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.
Up at Bolton Valley today, wind holds were in effect at the resort’s normal opening time. By mid-morning though, the winds had died down, the lifts started running, and we headed up for what was hopefully going to be a great day of skiing. We were right in the midst of Winter Storm Izzy, the resort had already picked up several inches of snow, and more snow continued to pour down. Right from our house it was obvious that snowfall rates were pretty impressive with the system. Snow was falling at about an inch per hour down in the valley, and they ramped up as we headed into the higher elevations. With the snowfall rates, it was hard to keep pace with plowing the Bolton Valley Access Road, so it was snow covered and giving some vehicles trouble making the ascent. We had to head around stopped vehicles in a couple of different spots on the access road; one car was actually working on turning around to head back down and presumably wait for the plow/sander to make a pass.
“By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. ”
As far as ski days go, you had a number of factors that made today an amazing one. By the time we arrive in mid-morning, those winds from earlier had settled down to almost nothing across many areas of the mountain, temperatures were very comfortable in the upper 20s to around 30 F, and it was pounding snow somewhere in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range much of the time. The snowfall meant that surfaces were getting constantly refreshed, atop of what had already been a solid resurfacing of the slopes with probably 0.50 to 0.75 inches of liquid equivalent in the form of medium-weight powder.
With the overnight shot of snow and the continued heavy snowfall, patrol was opening up trails all over the main mountain that had not been available yet this season. It was hard to know which ropes had been dropped before opening time, and which ones were done on the fly, but just about everything on Vista was open. Even Cobrass was open, offering options all over that side of the mountain. The resort had completed their snowmaking and preparation of Spillway, which is certainly a steep, signature trail on Vista, but it takes a lot of snow to cover its width, notable pitch and plentiful amounts of obstacles. Getting Spillway open definitely marks a big point of the winter’s progression at Bolton. With Spillway getting all the new snow atop the base they’d made, it offered up some excellent steep skiing today. You could still contact the harder manmade snow below at times, but it was snowing so hard that the manmade stuff was quickly getting buried.
E and I headed up by ourselves to start the day, but we were planning to ski with Dylan and his friend Colin, who came up the road just behind us. We saw them in the parking lot, and quickly caught up to spend the day with them after our first run. Only the Vista Quad and Mid Mountain Chair were running today, but we touched on just about every main area that was available as we toured Colin around the mountain and introduced him to numerous trails that he’d yet to ski. Up to this point he’s really only been night skiing with Dylan, so with the typical daytime options and all the new trails opening, it was quite a whirlwind tour for him. Some highlights were definitely the steep turns on Spillway, lots of fresh snow and great conditions on Cobrass and Cobrass Run, and heading over toward Wilderness where there was lot of fresh powder as usual. We even brought Colin into the Wilderness Woods to that he could get a taste of what tree skiing was like.
The heavy snowfall rates were certainly one of the most impressive parts of today’s outing. The pace of accumulations was very evident while riding the lifts because of how fast you would get coated with snow. On one of our rides on the Vista Quad, Colin stayed still to catch the accumulation, so that was a lot of fun to see, and of course we had to get a picture. By the time we left around mid-afternoon, the resort must have picked up in the range of a foot of fresh snow, so the skiing just kept getting better. This is our first big, synoptic winter storm in a while, and it was just what the local resorts needed to really get the base depths up to snuff, and they should now be able to open up most of their terrain.
As soon as I left the house and rounded the first corner on Route 2, I was shown a bright visage of white-covered peaks across the valley. These elevation-based snowstorms typically produce some great views, and the accumulations from this one varied a bit with aspect, so that made for some exciting scenery as I headed through the Winooski Valley.
Once I was on the Bolton Valley Access Road, the first traces of white appeared at roughly 900’, and the accumulations slowly increased to 2-3’ at the Timberline Base, and 3-4” in the Village. Temperatures were below freezing from probably 1,000’-1,500’ on up, so the new snow above that point was dense, but dry. There was a notable jump in accumulations just above 2,000’ or so as the profile below shows. Above that though, there wasn’t a lot of increase, so presumably the snow line crashed down to that ~2,000’+ level pretty quickly without spending a lot of time at 3,000’+.
Here’s the accumulations profile observed on this morning’s outing:
“I’d planned on a quick tour over in the lower elevations of the Wilderness area, but once I was over there out of the wind, I saw that the accumulations were solid enough to warrant a more extended tour into the higher elevations.”
I’d planned on a quick tour over in the lower elevations of the Wilderness area, but once I was over there out of the wind, I saw that the accumulations were solid enough to warrant a more extended tour into the higher elevations.
As mentioned, the snow was dense but dry, so it skied fairly well. On 115 mm fat skis I was typically sinking in a couple of inches, and there was a surfy consistency to the setup that really let you have some fun and smear your powder turns easily if you wanted. The snow provided plenty of cushion for low to low/moderate-angle terrain, and up above 2,800’ or so, old snow and snow bridges were still in place, so that made any water bars less of an issue.
“As mentioned, the snow was dense but dry, so it skied fairly well. On 115 mm fat skis I was typically sinking in a couple of inches, and there was a surfy consistency to the setup that really let you have some fun and smear your powder turns easily if you wanted.”
There were a few folks out and about in the Village, but out on the mountain itself it was pretty quiet. All I saw was a red fox that ran in front of me on Lower Turnpike, and a guy on a fat bike up near the summit. I was surprised to see him up at that point because there was a half foot of snow, and due to their weight those fat bikes are total dogs with respect to climbing, so I’m sure he’d put in plenty of work. There were some packed areas of snow due to resort operations traffic and wind scouring, so I’m guessing he made good use of that.
We’ve had a few nice snowstorms over the past few weeks, and this latest one was a nice way to kick off the month of May with a ski tour.
We had a fantastic first run down Hard Luck, where we found just a few tracks ahead of ours – it was nice to show the boys what getting out a bit earlier can get you! I think they might have some manmade snow under there, but it was hard to tell with all the snow from Winter Storm Malcolm providing a very thorough resurfacing. The resort also opened the Wilderness Chair for the first time this season, and there was a notable queue as it was finally getting ready to open, but it was a fun wait because there was an excited energy among the skiers for it to make its season debut.
I can’t speak to the financial aspects, but in terms of snow conditions, it was definitely a solid holiday weekend for Bolton Valley and the Vermont ski areas in general.
On Saturday morning I decided to go for my first lift-served turns of the season at Bolton Valley. Only the main mountain is open at this point, since coverage is still too thin down at the lower elevations of Timberline. It was snowing steadily with some big flakes when I arrived at the mountain, and I found about 4 to 5 inches of new accumulation in the Village areas at 2,000’. The snowfall tapered off to light snow during the midmorning period, but really picked up to some heavy inch/hr snowfall when I was leaving a bit before noon. That was when the back side of the storm was coming through, and the wind jumped up a bit there, but prior to that the weather was fantastic with temperatures just a bit below freezing and no wind. There was obviously some surface snow in place from previous systems because I was generally finding powder depths of 6-9” at the 2,400’ level. Skiing was good, with enough snow to resurface low to moderate angle slopes, and listening to skiers and riders on that terrain you’d hear absolutely nothing. On higher angle slopes you could still hear contact with the old base snow, so it was obvious that ¾” of liquid can only do so much with holiday levels of skier traffic.
The conditions had seen such an uptick relative to where they’ve been the past week that I had to head back up for a tour on Wilderness in the afternoon!
This latest winter storm sort of snuck up on us. Our local forecast at home did indicate the chance for a touch of snow during the overnight, but I was well into the wee hours before we’d expected to see anything. Yesterday afternoon though, it was pouring rain down here in the Winooski Valley, and with temperatures in the 30s F, it seemed suspiciously cool. Around 5:00 P.M. I decided to check on a couple of the local webcams at the resorts, and was surprised to see that it wasn’t just snowing at elevation, but in line with the pouring rain down in the valleys, intense snowfall was occurring in the mountains. It looked like the snow line was somewhere around 2,000’.
“I’d say fat skis were the way to go today, and indeed turns up high were bottomless and smooth, with little need to worry about hitting the base.”
By 8:00 P.M. we’d picked up about an inch of snow at the house, and with continued snowfall in the valleys, it seemed very likely that the mountains were going to have a solid new accumulation by the time the night was over.
In the Bolton Valley area this morning, there were accumulations all the way down to the base of the access road at 340’, and the accumulations slowly increased as one headed up to the resort. The snow depths started to increase more rapidly around the elevation of the resort Village, with 3 to 4 inches there, and those totals doubled by the 2,500’ elevation. Essentially all the snow above 1,500’ was winter-dry, and temperatures were still in the 20s F this morning from probably 1,500’ on up. I’ll have to look back at all the April and May storms we’ve had this season, but this was some of the driest/wintriest snow I can recall in the past few storms.
I’ve got the elevation profile for new snow accumulations below, and as you can see, the largest increases in depths indeed came from a bit below 2,000’ up to about the 2,500’ range before the rate of increase tapered down:
The storm was probably mostly snow above 2,500’, and with 1.21” of L.E. down here at the house, it was a decent resurfacing above 2,000’, and a very solid, “no worries” type of resurfacing above 2,500’. I’d say fat skis were the way to go today, and indeed turns up high were bottomless and smooth, with little need to worry about hitting the base. Indeed, midwinter-style powder is always appreciated in May.
Today was a bit of a whirlwind as we set out to ski some of the new snow from this latest winter storm. We initially headed to Stowe in the early morning, since school ski program ticket vouchers typically work for coaches’ passes on MLK day. Surprisingly, we were told that wasn’t the case this time. We did have a good breakfast in the Mansfield Base Lodge and got E’s coordinator pass taken care of over at Spruce Camp while the boys took a run on Meadows, but we ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth buying an expensive holiday ticket just to ski for a few hours. We instead headed off to Bolton Valley, knowing that there was plenty of day left for everyone to get some runs together.
There wasn’t much going on in terms of snowfall while we’d been at Stowe, but it started to pick up as we made our way southward through Waterbury and on toward Bolton. There was generally a very wet snow falling in the valleys, but once we hit ~1,000′ elevation on the Bolton Valley Access Road the temperature had cooled enough that the flakes were really starting to stick. There was some nice snowfall as we parked at Timberline, and the slopes were looking very inviting.
“…during that early afternoon there was a much steadier snow on the mountain, with rates up to 1″/hr at times.”
While we were unloading, E got a call from Claire indicating that they’d gotten the appropriate officials at Stowe involved, and indeed they had confirmed that the coaches’ vouchers were valid. I’m still amazed that we were the first ones on the entire day trying to apply a voucher at what must have been at least 9:00 A.M., but if we served as the guinea pigs to get things straightened out, that was good for everyone that decided to go later. When we’d set out this morning, we’d planned on skiing with some of the other BJAMS families at Stowe, so it’s too bad that plan didn’t come together. Things worked out really well in the end of course; we were at Timberline, and we could see how much great snow was out there and how few people were skiing it. Even thought we hadn’t arrived until mid to late morning, we knew that Bolton Valley would still be serving up the usual plentiful allotment of fresh tracks.
Knowing that the snow was generally denser down low, we headed up the Timberline Quad and immediately went over to check out the main mountain. The snow was definitely drier in the higher elevations, but the top of Vista came with a healthy dose of low clouds, wind, and colder air. The wind turbine at the summit was running though, and boy was it turning in that wind! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the blades spinning as fast as they were today.
“…there was a good foot or more of powder in there, and you could see just how high the quality of the powder could be when it was entirely out of the wind.”
As we headed down through Spillway Lane, our initial observations were that the exposed slopes had been blasted with wind; the new powder was wind-packed, and you barely sunk into it while skiing. We dropped down onto Vermont 200 out of the wind, and the conditions improved as the powder along the trail edges was much better thanks to the protection offered by the surrounding trees. We crossed over to Hard Luck and found similar snow, but we really got into some good stuff once we jumped into the trees in between the two trails; there was a good foot or more of powder in there, and you could see just how high the quality of the powder could be when it was entirely out of the wind. We quickly took that lesson to heart and headed into the trees on the lower mountain, catching some good lines in the Glades area.
Dylan was pretty tired from a long weekend filled with activity, therefore we decided that we should work our way back toward the Timberline Base so that he could rest a bit in the lodge down there and call it a day if he needed to. We had a pretty classic long run featuring Cobrass, Cobrass Woods and Five Corners to get us back toward Timberline. Those were our first turns of the day down at the Timberline elevations, and the density of the snow actually didn’t affect the skiing until the last few hundred feet above the Timberline Base Lodge. I had initially thought that people might be staying away from Timberline because the snow wasn’t as good in those lower elevations, but it really wasn’t all that different on most of the terrain.
“You could tell it was dumping though, as even under the protection of the trees we could barely view the pictures on the camera screen because the snow was accumulating so quickly.”
Dylan went to rest in the lodge with E, while Ty and I headed off in search of more powder. Traffic had been pretty low at Timberline, and you could find great powder throughout the trees and even on the trails. We’d found plenty of untracked snow on Tattle Tale on the previous run, so we decided to explore some lines in that area. I pulled out the camera and got some great shots of Ty blasting his way through the powder. That was definitely some great storm riding; the intensity of the snowfall had been ramping up since we’d arrived, and during that early afternoon there was a much steadier snow on the mountain, with rates up to 1″/hr at times. I told Ty that it looked like I’d gotten a pretty cool shot of him from the side sending up a massive powder tail, so when we’d made our way down lower on the mountain, we pulled into the protection of the trees along Spur so that we could take a look at the images. You could tell it was dumping though, as even under the protection of the trees we could barely view the pictures on the camera screen because the snow was accumulating so quickly. It was a great test of the weather sealing on the 7D2, because even after just a couple of minutes all the surfaces were well covered with melted or partially melted flakes. There were no issues, although I suspect the 7D2 shouldn’t even blink at that level of weather. We’ll keep putting it through the paces though.
We stopped in the lodge to see E and Dylan, and we ended up hanging out for a while and getting some food. While inside, Ty and I worked to convince them that they needed to come back out because the skiing was just so good. Dylan eventually felt that he had enough energy to oblige, so we brought them back to the Tattle Tale area for more good lines. With the steady snowfall and a little wind out there, we were definitely talking refresher runs where our previous tracks were getting filled in. That’s part of the fun of storm days of course. Dylan was eager to do some of the photography with the 7D2, so we set him up with it and with some training and a little on the fly help from E, he had a blast. It would be great if he wants to keep working on that and become more experienced, because he already captured some excellent shots, and I’m always happy to get out from behind the camera and let others have fun with it. He snagged a really nice shot of me cutting a hard turn along the edge of Tattle Tale.
We did one more run in the Intro Woods before calling it a day, and I’d say that was good stopping point so that we didn’t tire Dylan out too much; the season is still young and hopefully he’ll be working up to some longer days. Still, we found some really great snow out there during those last couple of runs, and it was hard to pull away and head home knowing how many great spots we didn’t even get to visit. The weather looks to stay wintry this week though, so the snow could be well preserved over the next several days.