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

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 20JAN2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley, VT 17JAN2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley, VT 16JAN2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 15JAN2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley, VT 14JAN2024

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley, VT 13JAN2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Valley, VT 07JAN2024

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in powder from the beginning of Winter Storm Ember in the Hide Away area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder from the beginning of Winter Storm Ember in the Hide Away area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty drops a knee as he dives into some of the Bolton Valley powder delivered by the start of Winter Storm Ember today.

January snowfall is rolling along now with the appearance of our first major weather system of the month, and thus our first big event of the new year. Winter Storm Ember began to affect the area last night, and Bolton Valley was indicating that an additional 3 to 4 inches of new had fallen as of their early morning report. E and I headed up with Ty a couple hours later to catch the opening of the lifts, and there was probably another inch or two down by that point because it was snowing at a decent clip. Even more notable though was the wind – it was easterly and quite strong, and it was hitting you right in the face while riding the Vista Quad. Combined with temperatures in the teens F, our storm gear was definitely earning its keep and was highly appreciated.

Based on my analyses from the house, the mountain had seen probably about a half inch of liquid equivalent by that point. Combined with the several small storms we’ve had over the past week as we’ve kicked off January, it was a decent contribution to resurfacing, but certainly not at the point where patrol could simply drop the ropes on all the natural snow terrain. The snow was enough to open up certain natural snow areas like the Enchanted Forest, but at that point of the storm there just wasn’t enough liquid equivalent down to get the steepest terrain going. There was plenty of terrain open to enjoy the fresh powder though, and we knew additional trails would open as the storm continued to deliver more snow.

An image of Ty catching some air in the Hide Away terrain park area during the beginning of Winter Storm Ember at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty catching some air in the Hide Away terrain park area today as we enjoy the fresh snow from Winter Storm Ember
An image of a snowcat with fresh snow falling during Winter Storm Ember in the Village are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some midmorning accumulations on the Village snowcat as Winter Storm Ember starts to deliver fresh powder to the slopes of Bolton Valley

In the late morning Ty had to head off to work, but Dylan son and his college friends who are staying over for a mini ski vacation were headed up for some runs, so we got to ski with them. The fierce winds from the morning had abated to essentially nothing, so that made the lift rides much more comfortable. A depth check I made around noontime in undisturbed snow at about mid-mountain elevation revealed 9 inches of surface snow, which was probably the combination of what had fallen from this storm on top of the lighter amounts from our other recent storms.

After we left in the early afternoon, I heard that they began to open some steep terrain like Schuss, so the storm was definitely having an impact on replenishing coverage in areas that needed it. The resort was reporting 9 inches of new snow as of closing bell, but with the way it’s been snowing around here this evening, I’m sure they’ll have picked up more by tomorrow morning.

Bolton Valley, VT 12DEC2023

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Bull Run trail after a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Glades trail after a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Coverage and snow quality were excellent today on natural snow trails like Glades off the Mid Mountain Chair

With last night’s continued snowfall on the back side of the system, Bolton Valley reported 18” for their storm total as of this morning. Since I’d missed out on the chance for any lift-served turns yesterday due to the power outages, I popped up to the mountain for some runs this morning since power was fully restored and the lifts were back in action. The resort is still somewhat in early season mode though, and they’re not running all lifts on weekdays, but the Vista Quad was running, which serves the bulk of the main mountain’s terrain. I haven’t been up to Vista at all yet this season, so this was a chance for me to see how the snow was doing up there.

The resort obviously got a boatload of snow from this most recent storm, with another excellent shot of liquid equivalent for the snowpack thanks to all the dense snow that fell on the front end of the system. Even with all the snow, there was a ton of terrain that was roped off this morning. The snow report indicated that between the warm front end of the storm and winds that came through, there were areas of water bars, melting and scouring that need some work to be safe for skiers. I’m sure ski patrol will be working hard to open as much terrain as they can as they have time to sort it out.

The standard snowmaking/groomed routes off Vista were definitely the main pipeline of open terrain, and the snow report noted that nothing else had been groomed. While so much terrain was roped off, there were some gems that had made the cut, such as Vermont 200 and Glades. I think Vermont 200 is sheltered enough that it holds the snow despite strong winds, and let’s just say, without any grooming, it was a great example of how spicy the terrain is out there. Vermont 200 normally has a lot of contour with plenty of rocks and ledges and stumps and dips and all that, but it feels exaggerated 10-fold with the current snowpack. There is plenty of snow in there though, and it’s a wild ride. Glades was another great ride because the Mid Mountain Chair wasn’t running, so getting to the top entry of Glades meant a bit of skating was required across the Mid Mountain Flats, and most people weren’t interested in that. So, the top of Glades had seen very few skiers and held a lot of fresh powder. Lower down, people were coming in from Upper Glades/Moose Run, so the conditions were more tracked, but still excellent.

An image of members from the snowmaking crew working to put snow down on the steep Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Members of the the Bolton Valley snowmaking crew were hard at work today augmenting the natural snow that is already present on the steep slopes of Spillway.

The snowmakers were out working hard on Spillway, so that seems to be where they’re putting their efforts for additional manmade snow at the moment. Even with all this new natural snow, Spillway still needs that snowmaking base because it’s wide and exposed to the wind so that it’s constantly getting scoured. Additional snow is falling today with the cold front and northwest flow squalls that are coming through, and then it looks quiet for the end of the week before a potential larger storm affects the area Sunday night into Monday.  The models still seem to have some sorting out to do with that system though.

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.