We haven’t seen much snow here in the Northern Greens since last weekend, and from what I’ve heard, the conditions on the slopes haven’t been all that remarkable. A more substantial winter storm started to affect the area yesterday however, and it seemed to hold some promise with respect to putting down several inches of snow in the mountains.
While the storm had only dropped an inch or two of snow down here at our house in the valley as of this morning, that snow contained almost a half inch of liquid equivalent, and with the temperatures being marginal in the lower elevations, it was easy to see that the accumulations were going to be elevation-dependent. The Bolton Valley snow report was only indicating a few inches of new snow as of this morning, but that was enough to at least get us to head up to the hill and check out the conditions. It seemed like a toss-up with respect to whether or not the snow would really be enough to kick the conditions into high gear, but there had to be more than a half inch of liquid equivalent from the storm at elevation, and that’s certainly enough for a decent resurfacing of the slopes.
We parked at Timberline, and right from the start, we were encouraged by what we saw. There were 2 to 4 inches of dense accumulation even at those lowest elevations, and as we rode the Timberline Quad and watched and listened to the skiers below, their relatively quiet turns suggested that the new snow had bonded well to the subsurface. Our plan was to head up to the main mountain, get a good assessment of the conditions at all elevations, and then take it from there. Up at 2,500’ when we got off at the Timberline Summit, it was immediately obvious that the conditions were going to be good. The new snow had clearly put down a resurfacing that was incorporated well into the grooming and created a soft, quiet surface that let you cut right into it with your carves. We next took a trip up the Vista Quad, and the conditions above 3,000’ were even better. The sides of Alta Vista yielded excellent turns, and my depth checks were coming in with 6 to 7 inches of new snow.
We’d met up with some colleagues from work and their families, and our group spent much of the afternoon roaming around the main mountain, venturing from Vista to Wilderness, with a lot of time spent on Snowflake. The boys were having some great fun on the jumps in the terrain park, and with the usual low traffic of Snowflake, the trails held plenty of untracked lines. When we were over on Wilderness, just about everyone hit the Wilderness Woods and had some great turns, and those of us inclined to hit the trees off Snowflake were treated to run after run of untracked powder through some very nice lines.
We finished off our day with a long run down from the Vista Summit to the Timberline Base, and based on that run it was very evident that the main mountain was the place to be today for the best powder and groomed surfaces. The snow below 2,000’ was still decent, but as we’d seen, the accumulations were a bit less, and the powder a bit denser. Up on the main mountain was definitely where the best snow was located, and skier traffic was quite light. It’s March after all, and since this wasn’t an obvious slam dunk storm cycle, I’m sure there were many folks that opted not to make the trip to the mountain for conditions that probably could have gone either way.
After a couple of great outings in the new snow on Friday and then again yesterday, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to ski today. I figured the snow would be settling or warming, at least in the lower mountain elevations, and combined with skier traffic, that would bring the conditions down a notch. Ty was still at the house for the weekend though, and when he was eager to get out for some turns, that easily tipped the balance and we decided to head up to Bolton Valley.
It was late morning by the time we hit the mountain, and they were already running out of parking spots at Timberline, so people were clearly eager to get out today. Once we hit the hill, it was easy to see why. Winter Storm Quest had departed, the weather was pleasant, and the quality of the snow seemed like it hadn’t changed at all. There had been some additional snow on the back side of the storm cycle, but even the earlier snow seemed like it was in great shape. Amazingly, it almost felt like it had dried out a bit more and the powder seemed notably less dense.
We had planned on a mellow day on the Telemark skis enjoying the groomed and packed runs, but that plan fell by the wayside a bit when we found that there was still plenty of untracked powder around, and it was of such good quality. We had a great time touring around the mountain and managed a big loop that hit every chairlift at the resort and concluded with a big long run down from the Vista Summit to the Timberline Base. Temperatures were very wintry and chilly up above 3,000’, and remarkably pleasant down around 1,500’, but still cold enough to continue preserving the snow.
We were most impressed by the durability of the recent snow. The surfaces just continued to hold up with incredibly soft composition and no signs of ice, even in high traffic areas. I know that we’re really skiing on snow from more storms than just Winter Storm Quest, but even the packed runs were just so enjoyable because on every turn you made, you could rely on encountering only soft, yielding snow. We’ve reached a point where the quality of the snow is so good that it’s actually dropped the difficulty of every trail down a solid notch. Skiing advanced runs feels like skiing intermediate runs, and you can definitely enjoy the steeps without having to dodge patches of hard snow. This aspect of the skiing was displayed prominently on the steepest pitch going down into Maria’s, where tight, high-angle, moguled terrain just seemed to flow because you never had to avoid ice or other obstacles. It was a great day for Ty to push himself with his Telemark skiing on challenging terrain, so I’m definitely happy he tipped the scales and got us out for those turns.
Temperatures were expected to warm above freezing today, so I was thinking of heading up to the mountain in the afternoon to catch some turns in soft snow. Dylan and his friends headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning, and said that things were indeed softening up by the time they’re returned in the early afternoon.
Since Ty wasn’t working today, he decided to join me for some skiing, and based on the limited terrain that was open, I recommended that he bring his Telemark gear so that he could get in some practice. With only the Mid Mountain and Snowflake Chairs running along with the Mighty Mite, there were actually some lift queues, but we still had a fun session getting in a few fun runs on the available terrain. We didn’t encounter much in the way of soft snow though. I’m not sure if we’d just missed the window of softening, but looking at just how low that sun was with its November sun angle, it made me wonder how much softening could actually occur – even on a sunny day like today. The only softened snow we actually found was on the south facing terrain near the top of Bear Run.
Ty had a good time working on his Telemark turns, and he commented that what he needed to work on was smoothing out his transitions from one turn to another. I told him that’s exactly what Mom and I had discovered when we first started Telemark skiing. The transition from one Telemark stance to the next is much more challenging than a typical alpine turn, because it’s a longer duration, a longer distance, and there’s a lot more body movement to do. But, once you get a smooth transition down, your Telemark turns can really flow and you can have a lot of fun with it. It’s still a tremendous workout compared to alpine skiing, and that’s part of the allure if one goal of your outing is to get in some exercise.
After some initial frozen precipitation at our house this morning, we’d had on and off rain in the valley heading into the afternoon. It had been steady at times, but nothing too heavy. I got a bit worried though when I encountered a couple of downpours while driving through Bolton Flats, because the thought of skiing in the pouring rain wasn’t all that enticing. I was happy to see that the rain changed over to snow around 1,500’ at the Timberline Base, so that alleviated the concerns about having to potentially be out on the mountain in a downpour. The drive up the Bolton Valley Access Road definitely gave its usual introduction to the local temperature profile – the temperatures ticked right down at a steady pace and dropped from the lower 40s F in the valley to the lower 30s F by the time I hit the base village.
I was getting concerned that the snow surfaces were going to be quickly tightening up as colder air moved in, but the lower mountain seemed to be just enough around the freezing mark that the snow remained soft. I could tell it wouldn’t be too long before the surfaces would be getting firm though – the wind had really picked up as the back side of the storm system was pushing through, and the Mid Mountain Chair appeared to close early because of it.
Our latest system, Winter Storm Quinlan, was just getting going today, but once it got rolling, it was quite a ride, and I’d say that term applies to both the skiing and the driving. Snowfall rates down here at the house were running at around an inch an hour during earlier day, and the higher elevations were obviously doing at least that well. With that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain in the afternoon, by which point there should have been a good chance at a solid resurfacing of the slopes. I had no idea how long the lifts were going to hold out in terms of the wind, so I packed midfats and fat skis, with skins for both. It’s always a good insurance policy to have the skins on hand for these types of storm days.
E opted out of heading up with me, since she suspected the driving on the access road was going to be outrageously hairy, and that the storm conditions on the hill were going to brutal. She was, of course, correct on both accounts. On the drive up the Bolton Valley access road, I saw two cars that had ditched on their descents. That wasn’t bad compared to some storms, but it was certainly a sign. Both vehicles had gone off at those steep bottom pitches of the access road as it makes its final dive into the Winooski Valley, which is a common area for cars to bail. For one of the vehicles, a tow truck was just getting set up to pull it out, and it looked like the operator was going to need to take up the entire roadway to do it. Thankfully, he waved me by just as he was about to rig up. In the midst of the heavy snowfall, the scene felt like something out of “Highway Through Hell”. Thankfully, it wasn’t a big rig off the road, but the weather fit the bill. I could see that there were multiple plows working the road to try to keep up with the snowfall, because it was constantly pouring down and making the driving rough.
Up above 2,000’ at the resort, Quinlan was going full tilt in terms of both snowfall rates and wind. Obviously the skiers and riders were dressed for it and took it in stride, but you could see that Village elevations had already taken quite a pounding during the day. By that point, the storm had put down 8-10” of new snow in the Village, and the parking lots hadn’t been plowed since the morning. Moving through the lots was tough with all that snow, and cars without 4WD/AWD and clearance, were definitely struggling to get around. I got a spot right in the top lot from someone who had recently left, but I spent a good amount of time packing and checking my spot to ensure that I was going to be able to get out later.
I hopped on the Snowflake Lift and took a run on Sprig O’ Pine to find that indeed there had been quite a resurfacing of the slopes. That 8-10” of snow certainly wasn’t fluff, and it had started out quite dense, allowing it to bond to the subsurface. The Vista Quad and Wilderness Chair were already down on wind hold, and just as I skied up to the entrance of the Mid Mountain Chair, it went down on wind hold as well. When Mid Mountain goes down, you know the wind is serious.
I could have done some additional laps on Snowflake or headed down to the Timberline Quad, but I really didn’t have a sense for how long they might be able to keep running with the winds. So, I grabbed my skins from the car and headed to the Wilderness Uphill Route. The Lower Turnpike area was sheltered from the winds as usual, but above 3,000’ on the ridgeline, the winds were just brutal. The winds had to be 40 to 50 MPH sustained, and when I hit the final traverse of Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness Summit, I almost couldn’t skin across because there were already waist-high drifts blocking the route. I had to break trail along the eastern edge of the traverse and cut between the drifts and the trees. Conditions at the Wilderness Summit were a maelstrom, and even in the most sheltered spot I could find, it was still so windy that packing up my skins was a struggle. I laughed to even think of the upper lifts running under those conditions.
I’d say the snowfall accumulations at that point were rough 8-10” at ~2,000’ and 10-12” at 3,000’, and the skiing, as one would expect, was excellent. As noted, there had been dense snow at the start of the storm, and everything of moderate pitch, or even higher angle pitch if the subsurface was smooth, had been resurfaced. I’d seen a couple small groups of folks descending while I was heading up, but after that, I saw nobody. I essentially had the entire main mountain area to myself at that point, and it was just point, go, and ski lots of fresh powder.
With the solitude I’d experienced out on my tour, the intensity of the ongoing storm, and the fact that it was already after 4:00 P.M., I expected to return to a deserted base area. But that wasn’t the case; the Snowflake Lift and Mighty Mite were still running, and some folks were even skiing. After being up in the 40-50 MPH winds, the 20-30 MPH winds around the base area did feel a bit tamer. I couldn’t believe that the new Miso Kome Japanese food stand outside the base lodge was operating, but I’d yet to have a chance to try it, so despite the stormy conditions, I took it as a sign. If they were willing to stay open during a storm like this, then hey, I’ll take the opportunity to try out their food. While attempting to read their menu, which was on a sign pitched several feet away from the stand, it was snowing so hard that I had to keep wiping off the new snow just to get through the various items. It had to be snowing at around 2”/hour at that point. Inside the lodge, everything appeared to be quite normal, and I was even able to grab a couple of pizzas from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to the family. So I guess storm or no storm, the services roll on at the resort.
The final part of Saturday’s outing was the descent down the access road. I’ve obviously been down that road in many, many storms, but the timing of this one with the heavy snowfall rates made it one of the more challenging descents I can recall. We were crawling down the road. Cars were moving at a snail’s pace because the intense snowfall made it hard for the plows to keep up, and the road surface was so slick that you’d almost be slipping off the edge at a full stop. On more than one occasion, I opted to ride the crown of the road because just the natural drainage slope in your lane wanted to guide you off. About halfway down, we caught a nice boost from a plow that was on the way up and set up some added traction to the center of the road. I used that slice of extra traction as much as possible for the remainder of the descent.
It was great to get home with the food and talk about the whole experience at dinner, and all told, that was certainly one of the more eventful ski outings of the season.
It’s been a busy past couple of weeks finishing up the semester for me, and there haven’t been any notable storms to urge me out to the slopes, but we got out to the mountain today to take a few turns in the new snow from Winter Storm Carrie.
For conditions, there was about a half foot of new snow reported by Bolton in their morning report, although there were probably a couple more inches on top of that with the way it was accumulating while we were there. Indeed they’re now reporting 8 inches for their weekly total, and I’d say that’s probably the storm total once the backside snows were incorporated. It was a decent resurfacing of the slopes, with 0.80” of L.E. recorded here at our place. I suspect they’re in the that ballpark for L.E. up at the mountain as well, although the western slopes probably were a bit lower on storm totals relative to the eastern slopes with the wind flow for the majority of the storm cycle. In any event, the surfaces we found out there today were nice, although I could see how high-angle terrain or higher traffic resorts could find the slopes getting down to firm surfaces pretty quickly.
The overall feel at the resort was quite wintry with temperatures in the teens F, moderate snow falling, and some wind. Bolton only had their lower lifts running as they were still prepping the Vista Summit for lift-served levels of traffic, but it looks like this storm put them over the top and they’re opening the Vista Quad in the next few days. The Wilderness Uphill Route is open, so with the leftover base they had plus this new storm, there’s certainly enough snow to be skinning for turns on the natural snow terrain at Wilderness, so that’s great to have in place for the upcoming holiday period. They’ll still need another decent shot of liquid equivalent to get more terrain open for lift-served levels of traffic on natural snow terrain, and to get the lower-elevation Timberline area open for ski touring traffic. I’m sure there are some people touring down at the Timberline elevations with what we’ve got at the moment, but the Timberline Uphill Route isn’t officially open yet. I think they’d lost most of the natural base snow there, so you’re working with just the accumulations from Winter Storm Carrie, and this one storm with ~3/4” of liquid equivalent isn’t quite enough to get touring into a really comfortable place.