Cold temperatures in the single digits F were in the forecast today on the back side of the storm, but Dylan and I decided to head up for a few runs anyway – the bounty of new snow was just too good to miss. Our timing was pretty good such that we took our first run off the Vista Quad and headed right down to Timberline to catch the opening of the Timberline Quad. The top of Vista was absolutely frigid, with an air temperature below zero, but as we made our way down toward the Timberline Base we found that the temperature went up significantly.
“We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow.”
At Timberline, the sun was out, the snow was great, and there was essentially no line at the Timberline Quad, so we simply stayed down there and skied until we were ready to go. We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow. So, the snowpack is ready for prime time from the top to bottom elevations of the resort.
Temperatures were really in a sweet spot today – they were just a bit below freezing, which meant that they were extremely comfortable, but not warm enough to ruin any of the powder. I think a lot of people know that today was going to be spectacular out there, because even the lots down by the Nordic Center were filling up when I arrived around 10:00 A.M. The upper tennis court lot was already filled, so I had to head to the lower one, but I got a nice trailside parking spot that let me gear up and jump right onto Broadway.
“The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.”
I needed to pick up Ty from work at noon, so my plan was a quick tour out to the Holden’s Hollow area to get in some powder turns. Consistent with the parking lots, there were people all over the Nordic trails, and a number heading out onto the backcountry trails as well. Once I got up onto the Telemark Trail I didn’t see anyone else around however, and based on the skin track it looked like only about 3 or 4 people had even been out on that part of the network recently.
I had to break trail on the final stretch up to the ridgeline above Holden’s Hollow, and once I’d crested I found myself with a vast area of untracked snow below me. The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.
As I switched over for the descent, I noticed a trail sign just down the ridgeline from me, and figured it was one of the markers for some of the Holden’s Hollow Glades. Once I headed over to it though, I saw that it read “C Bear Woods”, and I realized it was a sign I’d never seen before. The sign looks new, so it’s either an area that was recently updated for skiing, or perhaps folks just got around to putting up a sign. Whatever the case, the glade below me was entirely untracked, and the powder was excellent. As I encountered on Thursday, there was a bit of a crust buried within the pack in some spots, but in this case it was either absent or buried deep enough that it was inconsequential.
I was surprised to find that the run actually brought me down on the back side of the ridge, which would have been great for doing another lap, but unfortunately I didn’t have time. I cut eastward through the trees and got myself over to the east side of the ridge where I was able to descend back to the Telemark Trail and Broadway with more untracked powder turns.
From the pump house/bridge area, I re-skinned my skis for my return to the Village – I’ve learned the investment of a couple minutes into putting on your skins is well worth it for that return trip with its slight uphill inclines.
When I got back to my car a bit before noon, even the lower tennis court lot had filled, and the parking lots in general looked packed to the gills. The mountain was definitely doing a booming business, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising on a midwinter Saturday with a recent resurfacing of the slopes, full operation, and perfect temperatures.
We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend. This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces. The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.
We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions. Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense. The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.
“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”
A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session. We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain. After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic. It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it. With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers. We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers. Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.
Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’. That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces. I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.
It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday. The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.
Ty wasn’t scheduled to work today, so the whole family had the chance to ski together and we decided to head up to the mountain early enough to hit the lift openings. The Vista Quad was opening at 9:00 A.M., and we got there right as folks began loading. We had an excellent run down Alta Vista, and especially Fanny Hill, and everywhere that hadn’t been groomed held several inches of dense powder that contributed to a solid resurfacing of the slopes.
“That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.”
Timberline has finally come on line this weekend thanks to the recent snows, so we next chose to head over that way and catch it near the lift opening. Cobrass still isn’t open, but we were able to take Preacher and a combination of various glades to get us over to Five Corners and onward to Timberline. That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.
Timberline still needs a bit more snow to open all the terrain, but we had an excellent run down Sure Shot and in and out of various sections of trees and nearby trails. Being a holiday weekend with fresh snow, people were arriving at the resort in droves, and when we stopped in at the Timberline Lodge for a quick break, the ticket line inside was roughly 150 feet long. That line was a sign of what was going on throughout the resort, and indeed a substantial lift queue was forming at the Vista Quad when we returned to the main base. Seeing that, we did a couple of quick, powder-filled runs on Snowflake and called it a day because we’d had our fill.
Cars full of holiday visitors continued to stream into the resort as we were leaving, and the Timberline lots must have been filled because they were already starting to have cars parallel park on the access road. The number of visitors today must have been great for the resort, even if it meant there were some lift queues at times. We’d seen Stephen and Johannes right when we’d arrived, and we didn’t get to do any runs with them, but they apparently had a big group with a number of Johannes’ friends. Stephen also said that he rode the Wilderness Chair, so the opening of the Wilderness area must have been a nice addition to disperse all the holiday visitors.
I suspected that the most recent storm wasn’t going to be quite enough to get the backcountry into perfect shape, but the forecast called for chilly temperatures topping out in the 10-15 F range, so earning some powder turns in the new snow seemed like the way to go. Dylan joined me in my plan to head up and take a quick tour on some moderate terrain on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.
“Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.”
The idea for today’s tour was to head partway up the Bryant Trail, connect over to Gotham City, catch some turns in the Gun Sight area, and then finish off the run with some lower glades. Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so. There were some nice powder turns in that snow, but the base depths are very inconsistent. In some spots the base snow was sufficiently deep, but in others there was little to no base, and obstacles like rocks and logs definitely needed to be avoided. Dylan’s most memorable quote of the day came after he had an altercation with some sort of obstacle under the snow and took a tumble. He was on Erica’s fat skis, and we were really hoping it wasn’t a rock. D quickly reassured me… “It was a log”.
We’ve actually got our next significant weather system, Winter Storm Jacob, starting to affect the area this afternoon. I’m not sure exactly when the snow from the storm first started to appear, but around 4:00 P.M. we were in Gotham City finishing our ascent, and I realized it was snowing. It’s kind of fun when you’re touring in the forest like that with limited views and protection from the elements, and before you know it you’re getting covered with fresh snow. The density of snow from this next storm will probably be on the high side, so it should make a solid contribution to the base to cover some of the obstacles we’ve been encountering.
Today we were at Stowe for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season. In terms of weather, this was one of those days where we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to the slopes if it weren’t for the program. We’ve been in the midst of Winter Storm Isaiah over the past couple of days, and it’s been a warm storm that has switched last week’s wintry conditions over to spring conditions. That actually wouldn’t be a deterrent for skiing, but the anticipated strong winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s F through the afternoon were concerning.
We were at the mountain early enough that I took a couple of runs with E and the boys, and we found conditions to be spring-like and decent. We had a touch of rain, which quickly changed over to snow in the higher elevations and made its way down to the base.
“It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming. ”
During my instruction session today I was working with a student named Viviana, an absolute first-time, never-ever skier. We worked on the magic carpet all afternoon, with one break in the middle where we got to hang out with E and the boys, their ski groups, and a number of other people from the program while we had some good food at the Great Room Grill. Viviana spent her ski time figuring out how to pressure her wedge to slow herself down and make turns, and she had progressed quite a bit by the end of the day in having the strength to stop herself. That actually says a lot, because the soft conditions we had at midday gradually changed to very hard conditions by the end of the afternoon. The cold air moved in, the groomed surfaces became much slicker, and the ungroomed surfaces became a frozen moonscape.
Strong winds put the Over Easy Gondola on hold at the end of the day, so we had to take one of the shuttles back to our car at Mansfield, and the wait for the shuttle felt like forever because of the frigid winds. It was only about five minutes of course, but many of us had dressed for the gondola vs. being out in the open. We found our car was encased in quite a layer of refrozen material from the wet snow that had fallen, so it took a bit of time to warm it up and melt that off.
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.
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.