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.
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.
This morning, Ty, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to check out the snow from Winter Storm Oaklee. The boys were both asleep as E and I were just about to leave to get in on some of the fresh powder, and we assumed they were just going to sleep in. Ty just happened to wake up at the right time, and he was excited to join us, so that was fortuitous timing for him!
Having clear skies, comfortable winter temperatures, and about a foot of fresh snow held the potential for some great skiing. Based on my snow density observations down at the house, the storm cycle progressed from denser 8-10% H2O snow into some impressive 2-4% H2O champagne, and indeed what we found out there at Bolton today was some very high quality powder. This was also the first chance for E to try out her new Rossignol Spicy 7 HD skis, and she was very happy with how they felt with today’s conditions.
The denser snow from the front end of the storm cycle wasn’t too evident underfoot actually, so the only major downside of today’s powder skiing was that it wasn’t quite bottomless. Depending on the pitch, you were certainly touching down on the subsurface, but on everything except for the steepest terrain, the powder turns were quite good. On moderate-angle terrain you could typically get by with 80-90% bottomless skiing, and because the powder was just so incredibly dry, you could ride it on lower angle terrain and it skied really well because of such low impedance.
Measurements throughout the morning revealed plenty of 8-12” powder depths, and we just ended up staying down at Timberline for our entire session because there was rarely a lift queue of note. A lot of trails weren’t open simply because the headwalls didn’t have quite enough snow to cover them up fully, but routes were available to traverse below them, and all that terrain was just loaded with quality powder. We generally stayed on piste because there was plenty of powder available there, and it was the better option anyway. Some off piste areas are dicey because of the recent warmth, but the off piste areas that are typically protected from the warmth and are well manicured were in great shape, so we did have some nice turns in those spots.
Storms like this are where one’s knowledge of their local hill really comes into play for putting together a fun session vs. one where you’re constantly dodging rocks and logs, wrecking your skis, or even worse, potentially wrecking yourself. Although we did spend most of our time on piste over the weekend because there was plenty of available powder there, our travels also brought us into some off piste lines that we trusted, and we found great turns in those areas.
From conversations with friends and colleagues who have skied in different spots in the Northern Greens over the past few days, it sounds like with respect to off piste turns, the farther north you go, the better the base gets. These next couple of bread and butter systems that are coming though this week should only help in that regard, and then we’ll have to see if that mixed system that’s farther out there in time can further substantiate the base.
Today was forecast to be the warmer of the two days this weekend, with highs in the 10-15 F range, so E and I headed up to Bolton for some turns. There wasn’t much more than a trace of new snow around here from Winter Storm Kenan, the recent coastal system, but Bolton did pick up an inch or two from a cold front that came through the area on Friday. That was nice to freshen up the snow surfaces a bit, but more notable was the fact that it was the first day of lift-served skiing at Timberline. A bit of touring traffic was all the Timberline area had seen up to that point, so it was pretty much a bonus powder day for that entire section of the resort.
The snow we found on today’s Timberline outing wasn’t quite on par with a fresh powder day, since a lot of the powder had been sitting and settling to a degree, and some exposed areas had taken on a bit of wind crust. Areas that hadn’t seen any wind certainly had 10-12” of dry powder that had been well preserved in the arctic cold. The opening of Timberline also meant that the resort finally had 100% of its lifts running for the first time this season. Bolton put down manmade snow for the main Villager/Timberline Run route, and that surface was fine, but the rest of the trails were running on natural snow and even the packed surfaces were far softer than the manmade route. There are still a few of the steepest wind-scoured spots like the Tattle Tale headwall that will need one more large synoptic-level event to be fully opened.
My plan was to hit some low-angle stuff on my fat skis, and that was indeed about the only terrain that offered up bottomless turns today. Anything above that angle and you were hitting the subsurface – and that subsurface snow on anything that hadn’t been groomed is indeed loud. Moderate angle turns were still decent with that new snow to push back on, but the low-angle powder was the best. I had some nice turns on the mellow inclines of Villager and Spur in the fresh snow. Groomed terrain was also pretty nice where they’d been able to till up the old stuff and get some new snow into it, although that depended on the time they’d groomed. Some spots were groomed before the new snow fell, so it was powder on top of that. The resort was being cautious and hadn’t even open the ungroomed terrain today, and that was probably wise, since the powder made it dangerous in some cases by simply hiding the moonscape below.
“I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range. I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.”
I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range. I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.
My boys headed up for some turns in the afternoon, and my younger son said it was pretty hilarious in that “It was like skiing powder, but still skiing on the base.” We were talking tonight at dinner about how what they skied was literally the antithesis of “bottomless powder”. I guess one could call that “bottomful powder” in that line of terminology. “Dust on crust” also gets that point across, although I typically don’t think of 6-8” of snow when I think of dust. With those snow ratios in the range of 30 to 1 or even 70 to 1, and the temperature cycling that the existing snow had seen, I knew it was going to be pretty much a “dust on crust” setup. But with a half foot of snow, at least it’s more of a “Northern Greens” sort of dust on crust experience.
In any event, it was a good aesthetic refresher for the pack both down at the house and up on the hill, and hopefully we’ll have a bit more to add in the next couple of days.
An Alberta Clipper system came through the area overnight, dropping a half foot of snow at some of the local resorts by morning, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for a morning ski tour this morning. With roughly 5 inches of new snow found at the house this morning, and the resort reporting the same, it didn’t seem like there was a huge elevation dependence with this event. Plus, now that the bullwheel replacement on the Timberline Quad and associated operations are finally done, Timberline is back open for ski touring, so I figured I’d get to check out the conditions there for the first time in a while.
“…I found a very even coating of about 5 inches of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and roughly 5 to 6 inches up at the Timberline Summit (2,500’).”
Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F with light snow falling and zero wind, so we’re talking super friendly conditions to be out on the hill. Since wind was pretty minimal during this event, I found a very even coating of about 5 inches of new snow at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and roughly 5 to 6 inches up at the Timberline Summit (2,500’).
The new snow was excellent dry powder in the 20 to 1 range for snow to water ratio, and there’s generally plenty of base, but the consistency of the base is horrible. It’s rock hard, and in a few exposed places that had presumably seen flowing water, there was simply clear ice as the top layer of base. There was a nice established skin track in place on the Twice as Nice ascent route, but the ascent was definitely the most challenging part of the tour. Slightly steeper spots with just powder on ice provided little grip, and you could see that in those areas some people had to diverge out from the main skin track and take shallower routes due to lack of grip with their skins. Fortunately there were only a handful of spots like that, but navigating them was a definite challenge. It’s good that there wasn’t much wind with this event because scoured areas would be a nightmare.
“The new snow was excellent dry powder in the 20 to 1 range for snow to water ratio, and there’s generally plenty of base, but the consistency of the base is horrible.”
After seeing the conditions on my ascent, it was obvious that the best bet for a descent was going to be something that had previously groomed, and had a fairly shallow angle. So, I headed down Villager from the Timberline Summit, and that was an appropriate pitch. I still had to hit a couple of blue/black pitches on Sure Shot on my route, and there was no way to avoid touching the hard subsurface there, even on 115 mm boards.
The Lower Turnpike area with its nice mellow pitch would probably have offered up the most consistent bottomless turns today, but it was nice to get a chance to get out on Timberline again. I can’t imagine there was any point to skiing ungroomed terrain before this latest storm, and this snow isn’t going to be able to hold up to much traffic, but there are definitely some nice powder turns to be had on terrain of the appropriate pitch.
Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains. We haven’t had much in the way of large storm cycles up in the Northern Greens this season, so this was our largest to date, and it showed some interesting distributions with respect to snowfall density. Some areas received extensive periods of large, fluffy flakes, and other locales had some very fine flakes that fell as very dense snow. For instance, the first round of the storm at our location on Thursday night delivered some very dense, 13% H2O snow. That’s actually just what the snowpack needed for building. Whether the snow was dense or not, in the end, the mountains received well over an inch of liquid, and that liquid equivalent was really what was necessary to bolster the natural snowpack. It was enough snow that Bolton Valley had finally opened all the terrain at Timberline, and we were psyched because that had been an inordinately long time coming this season.
“Winter storm “Pax” affected Northern Vermont on Thursday and Friday this week, dropping up to 29 inches of snow on the ski resorts along the spine of the Green Mountains.”
We decided to get a relatively early start on the mountain today, and even though we weren’t expecting the Timberline Quad to open until 10:00 A.M., when we drove by at 9:30 A.M. it was already running, so we pulled right in and parked. There were a couple of dozen cars in the lot, but it was still fairly quiet. That was good, because being a holiday weekend, having the biggest storm of the season just hit, and then having great weather to enjoy it, we were worried about how many people were going to be out. It was business as usual though at Timberline, with no lift queue and just a small group of people out to hit the terrain.
During our first lift ride we could see that the snow looked quite good, and there had definitely been a major resurfacing of the slopes. People had skied the area yesterday, so it wasn’t entirely fresh snow, but there were plenty of untracked areas, and a few more inches had fallen last night to cover even areas that had seen traffic. With almost two feet of new snow having fallen at Bolton Valley, we planned on hitting a lot of the steep off piste terrain that we’d yet to ski this season, so E decided to go with her fat alpine skis instead of Telemark skis. The boys had their powder skis, and I had my fat Teles, so we were ready to tackle whatever Pax had delivered. We had really great weather to enjoy the snow too – the temperatures were in the upper 20s F, there was no wind, and a little snow associated with our next storm system was floating through the air and adding a fresh coating to the slopes.
“The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top.”
Everyone took turns choosing trails, and E kicked things off with Twice as Nice. That turned out be a great idea for a warm up. The trail was generally tracked, with some untracked snow off to the sides, but there had been such a thorough resurfacing with all the dense snow that it hardly mattered where you went. I was really feeling my AMPerages bust through the heavy snow with gusto, yet at the same time they were light and quick – I was really happy with the combination of skis and snow because everything just seemed to flow. On our next ride up the quad, E commented on how we’d had the entire trail to ourselves for the whole run, except for a ski patroller who seemed to enjoy watching us from the side and generally surveilling the lay of the land in a very casual way. Next up was Dylan’s choice, which was Adam’s Solitude. I’m glad Dylan chose that early, because while the snow was quite good, a few bare spots were already starting to make their presence known. It was easy to see that once the trail received a bunch of traffic, the skiing wasn’t going to be quite as free and easy as what we were experiencing. With the rugged terrain present on Adam’s Solitude, it’s going to take another couple synoptic storms to really get it in shape for lots of skier traffic. The roller coaster section that the boys love at the bottom is already in great shape though, and they had a blast. I really enjoyed mixing in Telemark and alpine turns as the terrain dictated, and today was one of those days where mixing both techniques on the fly just came rather easily.
It was off to the main mountain next, where in order to add some fun in getting over to the base of Wilderness, we did a run off the Mid Mountain Chair. I treated E and the boys to a run through Glades Right and Nixon’s; both areas had great snow and coverage, and the boys were impressed. Wilderness was finally running today, and I led E and the boys on an attempted run through Super Snow Hole, but it was tough to find the entrance and we had to settle for regular Snow Hole. There had been very little traffic on Snow Hole, and it could actually use a bit more people venturing in to pack it down a bit with the generous depths of the recent snows. Ty called for a run on Turnpike, with an entry via Cougar, which the boys said they always seem to ski during the Olympics. They made sure to practice their Olympic victory “raising of the arms” at the bottom.
Since the boys had really earned some lunch after the morning’s adventures, especially the off piste venturing around in the deep powder in the Snow Hole area, we got a pie from Fireside Flatbread and some appetizers from the downstairs cafeteria. The lodge was definitely packed, and that’s not surprising on a Saturday of a holiday weekend.
The afternoon started with a run through the “trifecta” of Buena Vista, Dynamite, and Sleepy Hollow. The snow was excellent, and traffic had been fairly light. Dylan requested a run through the Progression Park, and then we headed back toward Timberline to finish off the day. I was amazed that we’d seen Upper Tattle Tale open, and from below it looked somewhat scoured, but Lower Tattle Tale was really good. The Twice as Nice Glades were OK, but still a bit bony, and I’d actually say that they are due for a round of brush clearing. I took everyone down Quintessential, but it definitely needs a couple more storms to really be ready.
You really couldn’t ask for a much better day today, with such great fresh snow and weather. The only complaint I’d add about the snow is that it was bit upside down, with some dry stuff underneath a layer of denser snow on top. At some point there was some dry fluff in there, and then some snow with smaller flake fell on top. You’d sometimes find areas of untracked powder where you could drop right through that middle layer. The fat skis were definitely the tools to help with that though, doing a great job of keeping you floating vs. sinking under the topmost layers of dense snow. In terms of base, essentially everything is skiable, but I’d like to see a couple more synoptic storms to get the base wall to wall on all the steepest and most rugged natural terrain. Being mid February, that should really be expected by this point, but when snowfall is somewhere south of 80% relative to average, and January has multiple warm storms, that steep, natural terrain in the lower elevations just isn’t going to be flawless yet. We’ve actually got some nice fluffy upslope snow falling tonight in association with the next winter storm called “Quintus”; we’ll have to see how much the mountains can pull of the sky to top off what’s out there.