Bolton Valley, VT 10FEB2024

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in soft snow during a warm February day on the Spell Binder trail in the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Mid Station area of the Timberline Quad Chairlift with a lift attendant and a pair of skis stuck in the snow on a warm February day at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A pair of skis and the lift attendant at the Timberline Mid Station give hints of a spring-like view to go with today’s temperatures and snow

Today was forecast the be the warmest day of this current stretch, and while there was a chance for showers, it was sunny most of the morning. We had an appointment in the afternoon, but with sunshine and valley temperatures expected to get into the 50s F, it seems like too nice a day to pass up the chance to get in some turns.

We headed up to Bolton’s Timberline area, since the relatively low elevation and exposure there make it the best bet for the snow to start softening up. I think even snow on the main mountain would have been fine though – the snow was already nice and soft all the way up to the Timberline Summit at 2,500’ when we arrived in the midmorning period. With the soft snow and sunshine, today on the slopes had more of a March feel than a typical February feel.

An image of drops of melted snow falling off the roof of the Timberline Base Lodge on a warm February day at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Deep snow on the roof of the Timberline Lodge creates a symphony of drops as it begins to melt with today’s warm temperatures.

I don’t think the snow has seen too much freeze-thaw cycling over the past couple of days, but in general it was skiing quite well. I felt that my skis were sticking just a touch at the start of my first run, but that seemed to disappear quickly, so it was likely just an issue of working off some old wax or maybe some residual skin glue that had been left over from last weekend’s ski tours. We found the best turns to be where others were churning up the snow and getting down a bit into the cooler layers, but in general you could go anywhere. In terms of coverage, even the natural snow trails down at Timberline elevations are doing well, with a few bare spots here and there that were inconsequential in general. They’ll need some additional winter storms though for those lower elevation trails to maintain robust coverage into March and April.

An image of decorations by the El Gato Cantina station in the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stopping in for some après Mexican food today at the El Gato station in the Timberline Base Lodge

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 04FEB2024

An image looking to the east from the Stowe View area on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of evergreens covered with a light coating of snow in one of the glades below the Moose Glen area on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the evergreens as I glide my way through some of the terrain below Moose Glen on Bolton Valley’s Backcountry Network

Today was gorgeous, but we’re definitely in a dry spell with respect to winter weather events. Relative to the usual frequency of winter storm in the Northern Greens at this time of year, the period we’re in right now feels like being in the middle of a desert. The little clipper system that came through at the end of the week would typically be just a blip in the storm parade, but in this case it was a much appreciated mini oasis for this stretch of winter. I wasn’t sure if I was going to ski at all this weekend, let alone get out for two sessions, but the way the new snow set up the low angle terrain for powder turns wound up creating some respectable conditions. And then of course there was today’s perfect midwinter weather with clear blue skies and temperatures pushing into the upper 20s F – that really sealed the deal to get out for another ski tour.

A heart shape traced in the fresh snow along the Bryant trail on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontOn yesterday’s tour I hit a good collection of low angle terrain and explored some new spots that don’t typically lend themselves to great turns in deeper powder. Whereas yesterday I’d topped out around 2,800’ on Heavenly Highway, today I pushed out a bit father out toward Stowe View and topped out around 3,200’. Even up at that altitude, I wasn’t detecting any notable increases in new snow depths, so the general 2 to 3 inches that I’d encountered yesterday was still the rule.

An image of recent snow on a railing by the Backcountry Tent area on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Recent accumulations of on a railing in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Tent area at around 2,750′

My target terrain for today was some of the lower angle slopes in the Moose Glen/White Rabbit area. I hadn’t been up there in a while, and it turns out there was a lot of terrain that was steeper than I’d remembered, especially in the initial parts of the descent dropping down from Stowe View and Moose Glen. Although that terrain was a bit steep for today’s conditions, the visit did serve as a reminder to get out there when the powder is a bit deeper, because the terrain is quite expansive. I eventually got into more of the lower angle terrain that I’d remembered, and that offered some nice powder turns with similar consistency to what I’d experienced yesterday. Overall I’d say yesterday’s tour had a slightly higher yield in terms of catching smooth, bottomless turns on the right terrain, but today being Sunday, it did mean another full day of visitors getting out there in the snow. Even on the backcountry network, traffic eventually tracks up the snow, and with these conditions, you really needed untracked snow for the best turns. Just one pass through the snow by another skier makes a big difference with these lighter accumulations.

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

One neat thing I did see today while heading up Birch Loop was a skier returning from out on the Catamount Trail heading toward Bryant Cabin. There’s a bit of rolling terrain there that isn’t optimal for having skins either on or off, and what he did was to have a skin on one ski but not the other. When he was skiing, he was one-footing it on the ski with no skin for maximum glide, and then he could use the other ski with the skin on it for better grip going uphill. I thought that was a pretty slick compromise for that sort of rolling terrain. Being on Telemark gear, I typically just go without skins on rolling terrain since herring boning on the uphill sections is simpler with the light gear, but that guy’s technique could be a nice way to go on a heavier setup like alpine touring gear.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A copy of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map which lists the trails and many of the official glades

The snowpack out there is midwinter deep and ready for prime time as soon as we get another decent storm – let’s hope something pops up before mid-month so we don’t have to spend another ten days in this veritable snowfall desert.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 03FEB2024

An image of fresh snow on a trail sign for the Brant Trail on the Nordic and Backcountry network of ski trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of icicles and fresh snow on the roof of the Bryant Cabin along the Nordic and Backcountry Network of ski trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow and icicles adorn the roof of Bryant Cabin as I make my way through the area on today’s Bolton Valley backcountry ski tour

The clipper system that came through the area at the end of the week had been shown in the modeling for quite a while. Some of the earlier runs even suggested the potential for additional upslope snow on the back side of the system, but that component faded in the prognostications as the week wore on, and the system was essentially a clipper passing north of the area. Yesterday morning’s early snow reports of 2 to 3 inches for the Northern Greens resorts were somewhat encouraging, and that was bolstered by PF’s comments from Stowe indicating that the snow wasn’t just fluff – it had some substance to it.

After a consistent run of storm cycles throughout January, we’re in a relatively slow period of snowfall right now. We haven’t had a substantial storm in several days, and it looks like it will be at least a few more until our next one, so this is likely our best immediate window of fresh snow. With that in mind, it seemed like a good day to get our for some turns, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for some touring on the backcountry network.

An image of the top of an evergreen encased in rime ice as viewed during a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Rime adorns the top of an evergreen, which was a frequent sight throughout my ski tour today.

Starting from the Village at around 2,000’, I skinned up past Bryant Cabin to roughly 2,800’ on Heavenly Highway. The new snow depths were very much as advertised, with 2 to 3 inches of powder throughout that entire elevation range. There really wasn’t much increase in the snowfall totals at those elevations where I was touring, but the totals definitely started to tail off below 2,000’. I can’t say exactly how much fell at 1,500’, but it was noticeably less, and once you got below 1,000’ there was no new snow. At some point in the past several days there’s also been some riming in the mountains; you can see the rime on the trees at various elevations throughout the resort.

An image of branches coated with rime ice viewed during a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWith the available snow I stuck to low-angle glades for as much of my descent as possible, and as noted, the new powder had some substance to it so the turns would up being quite decent. On mid-fats I was probably getting 25-50% bottomless turns on terrain with the appropriate pitch. And even when touching down, the turns were still feeling very good because the subsurface has some pliability – it’s certainly dense, but nothing like the sheet of ice that would result from a big rainstorm followed by a refreeze. The base snow is soft enough that you can punch down into the snowpack if you’re not on a floatation device like skis or snowshoes, and I saw numerous signs of this happening where snowboarders or hikers were traversing areas in boots.

An image showing one of the gladed areas with fresh snow on the Nordic and Backcountry network of trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Thanks to our recent clipper system, there was enough new powder to make for great skiing on many of the lower angle glades and similar terrain areas of the Bolton valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

For the last part of my tour on the backcountry network I worked my way along Gardiner’s Lane and made good use of the low-angle terrain there. In many areas I was able to explore lines that you often can’t hit because the powder is too deep to sustain good momentum, but they were great today, so I experienced a lot of new sections of the network that I often breeze past.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A copy of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map which lists the trails and many of the official glades

I connected onto the alpine trails at Lower Turnpike for the last part of my tour, and let’s just say, if you didn’t get out for lift-served turns around here today, you’re really not missing anything. Lower Turnpike typically maintains some of the highest quality snow on the alpine trails because of relatively low skier traffic, modest pitch, and good protection from the wind. Even there, the surface was firm unless I was able to get into the untracked powder off to the sides, and if the snow is firm on Lower Turnpike you know it’s going to be very rough elsewhere. I don’t actually have to imagine what the conditions were like on the main trails though, because some friends sent us video of their son snowboarding today, and the sound of his board on the snow was excruciating. That’s probably going to be a common situation until the next substantial storm comes into the area or it gets very warm, so we’ll be looking for Mother Nature to get another good winter storm system through here as soon as possible.

An image of a Google Earth map overlaid with GPS tracking data from a February ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map overlaid with GPS tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

Sterling Forest and Sterling Range, VT 21JAN2024

A view of the Sterling Mountain Range in Northern Vermont in January while approaching from the southeast
An image of glades during a January backcountry ski tour up through the Sterling Forest and into the Sterling Range of the Northern Green Mountains of Vermont
A view down through some of the many glades available on today’s backcountry ski tour up through the Sterling Forest into the Sterling Range

Today the temperatures were still quite cold, so I again opted to stick to ski touring instead of riding the lifts, but it was a bit warmer than yesterday, and I decided to go a bit farther afield and higher in elevation. I set my sights on skiing in the Sterling Range, an area that has been on my list of ski touring spots for quite a while, but I just hadn’t gotten around to making the trip. A very convenient access point to the range is through the Sterling Forest area, and they have a really nice parking lot that’s maintained at the top of Sterling Valley Road.

I’d been up to the area in the warm season for mountain biking, but I haven’t been up there much in the winter. The snowpack around the houses up there is impressive, and you can tell that the area gets, and holds, a lot of snow. I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising with a number of houses that are well above elevations of 1,000’. Indeed there’s some good elevation there as you approach the Sterling Forest – the parking area is around 1,700’, which is 500’ higher than where I began my tour yesterday.

An image showing the trailhead area for the Upper Gorge Loop Trail of the Sterling Town Forest in Stowe, Vermont
A view of the trailhead area near the Sterling Forest parking lot as I start off on today’s ski tour

Most people I’ve talked to, as well as reports and videos I’ve seen, use the Upper Gorge Loop trail area as their main thoroughfare for touring. It serves as the approach and as a collector trail if you’re skiing the north side of the basin. For my approach I followed the northerly section of the Upper Gorge Loop Trail, which seemed to be the most popular based on the levels of traffic packing the snow. Following the trail, I began to see skin tracks branch off to head up the north side of the basin, but I continued on the loop trail until I hit its apex, just so I could get the lay of the land. I then skinned back a couple of minutes and took the highest skin track that was available. That brought me to the top of the ridge on the north side of the basin, and along the way I passed numerous open glades that had very few tracks and offered a lot of impressive skiing. I topped out around 2,900’ along the ridge, and descended through the glades back to the Upper Gorge Loop Trail.

Powder depths were very similar to what I found yesterday with respect to similar elevations. I was curious if there might be a difference in surface snow depths since I was about 12 miles farther north in the Northern Greens, but my measurements didn’t reveal any substantial differences.  I did ascend substantially higher on this tour though, so it let me add on to what I’d found yesterday. The powder depth profile I found today was as follows:

1,700’: 7-8”
2,000’: 7-8”
2,200’: 8-9”
2,500’: 10-11”
2,700’: 11-12”
2,900’: 12-13”

There are other options for nice touring out there, such as dropping down the back side of the ridge into the next drainage, but the approach to the slopes in the main basin is already a couple of miles even before you begin the main ascent through the glades, so I couldn’t really tack on more with the time I had. It was a gorgeous midwinter day though, with lots of sunshine, and that definitely helped to bring the temperature up that extra notch relative to yesterday.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour in the Sterling Forest area and Sterling Range in the Northern Green Mountains of Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from today’s backcountry ski tour in the Sterling Forest and Sterling Range in the Northern Green Mountain of Vermont

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 20JAN2024

An image of evergreens and mountains obscured by snowfall in the Beaver Pond area of the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Caribou's Corner sign in the Beaver Pond area of the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley ski Resort in Vermont
Passing by Caribou’s Corner on my ski tour today in the Beaver Pond area of Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network

Since today’s forecast was in the single digits F, and there was the possibility of wind as well, ski touring seemed like the natural choice vs. riding the lifts. In addition, our current weather system, while certainly enough to freshen up surfaces, isn’t expected to be large enough to really reset the powder in areas that had been recently skied.

With the cold temperatures, and the way the depth and quality of the snowpack has been improving over the past week or two, I decided that I’d tour in some relatively low elevations nearby to see what potential they held. I started my tour at the Catamount Trail access area at roughly 1,200’ on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and did a ski tour up to the Buchanan Shelter near the 2,200’ elevation. That’s not a heavily used part of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, so I suspected that untracked powder would be relatively plentiful.

While I was out touring in the afternoon, light snow fell continuously, and throughout the tour I checked powder depths above the highest detectable subsurface layer in the snowpack. The powder depth profile I found with respect to elevation was as follows:

1,200′: 6-8”
1,500′: 6-8”
1,800′: 7-8”
2,000′: 7-8”
2,200′: 8-9”

Even with cold temperatures, powder of the 3-4% H2O variety that we recently received from Winter Storm Heather can’t sustain that level of loft forever. Indeed, the powder I encountered today had settled down to something more in the 6-8% H2O range, so the numbers above are the depths to which the surface snow has currently settled. Obviously all these recent storms continue to push the useful snowpack to lower and lower elevations, so overall snowpack depth wasn’t an issue even down to the 1,200’ mark. It’s hard to get estimates of the total snowpack depth because the lower layers are so settled and thick, but the snowpack is maybe a couple feet deep down at 1,200’? While I don’t have an exact number, even if there was only a foot of base below the powder, it’s so consolidated and flush with liquid equivalent that it would easily do the job.

An image of the roofline of the Buchanan Shelter out on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A shot of the Buchanan Shelter while I transition for my descent

In terms of the skiing, the best turns were certainly up in the slopes just below the Buchanan Shelter where there is some solid pitch up into the black diamond realm. The approach portions of the tour have enough pitch to make a nice glide out and grab a few low-angle turns in certain spots, but with the current depths and density of the powder, descent speed is on the slower side right now. Also, cold temperatures like these reduce ski glide somewhat due to less melting, so that factors in as well. In the slopes up by the Buchanan Shelter I had the run of the area though in terms of fresh tracks. One person had recently skied back down the Beaver Pond Access Trail, but that was even a bit old, so it must have been from a couple of storms ago. Off in the trees, there were no prior tracks of any kind, so I had my pick of the most open lines, streambeds, chutes, etc. Fat skis were the call, and turns were definitely bottomless, but the best turns came from hitting those correct areas that appropriately accommodated the pitch, powder depth, cold snow, tree spacing, and all that.  There were some excellent powder turns on the tour though, so even down to the lower elevations in the ~1,000’ range, the current snowpack is really delivering.

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

Bolton Valley, VT 17JAN2024

An image of a sign reading "DO NOT PILE SNOW HERE" amongst plentiful snow from Winter Storm Heather around some of the condominiums in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image from the White Rabbit area in the sidecountry/backcountry terrain of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont during the back side of Winter Storm Heather
This morning’s ski session was a mix of a little ski touring followed by some lift-served Wilderness turns, and the conditions in the frontcountry and sidecountry I explored are simply fantastic.

By observations time early this morning, the backside snows of Winter Storm Heather had departed and skies here at the house were partly cloudy. The clear skies didn’t really seem to jive with the imminent snow I saw in the forecast, but sure enough, clouds soon began to roll in, and within an hour, flakes were flying.

I decided to get in a quick morning session up at the mountain, and the snowfall continued to intensify as I ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road. Up in the Village there was steady snowfall, and while it wasn’t the pounding 1-2”/hour snowfall of yesterday, visibility dropped substantially and it felt like we were right back in the meat of the storm. It looks like today’s snow was rolling in from the lake effect snow event off to the west, so we thank our big friend Lake Ontario for that.

An image of moderately heavy snowfall coming down in front of some of the condominiums in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont thanks to some Ontario lake-effect moisture after the departure of Winter Storm Heather
Winter Storm Heather recently finished up, but today we were right back into the snows thanks to some extra moisture from our good friend Lake Ontario.

Wilderness was the hot ticket for skiing today, since the Wilderness Double Chair doesn’t run on Mondays and Tuesdays, and this was the first chance for lift-served access to all the recent snowfall from Winter Storm Heather. I decided to start off with a short workout ski tour using the Wilderness Uphill Route, then stuck around for a bit of lift-served skiing after that.

It’s getting a bit tougher to discern how much powder came specifically from Winter Storm Heather, since it’s just blending in with the layers below it as the subsurface is buried deeper and deeper, but the approximate powder depths I found today were as follows:

2,000’: 6-8”
2,500’: 8-10”
3,000’: 10-12”

There was definitely a bump in powder depths even compared to what we skied yesterday thanks to the additional overnight snow and the new snow that was falling. One obvious clue that depths had increased was the fact that the snow was now getting a bit too deep for low-angle terrain. Moderate angle and steeper terrain are now providing the best powder turns. I had a feeling we’d be getting to that point today, and indeed while I’d been on mid-fats for the past few days, today I bumped up to the fat skis and that was the correct call as long as you were skiing untracked snow.

Bolton Valley is indicating that they’ve picked up roughly 60 inches of snow since the start of the year, which is very solid snowfall total for the first half of the month. Heck, 60 inches of snow is respectable even for a full month’s total at many resorts.

An image of some condominiums with snow on the roof and more snow falling as moisture from Lake Ontario helps to reinvigorate snowfall up at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We’re only halfway through the month, but Bolton Valley has already recorded 60 inches of snow this January, and Mother Nature seems to just want to keep the snow falling at every opportunity.

Bolton Valley, VT 16JAN2024

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the Wilderness Lift Line with the Wilderness Double Chairlift in the background as heavy snow falls from Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty laying down a ski track in fresh powder while Telemark skiing on the Wilderness Lift Line with heavy snow falling from Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Winter Storm Heather blasted into the are this morning, with up to 8 inches of new snow already down by midafternoon to set up some great powder skiing at Bolton Valley

It wasn’t even snowing this morning when Ty and I headed off to Burlington for an early appointment, so we knew we’d be giving Mother Nature some time to get rolling and freshen up the slopes. The snow from Winter Storm Heather started up a couple hours later, and by midafternoon we decided to head up to Bolton Valley for some turns.

We were happy to see that the Timberline Quad was running, so were able to park and start our session right there. Snow was simply pouring down at that point, and my initial measurements revealed storm totals of 4-5” at 2,500’ and 6-8” at 3,000’.

An image of heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Heather at the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Thanks to the arrival of Winter Storm Heather, snow was simply pouring down out of the ski at 1 to 2 inches per hour when we arrived at the Timberline Base today, and it just kept going like that all through the afternoon and into the evening.
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in the trees near Maria's in fresh powder from Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The tree skiing was excellent today with constant refills of fresh powder thanks to heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Heather.

The snow was light and dry (my past couple of liquid analyses from down here in the valley averaged right around 4% H2O), so it was very high quality powder. With such cold smoke snow, you weren’t getting bottomless turns on steep terrain, but you could on low and moderate angle terrain, and the turns were great even if you were contacting the subsurface.

An image of heavy snowfall and accumulations on vehicles in the Timberline parking lot during Winter Storm Heather at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontIt was pounding 1-2”/hour snow the entire time we were on the mountain, so one could easily tack on another couple inches or so to the storm totals by closing time, and it even kept snowing into the evening.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 15JAN2024

An image of evergreens along the Birch Loop trail past the Bryant Cabin on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some of the glades below the Gotham City area with lots of untracked powder snow in the Nordic and Backcountry Network of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down through some of the glades below Gotham City today during my tour on the Bolton Nordic and Backcountry Network

In this morning’s update, Bolton Valley  was reporting an additional 3-5” of snow from yesterday’s lake-effect snow and snow squalls. The other recent snowfall numbers they had in their report looked solid, with 12” in the last two days, 27″ since Tuesday night and more than 48” for the first half of the month. The season snowfall for the resort currently stands at 157”, and that’s very respectable since it’s already about half their annual snowfall average when we’re not even halfway through the snowfall season.  What makes that pace more impressive is that they’ve had all that snowfall despite the second half of December being quite lean on snow. That really speaks to how much has been falling up there during the snowier periods.

An image showing cars with snow in one of the Village parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the cars nearby my parking spot showing the accumulations from recent snows in the area

There was no new snow falling today, which was somewhat notable because this morning’s snow report also indicated that if the current forecast for tomorrow’s snow comes through, they’ll be looking at 14 out of the first 16 days of 2024 with snowfall. With today’s break in the falling snow, I figured it was time to head out for a tour on the backcountry network as a reliable route to untracked powder.

I decided to head up the Bryant Trail to Bryant Cabin in the afternoon, and play it by ear with respect to lengthening my tour, depending on how my supply of daylight was looking. I was well ahead of sunset when I was up at Bryant Cabin, therefore I just continued on up to the Catamount Trail Glades so I could get in some turns in the higher elevations. Based on my recent outings at the resort, I knew that conditions improved a lot with elevation, so I wanted to get a good sampling of the powder up high. I topped out at an elevation of about 3,100’ on the back side of Bolton Mountain, descended through the Catamount Trail Glades, and then traversed back above Bryant Cabin and navigated a route through another half dozen different glades back to the base. Today definitely had a nice midwinter vibe, with bright afternoon sun, temperatures somewhere around 20 F, and great powder.

An image from the bottom of the Devil's Drop area showing the nearby platform structure out on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Passing below the Devil’s Drop area while out on today’s ski tour

The surface powder and upper snowpack analysis was really interesting today. Starting my tour around 2,000’ in the Village, I found 4-5” of surface powder, and then there was a fairly solidified layer below it. That layer marks the wet snow that recently came from Winter Storm Gerri, which hardened up somewhat as temperatures dropped back below freezing. The surface snow above it is from the snow on the back side of the storm, plus the additional drier snows that have fallen over the past couple of days. As you ascend to higher elevations though, that firmer layer gradually begins to soften, and then above 2,500’ it starts to disappear altogether. At that point there is another substantial subsurface layer, which I suspect comes from Winter Storm Finn. So, monitoring the elevation profile for the depths of the powder was bit unusual. Compared to the 2,000’ elevation, I didn’t detect any notable increase in the powder depths at 2,250’, but at 2,500’ it finally started to deeper, and as I continued higher, I could still sort of detect an interface from Winter Storm Gerri, but it eventually became hard to discern. So, what I’ve done for the surface snow depth elevation profile below is to indicate those different layers, with the first depth being snow down to the dense layer from Winter Storm Gerri, and the second being the depth of the snow down to the dense layer from Winter Storm Finn.

2,000’: 4-5”
2,250’: 4-5”
2,500’: 5-6”/8-10”
2,750’: 6-7”/10-12”
3,000’: 7-8”/14-16”

At some point between 2,500’ and 3,000’ that first depth number sort of becomes moot, and you’re essentially skiing in the 8-16” of powder depending on elevation, so go I’d say go in with that mentality. In terms of getting out there in the backcountry around this part of the Northern Greens, I’d recommend touring above 2,500’ if you can for the best turns. I went with mid-fats on today’s tour, but you could easily go with fat skis if you’re going to spend most of your time above 2,500’.  When I was up in the Catamount Trail Glades in the 3,000’ range, fat skis would have been nice, except in some of the denser areas of evergreens where they have trapped so much of the snowfall on their boughs, that you actually notice the deficiency of powder below.

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

The system that is expected to come into the area tomorrow is name Winter Storm Heather, and any snow from that should really be icing on the cake in terms of the ski conditions. Temperatures are forecast to stay cold, so you can pretty much take the powder depths I have above and then tack on whatever new snow comes next.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A copy of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map which lists the trails and many of the official glades

Bolton Valley, VT 14JAN2024

An image from behind of Erica Telemark skiing in untracked powder snow on the Lower Tattle Tale trail after Winter Storm Gerri hit Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica making Telemark turns in  untracked powder snow on the Snowflake Bentley trail after Winter Storm Gerri and Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E getting some fresh turns on Snowflake Bentley during this morning’s outing at Bolton Valley

With the additional overnight snowfall, Bolton was reporting a total of 9 inches from Winter Storm Gerri as of their early morning report. And, since the Timberline Quad didn’t open yesterday due to winds, today would also be its inaugural run of the season. E and I figured the chance to visit the Timberline terrain that nobody has really skied at all up to this point was a nice bonus.

Based on the conditions I encountered yesterday, I really expected the main mountain to offer the best conditions today, especially above 2,500’ where the snow was never too wet. However, there was always the chance that the lower elevation Timberline terrain would still surprise us due to all the fresh snow. After our first lift ride on the Timberline Quad, the lift actually had to go off line for a time due to a mechanical issue, so heading to the main mountain turned out to be the appropriate option anyway.

An image of Erica making Telemark turns in untracked powder snow on the Snowflake Bentley trail with birch trees in the background after Winter Storm Gerri at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E dives into some of Winter Storm Gerri’s fresh powder.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of fresh tracks to be had out there today, but I’d actually say the snow quality below 2,500’ was a notch beneath what it was when I was out yesterday afternoon/evening. Yesterday I was skiing in 6 to 7 inches of powder off Snowflake, but the bottom few inches of that snow must have still be fairly wet at that point because we found it had thickened up with today’s cooler temperatures. So, it meant that today we were only skiing in the top few inches of powder and contacting that denser snow below if we pressured our turns hard enough. As long as you had untracked snow, it was nice skiing, but it certainly wasn’t as bottomless as yesterday in those lower elevations. Areas with previous skier traffic ended up with uneven subsurfaces that definitely detracted from the quality of the turns. Thankfully, the dense snow didn’t form anything like a breakable crust, which would have made the skiing much more challenging. On our return trip to the Timberline Base, we did get first tracks down the lower half of Tattle Tale, and that was really sweet, even if the powder wasn’t as bottomless as it would have been yesterday.

Bolton Valley, VT 13JAN2024

An image of two snowboarders riding the Wilderness Double Chairlift as heavy snowfall in the 1 to 2-inch per hour range falls at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont during Winter Storm Gerri
An image of fresh powder snow from Winter Storm Gerri below the Snowflake Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Thanks to some heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Gerri this afternoon, fresh lines of powder were plentiful throughout the resort, especially off the Snowflake Lift where skier traffic had been especially low.

Over the past week, the weather pattern has featured these larger systems with ample snow and moisture, and the most recent one in the series is Winter Storm Gerri. It moved into the area overnight in the wee hours with an initial burst of heavy snow. The front end snow in this case wasn’t as potent as it was with Winter Storm Finn that came through midweek, so when we saw that Bolton Valley was indicating only 2 inches of new snow in their early morning report, we knew there was no need to rush right up to the mountain.

We watched the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam through the morning and could see that up at 2,100’, the precipitation was snow, and it was quite heavy at times. Dylan and Colin headed up to the mountain in the early afternoon, and we asked them to give us an update on what they found. Their impressions were that the snow surfaces were rather wet, and they said the precipitation was even mixed with rain in the lower elevations at times, so E figured that instead of skiing, she’d hold off until the snow got better. I took another look at the webcam feed and saw that there was heavy snow falling, and decided that it would definitely be worth it to head up for some lift-served runs.

An image of heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Gerri with condominiums in the background in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heavy snowfall in the Bolton Valley Village this afternoon as Winter Storm Gerri continues to affect the area

Heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road, the precipitation switched over to all snow at roughly the 1,000’ elevation, and above that the road was quickly covered. The road conditions must have been getting a bit slick with the new snowfall because I had to drive around a van that was stuck trying to make it up the steep s-curve below Timberline. I had actually planned to park at Timberline and start my session there, but the Timberline Quad was apparently on wind hold, so I had to continue on up to the main base area. I arrived up in the Village to very heavy snowfall in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range, and with the intensity of that snowfall, there was just no way that the turns weren’t going to be great.

An image of snow falling during Winter Storm Gerri on cars in a parking lot in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Arriving up in the Bolton Valley Village this afternoon I was greeted steady snowfall and cars quickly getting covered in new snow

During my afternoon session I managed to get in runs on all the rest of the lifts, and heavy snow continued to pound the resort at all elevations. It was windy, especially at the Vista and Wilderness Summits above 3,000’, but thankfully the wind was from the west and at your back while you rode the lifts. After my first couple of runs, the lights were coming on, and I got to ski Spillway in night mode. I always find it exciting to be able to ski something that steep under the lights, and I knew that the conditions on Spillway were going to be really good because you couldn’t hear anything from the turns of the skiers and snowboarders below you as you passed over them on the Vista Quad. Indeed, my own experience on the trail revealed that the conditions on Spillway were simply fantastic; new snow was falling so heavily that it must have been covering up an slick spots faster than skiers could push the snow away.

I did notice that below the Mid Mountain elevations (~2,500’), the groomed/packed ski surfaces did have that “wet pack” feel that I’ve encountered in the lower elevations of Whistler Blackcomb. That’s usually a sign that some very wet snow has fallen and was packed by skier traffic. I could see what Dylan was talking about with respect to the wet surface conditions, but at the point that I was up there, those conditions were hard to find because temperatures were falling, and it was snowing so hard that those types of wet surfaces were covered up in all but the highest traffic areas. Some of the best turns I found were near the end of my ski session when I visited the Snowflake Chair. That area hadn’t seen much skier traffic, so I found a lot of fresh powder that skied beautifully. I did numerous depth checks and was consistently getting new snow depths of 6 to 7 inches. There was enough powder there that I questioned whether it was all from just this storm, but when Bolton’s afternoon snow update came in and they were reporting storm totals of 5 to 7 inches, that nicely corroborated my measurements.

An image with snow in the air and snow on skis and snowboards at a ski rack near the base lodge during Winter Storm Gerri at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAll this new snow is a great addition to the snowpack, but even without it, one thing I noticed while out on the mountain today was the huge jump that the snowpack has taken since last weekend. I hadn’t been up to the mountain since Sunday, and at that time, patrol was just starting to open up more areas of natural snow terrain as coverage improved thanks to Winter Storm Ember. The contributions made by Winter Storm Finn must have been huge though, because the resort has now been able to open up just about everything, and everywhere I looked this evening, coverage felt like midwinter. As I look back now at my storm data, I guess I see the difference – Winter Storm Ember dropped 0.69 inches of liquid equivalent here at our site, while Winter Storm Finn dropped 1.99 inches of liquid equivalent. That’s almost triple the amount of liquid, and when you get up around 2 inches of liquid equivalent, that starts to become a serious resurfacing of the slopes. Winter Storm Gerri has already dropped about an inch of liquid equivalent here at the house, and the back side snow is still coming through, so that’s simply adding yet another great layer to the snowpack. All told, this past week of storms has dropped almost 4 inches of liquid equivalent here at our house in the valley, so it must have put down at least 4 to 5 inches plus of liquid equivalent for the mountains. When I look at the numbers, I realize now why the snowpack seems to have improved so much so quickly. When I was riding the Wilderness Chair today, I actually saw a ski patroller skiing the headwall of the Wilderness Lift Line to check the snow. You know the snowpack is getting decent when that headwall is even close to being skiable, so the fact that he was even testing it speaks volumes about how things have gone over the past week.

An image of snow falling from Winter Storm Gerri near the Hotel and Village Circle area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A scene from the Bolton Valley Village Circle area this afternoon with snow from Winter Storm Gerri falling in front of the Hotel