Bolton Valley, VT 16FEB2024

An image of the Mid Mountain Double Chairlift obscured by heavy snowfall from a February Alberta Clipper system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of two skiers walking through heavy snowfall during a February Alberta Clipper snowstorm near the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A couple of skiers trudge up toward the Vista Quad amidst the very heavy snowfall delivered by our most recent Alberta Clipper system.

The clipper that began affecting the area yesterday evening was definitely potent – by the time I headed up to the mountain early this morning, we’d already picked up 7 inches of new snow at the house. I couldn’t really get a sense for accumulations heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road, but up in the Bolton Valley Village elevations around 2000’ I was measuring 8 inches of new snow. That was definitely a transient number though, because it was snowing at a rate of at least an inch per hour. Visibility was so low in the heavy snowfall that you could only see a distance of about a dozen chairs on the Mid Mountain Lift – beyond that the lift simply disappeared.

An image of a snowcat returning to the operations area amidst heavy snowfall from a February Alberta Clipper system as I set off on a morning ski tour using the Wilderness Uphill Route at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A snowcat returning to the operations area as I set off on my morning ski tour from the based of Wilderness

I started off my session with a quick tour up to about 2,500’ using the Wilderness Uphill Route. Powder depths didn’t seem to increase drastically with elevation, as I measured about 9 inches at the 2,500’ level. Being a weekday morning, it was very quiet and I don’t recall seeing another soul until a lone rider appeared as he descended the Wilderness Liftline off in the distance. The Vista Quad had started loading, and the appearance of the rider meant that people were starting their first descents. It was a good sign that it was time for me to descend as well. I descended on Lower Turnpike, which hadn’t seen much skier traffic, so there were plenty of fresh turns to be had. I’d brought my 115 mm fat skis, and they were definitely the right tool for the terrain, keeping me surfing at a nice pace on the lower angle slopes. My analyses from down at the house indicated that we’d picked up about a third of an inch of liquid at that point, and assuming something similar for the mountain, that meant the powder was somewhere in the 3 to 4% H2O range. It offered little resistance with respect to slowing my descent, and fat skis were more than enough to keep the turns bottomless.

An image of the Miso Kome food hut viewed through heavy snowfall affecting the base area during a February Alberta Clipper system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the Miso Kome hut as I return from my morning ski tour and the heavy snowfall continued to hit the resort
An image of Stephen and Johannes walking up from the base lodge to the bottom of the Vista Quad Chairlift amidst heavy snowfall from a February Alberta Clipper snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen and Johannes head up through the snowfall to meet me at the base of the Vista Quad

After my descent I caught up on texting with my colleague Stephen about getting together for some turns. He and his son were just finishing suiting up in the lodge and they met up with me near the base of the main mountain lifts a few minutes later. We rode the Vista Quad and hit Alta Vista followed by Fanny Hill. The subsurface out there is really firm due to the extended period we recently went through without much snowfall. Aside from the areas of powder along the trail edges, Alta Vista was really firm. Fanny Hill was much better – after the initial steep chute area, the rest of the trail was out of the wind and had seen little skier traffic. It had a mid-angle pitch that skied perfectly for bottomless turns in the available powder. I couldn’t stay too long at the mountain, but from what I was able to sample, that mid-angle terrain was great. You really wanted to be getting fresh tracks though for quality turns – there just wasn’t enough liquid equivalent down at that point to really hold up to multiple skiers before you’d be contacting the base. A third of an inch of liquid can’t go too far in that regard, but thankfully it was midweek, so there were plenty of opportunities for untracked snow.

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 05JAN2024

An image of snowflakes in the night skiing lights as a minor cold front passes through at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Wilderness Double Chairlift with light accumulations of snow from a recent small weather system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Light accumulations of snow from our most recent weather system sit atop the chairs of the Wilderness Lift this afternoon as I head out on a ski tour.

We’ve only reach the 5th day of January, but we’ve already had three minor systems affect the Northern Greens area so far this month in the form of troughs, cold fronts, and localized snow bands. As of this morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 5 inches of new snow in the past 48 hours, and the snow report also indicated that the Wilderness Uphill Route had been officially reopened up to Peggy Dow’s. I figured that was a good sign that natural snow terrain coverage and conditions were getting back toward something a bit more normal, so I decided to hit the mountain for an afternoon ski tour.

Heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road, snowfall began to pick up with elevation, and there was steady light to moderate snow falling in the Village. I’d left Burlington a bit later than I’d wanted to, so daylight was fading when I started my tour. So, I only had time to tour up to near 2,500’, and I stuck to skiing Lower Turnpike due to the encroaching darkness.

Settled accumulations of new snow that I encountered from the base of the access road up to the top of my ski tour were as follows:

320’: 0-1”
1,000’: 1-2”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 2-3”
2.500’: 2-3”

As the profile indicates, there really wasn’t much of a detectable increase in new snow depths between 1,500’ and 2,500’. Lower Turnpike was fairly well packed from ski touring traffic, and with the low light, I didn’t venture too far from the heart of the trail, but the surface was relatively soft and quiet. The turns certainly weren’t bottomless since I was mostly on the skier packed snow, but I did manage to find some untracked areas toward the edges, and those were very nice.

An image of beer taps with pizza in the background showing the Fireside Flatbread restaurant at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stopping in for a couple of slices at Fireside Flatbread after my late afternoon ski tour. It was my first visit to Fireside Flatbread this season, and their crust was as fantastic as ever!

The snow that was falling was definitely accumulating – even after a relatively short tour, I had to clean off my car when I got back to it. The snowfall did taper down in intensity as I descended back into the Winooski Valley, but even at the valley bottom we were still getting some accumulation.

Bolton Valley, VT 05DEC2023

An image of a snow covered tree lit up at night in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a light revealing evergreens caked with snow from recent early December snowfall in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A light in the Bolton Valley Village reveals evergreens caked with snow from the most recent storm to hit the area. The Village was teeming with skiers this evening setting out for ski tours with their headlamps to enjoy the fantastic snow conditions

I was busy through most of the afternoon, but still wanted to get out to the mountain today to check on the additional snow that fell on the back side of our most recent system. As the temperatures dropped yesterday, the density of the snowfall fell to 10% H2O by the afternoon, and finally down into the 3-4% H2O range overnight. Bolton Valley was reporting another 5 inches of accumulation as of this morning, and that drier snow atop the substantial amounts of denser snow from the earlier part of the storm would likely set up some excellent turns.

Since I was starting my tour around dusk, I fired up my headlamp because I knew I’d need it on the descent. What amazed me this evening was the number of people who were out touring by headlamp as well. I knew that folks got out for Wilderness tours after dark because I’d sometimes see them on their way up when I’d be finishing a late descent, but I had no idea just how substantial the numbers were. During the course of my relatively short tour this evening I saw at least a couple dozen skiers out there for headlamp touring, and most of them were actually ascending or just starting out at the parking area. Indeed, the Village parking lot was teeming with skiers, more than I’ll typically even see for a morning session. I guess that part of local ski culture is clearly alive and well. And I can’t blame folks for getting after it this evening, it was dead calm with temperatures in the 20s F with new dry powder atop a substantial base. I can remember a couple decades ago when folks would need to set up these elaborate, heavy battery packs to run their powerful halogen lamps to have enough light for skiing at night, and that all seems pretty irrelevant now with modern LED headlamps. My little LED headlamp was more than powerful to enough to provide light for me to ski, even on its lowest setting. I did use the brightest setting on the descent since I figured I might as well, and it was potent.

A night image of a light covered by snowy evergreen boughs from recent early December snowfall in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontIn terms of the snow, with settling I generally found 2 to 4 inches of the new drier snow in the 2,000’ to 2,500’ elevation range. In some spots it was easier to distinguish the demarcation between this drier snow and the denser snow below as I probed around, but at higher elevations where even the base snow was drier, it became more and more difficult to separate the new snow from the old. In any event, the quality of the skiing took a nice notch upwards with the addition of the new powder. I’m sure the earlier snow dried out a bit as well, but with this new snow on top, turns were much silkier than yesterday, and lower angle terrain was much more in play and enjoyable since you were gliding through fluff instead of sinking into the denser stuff. There’s excellent midwinter skiing to be had out there right now in the Northern Greens, whether you go during the day… or at night.

A night image with lights revealing snow covered branches from recent early December snowstorms hitting the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A scene from up at Bolton Valley this evening – the lights of the Village were setting all the snowy trees aglow as people headed out for ski tours, or just for a walk in the evening scenery

Bolton Valley, VT 04DEC2023

An image of heavy snowfall and snow accumulations at the main base lodge in the Village during an early December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Fanny Hill trail during an early December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Today on Fanny Hill at Bolton Valley – the snow just keeps falling, so we’ll keep making turns!

Of the 11 winter storms we’re recorded so far this season at our site in the Winooski Valley, 3 have delivered more than a half inch of liquid equivalent, and they’ve had a notable upward trend in L.E. The November 21st storm brought 0.72” of L.E., the November 26th storm brought 1.14” of L.E., and this most recent storm that began on December 3rd brought more than 1.40” of L.E., with snowfall continuing tonight. These storms have really helped to build the mountain snowpack, and the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is now more than a foot above average.

An image of heavy snowfall and snow piling up in early December on buildings in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The snow just continues to pile up in the Bolton Valley Village with these weekly larger systems and the smaller ones in between.

An image of a snowmobile buried in snow from recent early December storms at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontBolton Valley was reporting another 14” of snow in 24 hours, and I popped up to the mountain this afternoon to check it out. Elevation has had quite an impact on the snow from this most recent storm, and the snow depth profile coming up out of the Winooski Valley is quite extreme. There’s really no snow at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road aside from leftover piles, and it’s like that all the way up above 1,000’, and then the depth begins to ramp up. Here’s the snow depth profile I found on today’s ski tour:

340’: 0”
500’: 0”
1,000’: 0”
1,200’: T-2”
1,500’: 6-8”
2,000’: 16-20”
2,500’: 20-24”
3,000’: 24-28”

An image of fresh snow accumulations on a pickup truck and condominiums after early December storms affect the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Folks up in the Bolton Valley Village are constantly having to clear the snow with storm cycles frequently affecting the area in the past few weeks.

It was more challenging to get depth readings in those upper elevations since the pack is getting pretty deep and there are a lot of different layers with varying consistencies, but that general trend I’ve seen on the mountain recently of almost an inch of depth increase per 100’ of elevation gain seems to generally be holding. The depths I was getting at 3,000’ also seem generally in line with the current reading at the Mt. Mansfield Stake of 33” at 3,700’.

I arrived up in the Village in the early afternoon to a maelstrom of huge flakes coming down in association with the back side of the storm system, so the mountain continued to tack on more to the snow totals. Fat skis were unquestionably the play for today. The accumulations from this storm definitely came in denser than the previous one, and while fats were of course great for stability, they were also really nice for planing on lower angle slopes and getting additional turns out of that snow. Even though you were only sinking maybe 6 to 10 inches into the powder because of the density, it was still slow going if the slope angle got too low. Steep slopes indeed offered the best turns, and the base is so dense and deep that even on those pitches there’s not much to worry about in terms of coverage on the upper mountain.

An image of skiers getting ready for a ski tour and a snow plow working to maintain roads during an early December snowstorm in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A pair of skiers gets ready for a ski tour as a snow plow works its way through the Bolton Valley Village trying to keep up with the continuing snowfall

Bolton Valley, VT 29NOV2023

An image near sunset off to the west toward the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks of New York from the Wilderness Summit during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder from a late November storm in the Outlaw Woods are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty rides through some of the fresh powder we encountered today in Bolton’s Outlaw Woods

Last night we picked up another 4 to 5 inches of snow here in the valley from the weak cold front swinging through the region, and not surprisingly, the local mountains picked up twice that amount. Bolton Valley was reporting 10 inches of new snow atop the 15+ inches they’d received from the storm at the beginning of the week, and this new snow came in around 5% H2O according my morning liquid analyses. The new drier snow atop the base was a recipe for some great skiing.

Ty was off from work this afternoon, so we popped up to the mountain for a ski tour on Wilderness. Relative to the last storm, the Winooski Valley down by the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road did better with this event; whereas the coverage was somewhat patchy after the last storm, it was generally continuous with a few inches present this morning. I checked snowpack depths during the tour as usual, and it’s getting tougher to get measurements as the snowpack gets deeper, but with settling through the afternoon, depth increases seemed to be as follows relative to what I found yesterday:

2,000’: 10-12” –> 15-16”
2,500’: 15-16” –> 18-20”
3,000’: 18-20” –> 20-24”

So essentially, the snowpack depths I found today were about 500 feet lower in elevation than equivalent depths I found yesterday.

An image of a snowcat with a snow gun in the background at the main base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A snowcat/groomer works around Bolton’s main base area as snow is being made in the background. The resort had lots of mountain operations taking place as they get ready for resumption of lift service on Friday

The Wilderness Uphill Route had seen plenty of skier traffic, and there was a dual skin track all the way to the Wilderness Summit that made conversation easy while we ascended. I was hoping to bring Ty over toward Fanny Hill again in line with the tour I’d done yesterday, but ski patrol had fenced off Upper Crossover.  They really want touring to be confined to Wilderness, and I guess that’s not too surprising with the amount of operations they have going on Vista. With the amount of activity we saw going on all around the resort, it’s obvious that they’re going full tilt in preparation for re-opening on Friday with their partial-week schedule. I’m not sure how much of the mountain they’re going to open, but with the amount of natural snow out there, they’re going to have a lot of options.

An image of a pickup truck covered in snow from recent November snowstorms in one of the parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A truck in the parking lot holds some of the recent snow that Bolton Valley has received.

In terms of the skiing, it was great. Conditions were already excellent yesterday, and now Mother Nature threw another 10 inches on top of that, so it’s about what you’d expect – lots of bottomless powder. We hit the Wilderness Summit just as sunset was approaching, so the views to the west were stupendous on such a fine afternoon. With the snow remaining deep, you wanted to shoot for intermediate pitches and above for decent turns. Based on my experience from yesterday, we did have full fat skis today, so that helped a lot with floatation and the ability to turn on those lower-angle slopes a bit more.

Bolton Valley, VT 28NOV2023

An image of the mid station terminal of the Wilderness Double Chairlift from above at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some ski tracks on the Fanny Hill trail after 15 inches fell from Winter Storm Cait in late November at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Adding a set of tracks to Fanny Hill while out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley today – thanks to the remnants of Winter Storm Cait, Bolton was reporting 15 inches of new snow, and it had sufficient density to ski even the steepest terrain.

As of yesterday evening, Bolton Valley was reporting a foot of snow from our most recent storm (the remnants of Winter Storm Cait), which was right in line with the 10-15” reports from the northern half of the state. When I checked the Bolton Valley snow report today in anticipation of heading up for a ski tour, I saw that they had updated their Monday morning total to 15” up top as well, so they must have reassessed what fell:

Tuesday: We are still reeling from the season’s first big snowstorm that smothered the northern Green Mountains in a heavy blanket of prime base building snow Sunday night to Monday morning. In addition to the 12-15″ we woke up to Monday morning, it appears we’re in for another 1-3″ today here in the upper elevations and – perhaps even more importantly – the return of cold temperatures on the ol’ “wet bulb” to fire up snowmaking efforts again. As we get closer to Friday we’ll keep you posted on trails and lifts for this weekend, but perhaps needless to say, we will definitely be expanding terrain this weekend, including Snowflake Lift, a small buildout in the Hide Away Terrain Park and several trails making their season debut. Stay tuned on that front.

No lift service today, but we’ve gone ahead and opened the Wilderness Designated Uphill Route so you can get some fresh pow laps in if your schedule allows.

Based on Powderfreak’s comment from yesterday about skiing on just the top 4” of the snow, and the density of the snow down from my liquid analyses down here at our house, I brought mid-fats for today’s tour. I figured I’d be riding Sierra Cement, but that wasn’t at all what I experienced. I’ll mention more about the snow density after covering the storm accumulations and snowpack depths.

There’s a very impressive elevation gradient with respect to the snow accumulations from this storm. Down at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’, there isn’t even complete coverage on all aspects – I’d call the snowpack there T – 2”. I didn’t monitor the snowpack too closely on my ascent to the Village, but coverage was certainly continuous by 1,000’. Up in the Village around 2,000’ or so, I found 10-12” of snow, and here are some measurements at elevations during my tour:

2,000’: 10-12”
2,500’: 15-16”
3,000’: 18-20”

As the numbers reveal, there’s a huge snow depth gradient above 2,000’ – you’re basically looking at the depth going up about an inch every 100’ of vertical. Now those numbers are for total snowpack depth because I’m not sure if I’d be able to distinguish exactly what portion came from this most recent storm, but much of it was from this storm (as Bolton’s summit storm total of 15” would suggest).

The Wilderness Uphill Route has a beautifully packed skin track in place at this point, so travel on the snow is easy. And getting back to that discussion of snow density, it’s not Sierra Cement. In the higher elevations, the density going several inches down into the snowpack is sub-10% H2O powder – I’d put it somewhere in the 6 to 8% H2O range if I had to guess. You sink well down into it, I’d say a good foot, and it’s nicely right-side-up. As I mentioned, I brought mid-fats, but fat skis are actually the tool you want (or a snowboard, etc.).

An image of tendrils of snowfall from approaching squalls off toward the west with Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley visible from near the Wilderness Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Tendrils show snow crashing out off to the west of Bolton Valley as more squalls get set to hit the mountain.
An image of ski tracks on the Upper Fanny Hill trail after 15 inches of snow from Winter Storm Cait at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching the third set of tracks down Upper Fanny Hill today on the prodigious snow left from Winter Storm Cait

It was quickly obvious on my ascent that some decent pitch would be required for turns, so I toured all the way to the top of Wilderness.  I checked out Bolton Outlaw, and it had seen enough traffic to track it up pretty thoroughly, so I continued on to Upper Fanny Hill and put the third set of tracks down there. I continued on to Fanny Hill proper and got probably the fourth set of tracks there. The powder skiing is fantastic as long as you’ve got at least intermediate pitch. Shallower than that and the powder is just too deep to keep decent momentum (and that’s another reason to bring fat skis because you can make use of that extra floatation).

In terms of snow quality, it’s as I described at elevation, and of course the overall depth decreases as you descend, but the quality stays high right down to 2,000’. Only just as you approach 2,000’ do you encounter any sort of snow quality issues, and there’s a slight crème brûlée crust in there a couple of inches below the surface where there must have been a bit of warming. At that elevation it’s still quite subtle and you can essentially ignore it.

As Bolton’s snow report indicates, the resort is considering expanding their open terrain thanks to this storm, and moving to some of the natural snow terrain is pretty obvious at this point. We’ll have to see which terrain can hold up to lift-served traffic, but I can’t believe there’s not more talk about this storm and what it could do for the start of the season. This storm was a total liquid equivalent bomb, and not only that, the snow is good to go. This storm was an absolute season-starter. Sometimes storms like this come in so dense or warm, that the tenor will be “This is going to be a great base as soon as we get some good snow on top of it”. Well, there’s no need to wait, the snow is already good to go, and it’s currently getting covered more with the snow from today. It’s not every day you get such a base-building storm that immediately offers up fantastic midwinter skiing. We didn’t even have to wait until December for this one – it somehow snuck in during November, which is another great bonus.

Bolton Valley, VT 14NOV2023

An image showing fresh snow atop some cars in one of the Village parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a mid-November snowfall
An image of the snow conditions on the the Lower Turnpike trail after some early November snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the natural snow conditions at about 2,500′ on Lower Turnpike today.

Sometimes Mother Nature just lets you know that it’s time to get out to ski, and apparently today was one of those days. I was just about the head down to the basement for another pre-season leg workout… but somehow my head transitioned to thinking that we might just have hit that threshold where it was time to actually get out and ski. Perhaps it was time to move on from pre-season to… season. I’m sure it was partly due to the flakes that were falling just outside the window, but Powderfreak’s winter vibe Stowe pictures from Saturday definitely played a role in getting me motivated. We’ve had numerous rounds of snow thus far over the first half of November, and if Powderfreak’s photos were what the slopes looked like before this most recent storm, there had to be enough out there at this point for some low-angle turns.

The cloud ceiling seemed to be around 1,500’ to 2,000’ this morning, so I really couldn’t get a good view of the snow coverage up at Bolton Valley via their Main Base Webcam.  What I could see on the cam was that everything was white… extremely white. The snow coverage looked great, but the clouds were just too thick to get a good sense for what the snow depths were like beyond the areas where they’ve made a bunch of snow. This latest system did just drop another round of accumulation though, even down to the lower valleys, and the natural snow from all the storms we’ve had in the first half of the month has not been melting back in the higher elevations.

Even without a real-time view, it felt like the snow from this latest storm should have pushed the snowpack to the point where it was ready for some touring on low-angle slopes, so I decided to pop up to the mountain this morning on my way to Burlington. With this latest storm, the snow never really seemed to accumulate much to the west of our area in the lower elevations, so there were only a few traces of snow in Bolton Flats and at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road. Accumulations gradually increased as I headed up in elevation though, and here’s a rough summary of the snow depth profile I encountered this morning:

340’: T

1,000’: T-1”

1,200’: T-2”

1,500’: 1-2”

2,000’: 2-3”

2,250’: 3-5”

2,500’: 4-6”

An image of a pickup truck covered in snow from a mid-November storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A truck in one of the Village parking lots displays a bit of the snow that fell from this recent November storm

As the summary shows, the depths increased slowly at first, and it wasn’t until somewhere in the 1,200’ to 1,500’ elevation range where snow coverage became continuous. Assessing the depths in the Bolton Valley Village parking lots at around 2,000’, I wasn’t initially sure if I was going to end up ski touring or just going for a hike, but I threw my skis on my pack because it looked like touring would be good to go as long as the base snow was substantial enough. Snow depths increased notably above the 2,000’ mark, and a few minutes into my ascent, it was obvious that I was going to be able to ski on the descent. I had my climbing skins in my pack, but never put them on my skis because the hiking was easy enough, certainly easy enough that I didn’t want to add the extra transition time that putting on the skins would throw into the tour. If one does want to skin on the ascent though, there’s plenty of base to do it.

Indeed it’s the sufficient base snow that sealed the deal in terms of the skiing. Below these recent couple of inches, there’s a good amount of consolidated snow at varying degrees of depth. I only had time to tour up to about 2,500’, but the depths did look like they were continuing to improve above that point. It’s best to seek out low-angle, nicely maintained, grassy terrain at this point, but with that, you’re good to go for some very nice powder turns. I saw a couple of older ski tracks on my tour, but nothing from this morning, and that was helpful – untouched snow provided the very best powder turns, so staying away from any footprints or other snow traffic is the best bet. In the untouched snow, turns were bottomless, and I was only on 86 mm skis. The top half of my tour definitely offered the deepest snow and most ability to play around in the powder, but it was still decent all the way back down to the main base around 2,000’. In the lower couple hundred feet of vertical though, you just had to be more selective in sticking to the untouched snow for the smoothest turns. Rock skis or regular skis are both options if you know the terrain you’re going to be on. I didn’t have rock skis, but only made a hard touch or two to objects below the subsurface. Touching below the subsurface is pretty inconsequential on grassy, low-angle terrain, and thankfully, Bolton’s Wilderness area has plenty of those types of slopes.

While we haven’t had any huge winter storms yet this season, all throughout the mountains and mountain valleys there’s been a nice winter vibe. With these typical November rounds of snow, accumulations have been melting back in the valleys, but in the mountains they’ve been building up to the point that people are definitely getting out to enjoy it. Just as I was finishing up my ski tour, I spotted someone who was out for a Nordic ski around the Village, and I bet it was someone who lives right up there at Bolton Valley. I saw them passing above me while they skied the access road, and I quickly fired off a bunch of shots before they disappeared into the clouds.  And while the combination of thick, low clouds and mid-November sun angle made for some notably low-light conditions today, it really just helped to give the outing that November/December early season mystique.

An image of a Nordic skier disappearing into the clouds while out on a mid-November tour of the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Nordic skier out for a Village tour disappears into the low clouds that enveloped the mountains today.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 25FEB2023

An evergreen with a light accumulation of snow on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of cars with fresh snow on them in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Gearing up in the Bolton Valley Village today for my ski tour, I could see the signs of recent snows from the past few days.

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.

An image of a car with a light accumulation of snow in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe’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.

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

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 24FEB2023

An image of the base of the Wilderness Double Chairlift with heavy winds and snowfall during Winter Storm Olive at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of skis on a ski rack at a house along the Wilderness Double Chairlift in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Skis all lined up at one of the houses along the Wilderness Chair and ready to go out into all the new snow that’s fallen from Winter Storm Olive.

I didn’t have an opportunity to get out on the hill yesterday to ski the new snow from Winter Storm Olive, but Dylan and Colin were out at Bolton, so they filled me in and I was able to see some of their GoPro footage.  It was clear from their comments and videos that as of yesterday morning, the storm certainly hadn’t put down enough liquid equivalent for a full resurfacing of the slopes.  Low to moderate-angle terrain was skiing quite well, and I saw some really nice footage of the potential for powder turns there, but it was obvious that on the steep stuff you were quickly down to that hard subsurface, especially if there had been even a bit of preceding skier traffic.

As of this morning though, our area has definitely picked up more snow than what was present on the boy’s outing.  After the lull during the middle of the day yesterday, the snow picked back up in the evening and we had continuous snowfall to varying degrees right through much of today.  There was little if any mixed precipitation that I saw down at our house, although I think there was a bit of sleet in one of rounds of accumulation later in the day yesterday, because my wife said she heard some ticks on the window, and the snow was on the denser side when I ran the liquid analysis.  Here at our site, we’ve picked up over ⅔” of liquid equivalent from the storm as of this evening, and I’d say Bolton must have picked up over an inch of liquid equivalent based on the amount of new snow they’ve reported and my experience from the mountain today.  As of this morning, the Bolton Valley snow report was indicating 12” of new snow in the past 72 hours.

An image of ski poles and drifted snow on one of the porches in a condominium at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A classic scene from one of the condominiums in the Bolton Valley Village with drifting snow from Winter Storm Olive

When I headed up to the mountain for a tour this morning, it was snowing here at the house, but the intensity of the snowfall increased notably as I headed up in elevation.  Although the flakes were relatively small, the snowfall rate up in the Bolton Valley Village at around 2,000’ was moderate to heavy.  In addition, that snowfall was being driven by hefty winds.  Winds were in the 30 to 50 MPH range, certainly hitting those upper numbers in gusts when I was up on the ridgeline above 3,000’.  Temperatures were in the single digits F, so between the temperature, the winds, and the snowfall, it was downright nasty out there.  I was quite comfortable while touring, but even with my hat, I kept my hood on for much of the tour ascent, so that speaks to the effects of those low temperatures and winds.  Plenty of people were arriving in the morning to ride the lifts, but that must have been rough, and I was very happy to be down low to the ground out of the winds and generating plenty of extra heat.

“We’re now well past just the low angle terrain being optimal, and with the cold temperatures today and the increasing snow depths, low angle terrain was actually a bit slow. Mid-angle terrain was probably the sweet spot today, and steep terrain was actually nice as well if it was untracked or had seen minimal skier traffic.”

With its schedule, the Wilderness Chair hasn’t run since the storm started, so it was the obvious place to tour today for the best access to untracked snow.  Throughout my tour, surface snow depths I measured were generally in the 8-10” range, with no big changes with respect to elevation.  As of today, we’ve definitely moved beyond the level of resurfacing that my son experienced yesterday morning.  We’re now well past just the low angle terrain being optimal, and with the cold temperatures today and the increasing snow depths, low angle terrain was actually a bit slow.  Mid-angle terrain was probably the sweet spot today, and steep terrain was actually nice as well if it was untracked or had seen minimal skier traffic.  You’re not going bottomless on steep terrain that’s seen substantial skier traffic yet; we’re going to need to get more liquid equivalent down atop the snowpack before that happens.  But, the existing base is deep (depth is now 50” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake), there’s tons of terrain that was sufficiently resurfaced by this storm, and it looks like there are more potential storms in the pipeline in the coming days that could affect the area as well.

An image of the Hotel in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont during Winter Storm Olive
A view of the hotel this morning in the Bolton Valley Village with drifts of snow from Winter Storm Olive.