I saw Ryan Denning in the Vista lifeline at Bolton Valley, this past Monday, right before he was gearing up to get in the car and make the trek back to the New Hampshire Coast. Snow had begun to fall that afternoon and a few hours later, as I lay sprawled out on the couch, my phone went off, with Ryan on the other line.
"I'm coming back up in the morning, hitting the skin track at 8:00. You free?"
We had a pretty hefty posse as we rolled up the Bolton Valley access road that next morning, only to find crystal blue skies and a, windless, -10F reading on the thermometer. Ryan Kinner, Sam Chalek, Morgan Marzo and I crested the hill to find Denning jamming out in the parking lot--post a 3hr sunrise drive from home.
As Sam briefed us on the importance of carrying a strong supply of Macintosh and Jameson, during these periods of Arctic cold, we slapped on our frozen skins and headed for the trail. An hour shot up Bolton, gave us a chance to wake up, get the legs going and get back to somewhat normal body temps. The sun played with the branches that loomed overhead, sending, small, staggered, beams of light across my face--all the new snow we had been hoping for, bathing in the morning light.
We reached our junction around 9:15 and pounded off into the Bolton Valley backcountry. To so many, Bolton Valley slides under the radar, a small family resort with no intentions of mirroring its neighbors at Stowe and Sugarbush. But, what most people don't know about, is the extensive Nordic/Backcountry center that sits just north of the main lifts. A massive plot of land with an incredible trail system that winds its way over to Stowe, provides acres of incredible skiing for any outdoor junk. A plot of land, thanks to the Vermont Land Trust and the Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry, that has been saved from sale to a private individual and has been turned into State protected forest!
Another 20 minutes ascending on the skin track and we reached our transition point. Most of us had never skied up there before, but thanks to Denning's previous tramps through the Bolton woods, we were able to jump, slide and wobble our way through a dense collection of pines, before coming across a smattering of open zones that lay just a few hundred yards apart.
Everyone found fresh lines as we scaled and slayed all the pow the area had to offer. Our first two descents were deep and narrow chutes that swayed left to right and back again as we darted down between the trees. Ryan and Sam tee'd up a nice natural lip, up above one of the chutes and both sent it deep! While Morgan, our lone single plank, found herself cursing knee deep in swinging open turns to the valley floor. Everyone was amped from the moment we got our first turns in and hungry for more.
Just before lunch time we made our way over to the second major zone Ryan had planned on visiting. We threw our skis on our shoulders and began to boot pack off to the skiers left. It looked like our walking time was going to be pretty extensive as the neighboring tree line stood like a solidified fortress; but, to everyone's surprise, a few minutes later we rounded the corner and stumbled into paradise. Before us sat an open zone with endless options: natural drops that outlined perimeter, while steep chutes and tight tree lines assembled themselves in-between.
Legs burnt, gear soaked, shots logged, we pulled out the skins again and began making our way back to the resort. The temps had risen, the sun was still shinning high above us and the Catamount Trail provided a really relaxing skin back up through the woods. A thick shadow guarded the exit from the forest, which we had entered through earlier that morning. I was the first to pop out and break through the shadow line, to immediately feel a surge of happiness spread wide across my face. The sun felt so good, slowly melting the icicles that clung to my beard, as I stood and looked out across the valley. There was no stopping it, one by one as we returned out of the forest, the same smile beamed across each of our faces as the sun rewarded us for our efforts. It was definitely one of the most fun and productive touring days I've ever had and each of us were supremely grateful for the killer snow that rewarded our tried patience. Big ups to Ryan Denning at AlpineLiveMedia for making the journey and getting the shots!
We picked up a few inches last night and may have some more on the way for Monday, keep an eye out, more to come!