I hadn’t been out to the mountain since Winter Storm Elliot finished up, and although it was a mixed system in terms of precipitation, I was encouraged by how it played out for the local snowpack. The storm brought roughly 8 inches of snow to our place down in the valley, and represented a net gain in both snowpack depth and snowpack liquid equivalent. Bolton Valley was reporting 12 inches of new snow from the system, so the mountains must have fared at least as well as the valleys.
With some rain during the middle part of the system, I was wondering about the condition of the snow surfaces, so today I decided on a relatively low angle tour on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network to get a feel for how the new snow had settled in. I started at the Catamount Trail access point on the Bolton Valley Access Road, which is down around 1,200’, and toured up to around the 1,800’ elevation a bit above Caribou Corner. Those are relatively low elevations overall, and 1,200’ is below even the Timberline Base, so it would certainly be a challenging stress test to speak to the quality and utility of the snowpack.
At 1,200’ at the parking area I found about 4 to 5 inches of powder above the base snow, and most notably, I couldn’t really find a rain crust. There was a clear demarcation between the consolidated base and the surface snow, at least around the parking area where the snowpack is a bit more exposed to snow maintenance and sunshine. The depth of the powder quickly increased as I ascended, and by about 1,500’ I was easily finding 6 to 12 inches of powder. It became hard to judge the depth of the surface snow though, because I typically couldn’t even find an interface between the new snow and the underlying snowpack; the wetter precipitation from the storm must have either drained well or transitioned smoothly to snow. I’d say total snowpack depth was probably around 10 to 12 inches at 1,200’ and 12 to 16 inches at 1,800’, but there’s plenty of substance to it, so it’s quite skiable up to moderate angles in maintained areas, and obviously it’s going to be notably deeper up above 2,000’.
In terms of the skiing, the powder was actually too deep for the lowest angle sections on the tour, and I’d have to use existing skin tracks or other skier tracks to maintain or pick up speed. The next tier of pitches skied great with the snow though. I typically like that tour up to Caribou Corner when there’s about 4 to 6 inches of powder over a consolidated base, so this really was a bit deeper than that, and I’d say folks should move on up to moderate angle terrain for the best backcountry turns, especially with additional snow falling over the next couple of days. There was light snow falling during my tour in the form of those big fluffy flakes, and I see that the resort reported an inch of new this morning.
The season snowfall seems roughly on track at our house observations site as of Christmas. Snowfall to date on the 25th was 40.1” vs. a mean of 40.4”, and snowpack depth at 10.5” was a few inches above average. The SDD for the season were a little behind average pace at 146.5 SDD vs. the 162.2 SDD average. I can see in the data that the SDD deficiency is largely due to that slow first half of December, because we were still ahead of average SDD as of the end of November, and then the pace started to fall off before picking up again in the second half of the month.