Since our Friday/Saturday storm system was a warm one with a bit of rain, it seemed like the return of cold temperatures was setting us up for a weekend to stay off the skis.  However, the Northern Vermont resorts in the Bolton Valley to Jay Peak area reported a few inches of snow on the back end of the system, so I decided it might be worth a quick look in the higher elevations to see how that had panned out in terms of powder.


My plan was to head to the Heavenly Highway/Paradise Pass area off Boltonís Wilderness Lift, which quickly seems to be becoming my old standby terrain for getting at the good snow after warmer storm cycles.  Unfortunately, the Wilderness Lift wasnít set to open until 10:00 A.M. today, and I needed to be back at the house by 11:00 A.M. or so in order for E and Ty to head off for their afternoon skiing at Stowe.  The Vista Quad was opening at 8:00 A.M. though, so I figured I would try an access route that Iíve wanted to check out for a while Ė catch the lift to the Vista Summit and skin my way over to Wilderness.  It seemed like a practical option for getting over to Wilderness at an early hour, but Iíd yet to actually test it out.


I left the house (495í) a bit before 8:00 A.M. where the temperature was in the single digits, but there may have been a bit of an inversion in place, since up in the Bolton Valley Village lot (~2,100í) the temperature was 11 F.  The air was calm and quickly warming, and I was beginning to question my base layering, but a bit of breeze on the Vista Quad suggested Iíd still need some warmth for a bit.  From the Vista Summit I headed down Shermanís Pass and found decent packed powder on the freshly-groomed surface.  It certainly didnít have the softness of last weekend, but it wasnít scratchy.


I skinned up Upper Crossover, and it was probably only a 15 minute ascent to the Wilderness Summit, so I think that will be an efficient option on these sorts of days when time is limited and the Wilderness Lift is opening on the late side.  Iím not sure how much the Wilderness Lift was open yesterday, but as soon as I was away from the areas with more skier traffic, I started to see signs of the powder from the last storm.  At the bottom of Upper Crossover (~2,800í) I found an inch or two of powder, although the consistency and accumulation was highly variable.


I removed my skins at the Wilderness Summit (~3,050í), and kept them off as I traveled on Heavenly Highway.  Depending on how far youíre going it can be more efficient to put skins back on for that part of the Nordic network, but I wasnít going too far before descending, and the pace was reasonable on Telemark gear.  Within a few minutes I was off Heavenly Highway to check out some local shots that Iíd wanted to explore.  The first signs that there was going to be some decent snow were when I approached the top of the first pitch I planned to ski and saw what looked like several tracks from Nordic skiers.  They had sunk down in the snow probably 6 to 10 inches, so it didnít seem like the surfaces could be all that bad.  I dropped in for my first pitch and was pleasantly surprised with the consistency of the snow.  There was certainly a thicker layer of snow near the top, but I easily sunk down into the lighter powder below and the turns were very nice.  I toured around and hit a variety of pitches and aspects, and found that the snow in some areas was noticeably better than others.  In the end Iíd say it wasnít the new snow from the end of the storm that helped out with the skiing as much as the fact that there had been such minimal rain.  Iím not sure what the mountain received, but we picked up less than a third of an inch (0.31 inches) of rain down at the house.  I found that some aspects were a little crusty, but most had just a thicker layer of snow, and some had none at all.  There was also a ton of powder below any thicker layers on the surface, so if you got down into that on turns they were sweet.  In some areas with no crust I sunk right down into about 8 inches of snow.  I shoved my pole down into the powder and it easily went down past the handle.


After I was done touring around in the higher elevations I headed back down Peggy Dowís and Turnpike, just about the time that lift-served folks were starting to appear on the trails.  Only a couple of skierís had descended, so the corduroy was still fresh, and I was even tempted off the trail down low as I saw tracks in a couple inches of powder on one of the little chutes through the trees.  The snow there was OK, but a bit punchy and not like the higher elevations.  In general the morningís weather featured high clouds blocking the sun due to the storm going on down to our south, but sometimes there were blue skies while I was out.  By the time I was leaving the village, the temperatures were in the mid 20s F and it was looking like a fine day.  I stopped in down at the Nordic Center for a few minutes and noticed that they had signs up for the big Trapp-Bolton Catamount Trail race taking place.  The racers are going to be on the Catamount Trail, but I can imagine with the variable conditions there could be some challenging descents


Weíve currently got winter storm watches up even as far west as the New York side of Lake Champlain, so perhaps our area will get in on some of this big storm that is coming up the coast.  The current NWS point forecast suggests about a half a foot of snow for our area, so if that comes through then the usual low and medium angle spots on the hill will have some great skiing.  Iím not sure if there will be enough snow around here to get the really steep terrain bottomless with this next storm, but the current surface isnít too bad on much of the mountain so the new snow should bond nicely.  A few pictures from the day are below, smaller versions are available through the Vermont snow updates thread in the First Tracks!! discussion forums:








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