You can put away the rock skis for this storm. Indeed the Northeastern U.S. has been under the influence of a double-barrel low pressure system that the weather models have been showing for more than a week, and it’s finally delivered a healthy shot of snow to the Green Mountains. With one low pressure system traveling through the eastern Great Lakes, and another up the New England coast, there was some warm air involved in this event, but the precipitation in the mountains has generally been frozen, and it’s been plentiful.
“There’s definitely a nice density gradient to give you those easy powder turns with ample protection below.”
Most of the mountain valleys even picked up some snow, but when the snow began yesterday afternoon, the eastern slopes seemed to be the areas getting the most precipitation and notable accumulations even in the valley bottoms. I was hoping to head up to Bolton Valley for some turns today, but the lower accumulations in the valleys of the western slopes had me wondering how the resort had done with respect to snowfall. They don’t have their webcam in operation yet, and they’re not making immediate snow reports, so I quickly popped up to the mountain this morning to assess the potential for turns.
Signs of leftover snow like we had at our house disappeared as I dropped down into Bolton Flats, and at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) there was no accumulation. There weren’t even any signs of white until I hit 1,000’. So I’d say that indeed, accumulating snow levels were definitely lower in elevation on the eastern slopes – snow at 1,000’ in the Bolton Valley area was about equivalent to 500’ at our house slightly east of the spine. The snow depths did eventually did go up dramatically with elevation however. I found 3 to 4 inches at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and up in the Bolton Valley Village (2,000’) there were 6 to 8 inches on the ground with heavy snowfall adding to that by the minute. The resort was clearly all set in terms of snow, so I hoped to head back up in the afternoon for a tour when I had sufficient time.
After visiting the ski swap in Waitsfield in the early afternoon, I was able to head back up to Bolton Valley in the midafternoon period to get in that ski tour. The accumulations I’d see in the Village in the morning just continue to increase as I skinned up toward the summits, and all told I found the following accumulation profile with respect to elevation:
I did get readings as high as 16” on the upper mountain, and one drifted spot with 20”, but I’d say 12-14” is a decent measure of the top end I found for depth. It seemed like there was some old snowpack up high, but I don’t think it interfered with measurements of the new snow because it should have been pretty solid by now.
Even base temperatures had dropped into the 20s F when I was up there in the midafternoon, and my thermometer was showing 19 F when I was up at the Vista Summit, so the snow wasn’t wet at all. Below ~2,500’ there was a thick layer in the snowpack that was only an issue in wind scoured areas. I’m not sure when that developed (maybe during the warmest part of the storm), but today’s additional snow sort of mitigated that, at least with the 115 mm skis I was on. Above 2,500’ it didn’t seem like that layer was even present, and turns were fantastic in midwinter snow. There’s definitely a nice density gradient to give you those easy powder turns with ample protection below. With tonight’s temperatures, the only enemy of the powder would be wind, so the good snow should be there a while for those who want get after it.
“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.
“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.
The weather was quite nice on Saturday, so we had a good family backcountry outing at Bolton Valley, but the weather yesterday was simply nasty. I contemplated heading up for a quick tour, but when I saw that the Bolton Valley Village temperature was at 3 F around midday, I wasn’t all that inspired. When I checked again in the afternoon, I saw that it had actually dropped a degree to 2 F. As if the cold temperatures weren’t enough, there was a hefty wind for good measure, and it was strong enough that the Vista Quad seemed to be closed for much of the day. With that going on outside, it was extremely nice spending much of the day getting things done inside instead.
“…the powder was very much like what we found on Saturday – a general 8 to 12 inches, and there was no internal melt layer
up at that elevation.”
Today’s temperatures were definitely expected to improve though, so after I took care of some work in the morning, I planned on a short tour up at Bolton Valley in the afternoon when the day’s warmth would be at its peak. Under a cloudless sky, temperatures were up into the mid 20s F in the valleys, and close to 20 F even up at 2,000’ when I arrived in the Village in the early afternoon. There was still plenty of wind though, so Mother Nature didn’t seem to want to let that go for some reason. Fortunately, the winds weren’t strong enough to shut down the Vista Quad (yet), and that let me proceed with my planned tour.
For today, my goal was to explore the drainage that dropped off behind the Bolton Valley Wind Turbine and led down to Goose Pond. From the pond, I planned to hook up with the Woodward Mountain Trail, connect back to the Vista Summit, and make a front side run back to the Village. The wind was a little brisk as I prepared my gear at the car, so I went with my thicker fleece layer in anticipation of what might be going on up above 3,000’. The resort was definitely winding down in activity from the holiday weekend, and there were only a few people around as I boarded the Vista Quad. It was my first time on the Vista Quad this weekend, and the lift ride was certainly enlightening, albeit somewhat discouraging. The combination of holiday traffic, but probably even more so the strong westerly winds, left the snow surfaces pounded flat, flat, flat. Everything looked packed out; even the trees along the Vista Quad Lift Line seemed to have lost a good part of their fluffy disposition. The resort had that look of an “old snow” scene, with the trails stripped of loose snow, the tree branches devoid of fluff, and even slick patches visible here and there. I was thankful that I was heading to the leeward side of the mountain, but the snow seemed so beaten down it seemed hard to imagine that I’d find fluff even there. The lift slowed down and even stopped a few times on my trip up, presumably because of the wind, and I was thankful that I was only planning one ride because I wondered how long they’d be able to keep it turning.
Once at the Vista Summit I headed over to the wind turbine, then passed underneath it into one of the openings in the forest. Above the noise of the wind itself, the turbine was cranking away with its own sound of spinning blades. It was really moving in winds that had to be 25 to 30 MPH, and I was happy to see it free of rime and actually doing its job. The noise of the turbine blades in the wind was substantial enough that it actually took a while to fade as I dropped into the drainage and began my descent, but after a few minutes of navigating downward the noise diminished to just the wind itself. Finding a route through the gully was actually quite easy, as there were obvious open areas that could be connected. I can’t say that I found one continuous line for skiing, but there were enough open areas to make it enjoyable. A little trimming to connect those areas would make for an even better descent. At first I was concerned about the scoured and wind-packed snow that presented itself on the initial drop from the turbine, but that dissipated and only reappeared in a few exposed spots lower down. Other than that, the powder was very much like what we found on Saturday – a general 8 to 12 inches, and there was no internal melt layer up at that elevation. The forest I encountered was a mixture of evergreens with a few hardwoods and a touch of brush here and there, and as I approached the pond down at around 2,800’ it became one of those dark spruce groves that permit little understory growth.
Down in the open area of the pond, I found myself exposed to the wind, and it was really ripping. What I observed was a rather austere, winter scene, but not quite the peaceful place it might have been without the incessant wind. I stayed just long enough for a couple of pictures before I retreated into the shelter of the spruce forest. I put on my skins for the ascent, and found an easy route through the spruce; the trees were tall and the only hindrance was the occasional presence of dead lower limbs that hadn’t yet fallen off. With the help of my GPS, I hit the Woodward Mountain Trail in about 10 minutes, and my pace accelerated at that point because I found that there was a skin track that others had used for ascent. There were a few ski tracks on the trail itself as well, but it hadn’t been used too heavily. It was easy to see that the trail was designed well though, because it was often just on the leeward side of the ridge and held a lot of powder. The trail is rather wide in spots, up to 50 feet or more, so I’m sure the turns through there are a great way to start off a tour of the entire trail down to Waterbury Reservoir.
Just before finishing my ascent and emerging back out at the Vista Summit, I hit the fire tower and headed up to take in the view. The wind was intense up top, probably 40-50 MPH, but I was able to get a few photos of the great views in every direction. I quickly got down, took my skins off my skis for the front side descent, and to my surprise (although I guess with those winds not too surprising) when I emerged at the Vista Summit I saw that the Vista Quad was entirely shut down. It was almost spooky how deserted the summit looked for that time of day, but I basically had the whole upper mountain to myself at that point. I headed over toward Cobrass for my descent, and I’m not sure how long the lift had been closed, but the trails had already received a resurfacing due to snow sifting in on the wind. The surface of Cobrass was actually quite nice; it was very easy to dig with my edges, even on my fat skis, and I enjoyed my solo descent.
I headed into the Villager Trees and up “The Crack” to the top of “The Knob” to get in some additional powder turns on my way back to the Village. Folks have been busy in that area in the off season, because I could see some new lines in there that looked like fun. I stuck to a line that I knew, and nobody had been in that area yet so the tracks were fresh. The powder was generally good, although there were some spots where the wind had gotten to it, and I could really feel the assistance I got from the rocker and width of my AMPerages in handling that crust. Down in the lower sections of the trees there had been a lot more traffic, and combined with the wind I had to do a little more work to find the best untracked snow. Those lower sections seemed to fly by though, as I found myself going fast through areas with packed snow and less powder.
I finished off my run, stopped in the main base lodge briefly, and then headed to the car. I was surprised to find that the wind had virtually disappeared down at the Village level, despite the way it was cranking along up high. The lower mountain lifts were running, but many folks seemed to be winding down their day as it was getting toward that 4:00 P.M hour. It was in the low to mid 20s F at the base – warmer than it had been when I arrived, and it felt very nice without the wind. It had definitely been cold up high though – my cheeks could still feel that bite that comes along with cold winter air. In terms of upcoming weather, we’ve still got a good chance for some upslope snow during the midweek period. That’s good, because the lift-served slopes could really use a freshening based on what I saw today.