Bolton Valley, VT 12MAY2020

An image of a motorcycle covered in fresh snow from a mid-May snowstorm in the village parking lot at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow after a mid-May snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Close to a foot of fresh powder fell in the higher elevations around Northern Vermont thanks to this latest mid-May snowstorm.

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’.

Within an hour the snow line had dropped all the way down to our house at 500’.  It went from pouring rain to pounding flakes very quickly, and it was obvious that the intensity of the precipitation hadn’t changed; there was still a lot of liquid falling from the sky.  When stepping out on the back deck into the snowfall to get accumulation measurements, I was immediately soaked if I didn’t put on some sort of waterproof coat.  Over the next couple of hours, I saw a number of reports and images of lower elevations snows from around the area in the New England forum at the American Weather discussion board, including Jericho, Barre, Stowe, and Hyde Park, which had already picked up 3.5 inches.  Up near the top of Lincoln Peak at Sugarbush, their snow cam showed that they’d already picked up 8 inchesEven Powderfreak seemed to be caught off guard by the impressive accumulations.

“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.

An image showing a skin track through fresh snow along snow-covered evergreens after a mid-May snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A skin track heads up along powder-covered evergreens at Bolton Valley after this recent May snowstorm.

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:

340’:  0.5”
1,000’:  1”
1,500’:  2”
2,000’:  3-4”
2,500’:  7-8”
2,800’:  8-9”
3,100’:  9-10”

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 28APR2020

An image taken from Interstate 89 of Mount Mansfield in Vermont covered with snow after a late-April snowstorm
An image of sunshine and snow on evergreens after a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The sun came out and offered brilliant views of the fresh snow today at Bolton Valley.

It cooled back down overnight, and with continued snowfall, I suspect the snow levels dropped based on the fact that it was down into the 30s F at our place in the valley.  I would have liked to see where accumulations stood as of this morning, but I had a car maintenance appointment, so I couldn’t stop by the Village until about midday.  All that new snow at elevation made for some impressive views as I drove on I-89 returning from Burlington, and I stopped at Williston Southbound Information Center in I-89 to get a few images of the Green Mountains.

 

An image of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont taken from the Southbound Information Center on Interstate 89 near Williston after a late-April snowstorm
Looking out from I-89 in Williston today toward the snowy slopes of Bolton Valley

By the time I got up to Bolton today I’d say accumulations were generally back to what I reported yesterday, so accumulations were really only beginning to appear up near the Bolton Valley Village elevations.  Temperatures had risen well above freezing by that point as well, so the snow was getting quite wet and dense.  As the brilliant late-April sunshine appeared, it felt downright hot out as I was touring.  The sun created fantastic views of the fresh snow gleaming white on all the trees, and the views had an almost midwinter feel.  The temperatures and sunshine had the snow pretty quickly melting off the trees on aspects facing toward the sun, so the sound of dripping water and crashing piles of snow was the most prominent thing accompanying me on my tour.

With the new snow getting quite wet by the time I was out, the descent portion of the tour was pretty much just a free ride down with a few turns here and there, but there weren’t really notable powder turns like we had yesterday.  It was of course still great to be out in the fresh snow getting exercise on such a beautiful day.

We’re almost on to May now, but it does sound like snow potential is going to stay around for a couple of weeks with the weather pattern, so we’ll see what Mother Nature brings us.

Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2020

An image of the Wilderness double chairlift taken during a ski tour during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow on the trees during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our current late-season snowstorm has been bringing a lot of snow to the higher elevations, with already over a foot of fresh powder on the mountain as of this afternoon.

We’ve got another late winter storm taking place in the area, with fairly high snow levels up around 2,000’.  As of this morning, the Bolton Valley live webcams were suggesting new accumulations of an inch or two at 2,100’, and perhaps a couple more at 3,150’.  The Vista Summit new snow depths were hard to judge though, and it was still snowing, so I planned to head up in the afternoon to check out the scene and get some exercise of my schedule allowed for it.

Although I haven’t seen it being an issue at Bolton Valley, we’ve purposefully stayed off the mountain for the past couple of weeks as we learned that the local ski resorts have asked people to refrain from touring because of potential crowding at base areas.  As of today though, with the strong positive strides Vermont has made in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through its social distancing, Governor Scott took another notable step in relaxing the restrictions.  The new order states that, “Expanding on Addendum 10, outdoor businesses, construction operations and recreation maintenance work may operate with a maximum of five total workers per location. (Effective April 27).  It’s only outdoor work that is being phased in at this point, but that makes sense to ramp that activity up first where people are not in the close confines of interior spaces.  With respect to the pandemic, we’ve been fairly lucky here in Vermont with our small total population, and relatively low population density, so the spread of the virus appears to be on the decline locally.  Modeling was already reflecting the positive trends here as of 10 days ago, with Vermont being one of only four states that could potentially begin loosening social distancing measures as early as May 4th.

“…the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.”

From down here in this part of the Winooski Valley, even this morning at the coldest part of the day, you wouldn’t know that there was a solid amount of snow falling with this storm if it weren’t for some of the resources like Bolton’s webcams.  I don’t think I’ve seen a flake here at 500’, and even our local hills surrounding the valley that top out around 2,000’, don’t have signs of white on them.

An image of the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort at an elevation of approximately 2,000 feet above sea level with some fresh snow from a late-April snowstorm.
Accumulations were just starting to take hold today in the Bolton Valley Village Elevations around 2000′.

Seeing what was on the webcams though, it was obvious that snow was falling and accumulating at least down to the elevation of the Bolton Valley Village.  My trip up the Bolton Valley access road allowed me to get a sense for what was going on with the accumulations.  I knew the snow line had to be way up there, but I just kept climbing and climbing, and there were no signs of new snow anywhere.  The first signs of old snow from the remaining winter snowpack were around 1,400’, but even at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, the precipitation was all rain.  The rain didn’t even change over to snow until about 1,900’, just before I reached the Bolton Valley Village.  That’s also right about where I saw the first accumulations of new snow taking hold.  The snow accumulations picked up quickly with 1-2” at the main parking lots at 2,000’ and 2-3” at 2,100’ near the base of the main lifts.

An image of ski trail signs and trees covered with snow during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
Dense snow was sticking to everything with today’s storm, and accumulations quickly grew as I ascended on my ski tour.

The snow was dense, but not really wet, and the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.  Thankfully there were some skin tracks to use, because as the depth of new snow surpassed a foot, breaking trail was tough in many areas.  The skiing was definitely challenging in the dense snow, akin to the snow from that storm that Erica and I encountered when we skied at Schweitzer Mountain Resort back in 2001.  This storm didn’t drop four feet of that dense stuff all at once, but I’d brought my mid-fat Telemark skis because I hadn’t anticipated the depths I found, and my fat skis would have certainly been the better tool for the conditions.  Some of the best turns I had on my mid-fats today were actually in the middle elevations around Five Corners, where the snow depths were still more than plentiful for bottomless turns, but not so deep that they pushed your skis around with strong resistance.

Here’s the full accumulations profile for this storm as of ~5:00 P.M. based on what I saw up to the Village and beyond.  It gives a pretty good sense for the elevation ranges with the largest jumps in accumulation, but on average it looks like once accumulations took hold, they increased by more than an inch per 100’ of elevation gain:

340’:  0”
500’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,500’: 0”
1,900’:  0-1“
2,000’:  1-2”
2,100’:  2-3”
2,300’:  4-5”
2,500’:  8-9”
2,750’:  11-13”
3,000’:  13-14”
3,100’:  14-15”

An image of snow falling at the base of the Snowflake lift during a late-April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont.
The snow was still pouring down at the base of the Snowflake Lift when I was leaving after my tour today.

It was still dumping at the base when I left, and the radar has shown continued precipitation tonight, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see those numbers increase a bit more by tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 11APR2020

An image of Erica and Dylan skiing powder together during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With additional snowfall overnight, depths of new snow on the mountain today were hitting a foot or more, and Dylan was making quick work of the fresh powder riding Mom’s fat Telemark skis.

Although I headed out on yesterday afternoon’s ski tour alone because I was unsure of just how good the snow was going to be, my concerns turned out to be quite unfounded.  With 4-5” of fresh snow at Village elevations, and 8-9” up top, the power skiing was already good to go… and Mother Nature was only making it better.  Yesterday evening, the upslope snow continued to crash into the spine of the Greens, and as temperatures came down, we began to pick up accumulations in the valleys again.  With the snowfall anticipated to continue overnight at all elevations, it was definitely going to be worth getting the family out for a tour.

A close-up, wide-angle image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontMorning revealed some additional snow accumulation at our house at 500’ in the Winooski Valley, and as we climbed the road up toward Bolton Valley we could see that the snow levels had indeed come down compared to what I’d seen on my tour yesterday.  After whatever settling occurred since that point, total accumulations at 2,000’ in the Village were now up to roughly 8”.  We topped out at around 2,800’ on today’s tour, and accumulations are a foot plus from there on up.  The elevation profile from yesterday’s tour is updated below with the addition of today’s total new snow depth numbers, which are in bold below:

340’: 0” –> 0”
600’: —–> T
900’: T –> ½”
1,000’: ½-1” –> ½-1”
1,500’: 2” –> 5”
2,000’: 4-5” –> 8”
2,500’: 7” –> 9-10”
2,800’: 12”
3,000’: 8-9” –> 12”+

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on powder during an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E said that she really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the skiing today – it was certainly the type of snow where you could just set yourself on autopilot and go.

So with depths of new snow hitting a foot or more in the higher elevations, and snow continued to fall during our tour as well, the skiing was of course even better than yesterday.  Indeed, the snow was deeper and drier, and the turns were even more bottomless and effortless.  We saw a few other skiers out there on the slopes, but traffic was quite light and fresh tracks were in great supply.  I gave Dylan my Canon EOS 30D with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens, so we had a couple of cameras available to document the outing, and it was great to be out with the family.  Ty was working in the morning, but he would definitely had been there if he was free.

Bolton Valley, VT 10APR2020

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Bolton Outlaw trail after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fresh snow from an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the current storm ongoing, a trip to the higher elevations revealed that there’s already been a solid coating of fresh snow put down

As the forecasts have been hinting at over the past several days, a late season winter storm has moved into the area as we close out the week.  The forecasts have been suggesting the potential for a foot or more of snow along the spine of the Northern Greens, and as is common in these late season events, substantially lower accumulations were expected upon descent down into the valleys.

While the initial stages of this storm were focused in New Hampshire and Maine, producing more than a half foot of snow at relatively low elevations, the more potent part of the system for our area was expected to be the upslope precipitation on the back side of the storm.  The precipitation at our house at 500’ elevation down in the Winooski Valley had largely been rain for this event, but this morning we began to get some snow and a bit of accumulation.

The snow really struggled to accumulate in the valleys today, but up in the mountains it was a different situation.  By midafternoon as I checked on the Bolton Valley live webcams I’d say there was already an inch or two at 2,100’ in the Village.  For the local mountains, the slightly lower temperatures had definitely helped promote accumulations today relative to yesterday, where you could see the new snow down at the main base kind of accumulate and melt back to expose areas of old snow.  Those areas of snow were pretty well covered up this afternoon.  From images shown by the Vista Peak cam, it was clear that there had been at least a few inches of snow up at 3,150’, but it was hard to get a detailed sense for the new snow due to the winds.

What I’d seen from the webcams by the afternoon was certainly enough to get me to head up to the mountain for an exploratory tour, but I wasn’t quite sure enough of conditions to entice the rest of the family to go.

At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at roughly 340’, there were no signs of snow accumulation, but right around 900’ you could see the first traces of white, and they quickly jumped up by the time you hit the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign at ~1,000’.  There were a couple of inches of new accumulation at the Timberline Base, and continuing on up to the Village. I found a solid 4-5” in the parking lots.  Heading farther upward with my tour in the Wilderness area revealed the following elevation profile with respect to storm totals:

340’: 0”
900’: T
1,000’: ½-1”
1,500’: 2”
2,000’: 4-5”
2,500’: 7”
3,000’: 8-9”

Right near the start of my ascent on Lower Turnpike, a skier cam swishing by through the powder on his descent and shouted “Don’t head up, it’s not worth it!”, but I laughed in reply because it was obvious he was being sarcastic.  The turns looked fantastic and belied his remark even down at that elevation with a nice 5-6” of medium-weight powder.

An image of the Wilderness Chairlift with a fresh coating a of April snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The chairs at the bottom of the Wilderness Lift revealing a fresh coating of snow.

Indeed, despite this being a late season storm, the snow wasn’t really wet at all out there today (at least where I was touring in the 2,000’+ range).  It was reasonably dense and offered plenty of bottomless turns, but certainly not unlimited bottomless turns on all the steepest pitches.  We’ve had roughly 1.25” of liquid equivalent from this event down at the house, so there’s certainly a decent amount of L.E. in that snow at elevation where they’ve had little if any rain.  Today I toured up to the Wilderness Summit, then around to Bolton Outlaw and on back down toward Lower Turnpike.  The turns were excellent and there had been very little skier traffic.

It was interesting up on the mountain today because a bit of sunshine appeared near the start of the tour, but by the time I was finishing up it was pounding heavy snow made up of big flakes.  It was in the 20s F and snowing so hard in the Village at that point that it felt like it had to be accumulating down in the valley, but it was an impressive gradient as I headed back down the mountain and the snow still wasn’t really accumulating much below the 1,000’ level.

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 01JAN2020

Ty cranking a turn in the fresh snow t at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder after Winter Storm Gage at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out for some Telemark turns today on the great snow put down by the past couple of storms

With the addition of snow from Winter Storm Gage Sunday through Tuesday, ski conditions have seen substantial improvement over the past few days.  I was already pleased in general with the conditions I found at Bolton Valley yesterday, and I expected them to easily move up another notch with the follow up system that came into the area last night.  As of this morning in the valley we’d already picked up over a half foot of snow (with a solid shot of liquid equivalent) between the two storms, and yet another round of snowfall was building in as we headed up to the mountain around noon.

An image of Dylan making a Telemark turn at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan was really laying down some great turns today as he tested out Ty’s Tele skis

“I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.”

Today was actually the first day of the season that the whole family had a chance to ski together, or at least the first day where both schedules and snow conditions made it happen.  Unlike yesterday, the mountain was really busy today, and we parked in the lowest tier of the main lots down by the Sports Center.  We even had to wait for a couple minutes to get on the Vista Quad, but that wasn’t bad considering the other mains lifts aren’t running yet.  Temperatures were still relatively nice in the 20s F, but there was some wind in the higher elevations.  D was having fun buttoning up with his magnetic Anon MFI Tech Balaclava and his helmet-compatible hood on his Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket just to see how everything came together.  I have the same combo and think it’s fantastic for keeping out the wind.

An image of Erica in her ski gear with a bit of snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontFrom the Vista Summit we skied Alta Vista, and in discussions about the conditions, E and D said it was definitely better than the last time they’d been on it back on the 24th.  All the snow from these past couple of storms has really put some quality coverage above the old base, so the trail edges were quite nice with hardly a sound from hard snow.  We also had some time to visit Wilderness, which is still seeing just a modest amount of traffic from people using the uphill route.  Conditions over there were very good, building on what I found yesterday.  I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.  D was actually trying out Ty’s Telemark skis today for the first time, and he was really taking to them.  His Tele turns looked strong on both the groomed slopes and in the powder, so I see him using those skis a lot until he gets his own new Tele setup.

Looking ahead, we’ve got the chance for another modest system this coming weekend, so conditions could get another shot in the arm if that system delivers something similar to what we’ve just received.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2019

An image of Dylan skiing in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont in mid-December after a couple of small snowfalls
Dylan catching some turns today on the natural snow over at Wilderness

We’ve had just a couple of modest systems bringing fresh snow this week, Winter Storm Finley on Tuesday/Wednesday, and then an arctic front with snow squalls soon after that.  In combination they brought 6 to 7 inches of snow down here at the house, and close to a foot up at Bolton Valley.  We had some warm storms last week that firmed up the slopes, but a photo of Powderfreak’s from Wednesday showed some gorgeous powder skiing thanks to the new snow.

“Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.”

Although Ty was at work today, E and Dylan and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to check out the new accumulations and overall conditions.  Temperatures have been quite chilly over the past couple of days, with highs only around 10 F or so, but today they were getting nicely up into the 20s F in the afternoon.

Lift-served trail options are fairly limited right now since natural snow trails off Vista don’t have nearly enough snow to support those levels of skier traffic, but we rode the Vista Quad and eventually made our way over to Wilderness to see what the terrain over there offered  With mostly skinning traffic on that part of the mountain, many areas on the lower slopes of Wilderness are in great shape.  Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.  We only saw three folks skinning up during the course of our descent, so skier traffic seemed light, in line with the conditions we found.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in the Wilderness area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica masquerading as Ty by borrowing his ski clothes for today’s outing.

Pizzas set up at Fireside Flatbread at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe stopped in for some slices at Fireside Flatbread before leaving, and there was modest midafternoon crowd enjoying the atmosphere.  The pizza was fantastic as always!

The forecast actually looks fairly benign over the course of the next week, but the weather models due hint at a couple of possibilities for snow.  We’ll be watching to see if anything develops.

Bolton Valley, VT 07DEC2019

An image of fluffy upslope snow from an early December Alberta Clipper system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the snowpack depth around mid mountain in early December at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking the depth of the snowpack today at around 2,600′ near Mid Mountain. Total depth was around 27″, with about 20″ of it being powder from recent storms.

Last weekend, Winter Storm Ezekiel brought some hefty snowfall to the Northeastern U.S., with totals exceeding two feet in areas around Albany, NY and Southern Vermont.  Up here in the northern part of the state we only picked up a few inches of snow from the storm, with totals falling off to almost nothing near the international border in a total reversal of the usual trend.

A couple of smaller, Alberta Clipper-style systems came through the area this week though, with the second one being especially potent as it interacted with the Northern GreensBy this morning we’d already picked up 5 to 6 inches of pristine powder at the house, and Bolton Valley was reporting 9 inches in the past 24 hours.  We’re known for getting plenty of dry, “Champlain Powder™” here in the Northern Greens, but this snow was way up there on the quality scale.  My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.

“My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.”

The upslope snowfall on the back side of the Clipper looked like it would continue all day today, so I decided it was time for a quick trip up to the mountain to check out the new powder.  Thanks to our cold November temperatures, Bolton Valley has actually been open for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t even picked up my season’s pass yet because I’ve been so busy.  E and D were both a bit under the weather, and T was at work, so unfortunately they’ll have to wait until another trip to get themselves set up with their passes.

An image from outside the Village Cafe area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI was worried about a long wait to get my season’s pass, but once up at the mountain it turned out that picking it up was very quick.  While I was walking toward the lodge from my car, I ran into a member of the resort staff who was checking in with everyone about picking up their passes.  For pick up, he said to head right toward the Village Café, and they’d take care of everything.  Indeed, there was only one person ahead of me picking up their pass, and it was very quick.  The process of pick up and filling out the waiver was all done very efficiently on a handheld, wireless iPad-type device, and there was plenty of nice seating on couches in the lobby area so you could have a seat while you finished off the process.

Of course the greatest part of picking up my pass this year was the fact that Bolton has gone RFID!!!  Dylan and I suspected it when we saw electronic gates by the lifts during a ski tour last month, but I can definitely say it’s for real.  It’s so nice to be able to just stick the pass in my pocked (my Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket has a pocket on the sleeve that works perfectly) and I never have to mess with getting it out at the lifts.  I tested out my pass at the Mid Mountain Chair and the process was perfectly smooth.

An image of snow falling in the Village Circle area during an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the snowy Bolton Valley Village today after picking up my season’s pass

“I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow.  Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.”

In terms of skiing, my plan was to use an assist from the Mid Mountain Chair and head over to Wilderness to ski some of the fresh powder in that area.  I figured there would be no one on the upper mountain without the Vista Quad running, but when I was traversing over on Fanny Hill, I ran into a patroller who was prepping the trail for opening because they were going to open Vista.  He reminded me that I wasn’t on the designated uphill route, but thankfully let me continue on over since I was just about onto the Wilderness terrain.  I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow.  Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.

An image of snowy trees and a skin track after an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the snowy views along my skin track in the Fanny Hill area.

Once connecting to the standard skinning route, I finished my ascent on Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness ridgeline and got ready for some turns.  Light snow with breaks of sun that had been with me on the last part of my ascent were replaced with a sudden change to a maelstrom of huge flakes coming down as I began to descend.  I really didn’t have to venture far afield from Peggy Dow’s and Turnpike to find powder – there was plenty of it throughout the route because skier traffic had been low enough.  Powder depths ranged from as much as 15 to 20 inches on the upper mountain, to typically 12 to 15 inches on the lower mountain, so even with the incredibly dry powder there was plenty of it to keep you floating.  I’d brought my 115 mm fat skis and they were definitely the right tool for the job.  I was surprised at how quickly my legs got cooked from making Telemark turns – they’d often be fried after just a dozen or so turns!  I guess it has been roughly three weeks since I last skied, so my legs are clearly telling me they need to get back into ski shape.  Today should get the process started though, and hopefully ski days will become more frequent as we move into December and we continue to get snow.

On the weather side, it looks like we’ve got a warm system to start off this next week, which will consolidate the snowpack somewhat, and then temperatures should cool down for midweek with potential for some moisture from the Great Lakes affecting the area.  Then there’s the potential for another large system next weekend, but it will be a bit before we can figure out how much snow we might get from that one.

Bolton Valley, VT 09NOV2019

An image of the Vista Peak area of Bolton Valley taken from near the Wilderness midstation after an early November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing some snowmaking taking place in early November at the main base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A bit of early season snowmaking going on at the main base area today

The end of the week brought our first significant snowfall to lower elevations here in Northern Vermont, with a couple inches accumulating in most valleys by Friday morning from the initial passing of the cold front.  Friday continued to bring additional snow however, with another 5 inches coming down at our house during the morning in the span of just a few hours.  By the time the system had wrapped up on Saturday morning, we’d accumulated over 7 inches at the house and the yard had been transformed from stick season into winter.

The local ski resorts hadn’t picked up too much more than we had, but totals in the 6 to 10” range seemed typical, and that was certainly enough to entice me out for some early season turns.  With that in mind, this morning I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to get in a ski tour and check out the new snow.  With the fairly fluffy nature of the snow and based on what we’ve seen at the house over the past couple of days, I’m sure there had been some settling since it fell, but here’s the snow depth/elevation profile of what I found from the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road up to the local summit areas:

340’:  1-2”
1,000’:  2-3”
1,500’:  3-4”
2,000’:  4-6”
2,500’:  6-7”
3,000’:  7-9”

I started my ski tour around midday, when temperatures were just edging a bit above freezing at our house down in the valley, but above 1,500’, and certainly above 2,000’, temperatures never got above freezing so the snow was all winter consistency.

In terms of the skiing, it was undoubtedly early season, and rock skis would be your best bet if you’re going on anything with substantial pitch.  I actually found the skiing better on the lower half of the mountain because there was a bit of a base there – I think more of the snow down in those elevations was melting on contact with the ground to create that dense layer.  Up higher, the consistency of the snow was more straight fluff from top to bottom.  As is often the case, most water bars had reasonable crossings at least at one point, but a few were dicey and took some extra navigation.  There’s still running water in plenty of spots, and ponding in some flat areas.  On my descent it was obvious that my skis got in contact with at least traces of that moisture, because about halfway down I had to pull out a credit card and spend probably 10 minutes doing a scrape down on the ski bases to really get things back in shape for gliding.

That effort was worth it though, because for the bottom half of my run I was on Lower Turnpike, and that offered what was unquestionably the best skiing of the tour.  The combination of that bit of dense snow that accumulated as some base down in those elevations, plus some skier traffic packing down areas of the new snow as well, clearly created the best subsurfaces I encountered.  On top of that you’ve got the fact that Lower Turnpike is essentially all grassy terrain, and it has a pitch that isn’t really overbearing for the amount of snowpack we’ve got, and it comes together for real winning combination.  Even with some skier traffic, there was still plenty of powder to play around in throughout the trail, so that was a great way to finish off my run.

An image of drifted snow atop some of the condominiums near the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after an early November snowstorm
Enjoying the wintry views at the end of my tour as drifted snow adorns some of the condos by the base of the Wilderness Lift

For anyone heading up, you may still want to hit the summit areas to check things out and get the exercise from a more substantial tour, but if you’re just looking to get out from some quality turns, Lower Turnpike is probably going to get you the most bang for your buck.  It’s one of the designated ascent routes anyway, so there’s a nice skin track and it’s an efficient way to in some nice turns on the new snow.

I just got an alert on my phone this morning that we’re under a Winter Storm Watch in association with the next system.  This one looks more substantial than this past one, but we’re still a day or two out so we’ll need to watch for any final refinements to the forecast.