Bolton Valley, VT 29NOV2023

An image near sunset off to the west toward the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks of New York from the Wilderness Summit during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder from a late November storm in the Outlaw Woods are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty rides through some of the fresh powder we encountered today in Bolton’s Outlaw Woods

Last night we picked up another 4 to 5 inches of snow here in the valley from the weak cold front swinging through the region, and not surprisingly, the local mountains picked up twice that amount. Bolton Valley was reporting 10 inches of new snow atop the 15+ inches they’d received from the storm at the beginning of the week, and this new snow came in around 5% H2O according my morning liquid analyses. The new drier snow atop the base was a recipe for some great skiing.

Ty was off from work this afternoon, so we popped up to the mountain for a ski tour on Wilderness. Relative to the last storm, the Winooski Valley down by the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road did better with this event; whereas the coverage was somewhat patchy after the last storm, it was generally continuous with a few inches present this morning. I checked snowpack depths during the tour as usual, and it’s getting tougher to get measurements as the snowpack gets deeper, but with settling through the afternoon, depth increases seemed to be as follows relative to what I found yesterday:

2,000’: 10-12” –> 15-16”
2,500’: 15-16” –> 18-20”
3,000’: 18-20” –> 20-24”

So essentially, the snowpack depths I found today were about 500 feet lower in elevation than equivalent depths I found yesterday.

An image of a snowcat with a snow gun in the background at the main base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A snowcat/groomer works around Bolton’s main base area as snow is being made in the background. The resort had lots of mountain operations taking place as they get ready for resumption of lift service on Friday

The Wilderness Uphill Route had seen plenty of skier traffic, and there was a dual skin track all the way to the Wilderness Summit that made conversation easy while we ascended. I was hoping to bring Ty over toward Fanny Hill again in line with the tour I’d done yesterday, but ski patrol had fenced off Upper Crossover.  They really want touring to be confined to Wilderness, and I guess that’s not too surprising with the amount of operations they have going on Vista. With the amount of activity we saw going on all around the resort, it’s obvious that they’re going full tilt in preparation for re-opening on Friday with their partial-week schedule. I’m not sure how much of the mountain they’re going to open, but with the amount of natural snow out there, they’re going to have a lot of options.

An image of a pickup truck covered in snow from recent November snowstorms in one of the parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A truck in the parking lot holds some of the recent snow that Bolton Valley has received.

In terms of the skiing, it was great. Conditions were already excellent yesterday, and now Mother Nature threw another 10 inches on top of that, so it’s about what you’d expect – lots of bottomless powder. We hit the Wilderness Summit just as sunset was approaching, so the views to the west were stupendous on such a fine afternoon. With the snow remaining deep, you wanted to shoot for intermediate pitches and above for decent turns. Based on my experience from yesterday, we did have full fat skis today, so that helped a lot with floatation and the ability to turn on those lower-angle slopes a bit more.

Bolton Valley, VT 28NOV2023

An image of the mid station terminal of the Wilderness Double Chairlift from above at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some ski tracks on the Fanny Hill trail after 15 inches fell from Winter Storm Cait in late November at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Adding a set of tracks to Fanny Hill while out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley today – thanks to the remnants of Winter Storm Cait, Bolton was reporting 15 inches of new snow, and it had sufficient density to ski even the steepest terrain.

As of yesterday evening, Bolton Valley was reporting a foot of snow from our most recent storm (the remnants of Winter Storm Cait), which was right in line with the 10-15” reports from the northern half of the state. When I checked the Bolton Valley snow report today in anticipation of heading up for a ski tour, I saw that they had updated their Monday morning total to 15” up top as well, so they must have reassessed what fell:

Tuesday: We are still reeling from the season’s first big snowstorm that smothered the northern Green Mountains in a heavy blanket of prime base building snow Sunday night to Monday morning. In addition to the 12-15″ we woke up to Monday morning, it appears we’re in for another 1-3″ today here in the upper elevations and – perhaps even more importantly – the return of cold temperatures on the ol’ “wet bulb” to fire up snowmaking efforts again. As we get closer to Friday we’ll keep you posted on trails and lifts for this weekend, but perhaps needless to say, we will definitely be expanding terrain this weekend, including Snowflake Lift, a small buildout in the Hide Away Terrain Park and several trails making their season debut. Stay tuned on that front.

No lift service today, but we’ve gone ahead and opened the Wilderness Designated Uphill Route so you can get some fresh pow laps in if your schedule allows.

Based on Powderfreak’s comment from yesterday about skiing on just the top 4” of the snow, and the density of the snow down from my liquid analyses down here at our house, I brought mid-fats for today’s tour. I figured I’d be riding Sierra Cement, but that wasn’t at all what I experienced. I’ll mention more about the snow density after covering the storm accumulations and snowpack depths.

There’s a very impressive elevation gradient with respect to the snow accumulations from this storm. Down at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’, there isn’t even complete coverage on all aspects – I’d call the snowpack there T – 2”. I didn’t monitor the snowpack too closely on my ascent to the Village, but coverage was certainly continuous by 1,000’. Up in the Village around 2,000’ or so, I found 10-12” of snow, and here are some measurements at elevations during my tour:

2,000’: 10-12”
2,500’: 15-16”
3,000’: 18-20”

As the numbers reveal, there’s a huge snow depth gradient above 2,000’ – you’re basically looking at the depth going up about an inch every 100’ of vertical. Now those numbers are for total snowpack depth because I’m not sure if I’d be able to distinguish exactly what portion came from this most recent storm, but much of it was from this storm (as Bolton’s summit storm total of 15” would suggest).

The Wilderness Uphill Route has a beautifully packed skin track in place at this point, so travel on the snow is easy. And getting back to that discussion of snow density, it’s not Sierra Cement. In the higher elevations, the density going several inches down into the snowpack is sub-10% H2O powder – I’d put it somewhere in the 6 to 8% H2O range if I had to guess. You sink well down into it, I’d say a good foot, and it’s nicely right-side-up. As I mentioned, I brought mid-fats, but fat skis are actually the tool you want (or a snowboard, etc.).

An image of tendrils of snowfall from approaching squalls off toward the west with Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley visible from near the Wilderness Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Tendrils show snow crashing out off to the west of Bolton Valley as more squalls get set to hit the mountain.
An image of ski tracks on the Upper Fanny Hill trail after 15 inches of snow from Winter Storm Cait at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching the third set of tracks down Upper Fanny Hill today on the prodigious snow left from Winter Storm Cait

It was quickly obvious on my ascent that some decent pitch would be required for turns, so I toured all the way to the top of Wilderness.  I checked out Bolton Outlaw, and it had seen enough traffic to track it up pretty thoroughly, so I continued on to Upper Fanny Hill and put the third set of tracks down there. I continued on to Fanny Hill proper and got probably the fourth set of tracks there. The powder skiing is fantastic as long as you’ve got at least intermediate pitch. Shallower than that and the powder is just too deep to keep decent momentum (and that’s another reason to bring fat skis because you can make use of that extra floatation).

In terms of snow quality, it’s as I described at elevation, and of course the overall depth decreases as you descend, but the quality stays high right down to 2,000’. Only just as you approach 2,000’ do you encounter any sort of snow quality issues, and there’s a slight crème brûlée crust in there a couple of inches below the surface where there must have been a bit of warming. At that elevation it’s still quite subtle and you can essentially ignore it.

As Bolton’s snow report indicates, the resort is considering expanding their open terrain thanks to this storm, and moving to some of the natural snow terrain is pretty obvious at this point. We’ll have to see which terrain can hold up to lift-served traffic, but I can’t believe there’s not more talk about this storm and what it could do for the start of the season. This storm was a total liquid equivalent bomb, and not only that, the snow is good to go. This storm was an absolute season-starter. Sometimes storms like this come in so dense or warm, that the tenor will be “This is going to be a great base as soon as we get some good snow on top of it”. Well, there’s no need to wait, the snow is already good to go, and it’s currently getting covered more with the snow from today. It’s not every day you get such a base-building storm that immediately offers up fantastic midwinter skiing. We didn’t even have to wait until December for this one – it somehow snuck in during November, which is another great bonus.

Bolton Valley, VT 22NOV2023

A black and white image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder from a pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm while ski touring in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in some fresh snow from a pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm up at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty was free this morning and joined me for some ski touring in the fresh powder up at Bolton Valley.

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!

An image of snow sliding off a car as temperatures warm in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of today’s snow sliding off the windshield of a car as temperatures warm in the Bolton Valley Village

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.

An image of a snowman and snow on some rooves of condominiums after a pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Folks had clearly been out having fun with all the new snow in the Bolton Valley Village

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 14NOV2023

An image showing fresh snow atop some cars in one of the Village parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a mid-November snowfall
An image of the snow conditions on the the Lower Turnpike trail after some early November snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the natural snow conditions at about 2,500′ on Lower Turnpike today.

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:

340’: T

1,000’: T-1”

1,200’: T-2”

1,500’: 1-2”

2,000’: 2-3”

2,250’: 3-5”

2,500’: 4-6”

An image of a pickup truck covered in snow from a mid-November storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A truck in one of the Village parking lots displays a bit of the snow that fell from this recent November storm

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.

An image of a Nordic skier disappearing into the clouds while out on a mid-November tour of the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Nordic skier out for a Village tour disappears into the low clouds that enveloped the mountains today.