We haven’t seen much snow here in the Northern Greens since last weekend, and from what I’ve heard, the conditions on the slopes haven’t been all that remarkable. A more substantial winter storm started to affect the area yesterday however, and it seemed to hold some promise with respect to putting down several inches of snow in the mountains.
While the storm had only dropped an inch or two of snow down here at our house in the valley as of this morning, that snow contained almost a half inch of liquid equivalent, and with the temperatures being marginal in the lower elevations, it was easy to see that the accumulations were going to be elevation-dependent. The Bolton Valley snow report was only indicating a few inches of new snow as of this morning, but that was enough to at least get us to head up to the hill and check out the conditions. It seemed like a toss-up with respect to whether or not the snow would really be enough to kick the conditions into high gear, but there had to be more than a half inch of liquid equivalent from the storm at elevation, and that’s certainly enough for a decent resurfacing of the slopes.
We parked at Timberline, and right from the start, we were encouraged by what we saw. There were 2 to 4 inches of dense accumulation even at those lowest elevations, and as we rode the Timberline Quad and watched and listened to the skiers below, their relatively quiet turns suggested that the new snow had bonded well to the subsurface. Our plan was to head up to the main mountain, get a good assessment of the conditions at all elevations, and then take it from there. Up at 2,500’ when we got off at the Timberline Summit, it was immediately obvious that the conditions were going to be good. The new snow had clearly put down a resurfacing that was incorporated well into the grooming and created a soft, quiet surface that let you cut right into it with your carves. We next took a trip up the Vista Quad, and the conditions above 3,000’ were even better. The sides of Alta Vista yielded excellent turns, and my depth checks were coming in with 6 to 7 inches of new snow.
We’d met up with some colleagues from work and their families, and our group spent much of the afternoon roaming around the main mountain, venturing from Vista to Wilderness, with a lot of time spent on Snowflake. The boys were having some great fun on the jumps in the terrain park, and with the usual low traffic of Snowflake, the trails held plenty of untracked lines. When we were over on Wilderness, just about everyone hit the Wilderness Woods and had some great turns, and those of us inclined to hit the trees off Snowflake were treated to run after run of untracked powder through some very nice lines.
We finished off our day with a long run down from the Vista Summit to the Timberline Base, and based on that run it was very evident that the main mountain was the place to be today for the best powder and groomed surfaces. The snow below 2,000’ was still decent, but as we’d seen, the accumulations were a bit less, and the powder a bit denser. Up on the main mountain was definitely where the best snow was located, and skier traffic was quite light. It’s March after all, and since this wasn’t an obvious slam dunk storm cycle, I’m sure there were many folks that opted not to make the trip to the mountain for conditions that probably could have gone either way.
Continuing on overnight, Winter Storm Sage brought an additional resurgence of heavy snowfall into the area this morning. So, combined with somewhat limited lift service at Bolton Valley on Tuesday due to power outages, today was an obvious day to get out for turns. Dylan was off from school for his second snow day in a row, and since it initially didn’t look like Colin would be able to join him for skiing, he and I headed up to the hill to catch the opening of the Vista Quad. Snowfall was probably in the inch per hour range at that point, so the Bolton Valley Access Road was a bit slick, and we encountered a couple of vehicles having trouble on the ascent.
Areas up around the ridgeline of the resort were getting hit pretty hard by the wind, so the new snow was heavily wind packed up there, but once you were down a couple hundred feet, most areas were fine. Surface snow depths I measured were generally around 20 inches on the low end, up toward 30 inches on the high end, and that seemed to fit pretty well with the resort’s reported 32” storm total. While the initial forecasts for Winter Storm Sage looked fairly lean in the Northern Greens, accumulations ultimately approached 3 feet, and the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake took a healthy jump up to 90 inches. Winter Storm Sage wound up being a solid storm cycle up and down the spine of the Green Mountains, with roughly 3 to 4 feet of accumulation. The north to south listing of available storm totals from the Vermont ski areas tells the tale:
At times on the mountain today, especially late morning, we were getting hit with larger flakes for increased loft in accumulations, but there was still plenty of dense snow present as well. When you’re nearing 3 feet of dense snow like that, the name of the game was still to hit steepest terrain for the best turns, so Dylan and I started off with a run of Vermont 200. After only that one run, we ran into Colin at the base of the Vista Quad, and our posse just continued to grow as the morning went on to include Parker, Parker’s dad, and Jesuin. We found excellent conditions on Cobrass, and Maria’s was outstanding – most specifically the initial steep section due to the pitch being a great fit for the substantial depth of the moderately dense snow.
While the Wilderness Double Chair was schedule for a midmorning opening, it wasn’t until midday or so that it actually opened. Wilderness offered up the clear highlight of the day in the form of the headwall of the Wilderness Liftline. That terrain isn’t usually open, because it’s very steep. It’s so steep, ledgy, and exposed to the wind that it rarely holds snow. I don’t believe it’s even officially a trail. Although the very top is usually roped off by patrol, you can access lower parts of it by traversing in from the surrounding trees. As we passed over it on the lift, it was clear that coverage below the first several yards was excellent, so we traversed in below that point to check it out. It delivered some classic steep and deep, and more than once I heard some of the boys proclaim that was the steepest powder they’d ever skied. Ski patrol clearly felt that the entire slope was safely skiable, and by our next run, the rope was opened and everyone was diving in from the very top. The energy and excitement of the folks on the slope, and those right above you on the lift (the snowpack is high enough that you needed appropriate timing to stay clear of people on the lift at the entry) was quite palpable.
Although the lower slopes of Wilderness are too shallow in pitch to support skiing in 2 plus feet of dense powder, they did offer another highlight of the day. The parts of the Wilderness Liftline that had been groomed were substantially lower than the surrounding areas of the trail that had not been groomed, so it provided a kicker to use if you wanted to jump into the powder. The boys started launching powder bombs as they threw themselves off the side of the trail, and eventually everyone got into it and was burying themselves silly. It was great fun all around and made for lots of hilarious GoPro footage. Action photography was definitely tough yesterday with the heavy snowfall, but we still our best to document the great outing in one of the top winter storms of the season thus far.
Today had been looking like a good ski day for quite a while. The cold air was moving out to bring our temperatures back up into the 20s F, and low pressure from the Ontario/Quebec border passing southeast across our region looked to bring us more fresh snow. The weather models had been showing a nice shot of liquid equivalent coming into the area, and it seemed to hold some potential for a nice topping off of the current powder that’s out there.
I was working on some exam questions in the early morning in my home office and had the blinds closed, but I eventually finished off a section and decided to take a break. I opened the blinds to find that we were getting hit with heavy snowfall made up of some massive flakes that were nearly 2 inches across at times. The forecast did call for some snow starting around 10:00 A.M., but this was a bit early, and the intensity was impressive. A quick measurement out back revealed that the snow was falling at a rate of around 2”/hr., and it was stacking up fast and dry with that typical consistency of upslope champagne.
For today’s ski session, the plan was to head out with Dylan, Colin, and Parker, and there’s nothing like seeing the heavy snow pounding outside your window to kick the mood up a notch. I didn’t wake Dylan up immediately because I wanted to make sure he had the sleep he needed, but when I did check on him a bit later it turned out he’d been up anyway. He hadn’t opened his blinds, but he’d already gotten a text and picture from Colin; the same huge flakes had been pounding down at his place as well.
With the new snow not coming in until mid-morning, we’d planned on a late morning start up at Bolton Valley. That timing worked out well, because they’d already picked up a few additional inches from the intense snowfall. And, the snow that had just fallen was the perfect consistency to top off all the powder that was already out there – my morning liquid analyses from the house revealed that the snow came in at just 1 to 2% H2O. So, it was incredibly dry and set up some excellent right-side-up, bottomless powder skiing.
I had a tour planned that brought the boys around to some of the lesser used areas of the resort, so they had a great time and got to ski plenty of untracked powder. I’d say powder depths we encountered were generally in the range of about a foot, and there’s well over an inch of liquid equivalent in that surface snow now. With the new champagne on top, it skied quite well and was typically bottomless in the case of first tracks. You’re still hitting bottom at times on the steepest slopes, but that old base is becoming more and more distant with every one of these storms that comes through the area. On that note, it appears as though we’ve got another storm cycle on the doorstep for tonight into tomorrow.
After getting out to the hill on Saturday to check out the snow conditions, I hadn’t really planned to ski any other days over the weekend – the conditions on the groomed terrain were fine, but definitely on the firm side. And, the off piste just isn’t very viable at the moment, because while the snow from this most recent storm contributed a fantastic addition to the base snowpack, it needs another good round of snow on top of it or else you’re just skiing on a dense, crusty moonscape. But, a couple of my students alerted me that they’d be up at Bolton Valley this morning and asked if I wanted to join them, so I said I catch up with them for some turns. E had the holiday off and joined me, and we met up with them in the late morning period and had a great time catching up after the holiday break. Light snow fell much of the time from the system off the coast, and it certainly made the mood even more wintry, even if it didn’t add much in terms of accumulation.
Along with the bit of snow today, we’d also had a little light snow from that coastal system over the previous day or so, but all in all, ski conditions weren’t really all that different from what I’d experienced on Saturday. Groomed terrain with manmade snow had some bright spots (like Alta Vista again), but most was fairly firm as it had been before. One very notable positive change that took place over the course of the weekend was that the resort had opened a lot more terrain. A little (like Hard Luck I believe) was due to snowmaking, but the vast majority was simply natural snow terrain that patrol had been able to check and mark. They opened all the lower Wilderness terrain that is accessible from the Vista Quad, as one would expect, but I couldn’t believe that even Cobrass was open. It’s quite steep in spots, has a decent amount of southern exposure, and seemed to be mostly operating on natural snow.
“The snowpack is there. At least based on what I saw at Bolton over the weekend, if these storms deliver even half of the snow that’s currently modeled, lift and trail counts are likely to explode over the course of the next week.”
All the natural snow terrain they opened is just a testament to how durable a resurfacing this most recent winter storm was. The only thing holding back the off piste skiing (although some folks were jumping into the woods in areas) is just the crusty, dense nature of the snow. It’s simply not all that much fun right now because it’s a bit upside down and crunchy, but boy are both the on piste and off piste areas going to be ready to go with just one decent storm. With three possible winter storms in the queue over the next six days, ski conditions are really set to take a quantum leap if the accumulations come through as the modeling currently suggests. The snowpack is there. At least based on what I saw at Bolton over the weekend, if these storms deliver even half of the snow that’s currently modeled, lift and trail counts are likely to explode over the course of the next week.
From several days out, the weather models suggested that Winter Storm Landon was going to target Northern New England with more than a foot of snow. Unlike last weekend’s Winter Storm Kenan, this wasn’t a coastal system that needed to line up perfectly and might affect only a small geographical area; this was a large overrunning system stretching up all the way from the Southwest, through the Midwest, and into the Northeast with an almost nation-wide swath of wintry precipitation. By Wednesday, it was obvious that Northern Vermont was on track for a solid snowfall, and late in the afternoon, I got a quick text from Dave that led to the following exchange:
Dave: “Any thoughts on this storm?”
Jay: “I would say 12”+ is a good bet for around here.”
With that, the plan was on. Dave was heading to Killington to ski on Thursday, and then he’d make his way up to our place to stay Thursday night, with the hope of being able to get some turns together on Friday. This was exciting, because Dave’s schedule and obligations haven’t really lined up for a visit in a while. A search on our website revealed that his last trip up for skiing was in 2018 when we skied Stowe on March 14th and Bolton Valley on March 15th.
When Dave got to our house late yesterday afternoon, he said that he’d almost bailed on skiing at Killington when he arrived there in the morning to find it raining. Thankfully, it was much more wintry up high on the mountain, and the conditions just got better as the day went on. He met up with another guy that was skiing solo, and ended up having a fantastic time roaming around and even getting some video shots with the guy’s camera.
“At our site, I recorded 6.0 inches of new snow from 6:00 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., and then another 5.2 inches between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. Our storm total at that point even down at the house was over a foot of new snow, and 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent, so it was clear that the storm was putting down a very solid resurfacing of the slopes.”
As expected, the snowfall really turned on around here yesterday evening. At our site, I recorded 6.0 inches of new snow from 6:00 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., and then another 5.2 inches between 12:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. Our storm total at that point even down at the house was over a foot of new snow, and 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent, so it was clear that the storm was putting down a very solid resurfacing of the slopes. Between getting gear together, snow blowing the driveway, solidifying Dave’s ski plans, getting his ticket, and everything else that goes into a storm morning, it was quite busy. But we easily made it to the Vista Quad lineup for the planned 9:00 A.M. opening.
It was chilly out there on the mountain, with temperatures probably in the 10 F range. We were happy to discover that winds weren’t strong at all though, so there were no wind holds, and the lifts seemed to start right up at their planned times aside from the usual smaller delays of getting the later lifts rolling on a storm day. We were all set to head over toward Timberline on our second run, but we ran into a patroller on Cobrass who said that it wasn’t quite ready yet, so we gave it one more run and the timing worked out beautifully.
The new snow was undoubtedly a solid resurfacing of the entire mountain at all elevations. Indeed, that 1.4 inches of liquid equivalent that we’d picked up at our house meant that the resort had at least that much, and you could feel it by the girth of the massive cushion beneath your skis. The snow had started out quite dense at the very initial stages of the storm as temperatures were still coming down, and then it seemed to settle down to roughly medium-weight powder for the bulk of the overnight accumulations. My 6:00 A.M. analyses revealed snow density at 9.4% H2O, which is solidly in that medium-weight powder category. There hadn’t really been any fluff at that point to set up an impressively right-side-up powder accumulation, so you were generally riding in that medium weight snow, and we found the best skiing on steeper terrain. Low angle slopes were just a bit on the slow side with the available snow density. Thankfully, with that 1 to 2 inches of liquid equivalent down, it was game on for even the steepest terrain, and steep areas that we hit such as Vermont 200, the Spell Binder headwall, and the Tattle Tale headwall all delivered. You could attack those pitches as aggressively as you wanted, without concern. Another great example of the resurfacing was hitting Cobrass on our second run to find that even the usual ledges and ice bulges were covered. Initially, I’d gone in with the usual strategy of negotiating those obstacles, but quickly saw that they were irrelevant, and I was able to ski like they weren’t even there. That’s the sign of a solid resurfacing. With depth checks, I was generally finding settled accumulations of about a foot at that stage of the storm, which I think was right in line with what the resort had noted in their morning report.
We actually skied with an associate from PeakRankings.com who was getting info for his report on Bolton Valley, so we showed him around for a few runs. His ski jacket has something like “WE RANK PEAKS” written in huge letters on the back, which quickly gets your attention and lets you know what he’s up to. We hooked up with him just as we were finally planning to head over to Timberline, so we showed him the Maria’s route to get there.
I had to head out around midday, but Dave and E did eventually catch up with Dylan and his friends out on the mountain for some skiing. When E texted to see if the boys were on the mountain, they couldn’t help but have some fun by replying with a picture saying “NO” that was an obvious shot of them riding the lift. The boys waited at the Vista Summit for the others to catch up, which shows a nice touch of class on a powder day. Dave and E said they had a great time that afternoon, and E even had a some sense of where they were going on the mountain. She recalled some trail names, and was remembering the character of many trails enough to give people an idea of what they were going to ski.
I have to give the boys a hard time for not getting out right at the start of the morning, but Dylan’s friend Parker did pull off a classic dual resort visit to really maximize a powder day. He headed to Stowe first thing for the typical “hour of power”, where you can get some good fresh runs before it’s all tracked up and the lift queues grow, and then he headed to low-key Bolton where you can enjoy powder for the rest of the day in peace. I’d say he’s wise beyond his years.
Dave said that his drive home to Boston was fine on I-89, but I-93 was tough with lots of people off the road. Those areas to the south apparently got a lot of mixed precipitation and it was quite a mess. We were all happy to be well north of that stuff up here.
Up at Bolton Valley today, wind holds were in effect at the resort’s normal opening time. By mid-morning though, the winds had died down, the lifts started running, and we headed up for what was hopefully going to be a great day of skiing. We were right in the midst of Winter Storm Izzy, the resort had already picked up several inches of snow, and more snow continued to pour down. Right from our house it was obvious that snowfall rates were pretty impressive with the system. Snow was falling at about an inch per hour down in the valley, and they ramped up as we headed into the higher elevations. With the snowfall rates, it was hard to keep pace with plowing the Bolton Valley Access Road, so it was snow covered and giving some vehicles trouble making the ascent. We had to head around stopped vehicles in a couple of different spots on the access road; one car was actually working on turning around to head back down and presumably wait for the plow/sander to make a pass.
“By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. ”
As far as ski days go, you had a number of factors that made today an amazing one. By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. The snowfall meant that surfaces were getting constantly refreshed, atop of what had already been a solid resurfacing of the slopes with probably 0.50 to 0.75 inches of liquid equivalent in the form of medium-weight powder.
With the overnight shot of snow and the continued heavy snowfall, patrol was opening up trails all over the main mountain that had not been available yet this season. It was hard to know which ropes had been dropped before opening time, and which ones were done on the fly, but just about everything on Vista was open. Even Cobrass was open, offering options all over that side of the mountain. The resort had completed their snowmaking and preparation of Spillway, which is certainly a steep, signature trail on Vista, but it takes a lot of snow to cover its width, notable pitch and plentiful amounts of obstacles. Getting Spillway open definitely marks a big point of the winter’s progression at Bolton. With Spillway getting all the new snow atop the base they’d made, it offered up some excellent steep skiing today. You could still contact the harder manmade snow below at times, but it was snowing so hard that the manmade stuff was quickly getting buried.
E and I headed up by ourselves to start the day, but we were planning to ski with Dylan and his friend Colin, who came up the road just behind us. We saw them in the parking lot, and quickly caught up to spend the day with them after our first run. Only the Vista Quad and Mid Mountain Chair were running today, but we touched on just about every main area that was available as we toured Colin around the mountain and introduced him to numerous trails that he’d yet to ski. Up to this point he’s really only been night skiing with Dylan, so with the typical daytime options and all the new trails opening, it was quite a whirlwind tour for him. Some highlights were definitely the steep turns on Spillway, lots of fresh snow and great conditions on Cobrass and Cobrass Run, and heading over toward Wilderness where there was lot of fresh powder as usual. We even brought Colin into the Wilderness Woods to that he could get a taste of what tree skiing was like.
The heavy snowfall rates were certainly one of the most impressive parts of today’s outing. The pace of accumulations was very evident while riding the lifts because of how fast you would get coated with snow. On one of our rides on the Vista Quad, Colin stayed still to catch the accumulation, so that was a lot of fun to see, and of course we had to get a picture. By the time we left around mid-afternoon, the resort must have picked up in the range of a foot of fresh snow, so the skiing just kept getting better. This is our first big, synoptic winter storm in a while, and it was just what the local resorts needed to really get the base depths up to snuff, and they should now be able to open up most of their terrain.
Although I haven’t seen it being an issue at Bolton Valley, we’ve purposefully stayed off the mountain for the past couple of weeks as we learned that the local ski resorts have asked people to refrain from touring because of potential crowding at base areas. As of today though, with the strong positive strides Vermont has made in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through its social distancing, Governor Scott took another notable step in relaxing the restrictions. The new order states that, “Expanding on Addendum 10, outdoor businesses, construction operations and recreation maintenance work may operate with a maximum of five total workers per location. (Effective April 27). It’s only outdoor work that is being phased in at this point, but that makes sense to ramp that activity up first where people are not in the close confines of interior spaces. With respect to the pandemic, we’ve been fairly lucky here in Vermont with our small total population, and relatively low population density, so the spread of the virus appears to be on the decline locally. Modeling was already reflecting the positive trends here as of 10 days ago, with Vermont being one of only four states that could potentially begin loosening social distancing measures as early as May 4th.
“…the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.”
From down here in this part of the Winooski Valley, even this morning at the coldest part of the day, you wouldn’t know that there was a solid amount of snow falling with this storm if it weren’t for some of the resources like Bolton’s webcams. I don’t think I’ve seen a flake here at 500’, and even our local hills surrounding the valley that top out around 2,000’, don’t have signs of white on them.
Seeing what was on the webcams though, it was obvious that snow was falling and accumulating at least down to the elevation of the Bolton Valley Village. My trip up the Bolton Valley access road allowed me to get a sense for what was going on with the accumulations. I knew the snow line had to be way up there, but I just kept climbing and climbing, and there were no signs of new snow anywhere. The first signs of old snow from the remaining winter snowpack were around 1,400’, but even at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, the precipitation was all rain. The rain didn’t even change over to snow until about 1,900’, just before I reached the Bolton Valley Village. That’s also right about where I saw the first accumulations of new snow taking hold. The snow accumulations picked up quickly with 1-2” at the main parking lots at 2,000’ and 2-3” at 2,100’ near the base of the main lifts.
The snow was dense, but not really wet, and the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations. Thankfully there were some skin tracks to use, because as the depth of new snow surpassed a foot, breaking trail was tough in many areas. The skiing was definitely challenging in the dense snow, akin to the snow from that storm that Erica and I encountered when we skied at Schweitzer Mountain Resort back in 2001. This storm didn’t drop four feet of that dense stuff all at once, but I’d brought my mid-fat Telemark skis because I hadn’t anticipated the depths I found, and my fat skis would have certainly been the better tool for the conditions. Some of the best turns I had on my mid-fats today were actually in the middle elevations around Five Corners, where the snow depths were still more than plentiful for bottomless turns, but not so deep that they pushed your skis around with strong resistance.
Here’s the full accumulations profile for this storm as of ~5:00 P.M. based on what I saw up to the Village and beyond. It gives a pretty good sense for the elevation ranges with the largest jumps in accumulation, but on average it looks like once accumulations took hold, they increased by more than an inch per 100’ of elevation gain:
By Friday morning, I already knew this was going to be a big weekend for skiing at Bolton Valley. The initial round of snow from Winter Storm Avery had just finished up, and Emma, one of my undergraduate students rushed in just a few minutes before the start of class. She’d been out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley’s Timberline area earlier that morning, and being the dedicated student that she is, she was back right on time for our class session. That good school-life balance if you ask me.
Naturally I had to give her some ribbing about stealing my powder, but I got a good rundown on the conditions, and there was indeed a ton of new snow even down at the Timberline elevations. Combining our third significant winter storm cycle in a week with the start of the Thanksgiving break, and what appeared to be some excellent winter-like temperatures coming on the weekend, sounded like a recipe for a lot of people getting out to enjoy the powdery terrain at Bolton Valley. Indeed, when we were on our ski tour at Timberline yesterday morning, we found that there had been substantial skier traffic on all the trails.
“My depth checks found 16-20” of snow at Bolton’s main base area, and it went up from there with elevation.”
Yesterday’s tour also revealed that the freezing line on Saturday had crept up to around 2,000’, so for today’s tour I decided to head up to the main base and start my ascent from there. The mountain picked up another 2-3” of fluff overnight, and with all the snow at elevation avoiding any warmth and remaining well preserved, the snow surfaces were simply excellent. My depth checks found 16-20” of snow at Bolton’s main base area, and it went up from there with elevation. The resort is reporting 36 inches of snow in the past week, so those depths really shouldn’t be that surprising
“The resort is reporting 36 inches of snow in the past week…”
I toured in the Cobrass/Cobrass Run/Five Corners area today, and found lots of fresh tracks still available. With all the visitors that the resort has seen this weekend, there are literally skin tracks all over the place to get you wherever you want to go – it’s almost like having a skin track highway system. I even checked out some of the tree skiing as I was coming back from the Five Corners area, and you’d almost think it was midwinter with the depths that are available in the woods.
We’ve only had an inch or two of new snow since Monday’s winter storm and our last Bolton Valley outing, but as is typical of January, it’s been consistently cold so the powder has just been sitting there. Heading out for some backcountry turns today was certainly a reasonable option, but I also suspected there would be plenty of lift-served powder available at Bolton Valley; with only a few midweek days since the storm, skier traffic should have been relatively low. Dylan’s very much on the mend from his recent bout of Strep, but he’s certainly not to the stage where he should be heading out on the slopes, so E decided to take him to BJAMS to get some work done. That left me and Ty in the mix for some skiing, and it made the choice easy – I know Ty would lean toward some lift served turns, and I was happy to hedge that way as well knowing that we’d be able to get into a lot of powder.
“The snow was fantastic – I stuck my poles in the snow to hold my gloves while I ran the camera, and the poles sunk up to the handles.”
We grabbed some fairly fat boards and headed up to the mountain in the late morning. My plan was to start us down at Timberline, which turned out to be an appropriate choice because the resort already had signs up indicating that the parking areas at the main mountain were full. There was ample parking in the Timberline lot though, and the attendant directed us to one of the spots in the circle right below the Timberline Quad. Temperatures were right around 30 F and skies were partly cloudy, so it was a choice day to be out there.
Arriving at the main base we could see that there really wasn’t much in the way of lift queues; with all the lifts running, even a full parking lot doesn’t seem to do much to back things up. There was an event going on atop the main deck at the base lodge; I’m not sure what it was, but the deck was full of people. Ty and I headed right over to Wilderness, and my plan was to take him to Stanton’s, or at least that general area to get some steep powder turns. I told Ty how I was taking him to a line that he’d said was too steep for him several years ago – it was January 6th, 2008, so he would have been four years old at the time. I guess we can cut him some slack for feeling it was over head at the time. When I told him about that story today, he sort of laughed and said that he doesn’t run into much that fazes him now because of steepness. Even way back on that day when he did find it too steep, we suspected where things would eventually end up. Sliding into position atop Stanton’s, we could tell that, not surprisingly, it had been hit by plenty of traffic, so we headed a few yards back to one of the lines that was still untracked. I dropped in to set up for some photos and found that there was plenty of powder, even for those steep shots. Ty skied a nice line, but we didn’t really pull any keepers out of that photo session.
The remainder of that run was one of the most enjoyably adventurous parts of the afternoon. We just continued on down below the chutes and let our noses guide us toward fresh tracks. We were in a bunch of seldom used terrain areas, working our way through the trees among Lower Crossover, Coyote, and Work Road. I laughed at one point and said to Ty, “I have no idea where we are!” Actually, I knew we were in the Fanny Hill Woods, but we were following a streambed that I’d never skied before, so we never knew quite what was going to come around the next bend. We eventually wound up at the junction of Fanny Hill and Abenaki Trail, and of course Ty said he knew we’d end up in that area all along. I wasn’t convinced. In any event, that area sees very little skier traffic, so we saw hardly a track. Our first run of powder exploration was a rousing success.
We headed to Vista next, and found Cobrass in really good form, especially off to the right side where the soft snow usually collects. We came screaming around the big bend below the headwall, where the snow was beautiful and you could just sink in those edges and let it rip. Next it was off to sample the Villager Trees, where Ty skied Heaven for the first time this season. The snow was fantastic – I stuck my poles in the snow to hold my gloves while I ran the camera, and the poles sunk up to the handles. We headed to the Sixth Corner area and then to some lines in Gump’s on our way back to the Timberline Base.
It was mid afternoon at that point and we’d discovered that in sun-exposed areas there was just the slightest of melt layers atop the powder in the last few hundred feet of vertical above the Timberline Base. That wasn’t surprising with the temperature so close to freezing down there, but it hadn’t reached the stage of making the snow sticky, and it still skied like dry powder, so we decided to do a little more Timberline skiing. We visited more of Gump’s, the KP Glades, and the Corner Pocket Glades with the usual powdery results. We rode up with an older couple from South Burlington that saw our skis and inquired about rocker in skis and whether it was worth it. I told them that most of the skis still have camber in the middle of the ski, so they’re very versatile, and indeed the rocker is great for powder. For us the choice was a no brainer since we spend so much of our time off piste in the powder, with today being a perfect example. We talked about width as well – I was using my Rossignol Sin 7 skis, which are close to 100 mm at the waist, but said that if they spent a lot more time on piste, something with a width somewhere in the 80-90 mm range would be a good fit.
All told, Ty and I had a great day of exploring some new lines, visiting some old favorites, and generally catching a lot of powder. For today’s action photography it was definitely the Ty show, but that’s often how it goes when he’s the only one along for the ride. I didn’t get a chance to give him the camera since I was usually tracking down lines for him to ski, but perhaps we’ll get one of the boys behind the camera next time.
Today was a bit of a whirlwind as we set out to ski some of the new snow from this latest winter storm. We initially headed to Stowe in the early morning, since school ski program ticket vouchers typically work for coaches’ passes on MLK day. Surprisingly, we were told that wasn’t the case this time. We did have a good breakfast in the Mansfield Base Lodge and got E’s coordinator pass taken care of over at Spruce Camp while the boys took a run on Meadows, but we ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth buying an expensive holiday ticket just to ski for a few hours. We instead headed off to Bolton Valley, knowing that there was plenty of day left for everyone to get some runs together.
There wasn’t much going on in terms of snowfall while we’d been at Stowe, but it started to pick up as we made our way southward through Waterbury and on toward Bolton. There was generally a very wet snow falling in the valleys, but once we hit ~1,000′ elevation on the Bolton Valley Access Road the temperature had cooled enough that the flakes were really starting to stick. There was some nice snowfall as we parked at Timberline, and the slopes were looking very inviting.
“…during that early afternoon there was a much steadier snow on the mountain, with rates up to 1″/hr at times.”
While we were unloading, E got a call from Claire indicating that they’d gotten the appropriate officials at Stowe involved, and indeed they had confirmed that the coaches’ vouchers were valid. I’m still amazed that we were the first ones on the entire day trying to apply a voucher at what must have been at least 9:00 A.M., but if we served as the guinea pigs to get things straightened out, that was good for everyone that decided to go later. When we’d set out this morning, we’d planned on skiing with some of the other BJAMS families at Stowe, so it’s too bad that plan didn’t come together. Things worked out really well in the end of course; we were at Timberline, and we could see how much great snow was out there and how few people were skiing it. Even thought we hadn’t arrived until mid to late morning, we knew that Bolton Valley would still be serving up the usual plentiful allotment of fresh tracks.
Knowing that the snow was generally denser down low, we headed up the Timberline Quad and immediately went over to check out the main mountain. The snow was definitely drier in the higher elevations, but the top of Vista came with a healthy dose of low clouds, wind, and colder air. The wind turbine at the summit was running though, and boy was it turning in that wind! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the blades spinning as fast as they were today.
“…there was a good foot or more of powder in there, and you could see just how high the quality of the powder could be when it was entirely out of the wind.”
As we headed down through Spillway Lane, our initial observations were that the exposed slopes had been blasted with wind; the new powder was wind-packed, and you barely sunk into it while skiing. We dropped down onto Vermont 200 out of the wind, and the conditions improved as the powder along the trail edges was much better thanks to the protection offered by the surrounding trees. We crossed over to Hard Luck and found similar snow, but we really got into some good stuff once we jumped into the trees in between the two trails; there was a good foot or more of powder in there, and you could see just how high the quality of the powder could be when it was entirely out of the wind. We quickly took that lesson to heart and headed into the trees on the lower mountain, catching some good lines in the Glades area.
Dylan was pretty tired from a long weekend filled with activity, therefore we decided that we should work our way back toward the Timberline Base so that he could rest a bit in the lodge down there and call it a day if he needed to. We had a pretty classic long run featuring Cobrass, Cobrass Woods and Five Corners to get us back toward Timberline. Those were our first turns of the day down at the Timberline elevations, and the density of the snow actually didn’t affect the skiing until the last few hundred feet above the Timberline Base Lodge. I had initially thought that people might be staying away from Timberline because the snow wasn’t as good in those lower elevations, but it really wasn’t all that different on most of the terrain.
“You could tell it was dumping though, as even under the protection of the trees we could barely view the pictures on the camera screen because the snow was accumulating so quickly.”
Dylan went to rest in the lodge with E, while Ty and I headed off in search of more powder. Traffic had been pretty low at Timberline, and you could find great powder throughout the trees and even on the trails. We’d found plenty of untracked snow on Tattle Tale on the previous run, so we decided to explore some lines in that area. I pulled out the camera and got some great shots of Ty blasting his way through the powder. That was definitely some great storm riding; the intensity of the snowfall had been ramping up since we’d arrived, and during that early afternoon there was a much steadier snow on the mountain, with rates up to 1″/hr at times. I told Ty that it looked like I’d gotten a pretty cool shot of him from the side sending up a massive powder tail, so when we’d made our way down lower on the mountain, we pulled into the protection of the trees along Spur so that we could take a look at the images. You could tell it was dumping though, as even under the protection of the trees we could barely view the pictures on the camera screen because the snow was accumulating so quickly. It was a great test of the weather sealing on the 7D2, because even after just a couple of minutes all the surfaces were well covered with melted or partially melted flakes. There were no issues, although I suspect the 7D2 shouldn’t even blink at that level of weather. We’ll keep putting it through the paces though.
We stopped in the lodge to see E and Dylan, and we ended up hanging out for a while and getting some food. While inside, Ty and I worked to convince them that they needed to come back out because the skiing was just so good. Dylan eventually felt that he had enough energy to oblige, so we brought them back to the Tattle Tale area for more good lines. With the steady snowfall and a little wind out there, we were definitely talking refresher runs where our previous tracks were getting filled in. That’s part of the fun of storm days of course. Dylan was eager to do some of the photography with the 7D2, so we set him up with it and with some training and a little on the fly help from E, he had a blast. It would be great if he wants to keep working on that and become more experienced, because he already captured some excellent shots, and I’m always happy to get out from behind the camera and let others have fun with it. He snagged a really nice shot of me cutting a hard turn along the edge of Tattle Tale.
We did one more run in the Intro Woods before calling it a day, and I’d say that was good stopping point so that we didn’t tire Dylan out too much; the season is still young and hopefully he’ll be working up to some longer days. Still, we found some really great snow out there during those last couple of runs, and it was hard to pull away and head home knowing how many great spots we didn’t even get to visit. The weather looks to stay wintry this week though, so the snow could be well preserved over the next several days.