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 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.