Since yesterday morning, Winter Storm Henry has been bringing snow to our area, and Bolton Valley reported several new inches as of this morning. With the passage of the system came some wind however, which was enough to keep the Vista Quad on hold. Watching the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam from home, we could see that the Vista Quad closure led to long lines for the Mid Mountain Chair and Snowflake Chair. My colleague Stephen said that he’d been skiing in the morning, but the lift lines grew to 30 minutes as more people arrived and he’d eventually decided to call it a day.
Our family had planned to head up for some lift-served runs this afternoon, but the wind hold made that impractical and I ended up heading to the mountain to skin up for some turns instead. I figured this latest storm would be just about enough to get Timberline in reasonable shape for turns, so with the crowds at the main mountain, I decided to check it out.
“In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.”
The main skin route on Twice as Nice was well established, but I could see that in general the west-facing trails had seen just a bit too much wind to provide really nice turns. Having seen that, I ended up descending by the more protected Wood’s Hole and Brandywine route, and that worked out well. In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.
We’ve got yet another modest system coming through the area tomorrow, so that should bring conditions up another notch.
With the addition of snow from Winter Storm Gage Sunday through Tuesday, ski conditions have seen substantial improvement over the past few days. I was already pleased in general with the conditions I found at Bolton Valley yesterday, and I expected them to easily move up another notch with the follow up system that came into the area last night. As of this morning in the valley we’d already picked up over a half foot of snow (with a solid shot of liquid equivalent) between the two storms, and yet another round of snowfall was building in as we headed up to the mountain around noon.
“I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.”
Today was actually the first day of the season that the whole family had a chance to ski together, or at least the first day where both schedules and snow conditions made it happen. Unlike yesterday, the mountain was really busy today, and we parked in the lowest tier of the main lots down by the Sports Center. We even had to wait for a couple minutes to get on the Vista Quad, but that wasn’t bad considering the other mains lifts aren’t running yet. Temperatures were still relatively nice in the 20s F, but there was some wind in the higher elevations. D was having fun buttoning up with his magnetic Anon MFI Tech Balaclava and his helmet-compatible hood on his Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket just to see how everything came together. I have the same combo and think it’s fantastic for keeping out the wind.
From the Vista Summit we skied Alta Vista, and in discussions about the conditions, E and D said it was definitely better than the last time they’d been on it back on the 24th. All the snow from these past couple of storms has really put some quality coverage above the old base, so the trail edges were quite nice with hardly a sound from hard snow. We also had some time to visit Wilderness, which is still seeing just a modest amount of traffic from people using the uphill route. Conditions over there were very good, building on what I found yesterday. I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack. D was actually trying out Ty’s Telemark skis today for the first time, and he was really taking to them. His Tele turns looked strong on both the groomed slopes and in the powder, so I see him using those skis a lot until he gets his own new Tele setup.
Looking ahead, we’ve got the chance for another modest system this coming weekend, so conditions could get another shot in the arm if that system delivers something similar to what we’ve just received.
Over the past couple of days, Winter Storm Gage brought several inches of snow to the area, so I headed up to the mountain today to sample the goods. We picked up close to an inch of liquid equivalent from the storm down at the house, so the mountains should have had at least that much as well. Bolton Valley was noting 5 inches in their official report, which was likely a fairly dense 5 inches. There was some mixed precipitation in the middle of the storm cycle, but it seemed like the slopes should have gotten a decent resurfacing with the mixed components sandwiched between a decent amount of snow.
Temperatures were really nice up at the mountain – they were right around 30 F, and with essentially no wind, it was very comfortable and calm. I was up in the late afternoon heading into twilight, so it was a relatively quiet period of the day and I walked right on the Vista Quad when I arrived. Although there was still plenty of light when I first got up to the mountain, light snow was in the air and we’re in late December, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before it would be dark enough for the slope lights to come on. I put a clear lens in my goggles, and that was really perfect for my twilight session.
The new snow was certainly a boon to the conditions. There were still slick areas, but there was a lot of loose snow throughout the trails as well. A check on the ungroomed areas from roughly mid mountain up revealed about 4 inches of powder, then a thick/crustier layer below that, then another 4 inches of snow above the base. Even the uppermost layer of snow was reasonably dense, so moderate angle terrain skied quite nicely. Finding the natural snow in decent shape, I ventured over toward Lower Turnpike and got some excellent powder turns. I would occasionally touch down to the harder layers below, so the turns were just a notch below what we experienced back on the 21st of the month.
“It’s a bit strange continuing to ski as 4:00 P.M. hits because it feels like everything should be closing up, but you just get to keep going – almost as if the resort forgot you were there.”
I really enjoy these twilight sessions that you can get at Bolton Valley – it can be a very peaceful time of the day as many people have finished up their skiing and folks planning on the evening may not yet have arrived. It’s a bit strange continuing to ski as 4:00 P.M. hits because it feels like everything should be closing up, but you just get to keep going – almost as if the resort forgot you were there. The night skiing lights come on at some point, and the scenery around you changes by the minute as the daylight fades. It’s definitely a unique experience, which is certainly enhanced when you’ve got some new snow.
There’s another small system coming into the area tonight, with the potential for another few inches on top of what we’ve had. We’re hoping it makes for some nice New Year’s conditions!
Last weekend, Winter Storm Ezekiel brought some hefty snowfall to the Northeastern U.S., with totals exceeding two feet in areas around Albany, NY and Southern Vermont. Up here in the northern part of the state we only picked up a few inches of snow from the storm, with totals falling off to almost nothing near the international border in a total reversal of the usual trend.
“My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.”
The upslope snowfall on the back side of the Clipper looked like it would continue all day today, so I decided it was time for a quick trip up to the mountain to check out the new powder. Thanks to our cold November temperatures, Bolton Valley has actually been open for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t even picked up my season’s pass yet because I’ve been so busy. E and D were both a bit under the weather, and T was at work, so unfortunately they’ll have to wait until another trip to get themselves set up with their passes.
I was worried about a long wait to get my season’s pass, but once up at the mountain it turned out that picking it up was very quick. While I was walking toward the lodge from my car, I ran into a member of the resort staff who was checking in with everyone about picking up their passes. For pick up, he said to head right toward the Village Café, and they’d take care of everything. Indeed, there was only one person ahead of me picking up their pass, and it was very quick. The process of pick up and filling out the waiver was all done very efficiently on a handheld, wireless iPad-type device, and there was plenty of nice seating on couches in the lobby area so you could have a seat while you finished off the process.
Of course the greatest part of picking up my pass this year was the fact that Bolton has gone RFID!!! Dylan and I suspected it when we saw electronic gates by the lifts during a ski tour last month, but I can definitely say it’s for real. It’s so nice to be able to just stick the pass in my pocked (my Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket has a pocket on the sleeve that works perfectly) and I never have to mess with getting it out at the lifts. I tested out my pass at the Mid Mountain Chair and the process was perfectly smooth.
“I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow. Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.”
In terms of skiing, my plan was to use an assist from the Mid Mountain Chair and head over to Wilderness to ski some of the fresh powder in that area. I figured there would be no one on the upper mountain without the Vista Quad running, but when I was traversing over on Fanny Hill, I ran into a patroller who was prepping the trail for opening because they were going to open Vista. He reminded me that I wasn’t on the designated uphill route, but thankfully let me continue on over since I was just about onto the Wilderness terrain. I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow. Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.
Once connecting to the standard skinning route, I finished my ascent on Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness ridgeline and got ready for some turns. Light snow with breaks of sun that had been with me on the last part of my ascent were replaced with a sudden change to a maelstrom of huge flakes coming down as I began to descend. I really didn’t have to venture far afield from Peggy Dow’s and Turnpike to find powder – there was plenty of it throughout the route because skier traffic had been low enough. Powder depths ranged from as much as 15 to 20 inches on the upper mountain, to typically 12 to 15 inches on the lower mountain, so even with the incredibly dry powder there was plenty of it to keep you floating. I’d brought my 115 mm fat skis and they were definitely the right tool for the job. I was surprised at how quickly my legs got cooked from making Telemark turns – they’d often be fried after just a dozen or so turns! I guess it has been roughly three weeks since I last skied, so my legs are clearly telling me they need to get back into ski shape. Today should get the process started though, and hopefully ski days will become more frequent as we move into December and we continue to get snow.
On the weather side, it looks like we’ve got a warm system to start off this next week, which will consolidate the snowpack somewhat, and then temperatures should cool down for midweek with potential for some moisture from the Great Lakes affecting the area. Then there’s the potential for another large system next weekend, but it will be a bit before we can figure out how much snow we might get from that one.
The local ski resorts hadn’t picked up too much more than we had, but totals in the 6 to 10” range seemed typical, and that was certainly enough to entice me out for some early season turns. With that in mind, this morning I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to get in a ski tour and check out the new snow. With the fairly fluffy nature of the snow and based on what we’ve seen at the house over the past couple of days, I’m sure there had been some settling since it fell, but here’s the snow depth/elevation profile of what I found from the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road up to the local summit areas:
I started my ski tour around midday, when temperatures were just edging a bit above freezing at our house down in the valley, but above 1,500’, and certainly above 2,000’, temperatures never got above freezing so the snow was all winter consistency.
In terms of the skiing, it was undoubtedly early season, and rock skis would be your best bet if you’re going on anything with substantial pitch. I actually found the skiing better on the lower half of the mountain because there was a bit of a base there – I think more of the snow down in those elevations was melting on contact with the ground to create that dense layer. Up higher, the consistency of the snow was more straight fluff from top to bottom. As is often the case, most water bars had reasonable crossings at least at one point, but a few were dicey and took some extra navigation. There’s still running water in plenty of spots, and ponding in some flat areas. On my descent it was obvious that my skis got in contact with at least traces of that moisture, because about halfway down I had to pull out a credit card and spend probably 10 minutes doing a scrape down on the ski bases to really get things back in shape for gliding.
That effort was worth it though, because for the bottom half of my run I was on Lower Turnpike, and that offered what was unquestionably the best skiing of the tour. The combination of that bit of dense snow that accumulated as some base down in those elevations, plus some skier traffic packing down areas of the new snow as well, clearly created the best subsurfaces I encountered. On top of that you’ve got the fact that Lower Turnpike is essentially all grassy terrain, and it has a pitch that isn’t really overbearing for the amount of snowpack we’ve got, and it comes together for real winning combination. Even with some skier traffic, there was still plenty of powder to play around in throughout the trail, so that was a great way to finish off my run.
For anyone heading up, you may still want to hit the summit areas to check things out and get the exercise from a more substantial tour, but if you’re just looking to get out from some quality turns, Lower Turnpike is probably going to get you the most bang for your buck. It’s one of the designated ascent routes anyway, so there’s a nice skin track and it’s an efficient way to in some nice turns on the new snow.
I just got an alert on my phone this morning that we’re under a Winter Storm Watch in association with the next system. This one looks more substantial than this past one, but we’re still a day or two out so we’ll need to watch for any final refinements to the forecast.
It turns out that we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average. It probably feels like May snowstorms are rarer than that, maybe because, well… it’s May. By this point in the season it typically hasn’t snowed in a few weeks, we’ve had some warm weather, Memorial Day is approaching, and people are well along into thinking about spring and summer. But I felt as though I’d been out on fresh snow several times in May since we’ve been back in Vermont over the past decade or so, and being curious about the actual numbers during the lead up to our current storm, I checked my ski report archives to see. Indeed, with today’s storm that makes at least five significant May snowstorms in the past decade. Here in the Northern Greens we also don’t catch the brunt of every May snowstorm that hits the Northeast, especially with the Presidentials in the mix, so I suspect that for the region as a whole the frequency of May snowstorms averages out to somewhere around a storm each season.
“…we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.”
As expected, it was a cool, borderline wintry morning as I made my way to the mountain. Temperatures were in the upper-30s F in the mountain valleys, and mid-30s F at the resort base. I’d seen on Stowe’s web cams that the North Slope area had its typical late season residual snowpack, so I chose that for my ascent route. By the time I got out on my tour, the snow level was certainly rising relative to its lowest point overnight or this morning when there were more optimal temperatures and snowfall rates. New snow accumulations varied considerably depending on the underlying surface, with the best accumulations and retention found atop the existing snowpack.
“The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.”
Continuing up from the North Slope area, I headed through the Fourrunner Quad Summit and up the Toll Road past the Mt. Mansfield Stake to the Mansfield Summit Station at around 3,850’. Precipitation was snow at all elevations on my ascent, and it was fairly light for the most part until I got to the Summit Station along the Mansfield ridgeline. While I was hanging out there refueling and changing over for the descent, the intensity of the snowfall ramped up somewhat, with lots of tiny flakes at first. Eventually though, the snowfall picked up to a pounding of much larger flakes. There was definitely a lot of liquid coming out of the sky at that point, and my Gore-Tex® was getting a workout.
Observing the new snow accumulations along my ascent, the big jump in depths really seemed to happen between 2,000’ and 3,000’. Above 3,000’ I didn’t really see too much with respect to additional accumulation, so presumably temperatures were sufficient down to 3,000’ to maximize the snow from the available moisture right from the get go yesterday.
Here’s the elevation profile for the accumulations I found this morning:
The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns. Of course, the density also meant that the snow was Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete and you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a lot of work. It is mid-May though, so even dense powder turns this time of year are always a treat, and getting the workout is a big part of the experience anyway.
“…you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a LOT of work.”
In some cases it wasn’t just the descent that added an extra challenge due to the dense snow. I followed a pair of skin tracks on my ascent and noticed that in some spots the new snow had stuck to their skins. I wasn’t having that issue with my skins, but I eventually caught up to the gentlemen who were making the skin tracks, and they said for them it was an issue when they traveled over areas without an existing snowpack. I was able to pay them back for their helpful skin track by setting the track for the second half of the ascent, and while I didn’t see them on the descent, I saw them back at my car and at Edelweiss Deli where I grabbed a sub for lunch (great minds think alike) and it sounds like they had a great tour.
Wintry conditions in May are typically quite ephemeral, so I guess we’ll be back to spring skiing soon, but these late season powder days are always a treat. There’s a certain mystique with these late season elevation snow event because it feels like you were in another world when you get back to the strong sun, spring warmth, and rapidly emerging greenery in the valleys.
After watching it snow all morning on the Bolton Valley Web cam, I decided to head up for a ski tour around midday to see how the new snow was settling in over the old snowpack. Similar to our house, the precipitation was rain and there was no snow at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, but driving up I encountered residual winter snowpack starting at ~1,400’. The rain changed over to snowfall right after that, around the Timberline Base at 1,500’.
I found a couple inches of new snow as I parked the car in the Bolton Valley Village around 2,000’, and that depth only increased slowly to roughly 3 inches at the 2,500’ level. I noticed a bit of a jump in depths when I hit the 2,600’ to 2,700’ range though, so that seemed to be a threshold of sorts for accumulations during this storm. .
Here’s the new snow depth profile with respect to elevation based on my observations from today’s tour:
“…with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.”
On the ascent I was a bit worried that the snow was going to be sticky with respect to turns, but the temperature up top around 3,000’ was roughly 30 to 31 F. So it was certainly below freezing up there, and the new snow was dense, but definitely dry enough for some nice powder turns. I only found sticky snow to be an issue during the final couple hundred feet of descent to the main base area at 2,100’. I made my initial descent down Alta Vista, then worked my way over toward Wilderness, and with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there. Powderfreak reported some nice turns today at Stowe as well, and he found similar accumulations to what I encountered on my Bolton Valley tour.
The models and forecasts suggest that after a lull this afternoon, there’s a chance for more snow tonight into tomorrow as the back side of the system comes through. We’re planning to stay at the Lodge at Spruce Peak tonight, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head out for some turns on Mansfield tomorrow.
Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system. Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing. Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine. It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains. Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.
Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things. By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there. Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base. This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance. This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline. We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances. He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail. It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.
“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”
In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine. The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though. The snow was quite dense, and often windblown. We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up. It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow. The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated. Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up
“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”
This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens. We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions. I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up. I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.
E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift. We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift. I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods. There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take. We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along. The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit. We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.
We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip. I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle. Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something. I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!