Bolton Valley, VT 24MAR2020

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy in the Fanny Hill area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out today getting some much needed exercise as we enjoy the fresh powder delivered by Winter Storm Quincy

Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of us have witnessed a dramatic change in daily life here in Northern Vermont as varying levels of social distancing and self-isolation are being practiced to slow the pandemic associated with COVID-19.  Measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 have been ramping up in the form of people doing extensive telecommuting, a state of emergency declared for Vermont back on the 13th,  the closing of bars and restaurants on the 17th, and beginning tomorrow at 5:00 P.M. an executive order to stay home/stay safe.

As of last week, the ski areas in the state had ceased operations, which obviously has the potential to be a blow to many employees and ancillary businesses.  All things considered, this timing hasn’t been too bad for the resorts, since they would all be tapering down winter services and staffing in the next few weeks to some degree anyway.  From the skier’s perspective, the timing of these resorts hasn’t been horrible either – weather has been in that spring doldrums stage for the past couple of weeks.  The usual thaw-freeze cycles that we get at this time of year have taken place, and we haven’t had any big storm cycles to resurface the slopes nor beautiful warm days with copious sunshine to soften them up.  We last skied back on the 8th for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe, and regardless of the ski area closings, there hasn’t been much to entice us out since then.

“Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more.”

That situation began to change yesterday though, as Winter Storm Quincy moved into the area and began dropping snow.  I was returning from a meeting at work in the late afternoon, and the roads were already taking on some fresh accumulations.  As of my 6:00 P.M. snow observations at the house we’d already picked up a couple of inches of snow.  Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more.  I got a text alert around 7:30 P.M. that we’ve been put under a Winter Storm Warning here in Washington County, no doubt due to the continued heavy snowfall.  By midnight, we’d picked up over 8 inches of snow at the house, composed of 0.65 inches of liquid equivalent.  This storm was definitely entering the realm of a decent resurfacing for the slopes.

Since the resort is not posting snow reports now that they’re closed, we didn’t have a sense for how much snow Bolton Valley picked up in the storm, but Dylan and I finally had time around late morning to head up for a ski tour.  On the way up the access road we stopped in at Timberline to check on the snow depth, and found about 7 inches of settled new accumulation at the base.  We also noted that there were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot from folks that were out ski touring.

I was unsure of the base depths at Timberline, and figured they would be more substantial at the main mountain, so we continued on up to the Village.  New snow depths were similar there, and indeed fairly similar all the way up to the Vista Summit.  So overall, there really didn’t seem to be much change in accumulation with respect to elevations – from what we saw today, even up above 3,000’ the storm totals looked about the same as what we picked up in the valley at 500’

A wide-angle image of Dylan skiing in powder from Winter Storm Quincy out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan floats down through some of the powder today during our ski tour at Bolton Valley.

The turns we had today were very nice.  The powder was of medium to perhaps slightly higher density, and temperatures were well below freezing even in the Village at 2,000’.  The snow had a nice surfy consistency, with enough buoyancy for bottomless turns on even steep pitches in the black diamond range.  You could certainly hit bottom on the very steepest pitches, but we focused on medium-angle terrain and it was bottomless all the way.

“Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing. As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.”

With many people not going to work right now as the state strives to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and a fresh dump of powder on the slopes, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how many people were out for turns.  The number of people touring seemed notable though – between Timberline and the Village, there were at least several dozen cars out there.  Where we really noticed that ski touring traffic was up was by the number of tracks on the trails.  D and I definitely had to work a bit to find trails that had only seen a few tracks, but we just poked around until we found them.  Fanny Hill delivered pretty nicely with only about four or five tracks on it and plenty of untouched snow.  Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing.  As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.

An image of Jay from behind as he Telemark skis in powder from Winter Storm Quincy at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan was behind the lens of one of the cameras today as well, getting some shots of Dad when he had the chance.

There are a few early signs of another potential storm about a week out, but there’s nothing notable in the more immediate term, so we’ll be watching that timeframe to see if anything pops up.

Bolton Valley, VT 15JAN2018

An image of Ty's Anon M2 ski goggles with the photographer Jay in the reflection at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of tree branches with ice on them from Winter Storm Hunter at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Remnants of Winter Storm Hunter were seen today at Bolton Valley in the form of a little ice glistening on tree branches in the sun

The weather has been a real roller coaster ride over the past two to three weeks.  We were in the deep freeze over the holiday week and the first week of January, so while the snow quality was great, air temperatures and wind chill values just didn’t make for comfortable skiing.  Winter Storm Grayson hit the area in the January 4th through 6th timeframe and dropped roughly 10 inches of snow here at the house, but the temperatures that followed were still too frigid to make great use of all the snow.  Temperatures finally moderated this past week in association with Winter Storm Hunter, but the early part of the storm brought a mix of precipitation, so the skiing wasn’t great at that point.  Frigid air once again came in right after that storm, but mountain temperatures finally moderated into the teens today, so Ty and I made a quick trip up to Bolton Valley in the afternoon to check out the ski conditions.

A sign announcing an upcoming music performance at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont Bolton picked up about 5 inches of dense snow on the back side of Winter Storm Hunter, and that actually did a pretty decent job of resurfacing the slopes, but the snow and sleet were still dense enough that the resort wasn’t comfortable opening ungroomed terrain.  From the Vista Summit, Ty and I tried out Alta Vista, which of course was fairly scratchy in its steep upper section being the end of the ski day, but the snow that had accumulated on skier’s left from traffic was quite nice.  We actually helped a gentleman who was in well over his head and stepping down that first steep section of the trail.  Although Alta Vista is listed as an intermediate trail, that first section is clearly a black diamond pitch, and even more challenging than that when it’s been scraped down after a day’s worth of skier traffic.  We ventured off into the lower part of the Vista Glades, and low to moderate angle terrain that was untracked was really quite smooth.  In general the off piste turns were beautiful with that dense covering of a couple of inches, as long as the pitch didn’t get too steep.  We considered heading over to check out the lower parts of Wilderness, which are loaded with that sort of terrain, but just didn’t have enough time before the lifts closed.  All in all though, if you didn’t get out this weekend, you weren’t really missing anything too spectacular – conditions are well below average.  Temperatures are remaining nice and wintry, so freshly groomed terrain I’m sure is making for some fantastic carves, but we’ll need another nice shot of snow to get the off piste back in prime form.

“Any of the Anon MFI System equipment has magnets in it that automatically link to the bottom of the goggles and makes a perfect seal.”

One extra fun aspect of today was that Ty finally got to try out the combination of his Anon M2 Goggles and Anon MFI Tech Balaclava that he got for Christmas.  For those unfamiliar with the goggles in this system, a unique aspect is that the lenses are held in with magnets.  So, you can pop them out with a quick pinch of the frame and change them in seconds, but the magnets are quite strong, so the lenses never pop out unless you want them to.  Another part of the system that is ridiculously slick and ingenious is the balaclava.  You know that gap you always have between the bottom of your goggles and your balaclava or neck warmer?  Well, you don’t have it with this system, thanks to more magnets.  Any of the Anon MFI System equipment has magnets in it that automatically link to the bottom of the goggles and makes a perfect seal.  Ty had been asking for a balaclava will full face coverage, so this system was literally perfect for him.  Today’s benign, but reasonably cold conditions were a great chance for him to test out the system to see how it performed for him, and he loved it.  Hopefully it will serve him just as well on his next chilly, storm day.  And hopefully, we’ll get the weather to stabilize into a more typical pattern and have some of those days soon!

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