Although I never made it up to the main mountain yesterday, the skiing I found at Timberline was quite good, and suggested that the snow would be even better at higher elevations. That snow, combined with the continued moderating temperatures expected to rise through the 20s F into the 30s was a recipe for some very nice skiing. The forecast has been predicting these conditions for a while, and E and the boys were on board for getting up to the mountain today as well. I’d told E about yesterday’s turns, so we had to decide if we wanted to go for some of that powder at Timberline, or ride the lifts and ski at the main mountain. We decided that it would be good for the boys to get in some lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, since they’ve yet to do that at all this season. We also realized that we could still work in some Timberline powder if we spotted a car at the Timberline Base, and that would get the boys a little of everything.
“I have to admit, I could really tell the difference between being on my mid-fats today, and being on my fat skis yesterday.”
When I was checking out the Bolton Valley website yesterday evening, I noticed that they were having a special promotion today – it was the first of four Subaru/Hyundai days in which owners of those vehicle brands could get a free lift ticket for the afternoon. Also, additional guests could get tickets at 50% off. I wouldn’t have been more than a passing thought, except that E was thinking of getting out with Gabe, one of our BJAMS students, to let him practice snowboarding before our regular season program begins at Stowe next week. I told E about the promotion this morning, and although it turned out that she didn’t get together with Gabe, we had another potential student that could use a ticket. E was planning to get together with Claire to work out the ski groups for the ski program, and during their planning, they realized that Luc could come and ski with us using a free ticket.
Claire dropped of Luc with plans to meet with E again later, and we headed up to the mountain. Heading up the access road, it was right as we approached the Timberline area that we realized our day was going to be a bit different than we’d expected. The sign was already up indicating that the upper parking lots were full, and that meant that there were a lot of visitors at the mountain today. Although we could probably have found a spot up in the Village lots from people that were leaving, we decided to park the cars at the Timberline Base, since we’d already been planning to end up down there anyway. It was about three runs of the shuttle before we were able to get on, but once we did, the boys loved it since it was their first opportunity to ride the Bolton Valley shuttle bus.
“I guess when half the state owns Subarus, you’re going to get a response to such a promotion.”
As if the need to initiate parking down at Timberline hadn’t been enough of a signal, at the base area, it was immediately obvious that the Subaru/Hyundai promotion was a hit. I guess when half the state owns Subarus, you’re going to get a response to such a promotion. The lift queue at the Vista Quad was quite long, and had to be at least 10 minutes. We decided to take a run on Snowflake, since the queue wasn’t too long, and the snow on the Butterscotch slope looked quite good. Indeed the snow was quite good, with some powder off to the edges, but it was just too short a run to be waiting 5 to 10 minutes to ski it, so we decided to make the next run down to Timberline.
From my Timberline explorations yesterday, I knew that there would be plenty of decent skiing even if we just followed out the Timberline Lane traverse to Brandywine, so that’s what we did. When we got there it was immediately obvious that there were more tracks than yesterday, so it was more challenging to find fresh snow. Also, folks were finding the skiing a bit tricky, due to the snow composition and coverage. I have to admit, I could really tell the difference between being on my mid-fats today, and being on my fat skis yesterday. Typically that difference in powder performance is more subtle, but not today – the fat skis had kept me that little bit higher in the snow yesterday, and that meant minimal interaction with the base or any crust that was sandwiched in between the layers of powder. Also, with the areas of untracked snow not as vast as yesterday, it limited line choice. Although the conditions were a bit challenging for E and the boys at times, there were still a lot of great sections of powder, so great turns were made.
Back down at the cars, it was mid afternoon, and the combination of lift queues and conditions on Timberline that while OK, certainly didn’t have E and the boys raring to go for more, and that made it an easy decision to just call it a day. We headed back to the house where E and Claire spent some time working out all the groups for the ski program. I’m not sure how many extra tickets were sold today for the promotion, but it certainly brought people out. The fact that it was a nice mild day after the recent cold weather probably played into it as well. Hopefully they can have some of the other main lifts open for the next one of these promotional days, because that wouldn’t put so much pressure on the Vista Quad. With the base snow that is out there, all that’s needed is one good synoptic snowstorm to hit the area without going too far south or north and most terrain would be able to open.
“One of my favorite parts of the descent was playing in the dips and rolls along the skier’s left of the trail – there was some incredible flow, and the fats had that “no width” feeling much of the time.”
Despite the recent additions of snow, there hasn’t been too much incentive to ski over the past couple of days, basically because of the continuation of those cold temperatures. When the high temperatures are below zero Fahrenheit, as they have been in some locations this week, I’d much rather get other work done and save skiing for when the temperatures become more respectable. Fortunately, today was that day. Temperatures climbed into the low 20s F this afternoon, and since I was curious about how those rounds of snow over the past week had settled in up at the mountain, it was time to check it out. I really didn’t know what to expect up on the hill. New trails have been opening up on natural snow, including some black diamond runs like Schuss and Vermont 200, so that seemed like a good sign. I was also curious about the lower-elevations on Timberline though. If the recent snows had put down enough coverage there, I was excited to skin up for some powder turns. To cover my options, I put both the fats and mid fats on the ski rack, and threw their skins in the back of the car. I was ready for whatever was out there.
First on my list was to check out Timberline on my way up to the main base, but that’s as far as I got. There was still some tall grass sticking out of the snow on the slopes, but I could see a lot of ski tracks scattered about, and it was clearly game on for Timberline turns. I grabbed the fats, put on the skins, and headed up. There was a well-established skin track heading up the usual Twice as Nice route, so clearly a lot of people have been earning turns since the most recent storm. At the base elevations down at ~1,500’, the snowpack had a few different layers. Going from the top down there were 3 to 4 inches of powder, with what appeared to be a thin crust below it, then another inch of powder, and then some denser snow. All told it was only about 5 to 6 inches in deep, but there was enough substance to it that it seemed like it would provide some decent skiing. Up above 2,000’ it was notably deeper, with more base and a snowpack hitting the 7-10” range.
Based on what I’d seen in the lower elevations, I thought that Brandywine might be a nice option, so I headed to the top of Intro and switched over for the descent there. Looking down Brandywine, the signs were definitely positive. The trail had seen a few skiers, but there was plenty of untracked snow on the skier’s left, and based on the tracks it looked like there would be plenty of cover. The turns were even better than I’d expected, with 6 to 8 inches of powder over a hardened base up top. There was that thin layer of crust sandwiched in there somewhere, but it only occasionally made its presence felt, and the fat skis made quick work of it. One of my favorite parts of the descent was playing in the dips and rolls along the skier’s left of the trail – there was some incredible flow and the fats had that “no width” feeling much of the time. There has definitely been some good snow building up on the mountain while I wasn’t looking – it’s certainly not enough to support lift-served traffic yet, but we’re just one good synoptic storm away from that with the base that’s down there now.
When I reached the junction with Timberline Run I saw that it was rutted from snowcat traffic, so I took Spur, which was totally untracked. The powder wasn’t so deep that I couldn’t move on the modest pitches, but it was enough to keep you floating for turns. As I passed by Spell Binder I saw that there had been a lot of skier traffic there, so indeed people have been hitting it hard. It seems like there was a mini army out there skiing laps over the past couple of days. Just as I was reaching the end of Spur, I saw that the sky was exploding with color off to the west, and it quickly became dramatic enough that I had to stop and take it in. I was probably there for 10 minutes watching the color change as the sun sank lower, and I happily got some good photos of the light show. Even the lowest elevations about which I was most concerned offered up good turns, so it may be worth another visit tomorrow. Temperatures are staying mild ahead of the next storm heading this way, so I’d say it’s time get out in the snow in the northern mountains.
I stopped in at Bolton Valley this morning to check out the snow and make some turns, eager to see how the Timberline area was doing. Up to this point I’ve only skied the main mountain, because the snowpack down at the Timberline elevations was just a bit too marginal. The snowstorm we just had over the weekend was fairly significant though, with close to a foot of snow for the ski resorts in Northern Vermont, and with additional small rounds of fluffy snow topping things off this week, I suspected that Timberline would finally be ready for some turns.
Temperatures have warmed up significantly from where they’ve been over the past several days, and this morning’s valley temperatures in the mid 20s F were very nice. The shot of snow that we picked up this morning in association with a passing warm front had essentially dissipated by the time I was driving up to the hill, and I found just cloudy skies as I geared up for my ascent.
“…I set the AMPerages together alpine style, then schussed the next 30-40 feet of the headwall before dropping into Tele turns in the fluff along the skier’s left of the trail.”
Right off the bat as I began my ascent behind the Timberline Lodge, I started probing the snow to get a sense of the depths and consistency. I found roughly 10 inches of powder in undisturbed areas just above the lodge, and it was indeed nice, but it only had a bit of a density gradient to it. The more surprising thing was that there was little if any base below the powder. There must not have been much snow down at those low elevations before the weekend storm. I followed a nice skin track that took the typical route, wrapping around the lodge and heading up the skier’s right of Twice as Nice. I saw some great-looking powder along the skier’s left of the trail which is more protected from the sun, but there continued to be little if any base along the skin track. That lack of base had me concerned, but once I was above 2,000’ it started to kick in even in the sunnier areas. I was getting snow depth readings of roughly a foot above that level, and there were at least a couple inches of dense base snow. At the mid station I looked toward the upper section of terrain and could tell that with the wind, it wasn’t really going to be worth the additional hike. I traversed across to assess the descent options, and although the tracks on Twice as Nice looked good, Spell Binder looked a bit better.
I switched over for the descent and side-stepped cautiously down the first 20 feet or so of the headwall. I could tell that the snow was thin in that area due to wind scouring, but below that it was much better. I had enough confidence in the coverage to ski the next section of the headwall, but I wanted maximum floatation just to be safe, so I set the AMPerages together alpine style, then schussed the next 30-40 feet of the headwall before dropping into Tele turns in the fluff along the skier’s left of the trail. It felt like the perfect melding of alpine and Telemark technique, and dropping the knee into those lower turns was oh so good. I did a couple of depth checks along the edge during the descent, and generally found at least a foot of snow, with up to 17 inches in one of the deeper spots. The powder there had that fantastic density gradient that delivers great turns. As is often the case, the Timberline area has managed to deliver some of the finest turns of the season so far.
Down at the car, I ran into Brian, one of our graduate students, who was also catching a morning ski constitutional before heading to work. He’d taken Twice as Nice, and said that he had to be on his guard at times. He’s bigger than me, and his skis weren’t quite as wide as mine, but based on our conversation I think I’d give Spell Binder the nod on conditions. Temperatures warmed up to around the freezing mark down in the valley, and that felt nice. We’d supposedly got a big storm, or series of storms coming through the area this weekend, and although there’s going to be a lot of mixed precipitation, it could be a good snowpack builder as well. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.
For the valleys in Northern Vermont, our first big winter storm of the season hit the area this week, and it created some potential holiday travel woes because of its occurrence so close to Thanksgiving. The storm was essentially complete by the time we traveled on Thanksgiving Day, but with 8.2 inches of snow, and 1.62 inches of liquid equivalent, it had certainly bolstered the snowpack in the yard and changed the look of the landscape. While the storm did have some mixed precipitation and rain in the middle, it was quite a nice gain in snow for the mountains, with some of the ski areas in the Northern Greens picking up more than foot of snow. And, as is often the case, the final volley from the storm consisted of a good shot of dry powder that sat well atop some newly added dense base to create some great Thanksgiving Day skiing.
With our holiday traveling done, we finally had the chance to get out today and sample some of the new snow. Dylan was away at a friend’s house, but E, Ty, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to earn some turns. They had reported 9 inches of new snow for Thanksgiving morning, and as we headed up to the Village, we stopped in at the base of Timberline at 1,500’ to check on how the snow had settled in down at that elevation. The depth of the powder was 3 to 4 inches over a good base, and we could see that there had been plenty of ski activity on Timberline’s slopes. Continuing on up to the Village at 2,100’, we found that the snow had increased to 4 to 6 inches in depth.
“The powder skiing was every bit as good as what I’d experienced on Sunday…”
Having experienced some good snow on Turnpike on Sunday, I figured that we would check that out again today. Of course, with it being two to three days since the snow fell, plenty of skiers and snowboarders had been out on the trail, a lot more than the single track I’d seen on my last trip. We were treated to a nice skin track, but most of the powder was tracked out, so we definitely kept our eyes open on the ascent for lesser used options. We ran into Cam at the top of Lower Turnpike, and chatted about the mountain’s opening in a couple of weeks. If we can stick with the current weather pattern, things are looking quite good.
Like I’d done on Sunday, we stopped our ascent around 2,900’ on Turnpike since the terrain above that level was rather windswept, but snow depths had increased to roughly 6 to 8 inches, and combined with the base, there was easily over a foot of snow sitting there in many places. On the ascent I’d looked at the snow on Cougar and the Wilderness Lift Line, and I’d seen only a couple of tracks, so we worked those into our descent. The powder skiing was every bit as good as what I’d experienced on Sunday, and I was glad that we found plenty of untracked snow for Ty and E. Ty was putting together some great turns on his Teles, and I think his skiing was helped by the fact that he was in high spirits. E had her first chance to get on her Element skis with her new Telemark boots, and she definitely felt a big increase in control that she’d previously lacked with on her fat skis with her old boots.
Today was a great, mellow outing, just like you’d expect pre-season at Bolton Valley. Along with Cam, we saw a couple other pairs of skiers, and they all appeared to be experiencing that same vibe. We’ve actually got our next small storm coming through tonight, and it’s supposed to persist into tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll get a freshening of the powder that will set things up for more turns. It’s been a great November of skiing around here, and now it’s on to December – let’s hope it can follow suit.
We’re pleased to announce the completion of our Bolton Valley Photo Gallery for the 2012-2013 ski season. This year’s gallery is our largest to date, with over 270 images documenting this season’s ski adventures indoors and out, in the front, side, and backcountry, under blue skies and flake-dumping maelstroms at Vermont’sBolton Valley Ski Resort. Continue on to the thumbnail images below and browse away! Detailed reports are associated with every photograph in the gallery, so if you find a scene that sparks your interest, simply hover over the thumbnail image to get the date, and head to the archives on the right side of the page to read the full report. We’ve also got similarly extensive galleries from the past several ski seasons, representing nearly 1,600 photographs from around Bolton Valley, and these can all be found at our J&E Productions Photo Galleries Page. We’ll also have our full 2012-2013 Ski Season Summary coming out later this summer, so stay tuned for that update as well.
We’ve had some decent temperatures to get the corn snow cycle going over the past week, and this weekend has been much better than last weekend in terms of warming up the snow on the slopes. Yesterday was pretty nice in terms of weather, but today was even warmer, and the sky was crystal clear. In terms of the mountain snowpack, Stowe is looking great down to pretty low elevations based on Powderfreak’s latest pictures, but I know the snow at Bolton Valley isn’t going to last as long due to its western exposure and late-day heating. With that in mind, I decided to make it a Bolton tour today, and since I haven’t been up since my April 14th tour at Timberline, it was a good time to check on the snow situation at the local hill.
“I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal…”
I headed up in the late afternoon, with valley temperatures around 70 F. There’s no visible snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road until one reaches the 1,500’ elevation, where there’s a big patch at the base of the Timberline area. There’s really not much snow visible on the Timberline trails below the 2,250’ elevation though, and I suspect most of what is there is leftover manmade snow. After passing Timberline, I next saw natural snow appearing a bit below the 2,000’ elevation as I approached the Village. Temperatures were in the low 60s F up at the main base area, and on the slopes in that area there’s snow right down to the main base lodge, but it’s not continuous on all trails. I had to walk a couple hundred feet in the flats above the lodge before I could put on my skins and ascend Beech Seal. From there on up though, the snow is basically continuous on Beech Seal, Sprig O’ Pine, Sherman’s Pass, and Spillway right to the Vista Summit. I took the Sherman’s Pass ascent, and there is some pretty dirty snow in protected areas that haven’t seen much sun. That sun was glorious today though, and I definitely brought along the sunscreen because we’re talking about an August-like sun angle now. On the upper half of the mountain, there’s actually a good mix of manmade and natural snow options, although the trails that received manmade snow are the ones that will really give you those continuous runs with good snow coverage. I stopped my ascent at the Vista Summit right beyond the top of Spillway Lane, ripped off my skins, and got into descent mode. There was just the slightest breeze, but the wind turbine was making good use of it and spinning along.
There are some sun cups starting to form that make the snow surface uneven in spots, but Spillway has smooth options just about everywhere so you can get in some really nice turns. Spillway’s steep pitch felt good as usual, and the snow is indeed nice after this week’s corn cycling. I actually found some of the smoothest snow, or more accurately softest snow, on Beech Seal; perhaps the lower elevation let it warm a bit more than what’s up on Spillway. In any event, the softening was far superior to what we experienced last weekend on either Saturday or Sunday – those temperatures were just a bit to cool to get things to where I found them today at Bolton. At the bottom of my run, I took off my skis and threw them back on my pack to walk through the couple big broken patches of snow in the flats above the lodge, but you can essentially ski all of the ~1,000’ of vertical on the main mountain for now. There’s no snow or even cool temperatures in the forecast this week; it looks fairly mild and sunny, so I’m not sure what the situation will be on the mountain next weekend. There will still be snow for skiing, but I don’t think it will be continuous with the melting that could take place in the sunny, warm afternoons we look to have on tap in the coming days.
We had a family gathering through early afternoon today, but in the mid to late afternoon, I headed up to Bolton Valley for a tour. Up to that point we’d had on and off bouts of precipitation in the valley, often showers mixed with sleet, but no notable accumulation other than transient stuff. Temperatures were in the mid 40s F in the 300’-500’ elevation range along the bottom of the Winooski Valley as I headed westward toward Bolton; we’d had breaks of sun among the clouds and precipitation, and I was preparing for some fairly soft and slushy spring turns up on the hill. Since I never pulled them out yesterday at Stowe, I’d even brought my fat skis to evaluate how they’d perform in the soft stuff. A lot of people seem to like the way they smooth out the mushy stuff, but I’m still curious about how well that works.
Precipitation was pretty sparse as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road, and while there’s patchy snow all the way up out of the valley, consistent natural snowpack really didn’t appear until roughly the 1,500’ elevation at the Timberline Base. Temperatures had dropped into the upper 30s F by that elevation, and light snow was falling. It was mid to late afternoon, but it was actually pretty dark with the clouds around, and more of them appeared to be building in from the west. Based on the available light, it actually felt like a typical November outing in the mountains.
“The snow was good on the whole descent…”
On the slopes, the snow wasn’t really the mushy spring snow that the valley temperatures had given me the impression I’d find; I think the temperatures and/or available sunlight really weren’t high enough to support that. Instead what I found was the couple inches of wet snow/sleet that we’ve picked up from these latest storms, sitting atop the base. The subsurface was still fairly soft and spring-like, presumably due to the recent rounds of wet precipitation percolating some moisture down in there. The intensity of the snowfall was fairly light on the ascent, although I could see squalls around off to the west. There was one off to the south, and another more ominous-looking one off to the north, they were both starting to devour the views of the Adirondacks and it looked like the spine of the Greens was in their path.
Up around the Timberline Mid Station at 2,250’, the surface snow began to have a bit more coalesced consistency relative to what was below. The temperature was approaching the freezing mark, and it appeared to be due to a combination of elevation and some cooler air coming in with the approaching weather. I topped out at the Timberline Summit at 2,500’, and the temperature by that point was either below freezing or very close – the trees still held snow from the recent storms.
After starting down Upper Brandywine, I was about to head back toward the Timberline Mid Station, when I saw that there was a lot of good untracked snow farther down on Brandywine, so I followed that less traditional route. The coverage was actually quite good, and although I don’t follow that route as often, I’m realizing that it’s got more of a northerly aspect than the slopes below the mid station. I think it’s going to be a good route to use in more marginal situations of coverage or sun exposure. The snow was good on the whole descent, transitioning from that stronger, peel-away stuff in the higher elevations, to a wetter consistency down low. I was amazed at how much be It was very much like what we experienced yesterday at Stowe up to the midday hour before the freezing level rose up above the summit of the Fourrunner Quad. There are certainly areas starting to develop bare patches at Timberline, but if you wanted you could ski natural snow terrain all the way down to the Timberline Base; that’s pretty decent for west-facing terrain down at those low elevations this time of year.
The precipitation that had been looming off to the west finally pushed its way over the ridge and into the valley as I was switching out of my ski gear at the car. In typical Bolton Valley style, it came strong, and it was snowfall that meant business. It wasn’t quite the whiteout that I saw in Powderfreak’s Stowe pictures, I think in part because the flakes weren’t as large (probably about ½” max in diameter), but a decent wall of snow came in and made its presence known.
If that snow had been rain, it would have been pouring, and indeed I was able to watch that transition as I descended back down the access road. The snow stayed with me down to around the 500’ elevation, and finally mixed out to just a pouring rain. That rain followed me through the lower elevations of the Winooski Valley, and then by the time I got up a bit higher back at that house along the Waterbury/Bolton line, snow was mixing back in. Checking the radar a little while later, it showed a nice shot of moisture making its way through the Winooski Valley.
I didn’t have high hopes for the overall ski conditions today after what I experienced during yesterday’s outing at Stowe. Snow surfaces in the lower elevations had warmed earlier in the week, followed by plenty of cold nights, and the temperatures yesterday just weren’t warm enough to get the snow to soften. Gondolier was quite firm yesterday afternoon when I made my final descent to the base, with generally frozen granular and a bit of loose granular. Fortunately there was some refuge up in the alpine elevations above ~3,800’ where the snow was still wintry, but it would take some sun and/or warmth to get the lower elevations in shape today, and sun didn’t appear to be in the forecast. Whatever the case, we’d be able to head back up into the alpine to get to the good snow if necessary; today was our final BJAMS ski day of the season, and if the right group of willing students came together, my plan was to make use of the reconnaissance I’d done yesterday and get them up for some fun turns in the area of The Chin.
“…he dropped in with gusto and led into a huge sweeping turn…”
Throughout the morning today, E was getting various calls and text messages from folks letting her know that they weren’t going to be making it to ski program. Those students in the BJAMS theatre program have been putting in many long days of preparation over the past 10 weeks, and this weekend was the culmination of those efforts with shows on Friday and Saturday. Most of those students were so sapped of energy from long days and very late nights, that skiing just wasn’t in the cards. Luke was one of those students, but fortunately Claire had made it out for the day. After combining the usual number of absences for various reasons with the ugly-looking weather forecast and the many students resting up from the play, the end result was eventually just a handful of students and adults meeting at the base of Spruce Peak today. When the dust and reorganization had settled, it turned out that both E and Claire were free to go with our group, and the only kids that we’d have would be Ty, Dylan, and Jack.
Ty and Dylan were raring to go for some hiking and turns in the alpine, and it turned out that Jack was more than ready as well. Somehow, a little bird had told him that I’d been out on the mountain yesterday doing some reconnaissance in the alpine near The Chin… and that I just might be planning to take the ski group up there today. He came ready with his backpack holding a couple bottles of water, and an attitude that said “Let’s get up there!” Ty, Dylan, and I grabbed our ski packs, E and Claire joined us, and we headed up the Gondola for a visit to the wilds of The Chin. Everyone in the group had been up on The Chin and other alpine areas of Mt. Mansfield extensively for hiking in the warmer months, but for everyone but me, this was going to be their first experience up there with winter snowpack and skis. We hoped that Mother Nature was going to make the experience a good one.
Indeed the weather was ultimately on our side today, and skies that might have been cloudy became blue and almost cloudless as we set off on our midday adventures. Claire was unsure of how long she wanted to hike and ski, but when I told her we’d be starting off with and ascent and some turns in the Cliff Trail Gully, which was a fairly quick ascent to the ridgeline, she was game. While I was finishing with the other boy’s packs, Dylan led the charge upward, and blazed the ascent using a combination of the boot pack I’d used yesterday and some variations of his own. It was immediately obvious that we were going to be dealing with a different kind of snow today. The snow that had been firm with a bit of wind or sun crust yesterday was now softening in the sun. The ascent was absolutely delightful; there were occasional bouts of gusty winds, but for the most part the temperature was perfect, the snow supportive, and the boy’s attitudes positive. Although notably slower than my solo pace yesterday, we probably gained the ridge at around 4,100’ in roughly 30 minutes.
The views from the ridgeline were tremendous, and Claire was absolutely loving her decision to join us for the full ascent. The boys were already feeling in their element, as we watched them traverse higher on the craggy rocks farther south along the ridgeline. We hung out for about 20 minutes for drink and snacks, where we conversed about the season’s skiing, and just generally enjoyed the scenery and weather. We could have just as easily been up there in gray and cloudy conditions, but apparently the sun wanted to make its presence know.
To begin the descent, the boys headed over to the lip of the gully so that they could drop in on the steep terrain. The snow that was protected against the ridgeline was somewhere between spring and winter, but generally dry and edgeable; it was going to support some nice turns. Dylan was chomping at the bit to drop in, and after heading to the highest part of the lip, he dropped in with gusto and led into a huge sweeping turn that send him flying right down the gully into the terrain below. Ty and Jack followed suit, and within moments the boys were whooping and hollering about how great the turns were as they made their way down the upper sections of the gully. Indeed once I dropped in myself I found the snow to be well worthy of their praise. One could stick next to the protection of the rocky wall of the ridge for the driest snow, or head left out into more sunshine for more spring-like surfaces. We mixed it up with turns in various part of the gully until we’d dropped a couple hundred vertical feet, right to the spot where I’d descended yesterday that at that time marked the transition to lower-quality snow. That wasn’t the case today thanks to the assistance of the sun, but as we stood atop one of the overlooks and Jack saw the Cliff House below, he lamented the fact that we’d already descended so far and would soon be back to the bottom of the gully. I told him not to worry – we didn’t have to descend if we just wanted to keep touring.
Instead of descending the rest of the gully, I led the group on a traverse across to the next gully southward (see stage 4 in the detailed Google Earth GPS map from yesterday’s outing), and we were able to follow the same track that I’d used yesterday. I told the group that one option was to make another ascent here and ski this gully from the top of they wanted. The boys weren’t all that enthusiastic about another ascent, so after a few moments of discussion, we decided to descend the new gully and see how it went. We saw some great terrain below us, but I warned them that I hadn’t scouted the bottom of this gully yesterday. I told them that we could end up having to hike back out and descend via the Cliff Trail Gully if the trees got too tight or we got ran into cliffs. The acknowledged my advice, and then it was time to drop in. The descent of the second gully started with some nice steep terrain among sparse, buried evergreens. There were really a lot of fun terrain options such as rollovers and small ledges in there that will lend themselves to a lot of future exploration. As we continued downward, the trees began to get tight, and Dylan seemed to be having quite a time blazing a trail through the evergreens using a combination of his own ideas and the tracks of a previous skier that had passed through the area. With all the experience they continue to build, it really is inspiring to watch how confidently the boys navigate their way through challenging terrain like a maze of subalpine evergreens. They were inspecting options and helping each other out all while they were well ahead of the adults. Eventually my spider sense told me that that we needed to break right toward the Cliff Trail Gully, and after some tight squeezes through a few spots, we found ourselves in a pleasant spot atop a rock outcropping among the sea of evergreens. About 100-200 feet below we could see the Gondola summit area, and it felt as if we were on a balcony overlooking a show of skiers and boarders starting their way down the slopes. We spent another few minutes there on the knoll while everyone gathered back together via their own routes through the evergreens, and then we cut right about a dozen yards to get back to the Cliff Trail Gully. We finished our descent to the Cliff House there, and that bottom section of the gully served up some nice turns. It was ski pole-style high fives all around for the folks that had just completed their first descent from the alpine areas of Mt. Mansfield. I didn’t track our outing today by GPS, but for visual details, refer to stages 3 through 5 shown on the detailed Google Earth/GPS map from yesterday – today though, instead of ascending the gully shown in stage 5, we descended it.
“Indeed the weather
was ultimately on
our side today…”
It was around 3:00 P.M as we began the next phase of our descent through the resort. We took Perry Merrill, and didn’t see another soul on the entire descent. The late season date, the fact that it was Sunday afternoon, and the ominous forecast had really cleared out the mountain. With the terrain entirely to ourselves, I led the boys in some huge GS-style turns that took up the whole width of the trail, and they had a lot of fun with that. Ty said that he had used up all his patience for going slow during the hiking portion of the day, so with that in mind it was a great time to let him really open it up. The snow was in fact fantastic, not too firm, not too sticky; it was just what you’d want in corn snow to sink in those edges and let the skis ride. Whatever the sun had not been able to do yesterday in terms of softening up the snow surfaces, it had done it in spades today. We had time to squeeze in one more run of Gondolier before calling it a day and heading back to Spruce Camp. Today is the end of the season for the Gondola and for Spruce Peak, and it ultimately turned out to be a great one. The weather was extremely changeable though – once we were back at Spruce Camp, gray clouds had come in and sleet began to fall.
We finished off the day with a visit to Frida’s for dinner, since we hadn’t been there at all this season. The guacamole was excellent as usual, with a real good dose of lemon today. Despite the fairly spring-like atmosphere out there, the boys both went for hot chocolate, which Frida’s does Mexican-style with some interesting extra flavor. It looks like this week is going to have more precipitation coming in, although not necessarily a lot of snow. It doesn’t look especially warm though, so it looks like it could be OK for snow preservation. It’s great to be going into the month with such a strong snowpack, because it looks like there a lot more great skiing to come.
We planned on getting in some skiing on soft, spring snow today, but Mother Nature had different plans and gave us a lot more than that. Temperatures were below freezing at all elevations last night, which is good for running the corn snow cycle, but it meant that surfaces would need some time to soften into what we were seeking. With that in mind, we took care of other projects in the morning and let the sun do its thing to warm up the snow. At around midday I checked on the temperature in the Bolton Valley Village (elevation 2,100’), and it was still reading just 34 F despite being in the low 50s F down at the house (elevation ~500’). Although skies were clear and that late March sun is getting powerful, 34 F at the base meant that summit temperatures were likely below freezing, so if that snow needed softening, it probably wasn’t going to get it. An hour or so later, I checked and found that the Village temperature had only risen to 37 F, but we figured that the lower slopes, especially those at Timberline below the elevation of the Village, would certainly be softening by that point. With Bolton Valley having an extensive amount of west-facing terrain, softening in the morning can be slow, but it really gets rolling in the afternoon sunshine.
“It was really interesting to find the mountain featuring essentially everything from mid-winter to spring conditions today…”
The snowpack has mostly disappeared from the bottom of the Winooski Valley as we approach April, and even on the lower sections of the Bolton Valley Access Road the situation is the same. It’s not until climbing to around 1,000’ that substantial snowpack starts to return, and then it really snaps into place once you get above the big S-curve in the access road and up to the base of Timberline (elevation ~1,500’). We parked there, finding that the temperature was around 40 F, and as we rode the lift we could immediately see that the snow in the Timberline area had nicely softened into corn. I was also impressed with how extensive and complete the snow coverage was on the trails, even all the way down to the Timberline Base. There were a few bare spots around in some of usual sensitive areas, but the natural snow terrain was really in good shape.
“We made our way over
toward Dylan’s “Heaven”
line, which turned out
to be more like “Hell”…”
The resort’s Rock and Roll Pond Skimming event, which had been postponed from last Saturday due to the winter-like temperatures, was just finishing up as we boarded the Vista Quad. With the full sun, today was a much better fit for the pond skimming, even if it wasn’t outrageously warm. Riding on Vista we began to see that conditions actually appeared to be wintry on the upper mountain, and indeed that’s what we found as we made a run on Spillway. There was even some powder off to the sides, and I caught some nice turns in there, but for the most part it was standard packed winter snow. It was nice, but nothing that was going to compete with the powder or corn snow. The conditions then transitioned into a mix of winter and spring snow on the lower half of the main mountain, depending on sun exposure and aspect.
The plan today had initially been to work on some steep terrain like Spillway and Devil’s Playground in soft spring snow, but with the discovery of some powder on the upper mountain, we decided to visit “The Crack” to see if there was any untracked powder up there. The boys had some fun as we made the ascent, climbing other routes that Dylan pioneered over by the icicles, and starting a snowball fight with me when they had the high ground. We made our way over toward Dylan’s “Heaven” line, which turned out to be more like “Hell”, since the snow wasn’t softened. Indeed the snow remained wintry, but it had taken on a dense layer of about an inch thick from previous elevated temperatures. That line is north-facing, but at around 2,500’ or so, it wasn’t quite high enough to avoid whatever warming had taken place earlier in the week. It turned out that someone had already skied Heaven anyway, so we ventured left and changed to a more westerly aspect. Ultimately, we actually found far better turns in the Villager Trees on west-facing terrain that had been softened by the sun today.
Since the Timberline area seemed to be low enough in elevation to support soft snow from top to bottom, we finished off the day there, with Spell Binder being our favorite run. We found lots of excellent corn snow from top to bottom, but a few shots were getting sticky if they were in direct sun and hadn’t seen traffic. As good as the snow was down there, I think the boys had just as much fun throwing snowballs around in the sunshine as they did making turns. It was really interesting to find the mountain featuring essentially everything from mid-winter to spring conditions today based on how warm it got in the lower mountain valleys. I’d break it down as the upper mountain from around 3,200’ to 2,500’ featuring winter snow on all aspects except directly south-facing, the lower mountain from ~2,500’ to ~2,000’ featuring a mix of conditions depending on sun exposure, and then most of Timberline featuring spring conditions with its lower elevations down to 1,500’. Hopefully we’ll get to do something similar next weekend as Bolton Valley rolls into April.
We arrived at Timberline right around the opening of the Timberline Quad, and kicked things off with a Brandywine to Intro to Spell Binder run. There was some decent powder off to the edges of Brandywine and Intro up top (including enough to bog Dylan down for a great crash that delighted the folks on the lift above), but it was Spell Binder that had the real pay dirt. There were a few tracks that had been set down, but other than that it was a sea of untracked snow. I suspect that run would be picked as a favorite in the group today. The snow wasn’t especially deep, but there was plenty of it for bottomless turns and the density worked out pretty well. We went with Adam’s Solitude next, and had the fortune to meet Steve from thesnowway.com. We had an enjoyable run with Steve, and I even managed to sneak in some ski-related conversation. I’ve avoided Adam’s Solitude over the past several weeks, not being really sure that it had the coverage I want to see in there, and based on what I saw today, it really needed this latest storm. I know that Steve has been visiting a variety of resorts this season, and it’s great that the recent snowfall brought him over to Bolton for some turns. I see that he’s already written up his report from the day, so click on over and check it out. Hopefully Steve can get back for another Bolton trip to check out Wilderness (the Wilderness Chair was down on wind hold today) and some of the backcountry.
Dylan was really hankering’ a waffle from the Waffle Cabin – in the spirit of what we were calling his hobbit-style “second breakfast”. We made our way over only to find that the Waffle Cabin was closed, but we went for an inside snack nonetheless and had a good time sitting by the fire. We made a Vista run after that, and I directed everyone to Devil’s Bowl… or at least close. We overshot it a bit and ended up skiing the trees off to skier’s left, but there was a lot of untracked snow in there. Ty called for a return to Timberline, which went over pretty easily with everyone else since the winds, which were definitely howling at the top of Vista, were notably lower down there. We caught the lower part of Tattle Tale on the return, and noticed three guys that were actually skiing Upper Tattle Tale – but the Tattle Tale headwall looked really bony from wind scouring and they were essentially skiing around it on the edges of the trail. Lower Tattle Tale had some decent powder, but a lot of tracks on it. Fortunately even the previously tracked snow was good, and Ty said he liked it a lot. We decided on one more run before breaking for lunch, which included the Intro Trees followed by a trip through Doug’s Solitude. That run was mostly satisfying Dylan’s request to see a lean-to that E and the boys had built during the summer a couple of seasons ago in the Timberline Mid Station area. It’s still standing, despite the deep snow. The boys launched some nice airs at the end of those lines though – Ty’s was very smooth with a nice sloped landing, and Dylan’s was flatter with a couple of tiers. We did discover though that the route back to the Solitude traverse needs some definite trimming this off season as it’s got a lot of small vegetation clogging the lines back there.
After lunch it was the Wood’s Hole/KP Glades show for the boys. We took the first run with E and she stuck to the trail because her legs were getting a bit cooked for too many more Telemark turns in the steep trees. The boys were looking to drop some cliffs, and drop them they did. They were so excited that we hit two more rounds in there even after Mom called it quits for the day and headed for the lodge. The boys were definitely in the zone during that afternoon session, and the vibe was good because they kept feeding off each other and the whole scene. The powder out there was set up well for dropping off the various ledges and cliffs – I checked a number of times and was getting depths of 22 inches where snow hasn’t been disturbed during all these recent rounds of snowfall. Landings were very soft, although Ty did have to walk away from one that I judged just a bit too dangerous with a log and a rock in the landing zone. He was all set to charge it based on what he saw from above, but once he got down and had a look he thanked me for the warning.
It was a wintry March day today, not especially cold with temperatures in the 20s F, but brisk enough with the wind that the pond skimming had to be postponed. This cold weather is really keeping that powder in great shape however, and we’re not worried because we know that spring weather will come eventually. Until then I say keep the snow flying to make up for the slow January and February. The season is still below average on snowfall (~90% of average at the house), so even though the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake sailed above average to 82 inches today, we’ve still got some catching up to do in that department. We could actually be in for a repeat of last night’s snow tonight. Winter weather advisories up for the Northern Greens for as much as 10 inches of snow, but we’ll have to see how that plays out – so far the radar hasn’t really seemed to light up the way it did last night.