The first part of this storm had some mixed precipitation, so we were really in no rush to jump out on the slopes early, instead deciding to let some of the new snow build up during the day. Today’s snow here at the house was quite dense, coming in in the 10-13% H2O range based on my analyses, so while it wasn’t going to be the ultimate in fluffy powder, it certainly had the potential to further resurface the slopes.
“I did some depth checks in the trees and frequently found surface snow depths of 12 to 15 inches.”
While working today, I watched the Bolton Valley Live Webcam, and saw that the Vista Quad stopped running at some point around midday. I figured it was on wind hold, but Mid Mountain and Snowflake were still running, so we still headed up for a few lower mountain runs. The wind was certainly whipping around up there, but most of the lower mountain areas were reasonably sheltered, and the trees were especially nice because it seemed like a lot of snow had settled in there. I did some depth checks in the trees and frequently found surface snow depths of 12 to 15 inches. I’m sure some of that is from a previous storm or two, but as their afternoon report, the resort was indicating 7 inches of snow and overall there have been some healthy, dense accumulations from these past couple events. Indeed we found the new snow on the mountain to be dense as my analyses had suggested, but boy did it constitute a resurfacing of the slopes. If you were on the new snow there was no touching the subsurface, and you typically sunk into the powder just a few inches anyway because of the density.
As of about 9:30 P.M. this evening, the flakes falling have become much larger down here at the house, so the snow is getting fluffier. This drier snow on top of the dense stuff from earlier today is just what we like – the perfect right-side-up deposition for those powder turns.
This week, the pace of winter storms and snowfall has slowed down a bit here in the Green Mountains compared to what we were seeing at the beginning of the month, but the weather models have been suggesting the chance for some of our classic upslope snow on the back side of this latest system. Scott put together a nice summary of the event’s potential at Braatencast, and it certainly looked like we’d have a chance for some decent powder turns today.
I was actually planing to earn some turns and ski tour a bit before the lifts opened at 9:00 A.M., but I was up there later than I’d hoped and it was right around opening time. That didn’t matter too much though, because winds were fierce and the Vista Quad wasn’t even running, so I just headed off to Wilderness for a tour as I’d initially planned.
With those harsh winds, you’d be hard pressed to know that much snow fell at all from just looking around the base area parking lots. The accumulations were really patchy on a lot of snowbanks because the new snow had been ripped away and sent elsewhere. Once I got onto the skin track on Lower Turnpike and out of the wind though, the actual snow accumulations became apparent. Indeed I’d say that the 4 inches reported was a safe way to go in terms of being conservative, but aside from scoured areas, that definitely represented the low end of accumulations I encountered. Omitting the extremes of drifts and scoured areas, my checks revealed settled snow depths of 4 to 10 inches throughout my tour. That wasn’t really elevation dependent, it seemed to just be a factor of how the snow sifted down in various areas. Drifts I found up around the 3,000’ elevation were generally in the 2 to 3-foot range, though there were some bigger ones as well of course.
“Omitting the extremes of drifts and scoured areas, my checks revealed settled snow depths of 4 to 10 inches throughout my tour.”
The skiing was obviously much different than what you would get from just four inches of fluff. With a number like that I’d be expecting to get good turns on only low angle terrain, but bottomless turns were pretty standard all the way up to about single black diamond pitch as long as the subsurface was smooth. I was on my 115 mm boards, but one could certainly still float on something skinnier. I’d say the storm must have put down a half inch of liquid or so on the mountain based on what I was skiing.
Upon reaching the Wilderness Summit on my tour, I started down Bolton Outlaw, thinking it would be pretty smooth from minimal early season traffic. It wasn’t long before I realized that the Wilderness Lift has indeed run this season (I actually rode it with Stephen on opening day), so there’s been enough skier traffic to produce some moguls. I was definitely hitting the subsurface with the steep pitch and moguls, so I quickly dove off into the Outlaw Woods, and the turns in there with a smooth subsurface turned out to be just about perfect. I was also able to get first tracks in the lower Wilderness Woods, and they were excellent as well. Getting into the trees was generally a great option because the snow had settled in there very nicely thanks to protection from the wind. I hung around for a couple of lift-served runs off the Snowflake Lift, and with the typical low traffic there I found plenty of untracked snow.
This was definitely an upslope snowfall event that was focused on the mountains. When I left the resort and headed west toward the Champlain Valley, snow accumulations really tapered off. There was just a bit of accumulation in the Richmond Village area and it seems like just a trace to nil in the Burlington area.
We’ve got a warmer weather system expected to affect the area at the end of the week, so the next chance for snow won’t be until Saturday afternoon into the evening on the back side of that storm.
A modest winter storm came into the area on Friday and left up to 8 inches of new snow at the Vermont ski areas. Bolton Valley was reporting 3 inches up top, which seemed like a fairly minimal covering over the base snow that’s seen plenty of spring cycling, but we figured it was worth heading up for a couple of runs to see how the accumulations had settled in. Sometimes 3 inches can ski like 3 inches, or sometimes it can ski like more, depending on how it was distributed and how densely it settled.
Ty and I headed up fairly early to find bright April sun among some on and off clouds, and temperatures in the upper 20s F. We took an initial run on the Snowflake Chair to make our way over to the Vista Quad, and while we found the groomed terrain was skiing nicely, we didn’t really find that the snow was enough to get the skiing shaped up off piste, at least down there below the 2,500’ mark.
We still wanted to check out how accumulations had played out at the Vista Summit up above 3,000’, and Alta Vista revealed a few good turns off the usual protected left side, but they were in the minority. We headed over toward Wilderness and did find some nice turns in the Wilderness Woods, but as Ty nicely put it, “You just couldn’t trust it on every turn”. Indeed you could get a few nice turns on low angle terrain, but then you’d run into a spot that had been hit by the wind and you’d be back to contacting the hard spring surface below.
“I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.”
The opening of the Wilderness Lift had been delayed a bit due to winds, but it had recently opened as we approached the bottom, so we figured it was worth at least one trip. It was running slow due to winds though, so we dropped off at the mid station and headed down Cougar. I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in. We had first tracks on the lower part of Cougar as well, and where the snow was undisturbed by the wind the turns were quite nice. We finished off dropping in and out of the Wilderness Woods, and for some reason, (perhaps the bright sunlight, or perhaps the deep spring snowpack?) they just seemed very open and smooth everywhere. There were very few tracks in there, so we had our pick of fresh lines. You still couldn’t “trust” every turn, just as Ty had said earlier, but we definitely had some good smooth lines through the trees in many spots.
In line with the bright April sun, Ty and I both had a chance to try out the Sonar Silver lens for the Anon M2 Goggles. It only lets through 6% of the visible light, so it’s even darker than the Sonar Red lens that we’d used last weekend at Magic Mountain, which lets through 14% of the visible light. We swapped between the two actually, but you could definitely notice the difference – you could easily look toward the sun with the Sonar Silver lens and not be too strained, and I can see it’s going to be another great one for these types of bright, late season days.
“…Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.”
We finished off with a trip to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab some subs, and it was around lunchtime, so a crowd was building. Although temperatures were wintry today, and there was some wind, that April sunshine easily warmed you up and you could see that folks were generally quite comfortable out there on the slopes. It looks like temperatures will be warming up next week for some spring skiing, and Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing. From what I can see in some of the weather models, we may not be quite done with snowfall in the mountains yet either.
I saw a couple of new offerings mentioned on the Bolton Valley website this morning as they continue to expand their terrain – the opening of the Snowflake Lift and the Hard Luck trail. Ty was away at Kenny’s, and E and Dylan had to take care of some shopping for an upcoming birthday party, but eager to check out the expanded terrain, I decided to head up to the hill in the afternoon.
We’re experiencing warmer temperatures right now ahead of the next incoming storm, so it’s been quite comfortable out there. It was around 30 F at the house when I left at noontime, and mid 20s F up on the hill. It was cloudy, but unlike the persistent snowfall of yesterday, there was only the occasional spit of snow in the higher elevations. Like yesterday, I was able to grab a parking spot in the top lot from a car that was leaving, and after getting on my gear I headed right over to catch a ride on Snowflake. While on the lift I was able to watch a snowcat working on the Butterscotch Terrain Park – all the snow piles were being flattened, and they play to open it tomorrow for skiing without features. Only Timberline Lane and Lower Villager are open on the skier’s left of Snowflake, so I opted for Sprig O’ Pine to get me down to the Vista Quad. The snow on Sprig O’ Pine was nice, not as soft as natural snow of course, but good because traffic has been minimal there. I took the alternate loop out toward Deer Run, which did have natural snow – that was really soft, and as it’s a protected area there were some beautiful accumulations of snow on the trees.
“Indeed, all of Peggy Dow’s above the first big bend had plenty of deep snow and some great powder turns were made.”
There was a lift queue of probably a couple minutes for the Vista Quad, but I jumped in the singles line and got right on. I found good snow along the skier’s left of Spillway Lane, and then dropped into Hard Luck to see how it skied. It was somewhat firm manmade snow in the top section, although skier traffic had created deposits of soft snow along the edges. As is sometimes the case with manmade snow, the loose material was a lot like sand, but at least it was soft. The bottom half of Hard Luck appeared to be mostly natural snow – it was much softer than what was above as one would expect, but some areas of poor coverage has to be roped off. Below Hard Luck there was actually some nice untracked powder remaining on the skier’s left of Sherman’s Pass – people just hadn’t been venturing that far to the left. On the lower mountain I skied Beech Seal, which had some excellent areas of soft, contoured snow along the skier’s left. I was eager to hit that again on my next run.
I checked out Alta Vista next, and the line along the skier’s left was in good shape. Had it not been for the occasional touching down onto firmer snow, it would have been great. Sherman’s Pass was in decent shape, with the occasional patch of slick snow that could be avoided, and turns were very nice once I got to that area below Hard Luck and followed the same route down Beech Seal.
I’d explored the offerings that I wanted to hit by that point, and decided that I’d tour over to Wilderness to finish off the day with some powder. I headed down Alta Vista again, really happy with the way I hit that skier’s left with some aggressive turns. My legs felt warmed up and stronger by that point. On my previous run I’d seen that all the lower routes over to Wilderness were roped off, so the Upper Crossover route was the best remaining option. I knew that anything steep was going to be too much for the current conditions, but I suspected that Peggy Dow’s would be passable, even if I found nothing good above the Old Turnpike area. I caught the bottom portion of Vista Glades, then connected onto Upper Crossover to switch over for the ascent. While putting on my skins, I had time to enjoy the snowy views, which included evergreens that were really starting to take on some healthy accumulations of powder. On the ascent toward the Wilderness Summit, I generally found snow depths of 6 to 11 inches in spots that weren’t scoured by the wind, so there were indeed some good pockets of snow up there.
Despite intense scouring at the top of Bolton Outlaw, the Wilderness Summit itself was sheltered from the wind and had some nice snow. Indeed, all of Peggy Dow’s above the first big bend had plenty of deep snow and some great powder turns were made. Once I neared the junction with Heavenly Highway I initially went wide right to avoid the icy, wind-scoured face, but I saw that another skier had taken the chute that bypasses it on the left. That area was protected from the wind, so I followed that skier’s tracks and found reasonable coverage. Down on Old Turnpike the first couple of steep corners were naturally icy, but there were lines to bypass the most exposed spots, and soon I was down into the protected lower areas that we skied yesterday. I actually used the same route as we did yesterday, until I decided to mix it up and check out the Wilderness Lift Line instead of Lower Turnpike. The lift line was actually fine, even if didn’t quite have the protected coverage of Lower Turnpike, and there were several tracks on it. From the base of Wilderness, I headed back to the car and had time to do a little long-range shooting with Chris’ Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM paired with his Canon Extender EF 1.4 III. That’s a full frame equivalent to 448 mm on my 30D, so there’s some great reach with that combo, and you’ve still got f/4 speed. It’s certainly not a setup that you can carry lightly though; with the lens hood on it’s 15 inches in length and the weight is around 6 pounds, so you definitely know it’s there.
Looking ahead, the next winter storm of note is a coastal system that is expected to affect the area tomorrow afternoon into Monday. The valleys will probably be a bit warm at the start, but the mountains look to do well; the point forecasts from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington currently call for 3 to 5 inches down here at the house, and 3 to 7 inches up at Bolton Valley.