Pictures are embedded in the text of this report, and also available at the following link:
Our storm that started out with light snow on Saturday afternoon ramped its intensity up a bit overnight to get us close to half a foot of valley accumulation by Sunday morning. Just by looking at the snowboard I could tell that the new snow was some decent Vermont fluff, but when I took some weather observations and measurements at 7:00 A.M I got a more quantitative measurement of how dry it was:
Our plan for skiing was to make it a Timberline day at Bolton Valley, and since there was more fresh snow we decided to get the boys up to the mountain before the Timberline Quad started running. With the later (9:00 A.M.) opening of the Timberline Quad compared to the standard start for the Vista Quad (which often seems to get going in the 8:00 A.M. range on weekends), we were up to the mountain in plenty of time to make the morning lineup. Ty was a little confused as to why they weren’t letting us load on the lift, since we don’t often get him out before opening time. It was especially confusing since the lift was spinning right in front of us as the mountain ran through their morning routine. We explained the situation, and he seemed to get it… sort of. By 9:00 A.M. there was a small crowd of about two dozen people waiting for the lift operators to let us on, and even with all the fresh snow the mood in the queue was very relaxed. Nobody seemed to be interested in pushing their way to the front, and aside from a few folks that were up near the rope, most people were just milling about in the general vicinity of the lift’s base. A group of snowboarders that had just arrived chose to plop themselves down off to the right of the crowd, and sat well back from the entrance to lift. It was very refreshing to see everyone’s casual attitude, especially compared to some lineups I’ve been in. I was again reminded of the stress-free vibe effused at Lost Trail Powder Mountain, our local ski area back in Montana.
At some point after 9:00 A.M. they let everyone load onto the lift. It was also around this time that it started snowing. We had no idea at the time, but that snowfall was eventually going to get pretty intense over the next few hours. E had initially made plans to head down to southern New England for a baby shower during the weekend, but the prospects of substantial snow throughout the region made her reconsider the long drive. So, she ultimately had to miss out on the baby shower. But, it didn’t seem like she had a hard time accepting the consolation prize of staying home and doing some powder skiing with me and the boys. While on the lift we noted that there was a race course being set up on Showtime, so there would probably be some additional people coming to the Timberline area for that. But it looked like the course might be just for training, so hopefully it wouldn’t make the area too crowded.
For our first run we got off at the Timberline mid station and headed left into the Wood’s Hole area. We played around in the powder on the gentle slopes, E managing Dylan while Ty and I mixed up lines between the trail and the trees. Eventually we cut left in the Lower Tattle Tale area, and since the first half of the trail was far too steep for Dylan and we knew it would require a good amount of effort to slow him down, I skied with him and let E have some fun in the steeper powder with Ty. I was on my Telemark skis and noticed that holding Dylan back on such a steep slope did take a bit more effort without the extra heel stability that my alpine skis provide. I don’t notice as much difference between the effort required to hold a wedge position on Telemark and Alpine skis when I’m on mellower slopes by myself, but on a steep, ungroomed pitch with the added weight of Dylan pulling on me, I can tell that the Telemark skis require more effort to remain in control. After we got back to the gentler slopes of the Timberline Run, E took over control of Dylan again so I could have some fun with Telemark turns on the mellower terrain.
By the time we were done that run, Dylan had worked hard enough that he actually needed a break. I offered to go in and hang out with Dylan so Ty and E could go off and ski together, but Ty actually felt like he could do with a snack as well. So, Mom got the rare opportunity to head off on a run by herself. She opted to head all the way to the Timberline summit and then worked her way down to the glades between Showtime and Twice as Nice. She said that the conditions in there were powdery and fantastic, and it was nice to see that she had scored a great solo run. While Mom was out on the slopes, the boys and I didn’t actually spend much time inside; we played around behind the lodge with some of the huge icicles that were attached to the edge of the roof. The boys couldn’t reach them, but I’d pull them down and then they would use them as swords, or break them, or various other things that boys do with big icicles. E came back in after her run and we all had some food. It was only about 10:00 A.M., but we ate so much that it felt like lunch, or at least first lunch.
The boys were enjoying their break, so I took a cue from E and headed up for a run by myself. On the lift I rode up with a mom and her daughter. It seemed like they were from the Burlington area, and it was interesting to hear the daughter talk about a friend who lived very close to Bolton, perhaps in the Waterbury or Richmond areas. The daughter was noting how often her friend came up for a few runs because she lived so close, and told her mother that she wished she lived closer to the mountain to be able to do that. The mom did point out that there were some downsides to living right in the I-89 corridor, such as interstate noise, schools that aren’t as good etc. It was very interesting to hear her perspective. Actually, I’d argue that even someone from near the heart of the Burlington area could pop up to Bolton frequently for short days on the slopes if they really wanted to. The drive is typically only about 30 minutes, so I think the biggest hurdle is having a season pass so you don’t have to worry about getting your money out of your ticket every time. When our chair reached the mid station I disembarked and headed over to Twice as Nice. For my descent I stayed mostly on the trail, but incorporated some glades into the run as well, trying my best to cook my legs on my Telemark skis. As E had noted, the surface conditions were excellent. By the time I got back to the base, the rest of the family was ready to head out for another run.
For the next run it was all four of us again, and we headed in the direction of Twice as Nice. I stuck with Dylan on the trail, while E headed off with Ty into the glades. Twice as Nice was for the most part too steep for Dylan at that stage, with just a few mellow pitches on which he could actually work on turns. But, it was nice for the four of us to stay roughly together. At about halfway down the trail, E and I switched control of Dylan, and I joined Ty in the glades. It was a nice break because my legs were already pretty cooked from holding Dylan back on the first half of the trail. Apparently even Telemark turns feel easy after you’ve been in a wedge holding Dylan back on steep pitches for long enough. Ty and I focused on the glades between Showtime and Twice as Nice, and they were a lot of fun.
We all headed up to the mid station again on the next ascent, and this time we really split up because I took Dylan off to the left through Wood’s Hole, while E and Ty headed back in the Twice as Nice direction. Twice as Nice had been fun to keep us all together, but Dylan wasn’t getting as much practice out of it as he’d get on mellower terrain. It was a lot of extra work for both him and the person who was working his leash. I took Dylan along all the mellow terrain that Wood’s Hole had to offer, until we finally needed to hit a quick steeper pitch to get down to Timberline Run. It was a little apprehensive about controlling Dylan all by myself on my Telemark skis, but I was managing quite well until a point on Timberline Run. We were skiing along the skier’s right of the trail when suddenly we got too close to the soft shoulder. The powder basically collapsed under us, we tipped over, and went head first down the slope dropping away from the trail. We were both swallowed up in powder and what ensued felt like one of those situations on the airline where cabin pressure is lost, and you are instructed to take care of your oxygen mask before helping your child. I could see that Dylan had tumbled such that his face was in the powder, and I was certainly concerned about his ability to breathe, but there was nothing I could do immediately. I never had an issue with my face in the snow, but my head was downhill from the rest of my body and I absolutely had to right myself before I would even be able to help out Dylan. My predicament was compounded by the fact that I was in my Telemark bindings which are typically more difficult to remove than alpine bindings. To make matters even worse, since I had been running the leash and had no poles, I couldn’t even try to use them to reach down and find a firm base to push on. All this time, Dylan was half buried in the snow, and crying because his face was covered in it. At least I knew he was breathing. After what seemed like an eternity, but was really just a few moments, I was able to remove a ski or two and right myself. Then I was able to climb up and assist Dylan. Eventually we were able to get ourselves fully reassembled back on the trail and we finished off our run. At the bottom I told E about our adventure and noted that I was definitely staying farther away from edges like that when I was operating the leash, especially wearing Telemark gear. It was noon by then, and I was ready for a nice break and some lunch, or as the case was, our second lunch. I figured Dylan would need to go inside at that point and get some lunch, as he’d worked pretty hard on several runs and he’d also just dealt with being buried in the snow. As it turned out, he was done skiing for the day anyway.
At this point in the report I have to make a note about the day’s snowfall. After the snow had started falling lightly at around 9:00 A.M., it had ramped up to the point where it was snowing about an inch and hour in the 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. timeframe. Then, just as we were heading in for our noontime lunch, the snowfall jumped up to an incredible rate of what was likely more than three inches an hour. It was quite a sight, or lack thereof as visibility was down to probably 50 feet. I talk about the spectacle a bit more in my weather observations below, but for a visual of the heavy snow you can check out the report and picture that Scott Braaten posted to SkiVT-L when that squall line passed through the Burlington area.
After we were done eating, E stayed in with Dylan, and Ty and Dad got to finish the day off together with several more runs. We started with a run through the Twice as Nice glades, which were challenging on my Telemark skis, at least at the pace that Ty was throwing down. He just blasted through the glades like an Energizer Bunny. I could manage to keep up with him as long as I didn’t have any tumbles, but of course at his frantic pace through the trees I had many tumbles, and by the time I’d get up Ty would be well on to the next pitch. Fortunately he waited for me at times, but even then it was quite a workout. At one point I hit a buried stump with my knee while in a Telemark stance, and the crack of the collision was so loud and jolting that I though I’d blown my knee off. Boy was I happy when I realized that my knee pad had taken all the force of the blow and my knee was fine. It was still very unnerving, but the knee pad had really done its job. It was clear that preventing injury from those types of events is one of the big reasons Telemark skiers wear knee pads!
After that run I knew that I was going to have to get my alpine gear if I was going to keep up with Ty at the pace he was setting in the glades. We could have switched to gentler or groomed style terrain, but since Ty was showing such amazing form and progression in the treed terrain, I really wanted to let him keep going as much as possible. I might have tried another round of glades on my Telemark skis if my legs had been fresh, but after about a half dozen runs of either strict Telemark turns or wedge supporting Dylan, I was cooked. I grabbed my alpine boots and fat skis from the car while Ty went in briefly with E and Dylan, and I switched over to alpine mode.
Ty and I headed right back to the Twice as Nice glades and had a blast. It was nice to have to wait for him instead of the other way around. The snow in the Twice as Nice glades was so light and fluffy, and relatively lightly tracked, that it was hard not to have a good time. Ty was doing so well that I decided he needed more of a challenge. I took him for his first ever run in the Timberline backcountry glades. Compared to the Twice as Nice glades, there are some notably steeper and tighter sections in the backcountry glades, so I knew it would be a good test for Ty. He took things a bit more cautiously on the steep stuff, but did a decent job. Unfortunately, the conditions of the snow in the backcountry glades wasn’t nearly as sweet as the fluff we’d found in the Twice as Nice glades. The snow was almost all tracked out to packed powder in the backcountry areas like Adam’s Solitude, and I was amazed at the difference in the snow quality compared to what we’d been skiing. The difference seemed to be due to traffic more than anything like wind or differences in exposure. I guess the backcountry glades are really popular. Ty liked the experience though, and he really enjoyed the seemingly endless half pipe-style terrain in the last part of the run that brings you back to the base. He thought it was the coolest thing to go up on the edges of the trail and hit all sorts of jumps that the terrain offered.
With the reduced quality of the snow, I wasn’t in any rush to head right back to the backcountry glades, so I decided to challenge Ty on another trail. Ty had never tried Lost Boyz, which is rated as a double diamond glade, probably due to a fairly steep pitch that exists near the beginning. Ty was really excited to be hitting a double diamond trail, although I explained to him that he had done them before. I thought I had taken him on the double diamond Upper Tattle Tale off to the skier’s right of Lost Boyz, but as I look back in my reports, it turns out that I had taken him on the upper part of Spell Binder. I think that top pitch of Spell Binder is pretty darned steep though, certainly in the ball park of the others that get a double diamond rating, and Ty had handled that (exactly a year before on February 10th, 2007). In December he had also skied Devil’s Playground, which has a double diamond rating, although he had needed a bit of help through the section of very steep, tight chutes. Perhaps the signage for Lost Boyz was a little more obvious with its two diamonds, and it got him excited. Ty did a great job of skiing the crux of Lost Boyz, and as far as the rest of the trail went it seemed like it was a piece of cake for him. The snow quality wasn’t quite what we’d found in the Twice as Nice glades, but it was far better than the backcountry glades. So, in terms of powder skiing quality it was about halfway between the two.
After that run it was a bit past 2:00 P.M. and we decided to call it a day. Well, perhaps I called it a day for Ty, as it looked like he could keep going if I told him we were going to. A big deciding factor for me was that it had stopped snowing, and while the conditions on the trails and glades were still great, they were a notch below what they had been, so on a relative scale that made it easy to leave. With the assortment of runs that the family had done, I think we all had somewhat different days in terms of vertical, but my altimeters recorded 8 runs for me, with 6,590’ of descent on the Avocet and 6,539’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of just 0.8%.
For Ty the day was made up of mostly skiing in the glades, and he had really done well even on much of the steep, treed terrain. I think he handled the steep sections well because he had so much confidence from all the woods and powder we hit on Saturday and the continued great snow in the glades on Sunday. He was really on fire all day and it was clear that I would need to amp up my Telemark skiing if I was going to be able to hang with him on Teles when he’s like that. But on a positive note, I knew I’d only been riding my Telemark skis for a handful of days and there would be plenty of room for improvements in technique, stamina, and efficiency. In terms of Dylan’s learning process, E pointed out that Dylan wasn’t quite where Ty was at this point in terms of his ski technique. As I look back at my report from Lost Trail Powder Mountain on February 12th, 2006, I can see that Ty was trying a few things like tucking, sitting on the lift without support from an adult, and having some time off the leash. But, none of these things seem all that different from what Dylan was doing, and as I read the text it was clear that Ty still required a lot of support from the leash on steeper terrain just like Dylan. But, E has a better sense for some of the more “intangible” aspects in the boy’s technique, and she said that while Dylan was doing well, Ty just seemed to have a higher level of ski and body control at this point. Dylan was three months younger than Ty was at that stage of the season, so that is always something to think about as well.
When we got back down to the house, it was evident that it was finally time to clear the driveway of snow. I took some 3:00 P.M. weather observations and found that we’d picked up 1.8 inches of additional snowfall during the day, bringing us to 7.3 inches for the event in the valley:
The final snowfall from the event came that evening, and we wound up with a storm total of 7.7 inches according to my measurements:
Our snowy February looked to continue however, with our next significant storm coming in for the midweek period. We’ll get into the weather and skiing associated with that event in the next report on skiing in our local Waterbury backcountry.
The pictures associated with this report are also available at the following link:
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