Today showed more potential though, and I headed up to the mountain for an afternoon session that saw temperatures pushing well into the 40s F at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base. That was definitely enough to soften the snow into pleasant spring conditions, especially on west-facing terrain with afternoon sun. The boys were up at the main mountain with friends for some terrain park runs, and I thought about heading over to see them, but it was well into the afternoon so I just stuck around Timberline for a few Telemark laps. Temperatures certainly cooled with elevation, but the snow was soft enough everywhere to produce great turns. In some spots with direct sun, the snow was even getting a little sticky since it hadn’t gone over to 100% corn, but in general the snow quality was excellent. Coverage is still quite good on piste even down to 1,500’, but there are a few bare spots opening up on natural snow terrain at those low elevations.
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.
It looked like Bolton had been hit with similar intense snowfall rates, and it was obvious that there was far more than the initial few inches when I headed up to Timberline for a ski tour this afternoon. My depth checks from the Timberline Base at 1,500 feet were indicating 12 to 16 inches of new snow. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be much additional accumulation with elevation, but by the time I hit 2,500 feet, my measurements were in the 15 to 18-inch range. Bolton’s snow report update from later in the day had their accumulations topping out at 18 inches, so that fit well with my observations.
The actual skiing itself was rather interesting. On my ascent it was already obvious that the snow wasn’t at all wet at elevation. It was fairly dense though, with small flakes falling during my tour. With those small flakes falling atop the accumulation of the larger ones that would have fallen during that midmorning, the powder wasn’t perfectly right-side-up. It wasn’t exactly upside-down either, but there was an element of that in the powder, and combined with a foot and a half of new depth, it added some extra challenge. When you’re on 115 mm boards and you’re feeling like they might not be wide enough, that’s saying something. While I didn’t personally see anything slide or even slough when I was out on my tour today, I did feel tinges of spookiness of steeper slopes, with part of that coming from the slightly imperfect density profile. It didn’t come as a complete surprise when I saw the following in Bolton’s updated snow report:
Urgent Message From Patrol: Avalanche hazard present at this time. If travelling on terrain (especially uphill routes and backcountry) follow appropriate avalanche precautions and gear up accordingly.
So, be careful if you are riding in potentially hazardous spots in the near future with this current snowpack. And unfortunately, the best skiing really is on the steepest terrain right now. I could tell on my ascent that I was going to need some serious pitch to get a quality descent, so I dropped in on the Tattle Tale Headwall, and it certainly delivered. We’ll see what the back side of this storm cycle does for the snow profile, but for now, you’re going to want at least black diamond pitches for the best turns in undisturbed snow. Indeed, if you’re planning to head out for turns tomorrow on anything that hasn’t been tracked, bring your fattest boards and hit the steepest terrain you can find. Conditions should be great though, because we’re in the process of getting another massive resurfacing of the slopes, and its already atop a surface that didn’t really even need it.
With no obvious fresh snow in the past few days for the Northern Greens, there wasn’t a huge extra incentive to head out for turns this weekend, but as PF noted with his report on the conditions at Stowe, the quality of the snow that is out there on piste is tremendously high. We’ve had a few decent resurfacing events this season, but this most recent series of winter storms including that low pressure from the Ontario/Quebec border passing southeast across the region on the 26th, Winter Storm Piper on the 28th, that quick moving system that came across from the Great Lakes on the 1st, and then Winter Storm Quest on the 4th, has probably been the best. We picked up roughly 30 inches of snow in the span of that week at our site in the Winooski Valley, and of course the mountains did substantially better than that. Moreover, being the late February/early March period, all that snow came in with a strong snowpack in place, more so than any of the previous resurfacing events. The snowpack at our house currently has 5 inches of liquid equivalent in it, so the mountain snowpack must be absolutely loaded. Suffice it to say, the past couple of weeks has been a setup for great ski conditions.
E and I found ourselves with some time yesterday afternoon, and the skies were clear with temperatures in the 30s F, so we headed up to Bolton Valley for some on piste Telemark runs at Timberline. The first thing we noticed was that Timberline was a very popular place for a Sunday afternoon, and that was because the third annual Blauvelt’s Banks competition was taking place there. Dylan had mentioned that he’d seen them building the course there earlier in the week, and that was an interesting change of pace because they’ve held it up at the main mountain in the past. This year, the course was on the lower part of Showtime, with an excellent view for those riding the Timberline Quad, and the course looked great. The placement of the course did mean that access to Showtime and Twice as Nice was restricted though.
In terms of our ski session, we hit just about everything else that was available off the Timberline Quad. Even after a number of days without fresh snow, the quality of the ski surfaces continues to be fantastic. The snowpack can certainly take a beating as we get farther into spring with those seasonal temperature fluctuations, but even with temperatures edging a bit above freezing, the snow just seems to stay beautifully consistent. Most terrain has soft, winter snow, and even in areas at lower elevations in the sun where the snow was transitioning to a more spring-like surface, it continues to retain that winter-like consistency and softness. You can just lay into every turn and get a beautiful, smooth, quiet carve out of it. We stuck to on piste terrain on this outing, but I did check the snow off piste, and it still seemed quite light and powdery, even down near 1,500’ elevation. It looks like yet another system, Winter Storm Sage, has the potential to affect the area in the next couple of days, and the ski conditions will hopefully continue to be strong because any snow it brings should be going down atop the current quality snowpack.
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.
I’m not sure exactly when the snow from Winter Storm Quest started up around here, but it was well into the overnight hours, and I’m not even sure if I saw any accumulation before midnight. So, waking up this morning to find over 8 inches on the boards for 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS observations meant that the snow must have been coming down in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range. There were plenty of large flakes falling at that point, and this morning’s liquid analysis revealed that the water content in the snow was 8.5%, or a snow to liquid ratio of approximately 11 or 12 to 1.
Ty and I got up to the hill just about the time of the opening of the Timberline Quad, and had a great bunch of runs while we waited for Dylan and Colin to join us. During those morning runs, it was quickly obvious that the new snow that had fallen had laid in a massive resurfacing of the slopes. The snow was actually on the dense side due to fairly small flakes up at Bolton Valley, and I’d say it was running a bit above 10% H2O up there. The snow was dense enough that you wanted terrain on the steeper side to really have a good flow on the descent, and that was fine, because in terms of sufficient coverage of the base snow and any underlying obstacles, it didn’t matter how steep the terrain was. On piste, off piste, it didn’t matter; just pick the steepest lines you could find, ski as aggressively as you wanted, and you weren’t hitting the subsurface. We tested many of the steepest lines available on Timberline like the Spell Binder headwall and the Tattle Tale Headwall, and they skied beautifully. We hit steep off piste lines that I don’t usually find to be that great because their pitch is often too much for the quality of the snow or achieving bottomless skiing, and it just didn’t matter.
In terms of surface snow depths, our checks in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range were about 15 inches if we had to pick a best estimate, but it was really hard to tell exactly how much snow came from just this storm. The new snow was sitting atop snow from other recent storms, and it all just continues to stack and set up excellent surfaces. It snowed all morning, so that kept piling on new snow to the accumulations as well. Total snowpack depth is 40 inches or more above 2,500’, and the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake being over 60 inches speaks to that.
Later in the morning we finally met up with Dylan and Colin, and we just went around hitting some of our favorite steepest off piste lines all over the mountain. Timberline had no lift queue for essentially the whole morning, but after about midday, the temperature at those lowest elevations seemed to creep up toward freezing and the snow became even a bit denser. It was somewhat subtle, but you could tell when you skied a run that the powder in the lowest elevations was a bit thicker than it was above 2,000’. After most of the morning at Timberline, we focused on the main mountain for the early afternoon where everything was above 2,000’, just in case Timberline continued to warm and the powder got wet.
We joined up with Parker and his dad for a final run on the main mountain before making a big long run all the way down from the Vista Summit to the Timberline Base. Temperatures clearly hadn’t gotten too high to really ruin the powder because it was still fine all the way to the Timberline Base at 1,500’. Ty, Dylan, Parker and I finished off our day around midafternoon with a visit to the Timberline Base Lodge and some great food from El Gato, and we definitely felt like we’d earned a good meal with the energy we’d put into the day’s skiing.
It continued to snow most of the day, and after a bit of a lull around midday, the snowfall picked right back in the afternoon to the level it had been in the morning. So, we knew there was definitely more accumulation on the way. Back down at the house at 500’ that afternoon we could see that temperatures had definitely gone above freezing because some of the new snow had settled, but the mountain elevations seemed to fare quite well with respect to any melting or settling.
We’ve recently come into a snowier stretch here in the Northern Greens; we’ve picked up accumulating snow at our house every day for the past ten days, and over two feet of new snow has fallen in the valley during that period. The skiing has been great, but I haven’t been up to the hill since I was out on Sunday with the boys because I’ve just been a bit too busy. My schedule was a little lighter today though, and with a modest system affecting the area over the past couple of days, I headed up to Timberline for a quick tour on my way in to Burlington.
Bolton Valley was reporting 3-4” of new snow in the past 24 hours, so I was eager to see how the powder was looking with that addition. On my ascent, I was generally finding 4-6” of surface snow in areas that hadn’t recent been groomed, and that seemed to increase a couple more inches by the time I got up around the 2,300’ mark at the Timberline Mid Station. I descended on Twice as Nice, where they’d groomed a strip down the middle, but left the sides untouched for powder skiing. The powder skiing was excellent, and generally bottomless – even on mid-fat skis I only contacted the base a couple of times. Although the lift had started right around when I began my ascent, I was actually the first one down the trail for the day, so even when I encountered the groomed snow it was pristine, deep, and skiing really well.
“…I cut left into Doug’s Woods to check out the snow there. I think even the ungroomed areas I’d been skiing had been previously groomed, because off piste, the surface snow was a solid foot of powder everywhere I checked.”
As I approached the bottom ¼ of the trail I saw that there wasn’t much for powder strips on the sides with the way they’d groomed, so I cut left into Doug’s Woods to check out the snow there. I think even the ungroomed areas I’d been skiing had been previously groomed, because off piste, the surface snow was a solid foot of powder everywhere I checked. That skied really well. Moreover, those conditions were encountered all the way down at 1,500’ on western facing slopes, so I’m sure things are even better up around 3,000’. We’ll have to see how Winter Storm Quest plays out over the next day or two, but the fact that it’s going down atop a snowpack that already has such good surface snow is a recipe for some really excellent ski conditions.
Today had been looking like a good ski day for quite a while. The cold air was moving out to bring our temperatures back up into the 20s F, and low pressure from the Ontario/Quebec border passing southeast across our region looked to bring us more fresh snow. The weather models had been showing a nice shot of liquid equivalent coming into the area, and it seemed to hold some potential for a nice topping off of the current powder that’s out there.
I was working on some exam questions in the early morning in my home office and had the blinds closed, but I eventually finished off a section and decided to take a break. I opened the blinds to find that we were getting hit with heavy snowfall made up of some massive flakes that were nearly 2 inches across at times. The forecast did call for some snow starting around 10:00 A.M., but this was a bit early, and the intensity was impressive. A quick measurement out back revealed that the snow was falling at a rate of around 2”/hr., and it was stacking up fast and dry with that typical consistency of upslope champagne.
For today’s ski session, the plan was to head out with Dylan, Colin, and Parker, and there’s nothing like seeing the heavy snow pounding outside your window to kick the mood up a notch. I didn’t wake Dylan up immediately because I wanted to make sure he had the sleep he needed, but when I did check on him a bit later it turned out he’d been up anyway. He hadn’t opened his blinds, but he’d already gotten a text and picture from Colin; the same huge flakes had been pounding down at his place as well.
With the new snow not coming in until mid-morning, we’d planned on a late morning start up at Bolton Valley. That timing worked out well, because they’d already picked up a few additional inches from the intense snowfall. And, the snow that had just fallen was the perfect consistency to top off all the powder that was already out there – my morning liquid analyses from the house revealed that the snow came in at just 1 to 2% H2O. So, it was incredibly dry and set up some excellent right-side-up, bottomless powder skiing.
I had a tour planned that brought the boys around to some of the lesser used areas of the resort, so they had a great time and got to ski plenty of untracked powder. I’d say powder depths we encountered were generally in the range of about a foot, and there’s well over an inch of liquid equivalent in that surface snow now. With the new champagne on top, it skied quite well and was typically bottomless in the case of first tracks. You’re still hitting bottom at times on the steepest slopes, but that old base is becoming more and more distant with every one of these storms that comes through the area. On that note, it appears as though we’ve got another storm cycle on the doorstep for tonight into tomorrow.
Our most recent system was named Winer Storm Nova, and while it wasn’t especially warm in our area, the storm still contained some mixed precipitation. Some of the mixed precipitation was freezing rain, which I experienced on my way to Burlington yesterday morning. After getting the car out of the garage, I‘d only driven for a couple of minutes before my windshield suddenly started to ice over very aggressively. I switched to the defroster and that took care of it quickly, but it was clear that our area was getting a shot of freezing rain. Thankfully, the roads had been well maintained and they remained ice free, but everything else was taking on a glaze.
All the precipitation eventually changed over to snow, but with some freezing rain in the mix, I really wanted to see how much snow fell on top of it to decide whether or not it would be worth skiing this weekend. Down at our house we picked up a total of 1.5” of snow on the back side of Winer Storm Nova, and with Bolton Valley only reporting a couple of inches, it didn’t seem like that would really be enough to redeem the snow surfaces from the icing they’d likely seen. This is also the President’s Day holiday weekend, so skier traffic would likely be even higher than usual. With all that, I figured it would be a good weekend to stay off the slopes and instead go snowshoeing or something along those lines.
My ski plans changed though when Erica told me that her niece Allie was staying up at Bolton with some friends. It’s hard to pass up the chance to see friends and family at the hill when we’re just a few minutes away, so we headed up in the afternoon to make some turns with Allie. E and I parked down at Timberline with the intention of heading over to the main base to meet Allie, and I could tell today was going to be trouble when I nearly killed myself attempting my first three Tele turns on Villager after getting off the Timberline Quad. My skis aren’t totally without edges, but I just couldn’t get a decent bite of the snow; the area that I’d chosen over on the skier’s right was just too slick. Thankfully, we did encounter some areas during the day where skiers had pushed snow to provide a skiable surface (middle of Beech Seal by the lift towers, parts of Sherman’s Pass, parts of the Snowflake trails), but those were relatively few and far between. I think the only other day that I’ve been out this season with really poor snow conditions was back on January 14th, which I rated as a 2 out of 10. Well, today wasn’t a total zero, but it was somewhere in the 0 to 1 range. I had a number of other close calls with slick surfaces simply kicking my skis out from under me due to lack of grip, and the surfaces simply felt far more dangerous than they were fun.
Thankfully, there were some bright spots on the day. It was great to get to hang out with Allie on the slopes and catch up with her. Temperatures were nice and comfortable up in the 20s F, and when you were in the sun it was especially pleasant. Bolton was making lots of snow down at Timberline, so they are really setting up the base there at their lowest elevations to be able to last well into the spring ski season. And, it looks like that base snow could soon be put to good use – the weather modeling suggests we’ve got a good run of winter storms on the horizon. The most recent GFS run shows about seven storms lined up over the next couple of weeks. Perhaps our favorite part of the day was when E and I discovered that El Gato Cantina has now moved into the food service area of the Timberline Base Lodge. We had an excellent taco salad along with chips and guacamole, and having some great food in the newly expanded lodge is definitely something we’re looking forward to doing again.
Today was the much anticipated season opening of Bolton’s Timberline area, and as announced, they livened things up a bit for the event with free coffee and a visit from the El Gato Food Truck. Bolton Valley fans were of course excited to get the last main pod of the resort open for the season, shifting the alpine trail network up to its full speed, but even more exciting was the fact that the snow at Timberline has simply been sitting there and accumulating over the course of these last several storm cycles. There’s been some ski touring traffic in the area, but the Timberline Uphill Route hasn’t officially been open, so the visitation hasn’t been all that heavy. All this, combined with the fact that the back side of Winter Storm Kassandra finally put some of that classic Northern Greensupslope fluff in place to top off the snowpack, meant that some fantastic powder skiing awaited the visitors.
E and I headed up for the anticipated 9:00 A.M. opening of the Timberline Quad, and when we got into the lineup around 8:45 A.M., there were only about a dozen people there. The lift opening went off without a hitch, and from then on, Timberline was a lift-served powder playground. There was a mid-morning rush where the lift queue grew large, but before that point it was minimal to nonexistent. We had light to moderate snowfall for a good part of the morning when one of the small waves of low pressure in the area pushed through, and temperatures were about as perfect as you could want – they were on the mild side, but stayed below freeing to avoid any disruption to the quality of the powder.
“The Tattle Tale Headwall was even open, and that speaks volumes about the state of the snowpack right there because it can take a lot of snow to get covered. A couple more solid storm cycles would push it to that next level for hitting bigger features, but the snowpack is certainly in midwinter form.”
The conditions were certainly nothing in the realm of all-time by Northern Greens standards, but it was great, right-side-up bottomless powder everywhere we went, and even down to the 1,500’ elevation, the base depths are good for just about all the terrain. The Tattle Tale Headwall was even open, and that speaks volumes about the state of the snowpack right there because it can take a lot of snow to get covered. A couple more solid storm cycles would push it to that next level for hitting bigger features, but the snowpack is certainly in midwinter form.