The mountain snowpack that had been building up over the first half of the month melted back somewhat in the middle elevations at the end of last week, but this latest winter storm seemed to have the potential to replenish it. As of this morning, we’d picked up roughly 4 inches of new snow composed of 0.6 inches of liquid at the house, so the local mountains should have added enough new snow to set the table for more low-angle touring in the powder. Bolton Valley was reporting 3 to 4 inches of new snow overnight, and 5 inches in the past 48 hours. Assuming a similar density of snow to what fell at our house, plus whatever snow was in place before, it definitely felt like it was worth a visit. I didn’t expect the snow quality to be outstanding enough to suggest that E or the boys should join me, so I expected it to be a solo tour. As I was about halfway through preparing my gear, Ty woke up and let me know that he was actually interested in getting in some turns before work, so that meant I’d have some company!
In the Winooski Valley at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, we found 1 to 2 inches of new snow from this most recent storm, and up in the Village, total depths were 4 to 5 inches. Temperatures this morning were around the freezing mark, with a mix of wintry precipitation types as we set out on our tour. We found that snow depths increased a bit with elevation, hitting 5 to 6 inches around 2,500’ and 6 to 7 inches where we topped out around 2,700’.
The powder skiing was decent, with snow that was relatively dense but not sloppy or soggy on the upper half of our tour. The density did increase a bit more as we descended back toward the base around 2,000’, but the snow still hadn’t progressed to that spring-style sticky stuff. I had freshly waxed up my skis in the morning, and that did appear to help give me an slightly easier time than Ty, who hadn’t waxed.
While today’s powder was decent, the snow I found while out ski touring last week was definitely superior. I think that last week there was a touch more base, the snow overall was a bit deeper, and most importantly, the snow was notably drier. All those factors came together to set that skiing above the quality of what we found out there today. This dense snow that we just received does have the water content to set up a more substantial base though, and it’s really going to be great with some additional rounds of snow on top. The models do suggest that there are some events in the pipeline over the next week, so we’ll see what the mountains get from those.
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:
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.
Similar to last weekend, Saturday seemed like the better weather day for skiing this weekend, so today I headed to Stowe for some turns on the spring snow. I visited the Gondola terrain last time, so for this outing I decided to get in some skiing on Spruce Peak while the south-facing terrain is still offering some reasonable descents.
Starting from the MMSC parking lot, I had to hike for roughly 5 to 10 minutes before I was able to start skinning, and then I eventually made my way over to Main Street for the rest of the ascent. Main Street coverage is nearly continuous over most of its course except for the very bottom down near the base of the Sensation Quad, and up in the flats near the top. So, I topped out a bit shy of 3,000’ on the ascent vs. continuing on to the summit station of the Sensation Quad. I was definitely happy to stop where I did though, because southerly winds were absolutely howling ahead of the approaching storm. Main Street faces directly south with lots of exposure, so winds were sustained up in the 30 to 40 MPH range near the 3,000’ mark. I actually pulled into the forest to remove my skins and gear up for the descent, and that gave me a break from the constant buffeting of the strong winds and helped avoid the likely frustration of things flapping around and flying away.
Main Street offered up lots of those steep, buttery spring snow carves that is typically does, and I didn’t spot any major areas of undermined snow that were of any concern. I was able to get down into the flats above the base of the Sensation Quad with just a couple short stretches of breaks in the snowpack. Although not quite 100% continuous from the Sensation Quad summit because of the break in the upper flats, the area still offers up quite a good yield of skiable vertical for the investment of the ascent. Taking in the views across to Mansfield gave me a nice look at the ski options throughout the resort, and there are still numerous ascent and descent routes for great touring. The snow on Nosedive looks a little more burnt out than I would have expected, but the melt out is different every year, which is part of what makes it interesting. North Slope and the surrounding trails in that area seem to have some great coverage, so there should be some good options around there for quite a while.
Near the end of my tour, rain shafts started to show up among the mountains to the south, and I was able to watch the peaks disappearing as the incoming storm moved into the area. The first spits of rain started to hit just as I arrived at my car, so the timing of the storm was right on with what the forecast had indicated. This past week has been seasonably cool, and it looks like that has helped to slow down the spring melt. With the forecast looking relatively cool for the next week or so, that should help to preserve the snow and ski options as we head into May.
Based on the forecast, today seemed like the better half of the weekend for turns, so I decided to head to Mt. Mansfield and make use of all the snow that’s still out there. A look at the Stowe Mountain Cam this morning showed that coverage still looked continuous on the Gondola side of the resort, and since that area generally melts out faster than the terrain under The Nose, I decided to ski that while it was still in good shape.
Based on what I’d seen from the webcam and views from the valley, the cloud ceiling seemed to be sitting at around 3,200’ on Mansfield, so my plan was to continue my ascent until I hit the lowest cloud deck, or the snow became too firm at elevation, whichever came first. Indeed, as the webcam view had indicated, coverage on Gondolier was pretty much continuous from top to bottom. It turns out that there are a couple of small breaks of a few feet, but they’re nothing substantial that would ruin a top-to-bottom run.
It remained mostly cloudy today, and not especially warm with temperatures around 50 F, so I was initially worried about the snow being generally too stiff for quality turns. It was a little tough to tell exactly how it was going to ski during the ascent, but the sky began to brighten a bit in the midafternoon period, and the cloud ceiling started to rise. The ceiling rose all the way up to 3,600’, and then slowly continued to rise beyond that, so I opted to make a full ascent to the Gondola Summit Station. The brightening skies probably provided that extra punch of solar radiation to ensure that the snow quality was decent at all elevations, so in the end, the whole descent provided some fantastic spring turns.
I’d expect some decent gaps to open up on the Gondola terrain over the next week if the weather was going to be mild, but the snow there might actually hold out for a while. The forecast suggests numerous snow chances over the next couple of weeks, so that could result in some accumulation and decent preservation as we head farther into the spring ski season.
It looked like Bolton had been hit with similar intense snowfall rates, and it was obvious that there was far more than the initial few inches when I headed up to Timberline for a ski tour this afternoon. My depth checks from the Timberline Base at 1,500 feet were indicating 12 to 16 inches of new snow. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be much additional accumulation with elevation, but by the time I hit 2,500 feet, my measurements were in the 15 to 18-inch range. Bolton’s snow report update from later in the day had their accumulations topping out at 18 inches, so that fit well with my observations.
The actual skiing itself was rather interesting. On my ascent it was already obvious that the snow wasn’t at all wet at elevation. It was fairly dense though, with small flakes falling during my tour. With those small flakes falling atop the accumulation of the larger ones that would have fallen during that midmorning, the powder wasn’t perfectly right-side-up. It wasn’t exactly upside-down either, but there was an element of that in the powder, and combined with a foot and a half of new depth, it added some extra challenge. When you’re on 115 mm boards and you’re feeling like they might not be wide enough, that’s saying something. While I didn’t personally see anything slide or even slough when I was out on my tour today, I did feel tinges of spookiness of steeper slopes, with part of that coming from the slightly imperfect density profile. It didn’t come as a complete surprise when I saw the following in Bolton’s updated snow report:
Urgent Message From Patrol: Avalanche hazard present at this time. If travelling on terrain (especially uphill routes and backcountry) follow appropriate avalanche precautions and gear up accordingly.
So, be careful if you are riding in potentially hazardous spots in the near future with this current snowpack. And unfortunately, the best skiing really is on the steepest terrain right now. I could tell on my ascent that I was going to need some serious pitch to get a quality descent, so I dropped in on the Tattle Tale Headwall, and it certainly delivered. We’ll see what the back side of this storm cycle does for the snow profile, but for now, you’re going to want at least black diamond pitches for the best turns in undisturbed snow. Indeed, if you’re planning to head out for turns tomorrow on anything that hasn’t been tracked, bring your fattest boards and hit the steepest terrain you can find. Conditions should be great though, because we’re in the process of getting another massive resurfacing of the slopes, and its already atop a surface that didn’t really even need it.
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.
The very cold air was still in place today here in the Northern Greens, but we also had some fresh snow moving in with a bit of weak upper-level vorticity pushing through the area. Temperatures at elevation looked like they would stay in the single digits F, so ski touring once again seemed to be the call vs. riding the lifts.
We’d picked up a half-inch or so of new snow down at the house when I headed up to Bolton Valley in the mid to late afternoon. Flakes had been small throughout the storm, so accumulations were coming in a bit on the denser side at around 10 to 12% H2O. I found the same type of snowfall up on the hill, although it was coming down with a bit more intensity. You could see that vehicles had taken on some decent accumulations from the day’s snowfall up to that point.
My ski tour was over in the Holden’s Hollow area, and my initial descent was down through some of the C Bear Woods and Holden’s Hollow West Side Glades that I’ve hit many times before. Based on yesterday’s Wilderness tour, the sweet spot for best turns based on the depth and consistency of the powder seemed to be those mid-angle slopes, so that’s what I was seeking out. Today I was touring at relatively low elevation in the 2,000’ to 2,500’ range, and depth measurements revealed a similar 8 to 10” of powder to what I’d seen yesterday. That surface snow was bolstered a bit by what was falling, but the liquid equivalent from that snow was only about a tenth of an inch, so it wasn’t a major addition. Those mid-angle slopes delivered once again though, with generally bottomless turns on 115 mm fat skis. I mixed things up a bit on the tour to explore some new terrain and continued my descent on the back side of the ridge down below the Telemark trail to the Maple Loop area. I then joined back on to a lower part of the Telemark trail and looped back around to the Holden’s Hollow area again to finish off with a front side descent.
Although temperatures weren’t supposed to be all that different from what they were on Friday, I think they were a few degrees warmer, and with the absence of those 30 to 50 MPH winds, the difference was dramatic. The air was quite calm while I was touring, and the snow was falling straight down, so the overall conditions were just much more comfortable and easy to handle.
I 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.
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.
The back side of this most recent storm cycle seemed to show some promising potential for upslope snow in the Northern Greens, so this morning I made a quick survey of the snow reports from the resorts along the northern spine to see how things had worked out. With the Jay Peak snow report indicating 4 to 7 inches of new snow, and bwt’s measurement of 5.5 inches at 1,900’ from his place at Jay Peak, things were looking good there. Bolton, Smugg’s, and Stowe were reporting totals in the 2 to 4-inch range, so the Jay Peak area really seemed to be a cut above the other resorts. Temperatures rose above freezing in some areas during the middle of the storm though, so maximizing that resurfacing snow/liquid equivalent could make a substantial difference in the quality of the ski surfaces.
E was heading up to Morrisville to deliver some food to a colleague and do some snowshoeing, so I decided to pop up to the Jay Peak area for a bit of touring, and we coordinated our trip. New accumulations of snow were present everywhere from Waterbury on northward, but they really started to pick up once I got to Eden and points father north. You could tell that the storm had hit harder up there. With road maintenance and some sun, I was generally dealing with slushy accumulations on road surfaces, but those usual spots on Route 118 along Belvidere Pond and through the notch areas into Montgomery were wall-to-wall winter snow and required some extra caution.
My tour was in the Big Jay Basin area that I’ve visited various times before, since it has convenient parking and some decent lower to moderate angle slopes along with its steeper lines. It also has that leeward exposure from Jay Peak, Big Jay, and Little Jay, so it absolutely reels in the snow. The past couple of times we’ve visited the basin, we’ve toured the terrain more toward the north side below Big Jay, but for this tour I decided to favor a bit more toward Little Jay to the south. I’d heard good things from some of my students about the terrain there, so as skin tracks diverged on my ascent, I generally opted for those heading more southward toward Little Jay. As I approached Little Jay, I could see that the terrain was getting steeper than I was looking for with the most recent accumulations, and slightly less pitched terrain was more prevalent off to the north, so I followed a skin track that was heading right through the terrain that looked the best for my plans. That skin track brought me into that drainage below the col between Big Jay, and Little Jay, and the lower sections there do have some nice pitches that avoid the really steep stuff. My goal was to get in a moderate tour’s worth of skiing and exercise with about 1,000’ of vertical, so with the trailhead elevation a bit shy of 1,600’, I was shooting to stop my ascent around 2,500-2,600’. Once I’d hit that level, I contoured back toward the south a bit along the side of Little Jay to get into more untouched snow, and dropped in from there.
In terms of the snow quality, it far exceeded my expectations. Accumulations of new snow were very much as expected – I measured about 5 inches of new snow around 1,600’ at the trailhead, and that matched up perfectly with what the resort and bwt had reported in the morning. Accumulations probably increased by another inch about 1,000’ higher, but this didn’t appear to be one of those storms with heavy snow accumulation gains as elevation increased. What impressed me most was when I encountered at least a couple feet of bottomless powder in the drainage below the col. In that area, there were no signs that there had been any sort of significant warmth or rain. It was great to watch all the skiers and riders out there taking advantage of the great snow, and their whoops and hollers could be all over the place throughout the basin, just as you’d expect with great conditions. Aspect mattered in terms of snow quality though. The farther I wrapped around Little Jay toward southern exposure, the more I was skiing on just the new snow, and there was actually a detectable layer atop the old snowpack. Seeing this, I moved back toward the north as I descended in order to get into the best snow. I just found it surprising that it was really only southern aspects where the snowpack had consolidated, because that would represent more effects from sun vs. general warmth. Whatever the case, non-southerly aspects held some excellent bottomless powder out there.
Temperatures on the day were perfect, with mid to upper 20s F keeping the snowpack wintry. Skies were clear and sunny though, and you could tell that the mid-February sun was trying to work on that powder on southern exposures. Temperatures seemed just cold enough, and/or the air was just dry enough, to keep that from happening.
It looks like we might have a system coming through the area tomorrow night that could do something similar to what the back side of this system did, so we’ll see if that adds another few inches to freshen things up again.
I hadn’t been out for any turns since last Sunday when I toured in the Nebraska Valley, so I was eager to see what the mountains had to offer yesterday once the arctic cold departed. At the end of my tour last weekend, temperatures had risen above freezing in the lower elevations, and then we had those potent winds with the arctic front, both of which could have been insults to the quality of the snow surfaces.
Today my plan was to keep my skiing fairly simple and close to home, and I decided to tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network. I figured I’d tour up to Bryant Cabin, check out the snow quality, and decide from there if I was going to go any farther. I was brining minimal camera gear for this outing, so I borrowed Dylan’s backcountry ski pack instead of using my larger one, and I opted for mid-fat Teles instead of going with full fats. I was definitely feeling light and fast with that setup, and hit Bryant Cabin in under 30 minutes, so I felt that I easily had time to extend my tour. In addition, the quality of the snow was far better than I’d expected. We haven’t had a major storm cycle since Winter Storm Kassandra about a week ago, so I didn’t really expect the powder to be very fresh. Those concerns were sidelined right at the start of my tour though – I did numerous depth checks on my ascent, and even down at 2,000’, the surface snow was 15-20” deep above the base. Whatever warming had taken place last weekend was clearly below the 2,000’ elevation range. I’d heard secondhand that the freezing level was somewhere down around the Timberline Base (1,500’), and I guess it never rose much higher than that. The other concern about the snow had been the effects of the wind, but any drifting and wind crusts were few and far between on the terrain I covered up to Bryant Cabin and beyond. I ran into many areas where the trees were just caked and choked with upslope snow clinging to every branch at various crazy angles, and snow doesn’t stay like that when it’s been hit by heavy winds.
Finding the snow quality so impressive, I actually decided to continue my tour all the way up to the top of the Catamount Trail Glades around 3,000’ and the powder just kept getting deeper. Estimates of surface snow depths that I found on my tour were as follows:
Untracked areas up in the Catamount Trail Glades were two feet of bottomless powder, and you could easily be fooled into thinking we’d just had a major storm cycle in the past couple of days, not a week ago. For the rest of my descent I headed down past Bryant Cabin along Gardiner’s Lane and North Slope, and finished off with a connect to Wilderness via Alchemist. The conditions on Alchemist were perhaps the biggest testament to the quality of the snow, because that area has a hard-core southerly exposure, and things have to be prime to get real quality powder turns there. I’d say that today I encountered some of the best conditions I’ve ever seen on Alchemist, so the snow over the past week or so has been extremely well preserved.
It was hard to get a sense for the total snowpack depth while I was out on my tour because it’s getting too deep to probe easily, but the Mansfield snowpack at the stake is at 42”, so the snowpack depth is probably just a bit less than that as you drop to around 3,000’. While that Mansfield snowpack is a foot below average, we’re getting to the point in the season where being below average is less and less relevant in terms of off piste coverage and skiing quality. We’re past that 40” mark at the stake, and all the terrain I encountered yesterday was game on, regardless of pitch or obstacles. I ran the snowpack liquid analysis this morning down at our site in the valley for CoCoRaHS, and there’s 3 inches of liquid equivalent in our snow. The local mountains probably have double that amount at elevation, so it’s easy to see why the off piste skiing is so good. If you have 6 inches of liquid equivalent under your feet, that’s going to take care of a lot of terrain, even relatively steep terrain.
Overall, today was fantastic, both in terms of the temperatures and in terms of the snowpack/snow quality. Temperatures were in the 25-30 F range when I hit the mountain in the afternoon, which was perfect for comfortable skiing while retaining those soft, midwinter snow surfaces.