Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 29DEC2022

An image of one of the glades in the Holden's Hollow area on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a frozen river while on a ski tour of the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A frozen river view out on my tour of the Bolton Nordic and Backcountry Network today

I wasn’t exactly sure where on Bolton’s backcountry network today’s ski tour was going to take me, but my plan was to start with an ascent up to the start of the C Bear Woods, and then go from there.  I haven’t toured in that part of the Network yet this season, but the ridgeline there tops out around 2,400’, so starting in the lower Village, it would give me a good sampling of the snowpack in the 2,000’ to 2,400’ elevation range.

For my tour back on Monday on some of the lower sections of the Network I topped out around 1,800’ and generally found 6 to 12 inches of powder, and the tenor of the powder skiing was that something with a bit more pitch would be appropriate for the snow depth.  With continued rounds of snow accumulation over the past couple of days (and an additional 2 to 3 inches reported in the past 24 hours at Bolton as of this morning’s update), I figured the powder might even be a notch up from where it had been at that point.

It was midmorning by the time I arrived at the Village, and temperatures were very comfortable in the lower 30s F.  Being the big holiday week, the resort was really humming, and they were already parking folks in the lower Nordic Center parking lot.  That worked out well for me though, since it’s right on the Broadway Trail that links in nicely with the heart of the Backcountry Network.

A winter image from the Joiner Brook bridge area on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view during today’s tour down by the Joiner Brook bridge showing the snowpack from recent storms

Around 2,000’ in the open areas of the Village, the depth of the surface snow was quite variable between the effects of the wind and sun, but in general I found 5 to 6 inches of powder over a consolidated base.  There wasn’t any obvious rain crust, but there was a denser layer below the powder.  That layer generally wasn’t present in the trees, so I assume it was from wind and sun.  Up at 2,400’ I’d say powder depths were about the same as what I found in the 1,500’ to 1,800’ elevation range on Monday, so between additional accumulations and settling, I guess things roughly held pat at that level.  The pitches near the top of the ridge there are up in the black diamond range, and I think the uppermost parts of the ridgeline were a bit windswept because the snowpack wasn’t sufficient for confident turns in that area.  Noticing that, I headed southward to the right of the main C Bear Woods entrance into some other areas of glades to shallow out my overall run.  Intermediate pitches offered nice turns, and the snowpack easily supported that type of skiing.  The best turns of that descent were in the lower slopes among the moderate and lower angle pitches as I got back toward Brook Run.

I’d left the option open to extend my tour up toward some of the Bryant Trail terrain, but it was approaching midday and the powder was already started to get denser and a bit sticky as the temperatures pushed above freezing.  As I headed to the main base area, it was turning into a fantastic day with breaks of sun and temperatures moving into the 30s F.  That’s a pretty nice combination for the holiday visitors to have comfortable temperatures and some decent snowpack, and it will be interesting to see how this holiday week plays out overall for visitation at the local resorts.  It’s been pretty sweet to have some daily refresher snowfalls recently to bolster the snowpack, and the snow reports I’ve seen from the resorts around here have indicated that it’s been allowing them to continue to open new terrain and expand the trail count.  Visitors to the slopes should generally be treated to some comfortable temperatures for the remained of the holiday week, which I think many would take over the subzero spells that can often occur around the start of the new year.  It looks like anyone going out on Sunday might have to dodge a bit of rain though based on the current forecast.

This may be one of the nicer holiday week’s we’ve had recently in terms of the quality of the skiing.  Looking at my notes, I’ve had a half dozen backcountry ski tours in about the past ten days, and that’s pretty decent because sometimes the backcountry doesn’t even get rolling until January or February.  On average, it should get going (at least on low and moderate angle terrain) in mid-December here in the Northern Greens, but the past three seasons haven’t hit 24 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake until January.  Technically, the stake only hit the 24-inch mark for the first time this season on Tuesday, but it’s been hovering in the 20-inch range since mid-month when Winter Storm Diaz hit, and the snowpack came together in such a way that those 20-ish inches were sufficient to put a lot of the local backcountry terrain in play for quality turns.

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

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 05FEB2022

An image of some glades with powder snow to the west of the Holden's Hollow area during a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing some of the recent snow accumulations from Winter Storm Landon on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Now that the back side of Winter Storm Landon has passed through the area, the local backcountry is loaded with beautiful accumulations of feathery powder that provides some fantastic skiing

With today’s high temperatures expected to be in the single digits F at elevation, touring seemed like the far better ski option, so I paid a visit to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network.  Overall ski conditions remain excellent thanks to the 1½ to 2 feet of snow that the local mountains just picked up from Winter Storm Landon, so despite the chilly temperatures, it’s time to get out there and make use of that great snow.

Today I toured over in the Holden’s Hollow area of the network, approaching from the back side of the ridge using the Telemark trail, and then sampling some descents on both the west and east sides.  Today’s tour had me in the 2,000’ – 2,500’ elevation band, and I’d say total snowpack depths at those elevations are in the 2 to 3 foot range.  In terms of surface snow, we’ve got enough different layers in the snowpack now, and they’re blending together enough, that it’s getting a bit tricky to actually decide what constitutes surface and subsurface snow/base.  If you’re very delicate with your measuring, you can find a bit of a dense layer about 16 inches down.  I think it’s safe to say that top section of the snowpack is the settled powder from Winter Storm Landon.  The dense layer below that is presumably some denser precipitation, perhaps from the start of the storm when temperatures were coming down and there was a mix of rain and snow.  Based on Powderfreak’s observations from Thursday, it doesn’t sound like there was too much rain at elevation, and since that layer is rather subtle, that would argue for that and/or a very good transition/blending with the drier snow above.

An image showing the depth of the powder after Winter Storm Landon in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Even down near 2,000′ in elevation the depths of powder in the backcountry are in excess of 20 inches, requiring slopes with decent pitch for good turns in the untracked snow

Past that denser band, you’re into another 6 to 8 inches of powder before you hit something more solid that can really serve as a potential base.  That’s typically where I’d find that my poles could finally gain purchase, and it sounds like that’s similar over at Bretton Woods based on Alex’s comment yesterday here in the thread.  Having backcountry baskets would probably help a little bit in that regard.

There are a couple of other dense bands down in the snow there that I could detect when probing carefully, but I’d say the solid base is down there in the 22 to 24-inch range for those low to mid elevations, and I’ve got an image of my pole hitting that approximate depth with this report.  So if you’re first on an ascent and breaking in the skin track, plan on a good workout.  Thankfully, most of the route for my tour had seen some previous traffic, and I only had to break one section with perhaps 100’ of vertical, but it was a good deal of extra work.

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

Right now in terms of the backcountry skiing around here, I’d argue that you really need black pitches or greater to have a reasonable descent without getting too bogged down or simply having to straight-line it too much.  I was on 115 mm skis that I’d just waxed, and I still had to seek out those pitches if the snow was untracked.  As long as you get the right pitch though, the powder skiing is excellent as one would imagine.

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