Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03FEB2024

An image of fresh snow on a trail sign for the Brant Trail on the Nordic and Backcountry network of ski trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of icicles and fresh snow on the roof of the Bryant Cabin along the Nordic and Backcountry Network of ski trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow and icicles adorn the roof of Bryant Cabin as I make my way through the area on today’s Bolton Valley backcountry ski tour

The clipper system that came through the area at the end of the week had been shown in the modeling for quite a while. Some of the earlier runs even suggested the potential for additional upslope snow on the back side of the system, but that component faded in the prognostications as the week wore on, and the system was essentially a clipper passing north of the area. Yesterday morning’s early snow reports of 2 to 3 inches for the Northern Greens resorts were somewhat encouraging, and that was bolstered by PF’s comments from Stowe indicating that the snow wasn’t just fluff – it had some substance to it.

After a consistent run of storm cycles throughout January, we’re in a relatively slow period of snowfall right now. We haven’t had a substantial storm in several days, and it looks like it will be at least a few more until our next one, so this is likely our best immediate window of fresh snow. With that in mind, it seemed like a good day to get our for some turns, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for some touring on the backcountry network.

An image of the top of an evergreen encased in rime ice as viewed during a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Rime adorns the top of an evergreen, which was a frequent sight throughout my ski tour today.

Starting from the Village at around 2,000’, I skinned up past Bryant Cabin to roughly 2,800’ on Heavenly Highway. The new snow depths were very much as advertised, with 2 to 3 inches of powder throughout that entire elevation range. There really wasn’t much increase in the snowfall totals at those elevations where I was touring, but the totals definitely started to tail off below 2,000’. I can’t say exactly how much fell at 1,500’, but it was noticeably less, and once you got below 1,000’ there was no new snow. At some point in the past several days there’s also been some riming in the mountains; you can see the rime on the trees at various elevations throughout the resort.

An image of branches coated with rime ice viewed during a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWith the available snow I stuck to low-angle glades for as much of my descent as possible, and as noted, the new powder had some substance to it so the turns would up being quite decent. On mid-fats I was probably getting 25-50% bottomless turns on terrain with the appropriate pitch. And even when touching down, the turns were still feeling very good because the subsurface has some pliability – it’s certainly dense, but nothing like the sheet of ice that would result from a big rainstorm followed by a refreeze. The base snow is soft enough that you can punch down into the snowpack if you’re not on a floatation device like skis or snowshoes, and I saw numerous signs of this happening where snowboarders or hikers were traversing areas in boots.

An image showing one of the gladed areas with fresh snow on the Nordic and Backcountry network of trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Thanks to our recent clipper system, there was enough new powder to make for great skiing on many of the lower angle glades and similar terrain areas of the Bolton valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

For the last part of my tour on the backcountry network I worked my way along Gardiner’s Lane and made good use of the low-angle terrain there. In many areas I was able to explore lines that you often can’t hit because the powder is too deep to sustain good momentum, but they were great today, so I experienced a lot of new sections of the network that I often breeze past.

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

I connected onto the alpine trails at Lower Turnpike for the last part of my tour, and let’s just say, if you didn’t get out for lift-served turns around here today, you’re really not missing anything. Lower Turnpike typically maintains some of the highest quality snow on the alpine trails because of relatively low skier traffic, modest pitch, and good protection from the wind. Even there, the surface was firm unless I was able to get into the untracked powder off to the sides, and if the snow is firm on Lower Turnpike you know it’s going to be very rough elsewhere. I don’t actually have to imagine what the conditions were like on the main trails though, because some friends sent us video of their son snowboarding today, and the sound of his board on the snow was excruciating. That’s probably going to be a common situation until the next substantial storm comes into the area or it gets very warm, so we’ll be looking for Mother Nature to get another good winter storm system through here as soon as possible.

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

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 05FEB2023

An image of the Bryant Cabin during a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Alchemist glade on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The quality of the powder out on the mountain today was excellent – even south-facing Alchemist had soft, fluffy conditions.

I hadn’t been out for any turns since last Sunday when I toured in the Nebraska Valley, so I was eager to see what the mountains had to offer yesterday once the arctic cold departed.  At the end of my tour last weekend, temperatures had risen above freezing in the lower elevations, and then we had those potent winds with the arctic front, both of which could have been insults to the quality of the snow surfaces.

An image of upslope snow clinging to a tree branch on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the snow formations out there in the forest today that were left behind by recent upslope snows.

Today my plan was to keep my skiing fairly simple and close to home, and I decided to tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.  I figured I’d tour up to Bryant Cabin, check out the snow quality, and decide from there if I was going to go any farther.  I was brining minimal camera gear for this outing, so I borrowed Dylan’s backcountry ski pack instead of using my larger one, and I opted for mid-fat Teles instead of going with full fats.  I was definitely feeling light and fast with that setup, and hit Bryant Cabin in under 30 minutes, so I felt that I easily had time to extend my tour.  In addition, the quality of the snow was far better than I’d expected.  We haven’t had a major storm cycle since Winter Storm Kassandra about a week ago, so I didn’t really expect the powder to be very fresh.  Those concerns were sidelined right at the start of my tour though – I did numerous depth checks on my ascent, and even down at 2,000’, the surface snow was 15-20” deep above the base.  Whatever warming had taken place last weekend was clearly below the 2,000’ elevation range.  I’d heard secondhand that the freezing level was somewhere down around the Timberline Base (1,500’), and I guess it never rose much higher than that.  The other concern about the snow had been the effects of the wind, but any drifting and wind crusts were few and far between on the terrain I covered up to Bryant Cabin and beyond.  I ran into many areas where the trees were just caked and choked with upslope snow clinging to every branch at various crazy angles, and snow doesn’t stay like that when it’s been hit by heavy winds.

An image of signs for the Cotton Brook area and nearby locations on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontFinding the snow quality so impressive, I actually decided to continue my tour all the way up to the top of the Catamount Trail Glades around 3,000’ and the powder just kept getting deeper.  Estimates of surface snow depths that I found on my tour were as follows:

 

2,000’: 15-20”
2,500’: ~20”
3,000’: 20-25”

An image of evergreens laden with snow from recent storms along the Catamount Trail on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The evergreens were loaded with snow from recent storms, making for quite a winter wonderland out on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network today.

Untracked areas up in the Catamount Trail Glades were two feet of bottomless powder, and you could easily be fooled into thinking we’d just had a major storm cycle in the past couple of days, not a week ago.  For the rest of my descent I headed down past Bryant Cabin along Gardiner’s Lane and North Slope, and finished off with a connect to Wilderness via Alchemist.  The conditions on Alchemist were perhaps the biggest testament to the quality of the snow, because that area has a hard-core southerly exposure, and things have to be prime to get real quality powder turns there.  I’d say that today I encountered some of the best conditions I’ve ever seen on Alchemist, so the snow over the past week or so has been extremely well preserved.

A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data from a ski tour on February 5th, 2023 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.

It was hard to get a sense for the total snowpack depth while I was out on my tour because it’s getting too deep to probe easily, but the Mansfield snowpack at the stake is at 42”, so the snowpack depth is probably just a bit less than that as you drop to around 3,000’.  While that Mansfield snowpack is a foot below average, we’re getting to the point in the season where being below average is less and less relevant in terms of off piste coverage and skiing quality.  We’re past that 40” mark at the stake, and all the terrain I encountered yesterday was game on, regardless of pitch or obstacles.  I ran the snowpack liquid analysis this morning down at our site in the valley for CoCoRaHS, and there’s 3 inches of liquid equivalent in our snow.  The local mountains probably have double that amount at elevation, so it’s easy to see why the off piste skiing is so good.  If you have 6 inches of liquid equivalent under your feet, that’s going to take care of a lot of terrain, even relatively steep terrain.

Overall, today was fantastic, both in terms of the temperatures and in terms of the snowpack/snow quality.  Temperatures were in the 25-30 F range when I hit the mountain in the afternoon, which was perfect for comfortable skiing while retaining those soft, midwinter snow surfaces.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 23JAN2021

A snowy scene with a skier and cars from the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after some January snowstorms
An image of a snow-covered sign indicating one of the entrances to the backcountry and trail information at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The recent upslope snows were seen covering and clinging to everything today while I was out on a backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley.

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.

An image of a snow-covered evergreen and house after a week of January snows in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snowy scenes were everywhere today around the Bolton Valley Village.

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.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data from today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

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.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 27DEC2018

An image of snowy evergreen branches and the sign for the Coyote Trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing six inches of powder near the Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Roughly a half foot of powder greeted me at the Bryant Cabin as I passed through the area on today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

Last night’s storm marked the fourth bout of snow we’ve had since our warm system leading up to the weekend.  Although none of these recent snowfall events have been very large, the rounds and rounds of snow from these smaller systems have piled up, and today seemed like a great opportunity to check on how the holiday week powder has been building.

With Bolton Valley reporting 7 inches of new snow during the period, I decided that a backcountry day was in order.  Knowing the way snow accumulates on their Nordic and Backcountry Network, I figured there were be plenty of fresh powder for the low to moderate-angle terrain.  Today was actually the first day this season that I’ve headed out onto the Backcountry Network.  With all the snow we’ve had, the backcountry terrain has been ready for skiing since well back in November, but there’s been so much good skiing in bounds that I’ve just been touring there.

“Once I got on trail, I made some depth checks around the 2,000’ elevation and found 5 to 6 inches of settled powder atop the old base.”

I arrived at the resort around noontime and parked in the lower Nordic Center lot – it was just about filling up while I put on my gear, and the parking attendants were getting ready to start the shuttle bus for Timberline parking.  That’s good news for the resort in terms of holiday visitors.  Once I got on trail, I made some depth checks around the 2,000’ elevation and found 5 to 6 inches of settled powder atop the old base.  The depth of the powder didn’t really increase substantially with elevation, and I found roughly 6 inches at 2,700’ by the Bryant Cabin.

An image of fat Telemark skis in a couple inches of powder in one of the Nordic Center parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I was greeted by a fresh couple inches of light powder when I parked my car in the lower Nordic Center parking lot today.

“The snow had been quite nice, with probably 70-80% bottomless turns on my 115 mm skis, so I strapped the skins back on and headed up for another descent.”

From what I’d seen, there was plenty of snow for the tour I’d planned, which involved some new terrain and some area I’d not visited in quite a while.  I started my descent in the trees below the Bryant Cabin (Bryant Woods) and worked my way though there until I reached JJ’s.  Then I crossed the Bryant Trail and hung close to it for a few hundred feet until I got into the lines on the west side (Possum Woods).  None of that terrain has much in the way of actual manicured glades, but the natural tree spacing is just fine for its pitch, and today’s conditions, featuring about a half foot of delicate Champlain Powder™ fluff, were exactly what you needed for it.  Lower down, I merged onto Cup Runneth Over and various trees in that area until I got to the lower loops of World Cup.

An image of a sign announcing custom made sandwiches and maple lattes at the Village Deli at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe snow had been quite nice, with probably 70-80% bottomless turns on my 115 mm skis, so I strapped the skins back on and headed up for another descent.  This time I went for a run in the Coyote area and made my way back toward the Village to hit the deli.  At the Village Deli I discovered something excellent – they are back to making custom made sandwiches!  I immediately texted E and the boys and Stephen the good news, and got myself a maple latte and some sandwiches to take home.

An image of a map with GPS tracking data overlayed onto Google Earth for a backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont on December 27th, 2018
The GPS tracking data from today’s ski tour at Bolton Valley overlayed onto Google Earth

We’ve got a more substantial system coming into the area tonight.  It’s supposed to pass to our west, so we’re expecting some warmth, but this one’s expected to have more snow and much less rain than the last one, so we could get some bolstering of the snowpack out of it.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 13MAR2018

An image of Stephen dropping off Heavenly Highway into some powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Stephen skiing powder in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen enjoying some of the great snow out there in the Bolton Valley backcountry today

Today was a big ski day for Stephen.  He’s been working hard, for what seems like years, to put together an appropriate alpine touring setup for backcountry skiing at a reasonable price.  Over the past few months, the final pieces have finally been coming together.  Despite his son Johannes “stealing” critical pieces of what appeared to be his final setup, the gear swapping, shop visits, adjustments, readjustments, and everything else that tried to get in the way, was eventually settled.  All that remained was finding a day in his busy schedule to actually use his fancy gear.  Today was that day, and the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network was the place.

An image out the window of the Bryant Cabin showing icicles in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe got a fairly early start to give us plenty of time for a tour of whatever length we chose, I figured I’d give Stephen a good introduction to some of my favorite parts of the network that he’d never visited.  We’d be able to adapt the length of the tour as needed to fit energy levels and any equipment issues.  Snowfall from Winter Storm Skylar was just getting started as we began our tour from the sports center, and it intensified on our ascent of the Bryant Trail.  We saw only one other person on our ascent, and with the Bryant Cabin vacant, we were able to check out the upgrades that had been done as we took a quick break.  Clearly the cabin has seen some recent use, because the icicles draped down from the roof were some of the largest I’ve ever seen.

The next leg of our journey took us up to “The Glades” above the Catamount Trail, where we stopped our ascent around 3,100’.  Although the storm occasionally brought us some slightly larger flakes, they were for the most part small, with diameters in the 1 to 2 mm range.  This meant that the new snow was fairly dense, and it was covering everything underneath it quite well.  We continued down into the Cotton Brook Glades on Randy’s and Great White Way, and found some impressive untracked lines.  Stephen had a few good explosions in the powder, but he seemed thankful for most of them as they helped cool him down after the long ascent.  Those steep, tight sections on Randy’s were certainly the most challenging, but Stephen had some of his best turns down in the mellower pitches of Great White Way.  I find that those lower angle areas are some of my favorites as well unless you’ve just picked up two feet of fluff and really need the steeper pitch.

The ascent up from the back side was quite a labor at times.  It’s always tough skinning out in a few spots of that Cotton Brook ascent.  It’s just steep and narrow near the bottom of Randy’s, and there’s no way around it, so you have to try your best to set in switchbacks.  We were fortunate to have use of the old skin track that’s in place, but we were slipping on the steepest pitches.  Stephen was definitely feeling it as he’d take one step forward and what felt like 10 steps back, especially as he was getting used his very first day on his skins, but we made it through that struggle and the pitch of the ascent improved dramatically.  When we cut Stephen’s skins for his skis at full width, I was telling him how I considered that approach a “no brainer” vs. going with anything narrower, and after today’s ascent up from the Cotton Brook area I know he agrees 100%.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a tour in the backcountry at Bolton  Valley Resort in Vermont
GPS tracking data for today’s tour into the Bolton Valley backcountry

We finished off the tour with a line below Heavenly Highway down to Bryant Cabin, then on to Gardiner’s Lane and JJ’s, which delivered one of the best runs I’ve had there.  We’d certainly accumulated a few fresh inches of snow from the storm by that point, which helped make the skiing extra soft.  The Telemark Practice Slope was also aided by all the new snow, and made a nice end to the tour.  Actually, the tour wasn’t quite over at that point because we added on one of the most important parts:  sandwiches at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery.  We even got to chat with Ralph Deslauriers while we were there, and naturally one of the topics of conversation was the very snowy week we’ve got to look forward to.  It sounds like Winter Storm Skylar is going to move up into Northern Maine and wrap some of that abundant Atlantic moisture into the Northern Greens, just like the way things happened last week after Winter Storm Quinn!

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03MAR2018

An image of people riding fat bikes on the Nordic Trails at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont March after a fresh snowfall
An image of the Prayer Flag trail on the Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down through a bit of fresh powder today on the Prayer Flag trail on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network

Yesterday the Northeast was affected by Winter Storm Riley, a whopper of a system with wind gusts reaching 93 MPH in Barnstable on Cape Cod.  On the winter side of the storm, the Catskills were the epicenter for big snowfall, with accumulations reaching 40 inches.  Here in Vermont, the snow totals weren’t quite as outrageous, but the southern resorts still pulled in over a foot of accumulation.  Bolton Valley was reporting 4 inches of new snow from the storm, which seemed like just enough to temp me out for a tour in the new powder.

“I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.”

I headed up to the Village in the mid-morning timeframe with temperatures in the upper 20s F and mostly cloudy skies.  The parking lots were already getting quite full, but there were still a number of parking spots right along Broadway, and I was able to grab one of those.  I actually saw a few folks riding fat bikes on some of the lower Nordic Trails, and it looked like a perfect day to be out on those.  Actually, with the fresh snow, comfortable temperature, and peeks of sun, it was just a gorgeous day to be out on anything – I saw all manner of folks on the trails varying from the bikers, to snowshoers, to Nordic skiers, to backcountry skiers.

A direction arrow and snowy evergreens on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWith only a few inches of new snow, I was looking for some low-angle glades for today’s tour, and I decided to venture across to the west side of the valley for a change.  I kicked things off with a run on Prayer Flag, augmented by ascending a bit farther up the west wall of the valley above the flags to get some extra vertical.  I didn’t have first tracks, but I did catch second tracks, and they were generally bottomless thanks to the dense snow and 115 mm fat skis.  Only when I had to cut hard to stop or adjust for a major obstacle would I get down to the subsurface.  Lower angle was clearly the way to go today though, because down on Brook Run I could see that steeper terrain like the Holden’s Hollow Glades will definitely need another storm before they’ll be back in top form.

Down at the pump house on Broadway, I reskinned my skis and headed back up World Cup to Bryant.  I skied the first half of Cup Runneth Over to start my next run, skipping the steeper bottom half because the new snow just wasn’t sufficient for that pitch.  Cup Runneth Over had seen a couple of skiers, but there was ample fresh snow remaining and the turns were generally very nice.  I finished out with some of the usual glades in the World Cup area, and even caught part of the Telemark Practice Slope, which had actually seen minimal traffic.

A Google Earth Map with GPS Tracking Data for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A map of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

The classic end to the tour was of course a visit to the Village Deli to grab some subs with that fantastic new bread they’ve got.  I didn’t see Gus today, but the Deli was really hummin’ with just about every table filled.  It sounds like we might have another storm affecting the area this coming week, so we’ll certainly be watching that potential over the next few days.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 30DEC2017

An image of snow-covered berries on a tree up by the Bryant Cabin near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a glade in the Bolton Valley backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Taking advantage of today’s slightly warmer temperatures to visit some of the glades in the Bolton Valley backcountry network

I last got out for a ski tour at Bolton Valley on Tuesday, with the plan of getting in some turns ahead of the very cold weather that was forecast for the rest of the holiday week.  Indeed the cold came into the area as expected, and while the low temperatures were far from anything that would set records, high temperatures that were staying below zero F and wind chills on top of that meant that it was going to be brutal out there.  Today marked a bit of a respite from those temperatures though, with highs expected to be well up into the single digits F, no winds, and sunshine.  I figured that today was my window to get back out for a ski tour before temperatures dip back down in the coming days.

An image of some plants poking through the snow along the Broadway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe warmest part of the day was expected to be in the afternoon, with a southerly flow of air thanks to the remnants of Winter Storm Frankie passing through the area.  I went with two base layers (lights under heavies) just to ensure that I’d be comfortable, and headed up to the mountain around 2:30 P.M.  There was still some dim, arctic-looking sun pushing through the clouds off to the south as I arrived at the Village and parked right along the edge of Broadway.  Temperatures were in the in the 5 to 10 F range, and with no wind it was actually quite comfortable – within a few minutes of starting my ascent of Bryant I was skinning without a hat in order to cool off.

“Learning from my Tuesday tour, I brought fatter skis and dropped the pitch of my selected slopes just a bit, and that yielded some excellent powder turns.”

It was my first day out on the backcountry network this season, so I stuck with a simple trip up to Bryant Cabin with one of my favorite touring routes:  Car –> Broadway –> Bryant –> Bryant Cabin –> Gardiner’s Lane –> North Slope –> Connector Glade –> Gardiner’s Lane –> Grizzwald –> Gotham City –> Girl’s –> World Cup –> World Cup Glade –> Telemark Glade –> Broadway –> Bolton Valley Village –> Fireside Flatbread –> Car.  It seems like quite the tour, although it’s only about 2.5 miles.  That last stop before the car is pretty important though, especially on a cold December afternoon when the sun’s gone down.

A map with a GPS tracking data plotted onto Google Earth for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort on December 30th, 2017
The GPS track of today’s Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry tour mapped onto Google Earth

We’ve had perhaps an inch or two of snow since my last outing on Tuesday, and at Village elevations I was finding about 5 inches of powder atop a thick layer.  That surface snow depth definitely increased a bit with elevation, and if you punched through the thick layer in the snowpack you’d be looking at 18 to 24 inches of snow before getting to whatever base snow was below that.  Learning from my Tuesday tour, I brought fatter skis and dropped the pitch of my selected slopes just a bit, and that yielded some excellent powder turns.  Some of the best sections were Girl’s and Telemark Glade, where the terrain and snow really flowed well.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 10DEC2016

An image showing some ski tracks in powder snow in a high-elevation glade along the Catamount Trail outside of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the depth of powder on a glade along the Catamount Trail outside of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
In the backcountry today, the higher elevations held up to 20 inches of powder atop a roughly 10-inch base, indicating a snowpack of approximately 30 inches.

This is opening weekend for lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, but with only minimal terrain served by the lifts at the moment and fairly chilly temperatures in the forecast, I decided to make it my first visit of the season to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network.  Although we haven’t had any big storms in the area in the past few days, we’ve had some lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes and additional snow from an arctic frontal passage that has given the mountains additional bouts of snow almost every day.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake is indicating a snowpack depth of 34”, and it’s definitely not just fluff.  With the high elevation and maintenance that goes on in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I’ll usually feel OK poking around on appropriate terrain once the stake kits 24” (depending on the composition of that 24”), so with 34” I figured it would definitely be ready to go.

I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon, and temperatures in the Village at ~2,000’ were in the mid-teens F, but fortunately there was minimal wind.  There was blue sky at times, but light snow was still falling off and on.  My goal was to head to the upper glades along the Catamount Trail out past the resort boundary.  Those glades are up around the 3,000’ elevation, so I suspected the snowpack would be more than sufficient.

An image of a new structure near Bryant Cabin on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I saw that there had been some recent construction up in the Bryant Cabin area.

I headed up the usual Bryant Trail, and the most interesting thing I saw was that there are some new structures going up around the Bryant Cabin.  One structure looked like a shed of sorts, and there was a larger structure that seemed to be partially built.  It also seemed that there had been some work done on the cabin itself.  In terms of snowpack depths, down at the Village at 2,000’ the surface snow was generally 14-15” of powder over a fairly thin layer of base snow.  Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ there was 16-17” of powder over a much more substantial base, and when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder.  I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range.  So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range, which seems pretty reasonable with the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 34”.

“…when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range…”

The skiing was generally excellent, especially in those upper glades.  Since it was afternoon there had certainly been some traffic up there, but I still found areas of fresh snow.  I made my way down via Gardiner’s Lane, and eventually decided to check out the Alchemist glade that I hadn’t visited in a while to the south of Gotham City.  It’s a south-facing glade, so conditions can be quite variable, but aspect almost doesn’t matter right now because we’ve had November/December sun over the past couple of weeks… and not much of it anyway, so south-facing terrain isn’t all that different from north-facing terrain.  One does have to watch out as they get down near 2,000’ though because the base below the surface snow does start to get pretty thin, so you don’t want to ski anything with many obstacles at that point.  One could easily just lap terrain up above 2,500’ though with minimal concern about base depths.  Skiing is definitely quite good up high right now.

A map showing a ski tour from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
GPS/Google Earth plot of today’s backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley

There was a bit of accumulation of snow on my car when I got back to it after the tour.  It was rather minimal though, about ¼“ of new after 2 to 3 hours away.  Currently, Winter Weather Advisories are up ahead of our next storm that is coming into the area tomorrow.  I signed up for Washington County weather alert texts through VT-Alert, so I was notified of our Winter Weather Advisory just I was finishing up my ski tour today.  It was definitely nice to get that heads up right away without having to actively check, and it really doesn’t matter where you are.  Anyway, the advisory calls for a general 4-7”, which seems pretty consistent with what’s been expected of this event for a few days now.

Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry, VT 18JAN2015

An image of Erica passing a sign indicating the Gotham City area of the Backcountry Ski Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A picture of Jay skiing the Sasquash glade on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Trying to get to some of that Bolton Valley backcountry powder today before temperatures warmed up too much.

The boys both ended up staying over at the Handler’s house last night, and we wouldn’t be picking them up until the Warren Miller ski movie (No Turning Back) in Stowe this evening, so that gave E and I a chance to get out for a bit of skiing together today. I got a really good sampling of the snow and glade conditions on my solo ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network yesterday, and I found some spots that I thought E would really like, so I planned on a mini tour that would let us focus on just those glades. The Gotham City area and the glades below that looked like a very good option; based on the pitch, tree spacing, and depth and consistency of the powder, it felt like a good fit for E’s off piste Telemark skills.

Temperatures were rising today ahead of our next incoming winter storm, and they were right around the freezing mark when we arrived up in the Bolton Valley Village at midday. The resort was absolutely packed with the cars of visitors; now that the temperatures were nice and comfortable, presumably everyone was making their holiday trips to the slopes. The Village lots were actually all full and they were parking people down at Timberline, but since we’d be visiting the Nordic side of the resort, we figured we’d be able to find something down by the Nordic Center. Even down there it took some creative parking to get a spot, but we managed one in the lowest tier of the main area.

We walked over to the tennis court area, strapped on our skis and began following a short skin track that others had made that quickly merged onto Broadway. From there it was up to the Bryant trail, where we stopped at the highest junction with World Cup to drop some layers and open some vents. We continued on Bryant up to the 2,400′ elevation, where we cut off over toward Coyote. There’s a skin track leading right up into Gotham City that I’d seen yesterday, and my estimates were that an elevation of ~2,400′ was just about right for getting there. Indeed we quickly found the skin track off Coyote, and it was just another few minutes up to Gotham City. They even have a sign now that welcomes you to the area. I’m not sure when it was, but at some point today I realized that Gotham City must of course be name after Ann Gotham of Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry. I’d initially thought that the name referred somehow to the Gotham City of Batman fame, but the link to Ann seems so obvious now.

A map of the Nordic and backcountry terrain network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A map of Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network with more than two dozen glades listed.

We stopped our ascent in the middle of Gotham City to switch over for descending, and we were treated to sunshine peeking in and out from behind clouds as we enjoyed the mild air and snowy scene. We had some soup and hot chocolate, but they almost seemed out of place with the relatively mild weather. Despite the rising temperatures, the powder had appeared to hold up pretty well in areas we’d checked during our ascent, but we soon noticed that it was starting to stick to our skis in sunny areas. We knew we’d better get a move on lest the powder turn to mush on us.

We headed down by skiing a combination of Girls and Sasquash, and fortunately the powder was still decent in the more shaded areas. It was starting to turn in sunnier areas though, and when we got into some of the lower elevation glades below World Cup, it was definitely past its prime. Fortunately we’ve got a winter storm on the way this evening, with Winter Storm Warnings up for the Northern Greens. A good storm will make quick work of any adulterations to the powder in those lower elevations.

In any event, we got some good turns, hit four different glades in that short tour, and finished off on the Telemark Practice Slope. I bet one could easily do that tour in under an hour if they got right to it and didn’t pause to do other things. An efficient route for access might be just to go up Coyote, although I’m not sure if the skinning there would be quite as easy as on Bryant since it’s not used as much. We’ll definitely get back there with E, and hopefully the boys with even better snow, but it’s a great little tour that hits some beautiful ski terrain.

A map of a ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry ski network in Vermont
The GPS tracking data from today’s backcountry ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network plotted on Google Earth

An image of the window sign for Bender's Burritos in Stowe Vermont taken from the insideThis evening we met up with the Handler’s and the boys at Bender’s Burritos on the Mountain Road in Stowe. Our family has been a few times now since Ty really likes burritos, but apparently it was a first visit for everyone but Jeff in his family. It’s a small place that seats maybe a dozen people, and we were worried that it might be packed with holiday visitors, but we essentially had it to ourselves. A memorable part of the experience was watching the end of the Packers/Seahawks NFC Championship Game, in which the Packers seemed to have it all locked up with just a little time to go, but the Seahawks made a ridiculous comeback to win the game. At one point the Bender’s staff was all out front at the counter, eyes riveted to the screen as they watched the dramatic conclusion of the game. Of most importance of course was the fact that the winner of the game could potential be playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I think everyone had a great meal – I got a fish burrito as I often do, going with the cod this time.

“An added bonus while watching the movie was the fact that it was dumping heavy snow outside as an incoming winter storm ramped up…”

The next phase of the evening was to head up to the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center at the resort to watch the latest Warren Miller ski movie, No Turning Back. We usually catch it in the fall at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, but we didn’t get a chance this year. It was just sort of luck when I found that it was playing at Spruce Peak because I was getting some links for another ski trip report. When Jeff found out about the movie, that set things in motion and he got us all tickets. I believe this showing of the movie is one of those put on by the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, and it’s very unlike the Flynn Theater experience. Whereas that’s a real raucous affair filled with hundreds and hundreds of people, this was a much mellower time, with about a couple dozen of us in the entire theatre. They do have the intermission, but the only prize drawing is for the grand prize opportunity to win a ski trip. Another cool aspect of this showing was that they have free snacks and drinks for everyone – at intermission you just pop out into the lobby and grab your complimentary food. The movie was great, with a lot of depth in each feature as opposed to just the skiing. An added bonus while watching the movie was the fact that it was dumping heavy snow outside as an incoming winter storm ramped up; it’s worth a little more description as I wrap up this report.

Indeed the thing of greatest importance in the world of Vermont skiing this evening was the weather. This current storm has been potentially dicey in the Northeast, with areas off to the east of the Greens likely to see a lot of rain. But, here in Northern Vermont we’ve been in the game for a good shot of snow, and as of this evening it looks like that might be coming to fruition. When we left the house around 5:00 P.M. there wasn’t much going on, but we got into some light rain in the valley during the trip northward. While we were at Bender’s Burritos on the mountain road (elevation 750′), there was a little light rain, and when we left there around 6:30 P.M. the rain had picked up – it was actually freezing on some ground surfaces, but it was spotty so it must have only been those that were very cold. Upon heading up to the mountain to watch the movie, snow mixed in at roughly 1,200′ elevation. At the Spruce Peak Village (1,500′) the precipitation was all snow, and it was starting to come down at a really healthy clip. At intermission during the movie we could see that the snow was really picking up, and when we were leaving around 9:00 P.M. we were getting a real shellacking of dense snow; there was a good inch or so already down. It was snow all the way back to the house at that point, and a very isothermal 33 F on the car thermometer the entire trip. Here in Waterbury at 500′ I measured 1.2″ of snow as of 11:00 P.M. this evening and I’m planning to do a liquid analysis at midnight. Things are looking good for a day on the slopes tomorrow though.

Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry, VT 16FEB2014

An image of a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on February 16th, 2014 at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the "Breakfast Bowl" sign and glades at  Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting ready to drop in for some first tracks in Breakfast Bowl this afternoon

We had a great day of lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley yesterday thanks to almost two feet of new snow from Winter Storm “Pax”, but today looked to be colder and windier, so some backcountry touring seemed like a good fit. It was such a gorgeous midwinter day today in the valley, with lots of sunshine, and highs around 20 F. The boys were more interested in sledding than skiing, but at least they were getting out enjoying the day. E stayed home with them and ended up doing some snowshoeing, but I headed up to the mountain for a tour. There had actually been a few more inches of fluff overnight in association with upslope flow from Winter Storm “Quintus”, so that new snow simply topped off what came from the larger storm.

“The settled powder was 25” deep up at Bryant Cabin, and assessments throughout the day revealed that to be pretty consistent at most of the elevations I visited.”

Since I was solo, I decided on an interesting tour that would hit some common spots as well as some new areas that would let me check out some additional glades. I began with a standard skin up to Bryant Cabin via the Bryant Trail, which went quite quickly without any real stops. I actually had my pass checked by one of the resort employees out on the trail, so the resort is keeping up on that. The settled powder was 25” deep up at Bryant Cabin, and assessments throughout the day revealed that to be pretty consistent at most of the elevations I visited.

An image of prayer flags at the top of the Prayer Flag trail in the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontFrom Bryant Cabin I headed out on Gardiner’s Lane and descended via JJ’s. There had been some skier traffic in the area, but there were various lines with fresh snow, and everything was simply bottomless and soft. I cut across to Possum, merged onto Cliff Hanger, and then skinned up to reach the top of Prayer Flag. Although I’ve explored that area before, I didn’t really know the name of the run until I saw it on the new Bolton Valley Backcountry Map. There was only one track on Prayer Flag, and it seemed to be an ascent track. The turns were good, and it was trench city with respect to the track I left. It was actually a bit much in the way of new snow for shallower grades, but for the steeper pitches it was excellent.

An image of ski trakcs in deep powder in the Breakfast Bowl area of the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The powder was so deep today that ski tracks were often trenches.

From the bottom of Prayer Flag I headed out toward “Breakfast Bowl”, a glade I’ve never skied before, and noted that the tracks looked really good coming down out of Holden’s Hollow. I found Breakfast Bowl totally untracked, and those were some of the best turns of the day – there is plenty of pitch there for whatever amount of powder you’ve got. At the bottom of Breakfast Bowl, instead of heading back up toward Broadway, I decided to cut across Joiner Brook, head up to the plateau on the other side, and take the Valley Loop Nordic trail back to the car. On my way up out of the streambed, I really got a feel for the instability of the snowpack. With the upside down snowpack having dense snow on top of lighter, drier stuff, “whumphing” sounds were being made with every step. It felt like a snowpack that would be ready to rip in appropriate terrain, and no sooner had I been thinking about it, than a room-sized slab shifted under me on a fairly steep slope. It only moved a couple of inches since it was stabilized by some trees, but it sure let me know that the snowpack meant business. Finishing my tour on Valley Loop was somewhat slow on my fat skis, but it was relaxing, and I cut a few corners to speed up the process on the very winding trail.

An image of a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on February 16th, 2014 at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The GPS data from today’s backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley mapped onto Google Earth