I was in Montreal yesterday, generally doing more eating that exercising, so I definitely wanted to fit a ski tour into the day today if possible. The weather was good much of the day, with some sun, but plenty of clouds to keep it cool as well, and I made my way up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe.
My initial views from the Bolton Valley Village area didn’t reveal much snow, but one I got moving up the mountainside I could see that there were some good areas of snow around. The Butterscotch Terrain Park has probably the most snow on the lower mountain, but I found Bear Run actually has some decent areas with snow as well. The biggest surprise on the upper mountain was actually Spillway, which had initially looked like it only had a strip of snow left along the skier’s right. Once I got above mid mountain I could see that there was substantial coverage on a lot of the trail.
I hiked up Spillway to where the continuous snow ran out, which was just a bit below the 3,000’ mark, and started my descent from there. Spillway held some of the best areas of corn I found today. There were some sun-cupped areas and a few spots where the snow remained coalesced like ice, but in general the turns were nice in the corn snow. I was actually able to continue all the way down to mid-mountain on snow, and then even a bit farther on Beech Seal before I had to throw the skis back on my pack and hike down.
Based on my initial sights, I was thinking this was likely the last weekend for reasonably plentiful skiing at Bolton Valley, but based on what I saw, I think there might be some snow around next weekend depending on how the temperatures run this week.
There’s a frontal boundary spread across New England right now, and up here in Northern Vermont we’re on the cold side. That’s given us a decent amount of fresh snow today, especially in the mountains where more than a half foot has fallen in some cases. Bolton Valley was already reporting 4 to 6 inches of new snow as of mid-afternoon, so Ty and I decided to head up to check it out and grab some dinner for the family.
“…the snow surface was dense, buttery powder with a really good shot of resurfacing liquid equivalent in it.”
It was surprisingly quiet for such a spectacular night skiing evening, but I suspect concerns about the roads kept a lot of people home. There’s definitely been some mixed precipitation around, but the precipitation was mostly snow while we were up at the mountain. Flakes varied from granular types all the way up to massive 1” aggregates, and the snow surface was dense, buttery powder with a really good shot of resurfacing liquid equivalent in it. Tonight looked like it was one of those evenings where weather conditions were coming together to make for some great turns under the lights, and indeed that was the case – the temperature was right around 32, there was no wind, and there was lots of fresh snow.
Ty and I focused on Spillway, and it was great letting those steep turns fall away in the dense powder. I brought my Tele midfats, but I definitely could have gone with the full fats and had a blast. It’s no wonder the skiing felt like there had been such a solid resurfacing; we’re already past ¾” of liquid equivalent with today’s snow down in the valley at our house, and up high they’ve certainly had more.
It was quite a gorgeous day out there today, with valley temperatures up around 60 F. That’s certainly well above average for February, but with such nice weather on a Saturday, Ty and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to catch a few runs in the warm sun. We got up to the mountain in the mid-afternoon timeframe, and our timing was perfect, because just as we were about to load the Vista Quad, Jack caught us and we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon together.
We started off with a couple of runs on Spillway, which is always one of my favorites when we get soft spring snow like today. It’s got that nice steep pitch, and as usual there was that ridge of snow along the skier’s right that provides some especially nice turns. We rode the Snowflake Chair to go for a run in the Butterscotch Terrain Park, but for some reason the rope was up and the park was closed. We still got in some nice cruising on Sprig O’ Pine, and then headed back up for some steep turns on Hard Luck. Turns were also great there, very similar to what we found on Spillway.
The wind was really picking up at the end of the day when we headed back to the car, and we’ve had a storm come through with some rain that changed to snow this evening. Temperatures are going to drop back to more seasonable levels tomorrow, so it will probably be a day for the groomed terrain unless the mountains pick up substantial snow tonight.
While we’ve still yet to get hit by a big synoptic snowstorm in Northern Vermont this season, another Alberta Clipper system came through the area today, and it began delivering a reasonable shot of fresh snow, just like the one last weekend. With the snow just starting up this morning, we waited until mid afternoon to head up to the mountain for skiing. By that point we’d picked up a couple of inches down at the house, and the snow was continuing at a good clip. Today also offered to bonus of being a somewhat warm reprieve from the arctic air, with temperatures around 20 F in the valley and up on the mountain at Bolton Valley.
I dropped E and the boys off at Snowflake, parked the car, and got my gear together fast enough to catch them on their second run. Ty was raving about the snow on Butterscotch in general, but E didn’t quite find the overall setup quite as nice as what we found on Monday. She said that the middle of the trail was good with the new snow, but the powder on the skier’s right didn’t cover and even out the subsurface in quite the same way that it had last time. Those subtleties aside, you could tell that there been another nice addition to the snowpack, and the snow from this storm was definitely denser than what we received on Monday. In fact, although it was still fairly dry at ~7% H2O according to my analyses from down our house, that’s still roughly twice as dense as the last storm. The snow certainly had some heft that helped cover up the old surfaces, but it wasn’t going to be flying in your face the way the snow from the last storm did.
“…the snow from this storm was definitely denser than what we received on Monday.”
Heading next to the Vista Quad, we took Spillway, finding some good turns, but again a notch below what we’d found on Monday. Ty worked the terrain with fresh snow off to the skier’s right, but wasn’t interested in setting up any photos; clearly the snow couldn’t quite inspire him the way the last storm did. E wasn’t feeling comfortable enough on her Teles today to stick tight to the soft snow on the edge of Spillway, so spending more time toward the middle of the trail, she had to deal with some icy, high-traffic spots. As we descended toward Mid Mountain, the boys toured us through some nooks and crannies of access roads in order to ski under a big bent over tree. That was a bit of a slow route, but you could get a feel for just how much snow was starting to build on the natural terrain. We checked out Beech Seal on the lower mountain – I hit the usual soft snow on the skier’s right and found it performing right in line with the other terrain we’d skied. The skiing was great, just a notch below the last storm. I hadn’t seen where Ty had gone on Beech Seal, but it turns out he’d snuck over into the little lane of terrain on the right beyond the racing fence. He gets a kick out of being over there, and of course he’s probably one of the only people who can comfortably fit in there and loves the fact that the powder is untouched.
With Swing finally open, we next headed over toward Wilderness to sample some of the powder over there. Checking on the powder depth at 2,775’ on Lower Crossover like I’d done on Monday, I got a reading of 9 inches. That’s actually an inch lower than what I recorded on Monday, but that’s not surprising after several days of settling and now some denser snow on top. Most importantly, the net content of liquid in the snowpack has increased again with this storm. Every storm continues to bolster the snowpack over there, and we definitely had our best run of the year on Turnpike. It’s really been our go-to trail this season when snow has been lean, and it was just a heck of a lot of fun with all the new powder.
Although we still had daylight, the night skiing lights continued to come on as the resort shifted into night skiing mode. It was 4:15 PM, and I had to be in Burlington for dinner, but we decided to catch a final run off the Mid Mountain Chair – Ty really wanted another chance to ski his line behind the racing fence on Beech Seal. The snow continued to pour down, now with some larger flakes more reminiscent of upslope, and as we skied along I commented to E on how conditions were almost of the type we like for night skiing – fresh snow, no wind, and relatively warm. For those that went out last night to the slopes, I’d say they chose a good one. Ty got to ski his line, and Dylan followed along as well, continuing on to the second fence where the line ends in a bunch of brush. Dylan extricated himself easily though, and came out smiling.
We skied right back down to the access road through the trees near the Wentworth Condos, which is always a nice way to end the day. I’d say the mountain had picked up at least 2 to 4 inches by the time we’d left, and a half foot would be a reasonable way to expect the event to finish off. We’ve got a chance for another Alberta Clipper on Monday, and a steady diet of these is certainly a nice way to go until a bigger storm comes through to really give us a big jump in base depths.
When Bolton Valley reported another four inches of snow this morning, we knew that we’d be heading up to make some turns. That amount of snow, on top of the four to five inches that I’d found when I visited the mountain yesterday, was definitely going to bring the skiing up a notch. As it turned out, it brought the skiing up several notches and turned it into what was for us, unquestionably the best ski day of the 2014 calendar year. That’s actually not saying much with the way the past few weeks had gone in terms of weather around here, but when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.
“…when Ty gets talking about having to ski blind because there’s too much powder in his face, it’s a sign that conditions are on the mend.”
The approach of an arctic front brought an inch and a half of snow to the house overnight, but as the cold air continued to filter in, more snow was wrung out, and we received snowfall of various intensities through the morning. Snow was falling up at the mountain as well, and with updates on the website indicating that new trails were opening, it sounded like conditions were getting better and better. While we had initially started to discuss both skinning and lift-served options for today’s outing, the opening of new terrain sealed the deal in favor of the latter; we knew that meant that the recent accumulations had resulted in substantial changes in coverage. In the end, with so many additional terrain options opening, it was clearly the right choice.
We finally headed up later in the morning to find the parking lot only about half filled, and after dropping E and the boys off at the base of the Snowflake Chair, I quickly got a great spot to park down near the end of one of the top rows with help from one of the parking attendants. I’d spoken with him before, and as I got my gear on, we chatted about how nice it was to have some consistent temperatures back – the past few weeks have been a real roller coaster with systems passing though off to the west, and he said that he had to pack a ridiculous amount of clothes each day just to keep up with the weather. In any event, winter was definitely in place, and as I look around at the falling snow and ski vehicles covered in white, it was a much more familiar look for the Northern Greens in winter.
By the time I got to the base of Snowflake, E and the boys had already completed a couple of runs, and Ty was raving about the conditions. They’d taken Butterscotch, and Ty said that there was powder off to the sides, but even if you didn’t go into the powder, the conditions were great. We hit one more run there, and then boarded the Vista Quad to hit some steeper terrain. We spent the midday hours trying out the steepest available terrain like Spillway, Hard Luck, and then Alta Vista. Not surprisingly, there were some firm surfaces on the middle areas of the trails where manmade snow predominated, but off to the sides where traffic was low, the snow was generally softer and there was plenty of chopped up powder and even untracked powder at times. The skier’s right of Spillway held a lot of great snow over the edge of the trail where the terrain fell away.
After a few runs, E was getting a bit cold, and Dylan was ready for a break, but Ty was just too jazzed to go in. He wanted to stay out with me and shoot some photos, so I told him that I had two specific runs in mind. We kicked things off with a run down Spillway, where he dissected all the potential powdery lines off to the skier’s right, coming up with his own lines and photos that he wanted me to shoot. He was one fire on that steep terrain, taking on everything, even the occasional massive death cookie that got sent that way from the groomers. On our next run we headed over toward Wilderness. Although Swing was roped off, closing the upper entrances, another track was available off Sherman’s that gave us some lower access. I checked the snow depth as we headed over, and found 10 inches of settled powder. The Wilderness Lift Line was in nice shape with plenty of coverage and plenty of powder, and Ty managed some nice face shots.
We stopped in the lodge for some lunch with E and Dylan, and then brought Dylan out for one more run in the powder on Wilderness. They boys got some deep turns on Cougar, followed by a delightful cruise through the powder on Turnpike. Actually, we had to use the tracks of others at times on Turnpike, because the powder is now getting almost too deep for some of the pitches there. The snow had let up, and the sun came out for that final run to really punctuate the day. The coming week is looking quite cold, with single digits for high temperatures, but at least the snow is going to be well preserved for the near future. It was interesting to note what Powderfreak said in the Ski Tread at American Weather – that this week we just managed for the first time in 2014 to have an average snowfall week here in the Northern Greens. With that being the case, an above average week should be really fun.
We’ve had some decent temperatures to get the corn snow cycle going over the past week, and this weekend has been much better than last weekend in terms of warming up the snow on the slopes. Yesterday was pretty nice in terms of weather, but today was even warmer, and the sky was crystal clear. In terms of the mountain snowpack, Stowe is looking great down to pretty low elevations based on Powderfreak’s latest pictures, but I know the snow at Bolton Valley isn’t going to last as long due to its western exposure and late-day heating. With that in mind, I decided to make it a Bolton tour today, and since I haven’t been up since my April 14th tour at Timberline, it was a good time to check on the snow situation at the local hill.
“I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal…”
I headed up in the late afternoon, with valley temperatures around 70 F. There’s no visible snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road until one reaches the 1,500’ elevation, where there’s a big patch at the base of the Timberline area. There’s really not much snow visible on the Timberline trails below the 2,250’ elevation though, and I suspect most of what is there is leftover manmade snow. After passing Timberline, I next saw natural snow appearing a bit below the 2,000’ elevation as I approached the Village. Temperatures were in the low 60s F up at the main base area, and on the slopes in that area there’s snow right down to the main base lodge, but it’s not continuous on all trails. I had to walk a couple hundred feet in the flats above the lodge before I could put on my skins and ascend Beech Seal. From there on up though, the snow is basically continuous on Beech Seal, Sprig O’ Pine, Sherman’s Pass, and Spillway right to the Vista Summit. I took the Sherman’s Pass ascent, and there is some pretty dirty snow in protected areas that haven’t seen much sun. That sun was glorious today though, and I definitely brought along the sunscreen because we’re talking about an August-like sun angle now. On the upper half of the mountain, there’s actually a good mix of manmade and natural snow options, although the trails that received manmade snow are the ones that will really give you those continuous runs with good snow coverage. I stopped my ascent at the Vista Summit right beyond the top of Spillway Lane, ripped off my skins, and got into descent mode. There was just the slightest breeze, but the wind turbine was making good use of it and spinning along.
There are some sun cups starting to form that make the snow surface uneven in spots, but Spillway has smooth options just about everywhere so you can get in some really nice turns. Spillway’s steep pitch felt good as usual, and the snow is indeed nice after this week’s corn cycling. I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal; perhaps the lower elevation let it warm a bit more than what’s up on Spillway. In any event, the softening was far superior to what we experienced last weekend on either Saturday or Sunday – those temperatures were just a bit to cool to get things to where I found them today at Bolton. At the bottom of my run, I took off my skis and threw them back on my pack to walk through the couple big broken patches of snow in the flats above the lodge, but you can essentially ski all of the ~1,000’ of vertical on the main mountain for now. There’s no snow or even cool temperatures in the forecast this week; it looks fairly mild and sunny, so I’m not sure what the situation will be on the mountain next weekend. There will still be snow for skiing, but I don’t think it will be continuous with the melting that could take place in the sunny, warm afternoons we look to have on tap in the coming days.
Our most recent storm brought up to 18 inches of snow to the Green Mountains, and while it was certainly much denser than Champlain Powder™, it provided a solid resurfacing to most areas. Based on the conditions we’ve had in the Northern Greens, it was hardly necessary, but a slope refresher is usually good, and this stuff is going to keep that mountain snowpack growing. I was busy in the morning, but with E and the boys still on break they came and picked me up in Burlington so that we could get in some skiing in the new snow. E and Ty had been tossing around the idea of working on a report that Ty had to do for school, and they ultimately decided that they had to use some of the afternoon to get a jump on that. So, it was just Dylan and I that initially headed up to Bolton Valley for some afternoon turns, while E and Ty planned to join us later if the work went smoothly.
In this area, snow has been falling all the way to the valley floors with the current storm cycle, but it’s still been fairly warm and the lowest elevations haven’t been accumulating snow except when temperatures drop overnight. Today it was fairly warm as well, with temperatures around 40 F or so at our house when we headed up to Timberline. We found that the snow there was already wet and spring-like, and I knew we’d be heading to the upper mountain to get to the best powder for turns. Indeed the snow was much better up high – at the Vista Summit above 3,000’ it was still somewhat dense, but dry and ready to support some good powder turns.
Being well into the afternoon, I decided to show Dylan some terrain off Ricker Mountain; we’d explored it before, but I doubt he’d remember that. The snow did get somewhat thick as we headed down in elevation, even just down to 2,800’. Dylan didn’t seem to have a problem, but if I stopped for extended periods I’d have snow starting to stick to the bottom of my skis. Fortunately, it would be cleaned off as soon as I started moving. We continued our run by making our way over to Wilderness, and that’s where we found some of our best powder of the day. Although we were lower in elevation than we’d been before, the snow Wilderness Lift Line was holding up quite well.
Our next run was a trip to the Villager Trees, and I gave Dylan his choice of line – he wanted the “Heaven” chute that he’d enjoyed the other day, so Dylan got first tracks through there. His run wasn’t without some adventure though – at one point he caught an edge and went flying head over heels. He was OK, but it took him a couple of minutes to realize that. Dylan wanted to catch a run on Adam’s Solitude, but once we got down to the lowest Timberline elevations and saw how sticky the snow was getting, I decided that we could hold off and catch it another time.
While we were in the lodge getting a snack for Dylan, I saw that I had a new phone message. It was from E, and she said that they had finished Ty’s work and were thinking of coming up for some night skiing. She also recalled that because it was Family Week at the resort, they had No Strings Marionette Company putting on a show up at the main lodge. We all planned to meet up, watch the show, and then get in some evening skiing under the lights.
The marionette show was excellent as expected – No Strings Marionette Company had spent a week in residence at Ty and Dylan’s school, so we knew their work. Ty had brought his Telemark skis and Dylan switched over to his, so they spent the evening working on their Telemark turns. After a couple runs, we snuck in dinner at Fireside Flatbread, and I was really surprised that the boys hadn’t had enough skiing after that. There was some really nice snow out there though, with the very best of it in the highest elevations. Dylan and I had noticed that the line of transition to notably wetter snow was about 200’ above the main base. The snow below that level was still OK, especially with skier traffic, but it was above that level that the new snow was driest and skiing really well. We started out with a typical training run on the Sherman’s Pass route, but Ty was eyeballing the impressively steep expanse of Spillway as we went by. I commented that Spillway was too steep for him to be working on Telemark turns, but of course Ty would have none of that logic. I acquiesced with the insistence that Ty practice Telemark turns even on the steep terrain, and by the next run we were dropping our way down the steeps of Spillway. The snow was somewhat packed in the center of the trail, and even starting to develop a few moguls. However, the sides, especially the skier’s right where the terrain is somewhat invisible as it falls away from view, held a lot of deep loose snow that was either still sitting there from the storm or thrown their by the work of other skiers. That terrain falling away from view also equates to it falling away from the assistance of the night skiing lights, and that adds quite a different dimension to the experience. With only the marginal assistance of the lights from the other side of the trail, it was quite a hoot making steep Telemark turns in down Spillway amidst copious chopped up powder. I found some beautifully soft lines of there, and it was a reminder of how even semi-packed snow can be a lot of fun. The boys were clearly having enough fun as well, because they wanted to keep doing more runs – we kept going until the lifts shut down.