Welcome to part two of my 3 day adventure into northern Vermont! Bolton Valley! (Read part 1 HERE if you missed it!)
I awoke around 7a.m. Wednesday, tucked away in a back corner of Boltons parking lot. Things were looking grey, but conditions seemed good other than that. I picked the best parking space I could find and ate breakfast while I waited for the lodge to open up for the day. Once a few employees wandered past, I followed, happy to find a nice warm fireplace to dry my boots and warm myself up after a night of sleeping in the car.
I got my ticket, and continued lounging about the lodge, in no hurry to get going as Bolton has night skiing, so I knew I had plenty of time. As I lounged about, I overheard another skier ask why the Wilderness and Timberline chairs were closed. I did not even notice this. The woman at the desk informed us that during the week, Bolton Valley only opens the 'main' peak, and leaves the other two closed. A little ridiculous when you consider that with those two lifts closed, about half of their terrain is un-skiable. Not a great way to start the day, especially when I thought about the fact that I could have come here on a weekend if I had known about that. That fact should probably be made much, MUCH more clear on their website. About half past nine, I wandered my way out to the main lift to the summit. Although it is a quad, it is not detachable, so the ride up is fairly slow. I got my standard fare of pictures at the summit, and headed off.
With half the mountain closed, I did not need any sort of plan of attack to get down every trail by the end of the day. I just kind of wandered off the summit, and into the first glade I found. After skiing all day at Mad River Glen, most of the glades here seemed like a walk in the park. I kept making right turns until I ended up way over near the base of the Wilderness lift, requiring a bit of a hike to make it back to the quad. I found my way onto a trail named 'Cobrass' a few runs later, and I have to say, it takes a very windy, fast trail to make me notice a groomer. This thing ran like mad, ducking and weaving down the mountain. It was a hell of a good time. Conditions were great too, freshly groomed packed powder lead to easy high speed carves everywhere. The next run I found my way onto a double-black called 'Preacher'. Again, going from MRG to here made this double black seem like a blue when yesterday I was struggling to stay standing on 'Paridise'. It was however still a fun trail. It gave off a very single-track like vibe that a mountain bike trail would have. Twisting and turning through the forest with lots of natural jumps resulting in fun little gaps everywhere.
Upon inspecting the map, I realized that the woods on both sides of 'Preacher were labeled as glades. I booked it back up and went into the 'Devil's Playground' glades and had a pretty good time. They were pretty steep and not too tight. It definitely took some time to get down them. After popping out at the bottom of them, I again hot-lapped my way back to the top, this time eager to drop into the 'Cobrass Woods'. Well, it turns out I was a little too eager, as what I thought was the entrance to them turns out to be one of the locals secret trails. I found out later they refer to it as 'Jacobs Ladder' and I understand why. I found myself standing alone in the woods atop a series of step-downs over boulders. It was more than doable, but I do understand why it is not within the marked glades. Getting down the last drop took a little coaxing to do. If only I had my flask on me.
After finally getting down and through, I continued aimlessly exploring the mountain. Bolton Valley is a nice place, but I really regret not going on a weekend when the other two peaks are open for business. There were very few people there most of the day, and I wonder if there are few people because they only have half the terrain open, or only half the terrain is open because they have so few people. By afternoon however I was wishing for fewer people, as several school groups rolled in, and loud and obnoxious middle-schoolers filled the hill.
After lunch, I decided the rest of the day would be a park day. It has been far too long since I had a good park day, and Bolton's parks, although fairly small, were more than enough to hold my interest from about noon time to 5:30 or 6 p.m. when I retired to the bar for the night.
Bolton currently has two parks set up, and while one is definitely larger than the other, I would put them both in the small-to-medium progression park category. This was perfect for me. I started out in the park on 'Jungle Jib'. It only had 6 or so features on it, and you could only ever really hit 2-3 in one run depending on your line, but I still had a good time. I was absolutely slaying their long flat rail, and by the end of the day I was nailing their weird propane-tank/rail-hybrid.
After tiring of hiking/lapping the smaller park, I moved onto the larger one. Located in 'The Grom Park', it is clearly their primary park. I managed to capture almost every feature in the park in a single picture, which is nice because its easy to post!
There were a couple of snowboarders who would lap through occasionally, but for most of the day, I had both parks to myself. Its nice to have a quiet park day to help ones progression, and by the end of the day there were only two features left on the mountain I had not hit. I was particularly pleased with my work on side-entry rails, as I managed to get on, and down one without overshooting for the first time. Low rails do wonders for ones confidence.
Random wall-ride I found on the complete opposite side of the mountain from the parks, all alone.
I have only 2 complaints about the parks at Bolton Valley. The first is the lift. Although it is excellent that you can access all of their parks from one lift, it being one of the slowest doubles I've seen really puts a damper on hot-laps. The other thing, which is kind of related to the lift speed is how the parks are set up. Although the features are good, to hit certain features means missing most of the others. An average park run will have you hitting a mere two features in a lap, with a 10+ minute lift ride to get back up. They certainly have the space at Bolton to fix this issue, and my suggestion to them would be to combine both parks into one, longer park. I never understand why mountains like to have 3-4 features right next to each other so it is impossible to hit more than one in a pass. If I could hit 6-8 features in a lap, a 10 minute lift ride wouldn't be too bad.
As I said earlier, around 6 I retired for the evening to the bar. Having had an excellent 5-6 hour park session I was a hungry man. I had an excellent, and reasonably price dinner, along with some drinks, and tried to tune out the children that were running around the BAR while reading my book. They have a nice little bar at Bolton, but I will never understand places that allow children in the main bar when there is a restaurant in the very next room. After I grew tired of the children playing tag, I got back in my car and drove to my hidden little spot in the back of their parking lot. Stowe told me I was not allowed to sleep over night in their lot, so I just stayed right where I was. I do not understand why a mountain would care if someone slept in their lot, especially when ski areas have so much parking that no one is using at night. I bedded down, with all the blankets I could find as the forecasted temperature for the night was 15 below zero.
Will I survive? Will I freeze to death? Tune in soon for the third part of my 3 day tour around northern Vermont!