Temperature in the single digits combined with wind seems a bit cold for riding lifts this morning, but the back side of Winter Storm Izzy came through with several inches of additional snow atop what fell yesterday, so I was definitely interested in getting out for some skiing. With Bolton reporting 16 inches of new snow, just about any terrain at the resort would be able to support some decent turns.
I was unsure about whether I was going to aim for touring on Wilderness, the Backcountry Network, or even Timberline. On my way up the access road, I saw several cars parked at Timberline from people who were earning turns, so I decided to check it out. The parking lots weren’t really plowed, so it was little tough moving around all the new snow, but enough cars had packed down areas to make it manageable.
Although the Timberline Uphill Route is not listed as officially open, it seems like it’s seen a lot of traffic – it’s well established and in very good shape. The coverage on Twice as Nice was excellent, with just a few tracks. Upon reaching the Timberline Mid Station, I decided to continue on to the Timberline Summit – the Intro trail looked somewhat scoured as is often the case, but there were still some decent areas of snow on the skier’s right.
I chose Twice as Nice for the main part of the descent, and the turns there were outstanding. The powder was deep and the consistency was fantastic for turns on the powder boards. I checked the snow depth in various spots on both the ascent and descent, and my best estimates of overall settled snowpack depth were ~18” at 1,500’, ~22” at 2,000’ and ~24” at 2,500’. The resort wasn’t making snow at the Timberline Base, but they were making it up at the Timberline Summit, so I assume they’re on the way towards opening the area if temperatures continue to stay cold.
Up at Bolton Valley today, wind holds were in effect at the resort’s normal opening time. By mid-morning though, the winds had died down, the lifts started running, and we headed up for what was hopefully going to be a great day of skiing. We were right in the midst of Winter Storm Izzy, the resort had already picked up several inches of snow, and more snow continued to pour down. Right from our house it was obvious that snowfall rates were pretty impressive with the system. Snow was falling at about an inch per hour down in the valley, and they ramped up as we headed into the higher elevations. With the snowfall rates, it was hard to keep pace with plowing the Bolton Valley Access Road, so it was snow covered and giving some vehicles trouble making the ascent. We had to head around stopped vehicles in a couple of different spots on the access road; one car was actually working on turning around to head back down and presumably wait for the plow/sander to make a pass.
“By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. ”
As far as ski days go, you had a number of factors that made today an amazing one. By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. The snowfall meant that surfaces were getting constantly refreshed, atop of what had already been a solid resurfacing of the slopes with probably 0.50 to 0.75 inches of liquid equivalent in the form of medium-weight powder.
With the overnight shot of snow and the continued heavy snowfall, patrol was opening up trails all over the main mountain that had not been available yet this season. It was hard to know which ropes had been dropped before opening time, and which ones were done on the fly, but just about everything on Vista was open. Even Cobrass was open, offering options all over that side of the mountain. The resort had completed their snowmaking and preparation of Spillway, which is certainly a steep, signature trail on Vista, but it takes a lot of snow to cover its width, notable pitch and plentiful amounts of obstacles. Getting Spillway open definitely marks a big point of the winter’s progression at Bolton. With Spillway getting all the new snow atop the base they’d made, it offered up some excellent steep skiing today. You could still contact the harder manmade snow below at times, but it was snowing so hard that the manmade stuff was quickly getting buried.
E and I headed up by ourselves to start the day, but we were planning to ski with Dylan and his friend Colin, who came up the road just behind us. We saw them in the parking lot, and quickly caught up to spend the day with them after our first run. Only the Vista Quad and Mid Mountain Chair were running today, but we touched on just about every main area that was available as we toured Colin around the mountain and introduced him to numerous trails that he’d yet to ski. Up to this point he’s really only been night skiing with Dylan, so with the typical daytime options and all the new trails opening, it was quite a whirlwind tour for him. Some highlights were definitely the steep turns on Spillway, lots of fresh snow and great conditions on Cobrass and Cobrass Run, and heading over toward Wilderness where there was lot of fresh powder as usual. We even brought Colin into the Wilderness Woods to that he could get a taste of what tree skiing was like.
The heavy snowfall rates were certainly one of the most impressive parts of today’s outing. The pace of accumulations was very evident while riding the lifts because of how fast you would get coated with snow. On one of our rides on the Vista Quad, Colin stayed still to catch the accumulation, so that was a lot of fun to see, and of course we had to get a picture. By the time we left around mid-afternoon, the resort must have picked up in the range of a foot of fresh snow, so the skiing just kept getting better. This is our first big, synoptic winter storm in a while, and it was just what the local resorts needed to really get the base depths up to snuff, and they should now be able to open up most of their terrain.
It continued to snow after my session at Bolton yesterday, and with the impressive conditions I found during the touring part of my trip, E and I decided to head up for some touring today.
The recent rounds of snow have been great overall for the resort, and they’re reporting 7 inches of new in the past 48 hours. All the new snow is a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to touring on the Wilderness terrain though. In this morning’s Bolton Valley snow report, it was already announced that a number of natural snow trails had been opened on Vista, so I assumed it was only a matter of time before ski patrol opened up lift-served access to the lower slopes of Wilderness as they typically do in these situations.
With temperatures hovering around 0 F in the early morning we waited until late morning to head up to the mountain to take advantage of the warmer part of the day. While we were on our ascent we could see that the terrain was already getting rather tracked up, and indeed a big part of that was likely because patrol dropped more ropes, and lift-served skiers were coming over from Vista. The resort did have an associate checking passes at the base of the Wilderness Lift though, so they were enforcing the need to have your pass on you, even for touring.
“The recent rounds of snow have been great overall for the resort, and they’re reporting 7 inches of new in the past 48 hours.”
In terms of conditions, natural coverage is quite good on the lower slopes of Wilderness, as the trail openings for lift-served skiers would suggest. I’d say the depth of the powder was about the same as what I found yesterday – a couple more inches had been added with the additional snowfall, but there was probably a similar amount of settling. The snow was slower though today due to the colder temperatures, so that knocked the flow of the turns down a bit on the low-angle terrain of lower Wilderness.
Although the Timberline Uphill Route isn’t open yet down at the 1,500’ elevation, the terrain there is actually looking pretty close to being ready for non-lift-served traffic based on what we saw as we passed by. Barring any major warming events, even a moderate storm would probably get that terrain in play for touring.
I haven’t been up to the hill since last week as I’ve been waiting for conditions to pick up, but Bolton’s morning snow report indicated 3-4” in the past 24 hours, and that seemed like enough to head up for a ski tour to check out the new snow.
Since yesterday’s snow was feather-light with ratios in the 60 to 1 range based on my analyses down here at our site, I was wasn’t expecting it to contribute much in terms of building up the powder depths. I’m sure the depths I found today were bolstered by some of the additional smaller events we’ve seen in the past week, but whatever the case, the combination of those events, yesterday’s snow, and now the addition from Winter Storm Garrett has been substantial. Right off the bat I was finding 4-5” of surface snow at 2,000’ and up at 3,000’ it was 6-7”. The powder wasn’t just fluff either – there was a good deal of substance to it and a great right-side-up gradient with the current upslope snow falling. I was on midfats today, and powder turns were easily bottomless on low and moderate angle terrain that was untracked/unscoured. This past week, and especially these past couple of storms, have been an absolute game-changer for the Wilderness terrain up at the resort.
“Right off the bat I was finding 4-5” of surface snow at 2,000’ and up at 3,000’ it was 6-7”. The powder wasn’t just fluff either – there was a good deal of substance to it and a great right-side-up gradient with the current upslope snow falling.”
The skiing was nice enough that I decided to stick around to check out the lift-served terrain as well. The past week and the most recent couple of storms have made a difference there too, because they’ve now opened some natural snow terrain, and people are definitely skiing the trees and glades on the lower mountain. I didn’t notice a huge improvement in the quality of the on-piste skiing that I sampled; it was fine, but these recent storms just haven’t delivered enough liquid equivalent to provide a real resurfacing for lift-served levels of skier traffic.
There was more good news in terms of the current weather, because there was plenty of snow coming down while I was there. At 2,000’ the snowfall rate was moderate, and it was definitely heavy when I was up around 3,000’ on the Wilderness Summit. Snowfall rates above 2,000’ were notably heavier than what we’ve had down here at the house, and if it keeps up like that for a bit this evening, conditions should move even another notch up tomorrow.
The Vista Quad was down for a time yesterday to take care of a mechanical issue, and during that time the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam showed backups in the queues at the Mid Mountain and Snowflake lifts as one would expect with the number of holiday visitors. The repairs were completed yesterday afternoon, which helped disperse everyone, and with everything starting out as expected this morning, E and I headed up to the mountain for a morning ski session.
I was excited to check out Hard Luck, which the mountain has recently opened as their first full black diamond offering of the season. The snow report indicated that they’re still working to put sufficient snow down on Spillway, so that’s not quite open yet, but Hard Luck is definitely a favorite because it’s much more protected from the wind and often has better snow.
It was great be back on the Vista Quad for lift-served skiing, and we warmed up with a run on Sherman’s Pass and Bear Run to get a feel for the conditions. Weather conditions have been relatively stable, and although we’ve only had small systems hitting the area over the past week, there haven’t been any major warm air intrusions to really deteriorate the snow surfaces. With fresh grooming to start off the day, the groomed conditions were quite good on the low to moderate angle terrain we encountered on that run. You could still hit firm snow in spots, but the lower angle terrain was definitely staying true to form maintaining a nice surface.
Once we were warmed up we headed for some steeper turns, and started on Hard Luck Lane. E and I had a good discussion about how it’s typically quite icy because it’s steep, and gets a lot of traffic as the first option for many folks coming off Vista. Today it offered up probably my favorite turns of the day on the left side where people had pushed a lot of extra snow. Hard Luck was also quite nice throughout, but especially the edges where additional snow had either accumulated or remained untouched. As we skied a spine on the left side of the trail, I was a bit jealous of E on alpine skis because she could hold a really tight line to stay in the best snow, whereas my footprint with Tele turns was a bit larger. It was hard to go wrong though – the snow was generally nice all around on Hard Luck.
Looking forward, we might have a storm coming this weekend to potentially freshen up surfaces and perhaps open more terrain depending on how much liquid equivalent it brings.
The Wilderness Uphill Route is open, so I decided to head up to the mountain for a tour in the late afternoon. There was still decent daylight available as I started my ascent, but I had my headlamp just in case I was out long enough for the light to fade. It was comfortable out there on the hill, with temperatures in the upper 20s F and no wind. I saw a few other skiers coming down while I ascended, and I bet the number of skiers touring earlier today was way up there, being a holiday week.
I stopped my ascent at around 2,500’ to make sure I’d have enough light for the downhill run, but there were a few skiers still continuing up. I saw two skiers come down with their headlamps already lit, and I’m sure the folks still ascending we planning on using theirs. Conditions were nice – most of the trail was natural packed snow from all the skier traffic, but there were still areas with a couple inches of powder along the side that I was able to jump into.
It was definitely a pleasant ski outing to add to the holiday week, and with the base in place on trails like Lower Turnpike, it’s going to offer some great turns when the next significant winter storm hits. The night skiing was just getting going as I was finishing my tour, and the Village Circle looked lively and festive as holiday week skiers headed up to the lodge and lifts.
It’s been a busy past couple of weeks finishing up the semester for me, and there haven’t been any notable storms to urge me out to the slopes, but we got out to the mountain today to take a few turns in the new snow from Winter Storm Carrie.
For conditions, there was about a half foot of new snow reported by Bolton in their morning report, although there were probably a couple more inches on top of that with the way it was accumulating while we were there. Indeed they’re now reporting 8 inches for their weekly total, and I’d say that’s probably the storm total once the backside snows were incorporated. It was a decent resurfacing of the slopes, with 0.80” of L.E. recorded here at our place. I suspect they’re in the that ballpark for L.E. up at the mountain as well, although the western slopes probably were a bit lower on storm totals relative to the eastern slopes with the wind flow for the majority of the storm cycle. In any event, the surfaces we found out there today were nice, although I could see how high-angle terrain or higher traffic resorts could find the slopes getting down to firm surfaces pretty quickly.
The overall feel at the resort was quite wintry with temperatures in the teens F, moderate snow falling, and some wind. Bolton only had their lower lifts running as they were still prepping the Vista Summit for lift-served levels of traffic, but it looks like this storm put them over the top and they’re opening the Vista Quad in the next few days. The Wilderness Uphill Route is open, so with the leftover base they had plus this new storm, there’s certainly enough snow to be skinning for turns on the natural snow terrain at Wilderness, so that’s great to have in place for the upcoming holiday period. They’ll still need another decent shot of liquid equivalent to get more terrain open for lift-served levels of traffic on natural snow terrain, and to get the lower-elevation Timberline area open for ski touring traffic. I’m sure there are some people touring down at the Timberline elevations with what we’ve got at the moment, but the Timberline Uphill Route isn’t officially open yet. I think they’d lost most of the natural base snow there, so you’re working with just the accumulations from Winter Storm Carrie, and this one storm with ~3/4” of liquid equivalent isn’t quite enough to get touring into a really comfortable place.
For several days the weather modeling has suggested an early winter storm would be affecting the area after Thanksgiving, and indeed it really began to ramp up the snowfall yesterday. The ski area webcams were suggesting some nice accumulations at elevation, so I headed up to Bolton this morning for a bit of ski touring.
In terms of snow accumulations, what I found is definitely more than what they’ve got in their snow report (5-8”), but they did indicate they had trouble with blowing at their stake. It’s possible my measurements were getting down into existing snowpack, but it seems like that should have been consolidated from recent temperatures. The backside upslope snow was also coming down while I was out there today, so that likely added a bit to the totals:
Like what we picked up down at the house, the snow I found at the mountain was generally dense, and it put down a substantial addition to the base on the slopes. We picked up over an inch of liquid at our site in the valley from this storm, and I’d say the slopes of Bolton easily picked that up as well. It feels like there’s at least an inch of L.E. at the base elevations, and probably something like two inches of L.E. up high. Some of the higher elevation snowpack could have come from previous events, but in any case, that’s a substantial amount of L.E. in place.
There were a couple inches of drier upslope snow to finish off this storm cycle, but the bulk of it was that denser snow, and that’s definitely what set the tenor of the skiing. There were no concerns about hitting anything under the snow on trails without any overt obstacles like large rocks, and any terrain that was smooth up to the level of single black diamond pitch was fine to ski unless it was wind scoured. In fact, the snow was too dense for skiing any low angle terrain, so you really had to be on moderate to steep terrain or you would be bogged down and just have to straight-line to maintain speed. Skiing on terrain with the right pitch was quite good though, and you could carve right into the powder and just let the skis surf.
I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns. Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple. There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.
As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage. That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches. Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area. The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.
That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around. While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling. Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive. I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building. I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well. I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.
I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak. I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.
Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area. The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed. The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.
Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May. From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next. That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.
It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns. It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.