Friday, March 20, 2015

What Determines a Wind Hold?

Photo taken March 15 looking down Spillway off the Vista Quad

In the winter, we get weather. Obviously, we all know this. We operate in Mother Nature's element, battling against her tantrums occasionally and it goes without saying that sometimes, Mother Nature wins.

So, what has to happen for a lift to go on wind hold?

The answer isn't as simple as you might think.

The two primary factors in a wind hold are speed and direction. People don't always think of the latter, but it's arguably more a more important consideration than speed. Wind direction is important because that's what makes the chairs swing side-to-side. We don't want wind to be coming in across the line (perpendicular to the cable itself). That's the situation we want to avoid when its windy and why the lifts go on hold in the first place. If the speed and direction of the wind come together to create a situation where the chairs are swaying too much, that's when a lift gets put on hold.

Speed is still important, as gusts of 40+ are capable of shutting any lift down, but direction is the linchpin so-to-speak. The wind could be blowing 30+ at the top of the mountain, but if it's directly up or down the lift line (in your face or at your back when you're riding up), there's a good chance the lift will still run. If it's coming at an angle across the line versus directly across it, there's a better chance lift mechanics will be able to get the lift running at a speed that minimizes chairs swinging. That's also why we sometimes run chairlifts at slower speeds on windy days.

Additionally, different wind directions affect each lift differently. Think of each lift as its own individual entity. We don't put the whole mountain on wind hold at once. Instead, our lift mechanics will check each lift throughout the day and assess it as an isolated situation from the rest of the mountain. If that needs to be put on wind hold, so be it, but it's not a sweeping declaration. That's why Wilderness and Timberline may be on hold one day while Vista and Snowflake can still operate. It's all about the direction the wind is coming in, combined with the speed of the gusts and how that affects each individual lift.

When a lift does get put on hold, it's not a white flag for the day. Our mechanics monitor the wind speeds and direction every 15 minutes while a lift is on wind hold, while also reading forecasts and weather stations to see what weather is coming in over the next few hours. It's a tedious but essential job to keep checking every lift all day, but that's why we're thankful to have the lift mechanics we do. Give those guys a high five next time you see them.

They're fighting the battle against Mother Nature and they, quite literally, are what keep our lifts running.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Five Signs That March Is Finally Here

You know, sometimes winter can get a little dark and dingy. For most of the ski season, it gets dark before 4pm, the sun doesn't come up until after 7am, Mother Nature hurls ice and wind at us and Ullr buries life in deep snow. After six months or so, it's enough to give anyone cabin fever. But, then March comes calling and brings with it the best month of skiing all season. 

Why is March so good? Well, Daylight Savings keeps the lights on later, the snow gods give us a truckload of powder, temperatures rise and the snow softens up. Who doesn't love a little mashed potato, goggle-tanning, no jacket skiing under bluebird skies? So, don't forget to set your clocks ahead this weekend. We'll be waiting for you on the sunny side.

  1. Sun - What is this mysterious glowing ball in the sky, and where has it been all our lives? Because March is the start of spring, it means the Earth is moving through its elliptical revolution around the sun and we're getting closer to summer. That means we get more sunlight than the rest of the season. With the cloud cover we typically get here in New England, the sun coming out in March is a pretty great excuse to punch out of work and do outside things again. And it sure makes the everything look purdy.
  2. Snow - Don't kid yourself. There's still at least 3 more weeks of winter coming our way. March has historically been our snowiest month of the season. Last year we got 7 feet of snow from the end of February through the end of March, so don't get too anxious to trade your fat skis for four wheelers just yet.
  3. Wacky Outfits - When it's warm, people dress down. And when you dress down in ski gear, it means trading facemasks and hand warmers for jerseys, retro snow suits and wigs. And it's 100 percent awesome. If you start seeing your favorite TV show characters flying by you and it looks like iParty just exploded in the base area, you know it's time for spring skiing.
  4. Events - What else goes great with warm weather and longer days? More events! We go absolutely stir crazy with events in the spring. Backcountry festivals, demo days, banked slalom courses, pond skimming and parties every weekend. This is the most fun time of the year to come skiing, no matter what the conditions might be.
  5. Night Skiing Gets More Fun - When DST returns, it stays light out later than usual. We already run night skiing four nights a week, but what's cool about it in the spring is that it's still light outside at 7pm. Ski Patrol only ropes off trails when it's too dark that it becomes dangerous, so that means that in late March, you could be skiing Cobrass, Vermont 200 or even Preacher at 7pm as the sun goes down. There's a reason we have the best sunset skiing this side of the Rockies.
Enjoy the spring conditions! 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

4 Tips For Dealing With Flat Light

With all the snow we've been getting recently, you may have found it a little more difficult to see where you're going. Whether it's big fluffy snowflakes blocking your line of sight or some low-hanging overcast clouds, we see plenty of days with "flat light" in the Northeast. Here are some tips for enjoying yourself during those grey days.
  1. Wear brighter lenses - Most goggle manufacturers make a flat-light specific lens. A rose or yellow lens will help accentuate the natural definition and contrast there is in front of you, which will help you discern what's coming up next.
  2. Find Contrast - Since flat light is created by the sun shining into fog-clouds, the snow reflects that light back into the fog again, creating poor visibility. The solution? Ski something that's not wide open and groomed. This will all but eliminate your vision problems because there will be more points of reference for your eyes to pick out. When it's super flat - trees and bumps are the place to go. They provide excellent contrast so your eyes don't have to work as hard to make out what you're skiing over.
  3. Get low - Lowering your stance on skis or a board will lower your center of gravity. This will allow you to better absorb any unforeseen obstacles that you may come across in the grayness ahead of you and keep you from getting bucked.
  4. Slow down - This one's pretty simple. If it's harder to see where you're going, ski a little slower. The snow isn't going anywhere if you ratchet back to 80% effort, and you'll stay safer with more time to react to what's in front of you.
Now, get out there and enjoy all the snow! Ski safe and have fun.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Uphill Travel Safety

Photo Courtesy Catamount Trail Association
So, it's been going off lately. Ya know, 'cause it snowed a little bit up here. Photo above was taken last weekend during our Uphill Demo Day and yes, it's really that deep out there. It was awesome to see so many people come out and learn about uphill skiing, so in light of that, here are a few extra safety tips to remember whether you're a newbie or on your 100th tour. Stay safe and have fun!

  1. Always be aware of grooming operations - This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes people don't realize that even though the mountain may be closed during off-hours, there's still operations going on. We groom all night long here at BV, and that means you're likely to come across a groomer if you're hiking our uphill route in the dark.
  2. Stay off trails that are currently being groomed - If you're getting strapped in and see groomer lights on the trail in front of you, stop and wait for him to finish his work before heading up the hill. Likewise, if you're about to head back down a trail and you see a groomer on it, wait for him to pass by and then proceed with caution. Groomers always have the right of way, so please respect the work they're doing to get the mountain ready for morning.
  3. If you see a groomer, yield - If you start down a trail and happen to encounter a groomer, stop on the far side of the trail and wait for him to pass if he is traveling uphill. If he is traveling down hill, move to the far side of the trail and slowly pass the groomer. Be sure to make eye contact with the pilot before you ski past and stay far away from the groomer. Do not cut back in front of the groomer at any time during your downhill run. These machines are heavy and fast and, trust me, you wouldn't want to tangle with one.
  4. Wear bright colored ski gear if possible - If you've got bright colored or reflective gear, wear it. That will make it easier for groomers to see you and for your friends to keep track of you as well.
  5. Ski in groups - Pick a line and everyone stick to it. Think of it as your own little wolf pack. Skiing closer together will not only make it easier to keep track of each other on the way down, but it will help our grooming staff as well. It's much easier to see four people skiing together than spread out individually all over the trail.
  6. Be smart. Be respectful - Don't be that person who cuts off a groomer on your way back down the hill. Don't ski right behind a tiller to get fresh corduroy. Remember, it's dark when we groom, so our pilots can't always see you if you're too close. Keep your distance, respect them and everyone will have a good night. The uphill policy has been fun this season, so let's make sure we're all on the same page so it can continue in future years as well.

For updated news, weather & conditions in our Nordic and Backcountry trails, view our Nordic Snow Report, which is updated twice daily.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Storm Of The Century

This photo makes me laugh.

Ever seen Stephen King's "Storm of the Century"? Without getting too far into it, the story is centered on a small island town in Maine that is about to be hit with a colossal winter storm. Long story short, they all go out and buy tons of food, lose power for a night, wait out a few feet of new snow and eventually shovel and plow their way back to a normal routine.

Over the last 2 days, I think that's what most people in New England were expecting (or hoping) out of Winter Storm Juno. Now, if you happen to be reading this from Nantucket or other parts of southern New England, you definitely got hit the hardest. But the storm tracked East of its original path, leaving majority of our region including our little mountain, with a lovely coating of white, but certainly not the apocalyptic amounts we were promised on the news.

That's why the above photo gives me a chuckle. Can you imagine trying to dig your way out of that?

But, wait Mike. Hold on. Isn't that a bad thing? Bolton is a ski resort - why are you ok with getting less snow than predicted?

More volume doesn't always equal more fun.

It's not about how much snow, but rather what kind of snow. It's the quality of what's coming down from the sky that we really care about.

Our original forecasts last week showed up to a foot of heavy wet snow, and we were excited for a few reasons. It helps build up our base for spring, which means you can ski more trails later into the season. It also puts a nice sticky coating on everything, allowing us to open more terrain earlier than usual without worrying about wind scouring it all away. But, it's also heavier, harder to shovel and plow, and high in water content, which means it can rot out easier. If there are any painters out there, think of heavy wet snow as your primer. It covers and sticks to the surfaces but that's not what you want your finished product to look like, right?

Juno didn't drop a foot of heavy wet. Instead, it left us with about 4-7" of light fluffy fairy dust. Out west they call this "Champagne Powder" because it's the best of the best. What's do great about dry light snow? Well, that's the kind of snow you see people shredding in ski movies and postcard photos. Light dry powder is what makes skiing and riding feel effortless and floaty. You can just charge right through it and not feel a thing. Sticking with our paint example, this kind of snow is our final coat. It's the high gloss finish that looks great and makes things really pop. You get the most enjoyment out of this kind of snow.

So, why are we alright with missing out on Juno's knockout punch? Because the snow we got is better than the snow we thought we were getting. Better snow = more fun.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some secret stashes to visit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ups and Downs - No, Wait - All Ups

Sometimes, life throws us a curve ball and we have to adjust to a less than ideal situation. And, sometimes it tosses knuckleball instead of the curve. Good luck hitting that one. You just have to roll with it, try to follow along as best you can and swing away.

And sometimes life says, "Oh hey guys! Want some new snow? Cool! Here's a foot. And how 'bout a few days of bluebird skies? You got it. Wait, you want positive temperatures too? Ah, ok why not!"

This week has been one of the latter.

If you haven't been paying attention since last weekend, let me catch you up real quick. More than a FOOT of fresh has fallen since last Sunday and whatever days it wasn't snowing, we've had deep blue skies and sunshine you see on postcards. I'm running out of ways to say that it's been absolutely awesome up here this week, and I don't anticipate that changing at all in the next 72 hours. We plan on more than 60 trails open off all 6 lifts and all 3 mountain faces. No shortage of places to find yourself. Come visit for some soft floaty turns, creamy cord and tight tree runs.

Remember to share your photos on social media using #FoundAtBV for a chance to win free stuff!


We're through the latest cold snap and the arctic air we've become accustomed to is moving out for the weekend. It should actually be quite comfortable up here - no facemask or hand warmers required! On Friday, snow squalls will push through the area with the chance for some accumulation. Experts say maybe 1-4", but we all know what squalls can do sometimes. Let's hope for more. Saturday will be cold and sunny to start the day but gradually warm up through the evening before giving way to temps in the 30's and cloudy skies on Sunday.


Friday: Late Night at Bolton Valley & Justice VT in the James Moore Tavern

Saturday: Bolton After Dark & The John Daly Trio

Sunday: Bonus $19 Night Skiing 

Friday, January 9, 2015

January is Learn To Ski & Ride Month!

Having trouble coming up with reasons to leave your Netflix nest in your living room over the past few days? Wondering why you live in a state where it's below 40 degrees for 6 months out of the year? I'll bet you wish there was something you could do to enjoy this frosty weather instead of lamenting it for a whole season.

Answer: How about learning to ski or snowboard?

January is Learn to Ski & Ride month across the nation, but here in Vermont we do it particularly well. We boast some of the best and most qualified instructors in the nation, along with excellent terrain for designated learning areas. You won't find any 13,000 ft elevation or 2,700 ft vertical drops here. The Green Mountains tend to be more rolling and lend themselves better to first-timers than other resorts in larger mountain ranges.

Here's the deal: Most days in January, we're offering special beginner-only learn-to packages through our ski & ride school. Just sign up here, choose your date and get a group lesson, lift ticket and 1-day rental package for just $29. Yes, you read that right. Less than 30 bucks gets you fully set up for a day on the slopes. Come try it out, let our professional instructors show you the ropes and even if it's not for you, there's a bar and a hot tub just steps from the slopes. Gotta end the day on a good note, right?

If you do have a great time, which I'm confident you will, come back for more group or private lessons from our crew to really advance your skills quickly. The best way to learn is really through a few lessons and after that, you'll be shredding the gnar like a pro!

So, if you're sick of staying inside all winter, boot up and hit the slopes with us. Bring a friend or three and you might just get addicted to a new hobby. There’s no better time to learn than January.