A strong frontal boundary has been draped across Northern New England for the past day or so, and this front is huge – it extends all the way up from the lower Mississippi Valley into northern Maine, New Brunswick, and beyond. On the south side of the boundary there’s lots of rain, and on the north side there’s snow and various forms of mixed precipitation. Here in Northern Vermont we’re really walking that line, and thus we’ve been treated to quite an amalgam of precipitation types. We had some snow on Friday morning, then some rain later in the day, which transitioned to freezing rain in the evening and overnight. Fortunately, the temperatures warmed up to around 40 F this morning, the precipitation shut off for a while, and indeed it was a wonderful morning to be outside.
Naturally, the nice weather got me thinking about skiing. I didn’t actually expect to be doing any skiing this weekend with on all the messy precipitation out there, but the morning lull seemed too good to pass up. I checked the radar and saw that there was about an hour or so before the next batch of precipitation moved in, and that would be plenty of time to work out the legs for a bit on the Telemark skis. I also knew that the snow was going to be nice and soft, because the cold air has generally been in the valleys, and in fact the mountains have been warmer. The Bolton Valley Weather Station at 2,100’ was reporting temperatures in the mid 40s F, and that would definitely soften up even the toughest snow.
“…on my next trip I
took Alta Vista, and
that was the run of
I couldn’t convince anyone else to go up to the mountain with me, since the boys were having way too much fun sledding in the yard, and even with the lull in precipitation, E wasn’t thrilled with the weather situation. I had to go it alone, so at around 10:30 A.M. I got my ski gear together and loaded up the car. I was just about to drive out when I got a bit distracted. I saw the boys making runs on their sleds, and they were having a ton of fun. After we talked for a bit, we decided to have them head down onto one of the lower runs on our property that had a fairly large jump. My friend Chris has lent me his Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens for some testing, and since we’re unfortunately past the fall soccer season, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to put the lens to work. Let’s just say that f/2.8 rocks, and even with only winter solstice light for my 30D to work with, I was able to get down to around 1/2000 sec at ISO 200. The boys put on quite a show, and I was able to capture some nice shots during the test.
We probably spent an hour shooting sled jumps and putting the lens through its paces, and when we were finally done, I reassembling my gear and prepared to head up to the mountain. Within moments, it began to rain, and of course my weather window had closed. I had to wait until early afternoon, but eventually another window opened. It wasn’t as precipitation free as earlier, but it looked like it was going to be my best shot to get in some turns. Although I knew the weather was still warm up on the mountain, I wanted to get going – our temperature had dropped to 35 F at the house, and I didn’t want to have to deal with ice on the roads if the temperature dropped too low. As I drove west down the Winooski Valley, the temperature fell to 34 F in Bolton Flats, and finally 33 F at 340’ in Bolton, at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road. The temperature hung there as I drove upward, and once I got above 1,000’ the temperature began to increase. I proceeded to drive up through several very interesting bands of fog and clouds, and by the time I got up to the Bolton Valley Village at 2,100’, the temperature had risen into the low to mid 40s F. Getting out of the car felt like stepping into the bathroom while someone was showering.
With low clouds and on and off light rain, it wasn’t surprising that just a handful of people were out skiing, but the snow looked good. I hopped on the Vista Quad, and headed down Spillway Lane for my first run. I’d heard that Vermont 200 and Schuss were open, but I found their ropes up as I approached them. The coverage didn’t look too bad at that point, although with the soft snow I’m sure that too much skier traffic could have been detrimental. I continued on the Sherman’s Pass route instead, finishing off with a good run down Beech Seal that had me working hard simply because of the low visibility. You really had to be on your toes because you could only see a turn or so ahead.
Since Vermont 200 and Schuss were closed, on my next trip I took Alta Vista, and that was the run of the day. On the skier’s left, there was a beautiful mixture of soft manmade and natural snow, and the turns were great. Ty loves that area, so I wished he’d been there to ski it. It was good enough that I had to hit it again before I finished up, so I burned the legs for another round. The snow was soft everywhere, and the runs were skiing quite well, although if you ventured too far off the groomed runs into the natural snow it was mushy. You could also see that some of the natural snow trails were losing cover due to the warm conditions, and it’s funny to think that snow was probably melting up on the slopes more than down in the valley.
Since I hadn’t eaten lunch, I stopped in at Fireside Flatbread for a slice, and got to catch up with Josh Arneson. I told him I’d just seen the new trail maps with Dylan on the cover, and the picture was great. Not surprisingly, it was just me and a few employees hanging around, and it had that pre-holiday vibe. The pizza was great as usual – I went with a margherita-style slice.
When I headed back down to the valley, the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees in the Village, and I found the same 33 F at the bottom of the access road. Things were definitely right on the border of freezing up though – when I stopped to gas up at the Bolton Store, the pavement at the gas station was in a half frozen/slushy state, and you could tell that it was on its way to hardening up. Back at the house, the temperature had dropped to 33.1 F, and it wasn’t long before we were back below the freezing mark. There’s the potential for more freezing rain tonight, so we’re hoping it’s minimal enough to not promote issues with trees and power lines. Even though this storm has been messy, it’s likely that many areas will get a net gain of liquid equivalent in the snowpack to substantiate the base. However, we’ll need additional snow to cover up the firmness when the mountain temperatures drop.