After finding such nice conditions yesterday, E and I headed up for another session at Bolton this morning. Based on the forecasts I saw, those temperatures and humidity should have preserved the powder beautifully – and they definitely did; the powder was just as good as yesterday. It seemed to have settled a touch, but all the liquid equivalent was all still there, so it kept you off the subsurface and skied just as nicely.
The groomed terrain on the upper mountain that had been blasted by the wind yesterday was much improved today, I guess due to another round of the groomers pulverizing it with the new snow mixed in, and this time without the winds scouring it away.
We were talking about how the resort’s essentially come full circle on the season as it often does, and we’re back to the way it can be in November and early December when the focus is on the main mountain, but the other pods that aren’t open have enough snow to ski. All you have to do is traverse out to the powder.
We both remarked at what a fantastic late winter day it was, with the powder, the Colorado blue skies, and humidity to match. We were just starting to find a few spots in the direct sun where the powder was beginning to get sun-affected around midday when we were leaving, but it really was holding up quite well with these low humidity levels.
The precipitation changed fully over to snow today not long after my morning CoCoRaHS observations at the house. I headed up to Bolton for some turns, and found the following storm accumulations starting from near the Bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road:
The biggest jumps in accumulation certainly appeared to be in the 1,000’ to 2,000’ elevation band. The resort is reporting 9” in the past 48 hours on their snow report, so that seems in synch with what I found up at the main mountain.
When I was out today at Bolton I saw that the front face trails on Vista had been absolutely hammered by the wind, which is not surprising with the way they face west, but apparently even areas of the east side of the Green Mountains got hit pretty hard as well. Timberline is usually a nice place to go to get away from the wind, but it’s not open right now because coverage just isn’t great down that low, but lower Wilderness is another good option for sheltered terrain, and that was serving up some great powder.
I started skiing not too long after opening today, and it was really dumping when I arrived thanks to a fresh push of moisture that hit in the morning. The old base snow is just so consolidated and hard after a couple weeks of spring weather and no new snow, that I didn’t really find any of the steep groomed terrain that had really improved. Either the wind had blown everything away, or it was exposed enough to the wind that the groomers couldn’t do much with it. Low and moderate angle groomers on the bottom half of the mountain seemed to have incorporated the snow nicely though – turns were nice and quiet, so the new snow must have stayed put and been churned in by the groomers.
Low and moderate angle powder terrain was the way to go though. I’d thrown both fats and midfats on the car today, and ended up using the midfats and found they had plenty of float. There’s was definitely enough L.E. in the snow to set up everything below black diamond pitch.
After skiing, I found that it continued to snow all the way in to Burlington. The snowfall intensity actually kept increasing as I headed into the Champlain Valley, but temperatures were a few degrees above freezing so the roads just stayed wet. During the day today in Burlington we had some periods of heavy snow with huge flakes during that banding, and it accumulated to an inch or two. At our house in Waterbury it continued to snow, but outside that heavy snowfall band off to our west, the snowfall intensity was just too light to accumulate to more than a tenth of an inch at valley elevations in our area.
We picked up most of our snow at the house with a subsequent round of precipitation that came through in the afternoon, and we’ve been having another round of that around here this evening as well.
I wanted to head up before that colder air was supposed to move in later in the afternoon, so I hit the mountain in the late morning. With those strong winds blowing from the northwest, it wasn’t at all surprising to see in the snow report that the Vista Quad and Wilderness Double, being the highest elevation lifts, were on wind hold. With that in mind, I decided to make it a hybrid outing of both riding the lifts and skinning to get efficient access to the fresh powder. The Mid Mountain Chair was running, so I ended up using that for a quick elevation assist over to the Wilderness area. I followed some folks that were using a nifty access route around the mid-mountain snowmaking pond to get to Wilderness.
I generally found powder depths topping out around 6” just like the snow report indicated, aside from wind scoured or drifted areas, or trails that had been groomed during the storm. Low angle terrain on fat boards was what I’d been planning to hit, and that definitely delivered. The lift assist from the Mid Mountain Chair was just right for cycling the bottom half of the Wilderness terrain, which had the kind of pitch this snow called for. Anything with moderate pitch or above was just too steep for the available snow, and you’d be hitting the scratchy subsurface unless you were in a drifted area.
The BTV NWS forecast discussion said that the precipitation would be somewhat cellular during the day, and indeed that’s just what I experienced out on the mountain. At times it would be whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility, and at other times that snowfall would wane and it would almost look like the sun wanted to break through. Temperatures started out in the 20s F, but were down into the teens F by the time I was leaving, so that colder air was moving in as scheduled.
It would have been great if the upslope system we’ve had in the area over the past couple of days delivered more than an inch or two of new snow, but putting that on top of the 9” from the midweek event has definitely kept the off piste conditions respectable at Bolton Valley. The resorts is reporting 11” new in the past week, and the bulk of that must be the sum of those two events. Not surprisingly, that powder has settled a bit over the past few days, and that actually helps out somewhat with respect to how it skis. When that first round had fallen on Wednesday, it really was so incredibly dry that you sank right through it and got down to that relatively firm subsurface, but the settling, and the addition of a couple more inches that wasn’t quite as dry, gives you a bit more underfoot to cushion things.
I was hearing noise from skiers and riders even on low angle groomed terrain today, and it wasn’t as if it was horribly icy, but the noise revealed that there was at least something firm there. It could just be a traffic issue on the groomed slopes – I’m not sure how much liquid equivalent the mountain ultimately got from the two rounds of snow, but it probably wasn’t more than a quarter of an inch, and that’s only going to hold up so long with on piste skier traffic.
I focused my time in the trees today, and I found the conditions there were far superior to the groomed terrain. I spent my time exploring more of the sidecountry off Wilderness that I’d visited last Saturday. There was plenty of snow for good powder turns on low-angle terrain, and even moderate and steep terrain weren’t too bad where people had skied and sort of packed the new snow into the base. The trees were the place to be though – the snow was protected from the wind in there, and I’d say there was plenty that had been blow off the trails as well.
Temperatures were in the mid-teens F when I was out this afternoon, which is certainly nothing to complain about in terms of cold, but there was plenty of wind around, especially up high. We had some peeks of sun, but in general it was cloudy with some light flakes in the air, and it just sort of had the feel of a hum drum midwinter day. Being in the trees meant that I was out of the wind, but as I’ve heard other folks around here expressing, I could certainly use some warmth. I definitely found myself missing the nice temperatures up around the freezing mark that I encountered last Saturday, even if that storm did bring a touch of mixed precipitation.
I gotta say, the turns were really nice out there today.
Ty and Dylan had hit the mountain on Wednesday and reported nice soft conditions thanks to some warming temperatures, but then E was out Thursday night and said the snow was quite hard and icy, at least on piste where she had been skiing on the main mountain. I figured that made sense with temperatures cooling back down, and that’s what I thought would be the theme out there on the mountain today.
“Happy Saturday, Boltonites! Today is a great day to get some snow under your feet. We have 38 groomed trails for you this morning and tons of fresh snow still hiding in the woods. Yesterday afternoon there were sightings of 6 inch stashes of powder still in Sleepy Hollow woods and Bolton Outlaw woods!”
That sounded just a bit too good to pass up, and it tipped the scales to get me to head up to the hill.
We’d been getting snow this morning at the house, but it had just started to transition over to mixed precipitation while I was getting ready to head to the mountain in the early afternoon. The precipitation was generally sprinkles of light rain as I headed up to the Bolton Valley Access Road and eventually changed over to sleet as I rode the Wilderness Double Chair and got up near 3,000’. During my second run, the mixed precipitation decided to change back to snow, and there was a nice period with some big fat flakes coming down.
“…I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today. I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’ – 3,000’ elevation range.”
Bolton definitely got in on that Thursday snow, and I think my wife must have just been on those wind scoured trails on the front face of the main mountain, because that’s not at all what I experienced at Wilderness. The groomed slopes were quiet, and the off piste was covered with up to a foot of dense powder. That seems like more fresh snow than there really should have been based on the snow report, so I’m not sure what to think. I also couldn’t even find any signs of crust below the most recent snows, so I’m not sure what to think about that either. I probed all over the place in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, and the only real crust I found was a bit of sun crust on the surface of the snow in a couple of exposed areas. Maybe this was one of those setups where the new snow comes in, starts out wet, and bonds to any crust below to sort of remove the demarcation of that layer a bit. Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today. I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’-3,000’ elevation range. That makes decent sense, with the snowpack now at 55” on Mansfield at 3,700’.
I spent my entire session at Wilderness this afternoon, and the Wilderness sidecountry and nearby backcountry terrain have actually seen a decent amount of skier traffic. Seeing that, and being alone with plenty of time to explore whatever I wanted, I decided to go a bit farther afield, hitting a lot of terrain beyond White Rabbit, Snow Hole, and Jamie’s. Being on mid fat Tele gear, I figured I’d just see where my travels took me in search of untracked powder, and if I ended up on the backcountry network, I’d just skate my way back to the Wilderness Chair as needed. It actually ended up being a bit of a revelation with regard to traveling in that area, because on my first run, I hit Gardiner’s Lane, and then simply followed it until I came to the junction with Snow Hole. All it took was probably 60 seconds to herring bone up to the Snow Hole return to the Wilderness Chair, so as long as you’re on something with good mobility like reasonably light Tele gear, you can easily return to the base of the Wilderness Chair. I even discovered a new area in my explorations today called “Branches” off to the right of Snow Hole. I guess people are always putting in their own little areas out on the backcountry network, so I don’t know how long that’s been around, but it’s always fun to find new areas for skiing that you didn’t know about.
We had a fantastic first run down Hard Luck, where we found just a few tracks ahead of ours – it was nice to show the boys what getting out a bit earlier can get you! I think they might have some manmade snow under there, but it was hard to tell with all the snow from Winter Storm Malcolm providing a very thorough resurfacing. The resort also opened the Wilderness Chair for the first time this season, and there was a notable queue as it was finally getting ready to open, but it was a fun wait because there was an excited energy among the skiers for it to make its season debut.
I can’t speak to the financial aspects, but in terms of snow conditions, it was definitely a solid holiday weekend for Bolton Valley and the Vermont ski areas in general.
I was last out at the mountain on Sunday, and although we’ve only had a few additional inches of snow since then, it seemed like today was a good day to head on up for a tour and check out the conditions. We’ve continued to be treated to temperatures that are well above average, which in January around here actually makes for some very nice temperatures in the 20s F.
I didn’t check out any of the manmade or lift-served terrain today, but I started my tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network and then connected over to the Wilderness area. After several outings following the standard Wilderness Uphill Route right from the base over the past few weeks, I wanted to mix things up today. So, I started out down by the Nordic Center, headed up Bryant until I got to World Cup, and then continued over to Lower Turnpike via the connector trail used by the mountain operations crew. It was a fun variation with some new views, and it let me check out the conditions across a number of trails, including the Telemark Practice Slope, which looked to be in such good shape that I skied it on my descent. Starting out on my tour in one of the tennis court lots, I actually had my pass scanned by a resort associate with a handheld scanner. This was the first time I’ve been checked since Bolton Valley has switched to RFID. It’s great to see that they’re checking, and it’s a good reminder to be sure you bring your pass, even if you’re going to be touring!
The Colorado-esque weather regime over the past few days has definitely been outstanding with respect to snow preservation. In areas that haven’t been skied, all the recent snows are just sitting there in the form of midwinter powder, and I found depths of generally 6-12” at the 2,000’ elevation and 8-12” up around 2,700’, which was as high as I went on my tour. I toured on my midfats today instead of my fat skis, assuming powder would be fairly hard to come by after a week of modest snowfall, settling, and skier traffic. I’d still go that route again based on what I chose to ski, but there is definitely some fat ski-worth powder out there in many areas. I’d say the main issue is still the base below that snow. It’s quite variable, and down at 2,000’ in the Village elevations there’s nothing at all below the powder in unprotected areas. In the higher elevations the base is a bit less variable, but there’s still nowhere near enough base for steep terrain. I could tell that the mountain had opened up some of the natural snow terrain on Wilderness for lift-served skiers connecting over from Vista, because there were surprising number of people skiing the Wilderness Lift Line and Wilderness Woods. I saw a group of four kids in Wilderness Woods having a lot of fun, although it’s still a bit thin and you could hear them hitting the occasional stump or rock.
“I toured on my midfats today instead of my fat skis, assuming powder would be fairly hard to come by after a week of modest snowfall, settling, and skier traffic. I’d still go that route again based on what I chose to ski, but there is definitely some fat ski-worth powder out there in many areas.”
What I saw that impressed me most on today’s tour was the state of skier-packed natural terrain. Areas like Lower Turnpike, Telemark Practice Slope, Bryant Trail, and Nordic trails like World Cup (some of these may have been machine-packed) were in very good to excellent shape. Presumably, these areas of packed snow held up well against the warmth around Christmas, and now the additional snows of the past week or two have reinforced that base. Lower Turnpike had nearly perfect coverage, and all this packed terrain is going to make for some excellent powder skiing when the next storms come.
All in all, though, you could definitely feel that winter has settled in for the mountains, even if the snowpack/base is on the low side. The water bars I encountered today were all sufficiently frozen, although most of them are still visible and require a bit of navigation.
Yesterday delivered some decent lift-served turns, as well as a quick Wilderness tour with some powder, so today I headed back up to the mountain for a ski tour with Dylan. With more time than I’d had yesterday afternoon, we went a bit farther afield in the Wilderness area in search of untracked powder. The untouched snow was definitely harder to come by this afternoon, because there has been heavy ski touring traffic this weekend. The amount of traffic is relative of course, and nothing like you’d get with lift-served skiing, but after an entire holiday weekend worth of people touring, the untracked snow on the trails of Wilderness had been just about picked clean. One factor in the apparently heavy traffic is that folks aren’t yet using all the acreage of tree skiing; the trees were generally untouched because people know that it’s still just a bit too thin in there for the skiing to be practical. I saw an occasional track of people who had headed into the trees, but you could tell they weren’t quite ready. If we get one more good snowstorm with an inch of liquid, then the low-angle trees will be in play.
We picked up some take-out from Fireside Flatbread for the first time this season, and the process is similar to what the resort is doing at the Village Deli and The Mad Taco – they’re not taking orders in person. In this case it looks like the preferred method is to go through the Toast online ordering service. I actually found this approach to be quite quick though; I was easily able to put in my order on my phone, and they accept Apple Pay, so all I had to do was authorize that with my fingerprint, and we were good to go!
The weather looks generally quiet this coming week, but by the early to middle part of next week we could get back into a more typical Northern Greens bread-and-butter pattern of modest systems to freshen up the slopes. We still need a solid synoptic storm with an inch of liquid equivalent (or something similar from a series of smaller systems) to really get the base depths to more respectable levels, but Winter Storm John was a godsend to at least get a bit of base down and have some snow to see us through the next week.
With the way it had been dumping inch/hr snowfall when I headed home around noontime, I decided it would be worth another session in the afternoon. This time I went for a tour on Wilderness, which had its uphill route officially reopened as of today thanks to the accumulations from Winter Storm John. There had been additional snow, and I’d say 6-10” of powder above the base snow would represent a good summary of what I found overall in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, which was a combination of the snow from this storm on top of the accumulations from previous events. With Bolton Valley providing access to the entire Wilderness Lift area of moderate-angle, cut trails all starting above 2,000’, I’m sure a lot of folks see it as a very good option with the rather thin base currently in place at lower elevations. That, and the fact that it was a holiday weekend, meant that there was a lot of uphill traffic. Fortunately, there was still decent access to untracked powder along the edges of trails, and the turns were quite good and bottomless on low and moderate-angle terrain with the recent snow we’ve picked up.
We’d been looking for an opportunity to try out The Mad Taco Bolton, so I place my order from the car before I started my ascent, and then timed my tour to be able to make the pick-up. It worked quite well, and I got to see the way they’ve set up the restaurant for the first time. It looks like there are a number of tables in there that folks will be able to use once in-person dining is back in action, although for now it’s takeout only. The food was great though, just like we’ve had from their other locations!
Erica and I headed up to Bolton Valley this morning to potentially get in a bit more powder skiing ahead of today’s warming temperatures. The real warmth wasn’t expected to come into the area until later in the day today, but it was already above freezing at the base elevations when we began our tour around 9:00 A.M. or so.
The Wilderness skin track was in great shape, but the snow on Lower Turnpike definitely looked like it had been worked in a bit more compared to what I saw on yesterday’s tour. There were more people out touring in the area today, and we figured it was because so many more people had time off for Christmas Eve.
My initial plan was to tour up to near 3,000’ and get into some powder like yesterday, but E was looking for a shorter tour than that, and once we discovered that the powder was already getting somewhat wet, we just toured up to below the Cougar headwall as our apex.
Turns on the packed areas of Lower Turnpike were quite good, with just a touch of stickiness in spots. I occasionally checked out the powder along the sides of the trail, but it was starting to get wet enough that the packed areas were generally the better experience. Had I known that the rising temperatures had already affected the powder, I probably would have just brought midfats instead of my fat Tele skis.
We headed back to the car through the Village Circle, and were reminded again about the Mad Taco outpost right in the Village. We’re definitely going to have to take advantage of the opportunity to get some of their food from the Bolton site – that’s the closest Mad Taco branch for us.
Our area is going to be in the warm sector for much of the next storm coming into the area today, but we’ve got more chances for snow during the holiday week.