Vermont’s most expansive night skiing operation at Bolton Valley keeps people enjoying Friday and Saturday nights on open trails since 1966.
It feels very strange to turn up the access road to a ski area just as darkness is falling. Skiing, we could all agree, is for the most part a daytime activity. But while the weekend crowd is still making their way north tonight and the following morning, the evening trails make it possible to get a few runs in ahead of the crowd on 900 vertical feet.
“We’re thirty minutes from Burlington and thirty minutes from Barre and Montpelier – two of the state’s biggest population centers,” says Josh Arneson, director of sales and marketing at Bolton Valley. “It works for people to get out of work or class and come ski until eight or ten on Fridays. It’s certainly a locals scene. Some of our destination travelers on the weekends will come and ski on Saturday night but the core is the locals that come and ski when they otherwise couldn’t.”
On a clear and cold evening, the view is pristinely clear. The lights of Burlington and even Plattsburgh, N.Y. are still visible. It’s a Friday night and the parking lot and base area of Bolton Valley is still busy.
Inside the base lodge, Diane Ingham of Georgia is warming her toes after a few runs. While she’s an experienced skier, she’s skied under the lights at Bolton twice.
“It was on my bucket list,” she says.
Lynn Johnston came with her family from Burlington. For a busy family with other commitments, skiing under the lights is a great way to spend a Friday night.
“We do a lot of sports so we can’t get out on the slopes during the day because of basketball, skating or another event,” she says. “So the night becomes our opportunity to ski.”
Plus, there’s never any lift lines, the food is good and the lift tickets are cheap – just $19 for access to four lifts and ten trails off of Bolton’s Vista Peak. Johnson says they don’t buy season’s passes, so they appreciate a bargain when they head to Bolton, Smugglers’ Notch or even as far away as Jay Peak.
For Johnston, skiing at night is a special experience.
“I think there’s something about the nighttime that gives you a little more confidence,” she says. “It’s you and the trail and you don’t worry as much about the ice.”
Outside on the hill, the lifelines are nonexistent and the packed powder trails are peaceful and wide open for the skiers and riders gliding down under the lights. Even a handful of jackjumpers make skidding turns on their way down the hill.
One of these skiers, Keith Lance, grew up in Northfield and says he has been skiing at Bolton Valley for at least 15 years. As a kid, every Friday and Saturday night, he’d head to Bolton to ski with his parents, brothers and cousins. At 29, he’s introduced his two daughters to the sport and they try and ski as much as they can at Bolton or Northeast Slopes in East Corinth. Tonight, they braved the temperatures to ski from 7 to 9 p.m.
“Some people have never been [night skiing] and it’s something they definitely should try. If you like skiing then you’ll like this as well. Night or day, there’s no difference.”
Bolton Valley is one of only a handful of resorts around the state that offers skiing under lights. Cochran’s Ski Area, located just minutes away, opened night skiing in 2010
Families aren’t the only ones that enjoy the Friday night scene. Johnny Pagoda and Joe Ferlazzo are two tattoo artists from Burlington. After a full day in their respective studios, they hop in the car for the thirty-minute drive down the interstate for an evening of riding.
“It’s fun, riding in the dark, Pagoda says. “There are some spots that push your riding to the next level by making you more sensitive on your feet. If you can’t see the elevation change as well as you typically can during the day, you learn to just go with it.”
Bolton Valley’s Josh Arneson says the resort has looked at adding one or two more trails to the nighttime trail lineup, but no expansions are planned. As people set their clocks ahead an hour and the temperatures start to rise with spring, he expects the mountain’s popularity to grow.
“We’re going into my favorite part of night skiing with the clocks going forward,” he says. “It’ll be light until seven o’clock and we’ll keep the main peak open until eight. That means skiing in direct sunlight with views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. It’s going to be awesome.”