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 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 06JAN2024

An image of a ski patroller walking through snowfall during a January storm in the main base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fluffy snow on evergreens near the mid station of the Wilderness Double Chairlift in early January at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow from the frequent smaller storms that have come through the area this January adorns some the evergreens near the Wilderness mid station.

With the additional snow that was falling during yesterday’s afternoon/evening ski tour, plus another round of snowfall that came through this afternoon, today seemed like another good opportunity to head up to the mountain for a quick ski tour. Snow was falling all the way down in the bottom of the Winooski Valley, and it intensified as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road. Today was another snowy day, and although none of these past few systems have been huge, the continued accumulations day after day have definitely been having an impact on the quality of the conditions.

Compared to yesterday, I started my tour earlier today, and running out of light wasn’t an issue, so I was able to tour up to about 2,700’ instead of just 2,500’. Relative to the accumulations I saw yesterday, the combination of new snow and settling didn’t appear to change the new snow depths too much in the lower elevations as of this afternoon, but I definitely noticed an increase starting at around 2,500’, and the depth continued to increase above that level as well. Here’s the comparative new snow depth profiles between yesterday and today:

320’: 0-1” –> 0-1”
1,000’: 1-2” –> 1-2”
1,500’: 2-3” –> 2-3”
2,000’: 2-3” –> 2-3”
2.500’: 2-3” –> 3″
2,700’: 3-4”

With the available daylight and more time to tour today, I was able to choose some alternate areas of Wilderness that had mostly untracked snow. Getting into the untracked snow made for dramatically better skiing, and I was starting to even get into some bottomless turns on the lower angle slopes.

From my tours yesterday and today, I found that the water bars on the lower slopes of Wilderness were generally in good shape with respect to coverage, so there shouldn’t be any issues there if they decide to open that are for lift-served skiing. Based on what I’ve seen over these couple days of ski touring at Wilderness, the skiing is already quite decent there and it’s really going to take off with even a few additional inches of snow.

An image of a "Lift Closed" sign coated with a bit of fresh snow in early January at the base of the Wilderness Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow coats a sign at the base of the Wilderness Chair, which is currently the domain of only those who are ski touring via the Wilderness Uphill Route.

Next in the storm parade we’ve got Winter Storm Ember moving into the area, and it looks poised to put down a couple inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains and valleys.  That should make for a dramatic increase in snowpack depths, and there should be a lot of additional terrain opening. Dylan has a number of college friends staying over at the house for a ski vacation during winter break, and we’ll all likely be heading out tomorrow to ski the new snow. I’ll put together an update of what we find!  

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 Nordic & Backcountry, VT 15DEC2023

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder in mid-December in one of the glade areas on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Bryant Cabin in mid-December during a ski tour out on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the Bryant Cabin while Ty and I were out on our backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley today

I haven’t been up to the mountain since Tuesday, but Dylan was out for some lift-served turns on Wednesday with friends and he said that Bolton’s conditions were fantastic. Similar to what I’d observed on Tuesday, he said there was a still a lot of roped terrain due to various hazards, but he also noted that his group was able to ski lower down on Preacher, and the untracked powder was going strong. That area is well protected from winds, and with the lower traffic due to the current need to traverse in, he said that conditions in there were better than he often sees in midwinter. The resort had also opened up the lower part of Wilderness that can be easily accessed from Vista, and he said the powder there was excellent as well.

Since it hasn’t snowed for a couple of days, I decided that the timing would be good to head out onto Bolton’s Backcountry Network. This was my first time out on the Network this season, so it was a great opportunity to see where the snowpack stands. In terms of skiing the glades, coverage is quite good, and there are no major issues there. Out in the glades is feels like something that is approaching a midwinter snowpack, but what gives it away that we’re not quite there yet are the water bars on the main access trails. Some water bars are fine, but there are many that seem like they are stuck in early season condition, probably because they got blown out somewhat by the warm start to the last system. I haven’t noticed that issue quite as much on the lift-served terrain, likely because the grooming and greater skier traffic help to pack in the water bars more, but those factors aren’t there to tamp down the snow on the backcountry terrain. There are a number of spots on the Bryant Trail where people have diverted the skin track around the water bar area instead of trying to bridge it.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry trail map which lists a lot of the glades.

Today we toured up the classic route to the Bryant Cabin, and then descended through some of the more popular glades. I was surprised to find that even above 2,000’ the temperature was edging above the freezing mark, so the snow was getting a bit thick in some areas. This effect seemed to diminish with elevation, and thankfully most of the powder skied well and wasn’t sticky, probably because the air is still fairly dry. As we descended below 2,500’, we started to run into areas where the powder became sticky, and I figured it was due to elevation, but we got back into drier powder in lower areas and that makes me think the stickiness was just in areas that had seen the sun. In any event, even with the temperatures being a bit marginal, there’s still plenty of good powder out there at elevation if you avoid areas that got hit by the sun.

A an image of a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from a ski tour on December 15th, 2023 on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from today’s ski tour out on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

It’s not surprising that the backcountry snowpack is getting a midwinter feel, because the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is at 40 inches, and that’s the depth at which people start to feel comfortable skiing most off piste terrain around here. Those water bars in certain areas do seem to give it away that we’re still in early season though. Bolton’s snow report indicates that they are just shy of 100 inches of snow on the season, and I see that Jay Peak is reporting 115 inches on the season, so both resorts seem to have done well with these early season storms we’ve had thus far. We’re within a couple inches of average snowfall to date down at our site in the valley, but I bet those numbers from the resorts are ahead of their average pace due to the substantial elevation-dependence we’ve see with these recent systems. In any event, 100” of snow by mid-December is a solid start to the season, even at elevation in the Northern Greens.

Bolton Valley, VT 11DEC2023

An image looking down the Villager ski trail choked with fresh snow from near the Timberline Summit during a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Timberline Quad Chairlift during an early December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Bolton Valley has already picked up more than a foot of snow from our current winter storm, and the Timberline Quad Chair is showing the results of some of the mid-elevation accumulations.

As of their 4:00 P.M. update, Bolton was reporting a foot of new snow so far from this current winter storm, and I’m sure they’ve cruised right past that mark with the way it was snowing up there when I left the mountain this afternoon.

The early morning report from Bolton was 6 inches new up top, so my wife and I planned to let a few more inches accumulate and then head up in the afternoon for some lift-served runs. That plan quickly changed around 11:30 A.M. when we noticed that their main base area live webcam was frozen. We checked their website and they’d updated the snow report to indicate that they’d lost power. They were working directly with Green Mountain Power and hoped to get it back up in an hour, but that was very much up in the air.

An image of snow-covered vehicles in the main Village parking lots during an early December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Even at the Village elevations in the parking lots you can see the results from our ongoing winter storm.

About an hour later with no change in operating status at the resort, I figured it was time to head up for some ski touring to get out in the new snow, since the potential for lift-served skiing was just too uncertain. When I first arrived up at the mountain, the snowfall was steady but I’d say only moderate in intensity. I did some quick depth checks around the Village to get a sense for how much new snow was there, but it was tough to gauge. In many areas, the new snow was so well blended with the old snow that it was hard to determine where the interface was. Overall, that’s a great sign because it indicates that the snowpack wasn’t hit too hard by the warmer temperatures on the front end of this system. In some spots I could find a thicker layer below the new snow, but even at that point I was often getting surface snow depths of 12 to 14 inches. Whatever the accumulations, there’s plenty of new snow and it’s coming together nicely with the underlying snowpack.

An image of heavy snowfall during a December snowstorm at the Wilderness Summit area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
When I reached the Wilderness summit during today’s ski tour, the snowfall was quite intense, often in the 1 to 2 incher per hour range.

I skinned up to the Wilderness Summit, and touring traffic at that point seemed very light – there were just a couple of tracks down Peggy Dow’s. As I ascended, the intensity of the snowfall increased, and when I was up above 3,000’ on Wilderness it was definitely in the 1-2”/hr. range at times. I know it’s really dumping by how quickly my gear takes on snow accumulations during touring transitions, and this was one of those times where I was constantly having to brush off the snow.

Fat skis were the call again today, and this snow is on the denser side, so you want some pitch for the best turns. In terms of density, at 2,000’ the snow seemed to be a bit above the 10% H2O range, and up at 3,000’ it’s definitely drier; it’s got the feel of something in the 7 to 8% H2O range. The turns are great anywhere at elevation of course; it’s simply bottomless powder everywhere with this storm putting down plenty of liquid equivalent. I was worried about some of the water bars getting blown out with the warmer front end of this storm, but in general they seemed similar to how they were before. The snowfall didn’t actually slow down when I descended back to the Village, so it wasn’t just 3,000’+ that was getting hammered at that point – the intensity of the snowfall had definitely increased in association with the back side of the storm.

An image of delicate fresh snow covering the branches of a tree during a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe mountain had been running at least the Snowflake Chair when I started out on my tour, so my plan was to swap over to mid-fats and get in a few lift-served laps to finish off the session. Well, when I arrived back at the main base, power was out again everywhere, so that plan was out the window. There was an easy solution to that though; I just slapped the skins back on and kept touring. I was initially thinking a nice little tour up to the Snowflake Summit would be a great way to finish off the session, but when I got to Five Corners I suddenly thought about hitting the Timberline Summit. I haven’t been up to Timberline at all yet this season because the snow depths at the Timberline Base are still a bit lean compared to the stronger snowpack above 2,000’, but that part of the tour gave me a chance to check out Timberline’s higher elevations. There’s been hardly any skier traffic over there, so it’s nearly untracked everywhere.

An image of the deck of a house covered in snow during a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
It was a winter wonderland out there at the resort today as my ski tour brought me around through the Bolton Valley Village, up to the Wilderness Summit, and even up to the Timberline Summit.

Heavy snowfall continued to pummel the area right through to the end of my ski tour, and my car had been loaded with snow in just the couple hours that I was out there. It took me probably 10 minutes to clean off the snow.  The temperatures had definitely dropped as I was heading down the access road, and the heavy snowfall didn’t start to abate at all until I was below 1,500’. We’ve been accumulating better even down in the valley now that the temperatures have dropped below freezing.