Tag Archives: Timberline

Bolton Valley, VT 28FEB2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Wilderness Lift Line trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dad and Dylan leaving their mark as they get in some afternoon powder turns today up at Bolton

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.

An image of Dylan buzzing the camera as he skis by in some powder on the Wilderness Lift Line trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontBeing 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.

Bolton Valley, VT 26FEB2013

An image of one of the chairs of the Vista Quad Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sun came out for some glorious redemption after yesterday’s clouds and snow.

Erica and the boys are on vacation from school this week, and it’s allowed us to do some planned media work with the folks at Bolton Valley Resort over the past couple of days.  Since last week, the Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning period looked like the best window for sunny skies between storm cycles, so Josh arranged for photographers (Justin) and videographers (Dennis, Sam, and Daniel) to be on site and capture whatever Mother Nature would permit.

Yesterday was a classic case of Mother Nature doing exactly what she felt like doing though – the forecast called for clearing skies in the afternoon, but as we drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road for a 12:30 P.M. meeting with Josh, we headed right up into the clouds.  Those clouds didn’t show any signs of pulling away as we gathered in the, and in fact to emphasize their command of the situation, they decided to send along some snow by mid afternoon.  It was actually some beautiful snowfall comprised of large, gently falling flakes, but it was clear that we weren’t going to see the sun.  With the clouds and snow, we laughed about how that was life in the Northern Greens, but that really is a good thing, even if it means a bit of waiting for prime ski marketing images.

“With the clouds and snow,
we laughed about how that
was life in the Northern
Greens…”

Fortunately, Josh knew how to make excellent use of the weather, and he took care of getting all the interior work done.  We had several families with lots of children, and Justin set up a variety of images in a couple of the hotel rooms.  Later we went over to the James Moore Tavern and got some dining and après ski shots there in front of the fire with pizza etc.  I had a good time, although it was definitely a lot of sitting around for Ty – he was getting pretty cranky by the end.  He was in sore need of some outside time on skis, so we were definitely hoping that the following morning would bring some sunshine with it.

An image of a photographer working with children in a hotel room at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont as he takes lifestyle photos
Justin works with some of the kids to get interior lifestyle shots at the hotel.

I had some work to do in the morning, but E and the boys were up at the mountain by 7:45 A.M. to kick off the day.  The media crew got to hit the lifts before they opened to the general public, and Dylan definitely enjoyed getting to ride one of those early chairs.  The crew did some shooting on Alta Vista and Cobrass, including what sounded like a fun time up at the Cobrass Café with the kids playing around in some of the deep snow.  It wasn’t 100% sunny, but there was great sun at times among puffy white clouds, and that made for some decent lighting.  I also heard everyone went for some off piste fun in the Cobrass Woods.  Ty dropped a pretty big rock in there, although it wasn’t caught on film.

An image of Dylan watching photographer Justin Cash as he takes pictures of a skier on the Cobrass trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Media work on Cobrass Today

I arrived at the mountain around midday, and as I was putting on my skis at the base of the Vista Quad, I ran into Daniel shooting video with his Canon EOS 60D.  He took advantage of my appearance and captured a tight video shot of me clicking into my alpine skis.  I made a run on Cobrass to catch up with the group, but didn’t quite overtake them until they’d already headed in for lunch.  I did need to eat as well, so that worked out for me, and E and the boys got to tell me all about their morning.  There was of course a lot of stopping during that morning session with all the photography and videography, but they’re somewhat used to that from hanging around with me all the time.  All the children (who ranged from roughly age two to teens) seemed to be handle the waiting, although fortunately that’s a lot easier to do when you’re out in the fresh air.  It was good that temperatures were very comfortable being right around the freezing mark, so nobody got too cold hanging around.

The crew reassembled for a couple more runs in the afternoon.  We headed over to Timberline and Justin took a number of shots of pairs of skiers skiing together and buzzing the camera.  Families were often mixed up for variety, but our family did get to ski together for some shots where the four of us were in a row and Justin skied right behind us.  The boys did a great job of holding their position, and Justin was appreciative.  Ty got into some powder on one of his runs along the edge of the trail, making some impressive turns tight to the trees.  Justin had to get along to Burlington by mid afternoon, but as we got toward that point we were starting to lose the sunshine anyway as clouds became more numerous.

Even though it wasn’t perfectly sunny at all times today, it was definitely a great one with a bit of spring in the air.  The freezing level rose up pretty high – the Bolton Valley Weather Station at 2,100’ got just above it to 33.4 F, and judging by the look and feel I bet that freezing line got up to ~2,500’.  There was a bit of a previous melt crust off piste below the 2,000’ mark in exposed areas, but powder was nice (albeit dense) above that level, and the groomed slopes were just beautiful everywhere.  There was even a bit of a spring corn feel to the snow down near 1,500’ on west-facing terrain at Timberline.  In any event, it was great getting some sun after being socked in yesterday:  That sunny window is closed now though – those afternoon clouds were harbingers of the next storm coming into the area.  It looks like it’s going to show some strong elevation dependence, but totals could be good up in the higher elevations were temperatures remain cool.

Josh didn’t waste any time employing his new media on the Bolton Valley website, because within a couple days of the photo shoot we saw a picture of E and the boys appearing in the slide show on the main page:

A screen shot from the homepage of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont showing an image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan skiing in a line.
Bolton Valley’s new material from this week’s photo and video shoot is already being put to good use!

We’re hoping Josh gets plenty of great images and video from the session!

Bolton Valley, VT 23FEB2013

An image of Dylan skiing in powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan drops into a powdery line in the Villager Trees today.

Snow from our current storm was just starting up when he headed up to Bolton Valley today – at roughly 11:00 A.M. we went from scattered flakes down the house at 500’ to a steadier light snow up at 1,500’.  After my quick trip to the resort on Thursday to check out the snow from our midweek upslope dump, I made note of several places to go to get E and the boys some powder turns.  So, after stowing our lunch in the Timberline Lodge, we hopped right on the Timberline Quad and got to the Timberline Summit.  The intensity of the snowfall increased as we headed up in elevation, and as we headed over to the Village we could feel how the groomed slopes were already taking on that coating of fresh snow.

Dylan said “That was
heaven!” and Ty insisted
“I could ski that all day!”

We rode the Vista Quad for the next leg of our trip, and indeed the intensity of the snowfall increased again as we headed still higher in elevation.  We had to hunker down against a somewhat easterly wind that was blowing in our faces as we rode the lift, but we knew we’d be into the protection of the trees soon enough.  We found the snow surface on Cobrass to be very impressive – the mountain presumably made some snow on the headwall and has been able to keep things in very good condition ever since through grooming etc.  E said that it was some of the best conditions she could remember seeing there.

We worked our way into the Villager Trees and found some excellent snow conditions, then we headed up to “The Knob” for some additional turns.  The boys were in very good spirits, and demonstrated some excellent teamwork as they got the gear up through “The Crack”.  We hit a nice steep line bringing us back down to the main thoroughfare in the area, and the boys were extremely enamored with the skiing.  Dylan said “That was heaven!” and Ty insisted “I could ski that all day!”  Anyway, they were very impressed with the snow.  We were still skiing in areas that hadn’t seen traffic since the last storm, so there were some deep turns to be had.  The settling of that snow plus the new synoptic snow falling on top of it meant that it wasn’t the ultra fluff that was available right after that upslope dump, but it was soft, bottomless, and only getting deeper as the snow continued to fall.  We finished off the long run all the way back to the Timberline Base, catching some good turns on Lower Tattle Tale and Spur.

That had been a long circuit, and the boys were ready for lunch by the time we got to the lodge, but their spirits were high.  They had enjoyed it some much that they requested doing the same run again.  That was really impressive because it’s the first time I can recall them wanting to head to “The Knob” a second time.  But, the snow was really good, and they had the fever for that fresh powder, so we did the same circuit again as soon as we were done with lunch.  The snowfall intensified as the afternoon wore on, reaching up to an inch an hour at times, but it was typically in the moderate range.  At the end of that run, Dylan fell right near the lift and hurt his thumb, so he went inside with E to take a quick breather, while Ty and I went for a run off the Timberline Mid Station.

Ty and I headed out on the traverse toward Doug’s Solitude, and found some good turns, but that area still needs a bit more snow since it’s fairly low elevation and it’s south facing.  The Solitude traverse was really fun though, Ty enjoyed that best as he sent himself off every jump and bump he could find.  When we got back to the lodge and found that Dylan was fine but calling it a day, we decided on one more run.  Ty wanted to get back to the Solitude traverse, so I introduced him to some of the lines in the Intro Woods and then we eventually worked out way back down to the Solitude traverse.  It’s still weird how the traverse has been modified to accommodate the off road driving school, but at least most of it is still intact.

At our car at 1,500’ I’d say there was about an inch or so when we left, but there was some wind so it was difficult to get a good read on it.  The temperature at that elevation was 30 F around 4:00 P.M., so we were curious to see how warm it was in the valley and if any snow was accumulating.  Indeed we found that snow had accumulated all the way to the bottom of the access road (340’) even though the temperature appeared to be in the 34-35 F range.  It seemed like there was a new inch or so at the base of the road, but it was even colder and snowier when we got to our house (~500’).  I found a temperature of 32.5 F and 1.8” on the snowboard.  Since that point the snowfall has been of lower intensity, with 0.8” additional as of 10:00 P.M.  The snow continues to fall tonight; it’s probably not going to be heavy, but it should make for some fresh surfaces tomorrow and we’re going to try to get in some early turns at Stowe before our BJAMS ski program if we can.  There’s also another potential storm coming to the area during the midweek period, so we’ll be watching for that one.

Bolton Valley, VT 21FEB2013

An image of a ski track in powder in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the bottomless Champlain Powder this afternoon

People have been talking about the potential for upslope snow on the back side of our current storm cycle for days, and indeed it delivered.  Just as the National Weather Service Office in Burlington predicted a few days ago, Jay Peak was the jackpot for this one, pulling in 27” of snow for the storm.  From there, it was just an easy walk down the spine of the Green Mountains with the snow totals falling in line:  24” at Smuggler’s Notch, 18” at Stowe, 16” at Bolton Valley, and on downward into the Central and Southern Greens.  The early morning pictures from Jay Peak were impressive, as parked cars already began to disappear in the snow, and although I was busy in the morning at work, if I found the time I was going to have to hit the slopes in the afternoon.  Since I’m writing this, you can guess that I found some time.

“It wasn’t just good,
it was really good
– even by Northern
Vermont standards.”

I got up to Timberline in the mid afternoon and caught a ride on the Timberline Quad with a bartender on his way up to work at the James Moore Tavern.  He lives at the Bear Run Condos, which are slopeside along the Timberline trails, so technically this was his “commute” to work.  There was hardly anyone around on the lift since it was getting pretty late in the day, but because he was with me he decided that he’d count it as car pooling.  In order to ski home, he often catches a ride to the top of the resort with one of the groomers late in the night when he’s done his shift at the bar, and he said that last night during his nightly excursion, the snow was coming down like mad.  It sounds like he had a fun “commute” home last night.

Snow surfaces had been pounded pretty flat by the wind when I’d last visited the resort on Monday, so I figured that it was really going to take a good dump to invigorate the surfaces.  I was somewhat skeptical that this storm would be enough… until I took that first turn in the powder off to the side of Villager.  It wasn’t just good, it was really good – even by Northern Vermont standards.  It was somehow really dry, while still being bottomless.  What I’d forgotten was that the resort had picked up some denser snow yesterday morning, and that was sitting down below this latest Champlain Powder™ fluff.  That sequence created a beautiful right-side up combination of snow layers.  Powderfreak found the quality worthy of comment as well on the American Weather Forum, so indeed it was some impressive powder in which to make turns.

An image of fluffy powder snow sitting on evergreen boughs in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontSince it was mid afternoon and people had been out skiing the fresh snow all day, I didn’t really have the run of the resort so to speak with respect to powder.  The wind was also having its way in some exposed areas, but I knew where to go.  From the Vista Summit I made my way down into the Villager Trees, where the snow was protected and there was plenty of untracked powder.  The trees in the there were glorious to behold with all the delicate powder layered on them.  I got into some good lines off The Knob, farther skier’s left than I’ve been this season.  I probed the powder in various places during my travels, and the measurements all came back in the 15-19” range for settled depth.  I don’t believe that was all from this storm in areas that hadn’t seen much traffic, but things start to get deep when it’s powder on top of powder.

An image of snow sitting on dead branches on an evergreen in the Villager Trees area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The fluff was everywhere today.

Since my car was down at Timberline, I was able to finish off my day there, and I caught some nice turns upon traversing over to Lower Tattle Tale.  The Tattle Tale headwall was scoured, but boy was there some deep, well-protected powder on the lower half.  I had the trails to myself since it was the end of the day, and Spur was particularly enjoyable as I followed the main track and skirted in and out of the powder on the sides to check my speed.  I caught a little bit of powder on the bottom of Spell Binder, and I’m sure it was nice getting fresh tracks there this morning.

The bulk of this storm was really focused on the Northern Greens, and the skiing has definitely stepped back up a notch after getting pretty flat and beaten down over the weekend.  This was a much needed dump of snow with so many of the big synoptic systems missing off to the south of the area, and the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake has reached 65”; it’s finally gotten back above average after being below for a month and a half.  We’ve got the potential for a modest snowstorm this weekend, and then another next week, so those could really help to keep building the snowpack if their tracks are halfway decent.

Bolton Valley, VT 09FEB2013

An image of Ty skiing waist deeppowder in the KP Glades at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont thanks to winter storm Nemo
Ty, finding Nemo quite rewarding today.

Winter storm “Nemo” dropped up to 40 inches of snow on parts of Southern New England, and the effects were much less dramatic up here in Northern Vermont, but we did pick up over a foot of snow at the house, and Bolton Valley’s snow report came in at 14 inches this morning.  Being far enough away from the core of the storm, winds weren’t a big problem, but the forecast called for fairly cold temperatures with a high of around 10 F in the mountains.  Today’s skiing held a little too much potential to let a bit of cold get in the way though, so we brought along some hand and foot warmers for the boys, and headed up to Timberline.

“As for the skiing, it was
a decent day with plenty
of powder, but certainly
nothing epic.”

Today was actually the first time this season that we had a chance to get in a Timberline-based day, and there was a surprising amount of activity at the base area when we arrived.  There was even a couple minute lift queue present at the Timberline Quad not too long after lift opening.  Ty commented that he’d seen a sign indicating that the Vista Quad was down, and it turned out that it was down all day due to electrical issues.  That made for some substantial queues of several minutes at the Timberline Quad in the late morning period, but they dissipated in the afternoon.

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the KP Glades at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after winter storm Nemo hit the areaAs for the skiing, it was a decent day with plenty of powder, but certainly nothing epic.  We checked out Spell Binder, which had some coverage issues on the headwall outside the center strip where they’d made some snow.  There were also some massive death chunks, some that were the size of basketballs, which were left over from the snowmaking in the transition zone between the natural and manmade snow.  They had groomed most of the lower part of the run, so powder really wasn’t as plentiful there as it usually is.  We did find some very nice powder turns in the Corner Pocket Glades though, with first tracks through a good part of that area.  We also found some great fresh snow in the KP Glades and the Sure Shot TreesTwice as Nice really needs one more round of base building, and that’s the case with a lot of natural snow terrain down in the lower Timberline elevations.  The turns are generally fine, but you need to be on your guard to avoid any spots where coverage is a little low.  The off piste is skiing well because it gets more minimal traffic, but it would be nice to have another couple feet of base there to better cover up underlying objects.  We’d occasionally bump something under the snow today where we typically wouldn’t expect to find anything.  We never ventured over to the main mountain with the Vista Quad not operating, but the base depths there generally seem sufficient to avoid those types of issues.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in powder in the Corner Pocket Glades at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E glides through some of today’s fluff deposited by Nemo.

It was definitely fun being back in the Timberline groove today, we had an early lunch and the lodge was moderately busy, but there was still ample space.  Some of us did a little rating of the overall skiing when we were discussing things at the end of the day – Dad gave it a 5 out of 10, and Ty gave it a 6 out of 10.  A couple more decent storms will get those lower elevation Timberline trails fixed up, and it looks like the next one could be coming in Monday.  February is becoming a lot more active in terms of winter storms, which is a nice change from the relatively dry January period that we went through.  We’re looking forward to the upcoming stretch of skiing at Bolton Valley.

Bolton Valley, VT 29JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Finding good turns today in 8-10″ of powder

The Northern Greens picked up roughly a half foot of new snow thanks to the storm that came through yesterday.  There was actually a general 3-6” of accumulation up and down the spine, with the southern resorts catching the lower end of that range.  Although this was a rather modest storm, the past couple of weeks have been pretty lean on snowfall, so it was a nice way to put an end to the bout of dry, arctic air that had been hanging out in the area.  We picked up 4.5 inches of snow at our place in the valley, and that actual turned out be our largest storm so far in 2013.  The snow quality was certainly good; my analyses revealed water content of 5% H2O for the snow that fell through the afternoon, and then 4.3% H2O for the additional snow in the evening.

“Since there hasn’t been much
traffic in a while, the combination
of the most recent snow and lighter
events from last week provided
8-10 inches of beautiful powder
over a smooth base.”

With the conditions already quite good based on observations from my outing on Sunday, and Bolton Valley reporting 5” of new snow up top, it was definitely a morning to hit the slopes.  I contemplated heading up to the main base to get the most snow, but as I drove past Timberline it looked pretty good so I decided to check it out.  I went back and forth for a few moments about which base to visit, and eventually decided to stay where I was because it was generally quiet and I was hoping I could keep out of the way of any grooming equipment.  There were a couple of other cars were parked below the center island below the lodge, which meant that there might be a skin track already in place.  It was a nice morning – it was cloudy, but there was no wind and the temperature there at 1,500’ elevation was 22 F.  That was very pleasant after the arctic temperatures we’ve recently seen.

An image looking down a long spine of man made snow atop the headwall of the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont with trees visible in the background below
Snowmaking spine on Spell Binder

I began my ascent and followed the skin track that people had established on Twice as Nice.  My depth checks on the powder consistently revealed 4” new, which is what Bolton reported for the base elevations.  For the descent I headed over to Spell Binder, since a groomer was working on Showtime, and there were already a couple of tracks and a groomed strip on Twice as Nice.  I’d forgotten that the mountain could make snow on Spell Binder, but they’d made some snow on the upper headwall area.  There were some huge snow whales there, which they’ll have to spread around at some point.  The approach to skiing the steep terrain on the headwall was a toss up.  One option was to ski on some of the manmade snow, but there were some tricky snow formations made by the guns, and the 4-5 inches of snow wasn’t enough to keep you from touching down on that dense manmade surface.  The other option was to ski the sides of the trial that had not seen snowmaking.  The base snow was of higher quality, and there had been additional round of powder on top of it, but there were spots of poor coverage where snow had been swept away by winds.  I ultimately made use of both options, going where my line took me.

I was a bit conservative in my skiing of the headwall since I didn’t want to hit any rocks that might be lurking under the snow, but once I was below that, the rest of the trail was in another league in terms of snow quality.  Since there hasn’t been much traffic in a while, the combination of the most recent snow and lighter events from last week provided 8-10 inches of beautiful powder over a smooth base.  Sunday’s turns were certainly good, but with the addition of this latest storm, these were the deepest turns I’d had in a couple of weeks.  The top levels of the snow were in that 4-5% range of H2O content, and there was a nice gradient of more dense snow below.  It was that combination that powder skiers seek for great turns.

The addition of this latest storm has certainly helped the meager snow totals that we’ve seen this January.  We’ve now had almost 22” of snow at the house this month, however, that’s still only about half the average I have in my records.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a warm day, so this latest round of powder is going to settle down, but the forecast says we’re back into the cold tomorrow night into Thursday, with some chances for snow.  No large systems are expected, but some Clipper systems may come through in the next several days, and the Greens can usually do something nice with that moisture and often pull out totals just like we saw today.

Bolton Valley, VT 12JAN2013

An image of Ty Telemark skiing on a warm January day in soft snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Soft turns in the sun today at Bolton

Repairs on the Timberline Quad at Bolton Valley are complete, and although I heard that it actually started running yesterday, today was our first chance to check out the Timberline area and make some turns.  Forecast temperatures in the 40s F are more like March or April than January this weekend, and with no need to head out early for powder, we opted for a warm, afternoon session.  When we headed up to the mountain around 1:30 P.M. or so, temperatures both at the house (495’) and up at the Timberline Base (1,500’) were in the low 40s F, and although I thought we’d have generally cloudy conditions, it was actually mostly sunny.  It’s great to have Timberline and that Timberline vibe back though, we pulled in and found probably a couple dozen cars present, and I was able to drop off E and the boys and park right below the lodge.  With the sun shining and mild temperatures, it was easy to think it was one of those spring Timberline outings.

An image showing ski tracks on the Showtime trail at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Leftover tracks at Timberline

The Timberline trails were looking really sweet in the sunshine, and you could see that areas that hadn’t been groomed hadn’t even been tracked out.  There were a couple of spots here and there where snow coverage was low, but they were pretty minor (aside from where a snow cat seemed to dig some holes on Showtime).  I think the resort has got to be pretty happy that even the low elevation areas of Timberline are looking good with mostly natural snow.  I know some snow was blown on parts of Timberline Run, but I’m sure that money has been saved on snowmaking for some runs like Showtime.  I guess they could make snow in some areas going forward if they want to beef up the base for the spring.  In the snow report they mentioned that there were a couple of trails closed for various reasons, but with Timberline in operation, the mountain is running at just shy of 100% open.

As they’ve often done in the spring, the boys went with their Telemark skis today to get in some practice, and the soft conditions were perfect for working on their turns.  We did a couple laps on the Villager/Timberline Run route, with Sure Shot thrown in as well.  Both boys went without the cables on their bindings, and while it worked well for Ty, perhaps because his new Telemark boots are stiff and supportive enough, it seemed a little sloppy for Dylan.  I think his boots are worn in enough that he might need that extra tension from the cables.  We ran into Luke and Claire and we were able get in some fun turns with them – Claire was definitely enjoying the ease of the Timberline logistics today as well.  Everyone made plenty of soft carves in the snow today, and it looks like we’ll continue with these conditions tomorrow until things start to cool down at some point Monday.  After that we’ll be looking for new snow to hopefully get back to powder conditions; it’s going to be fun to get back into some powder with Timberline in operation.

Bolton Valley, VT 01JAN2013

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Mother Nature to Bolton Valley: here’s your new year’s refresher.

The arctic front that came through overnight dropped an inch or two down here at house, but 4 to 5 inches up on the mountain.  It also brought in some colder air – single digits were reported on the Bolton Valley snow report in the morning.  While that was cold enough to make riding the lifts less appealing, it sounded like some good temperatures for earning turns.  Even though it’s already been a lengthy week of powder skiing, the allure of getting in another workout on yet more powder atop all the snow we’ve had over the holiday break was too much to resist.

I hadn’t thought that there would be much rise in temperatures today, but when I got to Timberline the temperature was already up to 15 F, so combined with the sunshine and minimal wind, it was much warmer than I’d expected.  There were a few other cars in the parking lot, and I could see that several sets of tracks had been carved into the new snow at the bottom of Showtime.

An image of ski tracks near the base of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Signs of folks out working the slopes today

The Twice as Nice skin track was in great shape; with the new snow already well packed by various skiers, the ascent was very quick.  At the top I decided to head into Doug’s Woods through the upper entrance for a change of pace and to see if the snow in the trees was more protected from any winds.  The snow in Doug’s Woods was fantastic, bottomless powder, but unfortunately it was just too much of it for some of the mellower pitches.  I measured 24” of unconsolidated snow atop the base, and even with my fat skis I was moving slowly when the pitch wasn’t there.

I slid my way back to the car and was about to gear down to head home, when I noted the time and reconsidered.  I had plenty of daylight left and it was just too nice out, so I headed up for another lap.  I was feeling the rhythm on that one, and it only took about 20 minutes to ascend Twice as Nice proper.  At the Timberline Mid Station I looked upward toward Intro and saw that it was pretty wind blasted, and that made the decision easy to descend from where I was.  This time I opted for Spell Binder, which had just a few tracks on it.  The headwall held great snow that really hadn’t been affected by wind.  Snow was actually excellent from top to bottom, and there was enough consolidation from either previous rounds of wind or skiers that bogging down in deep powder on lower angle sections wasn’t a problem.

It’s been quite a holiday week for turns, with at least some new snow each day, and bigger shots of snow on some of them.  This last snowfall actually put Bolton Valley past 100” for the season, and brought the Mt. Mansfield Stake to a depth of 46”, both good signs as we head into January.  The next chance at snow appears to be this evening with some snow squalls from an upper level trough.

Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2012

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Tracks on Spell Binder – sometimes you can tell the quality of the snow just by the ski tracks.

The upslope snow that started yesterday really delivered in the evening, and we got to witness it first hand as we drove off to a Christmas party in the Champlain Valley.  We almost turned around right at the house as the snow was coming down at 2 inches an hour or more, and we could only see a few yards in front of the car.  Fortunately that tapered off a couple miles to our west, but in the end we wound up with 9.5 inches of upslope fluff at the house, and Bolton Valley probably had over a foot, bringing them to 30 inches of snow in the past week.  This snow was some incredibly high quality Champlain Powder™ to boot, with my snow density analyses coming in at 2 to 3% H2O.

This morning we got up to the resort around 9:00 A.M., and similar to yesterday the scene was fairly mellow – after dropping off E and the boys I was able to park in the third tier of the main lot.  We started off with a run down Alta Vista, and it was E’s first chance to try out her Black Diamond Element skis, which are the women’s version of the AMPerage.  I warned her that unlike my first experience with the AMPerages, which was entirely under powder conditions, she might not be that impressed with how they skied on the groomed areas before we made our way to the powder.  Indeed she was very unimpressed, noting that there was so much ski width (115 mm at the waist) that she couldn’t even get them on edge.  I hadn’t found that to be an issue for me with the AMPerages, so it could certainly be attributed to a difference in our ski styles, but I think it questions again the potential for these skis to serve as a one ski quiver for all surfaces.  We got them as our backcountry/powder Telemark skis anyway, but it will be interesting to see how our usage patterns develop; being more comfortable on them so far, I might take them out on more marginal lift-served powder days, where E might stick with her narrower Telemark skis.  E did point out that her Telemark ski boots are a bit loose, and she could feel the slip in them today due to the thinner socks she was wearing.  Having that slip in there may make it challenging to get the pressure necessary to roll these fat skis on edge on groomed surfaces, so we’ll have to see if a better boot fit helps out, or if there’s going to be an adjustment period due to something else.

“We found a foot plus of
Champlain Powder™ over a
consolidated base – and it
was more than enough to
be bottomless…”

We made our way over to Wilderness and got into some powder, and not surprisingly, E didn’t have any issues with the skis there.  But, neither did she find them to be as amazing in the powder as I had on my previous outings.  Of course we were skiing in roughly a foot of amazingly dry snow over a well consolidated base, so almost any ski could handle it.  We enjoyed lots of fresh turns on Lower Turnpike, and it was a bit slow with the modest pitch and all the powder, but the boys had a great time.  Ty had an especially fun time straight lining sections of the powder.  We also jumped into Wilderness Woods, which were being skied extensively – they’re certainly skiable, although you still needed to be somewhat cautious to avoid underlying objects.  On that note, the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit 28” inches yesterday, passing the magic 24” mark that I’ve used as a measure of when those initial forays into the trees begin.  Bolton even opened steep tree areas like Devil’s Playground today, so many trees are definitely ready for skiing if patrol deems areas like that acceptable.

We headed for the same route again on the next run at Ty’s request, but wound up taking the Wilderness Lift Line when Dylan led us that way.  Conditions along the edges still offered up plenty of nice turns though.  The boys were calling for an early lunch after those two runs, so we headed into the lodge, and eventually got a call from Stephen that he and the kids had finally made it to the mountain.  We finished up our lunch and met up with Helena and Johannes to take a run while Stephen picked up his skis from the ski shop.  We opted for the standard Sherman’s Pass route to let Helena and Johannes warm up.  Surfaces were decent packed powder aside from wind-exposed areas, which were blasted down to whatever nasty hard surface lay below.

When we all got back together we hit Lower Turnpike again, and it felt much faster that second time.  There were a few more tracks around to let you gain your speed, but somehow it was more than that.  Whatever the case, the turns were smooth and silky in the powder.  Johannes and Helena needed their lunch break by that point, so while they went in the lodge, E and the boys and I went back for another round.  Dylan and I came in at a higher entrance and got some bonus fresh turns.

We had spotted a car over at Timberline on our way up to the resort, with the intent of finishing off the day there, but Dylan was pretty beat, so E decided that they would drive down and meet Ty and me there.  Johannes had enough energy, so he joined Ty and me for the trip.  Aside from windblown areas, which were reduced thanks to the lower elevation, the snow was simply amazing at Timberline as is typical for these types of events.  We found a foot plus of Champlain Powder™ over a consolidated base – and it was more than enough to be bottomless, even on the Spell Binder headwall as long as you stuck to the skier’s right.  That’s some pretty primo skiing.  The only part to avoid was the bulk of the headwall section with sastrugi (or “fake powder” as it often looked today) from the winds.  Both boys did well, and we made reasonable time down to the car, with the requisite photo sessions as well.  Dylan missed some great turns, but he was certainly tired – while E was out getting a couple of final things for the holiday in the evening, I found that Dylan had gone and tucked himself into our bed and gone to sleep.

An image of Ty skiing in about a foot of Champlain powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty taking on Spell Binder today

I was worried about the cold today due to the potential wind chill, but it turned out to be a fine day with temperatures in the 20s F and only minor breezes.  We’ve got more snow falling tonight with the potential for four more storms to pass through the area this week.  It could be an excellent holiday period for skiing if the potential storms hit our area as snow.  The mountain is already opening up lots of natural snow terrain, so the snowpack is building with the weather pattern we’re in.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake just hit 42” today, and that is a sign that off piste skiing should be well under way.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2012

An image of a ski track in powder on the Twice as Nice trail Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Carving away through some bottomless powder today

The mountain snowpack has been building up all week due to storms running through the area, and with the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake approaching the two foot mark today, it was finally time to venture up to Bolton Valley and see how the western slopes of the Greens were skiing.  I awoke this morning to find 2.2” of new snow at our house in the Winooski Valley, and Bolton Valley reporting 4” overnight to bring their seven-day total to 19”.  Although 19” of isn’t an outrageous accumulation over the course of a week, these recent storms have put down plenty of dense snow, so there’s been ample liquid equivalent in that snow to build the base for skiing.

“The turns were naturally really
fun, with all sorts of new ski terms
like smeary, slarvy, and drifty
dancing through my head as the
rocker in the skis did its thing.”

When I left the house (495’) it was a couple degrees above freezing and we were in a precipitation lull, but by the time I hit Bolton Flats a couple miles to the west, the next wave of moisture was coming in, and I was hit with a barrage of wet snow and rain.  There was no snow on the ground right at the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’), but snowpack appeared very quickly as I began the climb – just a couple hundred feet up there was a solid inch or two of snow down on the ground.  The lowest part of the road is fairly protected, but as I got higher I could see that the winds were howling.  With the strong winds I was keen to stay somewhat low in elevation, so my goal was to start a ski tour at the Timberline Base (1,500’) if the snow looked sufficient.  The temperature at that elevation was right around the freezing mark, but snow was falling with plenty of intensity – when I had my skis out on the ground while I was getting ready, they were covered with a few tenths of an inch of snow in just a few minutes.  The wind gusts were strong, certainly 20-30 MPH, and I actually had to head off into the trees a few dozen yards away when I realized that one of my glove liners had been stolen and carted off by the wind.

An image showing the driving school vehicles at Bolton Valley with a fresh coating of snowAside from the driving school’s vehicles that were lined up in front of the base lodge, I only saw one other vehicle that seemed like it might belong to a skier (not surprisingly it was a Subaru).  As I began my ascent, I didn’t initially find a skin track, although I followed some fairly fresh snowshoe tracks before breaking off to set my own track up the climber’s left of Twice as Nice.  Snow depths at the base ranged from as little as 5 inches, to as much as 18 inches, with the average snow depth falling somewhere in the middle of that range.  Breaking trail was at times a bit tough through the snow on the deeper end of the spectrum, but I enjoyed very good traction despite sporting the combination of AMPerages with RT-86 skins.  This combination struggled to provide traction in established skin tracks back on November 30th and December 1st outings at Stowe, but it was very solid today.  I’ve discovered that the width of the AMPerages combined with narrow skins proves to be a difficult combination in skin tracks that may have been made by narrower skis – it leaves one resting on just the outer edges of the wide ski base, where there is no skin.  Today’s snow was dense with good grip, and I was able to head straight up the edge of the trail with minimal switchbacks.  Snow depth increased somewhat as I ascended, and that increase seemed to be on the bottom end of the range; the deepest areas weren’t get deeper, but coverage was definitely getting better in areas that needed it.  More notable than even the increase in snow depths was that after the first couple hundred feet of elevation, the snow got drier.  There’s definitely not enough base yet to open terrain to lift-served traffic down at that elevation, but it’s getting close.  One good dump with an inch or two of liquid equivalent would have it there.  The wind actually subsided quite a bit by the time I was descending, so it was very comfortable with the temperature near freezing.

“Today’s snow
was dense…”

I didn’t have time for a really long run, so I headed right back down Twice as Nice, sticking to the skier’s left where the snow looked deepest.  Indeed there were no issues touching down, and areas where depths were blown low by the wind were easily avoided.  This was my first chance to try the AMPerages in a denser, powder (morning analysis of the snow at the house came in at a Sierra-like 11.4% H2O) and they again showed that they were in their element.  After one cautious turn to see if I was going to find myself being tossed around in a Telemark stance… it was all downhill.  The turns were naturally really fun, with all sorts of new ski terms like smeary, slarvy, and drifty dancing through my head as the rocker in the skis did its thing.  I wouldn’t say that I ever tire of skiing powder, but these types of skis can definitely inject a new level of fun if you’re looking for something to invigorate your skiing.  Boy did I want to stick around for some more turns!

An image of ski tracks on dense powder at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Timberline is sporting a good coating of dense snow

I’m not sure when the mountain started opening natural snow terrain, but as of today they’ve got numerous natural snow trails in the mix, including several black diamond runs on the upper mountain.  That is a very good sign that snow depths are substantial up there above 2,000’.  I see from one of Powderfreak’s recent posts on the American Weather forum, that Stowe has also been opening up a bunch of natural snow terrain, and the skiing looks excellent.  It appears that some upslope snow could be coming in to the area tomorrow with the back end of this system, and that might deliver another foot of powder in some areas.  The skiing should be quite good with that addition, and with potentially more of these storms in the pipe, we could be looking at a very good holiday week for the local resorts.