With help from our most recent winter storm, Bolton Valley is reporting 6 to 9 inches of new snow over the past several days, so Ty and I decided to head up today to ski a bit of that powder. We got to the Village in the late morning, and were surprised to find the upper parking lots were hitting capacity. We poked around in the lots for a bit though, and eventually got a spot from someone who was leaving. Parking at the main base was at an unusual premium today because there was a big Nordic race taking place. They certainly had a really fantastic day for the event – the sky was a mix of sun and clouds, and temperatures were just edging above freezing at the 2,000’ level.
With temperatures expected to rise a few degrees above freezing, Ty and I quickly got on our way over to Wilderness to make sure we could get in some powder turns before any potential temperature effects on the snow. We started off with a warm up on Bolton Outlaw, connecting down to the Wilderness Woods area and Lower Turnpike, where we found plenty of powder along the edges of the runs. I was definitely leery of the subsurface on Bolton Outlaw based on my experience over at Timberline on Thursday, but I ended up being really impressed with the overall conditions we found. The new snow has settled some and it’s now had a chance to form a much better bond to the underlying surface. In addition, there’s definitely been some additional liquid equivalent added to the surface snow relative to what I found earlier in the week. There was plenty of loose snow on Bolton Outlaw, but even when you got down to the subsurface there was substantial grip. Steep, natural snow trails like Bolton Outlaw being in good shape bodes well for the overall surface conditions on the mountain, so it’s not surprising that most terrain has been reopened now.
“There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.”
Ty and I also visited White Rabbit, where we found just a couple of tracks and acres of fresh powder. The freezing level was rising, so we had to start paying attention to aspect and sun protection, but the effects on the powder were still fairly minimal overall. There was a good half foot or more of powder in there in general, and a nice subsurface that made for some excellent overall turns.
The forecast suggests we’ve got a small system coming in to the area tonight, and then another couple of larger systems in the coming week, so folks should be alert for more potential powder turns in the near future.
This week, the pace of winter storms and snowfall has slowed down a bit here in the Green Mountains compared to what we were seeing at the beginning of the month, but the weather models have been suggesting the chance for some of our classic upslope snow on the back side of this latest system. Scott put together a nice summary of the event’s potential at Braatencast, and it certainly looked like we’d have a chance for some decent powder turns today.
I was actually planing to earn some turns and ski tour a bit before the lifts opened at 9:00 A.M., but I was up there later than I’d hoped and it was right around opening time. That didn’t matter too much though, because winds were fierce and the Vista Quad wasn’t even running, so I just headed off to Wilderness for a tour as I’d initially planned.
With those harsh winds, you’d be hard pressed to know that much snow fell at all from just looking around the base area parking lots. The accumulations were really patchy on a lot of snowbanks because the new snow had been ripped away and sent elsewhere. Once I got onto the skin track on Lower Turnpike and out of the wind though, the actual snow accumulations became apparent. Indeed I’d say that the 4 inches reported was a safe way to go in terms of being conservative, but aside from scoured areas, that definitely represented the low end of accumulations I encountered. Omitting the extremes of drifts and scoured areas, my checks revealed settled snow depths of 4 to 10 inches throughout my tour. That wasn’t really elevation dependent, it seemed to just be a factor of how the snow sifted down in various areas. Drifts I found up around the 3,000’ elevation were generally in the 2 to 3-foot range, though there were some bigger ones as well of course.
“Omitting the extremes of drifts and scoured areas, my checks revealed settled snow depths of 4 to 10 inches throughout my tour.”
The skiing was obviously much different than what you would get from just four inches of fluff. With a number like that I’d be expecting to get good turns on only low angle terrain, but bottomless turns were pretty standard all the way up to about single black diamond pitch as long as the subsurface was smooth. I was on my 115 mm boards, but one could certainly still float on something skinnier. I’d say the storm must have put down a half inch of liquid or so on the mountain based on what I was skiing.
Upon reaching the Wilderness Summit on my tour, I started down Bolton Outlaw, thinking it would be pretty smooth from minimal early season traffic. It wasn’t long before I realized that the Wilderness Lift has indeed run this season (I actually rode it with Stephen on opening day), so there’s been enough skier traffic to produce some moguls. I was definitely hitting the subsurface with the steep pitch and moguls, so I quickly dove off into the Outlaw Woods, and the turns in there with a smooth subsurface turned out to be just about perfect. I was also able to get first tracks in the lower Wilderness Woods, and they were excellent as well. Getting into the trees was generally a great option because the snow had settled in there very nicely thanks to protection from the wind. I hung around for a couple of lift-served runs off the Snowflake Lift, and with the typical low traffic there I found plenty of untracked snow.
This was definitely an upslope snowfall event that was focused on the mountains. When I left the resort and headed west toward the Champlain Valley, snow accumulations really tapered off. There was just a bit of accumulation in the Richmond Village area and it seems like just a trace to nil in the Burlington area.
We’ve got a warmer weather system expected to affect the area at the end of the week, so the next chance for snow won’t be until Saturday afternoon into the evening on the back side of that storm.
A modest winter storm came into the area on Friday and left up to 8 inches of new snow at the Vermont ski areas. Bolton Valley was reporting 3 inches up top, which seemed like a fairly minimal covering over the base snow that’s seen plenty of spring cycling, but we figured it was worth heading up for a couple of runs to see how the accumulations had settled in. Sometimes 3 inches can ski like 3 inches, or sometimes it can ski like more, depending on how it was distributed and how densely it settled.
Ty and I headed up fairly early to find bright April sun among some on and off clouds, and temperatures in the upper 20s F. We took an initial run on the Snowflake Chair to make our way over to the Vista Quad, and while we found the groomed terrain was skiing nicely, we didn’t really find that the snow was enough to get the skiing shaped up off piste, at least down there below the 2,500’ mark.
We still wanted to check out how accumulations had played out at the Vista Summit up above 3,000’, and Alta Vista revealed a few good turns off the usual protected left side, but they were in the minority. We headed over toward Wilderness and did find some nice turns in the Wilderness Woods, but as Ty nicely put it, “You just couldn’t trust it on every turn”. Indeed you could get a few nice turns on low angle terrain, but then you’d run into a spot that had been hit by the wind and you’d be back to contacting the hard spring surface below.
“I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.”
The opening of the Wilderness Lift had been delayed a bit due to winds, but it had recently opened as we approached the bottom, so we figured it was worth at least one trip. It was running slow due to winds though, so we dropped off at the mid station and headed down Cougar. I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in. We had first tracks on the lower part of Cougar as well, and where the snow was undisturbed by the wind the turns were quite nice. We finished off dropping in and out of the Wilderness Woods, and for some reason, (perhaps the bright sunlight, or perhaps the deep spring snowpack?) they just seemed very open and smooth everywhere. There were very few tracks in there, so we had our pick of fresh lines. You still couldn’t “trust” every turn, just as Ty had said earlier, but we definitely had some good smooth lines through the trees in many spots.
In line with the bright April sun, Ty and I both had a chance to try out the Sonar Silver lens for the Anon M2 Goggles. It only lets through 6% of the visible light, so it’s even darker than the Sonar Red lens that we’d used last weekend at Magic Mountain, which lets through 14% of the visible light. We swapped between the two actually, but you could definitely notice the difference – you could easily look toward the sun with the Sonar Silver lens and not be too strained, and I can see it’s going to be another great one for these types of bright, late season days.
“…Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.”
We finished off with a trip to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab some subs, and it was around lunchtime, so a crowd was building. Although temperatures were wintry today, and there was some wind, that April sunshine easily warmed you up and you could see that folks were generally quite comfortable out there on the slopes. It looks like temperatures will be warming up next week for some spring skiing, and Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing. From what I can see in some of the weather models, we may not be quite done with snowfall in the mountains yet either.
It started snowing last night on the front end of our current storm system, and although we only had about a half inch of snow here at the house, the mountains picked up a good 3 to 4 inches containing some real substance. I hadn’t prepared much of our gear ahead of time since I was unsure whether or not this storm was going to deliver, but everyone got up and rolling pretty quickly once we’d made the decision to hit the mountain. I checked the Bolton Valley website for the latest on the lifts and trails, and our timing was looking good because lifts didn’t start running until 9:00 A.M. It really feels like it’s a holiday today because we’re so close to Christmas and school is out for E and the boys, but at for the resort it was just a standard midweek day. We don’t get to ski a lot of those though, so we were excited for that.
Precipitation had been a light mix of snow and rain, but it had generally tapered off by the time we arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village. I dropped E and the boys off at the Village circle and was able to easily grab a parking spot right in the top lot because there were only a couple dozen cars in total. Apparently today really was just another midweek day. I met E and the boys near the back of the base lodge and we headed up to Vista for a run.
As we rode the lift you could immediately see that the resort had been plastered with snow overnight. The evergreens had a fresh coat of white that added yet another layer on top of all the rime and snow they already held, the groomed slopes looked great, and even the off piste was supplying quiet turns. It wasn’t until we got near Spillway that we could hear skiers contacting the subsurface, so we knew that the new snow wasn’t quite enough to support bottomless turns on the steepest pitches. Temperatures were comfortable at just a few degrees below freezing, but there was a stiff wind as we got into the higher elevations.
I’d read that Schuss was the run of the day, so for our first run we headed down Alta Vista to make our way toward Schuss. There was a bit of scouring at the very top of Alta Vista, but below that the groomed snow was excellent. Of to the skier’s left we found several inches of fresh powder, with as much as a foot in some spots. We’d been prepared to just take a run or two if the conditions weren’t that great, but it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen; the conditions were simply fantastic. Down on Schuss we did come in contact with the base in some spots since it’s quite a steep trail, but fresh snow was plentiful as there was only a track or two or two before we got there. On the lower mountain we caught Bull run to Moose Run to Glades, and the trails were either totally untracked or had a track or two on them. Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what those midweek days are like. As we hit the last hundred or so feet of vertical above the base lodge, you could really feel the snow starting to get a bit wet, so the freezing level must have been rising.
On our next ride up the Vista Quad, Dylan proposed that we each take turns picking a route to ski, so Ty went next. He followed up with another trip down Alta Vista, taking us through the lower parts of Vista Glades, and then finally over to Fanny Hill. We really got to rip up the powder there along the skier’s right, dodging in and out of the trees. I stuck with Ty in that powder right along the edge, and by the bottom of the run my legs were definitely getting cooked from Telemark turns.
Dylan’s run choice was next, and he stuck with an Alta Vista start, eventually brining us to Sleepy Hollow. He’d wanted to get in there on our first run, but now that everyone was warmed up, we were ready to rip through those trees. If anyone had been in there up to that point, they must have been few and far between, because it looked like the whole glade was untracked. I directed the group to some lines I know off to the left, and some seriously good turns were had by all. There was no problem with the new snow keeping us off the base on those pitches. Kudos go out to Dylan for a great run choice.
The fourth run was E’s selection, and she really didn’t have much of a preference aside from visiting the Glades run again; she’d really started to connect with her Tele turns there and wanted to get more of that type of terrain. So, for the upper mountain we dropped into Show Off, and we got images of the boys skiing around the rock with the big smiley face on it. On the upper half of Snow Off, the pitch was steep enough that we were making contact with the base snow, but on the bottom half of the run, the pitch had mellowed just enough to let us float through our turns quite well. Glades was nice and still held plenty of untracked snow, although the snow on the bottom half was starting to get a bit wet as the freezing level seemed to have risen.
It was approaching midday after that run and we broke for lunch at the James Moore Tavern next. The bar was hopping, but there were only a few tables with people at them. I had their grilled tuna sandwich, which was nicely done, although I’d probably opt out of the Dijon mustard-style sauce next time since it’s not one of my favorite flavors. Dylan got the homemade macaroni and cheese, and in his case he definitely had to get it with the optional bacon. I tried some and it was really good… and really rich. We had enough extra that I even had to run leftovers down to the car.
We decided to take a final run after lunch to see how the Wilderness area was doing. We took the Vista route over, but were surprised to see that the Wilderness lift was actually running. That meant that the terrain wasn’t quite as untracked as it might have been with just Vista access, but there was we caught some good lines on Work Road and in Wilderness Woods. The freezing line had continued to creep upward though, so the quality of turns in the lowest elevations had dropped a bit more.
There’s no doubt that the morning offered the best turns of the day today, and that was the time to be out because they were really good. Temperatures are going to be warm with this system for the next couple of day before they cool down, so some snow will be required at the point to get surfaces back to something soft. There are some chances for snow though over the next week, so we’ll see what falls.
Our latest winter storm to come into the area was lean on cold air, bringing the potential for mixed precipitation into the picture. The northern Vermont resorts managed to get some snow accumulations though, with 5 inches reported by Bolton Valley in the morning. Well ahead of opening, they announced that the Vista Quad was starting on wind hold, and that Mid Mountain would be the early lift. So, I threw my skins in my pack before heading up to the mountain.
The temperature was around 35 F in the valley, and only dropped a degree or two as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road. Accumulations of snow on the road naturally increased with elevation, and by the time I got up to the Village, you could see that the plows had cleared away some dense, wet material. The precipitation at the base was a mist of light rain with occasionally heavier bouts.
As I approached the base of the mid mountain chair, I ran into Quinn, who was just coming down from a run. Our conversation noted the wet weather, and you could tell by the state of Quinn’s outerwear that he’d been out working in it. He said that skiing was lots of fun though, and that was a good sign. The state of the skiing on the lower mountain was quickly confirmed during my ride on the mid mountain chair; beneath my feet, I watched a couple of ski instructors on Beech Seal cut beautiful arcs through the fresh layer of dense snow. The chairs of the mid mountain chair were in quite a state – they had icicles all over them from freezing rain, and it seemed like the icicles were enhanced as the chairs went through repeated cycles of freezing and thawing on their circuit up and down through various elevations.
At mid mountain, I’d just strapped on my skins and started upward, when I heard a sled approaching. It was Quinn, and he gave me a quick lift to the Vista Summit on his way to check things out. The temperature dropped below freezing, and the depths of new snow increased as we headed upward. My depth checks revealed as much as 6” of new snow up top, with the caveat that it was a bit tough to tell where the new dense snow ended, and the old snow began. The only downside, and unfortunately it was big one, was that a fairly thick crust had formed on the snow in the higher elevations due to some rain falling into the colder temperatures. Because of this, I stuck to the groomed Alta Vista for the first part of the descent. The groomed snow was much easier to manage, but it was still firm with a layer of ice on it.
I next followed Swing over to Wilderness, and ran into Quinn again as he was making his way about the mountain. I filled him in on the conditions I’d experienced on my descent from Vista, letting him know that ski condition in the lower elevations were actually much better because of the lack of crust. I made a depth check of the new snow at that Wilderness Mid Station (~2,800’) and found roughly 4 to 5 inches. Below the Wilderness Mid Station was where the turns really started to get nice. I got into that beautiful snow that I’d seen the instructors and others skiing on Beech Seal, and cut some nice arcs. It was really interesting to have the skiing improve with every turn I took downward in elevation, because it’s often the reverse due to deeper snow accumulations up high. Since I’d found that some areas in the trees on the upper mountain had been protected from the freezing rain, I dipped into the Wilderness Woods briefly to see how they were skiing. Down at that elevation, it really didn’t make much of a difference, so I quickly ended up back out on the trails since they had large expanses of untracked snow.
I rode the Mid Mountain Chair again, this time heading out on Deer Run and over to the Butterscotch Terrain Park. I ended up just skiing the park, since it wasn’t open and had plenty of fresh snow. Usually, with the more limited terrain, it’s not great when the Vista Quad is down and the main option is the Mid Mountain Chair, but with the way the new snow was set up today, it was almost the perfect option. I didn’t stick around too long this morning because I wanted to get home and dry my gear to get ready for Stowe in the afternoon – I was certainly eager to see how Mt. Mansfield fared in this latest storm.
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…