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’s Bolton 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
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
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.
In Northern Vermont we remain under the influence of an area of low pressure stuck over the Maritimes, and it dropped another round of snow overnight. We picked up just shy of 4 inches down here at the house, and Bolton Valley picked up 7-10 inches. That amount of fresh snow changed my thoughts for today from a more sidecountry or backcountry outing, to a lift-served one. There’s been close to 30 inches of snow on the upper mountain in the past week, and with this latest round from last night I’d expect even the on piste skiing to be great.
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.
E had been talking about getting another evening of skiing in at Bolton Valley before the season ended, and things came together today to make it happen. I’d initially forgotten about the potential plans when she called me at work this afternoon, especially since I was somewhat satiated and ready to get a lot of work done after a great morning session at Timberline. Although I did have a lot of work that I wanted to get done in the evening, she said that the boys were interested in going up for some skiing as well. It was hard not to jump at the opportunity if they were eager for some turns – an evening out on the slopes would probably be better for everyone than an evening of TV or similar indoor things. Even if there isn’t an ongoing hefty storm to really sweeten the deal, conditions are pretty darned good after the recent snows, and temperatures haven’t been too bad either. As we chatted on the phone, I began to describe the fantastic turns that I’d had this morning, lamenting the fact that they weren’t there to experience the powder. But, as we began to plan the evening, I suddenly realized that they actually could get out on that same snow. We’re into daylight savings time and past the spring equinox now, and there’s light in the sky until 7:00 P.M. The evening plans began to shift, and pretty soon we were discussing the logistics of an evening Timberline run. I initially thought that we should just skin up like I’d done in the morning, until E pointed out that it could be done much more quickly if we used the lifts and made it a sidecountry run. That was brilliant of course, because it would be much faster for the boys than trying to do a full ascent under their own power.
“…it was the kind of snow
that made you just want
to keep going and going
with turn after turn, and
apparently that’s what I
Even with the relatively late sunset, time was still going to be of the essence, so we quickly decided on how to optimize our schedule. E and the boys were at the house, just a few minutes from the resort, but I was farther away in Burlington. Conveniently though, I still had all my gear right in the car from my morning outing; I could get into my ski clothes on the way to the mountain, and easily be there by 6:00 P.M. ready to go. That would give us a good hour of light, which would be plenty of time for a lift-assisted lap on Timberline.
I made good time traveling from Burlington, and arrived in the Timberline lot a few minutes before 6:00 P.M. That gave me enough time to park my car, get into my ski boots and outer layers, and have all my gear ready to go by the time E and the boys arrived. They picked me up and we headed up to the Village. There were no concerns about leaving a pair of “driving boots” in the car (one of those logistical aspects that has almost caught us in the past) because I was already in my Telemark boots and I had two other pairs of boots/shoes in the car. We were good to go. E dropped me and the boys and all the gear off right at the base of the Snowflake Lift, and we got everything ready while she parked the car and got suited up herself. It was fun to be on that end of the preparation duties, since I’m typically the one parking the car. Within a few minutes we were on the Snowflake Lift heading upward, with the sun still well above the horizon. Even without lights, the resort still had all the trails of the Snowflake area open because of the extended daylight, so we easily made it over toward Five Corners and up to the Timberline Summit.
Everything had gone smoothly on our part, but there were still a couple of potentially confounding factors with regard to the skiing: 1) since the resort is planning to resume Timberline lift service tomorrow, they had been grooming some of the terrain, and 2) even with relatively cold temperatures, it appeared that sun exposed areas on the western slopes had melted a bit due to the strong March sun, and that left a sun crust that we’d want to avoid if at all possible to get the very best powder turns.
The upper part of Brandywine had been groomed pretty thoroughly, so that only left a few options for powder skiing. As I expected, we found that the shaded, skier’s left of the trail yielded the best snow – in most cases one could get powder that was just as pristine as what I’d found in the morning. With some grooming having been done on both Showtime and Twice as Nice, Spell Binder gave the most available powder below the top section of terrain, and we made our way there. Just like I’d experienced on Showtime in the morning, the Spell Binder Headwall was in decent shape aside from a little scouring at the very top – I’d say we have the easterly wind to thank for that. As long as one stayed along that skier’s left, and fortunately there was plenty of untracked snow there, they were catching some very good powder. Dylan, E and I focused our efforts on that area, while Ty, who had decided to go with his fat alpine skis, seemed to have no problem ripping up any part of the trail, regardless of whether it had seen the sun or not. He was simply flying down the slope at times – at one point he said he was going so fast that he wasn’t even leaving a track. I think a little sun crust might have been involved in that one, but he really did seem to be a kinetic blur most of the time off to our right, and he does seem to have elf-like abilities at time atop the snow. Dylan had daringly chosen to go with his Telemark skis, and certainly struggled at times, but he also made some really nice turns. E was initially disheartened with the performance of her fat skis on some of the packed terrain we’d hit on the way down, but they sure seemed to work well for her when she was in the powder – as they should. I had no complaints, my AMPerages did heir amazing job in the powder, and even when I strayed a bit far toward the crust, they seemed to help me get on track with plenty of crust-busting power. Like this morning, it was the kind of snow that made you just want to keep going and going with turn after turn, and apparently that’s what I did. E thought I might stop at one point as we were farther down the trail to pass the camera off to her for some pictures, but she was surprised to see me just cruise right on by. In reality though, pictures were getting tough as time wore on – the sun was going down and the light was getting quite dim. Low light is the enemy of high speed photography, and we were pushing it even with using the DSLR. We still got some decent shots out of the session, even if I had to crank up the ISO to somewhat grainy levels. We definitely made the most of the light we had.
It was kind of neat the way things came together this evening to let us get in that late-day sidecountry run, and we’ll definitely have to keep these sorts of spring days in mind for future. We’ve got more snow coming in over the next couple of days, with more fluff to top off what’s currently out there. I think it’s going to be a fun experience as we balance out the new snow with which aspects and elevations have seen that bit of sun crust, but I’m sure there will be some great turns out there this weekend.
Our most recent storm brought up to 18 inches of snow to the Green Mountains, and while it was certainly much denser than Champlain Powder™, it provided a solid resurfacing to most areas. Based on the conditions we’ve had in the Northern Greens, it was hardly necessary, but a slope refresher is usually good, and this stuff is going to keep that mountain snowpack growing. I was busy in the morning, but with E and the boys still on break they came and picked me up in Burlington so that we could get in some skiing in the new snow. E and Ty had been tossing around the idea of working on a report that Ty had to do for school, and they ultimately decided that they had to use some of the afternoon to get a jump on that. So, it was just Dylan and I that initially headed up to Bolton Valley for some afternoon turns, while E and Ty planned to join us later if the work went smoothly.
In this area, snow has been falling all the way to the valley floors with the current storm cycle, but it’s still been fairly warm and the lowest elevations haven’t been accumulating snow except when temperatures drop overnight. Today it was fairly warm as well, with temperatures around 40 F or so at our house when we headed up to Timberline. We found that the snow there was already wet and spring-like, and I knew we’d be heading to the upper mountain to get to the best powder for turns. Indeed the snow was much better up high – at the Vista Summit above 3,000’ it was still somewhat dense, but dry and ready to support some good powder turns.
Being well into the afternoon, I decided to show Dylan some terrain off Ricker Mountain; we’d explored it before, but I doubt he’d remember that. The snow did get somewhat thick as we headed down in elevation, even just down to 2,800’. Dylan didn’t seem to have a problem, but if I stopped for extended periods I’d have snow starting to stick to the bottom of my skis. Fortunately, it would be cleaned off as soon as I started moving. We continued our run by making our way over to Wilderness, and that’s where we found some of our best powder of the day. Although we were lower in elevation than we’d been before, the snow Wilderness Lift Line was holding up quite well.
Our next run was a trip to the Villager Trees, and I gave Dylan his choice of line – he wanted the “Heaven” chute that he’d enjoyed the other day, so Dylan got first tracks through there. His run wasn’t without some adventure though – at one point he caught an edge and went flying head over heels. He was OK, but it took him a couple of minutes to realize that. Dylan wanted to catch a run on Adam’s Solitude, but once we got down to the lowest Timberline elevations and saw how sticky the snow was getting, I decided that we could hold off and catch it another time.
While we were in the lodge getting a snack for Dylan, I saw that I had a new phone message. It was from E, and she said that they had finished Ty’s work and were thinking of coming up for some night skiing. She also recalled that because it was Family Week at the resort, they had No Strings Marionette Company putting on a show up at the main lodge. We all planned to meet up, watch the show, and then get in some evening skiing under the lights.
The marionette show was excellent as expected – No Strings Marionette Company had spent a week in residence at Ty and Dylan’s school, so we knew their work. Ty had brought his Telemark skis and Dylan switched over to his, so they spent the evening working on their Telemark turns. After a couple runs, we snuck in dinner at Fireside Flatbread, and I was really surprised that the boys hadn’t had enough skiing after that. There was some really nice snow out there though, with the very best of it in the highest elevations. Dylan and I had noticed that the line of transition to notably wetter snow was about 200’ above the main base. The snow below that level was still OK, especially with skier traffic, but it was above that level that the new snow was driest and skiing really well. We started out with a typical training run on the Sherman’s Pass route, but Ty was eyeballing the impressively steep expanse of Spillway as we went by. I commented that Spillway was too steep for him to be working on Telemark turns, but of course Ty would have none of that logic. I acquiesced with the insistence that Ty practice Telemark turns even on the steep terrain, and by the next run we were dropping our way down the steeps of Spillway. The snow was somewhat packed in the center of the trail, and even starting to develop a few moguls. However, the sides, especially the skier’s right where the terrain is somewhat invisible as it falls away from view, held a lot of deep loose snow that was either still sitting there from the storm or thrown their by the work of other skiers. That terrain falling away from view also equates to it falling away from the assistance of the night skiing lights, and that adds quite a different dimension to the experience. With only the marginal assistance of the lights from the other side of the trail, it was quite a hoot making steep Telemark turns in down Spillway amidst copious chopped up powder. I found some beautifully soft lines of there, and it was a reminder of how even semi-packed snow can be a lot of fun. The boys were clearly having enough fun as well, because they wanted to keep doing more runs – we kept going until the lifts shut down.
Erica and the boys are on vacation from school this week, and it’s allowed us to do some planned media work with the folks at Bolton Valley Resort over the past couple of days. Since last week, the Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning period looked like the best window for sunny skies between storm cycles, so Josh arranged for photographers (Justin) and videographers (Dennis, Sam, and Daniel) to be on site and capture whatever Mother Nature would permit.
Yesterday was a classic case of Mother Nature doing exactly what she felt like doing though – the forecast called for clearing skies in the afternoon, but as we drove up the Bolton Valley Access Road for a 12:30 P.M. meeting with Josh, we headed right up into the clouds. Those clouds didn’t show any signs of pulling away as we gathered in the, and in fact to emphasize their command of the situation, they decided to send along some snow by mid afternoon. It was actually some beautiful snowfall comprised of large, gently falling flakes, but it was clear that we weren’t going to see the sun. With the clouds and snow, we laughed about how that was life in the Northern Greens, but that really is a good thing, even if it means a bit of waiting for prime ski marketing images.
“With the clouds and snow,
we laughed about how that
was life in the Northern
Fortunately, Josh knew how to make excellent use of the weather, and he took care of getting all the interior work done. We had several families with lots of children, and Justin set up a variety of images in a couple of the hotel rooms. Later we went over to the James Moore Tavern and got some dining and après ski shots there in front of the fire with pizza etc. I had a good time, although it was definitely a lot of sitting around for Ty – he was getting pretty cranky by the end. He was in sore need of some outside time on skis, so we were definitely hoping that the following morning would bring some sunshine with it.
I had some work to do in the morning, but E and the boys were up at the mountain by 7:45 A.M. to kick off the day. The media crew got to hit the lifts before they opened to the general public, and Dylan definitely enjoyed getting to ride one of those early chairs. The crew did some shooting on Alta Vista and Cobrass, including what sounded like a fun time up at the Cobrass Café with the kids playing around in some of the deep snow. It wasn’t 100% sunny, but there was great sun at times among puffy white clouds, and that made for some decent lighting. I also heard everyone went for some off piste fun in the Cobrass Woods. Ty dropped a pretty big rock in there, although it wasn’t caught on film.
I arrived at the mountain around midday, and as I was putting on my skis at the base of the Vista Quad, I ran into Daniel shooting video with his Canon EOS 60D. He took advantage of my appearance and captured a tight video shot of me clicking into my alpine skis. I made a run on Cobrass to catch up with the group, but didn’t quite overtake them until they’d already headed in for lunch. I did need to eat as well, so that worked out for me, and E and the boys got to tell me all about their morning. There was of course a lot of stopping during that morning session with all the photography and videography, but they’re somewhat used to that from hanging around with me all the time. All the children (who ranged from roughly age two to teens) seemed to be handle the waiting, although fortunately that’s a lot easier to do when you’re out in the fresh air. It was good that temperatures were very comfortable being right around the freezing mark, so nobody got too cold hanging around.
The crew reassembled for a couple more runs in the afternoon. We headed over to Timberline and Justin took a number of shots of pairs of skiers skiing together and buzzing the camera. Families were often mixed up for variety, but our family did get to ski together for some shots where the four of us were in a row and Justin skied right behind us. The boys did a great job of holding their position, and Justin was appreciative. Ty got into some powder on one of his runs along the edge of the trail, making some impressive turns tight to the trees. Justin had to get along to Burlington by mid afternoon, but as we got toward that point we were starting to lose the sunshine anyway as clouds became more numerous.
Even though it wasn’t perfectly sunny at all times today, it was definitely a great one with a bit of spring in the air. The freezing level rose up pretty high – the Bolton Valley Weather Station at 2,100’ got just above it to 33.4 F, and judging by the look and feel I bet that freezing line got up to ~2,500’. There was a bit of a previous melt crust off piste below the 2,000’ mark in exposed areas, but powder was nice (albeit dense) above that level, and the groomed slopes were just beautiful everywhere. There was even a bit of a spring corn feel to the snow down near 1,500’ on west-facing terrain at Timberline. In any event, it was great getting some sun after being socked in yesterday: That sunny window is closed now though – those afternoon clouds were harbingers of the next storm coming into the area. It looks like it’s going to show some strong elevation dependence, but totals could be good up in the higher elevations were temperatures remain cool.
Josh didn’t waste any time employing his new media on the Bolton Valley website, because within a couple days of the photo shoot we saw a picture of E and the boys appearing in the slide show on the main page:
We’re hoping Josh gets plenty of great images and video from the session!
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.