Bolton Valley, VT 28OCT2016

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Taking advantage of our recent plentiful snows to get in my first turns of the season

We’ve had an impressive run of October snow over the past week in Vermont’s Green Mountains.  It started off with the big synoptic storm last weekend that dropped a foot or so of dense snow in the in the higher elevations.  After the system passed, we sat in the leftover cyclonic flow centered off toward the Canadian Maritimes for a few days, and that brought additional rounds of accumulating upslope snow.  And most recently, we had another large storm that started up yesterday.  It hit hard overnight and continued into today, delivering another 6 to 8 inches of hefty snow.  For local ski areas that have been keeping track of the accumulations, here’s what I’ve seen reported for totals this past week:

Stowe: 20”
Bolton Valley: 19”
Sugarbush: 19”
Killington: 17.5”

The snow that’s fallen is by no means just fluff – it’s really hefty stuff with a lot of water in it.  Thus there hasn’t been a lot of settling, and the snow has really put down quite a base.  Indeed, the ski resorts know what a substantial contribution this snow can represent to the start of their base building – Killington opened up for lift-served skiing starting on Tuesday, and even Stowe has started making snow, which they would never do in October if they didn’t think they’d be able to hold onto a good amount of it heading into November.

“…I was really psyched with how the turns felt – they were actually some of the easiest first turns of the season that I can recall in a long time, so I guess my legs are ready.”

I wasn’t able to get out for the last big storm on Sunday, but I had a bit of time this morning and had a chance to head up to Bolton Valley to check out what had transpired in the higher elevations and catch a few turns.  The bulk of the snow fell last night while it was dark, so I really only knew what was going on at our place down at 500’ in the Winooski Valley.  It was snowing for much of the evening, although it only accumulated to 0.2” due to the marginal temperatures in the 34 to 35 F range.  When I checked on the weather this morning, it appeared as though the snow level had crept upward a bit because our precipitation at the house was a mix of mostly rain with just a bit of snow.  That had me a little concerned about just how high the snow level had climbed, but so much liquid had fallen by that point (0.79” in our gauge) that there had to be a lot of snow up high.

An image showing heavy October snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Arriving in the Village to heavy snowfall

I assembled my ski gear for a tour, paying special attention to not miss any of those items that one can often forget on that first outing of the season, and headed up to Bolton.  On the way up the Bolton Valley Access Road I saw the first signs of what I think was vestigial snow from last night’s lower snow levels at around 1,000’.  Snow quickly began to appear more frequently above that point, and it was around 1,400’ when the precipitation changed over to all snow.  Up in the Village lots at 2,000’ it was dumping big, fat flakes up to 2” in diameter.  It was hard to get a handle on how much snow fell from this most recent event since it was on top of previous rounds of snow, but depending on when the last plowing happened, I was finding 4” new in the 2,000’ elevation lot.  The mountain was reporting 6-8”, which didn’t surprise me at all for the higher elevations.

“It was a great ascent, temperatures were right around the freezing mark, there was no wind, and those huge flakes just kept pouring down.”

I headed up the usual Lower Turnpike ascent route, and was happy to find that there was a skin track in place from a couple of earlier skiers.  It was a great ascent, temperatures were right around the freezing mark, there was no wind, and those huge flakes just kept pouring down.  I only had enough time to make it up to the intersection with the Wilderness Lift Line at ~2,500’, but I’d pressed a quick pace and got a decent workout nonetheless.  When I began my descent I was really psyched with how the turns felt – they were actually some of the easiest first turns of the season that I can recall in a long time, so I guess my legs are ready.  And, as I noted earlier, this snow is most certainly not fluff – it’s dense with lots of liquid in it.  There was no concern about hitting the ground on turns, and there’s actually hardly any brush even showing on the trails.  The skiing was great; they certainly weren’t the highest “quality” October turns I’ve had with respect to snow consistency, but the snow certainly wasn’t sopping wet. I was happy to be on my115 mm fats to keep myself from getting bogged down in that dense stuff though.  I’d recommend going fairly fat for anyone that is heading up for some turns in this snow.  The snow though dense, actually delivered some nice powder turns.

An image snowing the total snow depth on October 28th at an elevation of 2,500' at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontDuring my tour I checked total snow depth frequently, and I’d say it was something in the range of 8-12” at 2,000’, and a solid 15” at 2,500’.  I’m not sure how much more it increased above that point, but 15” at 2,500’ is obviously great for October.  All I can say is “wow” with regard to the coverage on those trails though.  It’s been an impressive series of storms up high, and I can’t wait until we can get into some more winter storm cycles, which at this point appears like it will be a week or two away in November.  Whatever the case, it would be nice to get at least a bit of a break from storms to take care of the lawn and everything else around the house that needs to be prepped for winter.

First storm of the winter season in the Greens

An image from the Burlington National Weather Service showing projected snow accumulations for our first October snowstorm of the season
The projected accumulations of roughly a foot of snow in the higher elevations of the Green Mountains came to fruition today.

We’ve had several days to watch the forecasts building up to a potential first snowfall of the 2016-2017 winter season for the Green Mountains of Vermont.  The storm was projected to move along the coast and up into the Canadian Maritimes, which, as usual, would put it at the point where cold, moist air could wrap around and hit the spine of the Greens from the northwest.  Yesterday afternoon the snow levels began to drop toward the summits, and as daylight began to fade we were able to see that snow was starting to accumulate up near 4,000’ via the new Lincoln Peak Snow Cam.  At around 10:30 P.M. I looked outside and saw that snow had made it all the way down to our house at just 500’ in the Winooski Valley, which meant that the mountains were well into the snow.  We’d accumulated a couple of tenths of an inch of snow at the house before I headed off to bed.

As of this morning we’d picked up about a half inch of snow down at the house, and accumulations reports began to come in from around the area.  One of the more surprising results the storm was just how much snow had accumulated at relatively low elevations on the western slopes of the GreensThere were reports of up to 6 inches of dense snow in areas that still had substantial leaves on their trees, and combined with some aggressive winds that meant downed trees, travel difficulties, and some power outages.

In the higher elevations, Powderfreak reported finding 5.5 inches at 1,500’ the base of Stowe Mountain Resort, a foot at 2,000’ – 2,500’, and accumulations seemed to generally top out in that range up and down the Central and Northern Green MountainsBolton Valley reporting 9 inches, 11 inches were found at the Mount Mansfield Stake, and there were images of waist-deep drifts at Jay Peak.  I didn’t get a chance to get out on the slopes because we were down at a New England Revolution match at Gillette Stadium, but it looked like the dense snow did a decent job of covering up surfaces to enable some fun October turns.  The weather looks relatively cool this week, so the snow shouldn’t be going anywhere immediately, and I heard Killington even plans to open on Tuesday to start the lift-served ski season.