Bolton Valley, VT 02JAN2015

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh, fluffy powder from a passing cold front coated the slopes today.

We haven’t had much in the way of new snow over the past week, so there hasn’t been much to get us out on the slopes since we had that great family outing at Bolton Valley at the beginning of last week. There’s been some decent snow falling today however, and when a post from Powderfreak on American Weather indicated that accumulations were approaching half a foot at the 3,000′ elevation at Stowe, my interest was piqued. A look at the Bolton Valley Web Cam showed lots of big snowflakes falling, so I decided that it was time to head up to the mountain to see just what this new powder might be doing for the conditions on the slopes.

“Up top there I found 6-7″ of fluff in those areas out of the wind, and I measured 9″ on the corner of Peggy Dow’s at that entrance to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.”

The lifts were just opening up as I got my gear together at the house, and the snowfall outside had really picked up as I finally got on my way up to the hill; there was a steady moderate snow coming down with some decent dendrites and clumps of flakes. It was very dry, fluffy snow, but it was coming down at a pace that you’d need to use the wipers on the car to clear it off when the vehicle wasn’t in motion. The snow continued at a steady clip right along through Bolton Flats, and visibility was around ¼ mile. Snowfall intensity was similar up at 2,100′ in the Bolton Valley Village, and a quick check in the parking lot there revealed a couple inches of fluff.

“I measured 5-6″ there, and between that and extra snow that people had pushed over there from their skiing, buoyancy was good and I was getting mostly bottomless turns with just my midfats.”

I rode the Vista Quad, and aside from the new snow, you could see that Spillway on that front face was just a glaciated mess of windswept ice. I don’t believe it was open, but it didn’t look like anything people would really want to ski anyway under the conditions. Getting off at the Vista Summit (~3,150′), I went straight ahead into the open area there to get a depth measurement in the undisturbed snow, and found 4-5″. That was certainly encouraging. I descended via Alta Vista, and there was some excellent snow along the skier’s left where it usually settles in. I measured 5-6″ there, and between that and extra snow that people had pushed over there from their skiing, buoyancy was good and I was getting mostly bottomless turns with just my midfats. The snow depth gradually tapered down as you descended to the lower elevations, but I headed over toward Wilderness and finished off my run on Lower Turnpike, and even 3-4″ was enough for bottomless turns on that pitch.

An image showing six to seven inches of accumulated snow along the Peggy Dow's Trail near the top of the Wilderness Lift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe Wilderness Chair was running, so I took a run on that as well. Up top there I found 6-7″ of fluff in those areas out of the wind, and I measured 9″ on the corner of Peggy Dow’s at that entrance to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. I worked my way into the Wilderness Woods, and the skiing was OK, but without that smoothly groomed base, the subsurface was just too uneven for the smoothest skiing or consistent floating. I quickly made my way back out onto Lower Turnpike for those smoother powder turns. With the lift open, Lower Turnpike had seen more traffic though, so getting untracked lines was becoming more difficult. And, this new snow is so light and dry that it doesn’t have a ton of staying power with respect to skier traffic – you really don’t want more than second tracks for decent powder turns because beyond that level of traffic you’ll find yourself essentially skiing on the subsurface.

The snowfall had just about shut off by the time I finished that run on Wilderness, and based on what I’d found, it seemed like a good time to call it a morning. The best of the untracked snow on groomed runs had been skied, and it wasn’t quite prime time for the off piste. As I was taking off my skis in that little snowy landing area down below the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery, an older gentleman came by, having just finished his morning of turns. He was talking about how he was done for the day, having skied the best part of it. It was obvious that we were on the same wavelength, and the fact that the snowfall had stopped really amplified the sentiment.

An image of the outdoor sign for the Bolton Valley Grocery and Deli taken from inside the Deli at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontI stopped off at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab a sandwich, and chatted with Ian behind the counter after he inquired about my camera. He was curious if I worried about falling and damaging it while skiing. I let him know that I do actually fall frequently enough when I’ve got the camera with me, but fortunately it was built like a tank and made for exactly what I was doing with it.

It looks like we’ve got a more significant storm coming this weekend; there’s some mixed precipitation expected, but a good shot of liquid equivalent as well, so it could help with some resurfacing of the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 17APR2014

An image of ski tracks in the Mid Mountain area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after an April snowstorm
Although the lifts have stopped running for the season, the powder skiing rolls on at Bolton Valley thanks to a recent April storm.

Yesterday was quite a cold April day, cold enough that the temperature in the Bolton Valley Village never got anywhere near the freezing mark – it never even reached 25 F.  Anticipating that the cold temperatures would mean maintenance of the dry, wintry powder that the area received from the recent snowstorm, I grabbed the fat skis and headed up to Bolton Valley this morning to see how the snow was faring.  Based on the fact that we’d picked up over four inches of new snow down at the house from the storm, I figured that Bolton must have done at least that well.

“Indeed the sun or warmth
had not appeared to be
issues of any sort for snow
– the real enemy in terms
of  snow quality was the
wind.”

The temperature was still in the low 20s F when I rolled into the Bolton Valley Village this morning, and it looked like midwinter as much as it did mid April.  I began skinning right up the well established skin track on Beech Seal, and as one might expect from a well consolidated skin track, it meant that the surrounding slopes had seen plenty of ski traffic.  There were some nice looking turns out there though – I saw some beautiful, smooth looking powder turns in the low-angle terrain coming out of the Jungle Jib terrain park.  New snow depths and ski conditions were fairly similar to what we found yesterday at Stowe – I found 3 to 5 inches of new snow on the lower half of the mountain, and around a half foot up top near Vista Peak.  Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind.  In the usual spots, the new powder was scoured down to the crusty surface below, so I could see that it was going to be one of those days where choosing aspect, trail, and trail side, was going to be extremely important in seeking out the best powder turns.

An image of a ski track in the Jungle Jib terrain park at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A picturesque track in the powder coming out of the Jungle Jib terrain park

“Turnpike delivered as usual,
with just a few spots that
had been affected by the
wind, but a lot of smooth,
silky turns in the slightly
settled powder.”

The skin track took me up Sherman’s, Schuss, and finally Alta Vista, to where I stopped just below the top of the Vista Quad beneath where the snow was all scoured away.  The skier’s left of Alta Vista offered up some nice powder turns, although I still encountered some areas of wind-packed snow.  I ventured off into the lower reaches of Vista Glades, and found some smooth turns there, since the snow was generally protected.  Having seen so many tracks and plenty of wind affecting the trails above the base lodge, I headed over toward Wilderness for the bottom part of my run.  Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder.  Like yesterday, the turns weren’t completely bottomless, but there were still a lot of them, and I was happy to have the AMPerages and their floatation to help out.  The Village was still incredibly quiet as I was heading back to my car, but I did run into Josh as he was heading into the office.  He’s already getting ready for next season, enjoying a quieter scene now that the lifts have stopped.  Based on the snow that’s up there though, there’s still plenty of skiing to be done this season.

An image of a ski track in the bottom of the Vista Glades area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some protected snow at the bottom of Vista Glades

Bolton Valley, VT 15FEB2014

An image of Dylan skiing powder on Dynamite at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan bounding down through some of the powder from our recent big storm cycle at Bolton Valley today

Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains.  We haven’t had much in the way of large storm cycles up in the Northern Greens this season, so this was our largest to date, and it showed some interesting distributions with respect to snowfall density.  Some areas received extensive periods of large, fluffy flakes, and other locales had some very fine flakes that fell as very dense snow.  For instance, the first round of the storm at our location on Thursday night delivered some very dense, 13% H2O snow.  That’s actually just what the snowpack needed for building.  Whether the snow was dense or not, in the end, the mountains received well over an inch of liquid, and that liquid equivalent was really what was necessary to bolster the natural snowpack.  It was enough snow that Bolton Valley had finally opened all the terrain at Timberline, and we were psyched because that had been an inordinately long time coming this season.

“Winter storm “Pax” affected
Northern Vermont on Thursday
and Friday this week, dropping
up to 29 inches of snow on the
ski resorts along the spine of the
Green Mountains.”

We decided to get a relatively early start on the mountain today, and even though we weren’t expecting the Timberline Quad to open until 10:00 A.M., when we drove by at 9:30 A.M. it was already running, so we pulled right in and parked.  There were a couple of dozen cars in the lot, but it was still fairly quiet.  That was good, because being a holiday weekend, having the biggest storm of the season just hit, and then having great weather to enjoy it, we were worried about how many people were going to be out.  It was business as usual though at Timberline, with no lift queue and just a small group of people out to hit the terrain.

During our first lift ride we could see that the snow looked quite good, and there had definitely been a major resurfacing of the slopes.  People had skied the area yesterday, so it wasn’t entirely fresh snow, but there were plenty of untracked areas, and a few more inches had fallen last night to cover even areas that had seen traffic.  With almost two feet of new snow having fallen at Bolton Valley, we planned on hitting a lot of the steep off piste terrain that we’d yet to ski this season, so E decided to go with her fat alpine skis instead of Telemark skis.  The boys had their powder skis, and I had my fat Teles, so we were ready to tackle whatever Pax had delivered.  We had really great weather to enjoy the snow too – the temperatures were in the upper 20s F, there was no wind, and a little snow associated with our next storm system was floating through the air and adding a fresh coating to the slopes.

“The only complaint I’d
add about the snow is
that it was bit upside
down, with some dry
stuff underneath a
layer of denser snow
on top.”

Everyone took turns choosing trails, and E kicked things off with Twice as Nice.  That turned out be a great idea for a warm up.  The trail was generally tracked, with some untracked snow off to the sides, but there had been such a thorough resurfacing with all the dense snow that it hardly mattered where you went.  I was really feeling my AMPerages bust through the heavy snow with gusto, yet at the same time they were light and quick – I was really happy with the combination of skis and snow because everything just seemed to flow.  On our next ride up the quad, E commented on how we’d had the entire trail to ourselves for the whole run, except for a ski patroller who seemed to enjoy watching us from the side and generally surveilling the lay of the land in a very casual way.  Next up was Dylan’s choice, which was Adam’s Solitude.  I’m glad Dylan chose that early, because while the snow was quite good, a few bare spots were already starting to make their presence known.  It was easy to see that once the trail received a bunch of traffic, the skiing wasn’t going to be quite as free and easy as what we were experiencing.  With the rugged terrain present on Adam’s Solitude, it’s going to take another couple synoptic storms to really get it in shape for lots of skier traffic.  The roller coaster section that the boys love at the bottom is already in great shape though, and they had a blast.  I really enjoyed mixing in Telemark and alpine turns as the terrain dictated, and today was one of those days where mixing both techniques on the fly just came rather easily.

An image of Dylan smiling at the top of the Glades Right trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontIt was off to the main mountain next, where in order to add some fun in getting over to the base of Wilderness, we did a run off the Mid Mountain Chair.  I treated E and the boys to a run through Glades Right and Nixon’s; both areas had great snow and coverage, and the boys were impressed.  Wilderness was finally running today, and I led E and the boys on an attempted run through Super Snow Hole, but it was tough to find the entrance and we had to settle for regular Snow Hole.  There had been very little traffic on Snow Hole, and it could actually use a bit more people venturing in to pack it down a bit with the generous depths of the recent snows.  Ty called for a run on Turnpike, with an entry via Cougar, which the boys said they always seem to ski during the Olympics.  They made sure to practice their Olympic victory “raising of the arms” at the bottom.

An image of Erica and Dylan skiing Glades Right at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after nearly two feet of snow from winter storm "Pax"
E and Dylan enjoying the great snow out in the glades today

Since the boys had really earned some lunch after the morning’s adventures, especially the off piste venturing around in the deep powder in the Snow Hole area, we got a pie from Fireside Flatbread and some appetizers from the downstairs cafeteria.  The lodge was definitely packed, and that’s not surprising on a Saturday of a holiday weekend.

An image of Ty skiing Dynamite run at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The fat skis were out today, doing their thing in the almost two feet of new snow at Bolton Valley.

The afternoon started with a run through the “trifecta” of Buena Vista, Dynamite, and Sleepy Hollow.  The snow was excellent, and traffic had been fairly light.  Dylan requested a run through the Progression Park, and then we headed back toward Timberline to finish off the day.  I was amazed that we’d seen Upper Tattle Tale open, and from below it looked somewhat scoured, but Lower Tattle Tale was really good.  The Twice as Nice Glades were OK, but still a bit bony, and I’d actually say that they are due for a round of brush clearing.  I took everyone down Quintessential, but it definitely needs a couple more storms to really be ready.

You really couldn’t ask for a much better day today, with such great fresh snow and weather.  The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top.  At some point there was some dry fluff in there, and then some snow with smaller flake fell on top.  You’d sometimes find areas of untracked powder where you could drop right through that middle layer.  The fat skis were definitely the tools to help with that though, doing a great job of keeping you floating vs. sinking under the topmost layers of dense snow.  In terms of base, essentially everything is skiable, but I’d like to see a couple more synoptic storms to get the base wall to wall on all the steepest and most rugged natural terrain.  Being mid February, that should really be expected by this point, but when snowfall is somewhere south of 80% relative to average, and January has multiple warm storms, that steep, natural terrain in the lower elevations just isn’t going to be flawless yet.  We’ve actually got some nice fluffy upslope snow falling tonight in association with the next winter storm called “Quintus”; we’ll have to see how much the mountains can pull of the sky to top off what’s out there.

Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2014

An image of a snow-covered car at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A couple of modest storms have helped replenish the powder at Bolton Valley over the past few days, and there could be more on the way tonight.

It’s been two weeks since I was last out on the slopes, because there hasn’t been much to draw me out in the interim.  We finally got a small snowstorm on Wednesday though, and with another few inches of snow at the mountain overnight into this morning, it seemed like it was time to check out how the powder was building up.  Actually, the potential exists for a few more inches of snow tonight with the passage of an arctic frontal boundary, so my real goal was to make a reconnaissance run to see how the snow might be set up for tomorrow.  If things come together to offer up some quality turns, it could be time to entice E and the boys up to the hill.

“The snow wasn’t overly deep
with just 4 to 5 inches, but the
 pitches fit that depth quite well,
the turns were mostly bottomless
 on the fat skis, and it was some
 damn fine powder skiing.”

After hanging out at home and watching some of the AFC Championship game featuring the Patriots, it was almost 4:00 P.M. before I got headed up to Bolton Valley.  I knew that it was going to be getting toward dusk by the time I got on the snow, but I also knew that it would be quite peaceful, and I’ve really been enjoying these tours that I get to finish off while descending to the lights of the Village.  Comfortable temperatures in the upper 20s F down at the house in Waterbury, gave way to somewhat chillier temperatures and snowfall as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road.  Our little system from earlier today had dropped a couple inches at the house, and 2 to 3 up at Bolton, but there had been a snowfall lull during the middle of the day.  As evening approached however, snow associated with the upcoming frontal passage was making its presence felt, and as usual, it was starting in the higher elevations.  The intensity of the snow increased as I ascended, and the road began to take on a light accumulation of snow at ~1,200’.  With no night skiing going on tonight, numerous cars inched their way down the road as they finished off their ski day.  I made a brief stop at the Timberline Base to check on the snow situation at 1,500’, and indeed as expected, I found that the snowpack is still a bit too lean down at that elevation to be supporting comfortable skiing without rock skis or junkboards.  There was only 1 to 2 inches of powder down at the base lodge, and that was on top of a fairly thin base.  The snowpack was much improved up in the Village at 2,100’ though, where there was a decent base of several inches, and a consistent 4 inches of powder.

An image of snowbaorders hiking up the Lower Turnpike Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Other late-day turn-earners

I geared up and began my ascent of Turnpike, watching three snowboarders ahead of me that appeared to have similar thoughts.  In a couple of minutes however, they stopped along the trail just after the junction of Turnpike and Wilderness Lift Line, cracked open some beers, and kicked back in the snow.  Good times.  We exchanged greetings as I passed, tossing around comments on the joys of the new snow, and I continued upward.  There was a nice skin track at times, although it did get disrupted as ski tracks merged and diverged from it, or the end of the occasional deeper water bar forced it away from the trail’s edge.  Steady light snowfall continued, and an occasional gust of wind worked its way into the protected confines of the trial.

Being a trial run, and paying some respect to the growing darkness, a decided to stop at the connector between Turnpike and the Wilderness Lift Line around 2,500’.  The depth of the powder had increased just a bit by that point, and measurements were in the 4 to 5-inch range.  There was some untracked snow still remaining on Turnpike, but despite being a bit more exposed to winds, the Wilderness Lift Line had seen a lot less traffic and seemed like the way to go for fresh tracks.  There were some tracked areas off to the left and right, but excellent lanes of powder showed themselves near the middle of the trail, even in the darkened view allowed by my goggles.  The turns, as I’d later describe them to E, were what I’d call “par for the course” for that area over the past few weeks.  The snow wasn’t overly deep with just 4 to 5 inches, but the pitches fit that depth quite well, the turns were mostly bottomless on the fat skis, and it was some damn fine powder skiing.  The only complaint would be that the snow was a little cold and slow in spots, so maybe an extra coat of wax would be in order if we try something similar tomorrow.

There were no signs of the snowboarders by the time I reached the bottom of my run, but the Village was abuzz with lights, and televisions that were probably set to the Patriots game.  I stopped in for a few minutes at the big screen set up next to Fireside Flatbread in the lodge, and it wasn’t looking good for the Patriots – the Broncos were up 20 to 3.  Outside, the snow had redoubled its efforts, and was coming down at a moderate pace.  I had to take some time to wipe the snow off the car, as there was a good coating on the leeward sides.  Snowfall that was initially more minimal down here at the house has picked up as the evening has progressed, so we’ll have to see where things stand tomorrow with the new snow.  Winter, and fortunately powder skiing, is certainly back after its earlier hiatus.

Bolton Valley, VT 27DEC2013

An image of Erica skiing powder snow on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E showing how its done in the powder at Bolton Valley today

An Alberta Clipper hit the New England region yesterday, dropping up to 10 inches of snow in Northern Vermont and continuing the process of covering up surfaces that were hardened by the big mixed precipitation event earlier this week.  We had a couple additional rounds of light snow prior to yesterday’s storm, but there still hasn’t been enough new snow to resurface steep, icy terrain.  As such, Bolton Valley only has their core set of trails open on the main mountain.  I had fun on those trails on Saturday, but it’s still a limited number of options for runs, and with a good amount of new powder available, we decided to earn some turns and get some fresh tracks today.  The Wilderness Lift isn’t running yet for the season, so we decided to pay that terrain another visit.  Ty, E, and I had a great time there back on November 30th, and with the current firm, icy subsurface, we knew that the moderate pitches and relatively high elevation of the lower Wilderness area trails would be a good bet for powder skiing today.

An image of a car covered in snow in the village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontNow that we’re back into a more consistently wintry weather regime, the Northern Greens snow globe has kicked in, and we’ve had a fairly consistent supply of light fluffy snows in the air.  It’s not really substantiating the base snow, but it is creating quite the quintessential Vermont winter scene for holiday visitors, and it’s topping off the slopes with some serious softness.  Another burst of flakes was just kicking off when we left the house to head up to the mountain today after lunch, and the snowfall intensity increased as we headed up toward the resort.  Up in the Village we encountered temperatures in the low 20s F and steady light but accumulating snows.  There were plenty of cars in the parking lots, but since spots were opening up with early afternoon departures, we secured a spot right at the north end of the upper lot.

“The descent was a
peaceful glide through
silky smooth powder,
with only the occasional
touchdown on the old base.”

We headed up to the landing on the northwest corner of the main Village complex, and got our gear ready.  Quinn passed through and gave us a heads up on conditions – below the powder was a slick, icy base as we’d suspected.  We followed a nice skin track up Lower Turnpike, and there were a few sets of tracks on the trail, but a lot of fresh snow remaining.  A couple of guys came down the trail and let us know that the steep upper sections weren’t worth the effort because of the ice, right in line with what our beta was suggesting.  Depth checks at the start of the ascent revealed 5-6” of powder, which represents the accumulations from this recent clipper and the couple of small bouts of snow that preceded it.

“…you could really feel the
way the floatation afforded
by our fat skis was letting
us ride a bit higher and
faster in the powder on
those lower-angle pitches.”

We skinned up among steady flakes, enjoying the snowy views of evergreens around us, and when Dylan called for a break ,we stopped at the first crossover to the Wilderness Lift Line at 2,500’.  I checked on the conditions on Wilderness Lift Line, and found that it had been hit with wind harder than our last visit – it was clear that although Turnpike had a few tracks, it was the better choice for snow quality.  With Ty leading the charge, we continued on up to ~2,750’ before finally putting a halt to the ascent because we were getting into icy, scoured terrain.  The snow depth up at the point had increased to roughly 7 inches.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in a bit of lightly tracked powder on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontThe descent was a peaceful glide through silky smooth powder, with only the occasional touchdown on the old base.  The pitch and powder were essentially perfect, although the powder was deep enough that Dylan would sometimes have difficulty keeping his speed up.  Dylan’s Telemark skis (Völkl Gotama Juniors) are fairly wide, but nothing like the Black Diamond Elements and AMPerages that E and I were using, and momentum issues aside, you could really feel the way the floatation afforded by our fat skis was letting us ride a bit higher and faster in the powder on those lower-angle pitches.  I was curious to see if E had noticed the effect, so I asked her how she felt about the speed of her skis on the descent.  She initially thought that they were very fast, and figured it was because they haven’t been used for too many outings and had been waxed.  I explained that a good part of that was actually from the floatation that the skis provided.  Ty invented a new descent technique where he would kneel all the way on the tips of his skis with both knees, and in the powder it gave the illusion that he was just kneeling in the snow with no skis and flying down the mountain.  We’ll have to get some video of that at some point, because it’s quite a hoot.

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder snow on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty dives in

We ended our descent back at the landing on the northwest corner of the Inn, and discovered that it’s a great spot to be if you want to catch up with what’s going on at the resort.  After seeing Quinn at the start of our tour, we ran into Cam and later Josh at the end of the tour.  We got to chat about the current state of the conditions, being happy that there are still great options out there for powder, but hoping that we can get some larger storms in here to start building the base.  We’re in an OK pattern for maintenance over the next couple of days, and there’s a chance for getting in on snow from a coastal system as we head into Sunday night.  We’re certainly a bit fat to the northwest to really jackpot with that storm, but if we can get some base-building synoptic snow out of it, it will really be a step toward terrain expansion.

Bolton Valley, VT 30NOV2013

An image of Ty skiing in powder on the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting after some of that leftover Thanksgiving powder

For the valleys in Northern Vermont, our first big winter storm of the season hit the area this week, and it created some potential holiday travel woes because of its occurrence so close to Thanksgiving.  The storm was essentially complete by the time we traveled on Thanksgiving Day, but with 8.2 inches of snow, and 1.62 inches of liquid equivalent, it had certainly bolstered the snowpack in the yard and changed the look of the landscape.  While the storm did have some mixed precipitation and rain in the middle, it was quite a nice gain in snow for the mountains, with some of the ski areas in the Northern Greens picking up more than foot of snow.  And, as is often the case, the final volley from the storm consisted of a good shot of dry powder that sat well atop some newly added dense base to create some great Thanksgiving Day skiing.

With our holiday traveling done, we finally had the chance to get out today and sample some of the new snow.  Dylan was away at a friend’s house, but E, Ty, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to earn some turns.  They had reported 9 inches of new snow for Thanksgiving morning, and as we headed up to the Village, we stopped in at the base of Timberline at 1,500’ to check on how the snow had settled in down at that elevation.  The depth of the powder was 3 to 4 inches over a good base, and we could see that there had been plenty of ski activity on Timberline’s slopes.  Continuing on up to the Village at 2,100’, we found that the snow had increased to 4 to 6 inches in depth.

“The powder skiing was
every bit as good as
what I’d experienced
on Sunday…”

Having experienced some good snow on Turnpike on Sunday, I figured that we would check that out again today.  Of course, with it being two to three days since the snow fell, plenty of skiers and snowboarders had been out on the trail, a lot more than the single track I’d seen on my last trip.  We were treated to a nice skin track, but most of the powder was tracked out, so we definitely kept our eyes open on the ascent for lesser used options.  We ran into Cam at the top of Lower Turnpike, and chatted about the mountain’s opening in a couple of weeks.  If we can stick with the current weather pattern, things are looking quite good.

Like I’d done on Sunday, we stopped our ascent around 2,900’ on Turnpike since the terrain above that level was rather windswept, but snow depths had increased to roughly 6 to 8 inches, and combined with the base, there was easily over a foot of snow sitting there in many places.  On the ascent I’d looked at the snow on Cougar and the Wilderness Lift Line, and I’d seen only a couple of tracks, so we worked those into our descent.  The powder skiing was every bit as good as what I’d experienced on Sunday, and I was glad that we found plenty of untracked snow for Ty and E.  Ty was putting together some great turns on his Teles, and I think his skiing was helped by the fact that he was in high spirits.  E had her first chance to get on her Element skis with her new Telemark boots, and she definitely felt a big increase in control that she’d previously lacked with on her fat skis with her old boots.

An image of Erica skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E finding much more ability to drive her powder skis today with her new boots

Today was a great, mellow outing, just like you’d expect pre-season at Bolton Valley.  Along with Cam, we saw a couple other pairs of skiers, and they all appeared to be experiencing that same vibe.  We’ve actually got our next small storm coming through tonight, and it’s supposed to persist into tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll get a freshening of the powder that will set things up for more turns.  It’s been a great November of skiing around here, and now it’s on to December – let’s hope it can follow suit.

Bolton Valley, VT 24NOV2013

An image of a ski track in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Some of Bolton’s powder today, thanks to yesterday’s Alberta Clipper

I hadn’t yet been up to Bolton Valley for turns this season, because based on what the web cams have been showing for all the storms thus far, the slopes at Stowe have seen bigger accumulations and better coverage.  This time around though, things seemed more equitable.  I’d seen the general state of coverage at Stowe when I stopped there for a tour on Thursday, so I had a good idea of what was down after the additional 4 to 6 inches reported this morning due to the recent Alberta Clipper.  I could see from the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam that, although there was definitely some wind pushing the snow around and scouring some areas, accumulations were at least in the same ballpark as what Stowe had seen.  As long as I went for a protected section of the mountain, it looked like coverage was going to be sufficient for some good powder turns.

“If you’ve ever heard of
the ‘no chain’ expression
in cycling, for when the
pedaling seems effortless,
then the expression for
today’s ski outing would
be ‘no width’.”

I wasn’t initially sure if I’d want to head out to the slopes today, since just a few inches of snow were expected from the clipper, but more due to the fact that the coldest air of the season has moved in on the back of this storm.  With significant winds as well, it sounded like it was going to be brutal out there on the mountain.  The reality was though, that this was November cold, not January cold.  When we were out in the yard early this afternoon taking some potential Christmas card photos, the temperature was in the low 20s F and it was reasonably comfortable.  It was going to be colder and windy on the mountain, but it seemed like great weather for earned turns.

An image of folding chairs covered with snow after a November snowstorm in the Bolton Valley Ski Area Village in Vermont
Village views of changing seasons on today’s ascent

I headed up to the mountain in the mid afternoon, made a quick Timberline stop at 1,500’ to measure the snow depths, finding 2-4”, and then parked in the top tier of the village lot around 2,100’.  The temperature was in the mid teens F, and snow depths had increased to around 4-5”.  After a conversation with Quinn subsequent to one of our recent October snowstorms, he’d mentioned going for an outing on the Turnpike trail, and with today’s accumulations and wind, that sounded like the perfect, protected option for an afternoon ski tour.  I found a nice skin track that had been set in place by a prior skier, and it brought me up through some beautifully protected terrain.  I think this was actually my first time ascending Turnpike on skins, and it is indeed a nice route.  It’s got that type of modest pitch that makes you feel like you’re out for a stroll and hardly doing any work.  The coverage was looking decent, and there was even a bit of old base snow that was initially sporadic, but increased as I got higher on the mountain.  At 2,500’ I found snow depths in the 5-7” range, and I continued to follow the skin track up to around the 2,800’ mark, where it terminated.  My plan was to ascend as high as the quality of the snow dictated, stopping when the winds or terrain outweighed the elevational increase in accumulations.  Whoever had made that skin track had the right idea, because at 2,800’ it was starting to get to that point.  I pushed on to 2,900’ at the top of Turnpike, and called it there because the next pitches on Peggy Dow’s were clearly steeper, rockier, and exposed to the wind.  The snow had definitely been getting deeper though, and I’d say the depth of the powder up there was 7” or more.

An image of the Turnpike ski trail sign with snowy trees at the Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying a snowy scene at the top of today’s tour

I was unsure exactly how the descent was going to go.  I’d chosen Turnpike because it has that protection from the wind, but also a nice combination of blue/green pitch and a generally grassy, not rocky, surface.  The new snow was quite dry, but I’d brought my fattest Tele boards, my AMPerages at 115 mm underfoot.  I was banking on that width to keep me afloat.  I dropped in for my first turns, and another aspect of the snow conditions quickly became apparent… the snow was indeed light and dry, but it was cold enough that it was also slow.  I was worried that the lack of glide in the dry snow was really going to affect the descent, but as soon as I hit the first steeper pitch the turns started flowing.  Coverage was definitely adequate, and I touched down on the old base or grass very infrequently.  Turns were very smooth, and as I was gliding my way down, I was confident that I’d made the right ski choice for the day.  In fact, it felt like the perfect ski choice, and amazingly, given the situation I think I would have gone even fatter with the skis.

An image of a ski track in powder along the edge of the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley after a November snowfall
Today’s snow offered up some great turns even on the bottom half of the mountain

People are always pushing the fattest skis for the deepest powder, and that definitely makes sense in terms of floatation, but they’re good for so much more.  Indeed I find them absolutely horrible on firm snow; it’s a lot like trying to ride a snowboard on a hard surface.  But today didn’t have anything to do with firm snow, it was all powder… light, dry powder, and the fatties shone in just modest depths in multiple ways because of their floatation.  First, despite the airy snow, they were keeping me off the subsurface and allowing bottomless turns.  Second, and this one was totally unanticipated prior to discovering how dry and slow the snow was, they were allowing me to plane at the more modest speeds attained on today’s moderate pitches.  That kept me going on lower angle pitches, really enhancing the fun factor, and it’s been one of the few times when I’ve had the feeling that even wider skis wouldn’t have been overkill.  If you’ve ever heard of the “no chain” expression in cycling, for when the pedaling seems effortless, then the expression for today’s ski outing would be “no width”.  Even though it was all Telemark turns, in which transitions are much slower than alpine, things seemed to move effortlessly from edge to edge during the turns, and it all just flowed.

Looking ahead, we’ve got a small system expected to affect the area tomorrow night with some snow, and then a much more significant system as we move toward Thanksgiving.  That one could be messy with some mixed precipitation, but hopefully we’ll get some snow out of it as well.