It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March. Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs. The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.
The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base. It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth. My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.
“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”
The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole. Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.
Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow. The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.
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.
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.
Although Bolton Valley was only reporting an inch of new snow in this morning’s report, they’ve picked up more than a foot of snow in the past couple of days from Winter Storm Quinn. Combined with modest midweek skier traffic, that was already a recipe for some great skiing today, but even more snow was expected to arrive as the day wore on to further freshen up the slopes.
E and Dylan had some obligations in the morning, but Ty and I were free to ski and had plans to meet up with Stephen at the resort. We parked at Timberline, alerted Stephen with a text, and headed up the Timberline Quad for a run. Although I couldn’t find any slopes that hadn’t been thoroughly resurfaced at the resort during yesterday’s outing, I can finally say that I found at least one today. I figured we could try a run on Lost Girlz, which would be a really tough test of the resurfacing. Unfortunately, the combination of dense evergreen canopy above, and very steep pitch were too much; the coverage just wasn’t enough. So, we high tailed it over to Tattle Tale for a run. The snow was certainly good there, but in general it had seen much more traffic than usual because the Tattle Tale headwall was open.
We met up with Stephen and did a full run of Tattle Tale so that we could really take in the headwall experience. It was a bit windblown at the very top, but coverage was quite good overall and it was definitely worth the trip.
The rest of the morning was dedicated to getting Stephen some deep untracked powder, and that we delivered in spades with trips to The Crack, Villager Trees, and White Rabbit. Stephen seemed quite happy floating around on his fat alpine touring skis. The powder was easily a foot or more in untracked areas, and it was definitely delivering great turns with that right-side-up density gradient that Winter Storm Quinn had set up. In addition, new snowfall was ramping right up as we approached midday due to an incoming mountain upslope snow event that’s developing in the area.
The three of us headed to Fireside Flatbread for some lunch, and E and Dylan joined us for a bite once they arrived at the resort. We all did a Cobrass/Five Corners run together before Stephen had to head back to pick up Johannes, and the rest of us finished off the day with some Timberline runs. E and Dylan had skied Spell Binder earlier and it got a great recommendation. It lived up to the expectations, especially that skier’s left that Dylan enjoyed ripping up so much.
“As mentioned earlier, the big weather news in the coming days is the mountain upslope snow event that’s poised to bring another hefty shot of snow to the area.”
“Another good problem to have is trying to find the off switch to the upslope snow machine…looks like a brief break develops Sunday afternoon into Monday…before more accumulating snowfall for Tuesday into Weds.”
“Even with fat skis, it can be a challenge to float in snow that dry unless you’ve got a lot of it.”
I wanted to see how the storm played out on the slopes, so I stopped for a quick ski tour at Bolton Valley this morning. My calculations had revealed that the snow was very dry, down around 2% H2O, so fat skis seemed to be in order this time around. Arriving up at the Bolton Valley Village, I’d describe the weather as having a very Colorado-esque vibe. The ground was covered with desert-dry, champagne powder and temperatures were in the mid-20s F. Even before the sunshine hit you, the air just had that comfortable feel, and with the clear skies, the day just held that promise of being sunny, dry, and warm. I guess it also reminded me of a March ski day to some degree.
I haven’t seen an official report on snow accumulations from the resort, which is not too surprising since they’re still in pre-season, but based on settled depths of the new powder and the rate of settling I’d seen at the house, I’d guess the Village elevations around 2,000’ picked up a half foot of snow. That’s similar to what we picked up down at the house. I’d tack on another couple of inches higher in the mountain, which would put accumulations there similar to the 7” reported at elevation for Stowe. With the 7-8” of fluff, the total snowpack depth I was finding on the upper half of the mountain was in the 10-12” range. I see that the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake came in at 11” as of tonight’s reading. The high temperature up there was only 32 F, so that snow probably didn’t undergo much melting and is likely comparable to what I found at Bolton this morning.
The skiing was good, although the powder certainly wasn’t bottomless on every turn. Even with fat skis, it can be a challenge to float in snow that dry unless you’ve got a lot of it.
I was attending the BJAMS Thanksgiving lunch with Dylan on Thursday, and that gave me a chance to check out how the snow was doing in some of the local mountains. From what I saw at both Stowe and Bolton Valley, the natural snow was just a bit too thin for skiing, but it was getting close. As of Friday morning though, the mountains had picked up a few more inches, and today I had a chance to head back up to Bolton Valley to see if the slopes were ready for some turns.
“…with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.”
I headed up for a ski tour at the mountain this morning because it seemed the best part of the day to catch some winter snow before warming temperatures affected it. At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snow depth is similar to what we’ve got here at the house – generally 1 to 2 inches. As the recent snow reports from the local ski resorts suggested, there wasn’t a massive increase in snowfall amounts with elevation from our storm earlier this week. Snow depths increased slowly as I headed up the access road, with about 2” at the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign (1,000’), 2-3” at the Timberline Base (1,500’), and then 3-4” around 2,000’ in the Bolton Valley Village.
There were a few other skiers in the Village who were coming and going on tours, so that seemed like a good sign that the snow was decent. Indeed, as I headed up Lower Turnpike, the snow depth increased to a half foot at the 2,500’ level. I had actually planned for a quick tour up to ~2,500’ if the snow wasn’t that good, but with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.
Below I’ve got a summary of what I saw for snow depths today with respect to elevation:
There was a crust on the snow in places, and I couldn’t figure out the trend in its distribution for a while, but I eventually figured out that areas with the most northwest exposure has the most crust. The crust wasn’t actually too thick, so it was still fairly easy to ski the snow there, but there’s no doubt that the very best turns were in the crust-free zones – the snow was smooth, mid-weight powder in those areas. I had some really nice turns on parts of Sherman’s Pass, and probably the day’s best on Work Road, but Lower Turnpike offered the longest consistent lines.
The boys and I had a field trip this morning, but we were done with enough time left to make it to Bolton Valley for a short photo session with some of the resort staff. Indeed today was a great one for ski photography – there was plenty of snow from Winter Storm Stella, clear blue skies, and temperatures in the upper 20s F.
We met Josh at his office, and he let us know that we’d be working with Tucker and Kyler today. The plan was to get some shots over at Wilderness with the afternoon views, and we started with some scenic photos from the deck of the Wilderness Summit Ski Patrol Hut. After the photos, we still needed to wait for another family to arrive up top, so the boys promptly decided to make use of the deep powder sitting just below the deck by launching themselves into it. Some of the folks coming up on the lift felt that it looked like so much fun that they joined in as well. By the time everyone was together it was just about time to shut down the Wilderness Lift, and we watched as they put the “Last Chair” sign in place.
Our photo session took place on Peggy Dow’s and the Wilderness Lift Line, and the guys generally did shots of trios of skiers with background scenery. Once we were done I asked the boys if they wanted to take any more runs, but they said they were good based on the anticipation of skiing more over the coming weekend. Hopefully we’ll have the time this weekend to get the whole family out together for some turns in all the great snow.
We’ve only had an inch or two of new snow since Monday’s winter storm and our last Bolton Valley outing, but as is typical of January, it’s been consistently cold so the powder has just been sitting there. Heading out for some backcountry turns today was certainly a reasonable option, but I also suspected there would be plenty of lift-served powder available at Bolton Valley; with only a few midweek days since the storm, skier traffic should have been relatively low. Dylan’s very much on the mend from his recent bout of Strep, but he’s certainly not to the stage where he should be heading out on the slopes, so E decided to take him to BJAMS to get some work done. That left me and Ty in the mix for some skiing, and it made the choice easy – I know Ty would lean toward some lift served turns, and I was happy to hedge that way as well knowing that we’d be able to get into a lot of powder.
“The snow was fantastic – I stuck my poles in the snow to hold my gloves while I ran the camera, and the poles sunk up to the handles.”
We grabbed some fairly fat boards and headed up to the mountain in the late morning. My plan was to start us down at Timberline, which turned out to be an appropriate choice because the resort already had signs up indicating that the parking areas at the main mountain were full. There was ample parking in the Timberline lot though, and the attendant directed us to one of the spots in the circle right below the Timberline Quad. Temperatures were right around 30 F and skies were partly cloudy, so it was a choice day to be out there.
Arriving at the main base we could see that there really wasn’t much in the way of lift queues; with all the lifts running, even a full parking lot doesn’t seem to do much to back things up. There was an event going on atop the main deck at the base lodge; I’m not sure what it was, but the deck was full of people. Ty and I headed right over to Wilderness, and my plan was to take him to Stanton’s, or at least that general area to get some steep powder turns. I told Ty how I was taking him to a line that he’d said was too steep for him several years ago – it was January 6th, 2008, so he would have been four years old at the time. I guess we can cut him some slack for feeling it was over head at the time. When I told him about that story today, he sort of laughed and said that he doesn’t run into much that fazes him now because of steepness. Even way back on that day when he did find it too steep, we suspected where things would eventually end up. Sliding into position atop Stanton’s, we could tell that, not surprisingly, it had been hit by plenty of traffic, so we headed a few yards back to one of the lines that was still untracked. I dropped in to set up for some photos and found that there was plenty of powder, even for those steep shots. Ty skied a nice line, but we didn’t really pull any keepers out of that photo session.
The remainder of that run was one of the most enjoyably adventurous parts of the afternoon. We just continued on down below the chutes and let our noses guide us toward fresh tracks. We were in a bunch of seldom used terrain areas, working our way through the trees among Lower Crossover, Coyote, and Work Road. I laughed at one point and said to Ty, “I have no idea where we are!” Actually, I knew we were in the Fanny Hill Woods, but we were following a streambed that I’d never skied before, so we never knew quite what was going to come around the next bend. We eventually wound up at the junction of Fanny Hill and Abenaki Trail, and of course Ty said he knew we’d end up in that area all along. I wasn’t convinced. In any event, that area sees very little skier traffic, so we saw hardly a track. Our first run of powder exploration was a rousing success.
We headed to Vista next, and found Cobrass in really good form, especially off to the right side where the soft snow usually collects. We came screaming around the big bend below the headwall, where the snow was beautiful and you could just sink in those edges and let it rip. Next it was off to sample the Villager Trees, where Ty skied Heaven for the first time this season. The snow was fantastic – I stuck my poles in the snow to hold my gloves while I ran the camera, and the poles sunk up to the handles. We headed to the Sixth Corner area and then to some lines in Gump’s on our way back to the Timberline Base.
It was mid afternoon at that point and we’d discovered that in sun-exposed areas there was just the slightest of melt layers atop the powder in the last few hundred feet of vertical above the Timberline Base. That wasn’t surprising with the temperature so close to freezing down there, but it hadn’t reached the stage of making the snow sticky, and it still skied like dry powder, so we decided to do a little more Timberline skiing. We visited more of Gump’s, the KP Glades, and the Corner Pocket Glades with the usual powdery results. We rode up with an older couple from South Burlington that saw our skis and inquired about rocker in skis and whether it was worth it. I told them that most of the skis still have camber in the middle of the ski, so they’re very versatile, and indeed the rocker is great for powder. For us the choice was a no brainer since we spend so much of our time off piste in the powder, with today being a perfect example. We talked about width as well – I was using my Rossignol Sin 7 skis, which are close to 100 mm at the waist, but said that if they spent a lot more time on piste, something with a width somewhere in the 80-90 mm range would be a good fit.
All told, Ty and I had a great day of exploring some new lines, visiting some old favorites, and generally catching a lot of powder. For today’s action photography it was definitely the Ty show, but that’s often how it goes when he’s the only one along for the ride. I didn’t get a chance to give him the camera since I was usually tracking down lines for him to ski, but perhaps we’ll get one of the boys behind the camera next time.
“Up top there I found 6-7″ of fluff in those areas out of the wind, and I measured 9″ on the corner of Peggy Dow’s at that entrance to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.”
The lifts were just opening up as I got my gear together at the house, and the snowfall outside had really picked up as I finally got on my way up to the hill; there was a steady moderate snow coming down with some decent dendrites and clumps of flakes. It was very dry, fluffy snow, but it was coming down at a pace that you’d need to use the wipers on the car to clear it off when the vehicle wasn’t in motion. The snow continued at a steady clip right along through Bolton Flats, and visibility was around ¼ mile. Snowfall intensity was similar up at 2,100′ in the Bolton Valley Village, and a quick check in the parking lot there revealed a couple inches of fluff.
“I measured 5-6″ there, and between that and extra snow that people had pushed over there from their skiing, buoyancy was good and I was getting mostly bottomless turns with just my midfats.”
I rode the Vista Quad, and aside from the new snow, you could see that Spillway on that front face was just a glaciated mess of windswept ice. I don’t believe it was open, but it didn’t look like anything people would really want to ski anyway under the conditions. Getting off at the Vista Summit (~3,150′), I went straight ahead into the open area there to get a depth measurement in the undisturbed snow, and found 4-5″. That was certainly encouraging. I descended via Alta Vista, and there was some excellent snow along the skier’s left where it usually settles in. I measured 5-6″ there, and between that and extra snow that people had pushed over there from their skiing, buoyancy was good and I was getting mostly bottomless turns with just my midfats. The snow depth gradually tapered down as you descended to the lower elevations, but I headed over toward Wilderness and finished off my run on Lower Turnpike, and even 3-4″ was enough for bottomless turns on that pitch.
The Wilderness Chair was running, so I took a run on that as well. Up top there I found 6-7″ of fluff in those areas out of the wind, and I measured 9″ on the corner of Peggy Dow’s at that entrance to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. I worked my way into the Wilderness Woods, and the skiing was OK, but without that smoothly groomed base, the subsurface was just too uneven for the smoothest skiing or consistent floating. I quickly made my way back out onto Lower Turnpike for those smoother powder turns. With the lift open, Lower Turnpike had seen more traffic though, so getting untracked lines was becoming more difficult. And, this new snow is so light and dry that it doesn’t have a ton of staying power with respect to skier traffic – you really don’t want more than second tracks for decent powder turns because beyond that level of traffic you’ll find yourself essentially skiing on the subsurface.
The snowfall had just about shut off by the time I finished that run on Wilderness, and based on what I’d found, it seemed like a good time to call it a morning. The best of the untracked snow on groomed runs had been skied, and it wasn’t quite prime time for the off piste. As I was taking off my skis in that little snowy landing area down below the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery, an older gentleman came by, having just finished his morning of turns. He was talking about how he was done for the day, having skied the best part of it. It was obvious that we were on the same wavelength, and the fact that the snowfall had stopped really amplified the sentiment.
I stopped off at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab a sandwich, and chatted with Ian behind the counter after he inquired about my camera. He was curious if I worried about falling and damaging it while skiing. I let him know that I do actually fall frequently enough when I’ve got the camera with me, but fortunately it was built like a tank and made for exactly what I was doing with it.
It looks like we’ve got a more significant storm coming this weekend; there’s some mixed precipitation expected, but a good shot of liquid equivalent as well, so it could help with some resurfacing of the slopes.