Bolton Valley, VT 20DEC2008
As we approach the Christmas holiday, snowstorms are really stacked up for the Northeast. Storm #1 came through on Wednesday and Thursday (December 17th & 18th), dropping 7.1 inches at our location in Waterbury (495’), and before storm #2 had even arrived, we picked up another 1.6 inches from a frontal passage on Thursday evening. Storms #2 and #3, were expected to pass through over the weekend (Fri/Sat and Sun/Mon respectively), and looked to be even bigger, although storm #2 was initially expected to be more of a Central/Southern New England Event.
Yesterday, while storm #2 was already hitting Western New York State quite hard, I was able to note its progression into our area from my vantage point at UVM in Burlington. Mid to late morning I saw the first signs of snow from the event as it began to interact with the mountains:
“I'm in Burlington now, so I've got a good view of the Green Mountain spine from Mansfield south to the Lincoln Peak area, and things are certainly starting to happen there. This morning there were some areas of thin or cloudless sky with a nice sunrise, but thick clouds have been building in since then. Over the past 20 to 30 minutes, it already appears as if a couple pockets of snow have started to drop along the spine - one in the region between Bolton Mountain and the I-89/Winooski Valley corridor and then another between Mt. Ira Allen and Stark Mountain.”
Being on the northern fringe of the event, our area was initially under a winter weather advisory for 3 to 6 inches, but yesterday we were upped to a winter storm warning for 4 to 8 inches of snow, and by the way the snow was pounding down even in the Burlington area on yesterday evening, it looked like we would be on the high end of that accumulation range or even surpass it. After attending a couple of different gatherings yesterday evening, we finally got back to Waterbury and I was able to assess the day’s snowfall accumulation and check on the latest updates to the forecast:
Friday, December 19th, 2008: 10:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT
New Snow: 7.9 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.40 inches
Snow/Water Ratio: 19.8
Snow Density: 5.1%
Temperature: 9.0 F
Dew Point: -5.8 F
Barometer: 30.18 in. Hg
Sky: Moderate Snow
Storm snow total: 7.9 inches
Storm liquid equivalent total: 0.40 inches
Current snow at the stake: 15 inches
Season snowfall total: 56.2 inches
“The snow started at ~1:45 P.M. this afternoon in Burlington, and as others have noted with this system, it quickly ramped up to significant intensity. We were in the Burlington area most of the evening, and snow was beautiful fluffy stuff falling at roughly an inch per hour. Burlington was only under a winter weather advisory for 3 to 6 inches earlier in the day, but they eventually surpassed the 6-inch mark and I noticed that the Burlington NWS upgraded the area to a winter storm warning. The change was discussed in an update put out this evening:”
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BURLINGTON VT
652 PM EST FRI DEC 19 2008
.NEAR TERM /THROUGH SATURDAY/...
-- Changed Discussion --
AS OF 650 PM EST FRIDAY...HAVE UPDATED THE FORECAST TO UPGRADE
CHITTENDEN...LAMOILLE...AND CALEDONIA COUNTIES FROM WINTER WEATHER
ADVISORY TO A WINTER STORM WARNING. A NARROW BAND OF MODERATE TO
HEAVY SNOW DEVELOPED ACROSS NORTHERN NEW YORK AND NORTHERN VERMONT
EARLIER THIS EVENING ALONG AN AREA OF DEFORMATION ALOFT. SNOWFALL
TOTALS IN THE BURLINGTON AREA HAVE ALSO BEEN ENHANCED AS NORTH
WINDS ARE FUNNELED DOWN AND CONVERGE ALONG THE NARROWING CHAMPLAIN
VALLEY. THIS HAS RESULTED IN SNOWFALL AMOUNTS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES IN
JUST A COUPLE OF HOURS. SEE ALBPNSBTV FOR A FULL LISTING OF
SNOWFALL AMOUNTS SO FAR. BUFKIT SOUNDINGS ARE SATURATED TO NEARLY
25 KFT AND INDICATE FAVORABLE SNOW GROWTH EXISTS FROM THE SURFACE
UP TO 10-15 KFT. GIVEN THESE FACTORS...FEEL HEAVY SNOWFALL WILL
CONTINUE THROUGH THE NEXT FEW HOURS AND UPPED STORM TOTAL SNOWFALL
AMOUNTS TO AROUND 8 INCHES IN NORTHERN VERMONT...WITH LOCALLY
HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE. NO OTHER CHANGES ARE NEEDED AT THIS TIME.
ALL UPDATED PRODUCTS HAVE BEEN ISSUED.
“When I saw that extra area of deformation snow on the radar, it seemed likely that Northern Vermont was going to get in on some bonus snowfall. Moderate snow fell all the way on our drive back to Waterbury, and the roads were actually in decent shape. Much of I-89 was clear pavement, with the biggest issue being visibility when the snowfall intensified or another car passed. Off the interstate, the roads were generally packed snow, but the driving was fine.
Back at the house I found 7.9 inches of new snow on the snowboard, and the snow had stacked up fairly vertically as opposed to creating a trapezoidal shape the way many snowfalls do. So as of now we are right near the top end of the 4 to 8-inch accumulations forecast in our winter storm warning, and we may pick up a bit more snow overnight. I measured 0.40 inches of liquid from my core sample off the snowboard, and as there was a lull in the snowfall not long after my observations, I also brought in the snow/rain gauge. It really looked like the gauge had overflowed, but the liquid it collected (0.36 inches) was only 10% below what I got off the snowboard, so it apparently didn’t miss too much of the precipitation. The new snow is beautiful powder with a water content of ~5%, so it should ski beautifully assuming it wasn’t too hammered by wind in the higher elevations.”
It snowed a bit more overnight, and as of 7:00 A.M. this morning we’d picked up 9.8 inches of snow at our house in Waterbury. Even though the snow was derived from a big synoptic system and not a localized “upslope” style event, it had that upslope-style density and my valley calculations revealed that we were looking at some beautiful 4-5% H2O Champlain Powder™.
As the storm came through, some cold came with it, and the forecast called for temperatures rising only into the mid teens F for today. I was skeptical about how comfortable the skiing would be, since we were looking at 8 F down at the house this morning, and it was probably colder up on the mountain. It wouldn’t be bad if there was no wind, but single digits and a lot of wind could take some of the fun out of the skiing. I didn’t want to take Dylan out if it was going to be that cold (he was not at all happy when I told him he couldn’t go) but I decided that Ty might be OK with those temperatures. If it was too cold we’d just take a couple runs and head home. In the end, the weather and snow turned out to be so great that it’s hard to believe there was ever a question about hitting the mountain.
Ty and I arrived in the Bolton Valley village (2,100’) to a temperature of 5 F, but it was nice to see that there was absolutely zero wind… at least from what we could see in the parking lot. We hopped on the Vista Quad and were relieved to find out that the air was calm all the way to the Vista Summit (3,150’), so things were looking very good. It was snowing lightly, but visibility was decent, and we started off the morning’s skiing with a run on Cobrass, which was requested by Ty. The dry snow from the storm certainly hadn’t been enough to resurface everything, as the steep upper pitch of Cobrass still had a few spots that were wind scoured down to the ground. We worked our way around those areas, and Ty was extremely good about avoiding them, since he said he didn’t want his ski bases messed up. Fortunately the top part of Cobrass still held great powder on the sides, especially skier’s right, and as soon as we were done with the steep pitch the coverage was good everywhere. We connected on down to Cobrass Run, which had packed powder with a couple fresh inches where they had groomed in the middle, and powder off to the sides. The mountain was reporting 11 inches of new snow, and in general I was finding depths in the 8 to 12-inch range when I checked with my measurement pole on our descent of the main mountain (elevations 2,100’ – 3,150’).
Ty had had such a blast on that run that we did it again with a Five Corners variation at the end to get into more powder. This season I’ve been working with Ty on getting his weight more forward, keeping his poles up, and getting his pole plant timing down, so he continued to work on that and it was nice to see him apply it in the powder. He still needed to be reminded most of the time, but whenever I’d say something he’d really try hard to work on it and I expect it will sink in eventually. Five Corners had not been groomed at all and possessed just a few tracks. Ty had a lot of fun on there, putting his own track down the skier’s right of the trail where there was a big expanse of untracked snow.
After that we caught some powder in the Snowflake area, rode the Snowflake Lift up and then cycled the Mid Mountain Lift a few times. We hit the Forest once, and Ty got first tracks through much of his favorite line before it merged into the other parts of the Forest. I brought Ty for a couple laps over on Glades, and he liked the option of the chute off to the left, even if he had to go to the side to get untracked snow. Glades was mostly chowder by the time we hit it, but I kept on Ty about his poles and weight so he could practice in steeper, uneven terrain. I had fun and opened it up in there a couple times to show him what he’d eventually be able to do if he kept practicing and worked on his technique.
Next I decided to challenge Ty with something steeper, so we hit the Vista summit and I brought him down Vermont 200. There were a few scoured areas in the top section, and he balked at the very steepest ledge section which had poor coverage. I can’t blame him, since it was such a technical and poorly-covered section that even I was happy side stepping so as not to ruin my skis. Below that pitch the coverage was excellent, and Ty’s eyes lit up when he saw the big area of untracked powder off to the right where the trail forks. We finished the lower mountain with a standard Glades run, and by then I figured he’d earned a good lunch with all the powder he’d been skiing.
We headed up to the James Moore Tavern for lunch, and had to wait a few minutes before they opened up at 11:00 A.M. We were the only ones there at first and got a window seat looking out on the slopes. As we enjoyed the view, it wasn’t long before we realized that there was a ton of untracked snow to be had in the Chill Zone terrain park. We’d almost ventured in there earlier in the morning when we’d ridden the Snowflake Lift, and I told Ty there would be powder, but he’d wanted to hit Sprig O’ Pine (probably to hit some of his favorite jumps). He should know by now that I have a pretty good nose for untracked snow, and I bet he would have liked a run in the Chill Zone if he’d known the conditions. While we ate, we sat and watched as the sun came out and a few folks began to get into the terrain park powder, and we decided that after lunch we were going to have to plunder that stash. The conditions were looking so good that I called down to the house to see if E and Dylan wanted to come up and join us for lunch and maybe some turns. It had warmed up enough that Dylan would have had no problem, and the powder was so light that he would probably have handled that pretty well too. Unfortunately they were getting a lot of stuff done at the house and were still well in inside mode, so they decided not to come up.
When we were done eating we hit the Snowflake Lift and knocked out four runs in the terrain park area, mixing it up between the progression side, which Ty liked, and the Chill Zone side, which I liked. There were a number of folks getting into the terrain park at that point, but they appeared to be there for the powder, not necessarily the features. It’s too bad they don’t leave the terrain park features ungroomed all the time, as they’re quite fun to track up. Ty had some really nice turns in the powder, and after a full morning in the deep stuff his form was certainly improving. The sun had come out while we were at lunch, and when we were out skiing in the terrain park powder I thought about just how perfect the day had become. With the sun, the temperature had risen to near 20 F, there was still no sign of wind, and the snow was pretty amazing. Having roughly a foot of 4-5% H2O powder that hadn’t been hit at all by wind, combined with near perfect skiing weather doesn’t happen every day, so we were glad we’d caught it. By the end of the morning the Suunto had recorded 11 runs, with 5,715’ of descent.
When I got home I added the next dose of powder to the storm’s tally, and took a look at what the totals had been for the Vermont ski areas. The Killington area had seemed to do nicely with 17 inches from the event.
Follow up: When the storm finally finished up in the morning the total was 11.6” of snow and liquid equivalent of 0.47 inches for an overall snow/water ratio of 24.7 or snow density of 4.0% H2O. I had no sooner taken my last reading and cleaned out my rain gauge and the next storm was on our doorstep.
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