Bolton Valley, VT 12MAY2020

An image of a motorcycle covered in fresh snow from a mid-May snowstorm in the village parking lot at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow after a mid-May snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Close to a foot of fresh powder fell in the higher elevations around Northern Vermont thanks to this latest mid-May snowstorm.

This latest winter storm sort of snuck up on us.  Our local forecast at home did indicate the chance for a touch of snow during the overnight, but I was well into the wee hours before we’d expected to see anything. Yesterday afternoon though, it was pouring rain down here in the Winooski Valley, and with temperatures in the 30s F, it seemed suspiciously cool.  Around 5:00 P.M. I decided to check on a couple of the local webcams at the resorts, and was surprised to see that it wasn’t just snowing at elevation, but in line with the pouring rain down in the valleys, intense snowfall was occurring in the mountains.  It looked like the snow line was somewhere around 2,000’.

Within an hour the snow line had dropped all the way down to our house at 500’.  It went from pouring rain to pounding flakes very quickly, and it was obvious that the intensity of the precipitation hadn’t changed; there was still a lot of liquid falling from the sky.  When stepping out on the back deck into the snowfall to get accumulation measurements, I was immediately soaked if I didn’t put on some sort of waterproof coat.  Over the next couple of hours, I saw a number of reports and images of lower elevations snows from around the area in the New England forum at the American Weather discussion board, including Jericho, Barre, Stowe, and Hyde Park, which had already picked up 3.5 inches.  Up near the top of Lincoln Peak at Sugarbush, their snow cam showed that they’d already picked up 8 inchesEven Powderfreak seemed to be caught off guard by the impressive accumulations.

“I’d say fat skis were the way to go today, and indeed turns up high were bottomless and smooth, with little need to worry about hitting the base.”

By 8:00 P.M. we’d picked up about an inch of snow at the house, and with continued snowfall in the valleys, it seemed very likely that the mountains were going to have a solid new accumulation by the time the night was over.

In the Bolton Valley area this morning, there were accumulations all the way down to the base of the access road at 340’, and the accumulations slowly increased as one headed up to the resort.  The snow depths started to increase more rapidly around the elevation of the resort Village, with 3 to 4 inches there, and those totals doubled by the 2,500’ elevation.  Essentially all the snow above 1,500’ was winter-dry, and temperatures were still in the 20s F this morning from probably 1,500’ on up.  I’ll have to look back at all the April and May storms we’ve had this season, but this was some of the driest/wintriest snow I can recall in the past few storms.

An image showing a skin track through fresh snow along snow-covered evergreens after a mid-May snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A skin track heads up along powder-covered evergreens at Bolton Valley after this recent May snowstorm.

I’ve got the elevation profile for new snow accumulations below, and as you can see, the largest increases in depths indeed came from a bit below 2,000’ up to about the 2,500’ range before the rate of increase tapered down:

340’:  0.5”
1,000’:  1”
1,500’:  2”
2,000’:  3-4”
2,500’:  7-8”
2,800’:  8-9”
3,100’:  9-10”

The storm was probably mostly snow above 2,500’, and with 1.21” of L.E. down here at the house, it was a decent resurfacing above 2,000’, and a very solid, “no worries” type of resurfacing above 2,500’.  I’d say fat skis were the way to go today, and indeed turns up high were bottomless and smooth, with little need to worry about hitting the base.  Indeed, midwinter-style powder is always appreciated in May.

Bolton Valley, VT 28APR2020

An image taken from Interstate 89 of Mount Mansfield in Vermont covered with snow after a late-April snowstorm
An image of sunshine and snow on evergreens after a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sun came out and offered brilliant views of the fresh snow today at Bolton Valley.

It cooled back down overnight, and with continued snowfall, I suspect the snow levels dropped based on the fact that it was down into the 30s F at our place in the valley.  I would have liked to see where accumulations stood as of this morning, but I had a car maintenance appointment, so I couldn’t stop by the Village until about midday.  All that new snow at elevation made for some impressive views as I drove on I-89 returning from Burlington, and I stopped at Williston Southbound Information Center in I-89 to get a few images of the Green Mountains.

 

An image of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont taken from the Southbound Information Center on Interstate 89 near Williston after a late-April snowstorm
Looking out from I-89 in Williston today toward the snowy slopes of Bolton Valley

By the time I got up to Bolton today I’d say accumulations were generally back to what I reported yesterday, so accumulations were really only beginning to appear up near the Bolton Valley Village elevations.  Temperatures had risen well above freezing by that point as well, so the snow was getting quite wet and dense.  As the brilliant late-April sunshine appeared, it felt downright hot out as I was touring.  The sun created fantastic views of the fresh snow gleaming white on all the trees, and the views had an almost midwinter feel.  The temperatures and sunshine had the snow pretty quickly melting off the trees on aspects facing toward the sun, so the sound of dripping water and crashing piles of snow was the most prominent thing accompanying me on my tour.

With the new snow getting quite wet by the time I was out, the descent portion of the tour was pretty much just a free ride down with a few turns here and there, but there weren’t really notable powder turns like we had yesterday.  It was of course still great to be out in the fresh snow getting exercise on such a beautiful day.

We’re almost on to May now, but it does sound like snow potential is going to stay around for a couple of weeks with the weather pattern, so we’ll see what Mother Nature brings us.

Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2020

An image of the Wilderness double chairlift taken during a ski tour during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow on the trees during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our current late-season snowstorm has been bringing a lot of snow to the higher elevations, with already over a foot of fresh powder on the mountain as of this afternoon.

We’ve got another late winter storm taking place in the area, with fairly high snow levels up around 2,000’.  As of this morning, the Bolton Valley live webcams were suggesting new accumulations of an inch or two at 2,100’, and perhaps a couple more at 3,150’.  The Vista Summit new snow depths were hard to judge though, and it was still snowing, so I planned to head up in the afternoon to check out the scene and get some exercise of my schedule allowed for it.

Although I haven’t seen it being an issue at Bolton Valley, we’ve purposefully stayed off the mountain for the past couple of weeks as we learned that the local ski resorts have asked people to refrain from touring because of potential crowding at base areas.  As of today though, with the strong positive strides Vermont has made in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through its social distancing, Governor Scott took another notable step in relaxing the restrictions.  The new order states that, “Expanding on Addendum 10, outdoor businesses, construction operations and recreation maintenance work may operate with a maximum of five total workers per location. (Effective April 27).  It’s only outdoor work that is being phased in at this point, but that makes sense to ramp that activity up first where people are not in the close confines of interior spaces.  With respect to the pandemic, we’ve been fairly lucky here in Vermont with our small total population, and relatively low population density, so the spread of the virus appears to be on the decline locally.  Modeling was already reflecting the positive trends here as of 10 days ago, with Vermont being one of only four states that could potentially begin loosening social distancing measures as early as May 4th.

“…the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.”

From down here in this part of the Winooski Valley, even this morning at the coldest part of the day, you wouldn’t know that there was a solid amount of snow falling with this storm if it weren’t for some of the resources like Bolton’s webcams.  I don’t think I’ve seen a flake here at 500’, and even our local hills surrounding the valley that top out around 2,000’, don’t have signs of white on them.

An image of the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort at an elevation of approximately 2,000 feet above sea level with some fresh snow from a late-April snowstorm.
Accumulations were just starting to take hold today in the Bolton Valley Village Elevations around 2000′.

Seeing what was on the webcams though, it was obvious that snow was falling and accumulating at least down to the elevation of the Bolton Valley Village.  My trip up the Bolton Valley access road allowed me to get a sense for what was going on with the accumulations.  I knew the snow line had to be way up there, but I just kept climbing and climbing, and there were no signs of new snow anywhere.  The first signs of old snow from the remaining winter snowpack were around 1,400’, but even at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, the precipitation was all rain.  The rain didn’t even change over to snow until about 1,900’, just before I reached the Bolton Valley Village.  That’s also right about where I saw the first accumulations of new snow taking hold.  The snow accumulations picked up quickly with 1-2” at the main parking lots at 2,000’ and 2-3” at 2,100’ near the base of the main lifts.

An image of ski trail signs and trees covered with snow during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
Dense snow was sticking to everything with today’s storm, and accumulations quickly grew as I ascended on my ski tour.

The snow was dense, but not really wet, and the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.  Thankfully there were some skin tracks to use, because as the depth of new snow surpassed a foot, breaking trail was tough in many areas.  The skiing was definitely challenging in the dense snow, akin to the snow from that storm that Erica and I encountered when we skied at Schweitzer Mountain Resort back in 2001.  This storm didn’t drop four feet of that dense stuff all at once, but I’d brought my mid-fat Telemark skis because I hadn’t anticipated the depths I found, and my fat skis would have certainly been the better tool for the conditions.  Some of the best turns I had on my mid-fats today were actually in the middle elevations around Five Corners, where the snow depths were still more than plentiful for bottomless turns, but not so deep that they pushed your skis around with strong resistance.

Here’s the full accumulations profile for this storm as of ~5:00 P.M. based on what I saw up to the Village and beyond.  It gives a pretty good sense for the elevation ranges with the largest jumps in accumulation, but on average it looks like once accumulations took hold, they increased by more than an inch per 100’ of elevation gain:

340’:  0”
500’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,500’: 0”
1,900’:  0-1“
2,000’:  1-2”
2,100’:  2-3”
2,300’:  4-5”
2,500’:  8-9”
2,750’:  11-13”
3,000’:  13-14”
3,100’:  14-15”

An image of snow falling at the base of the Snowflake lift during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
The snow was still pouring down at the base of the Snowflake Lift when I was leaving after my tour today.

It was still dumping at the base when I left, and the radar has shown continued precipitation tonight, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see those numbers increase a bit more by tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 11APR2020

An image of Erica and Dylan skiing powder together during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With additional snowfall overnight, depths of new snow on the mountain today were hitting a foot or more, and Dylan was making quick work of the fresh powder riding Mom’s fat Telemark skis.

Although I headed out on yesterday afternoon’s ski tour alone because I was unsure of just how good the snow was going to be, my concerns turned out to be quite unfounded.  With 4-5” of fresh snow at Village elevations, and 8-9” up top, the power skiing was already good to go… and Mother Nature was only making it better.  Yesterday evening, the upslope snow continued to crash into the spine of the Greens, and as temperatures came down, we began to pick up accumulations in the valleys again.  With the snowfall anticipated to continue overnight at all elevations, it was definitely going to be worth getting the family out for a tour.

A close-up, wide-angle image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontMorning revealed some additional snow accumulation at our house at 500’ in the Winooski Valley, and as we climbed the road up toward Bolton Valley we could see that the snow levels had indeed come down compared to what I’d seen on my tour yesterday.  After whatever settling occurred since that point, total accumulations at 2,000’ in the Village were now up to roughly 8”.  We topped out at around 2,800’ on today’s tour, and accumulations are a foot plus from there on up.  The elevation profile from yesterday’s tour is updated below with the addition of today’s total new snow depth numbers, which are in bold below:

340’: 0” –> 0”
600’: —–> T
900’: T –> ½”
1,000’: ½-1” –> ½-1”
1,500’: 2” –> 5”
2,000’: 4-5” –> 8”
2,500’: 7” –> 9-10”
2,800’: 12”
3,000’: 8-9” –> 12”+

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E said that she really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the skiing today – it was certainly the type of snow where you could just set yourself on autopilot and go.

So with depths of new snow hitting a foot or more in the higher elevations, and snow continued to fall during our tour as well, the skiing was of course even better than yesterday.  Indeed, the snow was deeper and drier, and the turns were even more bottomless and effortless.  We saw a few other skiers out there on the slopes, but traffic was quite light and fresh tracks were in great supply.  I gave Dylan my Canon EOS 30D with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens, so we had a couple of cameras available to document the outing, and it was great to be out with the family.  Ty was working in the morning, but he would definitely had been there if he was free.

Bolton Valley, VT 10APR2020

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Bolton Outlaw trail after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fresh snow from an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the current storm ongoing, a trip to the higher elevations revealed that there’s already been a solid coating of fresh snow put down

As the forecasts have been hinting at over the past several days, a late season winter storm has moved into the area as we close out the week.  The forecasts have been suggesting the potential for a foot or more of snow along the spine of the Northern Greens, and as is common in these late season events, substantially lower accumulations were expected upon descent down into the valleys.

While the initial stages of this storm were focused in New Hampshire and Maine, producing more than a half foot of snow at relatively low elevations, the more potent part of the system for our area was expected to be the upslope precipitation on the back side of the storm.  The precipitation at our house at 500’ elevation down in the Winooski Valley had largely been rain for this event, but this morning we began to get some snow and a bit of accumulation.

The snow really struggled to accumulate in the valleys today, but up in the mountains it was a different situation.  By midafternoon as I checked on the Bolton Valley live webcams I’d say there was already an inch or two at 2,100’ in the Village.  For the local mountains, the slightly lower temperatures had definitely helped promote accumulations today relative to yesterday, where you could see the new snow down at the main base kind of accumulate and melt back to expose areas of old snow.  Those areas of snow were pretty well covered up this afternoon.  From images shown by the Vista Peak cam, it was clear that there had been at least a few inches of snow up at 3,150’, but it was hard to get a detailed sense for the new snow due to the winds.

What I’d seen from the webcams by the afternoon was certainly enough to get me to head up to the mountain for an exploratory tour, but I wasn’t quite sure enough of conditions to entice the rest of the family to go.

At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at roughly 340’, there were no signs of snow accumulation, but right around 900’ you could see the first traces of white, and they quickly jumped up by the time you hit the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign at ~1,000’.  There were a couple of inches of new accumulation at the Timberline Base, and continuing on up to the Village. I found a solid 4-5” in the parking lots.  Heading farther upward with my tour in the Wilderness area revealed the following elevation profile with respect to storm totals:

340’: 0”
900’: T
1,000’: ½-1”
1,500’: 2”
2,000’: 4-5”
2,500’: 7”
3,000’: 8-9”

Right near the start of my ascent on Lower Turnpike, a skier cam swishing by through the powder on his descent and shouted “Don’t head up, it’s not worth it!”, but I laughed in reply because it was obvious he was being sarcastic.  The turns looked fantastic and belied his remark even down at that elevation with a nice 5-6” of medium-weight powder.

An image of the Wilderness Chairlift with a fresh coating a of April snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The chairs at the bottom of the Wilderness Lift revealing a fresh coating of snow.

Indeed, despite this being a late season storm, the snow wasn’t really wet at all out there today (at least where I was touring in the 2,000’+ range).  It was reasonably dense and offered plenty of bottomless turns, but certainly not unlimited bottomless turns on all the steepest pitches.  We’ve had roughly 1.25” of liquid equivalent from this event down at the house, so there’s certainly a decent amount of L.E. in that snow at elevation where they’ve had little if any rain.  Today I toured up to the Wilderness Summit, then around to Bolton Outlaw and on back down toward Lower Turnpike.  The turns were excellent and there had been very little skier traffic.

It was interesting up on the mountain today because a bit of sunshine appeared near the start of the tour, but by the time I was finishing up it was pounding heavy snow made up of big flakes.  It was in the 20s F and snowing so hard in the Village at that point that it felt like it had to be accumulating down in the valley, but it was an impressive gradient as I headed back down the mountain and the snow still wasn’t really accumulating much below the 1,000’ level.

Stowe, VT 01MAR2020

An image of Ty and Dylan exploring some of the recent deposits of snow left by Winter Storm Odell at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Spruce Peak Village view during our food break at the Great Room Grill this afternoon

For today’s BJAMS session at Stowe, Dylan and I were joined by Viviana, as well as Jessica and Sienna who were back from vacation.  Viviana has progressed to the point where Erica feels confident enough grouping her up with Sienna, and I’d say that was a good choice.

Before session started, Ty, Dylan, and I had the chance to take a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad to get a sampling of the snow.  Winter Storm Odell has wound down now, but it left 40 inches of new snow at Stowe, and the effects were still very obvious.  When the boys and I ventured off piste, we found that the powder skiing was simply amazing, and this was after a day or two of settling.  As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.  It’s hard to say whether it was simply the extra 10 inches, or if the snow at Stowe happened to be just a bit lighter and drier, but the snow quality was indeed at that next level.  We skied the powder along the edge of Slalom Hill, and I just couldn’t believe the quality of it.  And, this was on south-facing terrain down near the 1,500’ base elevations of Spruce Peak.  One can only imagine what the snow quality was like up at 3,000’ on Mansfield.  Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine too much – Powderfreak’s over-the-head white-room photos from the mountain on Friday pretty much told the tale.

“As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.”

We started out today’s session with a warm-up run off the Meadows Quad to make sure Sienna was up to speed after missing a number of ski program days due to illness, and her skiing was in great shape.  She’s skiing notably faster than Viviana, although Sienna isn’t quite progressing toward parallel the way Viviana is.

Based on Erica’s suggestion, we took the whole group over to Mansfield ski Toll Road.  Neither Jessica, Sienna, or Viviana had ever been over there, so it was going to be a whole new adventure for all of them.  We decided to access the Toll Road only from the Mountain Triple Chair, since we were unsure how difficult it would be for the girls to navigate from the top of the Fourrunner Quad to the Toll Road area, and they already had some trepidation about the new environment.  The trip was also exciting in that it meant the use of three new lifts for Viviana, the Over Easy Gondola, the Mountain Triple Chair, and the Toll House Double Chair.

The Toll Road experience turned out to be a great success.  The route was well within everyone’s abilities, and it allowed them to ski a really long, continuous run on a scale that they’d never done before.  The groomed snow quality was excellent, and the quality of the powder off to the sides of the trail was simply amazing.  Dylan was constantly playing around in the powder off piste, and the overall snow conditions were forgiving enough that everyone started to join in.  Jessica was raving about the experience, and that was great to hear.  Not every storm cycle is going to bring 40 inches of snow to set things up like what they experienced today, but they’re all certainly ready for another run over there from the top of the Fourrunner Quad.

An image from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
At the Great Room Grill this afternoon following everyone’s big Toll Road adventure

Although Jessica and Sienna had to leave early, we got in a few more Meadows Quad runs with Viviana, and she got to do more trips through the Easy Street Trees.  She also began to venture into the various little chutes and tracks that are available off the sides of her usual Catwalk run, and navigating those was actually a good challenge with respect to controlling her speed.

There aren’t any huge storms in the forecast for the coming week, but we could have snow from some smaller systems toward the end of the week, so we’ll see how those set us up for next weekend.

Bolton Valley, VT 29FEB2020

An image of Dylan tossing up a spray of powder snow from Winter Storm Odell while skiing the headwall of the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica spraying powder snow from Winter Storm Odell as she skis at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica skiing the bountiful snow from Winter Storm Odell, which has hit Vermont with 30 to 40 inches of snow at the resorts of the Northern Green Mountains

We woke up this morning to reports from the Northern Greens ski resorts touting storm totals of nearly 40 inches at Stowe, and roughly 30 inches everywhere else.  The backside upslope & lake-effect snows from Winter Storm Odell had continued to deliver overnight, and it was still snowing.

We dropped Ty off at work at 8:00 A.M., and the rest of the family headed up to Bolton Valley for some powder runs.  We were still well ahead of the 9:00 A.M. opening of the Vista Quad, so we waited in the lodge and were recognized by a gentleman from Connecticut named Tom who follows the reports on our website.

“We woke up this morning to reports from the Northern Greens ski resorts touting storm totals of nearly 40 inches at Stowe, and roughly 30 inches everywhere else.”

We headed to Devil’s Playground for our first run, since we hadn’t been in there at all yet this season, and there had definitely been enough snow from Odell to support that steep terrain.  As I expected with yesterday being a Friday of the local school break week, the main lines were very much tracked out and packed out.  The only real untracked powder we were finding was by heading off into more obscure spots with tough entries, some traversing, or ending in relatively flat areas.  The skiing was fine, but even with a bit of additional snow overnight, it was very obvious that yesterday was the day for skiing this storm.

An image of Erica skiing powder from Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica floating down one of her favorite lines of the day as we take a run off The Knob

We made our way toward Timberline next, hitting a run off The Knob on the way.  There were some nice long untracked lines in there, with the full storm’s worth of powder that had not been touched.  The powder skiing was definitely quite good, and enough so that it impressed E above and beyond anything else we’d skied to that point.

Dylan creating a wall of powder as he skis fresh snow form Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontAt Timberline we were surprised to find a lot of untracked snow on Tattle Tale, even the steep upper headwall, so we did a couple runs in there before even thinking about going into the trees.  As much as I wanted to bring D and E to check out some of my favorite tree lines in the area, it was too hard to pass up so much quality powder right on trail.  It was really just walk-on skiing from the Timberline Quad with no queue to speak of, and the powder was much more plentiful than what we’d seen off the Vista Quad, so we just stayed there and skied the good snow until we had to leave to pick up Ty.

“There were some nice long untracked lines in there, with the full storm’s worth of powder that had not been touched.”

The skiing had been good enough that D and I actually headed back out for another Timberline session in the late afternoon.  We visited spots that we hadn’t had a chance to check out in the morning like Doug’s Solitude and Adam’s Solitude.  It certainly wasn’t insane over-the-head powder skiing since it’s fairly low elevation and somewhat south-facing, but it was definitely worth getting out for a bit more powder in spots that we’d missed in the morning.  The overall skiing is just really nice with the thorough resurfacing from Winter Storm Odell, so even if one was just out skiing the soft snow on the groomed runs it was a fantastic day to be out.  Another bonus of the late session was of course grabbing some take-out from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to everyone for dinner.

An image of Dylan catching air on his skis in the Doug's Solitude area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan airing it out today on Doug’s Solitude as we head back out to Bolton Valley today for an afternoon skis session

Bolton Valley, VT 28FEB2020

A snowy view of the Timberline Base Lodge during Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder during Winter Storm Odell at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting some fresh turns out in Winter Storm Odell today at Bolton Valley

We’ve had a fairly average to slightly below average ski season here in the Northern Greens thus far.  There have certainly been some decent days, but not much that has really lined up to get me out for earning early turns before work.  That changed today though with the snow that Winter Storm Odell is bringing to the area.  As of this morning we’d picked up over a half foot of snow here at the house, and the local resorts in the Northern Greens had reached accumulations of 20 inches.

I decided to go for a quick tour at Timberline, and arrived to find some fairly steady snowfall continuing.  Temperatures were pretty comfortable, although there was a bit of wind that had filled in the skin track with a few inches of new snow since it was last used.  I knew that elevation was a notable factor with this storm, and indeed that was verified with my measurements of the powder during my tour.  I found about 6 to 7 inches of powder down at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, but 8 to 12 inches up around 2,250’.

An image of the skin track on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The Twice as Nice skin track, disappearing under the new snow of Winter Storm Odell

I headed toward Spell Binder for my descent, and the huge drifts at the top suggested that a lot of snow had fallen.  I dropped in and cut huge, bottomless arcs down the left side of the headwall.  It felt like I’d just covered a third of the trail in seconds.  The 8 to 12 inches of powder I’d found on level ground led to areas as deep as 20 inches in some spots, and there was plenty of density to ensure that I was nowhere near touching the base.  I know I let out some “Woo Hoos” during the descent, not that anyone else was around to hear it.  I spotted a couple vestiges of old tracks that had nearly been obliterated by the wind and continuing snowfall, but as far as I could see I had the only tracks on the trail.

“I dropped in and cut huge, bottomless arcs down the left side of the headwall. It felt like I’d just covered a third of the trail in seconds. The 8 to 12 inches of powder I’d found on level ground led to areas as deep as 20 inches in some spots, and there was plenty of density to ensure that I was nowhere near touching the base.”

The only notable deviation I found in snow quality was below roughly 1,800’ in elevation.  Below that level the powder was notably denser and didn’t ski quite as beautifully as it did higher up.  That’s pretty consistent with the way this storm started up though – for quite a while yesterday the snow line was around 2,000’, so below that point that snow was getting wet.  The storm is continuing today though, with snow levels all the way down to the lowest valley floors, so even that lower elevation snow should be getting covered up with lighter and drier stuff.

I learned today on the Bolton Valley website that skinning at Timberline is actually closed in the 5:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. period for mountain operations.  It was actually around 9:00 A.M. when I was starting my tour late today, so I was after that closed window, but it’s something to consider if you’re planning to earn turns at Timberline.  During that window when Timberline hiking is closed, visitors are supposed to hike on the Wilderness ascent route.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 01FEB2020

An image of the logo on the Bolton Valley Backcountry promotional vehicle at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the C Bear Woods area sign on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
At the top of the C Bear Woods area today in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

I was out on the slopes Sunday at Stowe during the recent protracted snowstorm that affected our area, and I got out again for a bit of night skiing on Thursday, but today was my first chance to really see how things had unfolded in the off piste areas.  I had a feeling that the storm was just what the local backcountry needed though, so I decided to make today’s outing a tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network.

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.

An image of the C Bear Wood area in the backcountry at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting ready for some untracked turns through the C Bear Woods area today.

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.

A map with GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

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.

Stowe, VT 26JAN2020

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Kitchen Wall area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty jumping near the Kitchen Wall area on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty blasting through the snow today up high on Mt. Mansfield

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.

An image of Dylan blasting through powder in the Kitchen Wall area of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan blasting that powder!

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.