Tucked away in a snowy box canyon just east of Burlington is Bolton Valley ski resort. Bolton Valley’s pristine wilderness setting offers a sense of solitude and serenity that is unique in Vermont. Much like the Green Mountain State itself, Bolton Valley is unpretentious and unhurried. Its trails are uncrowded and its liftlines are short.
Often overlooked by skiers headed to some of Vermont’s bigger resorts, Bolton Valley has a statistics that often surprise first time guests. An average of 312″ of snow fall in this corner of the state every year and Bolton’s Valley highest-in-Vermont 2,100′ base elevation means great surface conditions for the entirety of the resort’s long season. Bolton Valley also offers the most night skiing terrain in Vermont.
The terrain at Bolton Valley tends towards the tamer side, with the notable exception of some of its gladed skiing. Consequently, Bolton Valley tends to attract a lot of families and is a popular choice for groups of mainly intermediate skiers.
Bolton Valley Ski Area
Driving up the Bolton Valley Access Road, skiers will first pass the Timberline Lodge – Bolton Valley’s secondary base area. Bolton Valley’s main base area is another mile or so up the road. Here skiers find a day lodge, condos, and the Inn at Bolton Valley.
From the main base, lifts access two of Bolton Valley’s three peaks. Wilderness Peak, serviced by its own double chair, is to the looker’s left and Vista Peak is to the looker’s right. Vista Peak is home to the majority of Bolton Valley’s skiable acreage and the Vista Quad which goes to its summit is the resort’s main uphill lift. From the top of Vista Peak, skiers can traverse across to the base of Timberline Peak.
The Timberline Lodge at the foot of Timberline Peak is the lowest point at Bolton Valley. The Timberline Quad runs from the base lodge to this lower summit with a midstation halfway up for intermediates and beginners to unload.
All three peaks share common topography. Advanced and expert trails fall steeply from each summit before flattening out into longish blue and green runouts. There are no steep trails on the lower portions of each mountain.
Bolton Valley Beginner Skiing
Bolton Valley’s beginner skiing is concentrated around the base of Vista Peak. The Midmountain chair services a handful of green trails that will amuse novices for the better part of a morning or afternoon. More advanced beginners can venture to the summit of Vista Peak where Sherman’s Pass, a long cruiser, is the only way down for novices.
The best beginner terrain at the resort is on Wilderness Peak. Beginners should exit at the midstation just short of the summit. From there, beginners have the options of several interconnected green trails. Our favorite is the rather convoluted mishmash of Lower Crossover -> Work Road -> Lower Work Road -> Abenaki Trail -> Lower Fanny Hill.
From Timberline Peak, the only beginner option is to ski Upper Villager until it intersects Timberline Run. Timberline Run heads back to the Timberline Quad and Timberline Lodge. The combination trail is long, but skis more like two connector trails than a real beginner run. Timberline Run in particular has some flat sections that require carrying more speed than most beginners are able to muster. For novices, some degree of poling is inevitable.
Bolton Valley Intermediate Skiing
Intermediate skiers will love Bolton Valley. The majority of the terrain is skiable by confident blue trail skiers. There is little difference in difficulty between many of the blue and black runs and many strong intermediate skiers will enjoy stepping up to the easier black diamond trails. Of the advanced runs, only the glades are truly beyond most intermediates’ grasp.
Cobrass and Old Turnpike are our favorites for long blue cruisers. For more open slopes, we prefer Twice as Nice on Timberline Peak.
Bolton Valley Advanced and Expert Skiing
Bolton Valley’s advanced terrain is generally fairly tame. Its marked black diamond runs are more akin to blue squares at other Vermont ski resorts. All of the expert terrain is found on the upper reaches of each peak. Short, moderate black pitches empty into longish runouts back to the base areas. Most experts will find the chairlift ride long in comparison with the length of the black diamond runs. Upper Showoff and Brandywine are the two best on-piste black diamond runs.
Expert skiers visiting Bolton Valley would be advised to stick to the trees for a more interesting experience. The runs are more challenging, longer and generally uncrowded. See Ultimate-Ski.com’s full off piste review below.
Bolton Valley Backcountry and Off-Piste Skiing
Bolton Valley’s best kept secret is its tree-skiing. Advanced skiers will very much enjoy exploring Bolton Valley’s numerous marked glades Moreover, because the resort tends to attract a more intermediate skier base, its trees don’t see that many skiers. We’ve found fresh lines well into the afternoon the day after a powder day without looking very hard.
Although much of Bolton Valley’s is overclassified, it’s gladed terrain is certainly not. One tree run – Cobrass’ Woods – actually has a short cliffband with some lines requiring mandatory air! Known to locals as “Jacob’s Ladder”, this series of short stepdowns over boulders is the most intense marked skiing at the resort.
Adam’s Solitude along the skier’s lefthand boundary of the resort is our favorite off-piste run. It’s a long, leg-burning run that hugs the contours of the hill through dips and hollows before emptying into a zig-zagging cat track back to the Timberline Quad.
Bolton Valley Restaurants & Bars
Bolton Valley has several on-site dining options. The James Moore Tavern on the top floor of the base lodge is the main option for dinner and table-service lunch. Fireside Flatbread just down the hall serves excellent small flatbread pizzas baked in a brick oven.
For breakfast, great sandwiches or a snack, we recommend Bolton Valley Deli and Grocery – a small convenience store located near the Bolton Valley Inn. The Bolton Valley Deli and Grocery is hopping in the morning and is a great place to fuel up for your day while hearing what’s new on the hill.
Bolton Valley Village
Bolton Valley has a small base village at the base of the Vista Quad. The village is home to the Inn at Bolton Valley (the resort’s only slopeside hotel), a few restaurants and the nordic center. The village is a bit dated, but serves a functional and affordable hub for the resort.
For those looking to explore the region, the nearest town – Bolton – is a 10 minute drive from the resort. There are a handful of shops and restaurants in Bolton, but the closest major town is Waterbury at 20 minutes from Bolton Valley. Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, is also an option at 35 minutes from the resort.
Bolton Valley Accommodation
Bolton Valley offers two types of on-mountain lodging. The Inn at Bolton Valley is the resort’s slopeside hotel. The hotel is linked via internal corridors to the main base lodge. Condos are also available in and around the base area. All Bolton Valley lodging comes with access to the Bolton Valley Sports Center, which has an indoor pool and hot tubs.
Bolton Valley Other Activities
The Bolton Valley Sports Center, just a short walk from the main base area, is host to an expansive nordic center. Bolton Valley has over 100km of nordic trails, 15km which are groomed. The resort’s backcountry nordic system is one of the best in the Northeast. The Bolton Valley Sports Center building also has a fieldhouse with indoor tennis courts and the Indoor Amusement Center – a great place for kids to play in giant inflatables.
Getting to Bolton Valley
Bolton Valley is located just 35 minutes (25 miles) east of Burlington, Vermont. The ski area is located at the end of a winding dead end access road. 4WD is recommended if snow is in the forecast.
Burlington International Airport is 30 minutes from the Bolton Valley. No transfer service is available, but major car rental companies are located in the terminal. By rail, Amtrak service is available from Washington, DC, New York, Boston, or from Montreal to the town of Waterbury just 10 miles from the resort.
Driving Times to Bolton Valley from Northeastern Cities
Burlington – 35 mins (25 mi.)
Montreal – 2 hr 15 mins (118 mi.)
Boston – 3 hr 10 mins (200 mi.)Albany – 3 hr 20 mins (160 mi.)
New York – 5 hr 35 mins (335 mi.)
Bolton Valley Resort Statistics
Top: 3,150 ft
Bottom: 1,446 ft(Timberline base, main base area – 2100 ft.)
Vertical: 1,704 ft
Skiable Area: 165 ac
Annual Snowfall: 312 in
Lifts: 6 (2 quad chairs, 3 double chairs, 1 surface)
Bolton Valley Pros and Cons
+ tremendous natural snowfall (312″)
+ fantastic glade skiing
+ region’s largest night skiing
– dated base area
– slow lifts
Updated for Winter 2015-2016 – David B. Cronheim