Bolton Valley, VT 14DEC2007


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


Friday, December 14th was our second storm for the midweek, and it also marked my first Timberline tour of the season.  I was at work in Burlington when the snow started up at some point on Thursday afternoon.  Before long it was really coming down hard – harder than I’d thought it would based on the forecast.  A lot of the heavy snow seemed to come during the evening commute, which slowed down the traffic.  It was still snowing hard when I got home to Waterbury, but it really shut off much more quickly than it usually does at our location.  At the 9:00 P.M. snowboard reading, the sky was just cloudy and getting clearer, but we’d picked up 3.1 inches of new snow at the house (elevation 495’).


No sooner had that event finished, than another one began and there was 0.6 inches on the snowboard by 7:00 A.M. the next morning.  Bolton’s Timberline area had yet to be opened for the season as far as I could tell, so I decided that this was the storm to check it out.  I arrived at the Timberline base (elevation ~1,550’) at around 7:30 A.M. to find the parking lots deserted, a temperature in the mid 20s F, and steady, moderate snowfall in the air.  I parked in the uppermost lot off to the skier’s left of the lodge, which gets you right on the fresh snow literally out your car door and is a great place to start a skin track (or hop on someone else’s if you’re lucky).  I thought of Paul Terwilliger and wished his skin track from the previous week was still there, but it was long gone by that point, buried under the bounty of numerous storms.


So, I started breaking my own track.  I wondered how difficult it was going to be, and when I checked the unconsolidated snow depth at the start of my tour I was astonished to find between 15 and 19 inches of loose snow.  It was medium-density snow, so I wasn’t sinking in even half that depth, but I still skinned over toward the lift line of the Timberline Quad, hoping to find someone’s track that I could follow.  There were no skin tracks that I could see, but I did find the descent track of a snowboarder that had apparently gotten at it pretty early, so I decided to use that for my ascent.  I probed the snow as I ascended, and found that the depth of unconsolidated snow varied quite a bit, from 3-4 inches in areas that had presumably seen more wind in past, up to about 15 inches in areas that hadn’t.  So, the area I had first measured at the start of my tour appeared to have been wind-sheltered and I was a bit relieved to find that I probably wouldn’t have to break trail through that if I left the snowboard track on the steeper slopes above.


The snowboard track that I was following took the usual twisting course that you’d expect of someone working their way down a snowy slope, so while it wasn’t a perfect ascent route for skinning, it was acceptable on the low and medium-angle pitches of the Showtime trail.  When I finally hit the Showtime headwall, I could see that trying to follow the snowboarder’s track up the steep pitch was going to be a royal pain, so I broke trail across the glades and continued up the more moderate slope of Twice as Nice.  Twice as Nice was a nearly unblemished field of white… but there were a few tracks.  In this case they were the tracks of what looked like deer and maybe even a rabbit.  Don’t these animals have any sense of powder preservation?  After a few more minutes, I hit the top of Twice as Nice (elevation ~2,250’) where I decided to end my tour due to the need to get to work.  I’m not sure if it was because of its elevation or sheltered location, but several inches of very dry, fluffy, and sparkly snow had settled in there.  It was a nice scene in which to switch over to downhill mode.


I began my descent of Twice as Nice, and was soon diving into huge powdery arcs across the trail.  I took a cue from the local wildlife and said “Powder conservation be damned!”  Not that powder conservation really mattered on a dawn patrol run at Bolton, but another nor’easter was scheduled to drop a couple more feet of snow on Sunday anyway, so the practice was especially moot.  Aside from a few inches of champagne that had settled in places, the bulk of the powder was medium weight stuff, so on the fat skis at speed, I wasn’t sinking in too far.  It sure was smooth and silky skiing though.


I hit the parking lot a short time later and it was still snowing decently.  The Avocet had recorded a descent of 760’ and the Suunto had recorded a descent of 758’, a difference of just 0.3%.  On the way out of the parking lot I came across another guy that was just pulling into the lot to earn some turns, but his car had become stuck at the entrance.  I’d experienced the same thing one day in about a foot of snow when the lot hadn’t been plowed and even the Subaru got stuck, so I knew exactly what was going on.  The road at the parking lot entrance seems to have a bit of a crown or downhill slant, and if you don’t have traction, it seems easy to head off to the right side into the snowbank as your tires spin.  In this case, the lot had been plowed, but I’m not sure if his vehicle had all-wheel or four-wheel drive.  I stopped to help him out, so we chatted for a few moments and I filled him in on the snow conditions I’d experienced on the hill when he inquired.  He had his shovel out and was keen on seeing if he could extricate himself, so ultimately my help wasn’t needed.  Hopefully he managed to get himself out quickly.  The time that I got stuck in that spot, I was lucky that the front end loader was in the area clearing snow from the various parking lots, so he was able to tug me out with chains.  That entry spot to the Timberline lot seems a bit notorious now that I’ve seen the exact same thing happen twice, so I’d advise early morning Timberline turn-earners to keep a bit left of center when they enter the lot on days when they’re questioning their traction.


A few pictures and data plots from the day can be found at:




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