Temperatures edged up into the mid-30s F down in the mountain valleys today, and that had me curious about how much warmth there was in the higher elevations. Ty and I had some great turns in the fresh snow last night at Bolton Valley, and if that snow was holding its consistency it would definitely be worth getting out for more skiing. We were attending a bridge-breaking competition at Lyndon Institute in support of some of the BJAMS students in the morning, but while I was there, I checked on the Village temperatures at Bolton Valley and saw that they were holding below freezing even down at 2,000’. That meant the powder would probably be staying in great shape.
“We found that the condition of the snow did deteriorate a bit as we got down toward the freezing line, but with the density of this snow it actually holds up quite well even at those temperatures.”
Ty had some work to do at home with E, but Dylan and I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon for a few runs. Temperatures were just above freezing at the Timberline Base (~1,500’), but we hit the freezing line somewhere between 1,500’ and 2,000’. Up at the Vista Summit (3,150’) it was actually pretty chilly, and it was amazing how much of difference there was in air temperature between the base and summit elevations.
We found that the dense powder from yesterday had indeed held up quite well, especially in the elevations above the freezing level, so Dylan and I had a great time exploring lines in the Villager Trees. I’d been thinking that my fat skis would have been great in that type of snow, so I brought them today and they really did the trick. We found that the condition of the snow did deteriorate a bit as we got down toward the freezing line, but with the density of this snow it actually holds up quite well even at those temperatures. This latest snow should be a nice addition to the snowpack as we head into April.
We’ve only had an inch or two of new snow since Monday’s winter storm and our last Bolton Valley outing, but as is typical of January, it’s been consistently cold so the powder has just been sitting there. Heading out for some backcountry turns today was certainly a reasonable option, but I also suspected there would be plenty of lift-served powder available at Bolton Valley; with only a few midweek days since the storm, skier traffic should have been relatively low. Dylan’s very much on the mend from his recent bout of Strep, but he’s certainly not to the stage where he should be heading out on the slopes, so E decided to take him to BJAMS to get some work done. That left me and Ty in the mix for some skiing, and it made the choice easy – I know Ty would lean toward some lift served turns, and I was happy to hedge that way as well knowing that we’d be able to get into a lot of powder.
“The snow was fantastic – I stuck my poles in the snow to hold my gloves while I ran the camera, and the poles sunk up to the handles.”
We grabbed some fairly fat boards and headed up to the mountain in the late morning. My plan was to start us down at Timberline, which turned out to be an appropriate choice because the resort already had signs up indicating that the parking areas at the main mountain were full. There was ample parking in the Timberline lot though, and the attendant directed us to one of the spots in the circle right below the Timberline Quad. Temperatures were right around 30 F and skies were partly cloudy, so it was a choice day to be out there.
Arriving at the main base we could see that there really wasn’t much in the way of lift queues; with all the lifts running, even a full parking lot doesn’t seem to do much to back things up. There was an event going on atop the main deck at the base lodge; I’m not sure what it was, but the deck was full of people. Ty and I headed right over to Wilderness, and my plan was to take him to Stanton’s, or at least that general area to get some steep powder turns. I told Ty how I was taking him to a line that he’d said was too steep for him several years ago – it was January 6th, 2008, so he would have been four years old at the time. I guess we can cut him some slack for feeling it was over head at the time. When I told him about that story today, he sort of laughed and said that he doesn’t run into much that fazes him now because of steepness. Even way back on that day when he did find it too steep, we suspected where things would eventually end up. Sliding into position atop Stanton’s, we could tell that, not surprisingly, it had been hit by plenty of traffic, so we headed a few yards back to one of the lines that was still untracked. I dropped in to set up for some photos and found that there was plenty of powder, even for those steep shots. Ty skied a nice line, but we didn’t really pull any keepers out of that photo session.
The remainder of that run was one of the most enjoyably adventurous parts of the afternoon. We just continued on down below the chutes and let our noses guide us toward fresh tracks. We were in a bunch of seldom used terrain areas, working our way through the trees among Lower Crossover, Coyote, and Work Road. I laughed at one point and said to Ty, “I have no idea where we are!” Actually, I knew we were in the Fanny Hill Woods, but we were following a streambed that I’d never skied before, so we never knew quite what was going to come around the next bend. We eventually wound up at the junction of Fanny Hill and Abenaki Trail, and of course Ty said he knew we’d end up in that area all along. I wasn’t convinced. In any event, that area sees very little skier traffic, so we saw hardly a track. Our first run of powder exploration was a rousing success.
We headed to Vista next, and found Cobrass in really good form, especially off to the right side where the soft snow usually collects. We came screaming around the big bend below the headwall, where the snow was beautiful and you could just sink in those edges and let it rip. Next it was off to sample the Villager Trees, where Ty skied Heaven for the first time this season. The snow was fantastic – I stuck my poles in the snow to hold my gloves while I ran the camera, and the poles sunk up to the handles. We headed to the Sixth Corner area and then to some lines in Gump’s on our way back to the Timberline Base.
It was mid afternoon at that point and we’d discovered that in sun-exposed areas there was just the slightest of melt layers atop the powder in the last few hundred feet of vertical above the Timberline Base. That wasn’t surprising with the temperature so close to freezing down there, but it hadn’t reached the stage of making the snow sticky, and it still skied like dry powder, so we decided to do a little more Timberline skiing. We visited more of Gump’s, the KP Glades, and the Corner Pocket Glades with the usual powdery results. We rode up with an older couple from South Burlington that saw our skis and inquired about rocker in skis and whether it was worth it. I told them that most of the skis still have camber in the middle of the ski, so they’re very versatile, and indeed the rocker is great for powder. For us the choice was a no brainer since we spend so much of our time off piste in the powder, with today being a perfect example. We talked about width as well – I was using my Rossignol Sin 7 skis, which are close to 100 mm at the waist, but said that if they spent a lot more time on piste, something with a width somewhere in the 80-90 mm range would be a good fit.
All told, Ty and I had a great day of exploring some new lines, visiting some old favorites, and generally catching a lot of powder. For today’s action photography it was definitely the Ty show, but that’s often how it goes when he’s the only one along for the ride. I didn’t get a chance to give him the camera since I was usually tracking down lines for him to ski, but perhaps we’ll get one of the boys behind the camera next time.
We had a winter storm at the end of the week that brought over a foot to some of the local ski resorts, and it created quite a powder day by Friday morning. Fortunately (for some of us that didn’t get out Friday) most of the lifts at Bolton Valley were on wind hold all day, so much of the powder was still sitting there as of this morning. With that in mind, we got a relatively early start up at the mountain today, getting there by roughly 9:00 A.M. One great aspect of the day was that Dylan has been given a clean bill of health after his recent viral illness, so he was ready to jump back on the skis and go wild with the rest of the family.
The wind was already somewhat vigorous ahead of today’s incoming storm as the four us loaded onto the Vista Quad, and although temperatures were in the 20s F and fairly comfortable, the east wind blowing in our faces on the wasn’t pleasant. We started off on Alta Vista, and while there seemed to be less powder off to the sides than usual due to extensive grooming, the actual groomed trail had some of the best snow we’ve encountered on it. Oftentimes, traffic and wind make it pretty scratchy at the start, but not today. Down lower on the trail, we got into some powder toward the Vista Glades, and it was quite good. We worked our way over toward Wilderness and caught some of the first tracks in Wilderness Woods. The powder wasn’t overly deep, but it had such a beautiful density gradient associated with it that it was bottomless everywhere. Indeed there’s a ton of soft snow out there now, essentially everywhere I tested the depth of snow with my measurement ski pole off piste, I was able to push it down to around 40 inches before hitting any hard surfaces. There’s really been a good amount of snow in the mountains this month. We eventually made our way out onto Lower Turnpike, and although it had seen a thorough grooming, even that was super soft and there was untracked powder available on the sides.
When we arrived down at the base of Wilderness there were about 15 minutes to go before they loaded it, so E went in for a bathroom break, while the boys and I went for a Mid Mountain run. It turned out that Mid Mountain was on wind hold, so we made a Snowflake run instead. We caught some lines in the Bonus Woods and then met up with E for the loading of the Wilderness Chair. From the Wilderness Summit we decided on Bolton Outlaw, and from what we could see even before we got there, the good powder was in protected areas. The Outlaw Woods yielded some excellent snow. We worked our way down via Cougar for another run in the Wilderness Woods like our first one, and the snow was still excellent, even if we weren’t in the realm of first tracks the way we’d been earlier in the morning.
E and the boys were ready for a break from the wind, so they headed in for some snacks while I took another run on Super Snow Hole. Being by myself, it was the perfect opportunity to dial in the traverse there, and avoid having to drag the family around looking for it like last time. This time I found one of the main traverse tracks leading to the area and hit it from the top. The snow was beautiful in there, and so well protected from the wind. The snow had started to pick up with the approaching storm, and in the trees I got to experience some of those big fat flakes floating straight down in the dead calm. It was a world of difference in those protected areas. It was a great run in which I got to hit some nice lines that I’d explored in the off season.
I met up with E and the boys back in the lodge, and found out that they’d actually had a good bit to eat during their break. I eventually convinced them to come for a run with me on Super Snow Hole, especially since I had a track in place and could guarantee that the traverse would be simple and productive. They actually loved the run, especially with the really high quality powder, so I don’t think I’ll have quite as hard a time convincing them to go with me next time.
Everyone was game for one more run, so we took a trip up Vista and headed to Maria’s Woods. We didn’t take the hike up the crack, but the snow was really good on the main lines anyway. Sometimes you can get in there and find powder that just doesn’t seem to work, but not today. In fact, I was really pleased in general at the high quality of the snow today. I’d brought my Amperages, hoping that the snow was going to be of enough quality that they would be a good fit, and indeed they were. They had that “no width” feeling, and everything was quick and effortless. There’s something about the consistency of the snow that just seemed to work with them, and I’m still figuring out just what days allow them to shine. A great example of when they weren’t a great fit was last Saturday, when the powder was dense in general, and the lower mountain having bit of wetter snow. One would think that fat skis would be great in that dense stuff, but I found that it was just too stiff in most places for their width. Perhaps I’m getting used to how quickly they move around in high quality, fluffy snow, but definitely found myself wanting my mid fats that day. In any event, I’m definitely starting to dial in the type of days that work best, or at least “feel best” with the fats, and it’s not simply the deep days. The quality of the powder seems to be the biggest factor.
I checked on the interest in any additional runs, but everyone was ready to leave, so we skied to the car, packed up, and headed down the access road. As we passed by Timberline, we saw that it had finally gotten off wind hold, and people were loading. It was very tempting to stop in and check out all the snow that had been sitting there for the past couple of days, but I couldn’t convince anyone to make the stop, they were happy to call it a day. It did plant in my mind the possibility of heading back out after lunch though…