Bolton Valley, VT 03NOV2020

An image of snow on a Jack-o'-lantern from an early November snowstorm in Waterbury, Vermont
An image of a bike trail sign at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont while out on a ski tour at the mountain during an early November snowstorm
Views of autumn clashing with winter while I was out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley today

Last week we had an early season storm that dropped some snow up here in Northern New England, and some notable amounts down in Southern New England.  Looking beyond that event, there was a signal for some snow in the Northern Greens developing by Thursday, that signal continued to grow on Friday, and by Saturday, the National Weather Service in Burlington was calling for a foot of snow in the local peaks.

It was hard to tell if we were going to see one extended storm during the Sunday through Tuesday, or a couple of discrete systems, but by Sunday afternoon, snow had started in the mountainsThe precipitation started as rain down here in the valley, with fairly high snow levels, but we had changed to snow at our house by yesterday morning.  E told me that the snow had started around 5:10 A.M., and the snowfall at our house continued at roughly an inch per hour all morning.

The snow tapered off in the afternoon, and then in the evening, the second system came into the area.  That storm delivered another several inches overnight, and in the morning, I head up to Bolton for a ski tour.

In terms of the ski conditions it was certainly a fairly typical early season affair, and I’d say waiting for that second storm to put down the extra snow was the way to go.  I opted to tour up at the main base, and there were clearly at least a couple more inches of settled depth up there (~2,000’) vs. what I found at the Timberline Base (~1,500’).

I could tell from the get go as I was ascending the Lower turnpike skin track and watching other skiers descend there, that the density of the snow was going to call for more moderate angle terrain vs. low angle terrain.  The snow was fairly medium weight powder, which was of course good with respect to providing some base for skiing.  There was obviously no existing snowpack below these storms, so if these recent snow had been 2-4% H2O champagne, there would have been a lot of dicey contact with the ground.  But, this medium weight snow was dense enough that there was just too much resistance for low angle terrain – skiers and riders had to straight line their way down and/or use old tracks to keep moving on those angles.

An image of a snow shower down in the Champlain Valley taken from the top of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Viewing a snow squall in the Champlain Valley from the top of Bolton Valley.

Here’s the settled snow depth profile I observed during my tour:

340’: 4”

1,000’: 4-6”

1,500’: 6-8”

2,000’: 8-10”

2,500’: 10-12”

3,000’: 12”+

Terrain in the medium to low-angle range was required for solid turns, and that meant that it was a balancing act between choosing terrain that had enough pitch for turns, but not too much pitch that you were going to be outskiing the available snow depth.  There was also the factor of finding relatively protected terrain – that first storm especially, had some ridiculous winds, and scouring of the exposed slopes was rampant.

An image of snow accumulations in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after an early November snowstorm
Down in the Bolton Valley Village today

So, good knowledge of the local terrain was important, but once you found the appropriate setup there were some nice midwinter powder turns to be had.  There was as always that exercise of not going too steep, aggressive, or rocky to outperform the available snow, so of course having knowledge of those grassier options was important in providing the best ski experience.

It was a solid first day out at the mountain, and it looks like we’ve got some warmth coming in the next week or so before we have any additional chances for snow.

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2020

An image of the upper part of the Brandywine trail near the junction with Intro below the Timberline Quad chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski goggles with a reflection at the end of a ski tour by the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Catching a reflection at the end of today’s tour.

Today was even a bit warmer than yesterday, with temperatures in the valley this afternoon topping out around 60 F.  So, I decided to get in another round of exercise with a Bolton Valley ski tour.

The strip of snow just to the climber’s right of the Timberline Quad base station had broken up even a bit more than yesterday, but I still traversed the gap with skins to start my tour.  To mix things up today, I headed up Timberline Run and over toward Brandywine for my ascent.  That area is more shaded from the sun, but with the warmer temperatures I figured it might be softened up enough for some smooth turns.

“The slightly warmer temperatures today made the snow quality even better, so the trend has just been one of increasing snow quality of these last few sessions.”

The snow there was fine, but once I got back into the snow below the Timberline Quad near the top, I could see that the exposure to the sun had made the snow just so much better there.  I couldn’t resist that snow, so I ultimately ended up descending via Showtime as we’ve done on the past couple of outings.  The slightly warmer temperatures today made the snow quality even better, so the trend has just been one of increasing snow quality of these last few sessions.

It’s beginning to look more and more likely that we’re going to get a winter storm toward the end of the week with the possibility of substantial snow for the mountains, so hopefully we’ll be able to get back into some powder skiing.  The spring skiing has been very nice, but a change of pace with powder skiing would of course be welcomed as well.

Bolton Valley, VT 06APR2020

A view of a tower and some of the chairs on the Timberline Quad Chairlift during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont

We had another nice day of weather today with some sun and temperatures in the 50s F, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for another ski tour at Timberline.  The strip of snow just to the climber’s right of the Timberline Quad base station that we used for skinning during our ski tour on Saturday, was slightly broken up now with a small gap.  It was just a few feet of dry grass in the break though, so I easily continued right across it, and coverage was great from there on up.

An image looking west toward Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains from the Timberline Summit area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An afternoon view from the Timberline Summit out toward Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks

On Saturday, we stopped our tour at the Timberline Mid Station because it was our first outing in a little while and I figured it was good to take it easy, but today I headed right up to the Timberline Summit.  The views were nice with some late day clouds to the west over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.  The snow on Showtime was even a notch better than Saturday, I think thanks to a bit more sun to soften it up and create a smoother, more even surface today.

It looks like we’ll have more spring weather in the first part of this week before it becomes wintrier in the latter part of the week.

Bolton Valley, VT 04APR2020

An image of Ty and Dylan on a chair of the Timberline Quad Chairlift during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
An image of Erica Telemark skiing on the Showtime trail during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E enjoys some spring exercise as the whole family got out for a ski tour at Bolton Valley today.

Our most recent winter storm cycle was Winter Storm Quincy, which took place over a week ago.  It brought a couple days of good powder, and D and I were able to get out for some fun turns, but since then we’ve sort of been back in the spring weather doldrums.  We haven’t had another significant storm, and it hasn’t really been warm enough to soften up the slopes.

Some warmer, sunnier weather moved into the area today though, with temperatures in the 50s F, so the family headed up to Bolton Valley for a quick tour and some soft spring turns.  Timberline still has plenty of continuous lines, so we toured from the Timberline Base, and up to the Timberline Mid Station.  Just to the right of the base of the Timberline Quad there’s a thin line of snow that supports skinning right from the base, but that will probably melt out in a couple more days of warm weather.  There’s solid coverage on the climber’s left of the quad base though, so that will probably be fine for ascents and descents for a while.

An image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan preparing their gear for a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The family gets their gear set for the ski tour.

Ty cruised right up the hill on the ascent, with Dylan not too far behind, so the two of them had the chance to hang out at the top for a bit before I arrived.  One of the chairs of the quad is nicely positioned at the mid station to make a convenient bench, so the boys really enjoyed hanging out there and enjoying the mountain views.

Showtime is doing the best with respect to coverage thanks to additional manmade snow, so we made our descent there.  The snow was nice spring corn that had softened on Bolton’s usual afternoon sun, so the turns were quite good.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing during a spring ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out on Mom’s fat skis today.

We only saw a couple of other cars in the parking lot, although it was fairly late in the afternoon, so most people had probably gotten their turns in earlier. 

It looks like the weather is going to cool back down as we head into the latter part of this coming week, so we may be looking at more fresh snow coming to the mountains.  We’ll see what happens, but I know everyone would be psyched to get out for some more powder.

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, VT 08FEB2020

An image of Dylan skiing in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after nearly two feet of snow from Winter Storm Kade
Dylan out there in the Bolton Valley powder today from Winter Storm Kade

Over the past couple of days, we’ve had Winter Storm Kade affecting the area, and it’s been our largest storm cycle of the winter so far.  It began on Thursday with some dense snow and mixed precipitation, then on Friday came heavy snowfall that was enough to even cause UVM to close down for the afternoon.  By the time the storm wound down overnight, we’d picked up 17 inches of snow here at the house, and the local resorts in the Northern Greens were reporting up to 2 ½ feet of snow.  The storm has been an excellent addition to the snowpack, with 1.86 inches of liquid equivalent here at home, and that must have meant more than 2 inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains.  That’s an all-around solid resurfacing of the local slopes.

An image of railings covered with fresh snow on a slopeside house at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm Kade
Viewing the snowy scenes from Winter Storm Kade as we make our way over to the Timberline Base

Cold temperatures in the single digits F were in the forecast today on the back side of the storm, but Dylan and I decided to head up for a few runs anyway – the bounty of new snow was just too good to miss.  Our timing was pretty good such that we took our first run off the Vista Quad and headed right down to Timberline to catch the opening of the Timberline QuadThe top of Vista was absolutely frigid, with an air temperature below zero, but as we made our way down toward the Timberline Base we found that the temperature went up significantly.

“We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow.”

At Timberline, the sun was out, the snow was great, and there was essentially no line at the Timberline Quad, so we simply stayed down there and skied until we were ready to go.  We generally found about 18 inches of powder, and at one point Dylan probed the total depth of snowpack down near the Timberline Base at ~1,500’ and found close to 30 inches of snow.  So, the snowpack is ready for prime time from the top to bottom elevations of the resort.

We probably would have stayed for a few more runs if the temperatures were warmer, but eventually we wanted to warm up and get some food, so we headed back to the main base and had some slices at Fireside Flatbread before heading out.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake has finally caught up to average with this storm, and it looks like we could have some additional snow in the coming week.

Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2020

An image of Erica getting some powder turns and Dylan looking on from behind during Winter Storm Jacob at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder from Winter Storm Jacob in January 2020 at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Thanks to Winter Storm Jacob, the whole family got out today for skiing in the fresh snow. We got to the mountain just as the Vista Quad was starting up, and Dylan loved all the fresh tracks!!

The snow from Winter Storm Jacob began yesterday while Dylan and I were out on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, and the intensity continued to ramp up while we finished our tour.  The winds increased and flakes were flying while we packed up our gear at the car, and I definitely had to take it easy coming back down the Bolton Valley Access Road with the accumulating snow.  The snow was falling in the form of relatively small flakes, so the accumulations were coming in quite dense.  By morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 5 inches of new snow with more to come during the day.

Ty wasn’t scheduled to work today, so the whole family had the chance to ski together and we decided to head up to the mountain early enough to hit the lift openings.  The Vista Quad was opening at 9:00 A.M., and we got there right as folks began loading.  We had an excellent run down Alta Vista, and especially Fanny Hill, and everywhere that hadn’t been groomed held several inches of dense powder that contributed to a solid resurfacing of the slopes.

“That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.”

Timberline has finally come on line this weekend thanks to the recent snows, so we next chose to head over that way and catch it near the lift opening.  Cobrass still isn’t open, but we were able to take Preacher and a combination of various glades to get us over to Five Corners and onward to Timberline.  That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.

Timberline still needs a bit more snow to open all the terrain, but we had an excellent run down Sure Shot and in and out of various sections of trees and nearby trails.  Being a holiday weekend with fresh snow, people were arriving at the resort in droves, and when we stopped in at the Timberline Lodge for a quick break, the ticket line inside was roughly 150 feet long.  That line was a sign of what was going on throughout the resort, and indeed a substantial lift queue was forming at the Vista Quad when we returned to the main base.  Seeing that, we did a couple of quick, powder-filled runs on Snowflake and called it a day because we’d had our fill.

An image of Dylan skiing powder during Winter Storm Jacob in the Cobrass area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the powder on our run over to Timberline

Cars full of holiday visitors continued to stream into the resort as we were leaving, and the Timberline lots must have been filled because they were already starting to have cars parallel park on the access road.  The number of visitors today must have been great for the resort, even if it meant there were some lift queues at times.  We’d seen Stephen and Johannes right when we’d arrived, and we didn’t get to do any runs with them, but they apparently had a big group with a number of Johannes’ friends.  Stephen also said that he rode the Wilderness Chair, so the opening of the Wilderness area must have been a nice addition to disperse all the holiday visitors.

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2020

An image of a snowcat and the base area of Timberline at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Wood's Hole area with fresh snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The beautiful snowy scene at Wood’s Hole today

Since yesterday morning, Winter Storm Henry has been bringing snow to our area, and Bolton Valley reported several new inches as of this morning.  With the passage of the system came some wind however, which was enough to keep the Vista Quad on hold.  Watching the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam from home, we could see that the Vista Quad closure led to long lines for the Mid Mountain Chair and Snowflake Chair.  My colleague Stephen said that he’d been skiing in the morning, but the lift lines grew to 30 minutes as more people arrived and he’d eventually decided to call it a day.

Our family had planned to head up for some lift-served runs this afternoon, but the wind hold made that impractical and I ended up heading to the mountain to skin up for some turns instead.  I figured this latest storm would be just about enough to get Timberline in reasonable shape for turns, so with the crowds at the main mountain, I decided to check it out.

“In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.”

The main skin route on Twice as Nice was well established, but I could see that in general the west-facing trails had seen just a bit too much wind to provide really nice turns.  Having seen that, I ended up descending by the more protected Wood’s Hole and Brandywine route, and that worked out well.  In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.

We’ve got yet another modest system coming through the area tomorrow, so that should bring conditions up another notch.

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2019

An image of some bumper stickers on a car in the Timberline parking lot at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A spring image from the mid station of the Timberline Quad Chair at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Spring at the Timberline Mid Station

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.

An image of a man with a monoski walking through the Timberline parking lot at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Timberline parking lot

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.