I haven’t been up to the mountain since Tuesday, but Dylan was out for some lift-served turns on Wednesday with friends and he said that Bolton’s conditions were fantastic. Similar to what I’d observed on Tuesday, he said there was a still a lot of roped terrain due to various hazards, but he also noted that his group was able to ski lower down on Preacher, and the untracked powder was going strong. That area is well protected from winds, and with the lower traffic due to the current need to traverse in, he said that conditions in there were better than he often sees in midwinter. The resort had also opened up the lower part of Wilderness that can be easily accessed from Vista, and he said the powder there was excellent as well.
Since it hasn’t snowed for a couple of days, I decided that the timing would be good to head out onto Bolton’s Backcountry Network. This was my first time out on the Network this season, so it was a great opportunity to see where the snowpack stands. In terms of skiing the glades, coverage is quite good, and there are no major issues there. Out in the glades is feels like something that is approaching a midwinter snowpack, but what gives it away that we’re not quite there yet are the water bars on the main access trails. Some water bars are fine, but there are many that seem like they are stuck in early season condition, probably because they got blown out somewhat by the warm start to the last system. I haven’t noticed that issue quite as much on the lift-served terrain, likely because the grooming and greater skier traffic help to pack in the water bars more, but those factors aren’t there to tamp down the snow on the backcountry terrain. There are a number of spots on the Bryant Trail where people have diverted the skin track around the water bar area instead of trying to bridge it.
Today we toured up the classic route to the Bryant Cabin, and then descended through some of the more popular glades. I was surprised to find that even above 2,000’ the temperature was edging above the freezing mark, so the snow was getting a bit thick in some areas. This effect seemed to diminish with elevation, and thankfully most of the powder skied well and wasn’t sticky, probably because the air is still fairly dry. As we descended below 2,500’, we started to run into areas where the powder became sticky, and I figured it was due to elevation, but we got back into drier powder in lower areas and that makes me think the stickiness was just in areas that had seen the sun. In any event, even with the temperatures being a bit marginal, there’s still plenty of good powder out there at elevation if you avoid areas that got hit by the sun.
It’s not surprising that the backcountry snowpack is getting a midwinter feel, because the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is at 40 inches, and that’s the depth at which people start to feel comfortable skiing most off piste terrain around here. Those water bars in certain areas do seem to give it away that we’re still in early season though. Bolton’s snow report indicates that they are just shy of 100 inches of snow on the season, and I see that Jay Peak is reporting 115 inches on the season, so both resorts seem to have done well with these early season storms we’ve had thus far. We’re within a couple inches of average snowfall to date down at our site in the valley, but I bet those numbers from the resorts are ahead of their average pace due to the substantial elevation-dependence we’ve see with these recent systems. In any event, 100” of snow by mid-December is a solid start to the season, even at elevation in the Northern Greens.