The mountain snowpack that had been building up over the first half of the month melted back somewhat in the middle elevations at the end of last week, but this latest winter storm seemed to have the potential to replenish it. As of this morning, we’d picked up roughly 4 inches of new snow composed of 0.6 inches of liquid at the house, so the local mountains should have added enough new snow to set the table for more low-angle touring in the powder. Bolton Valley was reporting 3 to 4 inches of new snow overnight, and 5 inches in the past 48 hours. Assuming a similar density of snow to what fell at our house, plus whatever snow was in place before, it definitely felt like it was worth a visit. I didn’t expect the snow quality to be outstanding enough to suggest that E or the boys should join me, so I expected it to be a solo tour. As I was about halfway through preparing my gear, Ty woke up and let me know that he was actually interested in getting in some turns before work, so that meant I’d have some company!
In the Winooski Valley at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, we found 1 to 2 inches of new snow from this most recent storm, and up in the Village, total depths were 4 to 5 inches. Temperatures this morning were around the freezing mark, with a mix of wintry precipitation types as we set out on our tour. We found that snow depths increased a bit with elevation, hitting 5 to 6 inches around 2,500’ and 6 to 7 inches where we topped out around 2,700’.
The powder skiing was decent, with snow that was relatively dense but not sloppy or soggy on the upper half of our tour. The density did increase a bit more as we descended back toward the base around 2,000’, but the snow still hadn’t progressed to that spring-style sticky stuff. I had freshly waxed up my skis in the morning, and that did appear to help give me an slightly easier time than Ty, who hadn’t waxed.
While today’s powder was decent, the snow I found while out ski touring last week was definitely superior. I think that last week there was a touch more base, the snow overall was a bit deeper, and most importantly, the snow was notably drier. All those factors came together to set that skiing above the quality of what we found out there today. This dense snow that we just received does have the water content to set up a more substantial base though, and it’s really going to be great with some additional rounds of snow on top. The models do suggest that there are some events in the pipeline over the next week, so we’ll see what the mountains get from those.
Sometimes Mother Nature just lets you know that it’s time to get out to ski, and apparently today was one of those days. I was just about the head down to the basement for another pre-season leg workout… but somehow my head transitioned to thinking that we might just have hit that threshold where it was time to actually get out and ski. Perhaps it was time to move on from pre-season to… season. I’m sure it was partly due to the flakes that were falling just outside the window, but Powderfreak’s winter vibe Stowe pictures from Saturday definitely played a role in getting me motivated. We’ve had numerous rounds of snow thus far over the first half of November, and if Powderfreak’s photos were what the slopes looked like before this most recent storm, there had to be enough out there at this point for some low-angle turns.
The cloud ceiling seemed to be around 1,500’ to 2,000’ this morning, so I really couldn’t get a good view of the snow coverage up at Bolton Valley via their Main Base Webcam. What I could see on the cam was that everything was white… extremely white. The snow coverage looked great, but the clouds were just too thick to get a good sense for what the snow depths were like beyond the areas where they’ve made a bunch of snow. This latest system did just drop another round of accumulation though, even down to the lower valleys, and the natural snow from all the storms we’ve had in the first half of the month has not been melting back in the higher elevations.
Even without a real-time view, it felt like the snow from this latest storm should have pushed the snowpack to the point where it was ready for some touring on low-angle slopes, so I decided to pop up to the mountain this morning on my way to Burlington. With this latest storm, the snow never really seemed to accumulate much to the west of our area in the lower elevations, so there were only a few traces of snow in Bolton Flats and at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road. Accumulations gradually increased as I headed up in elevation though, and here’s a rough summary of the snow depth profile I encountered this morning:
As the summary shows, the depths increased slowly at first, and it wasn’t until somewhere in the 1,200’ to 1,500’ elevation range where snow coverage became continuous. Assessing the depths in the Bolton Valley Village parking lots at around 2,000’, I wasn’t initially sure if I was going to end up ski touring or just going for a hike, but I threw my skis on my pack because it looked like touring would be good to go as long as the base snow was substantial enough. Snow depths increased notably above the 2,000’ mark, and a few minutes into my ascent, it was obvious that I was going to be able to ski on the descent. I had my climbing skins in my pack, but never put them on my skis because the hiking was easy enough, certainly easy enough that I didn’t want to add the extra transition time that putting on the skins would throw into the tour. If one does want to skin on the ascent though, there’s plenty of base to do it.
Indeed it’s the sufficient base snow that sealed the deal in terms of the skiing. Below these recent couple of inches, there’s a good amount of consolidated snow at varying degrees of depth. I only had time to tour up to about 2,500’, but the depths did look like they were continuing to improve above that point. It’s best to seek out low-angle, nicely maintained, grassy terrain at this point, but with that, you’re good to go for some very nice powder turns. I saw a couple of older ski tracks on my tour, but nothing from this morning, and that was helpful – untouched snow provided the very best powder turns, so staying away from any footprints or other snow traffic is the best bet. In the untouched snow, turns were bottomless, and I was only on 86 mm skis. The top half of my tour definitely offered the deepest snow and most ability to play around in the powder, but it was still decent all the way back down to the main base around 2,000’. In the lower couple hundred feet of vertical though, you just had to be more selective in sticking to the untouched snow for the smoothest turns. Rock skis or regular skis are both options if you know the terrain you’re going to be on. I didn’t have rock skis, but only made a hard touch or two to objects below the subsurface. Touching below the subsurface is pretty inconsequential on grassy, low-angle terrain, and thankfully, Bolton’s Wilderness area has plenty of those types of slopes.
While we haven’t had any huge winter storms yet this season, all throughout the mountains and mountain valleys there’s been a nice winter vibe. With these typical November rounds of snow, accumulations have been melting back in the valleys, but in the mountains they’ve been building up to the point that people are definitely getting out to enjoy it. Just as I was finishing up my ski tour, I spotted someone who was out for a Nordic ski around the Village, and I bet it was someone who lives right up there at Bolton Valley. I saw them passing above me while they skied the access road, and I quickly fired off a bunch of shots before they disappeared into the clouds. And while the combination of thick, low clouds and mid-November sun angle made for some notably low-light conditions today, it really just helped to give the outing that November/December early season mystique.