Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 20JAN2024

An image of evergreens and mountains obscured by snowfall in the Beaver Pond area of the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Caribou's Corner sign in the Beaver Pond area of the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley ski Resort in Vermont
Passing by Caribou’s Corner on my ski tour today in the Beaver Pond area of Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network

Since today’s forecast was in the single digits F, and there was the possibility of wind as well, ski touring seemed like the natural choice vs. riding the lifts. In addition, our current weather system, while certainly enough to freshen up surfaces, isn’t expected to be large enough to really reset the powder in areas that had been recently skied.

With the cold temperatures, and the way the depth and quality of the snowpack has been improving over the past week or two, I decided that I’d tour in some relatively low elevations nearby to see what potential they held. I started my tour at the Catamount Trail access area at roughly 1,200’ on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and did a ski tour up to the Buchanan Shelter near the 2,200’ elevation. That’s not a heavily used part of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, so I suspected that untracked powder would be relatively plentiful.

While I was out touring in the afternoon, light snow fell continuously, and throughout the tour I checked powder depths above the highest detectable subsurface layer in the snowpack. The powder depth profile I found with respect to elevation was as follows:

1,200′: 6-8”
1,500′: 6-8”
1,800′: 7-8”
2,000′: 7-8”
2,200′: 8-9”

Even with cold temperatures, powder of the 3-4% H2O variety that we recently received from Winter Storm Heather can’t sustain that level of loft forever. Indeed, the powder I encountered today had settled down to something more in the 6-8% H2O range, so the numbers above are the depths to which the surface snow has currently settled. Obviously all these recent storms continue to push the useful snowpack to lower and lower elevations, so overall snowpack depth wasn’t an issue even down to the 1,200’ mark. It’s hard to get estimates of the total snowpack depth because the lower layers are so settled and thick, but the snowpack is maybe a couple feet deep down at 1,200’? While I don’t have an exact number, even if there was only a foot of base below the powder, it’s so consolidated and flush with liquid equivalent that it would easily do the job.

An image of the roofline of the Buchanan Shelter out on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A shot of the Buchanan Shelter while I transition for my descent

In terms of the skiing, the best turns were certainly up in the slopes just below the Buchanan Shelter where there is some solid pitch up into the black diamond realm. The approach portions of the tour have enough pitch to make a nice glide out and grab a few low-angle turns in certain spots, but with the current depths and density of the powder, descent speed is on the slower side right now. Also, cold temperatures like these reduce ski glide somewhat due to less melting, so that factors in as well. In the slopes up by the Buchanan Shelter I had the run of the area though in terms of fresh tracks. One person had recently skied back down the Beaver Pond Access Trail, but that was even a bit old, so it must have been from a couple of storms ago. Off in the trees, there were no prior tracks of any kind, so I had my pick of the most open lines, streambeds, chutes, etc. Fat skis were the call, and turns were definitely bottomless, but the best turns came from hitting those correct areas that appropriately accommodated the pitch, powder depth, cold snow, tree spacing, and all that.  There were some excellent powder turns on the tour though, so even down to the lower elevations in the ~1,000’ range, the current snowpack is really delivering.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a ski tour up to the Buchanan Shelter on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour out on Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry Network

Bolton Valley, VT 17JAN2024

An image of a sign reading "DO NOT PILE SNOW HERE" amongst plentiful snow from Winter Storm Heather around some of the condominiums in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image from the White Rabbit area in the sidecountry/backcountry terrain of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont during the back side of Winter Storm Heather
This morning’s ski session was a mix of a little ski touring followed by some lift-served Wilderness turns, and the conditions in the frontcountry and sidecountry I explored are simply fantastic.

By observations time early this morning, the backside snows of Winter Storm Heather had departed and skies here at the house were partly cloudy. The clear skies didn’t really seem to jive with the imminent snow I saw in the forecast, but sure enough, clouds soon began to roll in, and within an hour, flakes were flying.

I decided to get in a quick morning session up at the mountain, and the snowfall continued to intensify as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road. Up in the Village there was steady snowfall, and while it wasn’t the pounding 1-2”/hour snowfall of yesterday, visibility dropped substantially and it felt like we were right back in the meat of the storm. It looks like today’s snow was rolling in from the lake effect snow event off to the west, so we thank our big friend Lake Ontario for that.

An image of moderately heavy snowfall coming down in front of some of the condominiums in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont thanks to some Ontario lake-effect moisture after the departure of Winter Storm Heather
Winter Storm Heather recently finished up, but today we were right back into the snows thanks to some extra moisture from our good friend Lake Ontario.

Wilderness was the hot ticket for skiing today, since the Wilderness Double Chair doesn’t run on Mondays and Tuesdays, and this was the first chance for lift-served access to all the recent snowfall from Winter Storm Heather. I decided to start off with a short workout ski tour using the Wilderness Uphill Route, then stuck around for a bit of lift-served skiing after that.

It’s getting a bit tougher to discern how much powder came specifically from Winter Storm Heather, since it’s just blending in with the layers below it as the subsurface is buried deeper and deeper, but the approximate powder depths I found today were as follows:

2,000’: 6-8”
2,500’: 8-10”
3,000’: 10-12”

There was definitely a bump in powder depths even compared to what we skied yesterday thanks to the additional overnight snow and the new snow that was falling. One obvious clue that depths had increased was the fact that the snow was now getting a bit too deep for low-angle terrain. Moderate angle and steeper terrain are now providing the best powder turns. I had a feeling we’d be getting to that point today, and indeed while I’d been on mid-fats for the past few days, today I bumped up to the fat skis and that was the correct call as long as you were skiing untracked snow.

Bolton Valley is indicating that they’ve picked up roughly 60 inches of snow since the start of the year, which is very solid snowfall total for the first half of the month. Heck, 60 inches of snow is respectable even for a full month’s total at many resorts.

An image of some condominiums with snow on the roof and more snow falling as moisture from Lake Ontario helps to reinvigorate snowfall up at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We’re only halfway through the month, but Bolton Valley has already recorded 60 inches of snow this January, and Mother Nature seems to just want to keep the snow falling at every opportunity.

Bolton Valley, VT 16JAN2024

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the Wilderness Lift Line with the Wilderness Double Chairlift in the background as heavy snow falls from Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty laying down a ski track in fresh powder while Telemark skiing on the Wilderness Lift Line with heavy snow falling from Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Winter Storm Heather blasted into the are this morning, with up to 8 inches of new snow already down by midafternoon to set up some great powder skiing at Bolton Valley

It wasn’t even snowing this morning when Ty and I headed off to Burlington for an early appointment, so we knew we’d be giving Mother Nature some time to get rolling and freshen up the slopes. The snow from Winter Storm Heather started up a couple hours later, and by midafternoon we decided to head up to Bolton Valley for some turns.

We were happy to see that the Timberline Quad was running, so were able to park and start our session right there. Snow was simply pouring down at that point, and my initial measurements revealed storm totals of 4-5” at 2,500’ and 6-8” at 3,000’.

An image of heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Heather at the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Thanks to the arrival of Winter Storm Heather, snow was simply pouring down out of the ski at 1 to 2 inches per hour when we arrived at the Timberline Base today, and it just kept going like that all through the afternoon and into the evening.
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in the trees near Maria's in fresh powder from Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The tree skiing was excellent today with constant refills of fresh powder thanks to heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Heather.

The snow was light and dry (my past couple of liquid analyses from down here in the valley averaged right around 4% H2O), so it was very high quality powder. With such cold smoke snow, you weren’t getting bottomless turns on steep terrain, but you could on low and moderate angle terrain, and the turns were great even if you were contacting the subsurface.

An image of heavy snowfall and accumulations on vehicles in the Timberline parking lot during Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontIt was pounding 1-2”/hour snow the entire time we were on the mountain, so one could easily tack on another couple inches or so to the storm totals by closing time, and it even kept snowing into the evening.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 15JAN2024

An image of evergreens along the Birch Loop trail past the Bryant Cabin on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some of the glades below the Gotham City area with lots of untracked powder snow in the Nordic and Backcountry Network of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down through some of the glades below Gotham City today during my tour on the Bolton Nordic and Backcountry Network

In this morning’s update, Bolton Valley  was reporting an additional 3-5” of snow from yesterday’s lake-effect snow and snow squalls. The other recent snowfall numbers they had in their report looked solid, with 12” in the last two days, 27″ since Tuesday night and more than 48” for the first half of the month. The season snowfall for the resort currently stands at 157”, and that’s very respectable since it’s already about half their annual snowfall average when we’re not even halfway through the snowfall season.  What makes that pace more impressive is that they’ve had all that snowfall despite the second half of December being quite lean on snow. That really speaks to how much has been falling up there during the snowier periods.

An image showing cars with snow in one of the Village parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the cars nearby my parking spot showing the accumulations from recent snows in the area

There was no new snow falling today, which was somewhat notable because this morning’s snow report also indicated that if the current forecast for tomorrow’s snow comes through, they’ll be looking at 14 out of the first 16 days of 2024 with snowfall. With today’s break in the falling snow, I figured it was time to head out for a tour on the backcountry network as a reliable route to untracked powder.

I decided to head up the Bryant Trail to Bryant Cabin in the afternoon, and play it by ear with respect to lengthening my tour, depending on how my supply of daylight was looking. I was well ahead of sunset when I was up at Bryant Cabin, therefore I just continued on up to the Catamount Trail Glades so I could get in some turns in the higher elevations. Based on my recent outings at the resort, I knew that conditions improved a lot with elevation, so I wanted to get a good sampling of the powder up high. I topped out at an elevation of about 3,100’ on the back side of Bolton Mountain, descended through the Catamount Trail Glades, and then traversed back above Bryant Cabin and navigated a route through another half dozen different glades back to the base. Today definitely had a nice midwinter vibe, with bright afternoon sun, temperatures somewhere around 20 F, and great powder.

An image from the bottom of the Devil's Drop area showing the nearby platform structure out on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Passing below the Devil’s Drop area while out on today’s ski tour

The surface powder and upper snowpack analysis was really interesting today. Starting my tour around 2,000’ in the Village, I found 4-5” of surface powder, and then there was a fairly solidified layer below it. That layer marks the wet snow that recently came from Winter Storm Gerri, which hardened up somewhat as temperatures dropped back below freezing. The surface snow above it is from the snow on the back side of the storm, plus the additional drier snows that have fallen over the past couple of days. As you ascend to higher elevations though, that firmer layer gradually begins to soften, and then above 2,500’ it starts to disappear altogether. At that point there is another substantial subsurface layer, which I suspect comes from Winter Storm Finn. So, monitoring the elevation profile for the depths of the powder was bit unusual. Compared to the 2,000’ elevation, I didn’t detect any notable increase in the powder depths at 2,250’, but at 2,500’ it finally started to deeper, and as I continued higher, I could still sort of detect an interface from Winter Storm Gerri, but it eventually became hard to discern. So, what I’ve done for the surface snow depth elevation profile below is to indicate those different layers, with the first depth being snow down to the dense layer from Winter Storm Gerri, and the second being the depth of the snow down to the dense layer from Winter Storm Finn.

2,000’: 4-5”
2,250’: 4-5”
2,500’: 5-6”/8-10”
2,750’: 6-7”/10-12”
3,000’: 7-8”/14-16”

At some point between 2,500’ and 3,000’ that first depth number sort of becomes moot, and you’re essentially skiing in the 8-16” of powder depending on elevation, so go I’d say go in with that mentality. In terms of getting out there in the backcountry around this part of the Northern Greens, I’d recommend touring above 2,500’ if you can for the best turns. I went with mid-fats on today’s tour, but you could easily go with fat skis if you’re going to spend most of your time above 2,500’.  When I was up in the Catamount Trail Glades in the 3,000’ range, fat skis would have been nice, except in some of the denser areas of evergreens where they have trapped so much of the snowfall on their boughs, that you actually notice the deficiency of powder below.

An image containing a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network of trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

The system that is expected to come into the area tomorrow is name Winter Storm Heather, and any snow from that should really be icing on the cake in terms of the ski conditions. Temperatures are forecast to stay cold, so you can pretty much take the powder depths I have above and then tack on whatever new snow comes next.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A copy of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map which lists the trails and many of the official glades

Bolton Valley, VT 14JAN2024

An image from behind of Erica Telemark skiing in untracked powder snow on the Lower Tattle Tale trail after Winter Storm Gerri hit Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica making Telemark turns in  untracked powder snow on the Snowflake Bentley trail after Winter Storm Gerri and Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E getting some fresh turns on Snowflake Bentley during this morning’s outing at Bolton Valley

With the additional overnight snowfall, Bolton was reporting a total of 9 inches from Winter Storm Gerri as of their early morning report. And, since the Timberline Quad didn’t open yesterday due to winds, today would also be its inaugural run of the season. E and I figured the chance to visit the Timberline terrain that nobody has really skied at all up to this point was a nice bonus.

Based on the conditions I encountered yesterday, I really expected the main mountain to offer the best conditions today, especially above 2,500’ where the snow was never too wet. However, there was always the chance that the lower elevation Timberline terrain would still surprise us due to all the fresh snow. After our first lift ride on the Timberline Quad, the lift actually had to go off line for a time due to a mechanical issue, so heading to the main mountain turned out to be the appropriate option anyway.

An image of Erica making Telemark turns in untracked powder snow on the Snowflake Bentley trail with birch trees in the background after Winter Storm Gerri at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E dives into some of Winter Storm Gerri’s fresh powder.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of fresh tracks to be had out there today, but I’d actually say the snow quality below 2,500’ was a notch beneath what it was when I was out yesterday afternoon/evening. Yesterday I was skiing in 6 to 7 inches of powder off Snowflake, but the bottom few inches of that snow must have still be fairly wet at that point because we found it had thickened up with today’s cooler temperatures. So, it meant that today we were only skiing in the top few inches of powder and contacting that denser snow below if we pressured our turns hard enough. As long as you had untracked snow, it was nice skiing, but it certainly wasn’t as bottomless as yesterday in those lower elevations. Areas with previous skier traffic ended up with uneven subsurfaces that definitely detracted from the quality of the turns. Thankfully, the dense snow didn’t form anything like a breakable crust, which would have made the skiing much more challenging. On our return trip to the Timberline Base, we did get first tracks down the lower half of Tattle Tale, and that was really sweet, even if the powder wasn’t as bottomless as it would have been yesterday.

Bolton Valley, VT 13JAN2024

An image of two snowboarders riding the Wilderness Double Chairlift as heavy snowfall in the 1 to 2-inch per hour range falls at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont during Winter Storm Gerri
An image of fresh powder snow from Winter Storm Gerri below the Snowflake Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Thanks to some heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Gerri this afternoon, fresh lines of powder were plentiful throughout the resort, especially off the Snowflake Lift where skier traffic had been especially low.

Over the past week, the weather pattern has featured these larger systems with ample snow and moisture, and the most recent one in the series is Winter Storm Gerri. It moved into the area overnight in the wee hours with an initial burst of heavy snow. The front end snow in this case wasn’t as potent as it was with Winter Storm Finn that came through midweek, so when we saw that Bolton Valley was indicating only 2 inches of new snow in their early morning report, we knew there was no need to rush right up to the mountain.

We watched the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam through the morning and could see that up at 2,100’, the precipitation was snow, and it was quite heavy at times. Dylan and Colin headed up to the mountain in the early afternoon, and we asked them to give us an update on what they found. Their impressions were that the snow surfaces were rather wet, and they said the precipitation was even mixed with rain in the lower elevations at times, so E figured that instead of skiing, she’d hold off until the snow got better. I took another look at the webcam feed and saw that there was heavy snow falling, and decided that it would definitely be worth it to head up for some lift-served runs.

An image of heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Gerri with condominiums in the background in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heavy snowfall in the Bolton Valley Village this afternoon as Winter Storm Gerri continues to affect the area

Heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road, the precipitation switched over to all snow at roughly the 1,000’ elevation, and above that the road was quickly covered. The road conditions must have been getting a bit slick with the new snowfall because I had to drive around a van that was stuck trying to make it up the steep s-curve below Timberline. I had actually planned to park at Timberline and start my session there, but the Timberline Quad was apparently on wind hold, so I had to continue on up to the main base area. I arrived up in the Village to very heavy snowfall in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range, and with the intensity of that snowfall, there was just no way that the turns weren’t going to be great.

An image of snow falling during Winter Storm Gerri on cars in a parking lot in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Arriving up in the Bolton Valley Village this afternoon I was greeted steady snowfall and cars quickly getting covered in new snow

During my afternoon session I managed to get in runs on all the rest of the lifts, and heavy snow continued to pound the resort at all elevations. It was windy, especially at the Vista and Wilderness Summits above 3,000’, but thankfully the wind was from the west and at your back while you rode the lifts. After my first couple of runs, the lights were coming on, and I got to ski Spillway in night mode. I always find it exciting to be able to ski something that steep under the lights, and I knew that the conditions on Spillway were going to be really good because you couldn’t hear anything from the turns of the skiers and snowboarders below you as you passed over them on the Vista Quad. Indeed, my own experience on the trail revealed that the conditions on Spillway were simply fantastic; new snow was falling so heavily that it must have been covering up an slick spots faster than skiers could push the snow away.

I did notice that below the Mid Mountain elevations (~2,500’), the groomed/packed ski surfaces did have that “wet pack” feel that I’ve encountered in the lower elevations of Whistler Blackcomb. That’s usually a sign that some very wet snow has fallen and was packed by skier traffic. I could see what Dylan was talking about with respect to the wet surface conditions, but at the point that I was up there, those conditions were hard to find because temperatures were falling, and it was snowing so hard that those types of wet surfaces were covered up in all but the highest traffic areas. Some of the best turns I found were near the end of my ski session when I visited the Snowflake Chair. That area hadn’t seen much skier traffic, so I found a lot of fresh powder that skied beautifully. I did numerous depth checks and was consistently getting new snow depths of 6 to 7 inches. There was enough powder there that I questioned whether it was all from just this storm, but when Bolton’s afternoon snow update came in and they were reporting storm totals of 5 to 7 inches, that nicely corroborated my measurements.

An image with snow in the air and snow on skis and snowboards at a ski rack near the base lodge during Winter Storm Gerri at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAll this new snow is a great addition to the snowpack, but even without it, one thing I noticed while out on the mountain today was the huge jump that the snowpack has taken since last weekend. I hadn’t been up to the mountain since Sunday, and at that time, patrol was just starting to open up more areas of natural snow terrain as coverage improved thanks to Winter Storm Ember. The contributions made by Winter Storm Finn must have been huge though, because the resort has now been able to open up just about everything, and everywhere I looked this evening, coverage felt like midwinter. As I look back now at my storm data, I guess I see the difference – Winter Storm Ember dropped 0.69 inches of liquid equivalent here at our site, while Winter Storm Finn dropped 1.99 inches of liquid equivalent. That’s almost triple the amount of liquid, and when you get up around 2 inches of liquid equivalent, that starts to become a serious resurfacing of the slopes. Winter Storm Gerri has already dropped about an inch of liquid equivalent here at the house, and the back side snow is still coming through, so that’s simply adding yet another great layer to the snowpack. All told, this past week of storms has dropped almost 4 inches of liquid equivalent here at our house in the valley, so it must have put down at least 4 to 5 inches plus of liquid equivalent for the mountains. When I look at the numbers, I realize now why the snowpack seems to have improved so much so quickly. When I was riding the Wilderness Chair today, I actually saw a ski patroller skiing the headwall of the Wilderness Lift Line to check the snow. You know the snowpack is getting decent when that headwall is even close to being skiable, so the fact that he was even testing it speaks volumes about how things have gone over the past week.

An image of snow falling from Winter Storm Gerri near the Hotel and Village Circle area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A scene from the Bolton Valley Village Circle area this afternoon with snow from Winter Storm Gerri falling in front of the Hotel

Bolton Valley, VT 07JAN2024

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in powder from the beginning of Winter Storm Ember in the Hide Away area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder from the beginning of Winter Storm Ember in the Hide Away area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty drops a knee as he dives into some of the Bolton Valley powder delivered by the start of Winter Storm Ember today.

January snowfall is rolling along now with the appearance of our first major weather system of the month, and thus our first big event of the new year. Winter Storm Ember began to affect the area last night, and Bolton Valley was indicating that an additional 3 to 4 inches of new had fallen as of their early morning report. E and I headed up with Ty a couple hours later to catch the opening of the lifts, and there was probably another inch or two down by that point because it was snowing at a decent clip. Even more notable though was the wind – it was easterly and quite strong, and it was hitting you right in the face while riding the Vista Quad. Combined with temperatures in the teens F, our storm gear was definitely earning its keep and was highly appreciated.

Based on my analyses from the house, the mountain had seen probably about a half inch of liquid equivalent by that point. Combined with the several small storms we’ve had over the past week as we’ve kicked off January, it was a decent contribution to resurfacing, but certainly not at the point where patrol could simply drop the ropes on all the natural snow terrain. The snow was enough to open up certain natural snow areas like the Enchanted Forest, but at that point of the storm there just wasn’t enough liquid equivalent down to get the steepest terrain going. There was plenty of terrain open to enjoy the fresh powder though, and we knew additional trails would open as the storm continued to deliver more snow.

An image of Ty catching some air in the Hide Away terrain park area during the beginning of Winter Storm Ember at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty catching some air in the Hide Away terrain park area today as we enjoy the fresh snow from Winter Storm Ember
An image of a snowcat with fresh snow falling during Winter Storm Ember in the Village are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some midmorning accumulations on the Village snowcat as Winter Storm Ember starts to deliver fresh powder to the slopes of Bolton Valley

In the late morning Ty had to head off to work, but Dylan son and his college friends who are staying over for a mini ski vacation were headed up for some runs, so we got to ski with them. The fierce winds from the morning had abated to essentially nothing, so that made the lift rides much more comfortable. A depth check I made around noontime in undisturbed snow at about mid-mountain elevation revealed 9 inches of surface snow, which was probably the combination of what had fallen from this storm on top of the lighter amounts from our other recent storms.

After we left in the early afternoon, I heard that they began to open some steep terrain like Schuss, so the storm was definitely having an impact on replenishing coverage in areas that needed it. The resort was reporting 9 inches of new snow as of closing bell, but with the way it’s been snowing around here this evening, I’m sure they’ll have picked up more by tomorrow morning.

Bolton Valley, VT 06JAN2024

An image of a ski patroller walking through snowfall during a January storm in the main base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fluffy snow on evergreens near the mid station of the Wilderness Double Chairlift in early January at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow from the frequent smaller storms that have come through the area this January adorns some the evergreens near the Wilderness mid station.

With the additional snow that was falling during yesterday’s afternoon/evening ski tour, plus another round of snowfall that came through this afternoon, today seemed like another good opportunity to head up to the mountain for a quick ski tour. Snow was falling all the way down in the bottom of the Winooski Valley, and it intensified as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road. Today was another snowy day, and although none of these past few systems have been huge, the continued accumulations day after day have definitely been having an impact on the quality of the conditions.

Compared to yesterday, I started my tour earlier today, and running out of light wasn’t an issue, so I was able to tour up to about 2,700’ instead of just 2,500’. Relative to the accumulations I saw yesterday, the combination of new snow and settling didn’t appear to change the new snow depths too much in the lower elevations as of this afternoon, but I definitely noticed an increase starting at around 2,500’, and the depth continued to increase above that level as well. Here’s the comparative new snow depth profiles between yesterday and today:

320’: 0-1” –> 0-1”
1,000’: 1-2” –> 1-2”
1,500’: 2-3” –> 2-3”
2,000’: 2-3” –> 2-3”
2.500’: 2-3” –> 3″
2,700’: 3-4”

With the available daylight and more time to tour today, I was able to choose some alternate areas of Wilderness that had mostly untracked snow. Getting into the untracked snow made for dramatically better skiing, and I was starting to even get into some bottomless turns on the lower angle slopes.

From my tours yesterday and today, I found that the water bars on the lower slopes of Wilderness were generally in good shape with respect to coverage, so there shouldn’t be any issues there if they decide to open that are for lift-served skiing. Based on what I’ve seen over these couple days of ski touring at Wilderness, the skiing is already quite decent there and it’s really going to take off with even a few additional inches of snow.

An image of a "Lift Closed" sign coated with a bit of fresh snow in early January at the base of the Wilderness Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow coats a sign at the base of the Wilderness Chair, which is currently the domain of only those who are ski touring via the Wilderness Uphill Route.

Next in the storm parade we’ve got Winter Storm Ember moving into the area, and it looks poised to put down a couple inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains and valleys.  That should make for a dramatic increase in snowpack depths, and there should be a lot of additional terrain opening. Dylan has a number of college friends staying over at the house for a ski vacation during winter break, and we’ll all likely be heading out tomorrow to ski the new snow. I’ll put together an update of what we find!  

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2024

An image of snowflakes in the night skiing lights as a minor cold front passes through at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Wilderness Double Chairlift with light accumulations of snow from a recent small weather system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Light accumulations of snow from our most recent weather system sit atop the chairs of the Wilderness Lift this afternoon as I head out on a ski tour.

We’ve only reach the 5th day of January, but we’ve already had three minor systems affect the Northern Greens area so far this month in the form of troughs, cold fronts, and localized snow bands. As of this morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 5 inches of new snow in the past 48 hours, and the snow report also indicated that the Wilderness Uphill Route had been officially reopened up to Peggy Dow’s. I figured that was a good sign that natural snow terrain coverage and conditions were getting back toward something a bit more normal, so I decided to hit the mountain for an afternoon ski tour.

Heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road, snowfall began to pick up with elevation, and there was steady light to moderate snow falling in the Village. I’d left Burlington a bit later than I’d wanted to, so daylight was fading when I started my tour. So, I only had time to tour up to near 2,500’, and I stuck to skiing Lower Turnpike due to the encroaching darkness.

Settled accumulations of new snow that I encountered from the base of the access road up to the top of my ski tour were as follows:

320’: 0-1”
1,000’: 1-2”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 2-3”
2.500’: 2-3”

As the profile indicates, there really wasn’t much of a detectable increase in new snow depths between 1,500’ and 2,500’. Lower Turnpike was fairly well packed from ski touring traffic, and with the low light, I didn’t venture too far from the heart of the trail, but the surface was relatively soft and quiet. The turns certainly weren’t bottomless since I was mostly on the skier packed snow, but I did manage to find some untracked areas toward the edges, and those were very nice.

An image of beer taps with pizza in the background showing the Fireside Flatbread restaurant at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stopping in for a couple of slices at Fireside Flatbread after my late afternoon ski tour. It was my first visit to Fireside Flatbread this season, and their crust was as fantastic as ever!

The snow that was falling was definitely accumulating – even after a relatively short tour, I had to clean off my car when I got back to it. The snowfall did taper down in intensity as I descended back into the Winooski Valley, but even at the valley bottom we were still getting some accumulation.

Bolton Valley, VT 28DEC2023

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in soft snow on the Hard Luck trail during the Christmas holiday week at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Today we were happy to find steep slopes like Spillway and Hard luck loaded with soft snow for some fun, steep holiday week turns.

As of mid-December, Bolton Valley had already reported 100 inches of snow on the season, and with most of that falling from mid-November onward, it created a solidly snowy stretch. That period offered a ton of great skiing here in the Northern Greens, so the end of November into the first couple weeks of December was quite a whirlwind of trying to make time to get out for turns while also finishing up the busy fall semester period. It’s always best when the snowstorms keep rolling through, but when snowfall slowed down during the mid-month period, it was actually nice to be able to finally catch up with everything else in life that had been put on the back burner due to all the time spent out on the hill.

The family has been able to catch our breath the past couple of days after a busy period of holiday activities, and since I’ve been hearing about the nice soft conditions out there on the local slopes, E and I decided to head up to the mountain for some turns this afternoon. The snow report indicated that skier traffic was fairly light today, and I guess that makes sense – with no major snowstorms in the past week or so, there’s really no pressure to run out immediately and get after the fresh powder, so I assume a lot of folks have taken the same approach we have. We watched the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam for a while today and could see that skier traffic was indeed fairly light.

We arrived at the mountain in the mid-afternoon period, and the top tiers of the parking lots were fairly full, but there were some open spots in the first lot due to folks who had already left. We often find that this ends up being the case around mid-afternoon because some people have left, and you’re still ahead of the bump in visitors that arrive as night skiing kicks off.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on the Hard Luck trail during the Christmas holiday week at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica getting in some Telemark turns today on Hard Luck

Skies were mostly cloudy with a few breaks of blue when we started our session, and the top of Vista Peak from about 2,800’ on up was hidden in the clouds. Temperatures were in the upper 30s F, and there wasn’t any wind in the lower elevations, so it was a very comfortable time for suiting up at the car. Even with temperatures in the just the 30s F, the snow was soft at all elevations because it’s been warm enough over the past couple days that the snow isn’t freezing up too thoroughly. You can find some firm patches out there in high traffic areas, but most of the snow is loose, pliable, and nicely carvable.

A black and white image of Jay Telemark skiing on the Hard Luck trail during the Christmas holiday week at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
It may not have been steep and deep today with the relatively mild conditions, but it was at least steep and soft with trails like Hard Luck available.

I was quite impressed with the number of trail options available from the Vista Summit. I remarked to E that compared to when I was last up there on the 12th after one of our larger storms, there are actually a lot more options now. Back at mid-month, many routes were closed due to snowmaking and ski patrol marking obstacles, but with the colder temperatures following that storm, the resort was able to finish up their snowmaking and open up those routes. So while natural snow trails like Vermont 200 that were open at the point are closed because the coverage isn’t quite there, steep favorites like Spillway and Hard Luck are now available with deep coverage thanks to snowmaking. Alta Vista was also open, and I don’t think that’s been open yet on any of the days I’ve been up on Vista.

We heard a lot of foreign accents around the base area and out on the slopes today, so it seems like Bolton has a good number of international visitors for the holiday week. Indeed skier traffic was fairly light, but the scene was definitely lively enough, so the folks who are visiting are getting quite a good mix of soft snow, comfortable temperatures, winter holiday vibes, and elbow room on the slopes. This is a blackout period for folks who have restricted season’s passes, so that’s probably helping to reduce holiday week skier numbers a bit as well.

With the late December daylight period, the night skiing lights were already coming on by about 3:00 P.M. or so, and as we were leaving a bit after 4:00 P.M., low clouds rolled into the base area dramatically, just as I noticed a dense fog advisory on my phone. The fog moving in with the night skiing lights definitely pumped up the solstice vibe at that point.

An image of a car roof top cargo box with stickers from various locations in North America located in one of the parking lots of the Village during the Christmas holiday week at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We heard a lot of foreign accents out on the slopes today, and saw a lot of people from out of state, so visitors were definitely livening up the resort for the holidays. It was hard to guess where the owner of this fun cargo box hailed from , but the license plate on the car was New Jersey!

Tomorrow might be the last day to catch this soft snow, because it sounds like snow and colder temperatures are in the forecast starting tomorrow night. With that shift we’re going to need to get enough fresh snow down to get back to soft skiing, but at least the dividends of all those early season winter storms are still present in the form of the snowpack in the higher elevations. It won’t take too much new snow to get a lot of natural snow terrain back in action, so we look forward to Mother Nature helping out soon.