Tag Archives: Spell Binder

Bolton Valley, VT 04FEB2017

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty out enjoying some of the recent upslope powder bounty at Bolton Valley today

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”

Things really started to ramp up on Thursday night.  My phone alerted me to the fact that the National Weather Service in Burlington had put out a Special Weather Statement for snow squalls.  It wasn’t long before eyewall sent along some pictures of the heavy snow falling in the Burlington area, and eventually, light snow at our house in Waterbury farther east turned into a 1 to 2-inch per hour maelstrom of flakes.  In the morning, Powderfreak started reporting in from the Stowe area, and initial thoughts of at least 6” on Mt. Mansfield turned into 8”, and quickly 9-10” at his 3,000’ snow plot on the mountain.  When adk sent along some of the shots taken during his usual morning wanderings on Mansfield, they revealed that however much snow had fallen, it was skiing deepsome awesome “over the shoulder Champlain powder” shenanigans were already taking place.

“By 2:00 P.M. he reported in with close to 17” of new snow…”

By midday, Powderfreak was reporting a foot of snow at Stowe, and Mother Nature was still pouring out the flakes over the spine at 1 to 2-inches per hour.  By 2:00 P.M. he reported in with close to 17” of new snow, and followed up with his own collection of powdery pictures a bit later in the afternoon.  At times, during the afternoon there were just huge snowflakes pouring from the sky, and Powderfreak sent along a bit of slow-motion video that he caught at Stowe’s base area showing some of the huge aggregates.  Folks quickly started talking about the day as “Big Friday”, no doubt because it was likely the biggest powder Friday of the season thus far.  When you start off with almost a foot of powder, and then tack on another half foot through the morning while you ski, you can’t help but have a “Big Friday”.  I was too busy yesterday to get out for any skiing, but when I posted the Vermont snow reports yesterday evening, all the resorts in the Northern Greens along the spine were coming in with 15-17” of new snow, so a trip to Bolton Valley would definitely be in order.

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Tattle Tail trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty, feeling the powder groove on his Soul 7s today

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.

An image of the "South of Solitude" Mexican restaurant logo at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont 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!

An image showing the Chimichanga on the blackboard menu at the "South of Solitude" restaurant at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

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.

An image of Erica on the Timberline Quad at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2016

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan and Dad were out today at Timberline for a quick afternoon ski tour.

Dylan and I headed up to Bolton Valley this afternoon for a quick New Year’s Eve ski tour.  Based on my observations from yesterday’s outing, I knew that despite exposed areas being wind-scoured, many trails at Timberline were holding some great powder.  There were still resort visitors parking down at the Timberline lots, and while most had left by the time we arrived, there were still a few folks trickling down either by bus or via the trails.

“In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds.”

It was a cloudy afternoon, but temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s F as we ascended the Twice as Nice skin track.  We contoured across below the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station to avoid the wind scoured areas and descended via most of Spell Binder.  In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds.  We were typically skiing in depths of 5 to 10 inches, with the deeper are being those that were most protected.  Dylan had a great time and made some excellent turns – even on his bad side, which is getting better all the time.

An image of a snowboarder and companion heading to their vehicle in the Timberline parking area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some folks closing out their day of riding

We’ve actually got an Alberta Clipper coming through the area right now, but the current wind flow seems to be sending most of the snow off to the east of us.  We’ll see if that changes to bring any accumulations to the mountains for tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 23NOV2016

An image of Jay skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We had to hunt a bit more to find good powder today – but it was still out there.

When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard.  It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished.  Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there.  This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.

“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”

We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing.  The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.  It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.

“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”

As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder.  It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder.  We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees.  While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis.  She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon.  While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.

An image of Erica removing skins from her skis on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E and her slick de-skinning

I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below.  I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go.  It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder.  You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.  Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine.  In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you.  I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation.  We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing.  If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the whole family out for a ski tour, Dad gets a chance to get out from behind the camera today.

Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up.  That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation.  He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.

“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”

In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.  We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week.  And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 13JAN2016

An image of ski tracks on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
My first sign of ski tracks today confirmed that I’d be able to find some decent powder turns on the slopes of Bolton Valley’s Timberline area.

The Alberta Clipper system that affected the area yesterday was expected to drop fairly modest amounts of snow in the 3 to 6-inch range, but I began to suspect we might do a bit better than that when the snowfall really cranked up in some areas last night. When we’d already picked up half a foot by late evening here at the house, I planned to check the mountain reports in the morning before heading off to work. Bolton Valley was reporting 5 to 7 inches of snow, and although it was very dry, Champlain Powder™ fluff (2 to 5% H2O based on my analyses down at the house), that was just enough accumulation to convince me to stop by the mountain to check it out. The base snow is very firm right now, but with fat skis and appropriate terrain, there would likely be some good turns out there.

The season has been off to an incredibly slow start, but today I finally decided to pay a visit to the Timberline area for some turns. I found 4 to 5 inches of new snow in the Timberline lot at 1,500’, which jived nicely with the report of 5 to 7 inches higher up at the main base area. There were a couple of cars in the lot, and a skin track heading up along the usual Twice as Nice route. A quick survey of Twice as Nice revealed the most protected powder along the skier’s left of trail, and the lone skier who had descended Twice as Nice earlier had made a good choice in that regard. Looking for something with a fairly consistent but mellow pitch, I made my way over to Spell Binder just below the headwall. The combination of powder and pitch was just what I was looking for, and there was a descent track already in place from a previous skier that confirmed that.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sight of some nice turns on Spell Binder this morning

With the super dry snow, I was easily touching down on intermediate pitches, and even at times on mellower pitches, but the fat skis certainly helped keep me afloat and the turns were really fun. It was certainly worth a quick trip. We’re not quite to the land of bottomless powder skiing glory yet, but the weather pattern at least looks decent going forward with chances for storms. Timberline will still need a decent synoptic storm with an inch of liquid equivalent or so, or a few smaller events, before the resort could open the terrain without snowmaking.

Bolton Valley, VT 01MAR2014

An image of Nikki doing a jump in powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Nikki, up for a visit and enjoying some powder at Bolton Valley today

As we enter March, the polar vortex continues to flood Northern Vermont with unseasonably cold air.  It’s great for preserving the snow, but it’s also pushing synoptic storms southward, and it’s been two weeks since we’ve had a major storm cycle.  Fortunately, smaller impulses have rotated their way around the base of the vortex to the tune of roughly one per day over the past week, and thanks to those events, the Northern Greens have picked up almost a foot of snow since Monday.  I’d been curious about how the powder was building up off piste with all those little events, but when I saw Powderfreak’s deep pictures from Stowe yesterday, it was obvious that conditions were getting good.

“Conditions were good, with
the only thing keeping them
from being great was that
crust looming below the
powder.”

E’s sister Tina and her family arrived last night for a visit and some skiing.  With Dylan under the weather, they decided to maximize his peace and quiet and stayed at the Best Western in town last night, but stopped in this morning to get together before we headed up to Bolton Valley.  We didn’t rush too hard, since we were happy to let the temperatures warm.  They’d actually picked the perfect day for skiing with respect to temperatures, because the single digits and teens that the polar vortex has thrown this way all week were finally giving way to temperatures in the 20s F thanks to southerly winds from an approaching storm.

Tim had to rent some equipment, so we started off at the main mountain with a trip down Deer Run from the Mid Mountain Chair.  I wanted to make sure that Riley and Nikki were comfortable on the terrain, but they were ripping it up, so we moved right on to the Vista Quad.  In the overall scheme of the mountain tour, my plan was to bring them down to the slopes of Timberline, which looked quite nice from what we saw on our drive by this morning, so we hit Cobrass and took the long run all the way to the base of the Timberline Quad.  Along the way, we didn’t do a lot of exploring or traversing with Riley and Nikki being on snowboards, but I did bring Tim on one of the crossovers to Spell Binder to check out the snow.  They resort had done one pass on Spell Binder with the groomer, but the rest of the trail was powder.  The depth of the powder down at that elevation was enough to keep you off the subsurface for a good portion of the turns, but you would definitely touch down on a certain percentage as well.  The turns were definitely nice though, and having my fat skis might have made it even better.

An image of Tim skiing some powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontRiding the Timberline Quad, we could see plenty of untracked snow on Showtime, so we gave that a shot first.  They had a strip of grooming, which was good, because the powder was nowhere near as consistent as what was on Spell Binder.  There were areas with 4 to 5 inches of powder, and then areas that looked like powder but were actually just crust with a little snow on top.  That made the skiing very tricky there, and it just didn’t seem like it was worth another run.  Twice as Nice was a little more protected, so it had some better areas of loose snow among its bumps.  I also brought everyone for a trip down Sure Shot to get them all to the powder on Tattle Tale and Spell Binder.  It meant that the snowboards had to click out of their boards for the traversing, but the snow was definitely worth it.  We had lunch at the Timberline Base Lodge, and it was a quiet scene with a few families at some of the tables.  Nikki and Riley really enjoyed their food.  I took everyone on an adventure through Wood’s Hole with more powder on Spell Binder after that, and then we headed back to the main mountain.

An image of Ty skiing in the powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Cruising through the snow on Spell Binder

During the rest of the afternoon we finished the tour by catching the lifts we hadn’t, like Snowflake and Wilderness, with a good run that everyone enjoyed through the Wilderness Woods.  We mixed things up near the end of the day with visits to see Tina in the lodge and some runs off Mid Mountain and the Vista Quad.  Tim was amazed at how quiet the resort was for a Saturday, and it was quiet, but nothing too atypical.  Conditions were good, with the only thing keeping them from being great was that crust looming below the powder.  It wasn’t an issue where snow had been groomed, and there was indeed some nice packed powder in spots, but we’ll need a bit more snow to fully bury that crust.  We’ve got yet another system coming in tonight, so that will aid in burying that crust deeper still.

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2013

An image of Ty jumping in some powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting the boys out into the powder today

Although I never made it up to the main mountain yesterday, the skiing I found at Timberline was quite good, and suggested that the snow would be even better at higher elevations.  That snow, combined with the continued moderating temperatures expected to rise through the 20s F into the 30s was a recipe for some very nice skiing.  The forecast has been predicting these conditions for a while, and E and the boys were on board for getting up to the mountain today as well.  I’d told E about yesterday’s turns, so we had to decide if we wanted to go for some of that powder at Timberline, or ride the lifts and ski at the main mountain.  We decided that it would be good for the boys to get in some lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, since they’ve yet to do that at all this season.  We also realized that we could still work in some Timberline powder if we spotted a car at the Timberline Base, and that would get the boys a little of everything.

“I have to admit, I
could really tell the
difference between
being on my mid-fats
today, and being on
my fat skis yesterday.”

When I was checking out the Bolton Valley website yesterday evening, I noticed that they were having a special promotion today – it was the first of four Subaru/Hyundai days in which owners of those vehicle brands could get a free lift ticket for the afternoon.  Also, additional guests could get tickets at 50% off.  I wouldn’t have been more than a passing thought, except that E was thinking of getting out with Gabe, one of our BJAMS students, to let him practice snowboarding before our regular season program begins at Stowe next week.  I told E about the promotion this morning, and although it turned out that she didn’t get together with Gabe, we had another potential student that could use a ticket.  E was planning to get together with Claire to work out the ski groups for the ski program, and during their planning, they realized that Luc could come and ski with us using a free ticket.

Claire dropped of Luc with plans to meet with E again later, and we headed up to the mountain.  Heading up the access road, it was right as we approached the Timberline area that we realized our day was going to be a bit different than we’d expected.  The sign was already up indicating that the upper parking lots were full, and that meant that there were a lot of visitors at the mountain today.  Although we could probably have found a spot up in the Village lots from people that were leaving, we decided to park the cars at the Timberline Base, since we’d already been planning to end up down there anyway.  It was about three runs of the shuttle before we were able to get on, but once we did, the boys loved it since it was their first opportunity to ride the Bolton Valley shuttle bus.

“I guess when half the
state owns Subarus,
you’re going to get a
response to such a
promotion.”

As if the need to initiate parking down at Timberline hadn’t been enough of a signal, at the base area, it was immediately obvious that the Subaru/Hyundai promotion was a hit.  I guess when half the state owns Subarus, you’re going to get a response to such a promotion.  The lift queue at the Vista Quad was quite long, and had to be at least 10 minutes.  We decided to take a run on Snowflake, since the queue wasn’t too long, and the snow on the Butterscotch slope looked quite good.  Indeed the snow was quite good, with some powder off to the edges, but it was just too short a run to be waiting 5 to 10 minutes to ski it, so we decided to make the next run down to Timberline.

An image of Dylan skiing powder along the edge of the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan making quick work of the powder out there on Brandywine

From my Timberline explorations yesterday, I knew that there would be plenty of decent skiing even if we just followed out the Timberline Lane traverse to Brandywine, so that’s what we did.  When we got there it was immediately obvious that there were more tracks than yesterday, so it was more challenging to find fresh snow.  Also, folks were finding the skiing a bit tricky, due to the snow composition and coverage.  I have to admit, I could really tell the difference between being on my mid-fats today, and being on my fat skis yesterday.  Typically that difference in powder performance is more subtle, but not today – the fat skis had kept me that little bit higher in the snow yesterday, and that meant minimal interaction with the base or any crust that was sandwiched in between the layers of powder.  Also, with the areas of untracked snow not as vast as yesterday, it limited line choice.  Although the conditions were a bit challenging for E and the boys at times, there were still a lot of great sections of powder, so great turns were made.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Northern Vermont
Even without getting in on the biggest accumulations, the Northern Greens have been doing their thing to the best of their ability.

Back down at the cars, it was mid afternoon, and the combination of lift queues and conditions on Timberline that while OK, certainly didn’t have E and the boys raring to go for more, and that made it an easy decision to just call it a day.  We headed back to the house where E and Claire spent some time working out all the groups for the ski program.  I’m not sure how many extra tickets were sold today for the promotion, but it certainly brought people out.  The fact that it was a nice mild day after the recent cold weather probably played into it as well.  Hopefully they can have some of the other main lifts open for the next one of these promotional days, because that wouldn’t put so much pressure on the Vista Quad.  With the base snow that is out there, all that’s needed is one good synoptic snowstorm to hit the area without going too far south or north and most terrain would be able to open.

Bolton Valley, VT 19DEC2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Twice as Nice ski trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Twice as Nice today

I stopped in at Bolton Valley this morning to check out the snow and make some turns, eager to see how the Timberline area was doing.  Up to this point I’ve only skied the main mountain, because the snowpack down at the Timberline elevations was just a bit too marginal.  The snowstorm we just had over the weekend was fairly significant though, with close to a foot of snow for the ski resorts in Northern Vermont, and with additional small rounds of fluffy snow topping things off this week, I suspected that Timberline would finally be ready for some turns.

Temperatures have warmed up significantly from where they’ve been over the past several days, and this morning’s valley temperatures in the mid 20s F were very nice.  The shot of snow that we picked up this morning in association with a passing warm front had essentially dissipated by the time I was driving up to the hill, and I found just cloudy skies as I geared up for my ascent.

“…I set the AMPerages
together alpine style, then
schussed the next 30-40
feet of the headwall before
dropping into Tele turns in
the fluff along the skier’s
left of the trail.”

Right off the bat as I began my ascent behind the Timberline Lodge, I started probing the snow to get a sense of the depths and consistency.  I found roughly 10 inches of powder in undisturbed areas just above the lodge, and it was indeed nice, but it only had a bit of a density gradient to it.  The more surprising thing was that there was little if any base below the powder.  There must not have been much snow down at those low elevations before the weekend storm.  I followed a nice skin track that took the typical route, wrapping around the lodge and heading up the skier’s right of Twice as Nice.  I saw some great-looking powder along the skier’s left of the trail which is more protected from the sun, but there continued to be little if any base along the skin track.  That lack of base had me concerned, but once I was above 2,000’ it started to kick in even in the sunnier areas.  I was getting snow depth readings of roughly a foot above that level, and there were at least a couple inches of dense base snow.  At the mid station I looked toward the upper section of terrain and could tell that with the wind, it wasn’t really going to be worth the additional hike.  I traversed across to assess the descent options, and although the tracks on Twice as Nice looked good, Spell Binder looked a bit better.

An image showing a snow depth of 17 inches along the skier's left of the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI switched over for the descent and side-stepped cautiously down the first 20 feet or so of the headwall.  I could tell that the snow was thin in that area due to wind scouring, but below that it was much better.  I had enough confidence in the coverage to ski the next section of the headwall, but I wanted maximum floatation just to be safe, so I set the AMPerages together alpine style, then schussed the next 30-40 feet of the headwall before dropping into Tele turns in the fluff along the skier’s left of the trail.  It felt like the perfect melding of alpine and Telemark technique, and dropping the knee into those lower turns was oh so good.  I did a couple of depth checks along the edge during the descent, and generally found at least a foot of snow, with up to 17 inches in one of the deeper spots.  The powder there had that fantastic density gradient that delivers great turns.  As is often the case, the Timberline area has managed to deliver some of the finest turns of the season so far.

An image of old ski tracks in powder snow on the Spell Binder Trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Gorgeous Timberline fluff

Down at the car, I ran into Brian, one of our graduate students, who was also catching a morning ski constitutional before heading to work.  He’d taken Twice as Nice, and said that he had to be on his guard at times.  He’s bigger than me, and his skis weren’t quite as wide as mine, but based on our conversation I think I’d give Spell Binder the nod on conditions.  Temperatures warmed up to around the freezing mark down in the valley, and that felt nice.  We’d supposedly got a big storm, or series of storms coming through the area this weekend, and although there’s going to be a lot of mixed precipitation, it could be a good snowpack builder as well.  We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT 15JAN2012

An image of ski tracks in nice powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the great powder on Spell Binder today

Our late week storm brought plenty of powder to Northern Vermont, but it brought ample cold air as well.  With some help from hand and foot warmers, the boys dealt with it pretty well yesterday at Bolton, where temperatures ranged through the single digits, but this morning was even colder.  We bottomed out at -3.6 F at the house for our coldest reading of the season to date, and up in the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100’ I watched the thermometer sit around -10 F for much of the morning.  Naturally, the temperature had me thinking of a backcountry outing instead of sitting still riding lifts in the frozen air, and although I haven’t been out on Bolton’s backcountry network yet this season, our observations from yesterday suggest that base depths are more than ready, even in the middle elevations.  As I prepared my ski gear however, another option entered my head.  Despite what appears to be fairly decent coverage, the resort has yet to open up Timberline, so the slopes are just sitting there loaded with all the fresh powder.  The beautiful tracks we saw in the powder at Timberline yesterday made the thought of skiing there hard to resist, and since it shouldn’t be too long before lift-served skiing starts up over there, I switched my plans to a hike of Timberline.

A temperature plot showing the cold temperatures on Janunary 15, 2012 at the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Watching the cold temperatures up at Bolton Valley today

Around midday, E headed off with Ty to Kenny’s house – Kenny was having a sleepover for his birthday, and Ty was part of it.  Dylan and I hung around the house since I wasn’t planning to bring him out in the subzero temperatures, and it was well into the afternoon before E got back and I could get on my way up to the mountain.  The temperature in the Bolton Valley Village was on the verge of getting into positive numbers though, so that was looking very good – temperatures around the 0 F mark are really quite nice for ascending in winter.

“…I found 15 inches of
powder on Spell Binder,
and the turns were blissfully
bottomless and smooth.”

Indeed the car thermometer gave a reading of exactly 0 F at the elevation of the Timberline Base (~1,500’) when I arrived.  I didn’t have time to dawdle, since it was already after 4:00 P.M. and the sky was darkening by the time I started my ascent, but it looked like I’d have a good opportunity to see the winter sunset from the westward facing slopes of the Timberline area.  I saw a couple of ski tracks at the very bottom of Doug’s Woods, and the coverage certainly looked passable.  That’s a good sign to see the west-facing slopes skiable down to such a low elevation.  When I probed the snow depths down near the lodge, I found a general 9 to 12 inches of powder above the base snow.  The resort has been grooming the Timberline trails in preparation for their eventual opening, and that meant that there was a nice skin track available on Showtime.  I didn’t get any pictures to do it justice, but it beautifully negotiated the Showtime Headwall and made my ascent very efficient.  I kept checking behind me every few minutes to monitor the sun during the ascent, and I was able to catch it just before it went down to produce a nice shot of the sunset.

An image of late winter light illuminating ski tracks at the bottom of the "Doug's Woods" glade at Bolton Valley Ski Area in Vermont
Tracks have started to appear in Doug’s Woods.

Available daylight pretty much negated continuing past the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station, so I stopped my ascent there and poked around to see which route had the best powder for the descent.  There were a good number of tracks on Twice as Nice, so I settled on Spell Binder.  It was hard to go wrong though with all the new snow – I found 15 inches of powder on Spell Binder,and the turns were blissfully bottomless and smooth.  The powder we skied yesterday has presumably settled some, but it actually seemed to ski even better today, so perhaps it dried out with the cold temperatures.  Those temperatures don’t seem to be going anywhere either, when I got back down to the car it was 1 F, and we’re looking at lows in the -10 to -20 F range down at the house tonight.  Tomorrow’s looking good though, after the cold start, the temperature should be up around 20 F on the slopes at Stowe.