Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 18JAN2020

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in some January powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan below the Gotham City sign in the backcountry ski trail network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in Gotham City during today’s ski tour as snow begins in association with Winter Storm Jacob

So far, this week has done a nice job of rejuvenating the local ski conditions, with a total of four storms expected to affect the area.  We had a couple of very minor storms earlier in the week that dropped a few inches in total for the mountains, and then a larger storm that hit the area on ThursdayThat one actually wound up being our largest storm of the season to date here at the house, dropping almost a foot of snow.

I suspected that the most recent storm wasn’t going to be quite enough to get the backcountry into perfect shape, but the forecast called for chilly temperatures topping out in the 10-15 F range, so earning some powder turns in the new snow seemed like the way to go.  Dylan joined me in my plan to head up and take a quick tour on some moderate terrain on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
This season’s update of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map is once again listing a lot of the glades.

“Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.”

The idea for today’s tour was to head partway up the Bryant Trail, connect over to Gotham City, catch some turns in the Gun Sight area, and then finish off the run with some lower glades.  Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.  There were some nice powder turns in that snow, but the base depths are very inconsistent.  In some spots the base snow was sufficiently deep, but in others there was little to no base, and obstacles like rocks and logs definitely needed to be avoided.  Dylan’s most memorable quote of the day came after he had an altercation with some sort of obstacle under the snow and took a tumble.  He was on Erica’s fat skis, and we were really hoping it wasn’t a rock.   D quickly reassured me… “It was a log”.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the shelter of the trees and nice powder on today’s backcountry ski tour

We’ve actually got our next significant weather system, Winter Storm Jacob, starting to affect the area this afternoon.  I’m not sure exactly when the snow from the storm first started to appear, but around 4:00 P.M. we were in Gotham City finishing our ascent, and I realized it was snowing.  It’s kind of fun when you’re touring in the forest like that with limited views and protection from the elements, and before you know it you’re getting covered with fresh snow.  The density of snow from this next storm will probably be on the high side, so it should make a solid contribution to the base to cover some of the obstacles we’ve been encountering.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley backcountry network

Looking back at the start of the 2018-2019 ski season in Vermont – Mt. Mansfield snowpack depth and historical comparative analysis.

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.

One approximate measure of when the potential natural snow/off piste skiing begins each season here in Northern Vermont is the date when the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake reaches 24 inches.  This is by no means an exact date, especially since it’s possible to get great turns on just a few inches of snow if the snow is dense and the underlying surface is grass instead of rocks.  You can indeed get by with much less than 24 inches of snowpack if the snow is very dense, but not if it’s all Champlain Powder™ fluff.  Based on empirical observations and reports from skiers in the area each season though, hitting the 24” mark is reasonable for most situations.

With that preface, let’s take a look at where last season sits with regard the start of the natural snow/off piste skiing around here.  By most accounts, last season started off with bang.  Even in the local mountain valleys, the winter snowpack started as early as November 10th.  That’s very early for the valleys, and when the valleys are doing well, the mountains certainly are too.

The updated plot for the 60+ seasons in the Mt. Mansfield Stake database is below, with last season represented by the red star:

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.
The updated plot showing the date of reaching 24-inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. The point for the 2018-2019 winter season (November 27th, 2018) is indicated by the red star.

Before I add a bit of context to last season’s start, here are the stats for the data set:

n:  64
Mean:  Dec 12th
Median:  Dec 9th
Mode:  Dec 16th
S.D.:  18.8 days

Entry of this year’s data point had no effect on the mean, mode, or S.D. (within a tenth of a day), but it did drop the median by one day from Dec 10th to Dec 9th.

The plot would suggest a reasonably good start, but nothing outrageous:  last year’s 24” date was Nov 27th, which is only 0.78 S.D. ahead of the mean, so well within 1 S.D.  That puts it in roughly the top 22% of seasons, so about 1 in 5 seasons will have a similar or earlier 24” date.

While the 24” date is a nice snapshot for the start of the natural/off piste season, there are of course a number of other factors to take into account that made last November more impressive than that number alone:

1) Near miss:  If you look at the raw November stake depth data (posted below), you can see that the snow depth at the stake reached 23” on Nov 21st.  That’s as close of a miss as you can get to hitting 24”, so even as of the 21st of the month, the snowpack had essentially hit that two-foot level.  Getting to that level by the 21st brings a season past 1 S.D. and into that top ~15% of seasons.  That’s not a huge bump in this regard, but having nearly an extra week of borderline two-foot snowpack at that part of the season could easily mean an entire additional weekend of natural snow skiing potential.

2) No going back:  This is a much bigger feather in last season’s cap.  Even from about mid-month, the snowpack never really took a major hit, and once it did hit that 24” mark on Nov 27th, there was really no going back.  It sailed past 24” and just kept climbing as you can see in the numbers at the end of the month.  I haven’t added the December numbers below, but even with the lackluster December we had, the snowpack never dropped below ~40”.  That can’t be said for all of the seasons on the left side of the plot (certainly not Mr. October out there in front, which was the 2006-2007 season – he was back to 0” at the stake by mid-November).

3) Snow-depth days:  I haven’t calculated this for any November with the stake data, but it will obviously be a good integrative measure of how much snow was on the ground for the start of the season.  I’m sure last November would have a solid ranking if I put those data together.

So, if we look into that left side of the plot, do we have any other recent seasons in there that we can use for comparison to last season?

Actually, that lone star (Nov 25th) just to the left of the red star for last season is for 2007-2008.  We know that was a solid season around here.  The snowpack began building in the first week of November, and there was really no going back there either.  Unlike this past season, that solid November was followed up by a stellar December (almost 70” of snow here at the house) and the Mansfield snowpack was hitting five feet by the holidays.  With a solid December, last season certainly would have given 2007-2008 a run, but instead it was languishing at around 40” at the stake during the holiday period.

With regard to some of the other stars up at that end of the plot:

The two compatriots of last season on the plot, those other two stars on Nov 27th, are 1997-1998 and 1977-1978.  1997-1998 looks pretty solid with a snowpack start in the first week of November, and snowpack at about that five-foot mark by the holiday period.  There’s also a nice-looking bonus stretch of snow at the end of October, with snow at the stake for almost the last third of the month, and the depth peaking at 16”.  Checking my archives, I actually went for some lift-served skiing at Sugarbush on Oct 28th, so that speaks to that period snow being a bit of something special.  1977-1978 was before my time around here, but it looks a bit tamer.  There was nothing in October, then snowpack began to build around mid-November and was getting around the four-foot mark by the holidays.

The two stars right at Nov 20th are interestingly, back-to-back seasons of 1967-1968 and 1968-1969.  Both had a little October snow, and then a snowpack start in the first week of November.  Both had pretty steady climbs right through November and December, with 1967-1968 getting to around 40” for the holiday period, and 1968-1969 hitting a very robust 6+ feet of snowpack for the holidays.  I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, as that was just the start of a season that would become legend.

The star at Nov 18th is 1965-1966, and the progression looks sort of like 1967-1968.  That’s quite a 4-year stretch of good early seasons from ’65-’66 to ’68-’69 with those three solid starts.

The star at Nov 16th is 1980-1981.  That season is interesting in that the snowpack started building on Oct 20th and sailed right into November without ever going back to zero.  Snowpack was 4+ feet for the holidays, but the rest of the season looks modest (relatively speaking) with the snowpack depth never getting above 6 feet.

The star on Nov 14th is for something more recent:  2003-2004.  I was out in Montana for that one, but snowpack started building in the second week of November, it was 4+ feet at the holidays, and hit the 100” mark in March.

The star on Nov 13th is for 1976-1977.  That looks like an impressive start, with snowpack taking hold in the second half of October, climbing right through November, and hitting roughly the 4-foot mark for the holidays.  The stake didn’t quite top out at 100” that season, but it did pretty well topping out at 94”.

The final early star I haven’t mentioned yet is the one on Nov 11th, that’s for the 1990-1991 season.  It seems like the only other boom and bust start to go with Mr. October (2006-2007).  There was a little inkling of snow at the end of October and start of November, but snowpack started building at the end of the first week of the month and topped out at a very impressive 45” on Nov 14th!  It was a downhill slide after that though.  The snowpack never went lower than 9” but there were only 12-18” on the ground for the holiday period, and on Dec 30th it dropped from 18” to 13”, so that must have been quite a dagger in the holiday week (I guess that depends on whether it was a nice spring skiing day or a nasty rainstorm).  The rest of that season seemed pretty blasé because the snowpack never even hit 5 feet.  I don’t recall much about that season, but I’m assuming there was nothing too remarkable.

The November 2018 Mt. Mansfield snow depth data are below – note that there are a few days with no depth data available:

Date                 Depth
11/1/2018        2
11/2/2018        1
11/3/2018        4
11/4/2018        4
11/5/2018        4
11/6/2018        3
11/7/2018        0
11/8/2018        3
11/9/2018        1
11/10/2018      7
11/11/2018      8
11/12/2018      8
11/13/2018     
11/14/2018      14
11/15/2018     
11/16/2018      19
11/17/2018     
11/18/2018     
11/19/2018      20
11/20/2018      21
11/21/2018      23
11/22/2018      23
11/23/2018      23
11/24/2018      20
11/25/2018      19
11/26/2018      19
11/27/2018      32
11/28/2018      43
11/29/2018      46
11/30/2018      44

Stowe, VT 28APR2019

An image snowing some of the snow cats from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont assembled above the Midway Lodge
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
A little more snow overnight topped off the accumulations from yesterday to produce some nice turns starting at around 3,000′ at Stowe today.

This weekend we took advantage of the great off-season rates and stayed slope side at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which I learned has now been renamed “The Lodge at Spruce Peak”.  My sister and her family were in the area and staying at the Lodge for a couple of days, so this gave us a chance to catch up with them as well stay right by the slopes for some easy access to skiing on Mt. Mansfield.

Over the past couple of days we’ve had a storm in the area that’s been dropping some fresh snow in the higher elevations, and my ski tour at Bolton Valley yesterday revealed 4 to 6 inches of fresh, dense powder up around the 3,000’ mark.  Powderfreak reported similar accumulations in the upper elevations during his tour at Stowe yesterday, and images of the powder skiing looked quite decent, so that bode well with respect to getting in some good turns in association with our visit to the Lodge.  While there was expected to be a lull in the snowfall on Saturday afternoon, the forecast suggested that it would pick back up in the evening with the chance to tack on some additional accumulations as well.

An image of people in one of the hot tubs by the pool at the Lodge at Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica, Jill, and the kids out for time in the hot tub and pool on Saturday afternoon/evening.

We arrived at the Lodge yesterday afternoon, dropped off the car, and then got settled into our room while we caught up with my sister’s family.  This time we tried out one of the one bedroom suites, similar to what we’ve had in the past at places like the Tram Haus Lodge.  It’s definitely nice to have a bit more space and the multiple rooms, especially now that the boys are older (and bigger).  The additional space was also convenient for when my sister’s family came over to visit.  During the evening we generally relaxed, the kids headed to the pool/hot tub area for a bit, and we all had a great dinner at the Hourglass Lounge.  There was snowfall all the way down to the base elevations in the evening, and as we had dinner we’d occasionally see windy whiteouts from all the blowing snow.  It looked quite wintry, but temperatures were fairly marginal at the base elevations, so there was really only a trace of accumulation visible by morning.

I was the only one planning to ski today, so after we checked out of our room and had breakfast at Solstice, E and the boys dropped me off at the Midway Lodge.  There were probably two to three dozen cars in the Midway parking lots, and people were heading out from there for ski tours along various routes.  Chin Clip Runout looked pretty quiet, and it, along with Switchback is one of my favorite ascent routes, so I headed that way and started skinning.

An image of rime ice on some branches high on Mt. Mansfield near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowstormOn my ascent, I observed that additional snow accumulations seemed rather minimal below about 2,500’ – there was a windswept inch or two that was really scattered around atop the old base, and much of that was probably there from Saturday’s snow.  The new snow had collected in pockets here and there, but I didn’t really see any substantial consistency until I started getting into the upper half of the terrain.  Around the 3,000’ mark I started getting some solid 6 to 7 inch depths of reasonably dense, dry snow along the climber’s right of Perry Merrill.  I saw some folks continue their ascents up above the Gondola into the alpine via Cliff Trail Gully, but I was a bit leery of what coverage would be like with the new snow over previous melting among the rocks.  If the new snow depths continued to increase above the 3,600’ range then it could have been quite nice up there.

“The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.”

Being underwhelmed by the accumulations I’d seen on my ascent of the main Gondi terrain, I headed toward Cliff Trail for my descent.  The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.  That was really nice, and while the depth gradually decreased as I headed down Cliff Trail, the skiing there was quite good throughout.  There were a few tracks on the trail, but only a handful of skiers had been down at that point.  I’d say that the junction with Nosedive at around 2,700’ was right about where the best snow petered out.  The elevation was part of it, but the change to Nosedive with its more open nature and higher levels of skier traffic made for a very obvious break in the availability of the new snow.  That would have been an excellent spot to stop a descent if one was looking to lap the best snow up high.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow along the edge of the Perry Merrill trail up near 3,500 feet on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
Catching some nice powder turns off the side of Perry Merrill up around 3,500′

We’ve got some fairly cool days coming over the next week, so the new snow should stick around for a while up high, although the quality may deteriorate somewhat from the typical spring temperature cycling.

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield – Rock Garden, VT 21APR2019

An image from Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont showing a view of the Gondola and the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline with the Rock Garden area visible in the upper left
A view of the Rock Garden area near the treeline on Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view from up in the Rock Garden today near the start of my descent from the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline

Temperatures have been warming up over the past several days, and snow has just about melted out in most of the lower valleys, but there’s still feet upon feet of snow in the mountains.  After a fairly dreary Saturday, today was looking warm and pleasant, so the whole family headed off to Stowe in the afternoon for some spring turns.

The tailgating scene was in full force in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smell of burgers cooking on portable grills seemed to be everywhere.  Today was definitely the day to be out there with the glorious spring weather, and as the last official day of lift-served skiing, I’m sure the Stowe faithful were all happy to be going out on a high note.

An image of Tailgaters in the Mansfield parking lot at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Stowe Tailgaters

The four of us had our ski packs with us as we boarded the Fourrunner Quad, since one goal I’d had today was to check out the Rock Garden.  With the ample snowfall and overall pattern of storm cycles the Northern Greens have seen this season, it just seemed to fill in even better than usual, so this was certainly a spring to pay the area a visit.  As we’ve done before on other tours, the plan was to use the Fourrunner Quad for lift access, ski across through the Nosedive Glades, and then hike up Cliff Trail to get to the Gondola/Chin area.  We’d initially been excited to see that the Gondola was running when we arrived, which would make for even easier access to the alpine terrain near The Chin, but we soon saw that they were just clearing off the cabins from the Easter sunrise service.  As we took in the views of the Rock Garden from the Fourrunner Quad, I could see that it was no longer the large continuous snowfield that it had been just a few of weeks ago.  There were still plenty of skiable lines, but I wasn’t sure if the effort was going to be worth it for E and the boys.  So after an initial run all together, I split off to check it out on my own while they skied the Fourrunner terrain together.

My trip over toward the Gondola/Cliff House went smoothly, and I caught a good traverse through the Nosedive Glades over to Cliff Trail, even if the snow was a bit sticky in there at times.  I’d initially planned to hike up the Cliff Trail Gully and take the Mansfield ridgeline across to the top of the Rock Garden, but as I approached the last pitch of Perry Merrill, I could see that the Rock Garden was right above me after just a short jaunt through some trees.  It seemed silly to head up another route with such easy access.

The toughest part of ascending the Rock Garden was catching the occasional post hole in the snow.  For the most part, the snow was consolidated, but every so often I’d hit that spot where my foot would punch through and I’d be up to my thigh.  Thankfully, once I got into the open areas of the Rock Garden, I found a boot pack that someone had made, and that made things substantially easier.  There was still the occasional post hole, but having pre-made, consolidated footholds really took care of most of it.

Gaining the Mansfield ridgeline at the top of the Rock Garden, I found three other skiers who were just getting ready for their descent.  As they headed down, I recharged myself with a snack, and took in the views.  Although it’s not as obvious as some of the others, the Rock Garden really is a lot like the various other southeastern-facing gullies on this part of Mt. Mansfield.  Similar to those, it gets filled by the prevailing northwesterly winds, and it’s protected from the late day sun, so it preserves snow well.  The west face of the gully isn’t quite as sheer as some of the others though, so it’s able to hold snow and take on that snowfield appearance that’s different that the narrower gullies.

“The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.”

For my descent through the Rock Garden, I started out in the main throat of the gully, and then cut right as the snowpack would allow, to take in some steeper turns along the headwall below the Mansfield ridgeline.  The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.  The snow was definitely corn, and I didn’t have to worry about any post-holing on my skis, but the surface was irregular due to the natural melting patterns up there.  The best snow surfaces and smoothest turns of my descent were actually once I got down into the upper parts of Perry Merrill.  The snow was evenly packed and there’s been little skier traffic of late.  I was able to open it up and use the entire trail to arc some big wide turns as I often like to do in those wide sections of Perry Merrill when I have it to myself.

I’d kept in touch with E and the boys by updating them on my progress with a few text messages indicating my tour mileage and location.  And, just as I was reaching Perry Merrill on my descent they let me know that they were at the car, so I gave them an update and told them that I’d be down soon.

A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour of the Rock Garden in the Mt. Mansfield alpine above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour involving the Rock Garden in the Mt. Mansfield alpine near Stowe Mountain Resort

The tailgating was rolling right along as I got back to the car, and I took in more of the sights while packing up my gear.  That’s a wrap on the lift-served ski season at Stowe, but there’s still a ton of snow left, so now it’s time to move on to 100% human-powered ascents of Mt. Mansfield.  There even appear to be some snow chances coming up over the next week or so, and we’ll be watching to see if Mother Nature decides to send along any more April powder for us.

Stowe Sidecountry & Bruce Trail, VT 24MAR2019

An image showing the area near the Notchbrook Convenience Store near the end of the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a group of skiers by the Notchbrook Convenience Store having just completed a run of the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Snack Time! A good trip up to the Nose of Mt. Mansfield and down the Bruce Trail deserves a good snack, and here we’ve got most of today’s hearty crew enjoying a snack in the sun by the Notchbrook Convenience Store.

It’s March, and the snowpack is deep here in Northern Vermont, so we planned to take a trip down the Bruce Trail today during our BJAMS ski session.  E had recently been chatting with Brian and Joe in the program, and they were both interested in taking their kids on the Bruce, so we all joined together as a group for the run.

Knowing the round trip would take most of the afternoon, we started right off heading over to Mansfield and up the Fourrunner Quad.  I brought everyone up for the requisite visit to Old Nosedive to enjoy the views and add a bit of bonus vertical to the run.  Old Nosedive was packed with snow from our recent storm.  It was dense powder similar to what we experienced yesterday at Bolton, but it skied quite nicely.

“The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape. That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow.”

The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape.  That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow.  The snow consistency varied from dense powder and skier-packed powder up high, to thick creamy snow in the middle elevation trees, to more spring-like snow in the lower elevations.  The powder in the lower-elevation hardwoods was definitely getting a bit sticky with sun and warming temperatures, but it still skied quite well in all but the very sunniest spots.  Even in the lowest elevations down near 1,000’ on the Nordic area terrain, the snowpack is substantial.  Crossing over the bridges along the Nordic trails we found the snowpack to be at or above the level of the bridges’ railings – which are four to five feet tall!  You can literally stand on the railings simply by moving to the edges of the snowpack.

An image of Brian showing the four to five foot snowpack that is level with the railings of a bridge along the Ranch Brook in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The snowpack is level with the bridge railings!

The spring snow made the final part of the Bruce descent through the Nordic areas a bit slower than when the snow is more winter-like, but we all simply took our time and enjoyed the casual pace along the meanderings of the Ranch Brook on such a glorious late winter/early spring day.  We had plenty of time for snacks while we waited for the Mountain Road Shuttle, so we made ourselves some seats in the snowbanks near the Notchbrook General Store and soaked in some rays as we waited for the bus and discussed our day’s adventure.

A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour on the Bruce Trail in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bruce Trail in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort

With the deep spring snowpack we’ve currently got around here, the possibilities for skiing in Mansfield’s alpine terrain above the resort are essentially limitless, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to check out some of those options in the coming weeks.

Bolton Valley, VT 23MAR2019

An image of mailboxes near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont covered in spring snow after a big spring snowstorm hit the area
An image of Dylan skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Although our latest round of snow was rather dense, that helped it cover everything in the mountain and put down a solid resurfacing of the slopes. It may not have been the most “champagne” of powder, but it certainly skied nicely.

Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system.  Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing.  Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine.  It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains.  Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.

A car covered in dense spring snow on the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
What a spring storm! – a snow-covered car along the Bolton Valley Access Road tells the tale.

Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things.  By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there.  Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base.  This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance.  This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline.  We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances.  He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail.  It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.

An image of skiers and snowboarders hiking up the Villager trail at Bolton Valley in Vermont
Wind holds on various lifts at the mountain today made it challenging to get from the main base over to Timberline, so many folks made the trip up the Villager trail to get there.

“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”

In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine.  The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though.  The snow was quite dense, and often windblown.  We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up.  It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow.  The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated.  Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up

In related news, this storm pushed the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake past 10 feet, so the snowpack in the mountains is in great shape as we continue into spring.

Stowe, VT 12MAR2019

An image of ski tracks in powder below the Sensation Quad Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort during Winter Storm Taylor
An image of ski tracks in powder snow beneath the Gondola from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Finishing off my morning with some powder turns below the Gondola after Winter Storm Taylor dropped more than a foot of fresh powder at Stowe

We’ve known about the potential upslope snow on the back side of Winter Storm Taylor for several days, and today looked like the optimal time period to get some of those Northern Greens powder turns.  But, you never know quite how much powder you’re going to get until it happens.  Scott Braaten laid out his thoughts yesterday at Braatencast, but I’d say Mother Nature delivered even better than expected.  The first thing we heard from Scott this morning in the Northern New England thread at American Weather Forums was: “The orographic lift came through last night.  That’s for sure.”  We knew it was game on, and we sure love it when the Northern Greens do their thing.

An image of the day's snow report with a foot of snow from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontI was planning to head to Bolton Valley for a bit of touring this morning, but when I saw they were reporting about 4 inches overnight, whereas Stowe had early reports of 8 or 9 inches, I switched up my plans and decided to do a few lift-served runs at Stowe instead.  My snow analyses from the morning indicated that the new snow had come in around 5% H2O, which was a setup for some great powder turns.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the West Slope are of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some powder and views as I run one of my laps on the Sunny Spruce terrain today.

I had a bit of interesting serendipity on this morning’s outing.  I parked in the upper Gondi lot, planning to do most of my skiing there, but I had a pass issue that required me to head over to Spruce.  Once I’d gotten things straightened out with my pass, I decided to just roll with it and catch some runs while I was over there.  I headed out to the lifts and noticed something surprising – the Sensation Quad was running, but the Sunny Spruce Quad was down.  The reverse is common if there are wind issues, but certainly not the combination they had today (it turns out it wasn’t a wind issue, it was mechanical I guess).  Anyway, with Sunny Spruce down, it was pretty much country club powder skiing on that terrain for the few folks that felt like accessing it.  I did an initial run on Sensation, which was pretty quiet aside from the NorAm races, and got some of the first tracks down Spruce Line.  After that I did a couple of laps on the vacant Sunny Spruce terrain, running a circuit with the Meadows Quad and Sensation Quad, and of course including a hike to the top of Spruce Peak each time to get in that extra powder and make up for the fact that I was riding lifts instead of skinning.

An image of a snowboarder riding in powder snow near the sumit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of the snowboarders I encountered surfing the powder as we hit the snowfields near the summit of Spruce Peak today

“It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22 to 24 inches.”

It was snowing nice fat flakes all morning, and the increases in snowfall intensity were often quite notable as you headed up in elevation.  It typically wasn’t an intense pounding snow, but often nice and steady, and sometimes you’d have that fairly decent snowfall with sunshine at the same time.  There were a couple of times with the perfect simultaneous combinations of flakes and sun that I had to stand there in awe and soak in the mountain scene.  And it was all gorgeous upslope flakes – the 5% H2O I’d found in my morning snow analyses was probably about what we had where the snow wasn’t affected by any wind.  It was simply great snow quality with some good right-side-up nature to it thanks to some dense snow that had fallen at the beginning of the storm cycle.

An image of the "Bob's Rash" sign in the Bench Woods are at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontMost off piste (and even some on piste) terrain I encountered was definitely delivering that 48-hour total of 13” that I’d seen in Stowe’s snow report.  My first depth check of the day was in the Meadows East Glades, and my measurement came right in at 12 inches.  I checked in spots off Upper Sterling and was typically getting 12-14”.  I eventually got back over to the Gondola terrain and was really impressed with the skiing in the Bench Woods.  It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22-24”.  I did push through some sort of slightly thicker layer in those measurements, but it must not have been too sturdy because I was definitely skiing a lot of lines where the snow had that “up to the thighs” feeling.  That’s typically in the two-foot realm vs. the one-foot realm.  I found a sign I’d never seen in that area that said “Bob’s Rash”, and I have no idea how much of the terrain that sign was meant to cover, but the lines below it were beautifully steep and loaded with the kind of powder that billows up above your waist.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Bench Woods area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Exploring the awesome powder in the Bench Woods area this morning during my ski session at Stowe

Today’s temperatures were cold enough to keep things light and dry, but certainly not January frigid, so it was an all-around great morning.  It was another world once I got back down into the valley – it was mostly sunny down low while it was still snowing away at the mountain.  We’ve had some nice storms over the past couple of Marches, with Winter Storm Skylar last March, and Winter Stowe Stella the March before that.  This year’s Winter Storm Taylor wasn’t quite as big as those, but it was an awesome sleeper storm that brought the goods without as much hypeThe snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is now sitting at around 120 inches, and the skiing is great at all elevations.  Who knows how many other big storms we’ll be getting this season, but we’ve got the rest of March and April to find out!

Bolton Valley, VT 09MAR2019

An image of Dylan wearing a silver ski goggle lens on a sunny day at the Timberline Base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder snow in the Snow Hole area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in the snow hole area at Bolton Valley today, working his way through some of the powder from the past few days

It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March.  Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs.  The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.

The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base.  It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth.  My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.

An image of Erica skiing powder in the Snow Hole area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Telemark turns, blue skies, and powder this afternoon for E!

“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”

The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole.  Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.

An image of the Waffle Cabin and skis at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The waffle cabin, adored with skis and starting to disappear under the snow, was a huge hit with today’s gorgeous weather based on the size of the line out front.

Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow.  The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.

Bolton Valley, VT 23FEB2019

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on Maria's at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of a ski pole in the snowpack at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan and I were very impressed when we tried to check on the depth of the new powder from this week. We couldn’t quite a good measurement because the new snow simply blended in with old, but we were impressed with the fact that we could stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle and beyond. The Bolton Valley snowpack is deep!

This week wasn’t especially snowy, but we had at least some modest accumulations, with Bolton Valley reporting 9 inches during the period.  Overall ski conditions have been quite good as of late though, so we expected there to be plenty of good powder skiing in the usual stashes with just these recent rounds of snow.

E and Ty were both a bit under the weather, but Dylan and I headed up to the mountain with our Tele skis for a good session of powder turns and exploration.  Temperatures were really nice, well into the upper 20s F for our midmorning arrival at Timberline.

D and I put together what was essentially a truncated version of the great session that the family had last Saturday.  We hit the whole breadth of the mountain, traveling all the way from the bottom of Timberline over to the top of Wilderness, and back again.  We hit powdery favorites like White Rabbit, Snow Hole, The Crack, and Maria’s.  Dylan was skiing really well on his Telemark skis, and it was fun to watch him developing the wherewithal to throw in alpine turns among his Tele turns whenever he’d be in a tight space that called for it.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
Dylan enjoys surfing some of that powder out there today in the trees at Bolton Valley.

We caught some really nice powder turns, and it was hard to say exactly how much of the surface snow was new, but it was certainly several inches.  We had fun checking snow depths around the 3,000’ mark, and you could simply push your pole down into the snow right up to the handle… and then keep going deeper if you wanted to.  While the powder today wasn’t quite as fresh as what we experienced last weekend, it’s all just great skiing at this point.