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.
With no obvious fresh snow in the past few days for the Northern Greens, there wasn’t a huge extra incentive to head out for turns this weekend, but as PF noted with his report on the conditions at Stowe, the quality of the snow that is out there on piste is tremendously high. We’ve had a few decent resurfacing events this season, but this most recent series of winter storms including that low pressure from the Ontario/Quebec border passing southeast across the region on the 26th, Winter Storm Piper on the 28th, that quick moving system that came across from the Great Lakes on the 1st, and then Winter Storm Quest on the 4th, has probably been the best. We picked up roughly 30 inches of snow in the span of that week at our site in the Winooski Valley, and of course the mountains did substantially better than that. Moreover, being the late February/early March period, all that snow came in with a strong snowpack in place, more so than any of the previous resurfacing events. The snowpack at our house currently has 5 inches of liquid equivalent in it, so the mountain snowpack must be absolutely loaded. Suffice it to say, the past couple of weeks has been a setup for great ski conditions.
E and I found ourselves with some time yesterday afternoon, and the skies were clear with temperatures in the 30s F, so we headed up to Bolton Valley for some on piste Telemark runs at Timberline. The first thing we noticed was that Timberline was a very popular place for a Sunday afternoon, and that was because the third annual Blauvelt’s Banks competition was taking place there. Dylan had mentioned that he’d seen them building the course there earlier in the week, and that was an interesting change of pace because they’ve held it up at the main mountain in the past. This year, the course was on the lower part of Showtime, with an excellent view for those riding the Timberline Quad, and the course looked great. The placement of the course did mean that access to Showtime and Twice as Nice was restricted though.
In terms of our ski session, we hit just about everything else that was available off the Timberline Quad. Even after a number of days without fresh snow, the quality of the ski surfaces continues to be fantastic. The snowpack can certainly take a beating as we get farther into spring with those seasonal temperature fluctuations, but even with temperatures edging a bit above freezing, the snow just seems to stay beautifully consistent. Most terrain has soft, winter snow, and even in areas at lower elevations in the sun where the snow was transitioning to a more spring-like surface, it continues to retain that winter-like consistency and softness. You can just lay into every turn and get a beautiful, smooth, quiet carve out of it. We stuck to on piste terrain on this outing, but I did check the snow off piste, and it still seemed quite light and powdery, even down near 1,500’ elevation. It looks like yet another system, Winter Storm Sage, has the potential to affect the area in the next couple of days, and the ski conditions will hopefully continue to be strong because any snow it brings should be going down atop the current quality snowpack.
I’m not sure exactly when the snow from Winter Storm Quest started up around here, but it was well into the overnight hours, and I’m not even sure if I saw any accumulation before midnight. So, waking up this morning to find over 8 inches on the boards for 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS observations meant that the snow must have been coming down in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range. There were plenty of large flakes falling at that point, and this morning’s liquid analysis revealed that the water content in the snow was 8.5%, or a snow to liquid ratio of approximately 11 or 12 to 1.
Ty and I got up to the hill just about the time of the opening of the Timberline Quad, and had a great bunch of runs while we waited for Dylan and Colin to join us. During those morning runs, it was quickly obvious that the new snow that had fallen had laid in a massive resurfacing of the slopes. The snow was actually on the dense side due to fairly small flakes up at Bolton Valley, and I’d say it was running a bit above 10% H2O up there. The snow was dense enough that you wanted terrain on the steeper side to really have a good flow on the descent, and that was fine, because in terms of sufficient coverage of the base snow and any underlying obstacles, it didn’t matter how steep the terrain was. On piste, off piste, it didn’t matter; just pick the steepest lines you could find, ski as aggressively as you wanted, and you weren’t hitting the subsurface. We tested many of the steepest lines available on Timberline like the Spell Binder headwall and the Tattle Tale Headwall, and they skied beautifully. We hit steep off piste lines that I don’t usually find to be that great because their pitch is often too much for the quality of the snow or achieving bottomless skiing, and it just didn’t matter.
In terms of surface snow depths, our checks in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range were about 15 inches if we had to pick a best estimate, but it was really hard to tell exactly how much snow came from just this storm. The new snow was sitting atop snow from other recent storms, and it all just continues to stack and set up excellent surfaces. It snowed all morning, so that kept piling on new snow to the accumulations as well. Total snowpack depth is 40 inches or more above 2,500’, and the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake being over 60 inches speaks to that.
Later in the morning we finally met up with Dylan and Colin, and we just went around hitting some of our favorite steepest off piste lines all over the mountain. Timberline had no lift queue for essentially the whole morning, but after about midday, the temperature at those lowest elevations seemed to creep up toward freezing and the snow became even a bit denser. It was somewhat subtle, but you could tell when you skied a run that the powder in the lowest elevations was a bit thicker than it was above 2,000’. After most of the morning at Timberline, we focused on the main mountain for the early afternoon where everything was above 2,000’, just in case Timberline continued to warm and the powder got wet.
We joined up with Parker and his dad for a final run on the main mountain before making a big long run all the way down from the Vista Summit to the Timberline Base. Temperatures clearly hadn’t gotten too high to really ruin the powder because it was still fine all the way to the Timberline Base at 1,500’. Ty, Dylan, Parker and I finished off our day around midafternoon with a visit to the Timberline Base Lodge and some great food from El Gato, and we definitely felt like we’d earned a good meal with the energy we’d put into the day’s skiing.
It continued to snow most of the day, and after a bit of a lull around midday, the snowfall picked right back in the afternoon to the level it had been in the morning. So, we knew there was definitely more accumulation on the way. Back down at the house at 500’ that afternoon we could see that temperatures had definitely gone above freezing because some of the new snow had settled, but the mountain elevations seemed to fare quite well with respect to any melting or settling.
We’ve recently come into a snowier stretch here in the Northern Greens; we’ve picked up accumulating snow at our house every day for the past ten days, and over two feet of new snow has fallen in the valley during that period. The skiing has been great, but I haven’t been up to the hill since I was out on Sunday with the boys because I’ve just been a bit too busy. My schedule was a little lighter today though, and with a modest system affecting the area over the past couple of days, I headed up to Timberline for a quick tour on my way in to Burlington.
Bolton Valley was reporting 3-4” of new snow in the past 24 hours, so I was eager to see how the powder was looking with that addition. On my ascent, I was generally finding 4-6” of surface snow in areas that hadn’t recent been groomed, and that seemed to increase a couple more inches by the time I got up around the 2,300’ mark at the Timberline Mid Station. I descended on Twice as Nice, where they’d groomed a strip down the middle, but left the sides untouched for powder skiing. The powder skiing was excellent, and generally bottomless – even on mid-fat skis I only contacted the base a couple of times. Although the lift had started right around when I began my ascent, I was actually the first one down the trail for the day, so even when I encountered the groomed snow it was pristine, deep, and skiing really well.
“…I cut left into Doug’s Woods to check out the snow there. I think even the ungroomed areas I’d been skiing had been previously groomed, because off piste, the surface snow was a solid foot of powder everywhere I checked.”
As I approached the bottom ¼ of the trail I saw that there wasn’t much for powder strips on the sides with the way they’d groomed, so I cut left into Doug’s Woods to check out the snow there. I think even the ungroomed areas I’d been skiing had been previously groomed, because off piste, the surface snow was a solid foot of powder everywhere I checked. That skied really well. Moreover, those conditions were encountered all the way down at 1,500’ on western facing slopes, so I’m sure things are even better up around 3,000’. We’ll have to see how Winter Storm Quest plays out over the next day or two, but the fact that it’s going down atop a snowpack that already has such good surface snow is a recipe for some really excellent ski conditions.
With the way it was pounding heavy snow when I left Bolton yesterday, and their morning report indicating a foot of snow for the storm total at that point, I figured another ski session was in order today.
Snow levels had dropped all the way to the valleys yesterday, but they really didn’t start picking up much accumulation at those lower elevations until the evening. Even the valleys were coated in white this morning, so accumulations started there, and the mountains just tacked on more.
When I first got up to the mountain this morning, I encountered blizzard like conditions due to the snowfall and wind, and the wind was certainly stronger than I saw at any point yesterday. Like yesterday, the snow would often come in pulses – you’d have light to moderate snowfall with a brightening of the sky, and then visibility would drop and you’d encounter heavy snow. At one point on today’s tour, intense snow came on so fast that visibility dropped to ~100 feet in just seconds. I was in the middle of taking some photos, and had use some of the initial exposures because part of what I was shooting about 200 feet away literally became invisible behind the snowfall, and I just had to move on.
The temperatures this morning was pretty cold, down in the single digits F, so I found the snow a bit slow except for the less settled/lower density areas. The more consolidated areas of powder with the finer grains or wind-based compaction were just on the slow side due to the combination of temperatures and the snow density
“Based on my ski sessions from yesterday and today, I wouldn’t put the current skiing in the top 20% of the season’s turns, but probably into that next quintile down. It was definitely good, but even in this fairly lackluster season, we’ve had a number of better storm cycles in terms of both total liquid equivalent, subsurface quality, and powder quality/dryness.”
Based on my ski sessions from yesterday and today, I wouldn’t put the current skiing in the top 20% of the season’s turns, but probably into that next quintile down. It was definitely good, but even in this fairly lackluster season, we’ve had a number of better storm cycles in terms of both total liquid equivalent, subsurface quality, and powder quality/dryness. With the continued snowfall, today’s additional liquid equivalent was enough to bump up the resurfacing to really encompass blue and some black terrain. The biggest bump I think this most recent event gets when it comes to the overall quality of the ski experience was due to skier numbers, which were way down. I was touring in the late morning today and there were only 3 or 4 tracks coming down Lower Turnpike where the Wilderness Uphill Route is located. A typical midseason day would definitely have seen more activity by that point. Sure, it was a Monday, but yesterday was sort of the same; it’s just that time of year when many people don’t have the drive to ski because it’s not wintry where they are, or they’ve moved on to other activities, or whatever. That’s of course one of the reasons March and April are so great in the mountains – we keep getting snow, and the availability of fresh tracks is a little easier.
I’ve updated yesterday’s accumulations profile with the additions I saw this morning:
340’: 0” -> 1-2”
1,000’: T -> 2”
1,200’: 1” -> 2-3”
1,500’: 2” -> 3”
2,000’: 4” -> 5”
2,500’: 5” -> 6”
Today’s tour only brought me up to ~2,700’, so I can’t update those numbers from the higher elevations, but the trend between the additional snowfall and settling seemed to be to tack on another inch or two to what was present yesterday afternoon.
We may have another storm coming into the area for next weekend, so we’ll see if we get some turns out of another spring storm cycle.
Even with Powderfreak’s timely snow updates providing knowledge of how much snow fell and how it was skiing on Mansfield today, you never really know quite how it’s going to be until you get up on the mountain. I’d seen Bolton’s initial morning report of 1-3” in the 2,000’-3,000’ elevation range, so when I found 2” at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ on the way up the Access Road, I knew the accumulations had been increasing through the morning.
Arriving at the main base, I started out the ski day with a tour up to the Wilderness Summit at ~3,150’, and someone had also broken trail up Ricker Mountain, so I followed that for a bit and probably topped out around 3,300’. This was one of those days where it was definitely nice to be able to start touring above 2,000’ with the elevation dependence of the snowfall.
The powder skiing was great, so after my tour, I hung around for some lift-served laps as well. There was plenty of fresh snow in those runs, since I was able to connect over to parts of Wilderness on those runs for powder laps. As of midday, there was already a solid resurfacing of the low angle terrain, so aside from any scoured areas, the powder on that terrain was skiing beautifully. Even low-angle terrain that had been skier packed was excellent, so this new snow had adhered nicely to the subsurface. On one of my lift-served runs, I saw this in play with the quiet turns of skiers on Bear Run and Sprig O’ Pine as I passed over on the Vista Quad.
I’m not sure how much liquid equivalent has been put down at elevation with this storm, since we’re certainly not getting as much liquid down here in the valley as the mountains are. We’ve had about 0.12” of liquid from this event down here, but based on how the powder turns felt today, the mountains had probably seen 0.3-0.5” up high as of midday? Anyway, medium angle terrain was a mixed bag in terms of sufficient resurfacing. In areas of untracked powder over at Wilderness, I was generally getting bottomless turns even up to some single black terrain. There were some great turns in areas that hadn’t been scoured. When I was over skiing the lift-served terrain on Vista though, you were definitely getting down to the old base on the blues and blacks – there certainly hasn’t been enough liquid equivalent put down with this event to hold up to those levels of skier traffic.
Today it was snowing all the way down to the valley floor, but accumulations didn’t start until ~1,000’. Here’s the new snow accumulations profile I found around midday:
Once above the 2,000’ level, there weren’t any massive increases in accumulations that I saw, just sort of slow, steady increase, as the profile shows. The powder was meaty as Powderfreak had indicated in his report, so powder turns were great.
The snowfall today ranged from huge, pounding flakes, to lighter episodes where the snow continued, but the sky would brighten. It was really pounding when I left, and made me want to stay for another run or two. I’m not sure if it can keep up at today’s snowfall pace overnight, but tomorrow would obviously be another great day if it did.
In terms of not quite knowing what it’s going to be like until you get there, today definitely delivered. Overall, the snow was great, and so was the scenery. It was often snowing hard with those big flakes, but the light levels and visibility were often pretty high because it’s now late March.
The forecast this weekend seemed generally on the dreary side, but I did want to get out for some turns and exercise, and early this afternoon seemed like a decent window. The colder air and snow were expected to move into the area later in the afternoon, so midday offered the chance at spring snow that wouldn’t have tightened up, and it would be ahead of any rain that might fall on the lower elevations of the mountain.
Indeed I found some nice spring conditions today at Bolton Valley, all the way up above 3,000’. There’s a lot of good corn snow out there, but some trails have those still slick areas of denser snow and ice underneath that you have to watch out for. It wasn’t warm enough (generally in the 30s to near 40 F at 2,000’+ where I skied on the main mountain today) to really soften those densest spots, so the best skiing involved working your way around those areas and using the available corn snow. Some trails (like Alta Vista and Hard Luck) had more corn snow available and fewer slick spots, while others (like Spillway and Beech Seal) had more of those icy/dense spots to work around.
The good news is that all that dense snow is going to last quite a while as we head into the spring. Most natural snow trails had some coverage issues, so skiing was generally on routes with manmade snow today. There’s still a lot of natural snow in the elevation range of the main mountain though (the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is around 40 inches), so a lot of terrain would be in play with natural base for any large storm cycles that come through in the next few weeks.
When I first got to the mountain this afternoon, the cloud ceiling was up and down in the 2,500’ – 3,000’ range and there wasn’t any precipitation. On my last run though, it was snowing up at ridgeline level, and by the time I was leaving, the frozen precipitation was just starting to make it down to the Village elevations. The snow level must be well below 2,000 now though, because I can see that the precipitation is all snow on Bolton’s main base area webcam.
Today was the day after the storm (Winter Storm Quinlan), and the weather had settled down. E and I headed up for morning turns at Timberline, and the conditions were great. It was still cold by March standards, somewhere in the teens F in the morning. The storm total reported by Bolton Valley was around 18 inches.
We spent our entire morning at Timberline, and just stayed there since there was plenty of snow even down to 1,500’, and there was still some wind around as we hit 2,500’. My depth checks generally revealed about 12” of new snow after settling down in the Timberline elevations, which with the density at the beginning of the storm was plenty to cover most on piste terrain. Initially, the headwalls of the steepest terrain areas were closed, since they had been scoured by the winds and thus not covered as well as they otherwise would have been. The traverses below them were in good shape though, so that gave you access to run after run of untracked powder on trails like Spell Binder. Eventually, patrol even opened the Spell Binder headwall, but you had to be quite cautious going down the most scoured sections.
For off piste runs, you had to know the areas with good base depths, but the skiing in those areas was excellent. The usual steepest areas were still sketchy of course, as one storm can only do so much to cover up areas with poor base depths. E and I had a great run in the lower KP Glades, and when we showed it to Dylan and Parker once they arrived it the early afternoon, they were pretty impressed with the conditions as well. E and I left around 1:00 P.M., but the boys did a lot of off piste exploring in the afternoon, and my Dylan’s ski got a solid core shot to show for it.
“My depth checks generally revealed about 12” of new snow after settling down in the Timberline elevations, which with the density at the beginning of the storm was plenty to cover most on piste terrain.”
The parking lots up at the Village were already full when we arrived in the morning, so the Timberline Quad had intermittent periods with a lift queue as the people arriving made their way up to the main mountain, but thankfully those died off as people dispersed. Bolton opened the new expansion to the Timberline Lodge for the first time this weekend, and it looks quite nice. I hear they are also going to use it as rentable space for conferences and events, but it’s going to be a great addition to the space in the lodge.
Our latest system, Winter Storm Quinlan, was just getting going today, but once it got rolling, it was quite a ride, and I’d say that term applies to both the skiing and the driving. Snowfall rates down here at the house were running at around an inch an hour during earlier day, and the higher elevations were obviously doing at least that well. With that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain in the afternoon, by which point there should have been a good chance at a solid resurfacing of the slopes. I had no idea how long the lifts were going to hold out in terms of the wind, so I packed midfats and fat skis, with skins for both. It’s always a good insurance policy to have the skins on hand for these types of storm days.
E opted out of heading up with me, since she suspected the driving on the access road was going to be outrageously hairy, and that the storm conditions on the hill were going to brutal. She was, of course, correct on both accounts. On the drive up the Bolton Valley access road, I saw two cars that had ditched on their descents. That wasn’t bad compared to some storms, but it was certainly a sign. Both vehicles had gone off at those steep bottom pitches of the access road as it makes its final dive into the Winooski Valley, which is a common area for cars to bail. For one of the vehicles, a tow truck was just getting set up to pull it out, and it looked like the operator was going to need to take up the entire roadway to do it. Thankfully, he waved me by just as he was about to rig up. In the midst of the heavy snowfall, the scene felt like something out of “Highway Through Hell”. Thankfully, it wasn’t a big rig off the road, but the weather fit the bill. I could see that there were multiple plows working the road to try to keep up with the snowfall, because it was constantly pouring down and making the driving rough.
Up above 2,000’ at the resort, Quinlan was going full tilt in terms of both snowfall rates and wind. Obviously the skiers and riders were dressed for it and took it in stride, but you could see that Village elevations had already taken quite a pounding during the day. By that point, the storm had put down 8-10” of new snow in the Village, and the parking lots hadn’t been plowed since the morning. Moving through the lots was tough with all that snow, and cars without 4WD/AWD and clearance, were definitely struggling to get around. I got a spot right in the top lot from someone who had recently left, but I spent a good amount of time packing and checking my spot to ensure that I was going to be able to get out later.
I hopped on the Snowflake Lift and took a run on Sprig O’ Pine to find that indeed there had been quite a resurfacing of the slopes. That 8-10” of snow certainly wasn’t fluff, and it had started out quite dense, allowing it to bond to the subsurface. The Vista Quad and Wilderness Chair were already down on wind hold, and just as I skied up to the entrance of the Mid Mountain Chair, it went down on wind hold as well. When Mid Mountain goes down, you know the wind is serious.
I could have done some additional laps on Snowflake or headed down to the Timberline Quad, but I really didn’t have a sense for how long they might be able to keep running with the winds. So, I grabbed my skins from the car and headed to the Wilderness Uphill Route. The Lower Turnpike area was sheltered from the winds as usual, but above 3,000’ on the ridgeline, the winds were just brutal. The winds had to be 40 to 50 MPH sustained, and when I hit the final traverse of Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness Summit, I almost couldn’t skin across because there were already waist-high drifts blocking the route. I had to break trail along the eastern edge of the traverse and cut between the drifts and the trees. Conditions at the Wilderness Summit were a maelstrom, and even in the most sheltered spot I could find, it was still so windy that packing up my skins was a struggle. I laughed to even think of the upper lifts running under those conditions.
I’d say the snowfall accumulations at that point were rough 8-10” at ~2,000’ and 10-12” at 3,000’, and the skiing, as one would expect, was excellent. As noted, there had been dense snow at the start of the storm, and everything of moderate pitch, or even higher angle pitch if the subsurface was smooth, had been resurfaced. I’d seen a couple small groups of folks descending while I was heading up, but after that, I saw nobody. I essentially had the entire main mountain area to myself at that point, and it was just point, go, and ski lots of fresh powder.
With the solitude I’d experienced out on my tour, the intensity of the ongoing storm, and the fact that it was already after 4:00 P.M., I expected to return to a deserted base area. But that wasn’t the case; the Snowflake Lift and Mighty Mite were still running, and some folks were even skiing. After being up in the 40-50 MPH winds, the 20-30 MPH winds around the base area did feel a bit tamer. I couldn’t believe that the new Miso Kome Japanese food stand outside the base lodge was operating, but I’d yet to have a chance to try it, so despite the stormy conditions, I took it as a sign. If they were willing to stay open during a storm like this, then hey, I’ll take the opportunity to try out their food. While attempting to read their menu, which was on a sign pitched several feet away from the stand, it was snowing so hard that I had to keep wiping off the new snow just to get through the various items. It had to be snowing at around 2”/hour at that point. Inside the lodge, everything appeared to be quite normal, and I was even able to grab a couple of pizzas from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to the family. So I guess storm or no storm, the services roll on at the resort.
The final part of Saturday’s outing was the descent down the access road. I’ve obviously been down that road in many, many storms, but the timing of this one with the heavy snowfall rates made it one of the more challenging descents I can recall. We were crawling down the road. Cars were moving at a snail’s pace because the intense snowfall made it hard for the plows to keep up, and the road surface was so slick that you’d almost be slipping off the edge at a full stop. On more than one occasion, I opted to ride the crown of the road because just the natural drainage slope in your lane wanted to guide you off. About halfway down, we caught a nice boost from a plow that was on the way up and set up some added traction to the center of the road. I used that slice of extra traction as much as possible for the remainder of the descent.
It was great to get home with the food and talk about the whole experience at dinner, and all told, that was certainly one of the more eventful ski outings of the season.