yet, I was starting at Timberline today as part of a combination sidecountry and lift-served tour that I’d planned. The resort had picked up 4-6” of snow yesterday from Winter Storm Fortis, and an additional 4-5” the previous day from a weak cold front, but I didn’t expect that to be enough snow for a thorough resurfacing that would hold up to holiday skier traffic on all terrain. The Wilderness Lift is running though, so my plan today was to skin up from Timberline to the main mountain, catch a lift-served run through White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and then return via some Timberline skiing.
The skin up Timberline was very pleasant, and I saw a few skiers and riders skiing the trails to make their way back to their vehicles at the Timberline Base. I could see why Timberline isn’t open for lift-served skiing yet though – exposed areas were really windswept and wouldn’t be able to support lift-served levels of skier traffic. Sheltered areas like most of Spell Binder, Brandywine, and Tattle Tale looked really nice though with all the new powder, and I suspected I’d find some great turns at the end of my tour. When I reached the main base I found that there were plenty of visitors, but fortunately lift queues were almost nonexistent. There was generally light snow coming down, with some hefty wind at times that was enough to cause a short stoppage of the Wilderness Lift when I was on it. By the time I reached the top of Wilderness it was definitely cold – it had to be in the teens F, and feeling much lower than that with that wind.
“I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.”
I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers. Snow Hole had seen a good deal of traffic, but there were still plenty of routes available with powder, and the traffic actually helped to compact the snow at the water crossings. Lower Turnpike was its usual smooth self and offered a nice groomed surface on which to carve some Telemark turns.
Back at the main base I had a little time to stop in for a slice at Fireside Flatbread, and it was sort of that transition time between day and night skiing with lots of visitors coming and going. One of today’s holiday week activities was balloon art, and you could see people around with their colorful balloon headgear.
“I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.”
I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk. I quickly headed over to the Snowflake Chair and made my way toward Timberline. I ran into a family on Timberline Lane trying to make their way back to the Bear Run condominiums where they were staying, and their younger son on a snowboard struggled to move along in the flats, and then struggled more on the ungroomed steep pitch of Timberline Run below. I headed to Lower Tattle Tale to catch some fresh tracks in the powder there (which I’d say were actually the best of the day) but waited at the intersection of Timberline Run to make sure everybody in the family was getting along OK. I actually had already pulled out my headlamp for the last bit of skiing since it had gotten so dark, and that was helpful in making sure the family found their way to their lodging.
It was a great tour today with plenty of powder, and it looks like we’ve got another storm coming into the area tomorrow. Just as I was arriving at the resort today I got an alert that we’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory starting up tomorrow at 10:00 A.M.
Since we found such great conditions on our outing at Bolton Valley yesterday evening, we decided to head back up for a little more skiing and riding today. Yesterday’s storm had cleared out, so today it was mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 20s F – a great December day to hit the slopes. Ty was psyched to get back on the snowboard, so E planned to work with him on his riding again today, while Dylan and I brought our Telemark skis to head off into the powder from the recent storm.
We headed up to the mountain around noontime, and the resort was hoppin’ based on the number of cars in the Village lots. With the weather and proximity to the holiday period, that wasn’t surprising. E and Ty stayed focused on the lower mountain terrain so that Ty could continue to work on his snowboard turns, and Dylan and I took the Vista Quad to see what conditions were like on the upper mountain and make our way over toward Wilderness. Skier traffic definitely had its effects on the snow surfaces, and we found lots of firm or icy areas on trails like Alta Vista and even lower-angle terrain like Sherman’s Pass. Fortunately, Wilderness had seen much less traffic and the snow surfaces were excellent. There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes. We even made our way into the Wilderness Woods, and there was plenty of coverage and very little traffic. Snowpack is certainly not an issue at elevation – I probed the depths at around 2,800’ over toward Wilderness and found as much as 30 inches. The consistency of the snowpack is interesting. There’s definitely a refrozen layer in there from the warm storm we had over the weekend, but it many spots it’s not really crusty, it’s just thick and has bonded pretty nicely to the snow that fell more recently.
“There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes.”
The snow from yesterday’s storm is holding up well and keeping conditions great in minimal traffic areas of low and moderate-angle terrain, so seek those out if you’re looking for soft turns. Our next winter storm is actually coming into the area tomorrow. It’s similar to yesterday’s event, with the potential for 2 to 4 inches in the higher elevations, but if it works out like that last one it should be another nice boost to the conditions.
I was home this afternoon with enough time to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs before dark, with the incentive being a bit of snow that we picked up today from a small Alberta Clipper-type system. Although the snowfall had generally been quite light in intensity today, it had been snowing continuously, and reports of 3 to 5 inches were coming in from the mountains. I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested, so I figured it would just be a solo outing for me to scope out how the new snow was setting things up for coming days. But, before I knew it, the whole family was interested in getting some turns, and once we confirmed that night skiing was on, up to the hill we went!
“…combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would.”
The temperature at Village elevation (~2,100’) was right around freezing, and while we were at the mountain the cloud deck fluctuated between there and Mid Mountain (~2,500’). There was light snow falling the entire evening, and although we never went higher than Mid Mountain, there was no wind to speak of. So overall, it was an incredibly nice time to be out skiing under the lights. I measured 3” of snow in the Village parking lot, and generally found 3-4” on the hill, which jives perfectly with the 3-4” that I see this evening in the Bolton Valley snow report. My liquid analyses down here at the house (500’) revealed a very mid-weight 10% H2O snow, and while we may have had a touch of compaction due to being slightly above the freezing mark at our elevation, I’d say that 10% density is fairly consistent with what the mountain received. So the new snow has got a bit of girth to it and can float you pretty well on low- to moderate-angle terrain as long as there’s a smooth subsurface.
One thing that got Ty excited to head to the mountain this evening was the chance to do some snowboarding. He’s big enough to use my snowboard now, so E said that she’d give him some instruction to get him started. We all started off at the Mighty Mite to ensure that Ty was set on the board, and then spent the rest of our time on the Mid Mountain Chair so that Ty could work on his snowboard turns with E, while I worked with Dylan on his Telemark skiing.
There was plenty of powder available this evening off to the sides of the main runs and on the easily accessible side trails, and combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would. There obviously hasn’t been enough liquid added atop the snowpack to keep folks from touching down to the old surface on steep terrain yet, but lower-angle to moderate terrain is skiing beautifully. I suspect the groomed terrain could have been pretty loud before this new snow, but turns were very silent and peaceful tonight. And, there’s the aesthetic quality of all the new snow. Folks coming up for the holiday weekend should be pretty psyched, especially if Mother Nature tops this current snow off with a bit more from the system potentially affecting the area on Saturday.
We capped off the evening with a trip to Fireside Flatbread for the first time this season. It was a quiet midweek evening, and service was really quick – we sent the boys downstairs to the cafeteria to get a couple of appetizers and the pizza arrived before they even got back! Anyway, tonight’s experience with the soft conditions has got everyone in the family interested in getting more turns this weekend, so hopefully we’ll have another chance to get out and enjoy the new snow.
Each year in December we head to Stowe for the training day that gets us ready for our school’s ski program. E is the director for the BJAMS program and typically takes care of the logistics on one of the weekend days, while a co-director would manage the other. In the past, when the boys were younger and couldn’t stay home alone, we’d either set up to have someone watch them, or split the two training days between us and each go alone. On those occasions, even though selecting the days was done well in advance, I always seemed to luck out and get the great conditions – comfortable temperatures, fresh powder, soft surfaces, etc., while E on the other hand would get refrozen crud, frigid temperatures, or whatever else you can think of that would make the ski experience less than stellar.
This year though, we were going to the training day together, and it looked like E was going to go for a ride on the luck train with me. Winter Storm Decima was marching across the country, and the timing looked just about perfect for a great powder day on Saturday. In fact, the National Weather Service Office in Burlington even felt strongly enough about it to incorporate a statement in their forecast discussion on Thursday:
“Should be a glorious powder day with mean snow ratios around 18-20:1 and temps gradually warming into the lower 20s valleys and upper teens mountains by early afternoon.”
By this morning, Winter Storm Decima had already begun to deliver snow as we headed off to the resort. The snowfall rates weren’t outrageous, but it was a good steady snow and you could see that little bit of extra spring in everyone’s step knowing that training day was going to feature fresh snow. As we gathered outside the Midway Lodge for the morning’s announcements, you could just see the snow piling up on the anxious skiers ready to get underway.
“There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.”
We had Steve for our group leader, similar to some previous seasons, and he regaled us with his usual assortment of giving lessons to celebrities and assorted well-heeled folks. We did a quick first run off the Meadows Quad, and that was our first chance to experience the snow. Oh was it glorious! There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day. Stowe’s already hit 110 inches on the season, and we’re only about three weeks or so into it.
We had several runs on Spruce Peak before we broke for some lunch, then got a couple more runs in over on Mansfield. Even after a day of weekend ski traffic, conditions were still amazing in the afternoon even on the most heavily-used areas. The snow is deep-down good. The only downside today was the chill in the morning at elevation with the wind, but it was still a small price to pay for such consistently awesome conditions.