Bolton Valley, VT 25NOV2007


To head right to the pictures and data plots from the day, go to:


On Sunday morning E headed off to work, so I hung out with the boys at home.  However, in the afternoon I decided to pop up to Bolton to check out the new snow and make some turns.  Although it had warmed up and rained a bit over Thanksgiving, on Friday we had arrived home from the holiday to find 3.6 inches of new snow at the house, so I suspected there had to be at least that much accumulation in the local mountains.  Bolton still wasn’t reporting their snowfall accumulations, but Jay Peak was reporting 8 inches since Thursday, and the 24-hour stake accumulations on Mt. Mansfield totaled 7.2 inches.  The snowpack at the stake was at a depth of 27 inches, its highest point of the season to date.


I hadn’t paid much attention to the weather that morning since I was inside with the boys, but it had felt somewhat gray.  However, as I was gathering my gear together after lunch, I noticed bright sunshine outside.  Whatever the weather had been for the morning, there were no clouds by the time I left for the mountain.  When I’d thought about skiing that morning, I didn’t really know what to expect, so I had no idea that the combination of fresh snow and blue skies was going to create such a glorious day on the slopes.


When I left the house (495’), the temperature was a fairly balmy 43 F, and the snowpack in the yard was starting to break up a bit in the sunniest areas.  On my drive up the Bolton access road, I passed by the Timberline base (~1,550’) and noticed ski tracks in fresh snow.  I couldn’t tell how much new snow was there, but from what I’d seen the new snow accumulations were rather elevation dependent, so I decided to head up higher to make use the of the main base area’s additional elevation.  Up at the main base (~2,150’), the temperature was a very nice 35 F, and it was at that point I realized that it was going to be quite a day on the slopes.  I could see what looked like several inches of fresh snow on the trails just above the lodge, and the village was bustling with activity.  There were lots of youngsters around playing on various kickers, a couple of guys were dropping off firewood for the tavern, and the resort was even making snow in the Beech Seal area.


I’d brought my “rock ski” Betacarves as well as CMH fats, not sure of what the snow situation was going to be.  The snow cover actually looked quite good, so good that I ironically ended up going with the rock skis, thinking that I might check out some steeper terrain that could be potentially rocky.  I strapped on the skins while I listened to a group of youngsters try to devise a way to use a car to propel them towards whatever kicker or rail they were working on.  With the snowmaking going on over in the Beech Seal area, I wasn’t going to head up that way, especially with plenty of natural snow around.  I decided to head up the Villager trail just below the quad, and follow the well-worn route that many others had taken over towards the Snowflake Lift.  As I started skinning up, initial probes of the snow depth with my measurement ski pole revealed 2-3 inches of powder over a consolidated base.  At that point I didn’t find much of a hard glaze in the base, but it turned out that that was due to plenty of skier traffic in that area, and the fact that I was at a relatively low elevation.  As I’d find out later, I think the higher elevations got hit with more rain and established a thicker glaze on top of the old snow.


I made my way up and crossed under the Snowflake Lift, encountering yet another group of sliders working on a kicker on the Foxy trail.  I crossed under the lift line again, and finished off my ascent of the Snowflake area on the Chill Zone Terrain Park trail.  Compared to the previous weekend at Jay Peak with two feet of fresh snow, I felt like I was flying up the hill on my skins in just a few inches of powder over a consolidated base of snow.


From the top of the Snowflake lift, I briefly looked at the options in the Timberline direction, then doubled back and dropped just a little elevation on Sprig O’ Pine to get to Cobrass Run.  At the top of Cobrass Run at around the 2,500’ elevation, the depth of new snow atop the base had increased to about 4 inches.  I then headed up Cobrass, which turned out to be mostly tracked out by a combination of skiers, hikers, people on snowshoes, and apparently even dogs.  Obviously there had been a lot of people out enjoying the new snow, even that high up on the mountain.  I met up with a descending skier at the junction of Cobrass and Cobrass Lane.  He was unfamiliar with the mountain, and was wondering if he could head left toward the junction of Cobrass Run and Five Corners (where I’d just ascended) and still get back to the base without hiking.  I let him know that as long as he took the first right down Cobrass Run, he’d be fine.  Technically he could have skipped that right and still made it back after taking Five Corners, but it would be a flatter route and probably harder to figure out.


While heading up Cobrass, I started to encounter areas of thick glaze on the snowpack where the wind had blown away the new snow.  I could see that the skiers had generally avoided these areas for skiing.  The views from Cobrass were outstanding, with white trees caked in what looked like a combination of rime and snow.  They shone brilliantly in the bright sun and against the blue backdrop of the sky.  Ascending the final steep pitch on Cobrass didn’t turn out to be too tough, since the powder still wasn’t too deep and I was able to make switchbacks.  It was important to avoid the glazed areas however, as my skins didn’t stick well there at all.  I finished off the ascent all the way to the upper terminal of the Vista Quad (3,150’) where I found about 5-6 inches of new snow.  It was a little tougher to get an “average” snow depth measurement up there, since it had seen some decent wind in the past.


I switched to descent mode, had a quick snack, and then had to decide on my route down.  I took a look over in the Vista Glades area, but decided that the snowpack wasn’t deep enough for the large terrain features over there.  I still had the thought of steep turns on Hard Luck on my mind, but I was unsure of what the thick glaze was going to mean.  In the spots where I’d encountered the glaze, it had seemed to increase in thickness as I went up in elevation.  As I descended Alta Vista, I found that snow had collected on the skier’s left as usual, and other areas had been wiped down to just a little snow on top of the glaze.  The left side looked delightful however, and there seemed to be the remnant tracks of a previous skier.  I dropped in and was quickly introduced to the glaze underneath the powder.  I was skiing in powder that ranged from probably 6 to 18 inches in depth, and the powder turns were actually quite nice – as long as I didn’t reach what was underneath.  Without substantial edges, my rock skis had no answer to the glaze, which easily supported my weight and formed a fantastically smooth surface.  More than once I found myself smacked down and on my butt or side as I made my turns through the powder.  Although Alta Vista is overall a blue trail, the steep section at the top is actually a rather black pitch, and I got myself onto a couple of “slides for life” that while quickly squelched, were enough to convince me that I wasn’t going near any of the upper mountain’s steeper trails.  Without edges, I probably could have made quite a mess of myself over on Hard Luck.  It was obvious that the most fun (and safe) turns for me on the upper mountain were going to be found on moderate and low-angle slopes.


With that revelation, and noticing the amount of tracks that were on most of the trails, I started to set my sights on the Wilderness Lift area.  It had plenty of low and moderate angle terrain below its steep upper section, and the late day sun was hitting it nicely for some good visibility and photography.  I finished off Alta Vista, although even the lower section with more intermediate pitch was still a little tricky.  I wasn’t willing to let my skis run hog wild with the slick condition of the subsurface, especially since if I came across an unknown obstacle in the snow, my stopping distance might not be as short as I’d like.  To make my way towards the Wilderness area, I grabbed the Lower Crossover option off Sherman’s Pass.  Then there were some fun medium and low-angle powder turns as I made my way through the Work Road area.


I soon found myself on the Wilderness Lift Line.  I surveyed the lift line, and found that it had seen quite a bit of traffic.  With the combination of tracks and pitch, the lower section of the Wilderness Lift Line didn’t look at that exciting, so I decided to head over to Lower Turnpike, which is one of my favorite trails in the Wilderness area.  With its meandering character and protection from sun and wind due to its narrowness, I figured the snow would be in nice shape.  I found generally 3-6 inches of nice fluff, and the run just seemed to go on and on.  There were a few water bars that needed to be negotiated along the route, but for the most part is was just nice mellow cruising through fluff.


As I hit the bottom of Lower Turnpike, some of the last rays of the sun were hitting the village and it made for some more great photo-ops.  I headed past the lodge and watched a family enjoying the slopes above on their sleds.  The activity at the base area had settled down as the light began to wane, but there were still some kids around getting a little more time on their boards.  It looks like Bolton is taking the slow and conservative approach to their snowmaking this season, so they may be able to get away with making less as we accumulate more natural snow.  The forecast looks to be in their favor.  So overall the tour turned out to be a veritable circumnavigation of the main mountain, enhanced by the fact that I had comfortable temperatures, clear skies and golden afternoon light for a lot of it.  The Avocet recorded 1,060’ and the Suunto recorded 1,099’ of vertical descent for a difference of 3.6%, while the GPS came in with an overall elevation difference of 1,143’.  When I left, the temperature was at 32 F and falling, and it felt like another chilly November night was on the way.


Pictures and data plots from the day can be found at:




Connect and share in new ways with Windows Live. Connect now! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - SkiVt-L is brought to you by the University of Vermont.

To unsubscribe, visit