I hadn’t been up to the mountain for a couple of days while I waited for the arctic hounds to head out of town, but things were definitely warming up this afternoon, so I hit the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network for a tour. Temperatures were in the mid-teens F, and with brilliant sunshine and no wind, it was definitely getting much more comfortable out there.
I wanted a relatively quick tour and hadn’t yet visited the trails on the western side of the network below the North Ridge this season, so I headed out in that direction. At the 2,000’ elevation around the Village I was quite consistently getting settled snowpack depths right around 24”, and in the 2,300’ – 2,400’ elevation near the top of my route, I got a 26” measurement. Although that’s not especially deep, there’s a lot of liquid in the snowpack, so everything is surprisingly well covered and there aren’t any major ground obstacles to worry about. Even steep terrain like C Bear Woods and the Holden’s Hollow Glades had plenty of coverage. I’m sure there would be a few coverage issues on steep terrain for lift-served levels of skier traffic, but with just backcountry traffic, there’s more than enough coverage to ski everything without concern. Although it had only been a couple of days since the last snows, there had actually been a pretty good amount of traffic on the main routes I traveled, so I had to go off the edges for fresh powder.
There has definitely been some settling of all the fluff in the forest over the past few days, but there’s still a lot of snow covering everything. It will be interesting to see what the snow from this next storm does in terms of sticking to what’s out there already.
We had snow here at the house most of the morning, and it was generally light, but at times it would pick up with a burst of intensity with larger flakes. Toward the afternoon, the snowfall became a bit more persistent, and we were having longer periods with the large flakes, so it started getting to the point where I was wondering how much the mountains were getting. As it was snowing more heavily here, I checked out the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam and saw what looked like really heavy snowfall, so I decided to hit the mountain for a couple of runs. Indeed, the local radar showed that another push of moisture was right on the doorstep as well, so that held the potential for additional snow.
The radar didn’t look that outrageous in terms of snowfall intensity, but I got up to Timberline and the snowfall was very heavy, probably 1-2”/hr with visibility of a few hundred feet. It was hard to tell how much had fallen recently, but I was finding 4-6” in many areas on the trails since the previous grooming. In any event, it was definitely a mini powder day up there, with that 4-6” easy to find essentially anywhere that hadn’t been skied recently.
“It was hard to tell how much had fallen recently, but I was finding 4-6” in many areas on the trails since the previous grooming.”
Very steep or windblown areas on piste definitely need another synoptic storm or two before they’re in prime shape, but the snow has continued to build up this week in the off piste areas. In areas that haven’t been skied in the past week or two, you’re essentially looking at 30” of unconsolidated snow down to elevations as low as 2,500’ now. I made a trip through Maria’s and I was finding that depth consistently. There is some dense snow in there form the front end of Winter Storm Malcolm, but since we haven’t had any major thaws in more than a month, there’s no layer in the snowpack that is fully solidified. My depth checks just went right down through the 30” to what I suspect is the ground, or perhaps a base of a few inches of old base snow depending on the location. You really need at least moderate pitch to ski these areas because you’re sinking too deep for shallow slopes. I was on midfats today, so fat skis would help, but pitch is still going to be necessary.
I hadn’t been out on the mountain since my tour on Saturday, and certainly wanted to get some exercise, but the continued snow we had today, and the chance to beat the arctic hounds that are coming in for the next couple of day, definitely made the timing right.
The consistent snows and temperatures we’ve had over the past several days had me pretty certain that the snow quality was there for lift-served skiing today, but the arctic hounds coming in on those northwest winds led me to go touring instead. When I saw projected highs in the single digits F for Bolton Valley today, there was no way I wanted to sit still on the lifts in the wind vs. generating my own heat down in the protection of the forest.
I got up to the Village around midday, and temperatures were indeed in the mid-single digits F as the forecast had suggested. Between all the backcountry touring and Nordic folks that I saw, there were plenty of people out on the lower trails, but farther out into the higher trails by the Bryant Cabin, I saw probably a handful of groups. Overall, you could tell by the vibe that people felt it was great weather for these types of activities.
The additional 4 inches of fresh champagne that the resort had just picked up really served to top off the already crazy levels of fluff that covered everything. I saw some great images of the recent snows as soon as I arrived in the Village, so before gearing up for my tour, I took a quick walk around the Village and grabbed some scenic shots. Once I started my tour and got into the forest, the amount of snow on all surfaces was just amazing – it was caked so heavily on the trees that you were surrounded by it on all sides. Starting up the Bryant Trail was like walking into some sort of white cathedral.
I made depth measurements of the snowpack during my tour, and I found generally 26-27” around the 2,000’ level, and many spots that are getting dangerously close to 40” up near 3,000’. That’s pretty consistent with what the Mt. Mansfield Stake is showing. The powder skiing was great, although we could still use another storm or two just to push the snowpack depth past that 40” benchmark.
At the start of my tour off Heavenly Highway I was on some steep, 30+-degree slopes, and I was setting off sloughs that definitely spoke to the relative snowpack instability from the continuous day after day after day of snows without consolidation. I was perfectly safe where I was the very dense forest, but I immediately though about how I wouldn’t want to be exposed in spots like the ravines of the Presidentials. So I guess it wasn’t entirely surprising when I discovered posts in the American Weather New England Skiing Thread about slides in Tuckerman.
The turns this morning at Bolton Valley were so good, that as soon as I got home, I checked to see if the boys had finished all their school meetings and schoolwork to be able to head up for an afternoon session at Timberline. I had a midday Zoom meeting anyway, so that gave them time to finish up any remaining work, and once everyone was set, we headed back up to the mountain.
For the afternoon, I switched over from Telemark to alpine gear, since that’s what the boys wanted to do. It was just great to be out with the boys on a snowy afternoon enjoying some turns, getting some pictures, goofing around in the powder, etc. I had to break it to them that the turns weren’t quite as insanely good as what I’d encountered in the morning, but that was splitting hairs of course. The trails were a bit more tracked up due to a few more hours of skier traffic, but we started heading into some of our favorite tree stashes anyway, where the powder was deep and plentiful.
Indeed, while it continued to snow during our afternoon session, it was more in the ½-1”/hr range, so certainly decent, but not quite up to the level of what I’d experienced in the morning. That was until we were leaving though – when we were packing up at the car, the snowfall rate was back up in that 1-2”/hr range again and combined with light heading more toward dusk, visibility dropped way down.
The Northern New England ski resorts are definitely having the sort of great run of snowy days that we needed to make up for some slower snowfall earlier in the season, and the snow looks to continue right into the coming weekend.
LOL, Mother Nature and her snowy ways definitely changed up my plans a bit today. When I arrived up at Bolton’s Timberline area this morning, I knew it was going to be good – in the parking lot is was snowing big fat flakes, it was in the 20s F, and there wasn’t a trace of wind. I guess one could make an argument for sunshine being the primo setup vs. the flakes, but I’m definitely partial to the potential for constant refreshing of the surfaces when it’s dumping.
My initial plan was to catch a couple of runs on my way to work for a meeting, and it was just dumping 1-2”/hr snowfall with ski conditions that were off the hook. It was the kind of snowfall where if you don’t move around much during the lift ride, you find a half inch of accumulation pouring off you when you disembark from the lift. Although there was no wind down at the base at 1,500’, up at 2,500’ there was a touch of wind, but nothing too serious – all around the mountain you could just see the upslope snow stacking up on everything. Even the deciduous branches were just loaded with snow, and it was too such a degree that you couldn’t see a thing through areas of the forest that normally let you catch glimpses of adjoining trails. The heavy snowfall helped to make everything intensely quiet; between the snow piled on the trees, the air filled with huge, fat flakes, and the ground covered with powder, sounds were muffled to almost nothing.
“The heavy snowfall helped to make everything intensely quiet; between the snow piled on the trees, the air filled with huge, fat flakes, and the ground covered with powder, sounds were muffled to almost nothing.”
It’s midweek of course, so the mountain is virtually deserted, and there were powder refills on every run. It was so good that I had to stick around for an extra run, and then just headed back down to the house for the meeting instead (it was a Zoom meeting anyway). You know it dumped even in the valley, because I found a fresh 2.2″ on the measurement boards at home.
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.
The family was up at Bolton Valley for a ski session this morning, and the mountain reported an additional 6” of snow as of their early report today, making for a 14” storm total at that point. That will probably go up a bit more for tomorrow since it was still snowing while were there, and indeed the snowfall was heavy at times.
They had a resort-wide power outage in the morning (presumably some heavy, wet snow and/or winds brought something down on the Bolton Valley Access Road), so that delayed opening a bit. We’d planned to just do lift-served skiing on alpine gear today, but catching wind of the power outage via the snow report, we brought Telemark gear as well, and ascended via the Timberline uphill route to make a quick run there while we waited for the Timberline Quad to open.
We switched over to alpine gear once the Timberline Quad started loading, and the skiing was great. While we were hanging out, we checked total snowpack depth on the Spell Binder trail at around the 2,000’ elevation mark, and generally got depths of 18-20”.
Due to high winds, the uppermost lifts (Vista Quad and Wilderness Double) never opened, so we ended up skiing in just the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range on Timberline. I know from my experience at the resort yesterday that the snow was notably drier on the upper mountain, so what we skied today in those lower elevations was a bit on the denser side. The powder had certainly become drier overall with the overnight addition of upslope snow vs. just the dense snow from yesterday, but I bet the snow is even drier in the upper elevations of the main mountain. With that said, the snow at Timberline was still fantastic, with lots of untracked powder available as ski patrol did their checks and other work to get new trails open.
The mountain is planning to run all the lifts tomorrow as long as the winds die down, so there could be some nice turns on the lifts that didn’t open at all today.
With Winter Storm Malcolm moving into the area early this morning, there was a major PNW vibe around in the valley – we had huge, moisture-laden flakes falling all morning at the house, and driving through just 2-3” of unplowed snow on the road felt like you were moving through concrete. It reminded me of being back at Snoqualmie Pass/Alpental.
I gave Mother Nature some time to continue putting down the new snow, then headed up to the mountain for a session this afternoon. I’d brought gear for both skinning and lift-served skiing, unsure about whether or not there would be COVID-19-related lift queues. When I reached the Timberline Base and saw the Timberline Quad running for the first time this season with virtually nobody around, it was an easy decision to opt for lift-served skiing. There were actually no queues at any of the lifts this afternoon, and it was walk-up all the time with numerous empty chairs, so presumably the opening of more terrain took care of any issues that had been creating backups.
In terms of the snow, it was unquestionably dense down at 1,500’. I was actually happy with my choice to go with lift-served turns because I appreciated having some packed snow in places and the ability to wander off to the sides into the powder as desired. The powder would have been a bit easier on my fat skis, but on my midfat Teles it was definitely a workout staying for long periods in the deep, dense untracked snow. I was happy for some quick reprieves on the groomed areas. Groomed terrain was skiing very nicely – the packed snow was certainly dense, but not to the level of that slick, wet pack snow that can get rather grabby. The snow got substantially drier with elevation – in the top 500’ of vertical, say from the Vista Summit on down to 2,600’ or 2,700’, the snow was in a totally different league relative to the base. Jumping into untracked powder made for smooth, easy turns; the snow had just lost enough density that it just wasn’t pushing me around on my midfat Teles. Down below those elevations, the powder began to get a bit denser, but you could definitely give yourself and extra margin of comfort on a pair of alpine fat skis, or especially a snowboard.
As of this afternoon’s additional snow from the storm, we’d picked up 1.09” of liquid equivalent down at the house, so the mountains must have had at least that much, and whatever they did get, it represented a major resurfacing of the slopes. Ropes were dropping all over the place, and within one trip over to the main mountain, I came back to find that they’d opened up Tattle Tale, apparently even the steep headwall section, which speaks to how meaty this snow was. They even had Spillway open on all natural snow, and that’s a steep minefield of boulders and stumps. I figured people were just poaching it until I saw the rope opened at the top.
In terms of the depth of new snow that fell from Winter Storm Malcolm, it was difficult to tell because there was already some decent loose snow below this new stuff, and there hasn’t been a major thaw in quite a while to consolidate the base. When I got off the top of the Timberline Quad at the Timberline Summit, I stuck in my measurement pole and it went up to 18”. This represented the entire snowpack at that elevation from what I could tell. Based on occasional probing around and measuring during the afternoon, I came to the conclusion that there must have been at least 8” that had fallen up high, and the resort’s afternoon report says 8” at elevation, so that makes sense.
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.