Bolton Valley, VT 10MAR2007
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The first weekend in March saw another 2-3 feet of snow fall in the mountains of Northern Vermont, and the final passing of the storm system ushered in some of our coldest air of the season. At the house in Waterbury, we blew away our previous coldest reading of the season (-16.4 F recorded on January 27th) with a low of -20.6 F on Wednesday, March 7th. This was followed up with a reading of -17.0 F on Friday, March 9th to create our two coldest mornings of the season. Once again, the cold snap came conveniently during the middle of the week, and by the weekend the temperatures had moderated pleasantly. Actually, Saturday, March 10th brought with it a forecast for some spring-like temperatures and the first real threat of rain showers in many weeks. People were quite concerned that the rain was going to bring a sudden change to the mid-winter state of the snowpack, but it just turned out to be a temporary shift to modestly spring-like surfaces.
Saturday started out sunny, and although we hung out at home in the morning and took it easy, we didnít want to wait too long because clouds were building in and there was the potential for showers in the afternoon. Dave was up from Boston for some skiing, and my mom came over to spend time with Dylan and my niece Lilly. This allowed Ty, E, Dave, and I to head up to Bolton for some turns together. We arrived at Timberline at around 11:00 A.M., and as we were suiting up I realized that weíd forgotten Tyís skis! Unfortunately Ty canít be trusted yet to account for all his own gear. ;) Ty wasnít too happy about being without his skis, but we quickly remedied the situation. E and Dave went for a couple of runs off the Timberline Quad, while Ty joined me in a trip back to the house to get his skis. Thatís one of the reasons we like skiing at Bolton with the boys, because the luxury of a 15-minute round trip to the house makes issues like forgotten equipment much less of a hassle. Ty and I arrived back at the parking lot and radioed E and Dave for their status. They had completed one run from the top of the quad and were on the lift for their second. They decided to get off at the Timberline mid station and meet us at the base.
The blue skies and sunshine had been giving way to gray clouds building in from the west all morning, and as the four of us stood in line for our initial run together, we were hit with the first sprinkles of rain. We were worried that it was going to be downhill from there as far as the weather was concerned, and we werenít looking forward to skiing in rain showers. Fortunately, that brief sprinkle was the only precipitation we ever saw. The day remained dry and the snow surfaces remained typically winter like in the form of soft packed powder. I had been worried about the snow surface after Dave and E played it down in their descriptions, but they were thinking powder. With no new snow, I knew that powder skiing probably wasnít going to be a big part of the day, but packed powder and temperatures in the 30s certainly felt pretty decent as a substitute. We did a couple of runs on ďTwice As NiceĒ from the mid station, partly because Ty was insistent on doing it again after we did it on our first run. There were moguls forming on Twice as Nice, and Ty got to experience some substantial bumps lines for the first time this season. He had a lot of fun, and he was closely watching the rest of us to see what we did. He couldnít quite hold a zipper line, but he understood about following the troughs and would typically catch a couple good tight turns before he just had to break out and make a bigger turn because the line was too tight. One of the big aspects of moguls he likes is that each one can be used as a jump. He was definitely feeling the fun of the moguls though, because it was the bumps that were the main factor causing his insistence on Twice as Nice. He didnít want to leave, but we told him that there were other trails with bumps and he would be able to try them.
After convincing Ty to leave Twice as Nice, we rode the Timberline Quad to the top and headed over to the main base/village area. We took a quick trip on the Snowflake Lift, skied the standard Sprig Oí Pine route, and by that time, Ty announced that he was hungry for lunch. Dave and I werenít too hungry yet, so E headed into the lodge with Ty, and Dave and I took the opportunity to head up to the summit for some steep runs. For Dave, who was instructor at Bolton back when we lived together in the mid 90s, it was his first time on the Vista Quad. We had a fun discussion trying to recall what the terrain layout near the base was like before the new quad, but it wasnít easy. Dave, who knew the mountain a lot better than me, pieced together some of the old details. For me, my first trip on the Vista Quad was back when we were living in Montana and visited Vermont for the í05-í06 holiday period. I couldnít recall the old layout of trails very well at that point either, but I could immediately tell that the Vista Quad layout had substantially changed the look of the lower mountain.
The day continued to be pleasant, and the sun actually tried to break out in the afternoon. Dave and I eventually decided to ski what I believe was Vermont 200, and it was a lot of fun. Coverage was nice, with just a couple of avoidable spots with rocks. I think these are steep ledgy areas anyway, so the exposed rocks werenít too surprising. It was one of the first times all season that Iíd skied steep packed snow, and Iíd forgotten how fun it can be. Up to that point Iíd mostly been out on powder days at the ski area and in the backcountry, or a few days on snowmaking trails in the early season. One thing I will say about skipping steep packed trails until prime season is that my ski bases are very happy with me, and I havenít had to even think about sharpening my edges. I can probably count on one hand the number of times Iíve even touched a rock with my skis this season, which sure makes tuning a lot less of a hassle. Iíve found that if youíre eager to get at the natural steep and bumpy trails in the early season, it can really mean a lot of scrapes and dulled edges, but if you just stick to skiing powder (especially with fat skis) or snowmaking terrain until the trails are ready, you hardly have to worry about tuning. There was still some untracked snow on spots around Vermont 200, so I couldnít resist checking it out. The powder was getting a bit soft, and it was the sort of snow that skies best if you keep moving at a good clip because as you slow down you start to stick more.
For the next run, Dave and I decided to check out Preacher, which has always been one of my favorite trails on the mountain. I think of it as Boltonís classic steep and narrow run (sort of like Rumble at Sugarbush). Preacher is also one of my favorites because I have a great memory of skiing with my dad there and falling off into the powder on the skierís right of the trail after that sharp left turn. I was buried in deep powder and my dad initially didnít help me get out because he was cracking up at the whole affair. Preacher had a few coverage obstacles for Dave and I, but they could be avoided. Eventually we found ourselves veering off into Devilís Playground because the snow and terrain just looked too tempting. We wound up in an impressively steep and tight chute. I sometimes forget how much steep stuff there is at Bolton when you actually start to look around. There actually were areas of untracked snow in Devilís Playground as well, although the powder was again a bit sticky as the temperature was probably well into the 30s F by that point, even at the upper elevations of the mountain.
After our two trips from the top, Dave and I headed in to join the others for a bit of lunch, and then we all headed out for some runs. We headed to the Vista summit and tried out the new Vista Glades. I thought Ty might enjoy skiing around in the trees with all the terrain features. The Vista Glades are the very open style glades where most of the vegetation has been removed and just a smattering of trees has been left behind. Coverage was good, and you didnít have to worry much about line choice. I wasnít too optimistic about trying the Vista Glades, thinking they might have cleared too many trees for such a high-elevation spot exposed to the west wind, but the coverage was nice and the terrain was great. The tree density isnít that high, but they left a LOT of other terrain features in there so thereís plenty to play around on. It was challenging enough that Ty had to really take the very easiest lines in a couple of spots. I think he had fun though. With good snow coverage, the Vista Glades are certainly something to check out. After the glades, we headed down into the middle of the mountain and had fun in the Fanny Hill area.
For the next run, we once again headed up to the Vista Summit. I wanted to take Ty down Cobrass, since itís a great trail that heís never tried. I also enjoy Cobrass because when you couple it with a trip all the way down to the Timberline Base, you can maximize Boltonís vertical. The mountain reports it as over 1,700 feet down from the Vista Summit. We finished off the day with a couple of runs off Twice as Nice. Ty wanted to go for a third, but we could tell he was getting tired and we wanted to get home in case Grandma wanted relief from her grandchildren time. When we left the temperature was around 40 F and it was still cloudy. The altimeters logged 10 runs for the day, with 8,275 feet of vertical on the Avocet, and 8,163 feet of vertical on the Suunto for a difference of 1.4%. Later that evening, Dave made his famous egg drop soup to go with our dinner, and it was a big hit. We finished off the whole huge pot he made, getting ourselves charged up for our backcountry trip to Bone Mountain the next day.
Some pictures from the day can be found at:
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