Bolton Valley, VT 09FEB2008


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In Northern New England, February had really come in like a lion, or at least some ferocious white creature that brings with it a lot of snow.  In the first eight days of the month wed already had over two feet of new snow down at our place in the valley (elevation 495), and the mountains had received several feet of the white stuff.  At the local ski resorts, conditions were going off, and it looked like there was much more to come.  Our most recent storm had just wound down on Friday morning after bringing 16.4 inches of snowfall to us in Waterbury, and by Friday evening we were thinking about the next round, which was expected to move in on Saturday.  But, before the next storm really got going, it looked as though wed be able to get in on some blue skies while we headed out to the slopes.


Ty and I headed up to the mountain on Saturday morning alone, as Dylan appeared to be a bit sick in the stomach.  We werent exactly sure of the root cause of Dylans ailment, but he may have gotten into some black crusty burned stuff from the oven.  If hed sampled some of it, that may have been the cause of his troubles.  Therefore, Dylan and E were going to wait until Sunday to ski.  Ty and I arrived up at the mountain around 9:00 A.M., and the village was already hopping with visitors.  Down in one of the lower lots a military helicopter had landed, and when I inquired with one of the parking attendants about it, he said that the National Guard was doing a training exercise.  Ty was quite excited about getting to see an army helicopter from such a close distance, so we spent several minutes looking at it.  The recent snowfall from our various storms had prompted the creation of some massive 15 to 20-foot snow banks in the village area, so Ty climbed up on one of those for an elevated view of the helicopter.





My plan for the days skiing was to focus on the Wilderness area.  Since the previous storm cycle had been finished for about 24 hours, I suspected that most of the trails on the main mountain would be tracked out by skier traffic from Friday.  However, when Id been up at Bolton Valley on Thursday for some turns, Id noted that the mountain hadnt run the Wilderness lift, and if theyd continued this trend into Friday then it would offer up some of the freshest lift-served turns.  Whether the Wilderness lift had turned on Friday or not, the snow was going to be good there. 


Wilderness wasnt scheduled to open until 9:30 A.M., so while we waited, we did a couple of runs on the Mid Mountain Lift so Ty could hit the Kids Park.  We coupled the first run with a romp through the Enchanted Forest where we found good snow as usual, and on the second run we explored the trees off to the skiers right of Bear Run/Sprig O Pine.  It was about 9:45 A.M. by the time we finished that second run, but it looked like they werent quite ready to load Wilderness yet so we went for a run on the Vista Quad.  On the way up I noted that Spillway had been hit with a ton of snowmaking.  Ski Patrol had opened the top half of the trail to skiing, which looked like some sweet, steep cruising.  The bottom half still had the snowmaking whales on it and was closed.  We figured that the Wilderness lift would probably be opening soon, so we skied some of our usual areas of trees en route to the Wilderness area.  It looked as though the mountain had been pretty well skied on Thursday and Friday as I suspected, because all the trails off Vista were tracked out, and even the woods had some tracks in them.


Back at the base, we found that the Wilderness Lift was loading, so we hopped on and headed to the top.  The lift ride was very pleasant.  Being in between storm systems, we were rewarded with one of those spectacular Vermont winter days.  The temperatures were in the 25-30 F range, there was no wind, and we had some blue skies.  There were certainly clouds around, but there was a decent amount of sunshine, which was a treat after a number of snowy days.  Towards the afternoon however, the sunshine began to lose out as the next system approached.


For our first Wilderness run, Ty and I decided to explore some of the trees between Old Turnpike and the Wilderness Lift Line.  Id seen a number of very obvious areas in there for tree skiing, but hadnt actually had a chance to get at them myself.  Once we got into the trees in the upper elevations of the Wilderness area, we found that there were very few tracks from other skiers.  The snow we encountered was the ridiculously good stuff that skiers in the area had been talking about on the internet forums for the previous couple of days.  We typically found about 15 inches of fresh snow in the trees, although some places were explored had depths in the 20-inch range.  There was a nice density gradient in the powder, and you would only sink into it so far (as long as you were on your skis).  It was again interesting to see the difference between the types of tracks that I would leave, and those that Ty would leave.  My skis would typically cut down about a foot into the snowpack.  Ty on the other hand often just sank into the snow a few inches.  Im amazed that he doesnt cut into the snow much deeper, since he rides the powder in a wider stance with the possibility of more weight on an individual ski at times, but thats the way the physics work out for him.  If anyone took off their skis in the trees thought, they were sinking very deep into the snow, and Ty got a chance to check this out on at least one occasion after a crash.  Ty was actually looking pretty comfortable in the trees overall, so I would often let him take point during our explorations.  A couple of times he was tentative about going too far ahead, but then Id assure him that I was right behind him and he seemed to be OK with that.  We had some very nice tree skiing in the upper elevations of the Wilderness area, and Ty seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with his turns as time went on.  So for the next run I figured Id find him something a little steeper.








We headed up the Wilderness Lift again, this time with the intention of hitting some trees in the area of Bolton Outlaw and the Wilderness Lift Line.  It was obvious that the snow had settled nicely in that area, in fact, probably even better than usual because several people had actually skied the headwall of the Wilderness Lift Line above Bolton Outlaw.  That area is very steep.  Its so steep and rocky that I dont think its even an official trail.  Usually it seems that the wind rakes through there and leaves far too little snow for the pitch and the amount of rocks that the terrain contains.  But, the recent storm didnt have too much wind so maybe that let the snow stick in there.  There were still some rocks and ice showing on the pitch, but obviously the conditions were such that a few folks were willing to have at it.  Ty and I had a slightly tamer route in mind.  We headed down Bolton Outlaw, which was steep and soft, albeit not untracked.  Ty did a pretty good job on there, and then we cut into the trees surrounding the lift line for a bit of steep and deep.  As we crossed to the far side of the lift line and got into a steep powdery line, I could see that it was a challenge for Ty.  But, it was certainly within his grasp so it was a good training area.  He actually snagged something under the snow and took a good tumble in there, but I was happy to see that he enjoyed the fall and his spirits remained high.  Unfortunately, I was already below him at the time and I had to head up through the steep powder to help him out.  He probably could have put his gear back on by himself if hed had to, but it would have been quite a chore for him as he wallowed around in the powder.  I liked that area a lot and Im sure well visit that area again at some point for more exploration and training.







We finished out that run and called it a morning.  The altimeters had recorded 5 runs, with 3,835 of descent on the Avocet and 3,776 of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 1.6%.  While out on the mountain during the day, Id actually seen one of the National Guard guys on skis, and when I looked closely I noticed that he was using alpine touring gear.  So, they certainly seem to be up with the times.  We left around noon and the parking lots were bursting at the seams.  People were parallel parking around just about the entire perimeter of the main village lots.  Parking must have been at a premium because when we were getting in our car, a woman inquired about our spot.  When I told her it would be a bit before we left (as I took care of all my gear as well as Tys) she was still overjoyed about the opportunity to get a spot. Apparently business at the mountain was good.



In the early afternoon our next storm began to drop some snow, so I took my first observations that night:


Saturday, February 9th, 2008:  9:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  1.6 inches

Liquid Equivalent:  0.11 inches

Ratio:  14.2

Snow Density:  7.0% H2O

Temperature:  32.0 F

Humidity:  98%

Barometer:  28.61 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Light Snow

Cumulative storm snow total:  1.6 inches

Cumulative storm liquid total:  0.11

Current snow at the stake:  25 inches

Season snowfall total:  141.4 inches


It started snowing in the early afternoon today, but its just been snowing ever so lightly the whole time so weve only accumulated 1.6 inches as of 9:00 P.M.  I dont think the snow is quite as dry as the 7% H2O that my liquid measurement revealed, but its pretty reasonable.  Until I pick up an official rain gauge my liquid determinations down in the ~0.1 inch range wont have quite the accuracy that Id like.


It continued to snow through the night, and it looked like it was setting us up for another good day on Sunday when E and Dylan would get to go up the mountain as well.  Details and pictures from that day will be in our next installment.


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