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.
It started snowing last night on the front end of our current storm system, and although we only had about a half inch of snow here at the house, the mountains picked up a good 3 to 4 inches containing some real substance. I hadn’t prepared much of our gear ahead of time since I was unsure whether or not this storm was going to deliver, but everyone got up and rolling pretty quickly once we’d made the decision to hit the mountain. I checked the Bolton Valley website for the latest on the lifts and trails, and our timing was looking good because lifts didn’t start running until 9:00 A.M. It really feels like it’s a holiday today because we’re so close to Christmas and school is out for E and the boys, but at for the resort it was just a standard midweek day. We don’t get to ski a lot of those though, so we were excited for that.
Precipitation had been a light mix of snow and rain, but it had generally tapered off by the time we arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village. I dropped E and the boys off at the Village circle and was able to easily grab a parking spot right in the top lot because there were only a couple dozen cars in total. Apparently today really was just another midweek day. I met E and the boys near the back of the base lodge and we headed up to Vista for a run.
As we rode the lift you could immediately see that the resort had been plastered with snow overnight. The evergreens had a fresh coat of white that added yet another layer on top of all the rime and snow they already held, the groomed slopes looked great, and even the off piste was supplying quiet turns. It wasn’t until we got near Spillway that we could hear skiers contacting the subsurface, so we knew that the new snow wasn’t quite enough to support bottomless turns on the steepest pitches. Temperatures were comfortable at just a few degrees below freezing, but there was a stiff wind as we got into the higher elevations.
I’d read that Schuss was the run of the day, so for our first run we headed down Alta Vista to make our way toward Schuss. There was a bit of scouring at the very top of Alta Vista, but below that the groomed snow was excellent. Of to the skier’s left we found several inches of fresh powder, with as much as a foot in some spots. We’d been prepared to just take a run or two if the conditions weren’t that great, but it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen; the conditions were simply fantastic. Down on Schuss we did come in contact with the base in some spots since it’s quite a steep trail, but fresh snow was plentiful as there was only a track or two or two before we got there. On the lower mountain we caught Bull run to Moose Run to Glades, and the trails were either totally untracked or had a track or two on them. Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what those midweek days are like. As we hit the last hundred or so feet of vertical above the base lodge, you could really feel the snow starting to get a bit wet, so the freezing level must have been rising.
On our next ride up the Vista Quad, Dylan proposed that we each take turns picking a route to ski, so Ty went next. He followed up with another trip down Alta Vista, taking us through the lower parts of Vista Glades, and then finally over to Fanny Hill. We really got to rip up the powder there along the skier’s right, dodging in and out of the trees. I stuck with Ty in that powder right along the edge, and by the bottom of the run my legs were definitely getting cooked from Telemark turns.
Dylan’s run choice was next, and he stuck with an Alta Vista start, eventually brining us to Sleepy Hollow. He’d wanted to get in there on our first run, but now that everyone was warmed up, we were ready to rip through those trees. If anyone had been in there up to that point, they must have been few and far between, because it looked like the whole glade was untracked. I directed the group to some lines I know off to the left, and some seriously good turns were had by all. There was no problem with the new snow keeping us off the base on those pitches. Kudos go out to Dylan for a great run choice.
The fourth run was E’s selection, and she really didn’t have much of a preference aside from visiting the Glades run again; she’d really started to connect with her Tele turns there and wanted to get more of that type of terrain. So, for the upper mountain we dropped into Show Off, and we got images of the boys skiing around the rock with the big smiley face on it. On the upper half of Snow Off, the pitch was steep enough that we were making contact with the base snow, but on the bottom half of the run, the pitch had mellowed just enough to let us float through our turns quite well. Glades was nice and still held plenty of untracked snow, although the snow on the bottom half was starting to get a bit wet as the freezing level seemed to have risen.
It was approaching midday after that run and we broke for lunch at the James Moore Tavern next. The bar was hopping, but there were only a few tables with people at them. I had their grilled tuna sandwich, which was nicely done, although I’d probably opt out of the Dijon mustard-style sauce next time since it’s not one of my favorite flavors. Dylan got the homemade macaroni and cheese, and in his case he definitely had to get it with the optional bacon. I tried some and it was really good… and really rich. We had enough extra that I even had to run leftovers down to the car.
We decided to take a final run after lunch to see how the Wilderness area was doing. We took the Vista route over, but were surprised to see that the Wilderness lift was actually running. That meant that the terrain wasn’t quite as untracked as it might have been with just Vista access, but there was we caught some good lines on Work Road and in Wilderness Woods. The freezing line had continued to creep upward though, so the quality of turns in the lowest elevations had dropped a bit more.
There’s no doubt that the morning offered the best turns of the day today, and that was the time to be out because they were really good. Temperatures are going to be warm with this system for the next couple of day before they cool down, so some snow will be required at the point to get surfaces back to something soft. There are some chances for snow though over the next week, so we’ll see what falls.
‘Tis the season for being very busy around our house, but the boys and I did find a bit of time to head up to the mountain this afternoon to see what Winter Storm Damon had done for the slopes. We’ve had some periods of sun this weekend, such as the ones we experienced at Stowe yesterday, but temperatures have been staying generally at or below freezing in the mountains to keep the recent snow in midwinter form. So, we anticipated finding some great conditions today on the slopes of Bolton Valley, which thanks to winter storm Damon, has most of its terrain open on the main mountain. A couple feet of dense snow can do that.
“With 2 to 2 ½ feet of dense snow, the ascent was easily twice as hard as it would have been on skins.”
Low clouds hung over the upper half of the mountain as we rode that Vista Quad, and being well into the afternoon, the mountain was really starting to quiet down. The overall feel at the resort was exactly in line with one of those dark December days; the base was plentiful, the snow surfaces were well preserved, and the low clouds seemed to lock in an intimate feeling across the mountain. It’s the holiday season before the commotion of the main holiday week, and with the current amount of terrain and quality of snow surfaces available, it’s a great time to be skiing the resorts around here in Northern Vermont.
The coverage and snow quality was saw from the lift looked simply outstanding, even on the steep trails of the upper mountain, so the boys and I jumped right onto Hard Luck to test out the snow with some real pitch. All you can say is that Damon set down a really solid resurfacing – there’s just a lot of deep, dense snow out there. You can just carve the surface snow away and be confident that there’s simply more of that below. The only real downside that I’ve seen from the storm was that the powder skiing hasn’t been quite up to the quality we typically get around here with lighter snow. The rounds of fluffy snow at the end of the storm cycle weren’t quite substantial enough to keep you off of the denser snow below, so you’re still getting into that thicker stuff, and of course it doesn’t ski like champagne powder. Still, I don’t think I’d trade this recent storm for fluffier powder; it was just too perfect for setting up the core of this season’s base snow.
The powder was still skiing reasonably well for being rather dense, so we headed over to Wilderness on our next run to get into some untracked snow. Although we were only skiing in the top few inches of the snow, untracked areas were silky smooth and a lot of fun. It was enough fun that when I asked the boys if they wanted more, I was hit with a resounding, “Yes!”
With that in mind we set off on the next run for the summit of Wilderness. There was a skin track in place for the ascent, and a bit of a boot track that comingled with the skin track in places, but that boot pack wasn’t very well established. Since we hadn’t brought our skins, that meant we had to go the boot pack route, which was a real slog at times. The rudimentary boot pack that was in place helped us some, but it contained plenty of post holes that required extra effort to climb out of, and then there were times when I’d post hole my way into the snow unexpectedly, which is always a big waste of energy. With 2 to 2 ½ feet of dense snow, the ascent was easily twice as hard as it would have been on skins. I made sure to explain to the boys that this was the perfect example of why you want to skin up the mountain whenever possible vs. trying to walk in your boots.
After a brief break at the summit, we descended via Bolton Outlaw in the gathering dusk. The powder was dense like we’d experienced elsewhere, but there were plenty of good turns to be had. This is where the boys would have profited from having their powder skis, but they were on their regular carving alpines based on the fact that we’d planned on mostly on piste skiing. Dylan had a couple of prereleases that send him crashing into the powder, and I’m sure the skinnier nature of the skis wasn’t helping the matter. But some good turns were had by all, despite the fact that it was really dark and foggy as we descended the lower half of the mountain.
I had to head off to a Christmas party once we got home, so I’d actually tried to call in a pizza order from Fireside Flatbread for E and the boys when I was up on the Wilderness Summit. I didn’t have a great signal, but it didn’t matter… unfortunately they don’t open until Friday. I ordered instead from Zachary’s in town, but it meant we had to go a couple miles past the house. The James Moore Tavern seemed to be running at full steam tonight though, so that’s currently an option for those seeking après ski fare.
On the weather front, it looks like we’ve got a weak system coming through in the midweek period, and the models show the potential for another storm toward the end of next weekend, but that’s a long way out so we’ll have to see what develops with that one over the next several days.
“Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind.”
The temperature was still in the low 20s F when I rolled into the Bolton Valley Village this morning, and it looked like midwinter as much as it did mid April. I began skinning right up the well established skin track on Beech Seal, and as one might expect from a well consolidated skin track, it meant that the surrounding slopes had seen plenty of ski traffic. There were some nice looking turns out there though – I saw some beautiful, smooth looking powder turns in the low-angle terrain coming out of the Jungle Jib terrain park. New snow depths and ski conditions were fairly similar to what we found yesterday at Stowe – I found 3 to 5 inches of new snow on the lower half of the mountain, and around a half foot up top near Vista Peak. Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind. In the usual spots, the new powder was scoured down to the crusty surface below, so I could see that it was going to be one of those days where choosing aspect, trail, and trail side, was going to be extremely important in seeking out the best powder turns.
“Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder.”
The skin track took me up Sherman’s, Schuss, and finally Alta Vista, to where I stopped just below the top of the Vista Quad beneath where the snow was all scoured away. The skier’s left of Alta Vista offered up some nice powder turns, although I still encountered some areas of wind-packed snow. I ventured off into the lower reaches of Vista Glades, and found some smooth turns there, since the snow was generally protected. Having seen so many tracks and plenty of wind affecting the trails above the base lodge, I headed over toward Wilderness for the bottom part of my run. Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder. Like yesterday, the turns weren’t completely bottomless, but there were still a lot of them, and I was happy to have the AMPerages and their floatation to help out. The Village was still incredibly quiet as I was heading back to my car, but I did run into Josh as he was heading into the office. He’s already getting ready for next season, enjoying a quieter scene now that the lifts have stopped. Based on the snow that’s up there though, there’s still plenty of skiing to be done this season.
Our latest winter storm to come into the area was lean on cold air, bringing the potential for mixed precipitation into the picture. The northern Vermont resorts managed to get some snow accumulations though, with 5 inches reported by Bolton Valley in the morning. Well ahead of opening, they announced that the Vista Quad was starting on wind hold, and that Mid Mountain would be the early lift. So, I threw my skins in my pack before heading up to the mountain.
The temperature was around 35 F in the valley, and only dropped a degree or two as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road. Accumulations of snow on the road naturally increased with elevation, and by the time I got up to the Village, you could see that the plows had cleared away some dense, wet material. The precipitation at the base was a mist of light rain with occasionally heavier bouts.
As I approached the base of the mid mountain chair, I ran into Quinn, who was just coming down from a run. Our conversation noted the wet weather, and you could tell by the state of Quinn’s outerwear that he’d been out working in it. He said that skiing was lots of fun though, and that was a good sign. The state of the skiing on the lower mountain was quickly confirmed during my ride on the mid mountain chair; beneath my feet, I watched a couple of ski instructors on Beech Seal cut beautiful arcs through the fresh layer of dense snow. The chairs of the mid mountain chair were in quite a state – they had icicles all over them from freezing rain, and it seemed like the icicles were enhanced as the chairs went through repeated cycles of freezing and thawing on their circuit up and down through various elevations.
At mid mountain, I’d just strapped on my skins and started upward, when I heard a sled approaching. It was Quinn, and he gave me a quick lift to the Vista Summit on his way to check things out. The temperature dropped below freezing, and the depths of new snow increased as we headed upward. My depth checks revealed as much as 6” of new snow up top, with the caveat that it was a bit tough to tell where the new dense snow ended, and the old snow began. The only downside, and unfortunately it was big one, was that a fairly thick crust had formed on the snow in the higher elevations due to some rain falling into the colder temperatures. Because of this, I stuck to the groomed Alta Vista for the first part of the descent. The groomed snow was much easier to manage, but it was still firm with a layer of ice on it.
I next followed Swing over to Wilderness, and ran into Quinn again as he was making his way about the mountain. I filled him in on the conditions I’d experienced on my descent from Vista, letting him know that ski condition in the lower elevations were actually much better because of the lack of crust. I made a depth check of the new snow at that Wilderness Mid Station (~2,800’) and found roughly 4 to 5 inches. Below the Wilderness Mid Station was where the turns really started to get nice. I got into that beautiful snow that I’d seen the instructors and others skiing on Beech Seal, and cut some nice arcs. It was really interesting to have the skiing improve with every turn I took downward in elevation, because it’s often the reverse due to deeper snow accumulations up high. Since I’d found that some areas in the trees on the upper mountain had been protected from the freezing rain, I dipped into the Wilderness Woods briefly to see how they were skiing. Down at that elevation, it really didn’t make much of a difference, so I quickly ended up back out on the trails since they had large expanses of untracked snow.
I rode the Mid Mountain Chair again, this time heading out on Deer Run and over to the Butterscotch Terrain Park. I ended up just skiing the park, since it wasn’t open and had plenty of fresh snow. Usually, with the more limited terrain, it’s not great when the Vista Quad is down and the main option is the Mid Mountain Chair, but with the way the new snow was set up today, it was almost the perfect option. I didn’t stick around too long this morning because I wanted to get home and dry my gear to get ready for Stowe in the afternoon – I was certainly eager to see how Mt. Mansfield fared in this latest storm.
While we’ve still yet to get hit by a big synoptic snowstorm in Northern Vermont this season, another Alberta Clipper system came through the area today, and it began delivering a reasonable shot of fresh snow, just like the one last weekend. With the snow just starting up this morning, we waited until mid afternoon to head up to the mountain for skiing. By that point we’d picked up a couple of inches down at the house, and the snow was continuing at a good clip. Today also offered to bonus of being a somewhat warm reprieve from the arctic air, with temperatures around 20 F in the valley and up on the mountain at Bolton Valley.
I dropped E and the boys off at Snowflake, parked the car, and got my gear together fast enough to catch them on their second run. Ty was raving about the snow on Butterscotch in general, but E didn’t quite find the overall setup quite as nice as what we found on Monday. She said that the middle of the trail was good with the new snow, but the powder on the skier’s right didn’t cover and even out the subsurface in quite the same way that it had last time. Those subtleties aside, you could tell that there been another nice addition to the snowpack, and the snow from this storm was definitely denser than what we received on Monday. In fact, although it was still fairly dry at ~7% H2O according to my analyses from down our house, that’s still roughly twice as dense as the last storm. The snow certainly had some heft that helped cover up the old surfaces, but it wasn’t going to be flying in your face the way the snow from the last storm did.
“…the snow from this storm was definitely denser than what we received on Monday.”
Heading next to the Vista Quad, we took Spillway, finding some good turns, but again a notch below what we’d found on Monday. Ty worked the terrain with fresh snow off to the skier’s right, but wasn’t interested in setting up any photos; clearly the snow couldn’t quite inspire him the way the last storm did. E wasn’t feeling comfortable enough on her Teles today to stick tight to the soft snow on the edge of Spillway, so spending more time toward the middle of the trail, she had to deal with some icy, high-traffic spots. As we descended toward Mid Mountain, the boys toured us through some nooks and crannies of access roads in order to ski under a big bent over tree. That was a bit of a slow route, but you could get a feel for just how much snow was starting to build on the natural terrain. We checked out Beech Seal on the lower mountain – I hit the usual soft snow on the skier’s right and found it performing right in line with the other terrain we’d skied. The skiing was great, just a notch below the last storm. I hadn’t seen where Ty had gone on Beech Seal, but it turns out he’d snuck over into the little lane of terrain on the right beyond the racing fence. He gets a kick out of being over there, and of course he’s probably one of the only people who can comfortably fit in there and loves the fact that the powder is untouched.
With Swing finally open, we next headed over toward Wilderness to sample some of the powder over there. Checking on the powder depth at 2,775’ on Lower Crossover like I’d done on Monday, I got a reading of 9 inches. That’s actually an inch lower than what I recorded on Monday, but that’s not surprising after several days of settling and now some denser snow on top. Most importantly, the net content of liquid in the snowpack has increased again with this storm. Every storm continues to bolster the snowpack over there, and we definitely had our best run of the year on Turnpike. It’s really been our go-to trail this season when snow has been lean, and it was just a heck of a lot of fun with all the new powder.
Although we still had daylight, the night skiing lights continued to come on as the resort shifted into night skiing mode. It was 4:15 PM, and I had to be in Burlington for dinner, but we decided to catch a final run off the Mid Mountain Chair – Ty really wanted another chance to ski his line behind the racing fence on Beech Seal. The snow continued to pour down, now with some larger flakes more reminiscent of upslope, and as we skied along I commented to E on how conditions were almost of the type we like for night skiing – fresh snow, no wind, and relatively warm. For those that went out last night to the slopes, I’d say they chose a good one. Ty got to ski his line, and Dylan followed along as well, continuing on to the second fence where the line ends in a bunch of brush. Dylan extricated himself easily though, and came out smiling.
We skied right back down to the access road through the trees near the Wentworth Condos, which is always a nice way to end the day. I’d say the mountain had picked up at least 2 to 4 inches by the time we’d left, and a half foot would be a reasonable way to expect the event to finish off. We’ve got a chance for another Alberta Clipper on Monday, and a steady diet of these is certainly a nice way to go until a bigger storm comes through to really give us a big jump in base depths.
It’s been two weeks since I was last out on the slopes, because there hasn’t been much to draw me out in the interim. We finally got a small snowstorm on Wednesday though, and with another few inches of snow at the mountain overnight into this morning, it seemed like it was time to check out how the powder was building up. Actually, the potential exists for a few more inches of snow tonight with the passage of an arctic frontal boundary, so my real goal was to make a reconnaissance run to see how the snow might be set up for tomorrow. If things come together to offer up some quality turns, it could be time to entice E and the boys up to the hill.
“The snow wasn’t overly deep with just 4 to 5 inches, but the pitches fit that depth quite well, the turns were mostly bottomless on the fat skis, and it was some damn fine powder skiing.”
After hanging out at home and watching some of the AFC Championship game featuring the Patriots, it was almost 4:00 P.M. before I got headed up to Bolton Valley. I knew that it was going to be getting toward dusk by the time I got on the snow, but I also knew that it would be quite peaceful, and I’ve really been enjoying these tours that I get to finish off while descending to the lights of the Village. Comfortable temperatures in the upper 20s F down at the house in Waterbury, gave way to somewhat chillier temperatures and snowfall as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road. Our little system from earlier today had dropped a couple inches at the house, and 2 to 3 up at Bolton, but there had been a snowfall lull during the middle of the day. As evening approached however, snow associated with the upcoming frontal passage was making its presence felt, and as usual, it was starting in the higher elevations. The intensity of the snow increased as I ascended, and the road began to take on a light accumulation of snow at ~1,200’. With no night skiing going on tonight, numerous cars inched their way down the road as they finished off their ski day. I made a brief stop at the Timberline Base to check on the snow situation at 1,500’, and indeed as expected, I found that the snowpack is still a bit too lean down at that elevation to be supporting comfortable skiing without rock skis or junkboards. There was only 1 to 2 inches of powder down at the base lodge, and that was on top of a fairly thin base. The snowpack was much improved up in the Village at 2,100’ though, where there was a decent base of several inches, and a consistent 4 inches of powder.
I geared up and began my ascent of Turnpike, watching three snowboarders ahead of me that appeared to have similar thoughts. In a couple of minutes however, they stopped along the trail just after the junction of Turnpike and Wilderness Lift Line, cracked open some beers, and kicked back in the snow. Good times. We exchanged greetings as I passed, tossing around comments on the joys of the new snow, and I continued upward. There was a nice skin track at times, although it did get disrupted as ski tracks merged and diverged from it, or the end of the occasional deeper water bar forced it away from the trail’s edge. Steady light snowfall continued, and an occasional gust of wind worked its way into the protected confines of the trial.
Being a trial run, and paying some respect to the growing darkness, a decided to stop at the connector between Turnpike and the Wilderness Lift Line around 2,500’. The depth of the powder had increased just a bit by that point, and measurements were in the 4 to 5-inch range. There was some untracked snow still remaining on Turnpike, but despite being a bit more exposed to winds, the Wilderness Lift Line had seen a lot less traffic and seemed like the way to go for fresh tracks. There were some tracked areas off to the left and right, but excellent lanes of powder showed themselves near the middle of the trail, even in the darkened view allowed by my goggles. The turns, as I’d later describe them to E, were what I’d call “par for the course” for that area over the past few weeks. The snow wasn’t overly deep with just 4 to 5 inches, but the pitches fit that depth quite well, the turns were mostly bottomless on the fat skis, and it was some damn fine powder skiing. The only complaint would be that the snow was a little cold and slow in spots, so maybe an extra coat of wax would be in order if we try something similar tomorrow.
There were no signs of the snowboarders by the time I reached the bottom of my run, but the Village was abuzz with lights, and televisions that were probably set to the Patriots game. I stopped in for a few minutes at the big screen set up next to Fireside Flatbread in the lodge, and it wasn’t looking good for the Patriots – the Broncos were up 20 to 3. Outside, the snow had redoubled its efforts, and was coming down at a moderate pace. I had to take some time to wipe the snow off the car, as there was a good coating on the leeward sides. Snowfall that was initially more minimal down here at the house has picked up as the evening has progressed, so we’ll have to see where things stand tomorrow with the new snow. Winter, and fortunately powder skiing, is certainly back after its earlier hiatus.
The ski tour we took yesterday was certainly considered a success, since both E and Ty were saying positive things today, and Ty was expressing to Dylan that he missed out on some fun. With the prospects for a little more snow today from a passing Alberta Clipper, I figured another visit to the mountain was in order, and I decided to make it at the end of the day once the new snow had started to accumulate and top off the powder. I couldn’t quite convince anyone else to come with me since they were having too much fun sledding or doing other stuff, so it was another solo outing.
I wasn’t exactly sure when the snow was supposed to start, but eventually it looked like I was going to run out of light, so around 3:00 P.M. I finally headed out. Fortunately, flakes had just started falling in the valley, so I knew the snow would already be well underway up on the hill. Up at Bolton Valley, the temperature in the Village at 2,100’ was 30 F and a steady light snow was coming down. The flakes weren’t huge, but it was accumulating on my equipment quickly enough that gear left out took on a coating within a minute or two.
“Fanny Hill ultimately lost out to Work Road because the snow was just too good – 6 to 8 inches of fluff and hardly a track.”
After using Turnpike for the past couple of ascents, and seeing that skier traffic there had been decent, I decided to go for an alternative ascent route up through the Fanny Hill area. It would give me a chance to check out the skiing in that area, and still head over toward the Wilderness Lift Line if I didn’t find anything that seemed to top what we skied yesterday. My first interesting sight was right as I was starting my ascent on Lower Fanny Hill – on one of the small cross trails there was a group of folks hanging out in a protected nook in the trees, just sitting in a circle of chairs and chatting. I suspect they were from the Liftline Condos that were just beyond. There was no wind, so with the light snow falling and temperatures around 30 F, it was indeed a fun time to be outside; it just seemed like a fitting thing to be doing on a dark Sunday afternoon in December.
Upon reaching Fanny Hill, the snow looked good, so I decided to continue my ascent there and explore the surfaces further. In general there were the same several inches of powder above the base snow that we’d encountered on the Wilderness Lift Lineyesterday, and only when I got into the steeper sections of terrain near the top did the pitch seem to be too much for the snowpack. In a nice undisturbed spot along the edge of the trail at 2,600’, I was able to check the full snowpack at that elevation, and that came in at 13”. I’d say that consisted of a 6” base, and the rest was powder on top
I continued up toward Upper Fanny Hill, generally staying away from the Sherman’s Pass area where I could hear the snow guns running. Those higher trails like Coyote, Work Road, Lower Crossover, and Swing, held deeper snow and had seen much less traffic. They were definitely going to be on my descent route. I stopped my ascent around 2,900’ on Upper Fanny Hill just before the steepest pitches, because I could see that they were somewhat windswept and just didn’t have the coverage they needed yet.
I played it by ear on the descent, just watching for those trails with deep snow that had seen minimal traffic. Fanny Hill ultimately lost out to Work Road because the snow was just too good – 6 to 8 inches of fluff and hardly a track. That brought me over to the Wilderness Lift Line, and since we’d skied the skier’s right yesterday, I took the skier’s left today and found the same type of good snow. I’m sure Fanny Hill would have been fine as well, but after committing to Work Road I went where gravity took me. The rest of the descent back to the Village was just like yesterday, good soft snow, so no complaints.
It was getting pretty dark when I was leaving, but the group of folks was still hanging out in their little alcove in the trees – it was a good spot. As I made my way along some of the Liftline Condos, I saw a woman pushing something along through the snow – she made her way through some of the deeper snow around the back of the condos, and then was out of view for a bit before she got onto the street and I could get a picture I didn’t know if it was a stroller, or just some other sort of vehicle for moving things, but whatever the case, the fact that it was on skis was intriguing. Clearly it seemed to be somebody who knows the Bolton Valley environment.
It snowed all the way down to the valley when I was heading back to the house around 5:00 P.M., and the temperatures had fallen below the freezing mark even at the bottom of the access road down at 340’. It looks like the next opportunities for snow are some light stuff in the early week, and then a frontal system later in the week.