Bolton Valley, VT 08DEC2007


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Our friends Tracy and Mike made plans to come up from Massachusetts for a skiing visit, and their timing was pretty good because we’d just had another big storm that lasted from Monday through Thursday, dropped 19.2 inches of snow at the house, and about three feet in the mountains.  Tracy and Mike had initially planned to come up Friday night, but in a bit of a reversal, there was more wintry weather down in the Boston area than we had up here in Vermont.  Although Mike said that the specific snowfall event didn’t amount to too much accumulation of snow, it was enough to make the roads troublesome and really snarl the city traffic.  So, they made plans to leave early on Saturday and meet us up at Bolton Valley.


On Saturday morning, E and I headed up to the mountain early with the boys to get a start on their skiing before Tracy and Mike arrived.  Since the initial big dump from the storm, there had just been small freshening shots of snow, so we weren’t expecting a full blown powder day.  But, at least it was likely to be a typical day with good packed snow conditions and the chance for leftover powder in places.  Bolton had just started running their lifts on Tuesday, and I’m not even sure they had fired them all up at that point.  So, with only midweek crowds until Saturday, it was likely that traffic had been light in many places.  When we arrived up at the village, it was snowing fairly steadily, which I’ve found has been the case a lot this December.  It also happened to be the first Saturday of the season with lift-service, so the resort was awash with skiers.  The big storm from earlier in the week had hit many of the valleys with a good shot of snow, which I’m sure enhanced everyone’s excitement about getting out on the slopes.  I dropped Mom and the boys off in the village circle, and had to head all the way down to tier three of the main lot to find a parking spot.  Despite a lot of people on the mountain, finding a spot in the lodge turned out to be fairly easy, because I think we were just after the initial rush.  E noticed that there was also a huge line of people in the lower part of the lodge picking up their season passes.


We started the day off with a couple of runs on the Mitey Mite for Dylan.  He’s able to stand and balance on his skis while moving now (which seems to be one benchmark that I’ve noticed in the process of toddlers learning to ski).  It is a big step though.  It means that we don’t need to use the H-bar or hold him between our legs anymore.  The next step in the progression we’ve seen is the leash system.  He’s definitely ready to use the leash now, so we set him up with the leash and tip lock combination for the day.  At the start of the day, he still didn’t know how to turn on his own, but the leash lets you give him that gentle pressure in one direction and it seems to ultimately convey the idea of pressuring one ski more than the other to turn.  We worked with the leash a little on the Mitey Mite, and Ty had fun because he was able to ride the tow all by himself.  The tow can really yank you when you grab onto the handle, but Ty has figured out what works for him.  Riding the tow was fun for Ty, but after a couple of runs on the Mitey Mite slope he realized that it was pretty mellow and he wanted to head to a lift.  I offered to let E go and ski with Ty, but he wanted to go with me, so E was happy to stay and work with Dylan.


I knew exactly where I wanted to bring Ty – Turnpike off the Wilderness Lift.  Turnpike is one of my favorite trails on the mountain for a number of reasons.  It’s in sort of a secluded spot off to the side of what is the resort’s most secluded lift, so there is hardly even anyone on it.  Like all of the Wilderness area, there’s no snowmaking, so the snow is natural and typically soft.  Turnpike is also rather long, and was cut with a beautiful meandering character to keep it interesting.  The clincher is that it was masterfully created with a consistent fall line, and although it’s only got a green/blue pitch, you can enjoy it right through without any substantial flat spots.  The consistent pitch is notable when you’re skiing with young kids that don’t carry momentum very well.  You can even access Lower Turnpike from the Wilderness mid station, so you don’t have to hit the more difficult terrain up top.  The only downside with the mid-station access is that you get to Turnpike most easily via a short trail called Cougar.  Cougar is labeled intermediate, but I would clearly call it a black diamond pitch – compounded by the fact that I don’t think it sees much if any grooming.  I’d forgotten about that Cougar pitch, which in a state of just moderately chopped up powder could certainly represent a challenge for Ty on his new, longer skis.


After a successful departure from the Wilderness Lift mid station, we’d shuffled over toward Cougar and were sitting at the top of the steep pitch.  It was mostly tracked up, but still contained a lot of fluffy snow and looked pretty inviting in my eyes.  I hadn’t really thought about the challenge that the pitch might represent to Ty at that stage, and before it even entered my mind, I’d skipped down most of the way through the fluff.  As I turned around to watch Ty descend, I could see that he was having trouble.  He’d started off following my route along the skier’s right of the trail, which had some deeper snow, and combined with the steep pitch and to some degree his longer skis, he was having trouble initiating turns.  Eventually he got stuck in one of those positions where your skis are sort of locked together and you can’t move or you’ll initiate an uncontrolled slide down the slope.  I tried to coach him out of the position verbally, but he was too stuck to get the pressure in the right places, so I had to side step up and help him.  He wasn’t psyched to finish the pitch at all at that point.  I really wanted to let him get a feel for his longer skis on the slopes of Turnpike, and knew that after a couple of runs on them he’d be able to tackle that pitch, so I just carried him down until we reached the gentler pitch.  That worked out really well, and soon he was down on Turnpike grooving along.  Ty and I played around in the powder on the edges of the trail, and Ty really enjoyed swooping off to the side and making powder arcs when he could.  He’d often use one of my tracks for assistance in the powder though, because it was generally too deep to keep him going with his level of momentum.


At some point during our run, I got a call from E who said that she was taking Dylan up the Wilderness Lift as well.  Skiing on the Mitey Mite had been a good start for Dylan, but she quickly found that it was too easy for him (pretty much just going straight down) and wanted to get him doing more turns.  I told her that Turnpike from the mid station would be perfect for Dylan, and I took it as a good sign of his progression that after just a couple of runs, he was already past the Mitey Mite on his first lift-served day of the season.  E wasn’t very familiar with the Wilderness area layout, but she was all set to get on the lift so I told her to get off at the mid station and tried to orient her on which way to go up there.  I was surprised when I heard her say that a bit of a lift queue had formed at Wilderness.  It turns out that the queue was only temporary (they were actually skipping chairs during loading for some reason) but any time you get a queue at Wilderness you know it’s a big day.  The Timberline portion of the mountain hadn’t been opened for the season yet at that point, so that could have been part of the issue, but from what I’ve seen I have to think Bolton is going to do far better than last year in terms of ticket sales.  Ty and I finished our run, caught the lift, and met E and Dylan up at the mid station.  E had unfortunately misunderstood my directions of how to get to Turnpike and was waiting off to the other side of the lift in the wind.  At least skating across to the other side of the lift line got the blood flowing.


There were the four of us, standing atop the steep pitch of Cougar.  E looked at me like I was nuts because this was nowhere near the sort of trail I had described.  I assured her that just below this pitch it was going to be perfect, so I scooped up Dylan and skied with him to the bottom of the slope.  At the bottom of the pitch, I turned Dylan around and stood him in some deep powder so he wouldn’t slide around while he watched his brother descend.  I’d asked E to hang back and let Ty go below her in case he had any trouble like on our previous run.  That way she wouldn’t have to climb back up to help him.  But, Ty managed the pitch all on his own, with a lot of stopping, some getting stuck in the deeper snow off to the side, some guidance from Mom, and taking it slowly overall.  It was an improvement over his first trip down, so we hoped he could step it up again on the next round.  There’s actually one more short blue pitch to descend before you are on Turnpike proper.  Dylan had a little difficulty with that one, although he improved throughout the day.  Once we were actually on Turnpike, E could see that it was really an excellent trail for working with Dylan (and even fun for Ty).  I took charge of Dylan for a bit, so E could relax and ski with Ty.  Dylan did a nice job of maintaining his balance, and even started to figure out how the turning process worked with a little encouragement from the leash.  I find it interesting that I’ve never really had to instruct the boys on how to turn at that stage of learning; they just seem to figure it out naturally.  I don’t get the impression that they could quite understand my explanation of pressuring this ski to go that way etc. at that age anyway.  That run was a lot of fun, but by the end, Dylan was clearly getting cold so we all decided to head in for lunch.


Tracy and Mike had stopped off at our house to get into their ski gear, then we met up with them in the lodge and ate lunch together.  It had been snowing for much of the morning, but at times the sun also came out and there was a nice sunny period while we were eating lunch.  I was hoping the sunshine would last for some pictures after lunch, but soon the clouds built back in and it was snowing again.


After lunch, Tracy and Mike joined us for one run on Turnpike from the mid station, and they seemed to enjoy it.  Ty improved again on his third run down the Cougar pitch – he was slow and cautious, but he never really had to stop.  Tracy and Mike then headed up for a run for the Wilderness summit, and the rest of us hit another round of Turnpike from the mid station.  It looked like Dylan was starting to get a bit tired after the first long run from the mid station, but we felt he could do one more.  That was Ty’s fourth run down the steep pitch of Cougar, and he was able to make continuous turns without having to stop.  It had been really fun watching his progression through the four runs, from being carried, to doing it fairly smoothly on his own.  We’d switched up the seating a bit on the lift rides, so E could ride with Ty, and as I rode with Dylan I was reminded of the additional attention it can take when you’re riding with a two-year old on the lift instead of a four-year old.  Dylan was cold again (and seemed tired) after that run, so we headed into the lodge for round two of lunch.


Tracy and Mike eventually returned to the lodge after their runs, warmed up a bit, and then Ty and I joined them for some additional runs while E stayed in with Dylan so he could (hopefully) take a nap.  The four of us did a couple of runs off the Vista Quad, and both times we took Alta Vista and worked our way between the Vista and Wilderness areas to visit some of the lesser-used trails.  The top pitches near the Vista summit were wind blown and a bit icy, and Ty had a tough time on Alta Vista’s initial steep pitch under those conditions.  Tracy and Mike decided to call it day after those runs, but Ty was still willing to ski so I took him to the Snowflake Lift for a couple more.  We found some really nice ungroomed areas on Snowflake Bentley that were covered with 6-12 inches of chopped up powder, and even the groomed surfaces had a fresh inch or so of snow on them from the ongoing snowfall.  When we finally hit the lodge, the lifts were just shutting down.  It was certainly a decent day for Ty, with eight runs.  The Avocet recorded 5,715’ of vertical, and the Suunto recorded 5,755’ of vertical, a difference of just 0.7%.


Back in the lodge, we found out that Dylan actually had managed to fall asleep while we were out, so that was good for him.  Tracy and Mike were all set to leave, so they headed down to our house while E and I got the boys together.  I picked everyone up at the village circle, and we were on our way home.  We’d even picked up a little more snow at the house during the day.  E had left the crock pot cooking during the day, so we enjoyed a good dinner and then Tracy and Mike spent the night.


So, with Dylan advancing to the stage of the leash and tip lock this season, E and I have been thinking about where Ty was at this age.  We generalize Ty as two years older than Dylan, but he’s also got an extra three months in there, so that can complicate the process of figuring out where he was at this point.  But, I think the best comparison will still be to go by where Ty was at an equivalent date from two seasons ago, because time on snow may be a much bigger factor in their ski progression than the three months.  There’s probably some psychological reason that I’m not actually supposed to compare the progression of the boys in their skiing, but I won’t tell if you don’t.  In terms of date then, Ty’s closest 2005 ski day to this one would be December 11th at Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana.  At that point, Ty was using the leash as well, and it appears as though he was still getting the idea of turning.  Here’s an excerpt from my report from December 11th, 2005:


“With no first tracks for E, Ty got to go out first with Dad.  We jumped right onto Chair 1 and skied the usual combination of Meadow Run/Meadow Trail with the leash, picking up where we’d left off from his previous session.  The fluoro wax certainly did its thing.  In fact, Ty was gliding almost too well on many of the steeper pitches, so the leash was especially important in those areas with regard to checking his speed.  But as I’d hoped, getting through the flat areas required little effort.  Ty essentially continued his work on balance, with some turning when he could manage it.”


Pictures, video, and full text from December 11th, 2005 can be found here:




So, as I look at the following statement I made in my December 2005 report: “Ty essentially continued his work on balance, with some turning when he could manage it.” I’d say that Dylan is doing almost exactly what Ty was doing two years ago – working on learning to turn with the leash on greenish trails with some pitches of blue.  It should be very interesting to follow the process along with the detailed notes from our experiences with Ty.


A few pictures from the day are available at:






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