The very cold air was still in place today here in the Northern Greens, but we also had some fresh snow moving in with a bit of weak upper-level vorticity pushing through the area. Temperatures at elevation looked like they would stay in the single digits F, so ski touring once again seemed to be the call vs. riding the lifts.
We’d picked up a half-inch or so of new snow down at the house when I headed up to Bolton Valley in the mid to late afternoon. Flakes had been small throughout the storm, so accumulations were coming in a bit on the denser side at around 10 to 12% H2O. I found the same type of snowfall up on the hill, although it was coming down with a bit more intensity. You could see that vehicles had taken on some decent accumulations from the day’s snowfall up to that point.
My ski tour was over in the Holden’s Hollow area, and my initial descent was down through some of the C Bear Woods and Holden’s Hollow West Side Glades that I’ve hit many times before. Based on yesterday’s Wilderness tour, the sweet spot for best turns based on the depth and consistency of the powder seemed to be those mid-angle slopes, so that’s what I was seeking out. Today I was touring at relatively low elevation in the 2,000’ to 2,500’ range, and depth measurements revealed a similar 8 to 10” of powder to what I’d seen yesterday. That surface snow was bolstered a bit by what was falling, but the liquid equivalent from that snow was only about a tenth of an inch, so it wasn’t a major addition. Those mid-angle slopes delivered once again though, with generally bottomless turns on 115 mm fat skis. I mixed things up a bit on the tour to explore some new terrain and continued my descent on the back side of the ridge down below the Telemark trail to the Maple Loop area. I then joined back on to a lower part of the Telemark trail and looped back around to the Holden’s Hollow area again to finish off with a front side descent.
Although temperatures weren’t supposed to be all that different from what they were on Friday, I think they were a few degrees warmer, and with the absence of those 30 to 50 MPH winds, the difference was dramatic. The air was quite calm while I was touring, and the snow was falling straight down, so the overall conditions were just much more comfortable and easy to handle.
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.
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.
I hadn’t been up to the mountain for a couple of days while I waited for the arctic hounds to head out of town, but things were definitely warming up this afternoon, so I hit the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network for a tour. Temperatures were in the mid-teens F, and with brilliant sunshine and no wind, it was definitely getting much more comfortable out there.
I wanted a relatively quick tour and hadn’t yet visited the trails on the western side of the network below the North Ridge this season, so I headed out in that direction. At the 2,000’ elevation around the Village I was quite consistently getting settled snowpack depths right around 24”, and in the 2,300’ – 2,400’ elevation near the top of my route, I got a 26” measurement. Although that’s not especially deep, there’s a lot of liquid in the snowpack, so everything is surprisingly well covered and there aren’t any major ground obstacles to worry about. Even steep terrain like C Bear Woods and the Holden’s Hollow Glades had plenty of coverage. I’m sure there would be a few coverage issues on steep terrain for lift-served levels of skier traffic, but with just backcountry traffic, there’s more than enough coverage to ski everything without concern. Although it had only been a couple of days since the last snows, there had actually been a pretty good amount of traffic on the main routes I traveled, so I had to go off the edges for fresh powder.
There has definitely been some settling of all the fluff in the forest over the past few days, but there’s still a lot of snow covering everything. It will be interesting to see what the snow from this next storm does in terms of sticking to what’s out there already.
Dylan and E were off to a sledding party this afternoon in Morrisville, but it was such a gorgeous day that getting out for a ski tour was definitely on my mind. Ty had to work until noon, and was heading to a friend’s house at 4 P.M., but we definitely had enough time to sneak a tour in that window. Once Ty was back and we’d gear up, we headed right to Bolton Valley.
You almost couldn’t ask for better weather today – we had blue skies, and temperatures at Village elevation were right around 30 F. That’s nice and comfortable for touring, but not warm enough to really start adversely affecting the powder. Visitation at the resort looked strong, but there were still available parking spots and we were able to get one right along the trails in the upper tennis court lot.
“The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough.”
We toured over toward Holden’s Hollow today, and the theme was definitely efficiency. Ty is in really great shape, so his pace is even faster than mine, and within about 25 minutes we were already in position for a descent. Based on how fast we’d moved, I said we’d easily have time for a couple of laps, so we set up for an initial descent through a nice glade on the back side of the ridge. Ty worked on deskinning with his skis still on, and was quite fast with it, so our transition speed only enhanced just how efficient and quick we were overall.
We had first tracks for our descent of the glade, and the conditions were excellent. I’d actually describe the conditions as even better than what we encountered last Saturday when I was out at Bolton with Dylan – and that already wasn’t too shabby. The powder skiing on that outing with Dylan was decent, but there was a marginal buried crust present in some areas that knocked the overall feel down a notch. The mountains have had several more inches of snow since then though, and today we really didn’t encounter any signs of that crust because it’s probably just buried deep enough. Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend. The powder was more consistent today though with any crust buried deeper. That 20 inches of powder is fairly settled at this point of course, so we’re not talking about sinking down 20 inches into fresh champagne, you’re more like 6 to 12 inches down in the powder, but the rest is serving as fantastic cushion above the base. Our first run was on a fairly south-facing slope, but the trees offered a good amount of protection from the sun. A few spots were just starting to get that first phase of the powder being affected by the sun, but those were few and far between.
Once we were back down at the Telemark Trail, we switched over for another ascent, and I was much more efficient at the transition, so told Ty I’d start the ascent and he could catch up. This time, I broke trail through the powder beyond our previous lap, and headed up to the top to access the east side of the ridge. Ty caught up to me just as I was cresting, so it worked out perfectly.
“Surface powder depths we found were right around 20 inches before getting down to the base, which is basically what we found last weekend.”
We descended in the C Bear Woods area that I’d visited back during my tour on the 1st of the month. We had first tracks there as well, but the powder wasn’t quite as good as what we’d found on our first ascent – I think wind effects up on that part of the ridge were the main culprit. The sun was also doing a bit more work on that snow, so in some areas it had lost a bit more of its winter fluff texture.
Back down at the bottom of that run, Ty and I skinned up for the final return to the car, and we found that we’d less than 90 minutes for the whole tour. It was fun getting things done so efficiently, and we really weren’t even pushing ourselves, it was just overall solid pace and good transitions between skinning and skiing.
We’ve got another potential winter storm coming later this week, and it looks pretty nice for the mountains around here from what I’ve seen on the models. The initial snow might be dense since it not an especially cold storm, but unless things change dramatically it looks like another nice shot of liquid equivalent for the snowpack. Some of the models also show extended upslope snow on the back side of the cycle, which would be great to top off the powder skiing conditions.
Temperatures were really in a sweet spot today – they were just a bit below freezing, which meant that they were extremely comfortable, but not warm enough to ruin any of the powder. I think a lot of people know that today was going to be spectacular out there, because even the lots down by the Nordic Center were filling up when I arrived around 10:00 A.M. The upper tennis court lot was already filled, so I had to head to the lower one, but I got a nice trailside parking spot that let me gear up and jump right onto Broadway.
“The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.”
I needed to pick up Ty from work at noon, so my plan was a quick tour out to the Holden’s Hollow area to get in some powder turns. Consistent with the parking lots, there were people all over the Nordic trails, and a number heading out onto the backcountry trails as well. Once I got up onto the Telemark Trail I didn’t see anyone else around however, and based on the skin track it looked like only about 3 or 4 people had even been out on that part of the network recently.
I had to break trail on the final stretch up to the ridgeline above Holden’s Hollow, and once I’d crested I found myself with a vast area of untracked snow below me. The depths of powder I’d found down at the ~2,000’ Village level were generally in the 10-15” range, and up there in the 2,300-2,400’ elevation range I was finding a fairly consistent 16” of powder.
As I switched over for the descent, I noticed a trail sign just down the ridgeline from me, and figured it was one of the markers for some of the Holden’s Hollow Glades. Once I headed over to it though, I saw that it read “C Bear Woods”, and I realized it was a sign I’d never seen before. The sign looks new, so it’s either an area that was recently updated for skiing, or perhaps folks just got around to putting up a sign. Whatever the case, the glade below me was entirely untracked, and the powder was excellent. As I encountered on Thursday, there was a bit of a crust buried within the pack in some spots, but in this case it was either absent or buried deep enough that it was inconsequential.
I was surprised to find that the run actually brought me down on the back side of the ridge, which would have been great for doing another lap, but unfortunately I didn’t have time. I cut eastward through the trees and got myself over to the east side of the ridge where I was able to descend back to the Telemark Trail and Broadway with more untracked powder turns.
From the pump house/bridge area, I re-skinned my skis for my return to the Village – I’ve learned the investment of a couple minutes into putting on your skins is well worth it for that return trip with its slight uphill inclines.
When I got back to my car a bit before noon, even the lower tennis court lot had filled, and the parking lots in general looked packed to the gills. The mountain was definitely doing a booming business, and I guess that shouldn’t be surprising on a midwinter Saturday with a recent resurfacing of the slopes, full operation, and perfect temperatures.
Today was another one of those days where I really hadn’t expected to ski. We had a great lift-served family ski day on Saturday, and then I went on a backcountry reconnaissance tour on the Woodward Mountain Trail and Woodward Mountain yesterday, so I’d already had a decent dose of weekend skiing. Today was going to be a bit chillier, and I was happy to simply catch up on some work at home, but Mother Nature seemed to have other plans. It snowed all morning at our house in Waterbury, with big, fluffy, champagne flakes, and we’d picked up 3 to 4 inches of new snow by noontime. If it was snowing like that down at our house, I could only imagine what might be going on 2,000’ higher up at the mountain, so I decided that I should do a quick ski tour and find out.
“I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder.”
It was still snowing rather vigorously when I got up to the mountain, and it was hard to tell exactly how much new snow had fallen over the previous layers of powder, but it seemed to be at least as much as we’d picked up down at the house. The approach section of the tour along Broadway went smoothly, and I’d quickly wrapped around on the Telemark trail and reached the ridgeline in the Holden’s Hollow area. I ripped off my skins and cruised through some of the back side glades in 10 to 12 inches of pristine powder. That snow was very high quality, similar to what I’d found on the west side glades on Woodward Mountain during yesterday’s tour, and the run was over way too quickly.
I skinned back up to the ridge, and headed northward a bit more to gain some additional elevation for a front side descent. The front side Holden’s Hollow Glades had definitely seen some traffic, and I found that I was touching down to the subsurface in areas that been previously packed out by skier traffic. I ended up heading a bit to the skiers right of the glades there to catch the best snow.
This time, for my return trip to the car, I put my skins back on to cross the flats in the Pond Loop area, instead of just managing the traverse on skis alone. It’s hard to say if it made the trip back to the car faster overall with the time required to stop and reapply skins, but it was definitely nice to make the trek without ever sliding backwards.
With our recent winter storm dropping 2½ to 3 feet of snow at the local resorts, the ski conditions are simply fantastic. However, the storm also brought some cold air with it, and that’s now in place over the area. Temperatures were expected to top out in the single digits F today, which isn’t horribly cold, but cold enough that I’d rather be skinning for turns than riding lifts.
Temperatures were indeed in the mid to upper single digits F when I arrived at the Village around midafternoon, and not surprisingly with the fantastic snow conditions, there were a ton of Nordic skiers out on the Network. I headed right over toward the Holden’s Hollow area via Pond Loop, and found myself on the Telemark Trail briefly before I cut right to Holden’s Hollow. My ascent on Holden’s Hollow made me realize just how expansive that area is – there are a lot more sections of maintained glades around there than I knew, not to mention the amount of natural terrain that is skiable on its own.
“In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common.”
Being well on the leeward side of Oxbow Ridge and North Ridge, the snow in the Holden’s Hollow area is well protected from winds, and boy is the quantity and quality of the powder impressive. In the lowest areas around Village elevation I would typically find at least 12 to 15 inches of powder, but as I ascended in elevation I quickly found that depths of 20 inches or more were common. I’m sure the powder has settled some since it initially fell (my analyses at the house were revealing densities in the 3% H2O range near the end of the storm) but all the snow out there is incredibly light and dry, with a fantastic soft base underneath it. The turns were essentially as you’d expect with snow like that – simply outstanding. I guess the only complaint I can muster would be that a few skiers had already been through the area so I had to hunt around off the main lines a bit for fresh tracks. However, this is the kind of powder that’s so deep and plentiful, it’s still amazingly good even after it’s seen a few passes from other skiers. That’s indeed what’s out there right now in the backcountry, so get out and enjoy it if you’ve got the chance!