We’re currently under the influence of Winter Storm Dylan, which started dropping snow on the area early this morning. The snow started out slowly for the first couple of hours, but by 10:00 A.M. or so it had ramped up to very heavy intensity – at one point it was coming down at a rate of roughly 4 inches per hour. It continued at a steady pace, and by midafternoon we’d already picked up 6 to 8 inches of snow at the house. By that point it was obvious that there was going to be enough fresh snow for a ski tour, so I headed up to Bolton Valley while I still had light.
I pulled into the Timberline lot amidst heavy snow, and chatted with another gentleman who was just skinning up his skis for an ascent. Within a couple of minutes, Quinn appeared out of his truck, and we sort of laughed amongst ourselves how everyone sort of had the same idea. Well, great minds think alike, and know to get to the powder while the getting’s good.
As I began my tour, my checks near the Timberline Base Lodge revealed that roughly 8 inches of new snow had fallen. That number was growing by the minute though, and the snowfall during my ascent was quite heavy. At times, visibility was down to a tenth of a mile, which equates to very heavy snowfall. Up at the Timberline Mid Station I was finding anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of new snow.
“Up at the Timberline Mid Station I was finding anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of new snow.”
There were few if any tracks on Twice as Nice, so I decided to make use of its fairly consistent pitch and make my descent there. I was on my 115 mm Black Diamond AMPerages, even with accumulations only topping out around a foot, the snow was mostly bottomless. My legs got cooked pretty quickly from making Tele turns, but it gave me time to stop and soak in the scene with the storm, the snowfall, and the solitude. It was a great outing, and there’s nothing like getting some of these productive winter storms during the holiday period when one’s schedule is a bit more relaxed.
Winter Storm Dylan is supposed to continue through tomorrow, but we’re going to have to watch out for some mixed precipitation and see how that plays out before everything changes back to snow.
Not wanting to miss the chance to check out all that new snow up at the mountain, I headed up to catch a few runs this morning. The potency of the storm was immediately evident as I saw some of the vehicles that had been parked in the Village parking lots over the past couple of days – they were buried in deep drifts, and some were barely visible.
“ I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches.”
I got in line for the opening of the Vista Quad, but the lift operator felt that it was going to be on wind hold for a bit, so I headed up Snowflake and was happy to find that Timberline was already open. On the way over I cut the traverse over to Tattle Tale, and with two to three feet of snow in the way it took a good deal of effort. I found Tattle Tale untracked, and the powder very deep. There were also pockets of super light powder scattered among slightly denser snow, and when you hit one of those pockets, any support you found in the powder would simply disappear as if the floor was dropping out on you. I had on the fattest skis I own, with 115 mm width at that waist, and even that couldn’t stop the free fall in that snow. On my first encounter with one of those pockets, I quickly went over the handle bars on my Tele skis and had to extract myself from the deep powder. The snow was so deep that even with my fat skis combined with the steepest pitches, I had to straight-line it. I didn’t get to make many turns there, but it was definitely a neat experience.
I stayed at Timberline the entire morning, and found great turns on Twice as Nice. It was actually nice as the powder started to get chopped up a bit, because you could keep plenty of momentum going to hop in and out of the untracked areas. The turns were simply fantastic all around though; Winter Storm Stella definitely provided one of the more thorough resurfacings I’ve witnessed around here. Since the storm dropped over 2 inches of liquid equivalent down at our house, you know the mountains were well above that. I did a run on Adam’s Solitude, and it was my first visit there in quite a long time. I opted for the Secret Solitude option, and got first tracks down one of the lines with a number of small cliffs. At the top of that section I contoured across the hill, and with the pitch of the slope, the powder was up to my shoulder. Adam’s Solitude is famous for catching some well-protected powder, and the depth was very impressive. I stuck my measurement pole into the powder up top there and it went all the way up to the handle – that’s a depth somewhere north of 40 inches. After seeing that, I knew I could just straight line my way right down through the ledges, and that was indeed one of those lines where the snow is just up and over your shoulders.
By the time the morning was over, the Tele turns had cooked my legs and my body was craving some food, so I stopped in for a burrito at South of Solitude. I kicked back and did some browsing on my phone while I ate, which seemed to be a popular option for the handful of folks populating the lodge. The Vista Quad was running by the time I got back to the main base, but my legs had definitely had their workout, so I skied down to the car and headed out.
In general, most areas I found offered up powder in the 24 to 30-inch range, similar to what we found at Stowe Yesterday. There are no major warm-ups in the near future, so we should have some excellent conditions going into the weekend.
There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week. As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct. We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order. What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area. Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.
“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”
From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning. E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later. From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere. Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder. I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats. For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day. It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow. We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.
Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E. We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season. Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season. The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge. I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito. They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!
After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area. We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation. A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season. Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.
It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it. We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.
Dylan and I headed up to Bolton Valley this afternoon for a quick New Year’s Eve ski tour. Based on my observations from yesterday’s outing, I knew that despite exposed areas being wind-scoured, many trails at Timberline were holding some great powder. There were still resort visitors parking down at the Timberline lots, and while most had left by the time we arrived, there were still a few folks trickling down either by bus or via the trails.
“In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds.”
It was a cloudy afternoon, but temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s F as we ascended the Twice as Nice skin track. We contoured across below the elevation of the Timberline Mid Station to avoid the wind scoured areas and descended via most of Spell Binder. In a bit of a reversal of the usual setup, the powder actually improved the farther we descended, simply due to better protection from the winds. We were typically skiing in depths of 5 to 10 inches, with the deeper are being those that were most protected. Dylan had a great time and made some excellent turns – even on his bad side, which is getting better all the time.
We’ve actually got an Alberta Clipper coming through the area right now, but the current wind flow seems to be sending most of the snow off to the east of us. We’ll see if that changes to bring any accumulations to the mountains for tomorrow.
When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard. It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished. Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there. This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.
“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”
We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing. The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder. It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.
“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”
As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder. It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder. We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees. While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis. She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon. While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.
I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below. I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go. It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder. You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had. Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine. In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you. I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation. We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing. If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.
Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up. That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation. He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.
“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”
In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did. We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week. And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.
The Alberta Clipper system that affected the area yesterday was expected to drop fairly modest amounts of snow in the 3 to 6-inch range, but I began to suspect we might do a bit better than that when the snowfall really cranked up in some areas last night. When we’d already picked up half a foot by late evening here at the house, I planned to check the mountain reports in the morning before heading off to work. Bolton Valley was reporting 5 to 7 inches of snow, and although it was very dry, Champlain Powder™ fluff (2 to 5% H2O based on my analyses down at the house), that was just enough accumulation to convince me to stop by the mountain to check it out. The base snow is very firm right now, but with fat skis and appropriate terrain, there would likely be some good turns out there.
The season has been off to an incredibly slow start, but today I finally decided to pay a visit to the Timberline area for some turns. I found 4 to 5 inches of new snow in the Timberline lot at 1,500’, which jived nicely with the report of 5 to 7 inches higher up at the main base area. There were a couple of cars in the lot, and a skin track heading up along the usual Twice as Nice route. A quick survey of Twice as Nice revealed the most protected powder along the skier’s left of trail, and the lone skier who had descended Twice as Nice earlier had made a good choice in that regard. Looking for something with a fairly consistent but mellow pitch, I made my way over to Spell Binder just below the headwall. The combination of powder and pitch was just what I was looking for, and there was a descent track already in place from a previous skier that confirmed that.
With the super dry snow, I was easily touching down on intermediate pitches, and even at times on mellower pitches, but the fat skis certainly helped keep me afloat and the turns were really fun. It was certainly worth a quick trip. We’re not quite to the land of bottomless powder skiing glory yet, but the weather pattern at least looks decent going forward with chances for storms. Timberline will still need a decent synoptic storm with an inch of liquid equivalent or so, or a few smaller events, before the resort could open the terrain without snowmaking.
The overnight forecast called for the passage of an arctic cold front, with snowfall projections of 2-4″ for the mountain valleys and a bit more in the mountains themselves. That’s actually a decent accumulation for one of these arctic fronts, and with the way this winter season has gone, we should probably have a good feel for these things. This has felt like the season of arctic air; these fronts seem to come through every few days, and they just keep driving that midwinter cold into the area. It actually hasn’t been brutally oppressive, “high temperatures in the negative Fahrenheit numbers” type of cold, but it’s definitely been a sustained period of below normal temperatures with plenty of days hanging in the single digits. You know that’s been common when days with highs in the teens or even 20s F feel surprisingly warm. One huge upside of this cold has been the snow preservation – with the temperature never creeping above the freezing mark, each round of snow simply piles on another layer of fluff that works into the snow base. And as usual, each one of these fronts brings with it the chance for the Northern Greens to do their thing, i.e., pull a miraculous foot of Champlain Powder™ out of the sky, so it’s good to be at the ready each time these things approach. And, true to form, the mountains and cold air got together to work some of their magic overnight.
“Well, my morning analysis of the snow for CoCoRaHS revealed a density of 4.3% H2O, which is indeed some “break out the bubbly” type of stuff.”
I woke up this morning to find that close to four inches of delicate, fluffy snow had fallen at our house in the valley. Just how dry was that snow? Well, my morning analysis of the snow for CoCoRaHS revealed a density of 4.3% H2O, which is indeed some “break out the bubbly” type of stuff. The snowfall must have really cranked up overnight, because when I looked outside around midnight there was just a dusting down. It seemed like such a short duration that I wondered how much snow could actually have fallen in the mountains during that time. It was early and I wasn’t sure if the snow report at Bolton Valley was even out yet, but four inches down here in the valley was definitely enough to get me interested in checking out what had fallen up on the hill.
“I made depth checks throughout my climb, and got a surprising range of 6 to 12 inches of surface powder over a soft base below.”
We actually had a bit of a respite from the more typical arctic air yesterday, and it was holding over into today with morning temperatures of mid teens F down at the house, and low teens when I arrived at the base of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley. There were three cars parked in the usual spot off to the right, and another car that had just followed me up the access road was parking as well. The skin track up Twice as Nice was in excellent shape, and it was consistently along the climbers left where it’s typically found. The resort had made one pass with the groomer on that side of the trail, which helped to make for a very easy ascent. I made depth checks throughout my climb, and got a surprising range of 6 to 12 inches of surface powder over a soft base below. I was really surprised that I was getting measurements of a foot of snow, and even a bit more at times, because I didn’t think the mountain could have gotten that much in the previous few hours. But, the potential for skiing looked really good – there hadn’t been much in the way of wind, which is just the way you’d want it for maintenance of loft in champagne-style snow.
“I finally began the descent, and whoa, indeed that snow was great – it was serious cold smoke.”
As I approached the top of Twice as Nice, I watched a couple of skiers cut the first tracks down through it, and that definitely got me intrigued. The powder skiing looked exceptionally sweet based on what I saw there. I took a quick look down Showtime from the Timberline Mid Station, but it appeared to have seen more grooming and I was soon headed back toward Twice as Nice; it sometimes gets hit by the wind, and this looked like one of those days where it seemed to have avoided that issue. I finally began the descent, and whoa, indeed that snow was great – it was serious cold smoke. Being roughly in that ~4% H2O range as my analyses from the house indicated, the powder was actually so dry that even on 115 mm fat skis with close to a foot of it, the turns weren’t completely bottomless all the time. But, the quality of the subsurface was so good that even if you did touch down you’d be interacting with something that was still very soft. I made some additional depth measurements on my descent, and if I had to pin the overnight accumulation down to something tighter it would be 8-9″ at around 2,300′. This was clearly one of those storms where the mountains got an elevation boost with respect to snow accumulations.
When I finally did get a chance to check the snow report today, I found that Bolton, as well as the other resorts along the spine of the Northern Greens were reporting close to a foot of fresh snow, with lower numbers in the Central and Southern Greens. So although the air has been on the cold side over the past few weeks, I don’t think you’ll hear too many skiers complaining about any of these arctic fronts that come with a foot of fresh.
As with most ski areas in Northern Vermont, I’ve always found Bolton Valley to be very accommodating of skiers and riders hiking, skinning, or snowshoeing up their slopes under their own power in order to ski down. Although there wasn’t necessary a formal policy in place, the practice was at least tolerated as long as the individuals were respectful of operating hours, mountain operations, and other factors involving skier safety. So, as a Bolton Valley season’s pass holder who frequently visits the resort for both lift-served and self-powered ascents, I was very intrigued last month when I found out that they had initiated an official uphill travel policy. There are two designated uphill routes: one on Wilderness, and one on Timberline, and although I haven’t seen them yet, Stephen and one of my students told me the resort even has signs marking the uphill route on Wilderness.
“In general my depth checks of the powder revealed 4 to 6 inches, with some spots up to 8 inches.”
I headed out the door early this morning, and decided to go with an efficient Timberline outing to leave me plenty of time to get to work. Temperatures were in the middle single digits F at the house, and low single digits at the Timberline Base. So indeed it was cold, no doubt about that, but the air was fairly calm and that helped keep it manageable. There were about a half dozen cars parked in the usual spot off to the right in the main lot, and I could see a couple people either prepping their skins for a run, or packing up their gear as they got ready to depart. There were just a few flurries in the air, but there was a healthy coating of snow all around, and I was able to start my skinning ascent right from the car.
I was a little surprised that the skin track started on the hiker’s right of Twice as Nice, since it’s typically on the left in line with the uphill travel policy, but I wasn’t going to eschew a track that was already there. I was measuring surface snow depths in the 4″ range, and it was medium-weight powder. As is often the case with big storms, there had been some wind, so some of the powder was pushed around in spots. But, it really hadn’t been hammered or packed too hard, and it looked like turns would be nice. Up ahead of me on the skin track I saw a snowboarder, and behind him a skier. After a few minutes I noticed that the skier was struggling to get up one of those short steep pitches that roll over – he finally managed to get past it with a little herring boning and/or side-stepping. When a similar pitch came up a little while later, he was struggling again and eventually let me pass. He said that it was actually his first time ever trying out skins, and he’d come to Bolton Valley after reading online about the uphill travel policy. As I seemed to have no trouble with those slick spots, he said that wanted to watch how I managed them. After we were both past that spot, I first asked if he had full-width skins, since I know that not having full width has given me trouble in those types of areas in the past, and he said he did. We then chatted about the balance between getting up on your ski edges or staying the skins, and finding out what worked best when you began to slip. He said that what I seemed to do was just keep my momentum really going through those tough spots. I hadn’t thought about it, but I guess I do. I also let him know that I keep a lot of pressure on my poles, and ensure that I’ve got a very good plant so that if I do slip, my arms can help pull me through. After a couple of pitches, the skin track switched to the more typical left side, and there were actually a couple of skin tracks there, so we were able to skin alongside each other and chat for a bit. Eventually I stopped to get a few pictures, and he headed on ahead. Like me, he said his goal was the Timberline Mid Station, and he thought that he might like to do that instead of the Timberline Summit and do a couple of laps.
“As I got down into the more moderate angles below, I was getting a lot more bottomless turns…”
When I reached the Timberline Mid Station, the skier I’d ascended with was just taking off his skins. We chatted for a few moments, I wished him well on his first descent, and then I headed across toward the top of Spell Binder. I switched over for the descent, did a quick survey of the snow on the headwall, and opted for the skier’s right. There were a couple of old tracks in there that looked like they’d been made yesterday, and the snow had been pushed around a bit by the wind, but the overall conditions were quite good. I worked my way toward the middle of the headwall and found even smoother snow, although the powder was perhaps a bit shallower there. On the steep pitch of the headwall, the new powder certainly wasn’t bottomless, even on my 115 mm AMPerages; I was touching down to the base at least a bit on most turns, but I’d say the snow delivered a pretty smooth ride. As I got down into the more moderate angles below, I was getting a lot more bottomless turns, and if the wind had played with the snow a little up on the headwall, it definitely hadn’t done much to the powder lower down. In general my depth checks of the powder revealed 4 to 6 inches, with some spots up to 8 inches. The skiing did feel a bit slow with temperatures around zero F, but I didn’t find any issues with movement, even on the shallowest pitches. When I got to the bottom of Spell Binder, I made a few turns on the corduroy, and boy, that was some sweet groomed snow. The snow from this storm is really just topping off what are already fantastic conditions, so folks who were coming out for a day at the resort were really going to be in for a treat.
On the way into Burlington, I stopped off at the Williston rest area, and one of my former students was there. He said he thought he’d seen me up at the mountain, and now he was sure of it. After hearing about the uphill travel policy, he’d actually been up skinning on the main mountain using the Wilderness route this morning, and he’d had a great time. He said that he and a friend often went out ice climbing in the early morning, but they think they’ll be mixing in some ski touring as well. I had first heard about Bolton’suphill travel policy in a post on the Vermont Backcountry Alliance Facebook Page, and it wasn’t too surprising based on Bolton’s history in that area. What was surprising though was finding out that Sugarbush now has a hiking/skinning policy in place. That’s exciting news, because they have not generally allowed uphill travel in recent years. I also just saw that Bolton Valley will be having an uphill ski demo day on February 7th, where people can try out alpine touring, Telemark, and split boarding equipment. Hopefully that will serve for a great introduction for people that have been curious about trying ascents on their own power on that type of equipment.
It looks like our next winter storm could be coming into the area tomorrow night; it’s expected to be an Alberta Clipper type of system with the potential for 6 to 8 inches in the local mountains.
“There were occasional sticky spots, but in general it was just really nice corn snow that you could slice right through with each carve.”
Since yesterday was fairly gray and we didn’t expect the snow to soften the way it would with plentiful spring sun, we didn’t hit the slopes, and instead took the opportunity to get some things done around the house. After many weeks of such great snow and commitments with the BJAMS ski program, it was really nice to have a break to catch up on other things. I took the opportunity to get a bunch of low voltage media wiring done that I’ve been putting off for months, so it felt great to get that off my plate and get all the wall plates and electronics buttoned up. Today’s weather was a different story though; as the storm system cleared out, it left brilliant blue skies in its wake, and we knew that was likely a recipe for some great spring skiing. Today was also Bolton Valley’s last day of lift operations for the 2013-2014 ski season, so we didn’t want to miss out on that if Mother Nature cooperated. We waited until the afternoon before heading out, as we often do on these days, to let the west-facing terrain of Timberline soak up that sun. The mountains were definitely holding onto some chilly temperatures today though; I was a little worried that the Bolton Valley Weather Station at 2,100’ was still hovering around the 32 F mark at midday, but with sunshine and lower elevations, I was confident that Timberline would be sufficiently softened and ready to go.
“Despite the great snow coverage today, it’s interesting to note that this is the third year in a row that Bolton will be coming in well below average with respect to snowfall.”
From roughly 50 F in the Winooski Valley, we headed up to a temperature around 40 F at the 1,500’ base of Timberline. There were actually a fair number of cars parked in the lots with people taking advantage of the nice weather and final day of lift-served skiing. One thing that we found immediately impressive was the snow coverage. Although Bolton Valley has had quite the low snowfall season, and will be ending their season with just 206 inches of total snow (66% of average), there was impressive coverage with just a few bare spots starting to open up on the low-elevation trails of Timberline. With the use of snowmaking, that isn’t actually too surprising on the trails that get it, but with the way this season went, snow was never even made on Showtime. To have all those low elevation trails in play in April without the aid of snowmaking, really speaks to how well the snow was maintained this past March. The mountain was essentially 100% open, and running all the lifts going into this last day of the season, so it was indeed a nice way to go out.
For our first run, we headed to the Timberline Summit to check out Adam’s Solitude, but we found that ski patrol had already closed it off as they were preparing to shut down the lifts for the season. That left us with the option of Sure Shot, which had some great corn snow. On the lower part of the run, Ty started working on some 180s off available jumps, and seemed to be having a lot of fun landing switch. We found ourselves alternating runs between the Sure Shot option and Twice as Nice, which we also found to have good snow. There were occasional sticky spots, but in general it was just really nice corn snow that you could slice right through with each carve. On one run, Ty left his poles at the base and enjoyed carving low and getting his hands down on the snow. Dylan had a lot of fun playing in the bumps that were forming near the bottom of Timberline Run and top of Twice as Nice, continuing with his pole work and separation of the upper and lower body. In one section of moguls he had a lot of fun making exaggerated movements as he worked on his technique, creating the semblance of a dancing skier. It was classic Dylan.
It was a great day on which to end Bolton’s lift-served season; we caught up with some of those Bolton Valley employees like Cam and Josh that we often see throughout the season, and got to enjoy the weather through a number of sunny rides on the Timberline Quad. We hadn’t headed up to the main mountain at all, but when I asked Josh about how it was up there, he said that it was definitely softer down at Timberline, and that it was the place to be. One interesting topic of conversation on the lift was the ski area that appears in Ty’s dreams. Apparently it’s his own ski area, and all his ski dreams take place there – he regaled us with a detailed lift and trail layout, and I told him that he should make a map because it sounded like a great place.
Despite the great snow coverage today, it’s interesting to note that this is the third year in a row that Bolton will be coming in well below average with respect to snowfall. Fortunately, we didn’t really feel it on the slopes in March, since the temperatures were cold and the snow kept coming, but the deficiencies were definitely there in December and January, and the downside of that type pattern is that snowfall in those months is most critical for building the base. If those earlier months bring decent storms and then it doesn’t snow that much later in the season, at least the base is down, but if it’s not present at the beginning of the season, the natural terrain skiing during that period is simply lost. We’ll have to see what next season brings, but a snowy holiday period like last season would be appreciated. In any event, we’ve still got a lot of this season to go, and the snowpack in the mountains is deep, so we’ll hopefully have more opportunities to get out there and enjoy it.
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.
It 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.
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.
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.