Bolton Valley, VT 29APR2010
On Thursday morning I was back up at Bolton to see how the powder was doing. The freezing line had certainly crept upwards from where it had been on Wednesday, and even up at the main base (2,100’) there was a thick melt crust on the snow. I could see that there had been a lot of activity on the slopes on Wednesday, and everyone’s tracks were frozen up. The resort had run a groomer right up Beech Seal, which was probably very helpful on Wednesday with the deep snow, but it wasn’t much help on Thursday morning. It was still the most attractive ascent option, but anyone who has skinned on frozen cat tracks knows how the hold of skins can be tenuous. My arms got a good workout on some of the steeper pitches as I struggled to hold ground.
When I found that the crust was still present even up above mid mountain, I was getting ready to just descend and call it a workout, but I had some time and decided to keep going to the big Sherman’s Pass switchback at 2,800’. Right around there I saw the first traces of more decent snow, so I pushed on to the Vista Summit. The melt crust was certainly decreasing by that elevation, although now that I was up near the ridge line, a wind crust was taking its place in exposed areas. I finished my ascent via Sherman’s and Hard Luck Chute, wrapped around above the Vista Quad summit station, and de-skinned near the top of Alta Vista. The wind was ripping through there pretty nicely, maybe 20-30 MPH from what I could tell. I found a spot out of the wind, and there actually was some nice medium weight powder in protected spots at that elevation.
I headed down Alta Vista, which had a couple of tracks in the steeper section up top, but those folks had retreated to Sherman’s before the more moderate grade. Presumably they wouldn’t have been moving well without the steeper pitch on Wednesday. Now that the snow had consolidated a bit, I was able to ski out the rest of the untracked Alta Vista. The snow wasn’t billowy and light like it had been on Wednesday morning, but it was still decent.
I was glad I’d had those turns though, because below the Sherman’s Pass switchback it was pretty much survival skiing with the return of the crust. Staying in my skin track was too fast without the option to bleed speed by wedging, and staying out of the track was just really tough with a semi-breakable crust – even skiing in alpine mode. When possible, I actually worked out an interesting solution for that part of the descent. I kept one ski in my skin track, and one ski out in the crust, and regulated speed by shifting my weight between the two. Below mid mountain, I took the Bear Run route as the easiest/safest option.
Back down near the base, there were the very faintest first signs of the snow softening, so with that change there was hope for better skiing later in the crusty areas. I saw what looked like a father and son just starting up for a hike, and hoped they knew what they were in for. So overall it was a good quick workout, with a bonus leg workout on that difficult descent, and at least some nice turns up high… but nothing in the league of Wednesday.
Thursday warmed up somewhat and the snow was melting quickly in the valleys, but the mountains were still looking nice. I grabbed a shot of the Mansfield Chin area as I was leaving Burlington:
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