Tag Archives: Timberline

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.

Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT 15JAN2012

An image of ski tracks in nice powder snow on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the great powder on Spell Binder today

Our late week storm brought plenty of powder to Northern Vermont, but it brought ample cold air as well.  With some help from hand and foot warmers, the boys dealt with it pretty well yesterday at Bolton, where temperatures ranged through the single digits, but this morning was even colder.  We bottomed out at -3.6 F at the house for our coldest reading of the season to date, and up in the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100’ I watched the thermometer sit around -10 F for much of the morning.  Naturally, the temperature had me thinking of a backcountry outing instead of sitting still riding lifts in the frozen air, and although I haven’t been out on Bolton’s backcountry network yet this season, our observations from yesterday suggest that base depths are more than ready, even in the middle elevations.  As I prepared my ski gear however, another option entered my head.  Despite what appears to be fairly decent coverage, the resort has yet to open up Timberline, so the slopes are just sitting there loaded with all the fresh powder.  The beautiful tracks we saw in the powder at Timberline yesterday made the thought of skiing there hard to resist, and since it shouldn’t be too long before lift-served skiing starts up over there, I switched my plans to a hike of Timberline.

A temperature plot showing the cold temperatures on Janunary 15, 2012 at the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Watching the cold temperatures up at Bolton Valley today

Around midday, E headed off with Ty to Kenny’s house – Kenny was having a sleepover for his birthday, and Ty was part of it.  Dylan and I hung around the house since I wasn’t planning to bring him out in the subzero temperatures, and it was well into the afternoon before E got back and I could get on my way up to the mountain.  The temperature in the Bolton Valley Village was on the verge of getting into positive numbers though, so that was looking very good – temperatures around the 0 F mark are really quite nice for ascending in winter.

“…I found 15 inches of
powder on Spell Binder,
and the turns were blissfully
bottomless and smooth.”

Indeed the car thermometer gave a reading of exactly 0 F at the elevation of the Timberline Base (~1,500’) when I arrived.  I didn’t have time to dawdle, since it was already after 4:00 P.M. and the sky was darkening by the time I started my ascent, but it looked like I’d have a good opportunity to see the winter sunset from the westward facing slopes of the Timberline area.  I saw a couple of ski tracks at the very bottom of Doug’s Woods, and the coverage certainly looked passable.  That’s a good sign to see the west-facing slopes skiable down to such a low elevation.  When I probed the snow depths down near the lodge, I found a general 9 to 12 inches of powder above the base snow.  The resort has been grooming the Timberline trails in preparation for their eventual opening, and that meant that there was a nice skin track available on Showtime.  I didn’t get any pictures to do it justice, but it beautifully negotiated the Showtime Headwall and made my ascent very efficient.  I kept checking behind me every few minutes to monitor the sun during the ascent, and I was able to catch it just before it went down to produce a nice shot of the sunset.

An image of late winter light illuminating ski tracks at the bottom of the "Doug's Woods" glade at Bolton Valley Ski Area in Vermont
Tracks have started to appear in Doug’s Woods.

Available daylight pretty much negated continuing past the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station, so I stopped my ascent there and poked around to see which route had the best powder for the descent.  There were a good number of tracks on Twice as Nice, so I settled on Spell Binder.  It was hard to go wrong though with all the new snow – I found 15 inches of powder on Spell Binder,and the turns were blissfully bottomless and smooth.  The powder we skied yesterday has presumably settled some, but it actually seemed to ski even better today, so perhaps it dried out with the cold temperatures.  Those temperatures don’t seem to be going anywhere either, when I got back down to the car it was 1 F, and we’re looking at lows in the -10 to -20 F range down at the house tonight.  Tomorrow’s looking good though, after the cold start, the temperature should be up around 20 F on the slopes at Stowe.

Bolton Valley, VT 24FEB2009

An image of Jay jumping into deep powder on the Duva Horn trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today you just aired it out wherever you wanted… it didn’t matter.

E and the boys are off from school this week, so I joined them for a day up on the mountain yesterday.  Heading up to ski was pretty much a no brainer – it looked to be almost a carbon copy of Saturday, with another foot or so of upslope Champlain Powder™ overnight to finish off another three-foot storm cycle, and the clouds pulling away to leave blue skies and perfect temperatures.  Bolton Valley had just finished off a run featuring six feet of snow in six days, which doesn’t happen all that often… anywhere.

We hit up many of our usual haunts in the Timberline area, but also got in a few runs in the Adam’s Solitude/Wild Woods out of bounds areas, which we’d yet to visit this season.  I don’t visit those areas all that often, but I was absolutely floored by how protected the accumulated snow was over there.  Amazingly delicate accumulations of Northern Vermont’s famed upslope snow had settled on everything, apparently defying gravity by even accumulating laterally and growing off the sides of trees.  All it seemed to take was the slightest imperfection on a surface to catch a few crystals, and then they would apparently grab hands and just go nuts.  I’m not sure if the area is always protected like that, but I’ll sure be on the lookout with future storms.  My final overnight accumulation of snow down at the house for that event had come in at 2.4% H2O, which is not all that uncommon for upslope snow in our sheltered valley location, but there really were areas up near the top of Adam’s Solitude where the snow was like air.  I’d be skiing along through the usual bottomless powder and I’d hit pockets where it would feel like the bottom had literally dropped out because the snow became so airy.  It almost felt like I was hitting small tree wells, but it was just the settling pattern of the powder.  Anyway, it was quite an experience.  I’ve skied a lot of cold smoke snow between Vermont and our years out in Montana, and yesterday snow now sets the standard.  I can remember a day at Smugg’s several years back that featured snow as airy as yesterday’s, but it was only about 6 to 12 inches deep and not bottomless, so the experience wasn’t quite the same.

An image of Ty skiing some of the incredibly light "Champlain Powder" in Vermont on the Adam's Solitude trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort
Ty out there on Adam’s Solitude getting a taste of that Champlain Powder today

I wanted to bring E and the boys over to explore some areas on the main mountain, but the day at Timberline was so packed full of runs that we just never had the chance to get over there.  We did manage to meet up with Stephen and his kids for a final run down Adam’s Solitude.  It was a first time out there for them, so it was quite an introduction to that terrain.  I worked a bit with Ty and E on getting their body positioning more compact when they are in the air.  They’ve still got some work to do, but it was one of those days where you didn’t mind having to try, try again on those kinds of tasks.  The rest of the images from yesterday can be found below in the gallery, and full size versions are also available in our report to SkiVT-L.