We had a fantastic first run down Hard Luck, where we found just a few tracks ahead of ours – it was nice to show the boys what getting out a bit earlier can get you! I think they might have some manmade snow under there, but it was hard to tell with all the snow from Winter Storm Malcolm providing a very thorough resurfacing. The resort also opened the Wilderness Chair for the first time this season, and there was a notable queue as it was finally getting ready to open, but it was a fun wait because there was an excited energy among the skiers for it to make its season debut.
I can’t speak to the financial aspects, but in terms of snow conditions, it was definitely a solid holiday weekend for Bolton Valley and the Vermont ski areas in general.
On Saturday morning I decided to go for my first lift-served turns of the season at Bolton Valley. Only the main mountain is open at this point, since coverage is still too thin down at the lower elevations of Timberline. It was snowing steadily with some big flakes when I arrived at the mountain, and I found about 4 to 5 inches of new accumulation in the Village areas at 2,000’. The snowfall tapered off to light snow during the midmorning period, but really picked up to some heavy inch/hr snowfall when I was leaving a bit before noon. That was when the back side of the storm was coming through, and the wind jumped up a bit there, but prior to that the weather was fantastic with temperatures just a bit below freezing and no wind. There was obviously some surface snow in place from previous systems because I was generally finding powder depths of 6-9” at the 2,400’ level. Skiing was good, with enough snow to resurface low to moderate angle slopes, and listening to skiers and riders on that terrain you’d hear absolutely nothing. On higher angle slopes you could still hear contact with the old base snow, so it was obvious that ¾” of liquid can only do so much with holiday levels of skier traffic.
The conditions had seen such an uptick relative to where they’ve been the past week that I had to head back up for a tour on Wilderness in the afternoon!
This latest winter storm sort of snuck up on us. Our local forecast at home did indicate the chance for a touch of snow during the overnight, but I was well into the wee hours before we’d expected to see anything. Yesterday afternoon though, it was pouring rain down here in the Winooski Valley, and with temperatures in the 30s F, it seemed suspiciously cool. Around 5:00 P.M. I decided to check on a couple of the local webcams at the resorts, and was surprised to see that it wasn’t just snowing at elevation, but in line with the pouring rain down in the valleys, intense snowfall was occurring in the mountains. It looked like the snow line was somewhere around 2,000’.
“I’d say fat skis were the way to go today, and indeed turns up high were bottomless and smooth, with little need to worry about hitting the base.”
By 8:00 P.M. we’d picked up about an inch of snow at the house, and with continued snowfall in the valleys, it seemed very likely that the mountains were going to have a solid new accumulation by the time the night was over.
In the Bolton Valley area this morning, there were accumulations all the way down to the base of the access road at 340’, and the accumulations slowly increased as one headed up to the resort. The snow depths started to increase more rapidly around the elevation of the resort Village, with 3 to 4 inches there, and those totals doubled by the 2,500’ elevation. Essentially all the snow above 1,500’ was winter-dry, and temperatures were still in the 20s F this morning from probably 1,500’ on up. I’ll have to look back at all the April and May storms we’ve had this season, but this was some of the driest/wintriest snow I can recall in the past few storms.
I’ve got the elevation profile for new snow accumulations below, and as you can see, the largest increases in depths indeed came from a bit below 2,000’ up to about the 2,500’ range before the rate of increase tapered down:
The storm was probably mostly snow above 2,500’, and with 1.21” of L.E. down here at the house, it was a decent resurfacing above 2,000’, and a very solid, “no worries” type of resurfacing above 2,500’. I’d say fat skis were the way to go today, and indeed turns up high were bottomless and smooth, with little need to worry about hitting the base. Indeed, midwinter-style powder is always appreciated in May.
Today was a bit of a whirlwind as we set out to ski some of the new snow from this latest winter storm. We initially headed to Stowe in the early morning, since school ski program ticket vouchers typically work for coaches’ passes on MLK day. Surprisingly, we were told that wasn’t the case this time. We did have a good breakfast in the Mansfield Base Lodge and got E’s coordinator pass taken care of over at Spruce Camp while the boys took a run on Meadows, but we ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth buying an expensive holiday ticket just to ski for a few hours. We instead headed off to Bolton Valley, knowing that there was plenty of day left for everyone to get some runs together.
There wasn’t much going on in terms of snowfall while we’d been at Stowe, but it started to pick up as we made our way southward through Waterbury and on toward Bolton. There was generally a very wet snow falling in the valleys, but once we hit ~1,000′ elevation on the Bolton Valley Access Road the temperature had cooled enough that the flakes were really starting to stick. There was some nice snowfall as we parked at Timberline, and the slopes were looking very inviting.
“…during that early afternoon there was a much steadier snow on the mountain, with rates up to 1″/hr at times.”
While we were unloading, E got a call from Claire indicating that they’d gotten the appropriate officials at Stowe involved, and indeed they had confirmed that the coaches’ vouchers were valid. I’m still amazed that we were the first ones on the entire day trying to apply a voucher at what must have been at least 9:00 A.M., but if we served as the guinea pigs to get things straightened out, that was good for everyone that decided to go later. When we’d set out this morning, we’d planned on skiing with some of the other BJAMS families at Stowe, so it’s too bad that plan didn’t come together. Things worked out really well in the end of course; we were at Timberline, and we could see how much great snow was out there and how few people were skiing it. Even thought we hadn’t arrived until mid to late morning, we knew that Bolton Valley would still be serving up the usual plentiful allotment of fresh tracks.
Knowing that the snow was generally denser down low, we headed up the Timberline Quad and immediately went over to check out the main mountain. The snow was definitely drier in the higher elevations, but the top of Vista came with a healthy dose of low clouds, wind, and colder air. The wind turbine at the summit was running though, and boy was it turning in that wind! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the blades spinning as fast as they were today.
“…there was a good foot or more of powder in there, and you could see just how high the quality of the powder could be when it was entirely out of the wind.”
As we headed down through Spillway Lane, our initial observations were that the exposed slopes had been blasted with wind; the new powder was wind-packed, and you barely sunk into it while skiing. We dropped down onto Vermont 200 out of the wind, and the conditions improved as the powder along the trail edges was much better thanks to the protection offered by the surrounding trees. We crossed over to Hard Luck and found similar snow, but we really got into some good stuff once we jumped into the trees in between the two trails; there was a good foot or more of powder in there, and you could see just how high the quality of the powder could be when it was entirely out of the wind. We quickly took that lesson to heart and headed into the trees on the lower mountain, catching some good lines in the Glades area.
Dylan was pretty tired from a long weekend filled with activity, therefore we decided that we should work our way back toward the Timberline Base so that he could rest a bit in the lodge down there and call it a day if he needed to. We had a pretty classic long run featuring Cobrass, Cobrass Woods and Five Corners to get us back toward Timberline. Those were our first turns of the day down at the Timberline elevations, and the density of the snow actually didn’t affect the skiing until the last few hundred feet above the Timberline Base Lodge. I had initially thought that people might be staying away from Timberline because the snow wasn’t as good in those lower elevations, but it really wasn’t all that different on most of the terrain.
“You could tell it was dumping though, as even under the protection of the trees we could barely view the pictures on the camera screen because the snow was accumulating so quickly.”
Dylan went to rest in the lodge with E, while Ty and I headed off in search of more powder. Traffic had been pretty low at Timberline, and you could find great powder throughout the trees and even on the trails. We’d found plenty of untracked snow on Tattle Tale on the previous run, so we decided to explore some lines in that area. I pulled out the camera and got some great shots of Ty blasting his way through the powder. That was definitely some great storm riding; the intensity of the snowfall had been ramping up since we’d arrived, and during that early afternoon there was a much steadier snow on the mountain, with rates up to 1″/hr at times. I told Ty that it looked like I’d gotten a pretty cool shot of him from the side sending up a massive powder tail, so when we’d made our way down lower on the mountain, we pulled into the protection of the trees along Spur so that we could take a look at the images. You could tell it was dumping though, as even under the protection of the trees we could barely view the pictures on the camera screen because the snow was accumulating so quickly. It was a great test of the weather sealing on the 7D2, because even after just a couple of minutes all the surfaces were well covered with melted or partially melted flakes. There were no issues, although I suspect the 7D2 shouldn’t even blink at that level of weather. We’ll keep putting it through the paces though.
We stopped in the lodge to see E and Dylan, and we ended up hanging out for a while and getting some food. While inside, Ty and I worked to convince them that they needed to come back out because the skiing was just so good. Dylan eventually felt that he had enough energy to oblige, so we brought them back to the Tattle Tale area for more good lines. With the steady snowfall and a little wind out there, we were definitely talking refresher runs where our previous tracks were getting filled in. That’s part of the fun of storm days of course. Dylan was eager to do some of the photography with the 7D2, so we set him up with it and with some training and a little on the fly help from E, he had a blast. It would be great if he wants to keep working on that and become more experienced, because he already captured some excellent shots, and I’m always happy to get out from behind the camera and let others have fun with it. He snagged a really nice shot of me cutting a hard turn along the edge of Tattle Tale.
We did one more run in the Intro Woods before calling it a day, and I’d say that was good stopping point so that we didn’t tire Dylan out too much; the season is still young and hopefully he’ll be working up to some longer days. Still, we found some really great snow out there during those last couple of runs, and it was hard to pull away and head home knowing how many great spots we didn’t even get to visit. The weather looks to stay wintry this week though, so the snow could be well preserved over the next several days.