Bolton Valley, VT 23FEB2012

An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Snowflake Bentley trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching some fresh tracks down from the top of Snowflake Bentley today

After a slow stretch of winter weather for much of February, the last third of the month has been picking up in that department.  Three systems have been forecast to come through the area, each one with the potential for more snow in the mountains.  The first one came through Tuesday night into yesterday, and dropped 1.7” of snow here at the house and a few inches in the mountains.  The second system started up yesterday, and as of this morning we’d only picked up some rain here in the valley, but it was definitely a step up in accumulation for the northern mountains.

With only rain down here in the valley, it was difficult to assess what the mountains had picked up for snow around 6:00 A.M. when I was trying to make the decision about taking some runs, but fortunately Stowe was out with a nice early report indicating at least 5” up high.  With fairly high snow levels, I wasn’t surprised to see that it was a steep accumulation gradient with elevation; Stowe was only reporting 1” new at the base.  Still, the high-elevation number of 5” was enough for me to suspect that the main mountain at Bolton, which is all at 2,000’+, would be in great shape, so I prepared my gear and decided to stop in up at the mountain on the way to Burlington.

It was interesting to find that it was actually snowing way down at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’), but there was just a skiff of new white there.  In fact, the snow line for getting into to good snow was actually pretty high.  Even up at 1,000’ on the access road I’d say there wasn’t much more than a dusting of new snow, and there was probably only an inch up at the Timberline Base at 1,500’.  In the Village at 2,100’ I found 2-3” of new snow on the ground, although that was probably the accumulation from the last two days because the cars that appeared to have spent the night in the lot probably had an inch or so on them.  The temperature there at the main base was 31 F, and light snow was falling.

I was only about 30 minutes away from the opening of the Vista Quad when I started skinning up the mountain, so I stuck to the Wilderness side to stay out of the way of any potential downhill traffic.  Wilderness wasn’t scheduled to open until 10:00 A.M., so I had a good cushion of time.  The 2-3” of snow I’d seen at the base grew to 4-5” at ~2,500’ as I headed up Fanny Hill.  I made my way toward Upper Crossover, and stopped my ascent at the top of Bolton Outlaw.  Up there at around 3,000’, new snow depths were in the 5-6” range.  It was past 8:30 A.M. by that point, and I was just starting to hear the hoots and hollers of folks descending off Vista, so I didn’t linger long before I dropped in to see how the turns were going to be.

The powder was medium weight, not sticky at all, but with plenty of substance.  Still, I was touching down in spots, so it wasn’t completely bottomless with the steepness of Bolton Outlaw.  Turns were great though, and if this is just a taste of what’s to come when the third storm gets here, the next couple of days are going to be great on the slopes.  I continued on down to the Wilderness Lift Line, where turns became bottomless with the slightly lesser pitch.  Nobody had been down to Wilderness by that point, so it was first tracks all the way down until I merged into the Vista Trails.

An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Wilderness Lift Line at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching first tracks on the Wilderness Lift Line today

I decided to stick around for another couple lift-served runs, and first hit Hard Luck.  It had seen a few tracks, but the turns were excellent.  I cut through to Show Off, which was untracked at the point, and the turns were generally bottomless.  I finished off with a run below the Vista Quad above the Jungle Jib.  I opted for Vermont 200 on my next run, where I actually found the snow depths topping out around 7”.  I hit some woods, and then cut across on Deer Run to get to the top of Snowflake.  I combined the top part of Snowflake Bentley, which was about half groomed and provided some nice turns, with Lower Foxy, which allowed me to ski past the Wentworth Condos and out the access road.  The powder was excellent almost all the way back down to the main base, although I’d say the last couple hundred vertical were just a little thick – certainly enough that I noticed.  It was easy to see that the main mountain was the place to be though; dropping down to the elevations of Wilderness would likely have seen a dramatic decrease in both the quantity and quality of the powder.

A dusting of snow is seen on the mulch surround the "UVM" bushes at the University of Vermont
A touch of snow remained among the "UVM bushes" this morning.

The temperature was still at 31 F when I was leaving the mountain, and the light snow continued to fall as it has the entire time I was at the mountain.  The temperature was in the mid 30s F back down in the Winooski Valley, and on the way into Burlington, I saw that there were actually pockets of accumulation even in the lower elevations, with a decent coating in Richmond, and another good coating at the I-89 rest area in Williston.  There were even a few pockets of accumulation visible at UVM.

With the addition of this second storm, two-day snow totals are just shy of the 1 foot mark at some of the Northern resorts like Jay Peak and Smuggler’s Notch, with totals tapering to the 5 to 8-inch range in the Sugarbush through Stowe stretch of the spine.  So, we’ve already had a nice couple of appetizers leading up to the third storm, which is expected to start tomorrow.  Winter Storm Warnings are up for the mountains and mountain valleys, with 6 to 10 inches of snow expected through 7 A.M. Saturday, and then additional upslope snow on top of that.  If the third storm comes through as expected, it should be a great weekend out on the slopes.

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