I haven’t been out for any turns since our Bruce Trail trip at Stowe on the 24th because we’ve been in one of those periods of spring weather doldrums. There haven’t been any substantial winter storm in the area, but we also haven’t had any of those obviously warm and sunny days that really soften up the snow. Today was warm enough to tempt me out for some turns at Bolton Valley though.
We were relatively cool and cloudy at our house in the valley, but I saw that temperatures had already climbed above 40 F at the weather station alongside Sure Shot by late morning, so I headed up to Timberline. Temperatures were warm enough to soften the snow from top to bottom on Timberline, and the best turns I found were on snowmaking terrain that had seen skier traffic. In those areas, the snow had seen sufficient temperature cycling combined with compaction and manipulation that it was granulating to reasonable spring corn snow. In other areas though, the snow was less consolidated, and recent spring accumulations added to make it a bit sticky. It was still serviceable snow in terms of skiing, and a lot of people were skiing the trees, but it certainly wasn’t the premium surface that I was finding on the groomed terrain.
Today was Bolton’s last official day of lift-served skiing, but we’ve got more potential snow in the forecast this week, and the weather models indicate additional storms beyond that. So, we’ll hopefully have plenty of good long run of spring skiing as we head farther into April and May.
Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system. Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing. Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine. It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains. Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.
Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things. By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there. Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base. This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance. This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline. We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances. He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail. It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.
“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”
In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine. The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though. The snow was quite dense, and often windblown. We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up. It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow. The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated. Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up
It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March. Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs. The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.
The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base. It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth. My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.
“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”
The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole. Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.
Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow. The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.
When snow conditions are good, and the snowpack is like this from top to bottom, it’s a great time to consider some of those longer backcountry descents that really make use of all the vertical around here. The trip that came to mind today was the Woodward Mountain Trail. E was feeling a bit under the weather, but I figured I could take the boys on the tour, and E said she could still help out with the car shuttling. We didn’t have a full day to spend, so I wasn’t going to initiate the tour unless we could get it done fairly expeditiously. I’d scoped out the bottom of the trail and found the most efficient exit on a tour last March, but my touring in the Goose Pond area had only gotten me mildly familiar with the start of the trail up on the ridge line. I decided to check my copy of David Goodman’s classing backcountry guidebook “Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont and New York” to get a better feel for the ridgeline part of the trail. After the initial descent from the Vista Peak Fire Tower the guidebook mentions that the trail “climbs gently, but steadily up a ridge”. That was enough to convince me that I needed to do a bit more reconnaissance before bringing the boys, so I set my sights for today on an exploratory tour along the ridge line.
“The snow there was spectacular bottomless powder with no tracks.”
Arriving at Bolton Valley, my tour kicked off with a ride on the Vista Quad, which whisked me right up to the Vista Summit. I stopped in to check on the views from the Vista Peak Fire Tower, and then continued on the Woodward Mountain Trail. The first few minutes were on terrain that I’d been on before – the descent from Vista Peak down to the col that separates it from Woodward Mountain. As advertised, the trail rose gradually after that point. I opted to go without skins for a few minutes, but eventually decided that putting on my skins would be the way to go. I’d say that was the right choice, because there was at least another 10 minutes of climbing before the trail began to level off. I followed the trail out to the point where it began to descend through some of the route’s open glades, then turned around and headed back up to the Woodward Mountain summit area.
I still had a bit of time to explore, so I decided to check out some of the glades on the west side of Woodward Mountain as well. I followed a prominent spur trail the headed west off the Woodward Mountain Trail, and it eventually led down to some nice open glades dropping into the prominent valley that drains Goose Pond and is surrounded by Bone Mountain, Woodward Mountain, Vista Peak, and the Timberline Summit. The snow there was spectacular bottomless powder with no tracks. It was hard to pull myself away, but with the time I had available I had to skin back up to the Woodward Mountain Trail after only a partial descent of the glades. An excellent tour option would be to continue skiing on down the valley and hook back up with the resort by connecting to the Timberline Base the way we did on our Bone Mountain tour. That potential tour will have to wait for some time in the future though, so I’ll just have to add it to the ever growing list along with the Woodward Mountain Trail.
“In the past 72 hours Mother Nature has dropped 25 inches of snow on Bolton Valley, and with the first part of that accumulation coming in quite dense, it’s been a great resurfacing of the slopes.”
We got to Timberline not long after the opening of the Timberline Quad, and encountered some briefly heavy snowfall that ended up sticking around in lighter intensity much of the morning to add a bit of freshening to the slopes. Temperatures were forecast to be in the mid-20s F, but it certainly felt a bit colder than that with the snowfall and some wind. We kicked off the day with an initial top-to-bottom run on Timberline to get a sense for how high the freezing line had gone yesterday, and the effects were definitely a gradient with respect to elevation. There was no obvious sharp line to note, but above 2,000 the effects seemed to be fairly minimal. Even below that elevation though, the mountain has seen several additional inches of accumulation, so there actually was great powder skiing all the way down to 1,500’. The areas that created the most trouble in our experience were where grooming had kicked up some chunks of dense snow to create an irregular subsurface.
We headed over to the main mountain to take advantage of the additional elevation and catch some lunch after a bit more skiing. We had a great run on White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and indeed the depths of powder and quality of the subsurface just kept getting better and better the higher you went. We relaxed with a good lunch at the James Moore Tavern, and seemed to get in there just before it started getting busy.
After lunch we headed up The Crack, found a lot of nice powder in Maria’s, then worked our way back to Timberline. We were still finding a lot of powder even at that point in the day, so we hung around for some additional Timberline runs, catching things like the Tattle Tale headwall, that was looking very steep and appealing to Dylan, and then some fun and games in the KP Glades where everyone seemed to get themselves covered in powder through various crashes or others purposely lacing them with the white stuff.
It is technically a holiday weekend, and while the resort was bustling, lift queues were almost nonexistent since the entire resort is open and everyone is well spread out. We even got word from Stowe that while the free days on our passes were certainly working there, the resort was really busy due to the holiday, so people should be prepared for that. Overall though, it’s just great that the resorts are getting such excellent conditions for a big holiday weekend and upcoming vacation week.
After doing some clearing of the driveway this morning, I headed up to the Timberline area at Bolton Valley to get in a quick ski tour before work. Temperatures have been warming throughout this storm, so I was greeted by some very nice temperatures way up into the 20s F at the Timberline Base. I was also greeted by pounding snow in the range of 1 to 2 inches per hour, with huge flakes and zero wind. The big flakes were coming down so hard that my jacket was turning white just a few minutes into my tour. The intense snowfall, big flakes, and no wind are fantastic conditions for building up fluff, and that was a welcomed addition to the accumulations from this storm cycle; based on what I saw from my snow analyses at the house, there is probably some upside-down character to the initial accumulations we’ve had on the front end of this event.
“The accumulations I found from this storm so far were 9-10” at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base and about 12-13” at 2,500’ at the Timberline Summit.”
The Timberline Base was really deserted when I was up there this morning; there was just one other car in the lot, and the skin track had already picked up three inches of new snow since the last person had used it. I guess filling in the skin track doesn’t take too long when it’s snowing at an inch or two per hour, but it was still surprising. The accumulations I found from this storm so far were 9-10” at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base and about 12-13” at 2,500’ at the Timberline Summit. That pounding snowfall probably did bump up that upper number a bit, even over the course of just a half hour ascent.
The trip down Intro was fun, since the initial snow’s hefty density meant great coverage even in spots that might typically get scoured a bit by the wind. Below the Timberline Mid Station, I opted for Twice as Nice, because the only skier traffic I could see there was the vestiges of one old track. Boy did the mountain get a resurfacing though – you had to really try hard to find the old subsurface, and for the most part, it’s now just a distant memory. Winter Storm Maya has definitely been a shot in the arm for the snow conditions so far though, and there’s plenty of snow still to come. The 3 to 4 inches of fluff on top of the denser snow definitely set the skiing right-side-up this morning, so turns are looking really nice for the foreseeable future.
There were several cars at the base of Timberline, with a very nice skin track in place, and the trip up to the Timberline Mid Station was quick. Depth checks revealed 6 to 8 inches of powder at the base elevations of 1,500’, and 8 to 9 inches up at the mid station elevations. Although the powder wasn’t especially deep today, there was enough of it that I wasn’t worried about hitting the subsurface, and the base is actually quite soft anyway due to snow from other recent storms.
Conditions were just about perfect for being out on the slopes today, with temperatures around 20 F, no wind, and light snowfall filling the air. We’ve got some cold temperatures on the way for the next couple of days before they moderate over the weekend.
Temperatures were only expected to stay in the single digits F today, so I had initially planned on heading for some backcountry skiing to stay warm, but once we saw that there was zero wind and all of Bolton Valley’s lifts were running, our plans shifted to riding the lifts. We headed up to Timberline around midday and found continued snowfall that was robust enough to challenge both the road and parking lot plows to keep up with it.
“…with the storm cycles we’ve had recently it’s just been resurfacing after resurfacing. So, you can certainly go fast and big on the slopes, and that’s just what the boys had fun doing today on the steep and deep terrain.”
We started off with a quick run on Spell Binder to get warmed up, and the depth of the powder seemed to range from 15 to 25 inches. I’d say the low end values would represent what had come from this storm, with the deeper areas including snows from previous storm cycles. Anything in that range of depths was more than enough to keep you floating though, since it was fairly hearty mid weight powder.
That introduction on Spell Binder set the tenor for the day though, and it less us know that both the depths of the powder, and the degree of resurfacing called for steep terrain and plenty of it. With that in mind we spent the afternoon visiting a ton of powder-filled, steeply-sloped favorites like Lost Girlz, Thundergoat Pass, KP Glades, Sure Shot Trees, Doug’s Solitude, etc. Off piste coverage is excellent, and with the storm cycles we’ve had recently it’s just been resurfacing after resurfacing. So, you can certainly go fast and big on the slopes, and that’s just what the boys had fun doing today on the steep and deep terrain.
We took a mid-session break in the Timberline Base Lodge to have some food and pop in some hand/boot warmers, and seats were just about filled, but we were able to get a table within a minute or two. Food options are fairly minimal now from what we saw, but there were fries and chicken fingers for hot items. I’m sure it’s hard for the resort to manage the availability of food services at the Timberline Base Lodge because of the variability in its opening schedule, but we’d certainly be ordering more food if they had more available. We’d love to go back to the South of Solitude days as well!
Overall all though, it was simply fantastic to get the whole family out for a lift-served Timberline powder day, and I think this was our first one of those this season. As usual, Ty was very impressed with how the lot was quite full of vehicles, but people seemed to be nonexistent on the slopes. I guess the message is that they were well spread out. E was cold and didn’t come out for our last run, but it was a big hit with the boys, especially Dylan. We hit Doug’s Solitude to Adam’s Solitude, and he jumps off big ledges, lots of untracked powder, and a chance for Dylan to ride his favorite return track to the base with all its whoops, jumps, walls, and endless halfpipe nature.
We’re in the midst of a long, strung out winter storm system that began way back on Monday evening. The storm has already dropped 20 inches of snow down here at the house, and I’d expect some of the local resorts to report totals in the 30-inch range by tomorrow morning. With the northwest winds driving the moisture into the mountains, I wasn’t surprised to find that the Vista Quad was on wind hold again this morning, just as it had been when Ty and I went out for some runs yesterday. I’d been contemplating both lift-served turns up at the main mountain, or touring down at Timberline, but the Vista Quad remaining on wind hold sealed the deal on some skinning at Timberline.
“Snow had settled in there nicely and I measured about 22 inches of surface snow atop the headwall.”
I arrived at Timberline to find fairly heavy snowfall and not a lot of plowing. I had to wrap around to the far entrance to gain entry, but I plowed my way through 8 to 12 inches of snow in the Subaru and got over to the main parking area. There were a few cars present, but I was worried that I’d be breaking trail on the ascent when I found no signs of a skin track next to the Timberline Base Lodge. Fortunately, the lower areas of the track had just been erased by the winds, and once I got to Twice as Nice there was a great track in place.
Winds had definitely affected the snow, but after looking around at the options by the Timberline Mid Station, I found that Spell Binder was entirely untracked and decided to the skier’s right would offer up some great turns. Snow had settled in there nicely and I measured about 22 inches of surface snow atop the headwall. The turns were great, but even there the snow had been affected by the winds, so the powder wasn’t quite as light and airy as it was in the trees. I’d popped into the trees briefly at the top of my ascent to take off my skins out of the wind, and it was dead calm in there with beautifully fluffy snow. The trees should really offer up some great skiing in the coming days!
An Alberta Clipper system came through the area overnight, dropping a half foot of snow at some of the local resorts by morning, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for a morning ski tour this morning. With roughly 5 inches of new snow found at the house this morning, and the resort reporting the same, it didn’t seem like there was a huge elevation dependence with this event. Plus, now that the bullwheel replacement on the Timberline Quad and associated operations are finally done, Timberline is back open for ski touring, so I figured I’d get to check out the conditions there for the first time in a while.
“…I found a very even coating of about 5 inches of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and roughly 5 to 6 inches up at the Timberline Summit (2,500’).”
Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F with light snow falling and zero wind, so we’re talking super friendly conditions to be out on the hill. Since wind was pretty minimal during this event, I found a very even coating of about 5 inches of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and roughly 5 to 6 inches up at the Timberline Summit (2,500’).
The new snow was excellent dry powder in the 20 to 1 range for snow to water ratio, and there’s generally plenty of base, but the consistency of the base is horrible. It’s rock hard, and in a few exposed places that had presumably seen flowing water, there was simply clear ice as the top layer of base. There was a nice established skin track in place on the Twice as Nice ascent route, but the ascent was definitely the most challenging part of the tour. Slightly steeper spots with just powder on ice provided little grip, and you could see that in those areas some people had to diverge out from the main skin track and take shallower routes due to lack of grip with their skins. Fortunately there were only a handful of spots like that, but navigating them was a definite challenge. It’s good that there wasn’t much wind with this event because scoured areas would be a nightmare.
“The new snow was excellent dry powder in the 20 to 1 range for snow to water ratio, and there’s generally plenty of base, but the consistency of the base is horrible.”
After seeing the conditions on my ascent, it was obvious that the best bet for a descent was going to be something that had previously groomed, and had a fairly shallow angle. So, I headed down Villager from the Timberline Summit, and that was an appropriate pitch. I still had to hit a couple of blue/black pitches on Sure Shot on my route, and there was no way to avoid touching the hard subsurface there, even on 115 mm boards.
The Lower Turnpike area with its nice mellow pitch would probably have offered up the most consistent bottomless turns today, but it was nice to get a chance to get out on Timberline again. I can’t imagine there was any point to skiing ungroomed terrain before this latest storm, and this snow isn’t going to be able to hold up to much traffic, but there are definitely some nice powder turns to be had on terrain of the appropriate pitch.