Killington, VT 24APR2010

It seems that as of this season, Dylan has finally reached the point where he could handle a day of spring bumps at Killington, so we headed down for some skiing on Saturday.  We were actually hoping to bring the boys out for some Superstar mogul bashing in May, but rumor had it Killington’s lifts might be done after the weekend.  With nice sunny weather available, we decided we’d better get down there.

Although the drive down is only about an hour, it was replete with unexpected scenery that was in places, rather amazing.  I’m not sure if it was because of the very early onset of warmth we had at the end of winter, but something has conspired to make this spring’s foliage some of the more colorful I’ve seen.  Because of the way that the various yellows, greens, oranges, reds, purples, pinks, and even white are coming out, it’s acting like a second round of fall in terms of foliage.  I’ve not noticed it much around Waterbury and Burlington, but we started to see frequent foliage displays in the Randolph area along I-89, enough that I had to actually pull out my camera as we approached the White River Valley.  We found impressive views of color through Bethel and Stockbridge, and even down to the Pittsfield area.  The White River certainly wasn’t raging, but it was looking as beautiful as ever and we saw lots of people out in Canoes and Kayaks.  South of Pittsfield, the foliage colors seemed to taper off as we got into the higher peaks of the Killington area, where few if any leaves were out.

Views of the snow on Killington’s slopes were visible from way back on I-89, and we pointed out the views to the boys.  The boys have been down to Killington in the fall, but it would be a new area for them in terms of skiing.  In fact, it was the first time that any of us have been skiing at Killington since returning from Montana, and the first time we’ve headed south of Waterbury for lift-served skiing this season.  We told the boys that between the bump skiing and party scene that is Killington in the spring, they would be in for quite an experience.

I generally haven’t headed down to Killington for spring skiing until May, and there were certainly more people partying it up than I was used to, but also more trail options.  The mountain has usually been down to just Superstar when I’ve been there, but on Saturday they also had Skyelark and Bittersweet available.  There was also plenty of snow on the trails up near Killington Peak for those that wanted to traverse or earn some more secluded runs.

Ty was pretty funny at the start of the ski day.  I think he generally skis enough that he’s not bursting with anticipation to get on the snow, but as we first rode the Superstar Quad on Saturday and he saw what the skiing looked like, he blurted out something to the effect of, “I just want to jump off right now and ski!”  We got a kick out of his unexpected enthusiasm.

Coverage was generally wall to wall on Superstar with just a few spots of thin cover that warranted caution.  If the boys ever sat down to rest or wait for others in the group, they would disappear below the sea of bumps.  If just their heads were sticking out it looked a lot like they were swimming in a white sea.  Bittersweet was lots of fun, with some mellower bumps, and we did two round of follow the leader on there that the boys really enjoyed.  After Dylan was kaput, E took him to the car while Ty and I hit a final run on Skyelark.  Skyelark had a section near the bottom that was getting thin with the best tracks on the sides, and unless they moved any snow it would probably be the first route to become discontinuous.  I will say that after spending my first day riding Superstar and friends on Telemark skis, I have an even greater appreciation for Rossi at all those annual Broken Rib/Missing Tooth Tour days at Killington.

On the way home we wanted to stop at the Peavine Restaurant/Pub in Stockbridge, but noticed that they weren’t opening until Sunday, so we continued on into Bethel and ate at Cockadoodle Pizza Café – everybody loved the name.  It feels like an old house, with some of the various rooms serving as seating areas with eclectic mixtures of tables and chairs.

So after a weekend with a definite spring skiing feel, it sounds like we could be back into some powder for the midweek period.  At this point, Jay Peak appears to be the hot spot with roughly a foot or more of snow anticipated, but potential accumulations look nice right down the spine of the Northern Greens through the Mt. Mansfield/Bolton/Camel’s Hump area.  The predictions on the latest storm total snow forecast maps from the Burlington NWS even look like they have jumped up a bit from where they were this morning.  Powderfreak says it’s a classic northwest upslope flow setup, which is good news.  We didn’t seem to have quite the payload of upslope events this season compared to what we sometimes get, so hopefully it will be another nice reprise of winter with some powder days like we had a week ago.  We’ll see how it plays out.

Bolton Valley, VT 19APR2010

Today I headed up to the mountain for the final round of snow from the weekend system.  The first traces of snow on the ground were again around the 1,800’ level along the access road, and the temperature was near freezing in the village (2,100’).  It was hard to tell with some of the older accumulations of snow still hanging around, but I don’t think there had been much new snow accumulation at the base elevations since I’d last been there yesterday morning.  There had definitely been some precipitation since that time, but I suspect the temperatures kept new snow from sticking in the village.

Thanks to what had fallen before, there was at least some snow coverage all the way to the base elevations, but my first encounter with the snow revealed a surface that wasn’t that inspiring.  The freezing line had gone up yesterday, and now that it had come back down, those areas with wet snow were crunchy and any impressions in the snow were locked up like hardened plaster.  I was confident that temperatures had stayed low enough in the higher elevations though, so I suspected there were going to be some good turns up there somewhere.

I hopped on my usual skin track at the bottom of Beech Seal, but eventually diverged to set a new track up Sprig O’ Pine and Cobrass Run to get to Cobrass itself.  After a few days of skinning across Cobrass Lane, I was feeling like this new route might be a more direct way to get to Cobrass.  As I was first skinning through the crusty snow at the base, I wondered how that stuff was going to transform into the quality snow that I suspected to find up high.  Watching the transformations in snow quality or depth as one ascends is always interesting to me, and yesterday revealed quite a diverse snow/elevation profile in just a thousand feet of elevation gain.  For the first couple hundred feet of the ascent, I didn’t notice much of a change in the snow consistency, and then with each plant of my pole I had the feeling that the crust was getting thinner.  Soon, with flicks of my pole I found what appeared to be powder sitting on top of the crust, almost unperceivable at first, but it was soon obvious.  It was eventually hard to say if the crusty snow was getting softer, or the powder on top was getting deeper, but by the time I’d reached mid mountain (-2,500’) I was skinning through some decent fresh snow.  The crustiness was gone, and the transformation from that point was just an increase in lighter powder atop a gradient of denser snow below.  It looked like the skiing was going to be very nice on the top half of the mountain.

As I ascended Cobrass, I encountered powdery drifts in the range of 6 to 12 inches on top of the previous rounds of snow, and with a bit of wind and temperatures below freezing, it was actually starting to feel a lot like winter again.  By the Cobrass picnic table at roughly 2,900’ I took the opportunity to get a settled snow measurement for the whole event, since it looked we’d seen our final round of snowfall.  I measured just shy of 8 inches of depth on the seat of the table, and the top of the stack actually featured some pretty dry snow.  I finished my ascent and checked on the snow plot I’d been monitoring to find that the depth of the overnight snowfall was right at three inches.  With that in the bank, it put the event snow totals at around 3 to 4 inches at 2,100’, and 11 to 13 inches at 3,100’ based on what I’ve seen over the four days of snowfall.  Down at the house this morning, I’d recorded my final precipitation from the system:  0.23 inches of liquid for the previous 24 hours.  That brought my valley precipitation total to 2.06 inches, so presumably the mountain picked up at least that much liquid, and in the higher elevations, most of that is still locked up in the snowpack.  For reference, measurements at the Mt. Mansfield stake recorded 11 inches of snow and 3.17 inches of liquid equivalent for the period, and on Mt. Washington, 15.2 inches of snow and 1.72 inches of liquid were recorded.  In any case, this event certainly gave a boost to the snowpack in the higher elevations; the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake went from 43 inches on 4/15 to 54 inches on 4/18.

The sun started to come out while I was putting away my skins, so I grabbed a few more photos and then it was time to ski.  I could say that today was the crème de la crème in terms of skiing with this system, but it may not have been, and each day had its strengths.  Today won hands down in terms of snowpack of course.  The continued accumulations of dense snow really made skiing practical on all but the steepest/ledgy runs or those with substantial underlying debris.  Also, today the upper mountain was topped off with some of the driest snow accumulations that I’ve seen over these past few days.  But, wind definitely did some work up high, packing the powder down in some areas, and the skiing was crusty and not too fun below mid mountain.  After checking out Spillway and Hard Luck, I could see that the wind had worked them a little.  I didn’t have the time for multiple runs, so I opted to go with some turns down Sherman’s Pass because I could see it was a sure thing.  The turns on the upper half of Sherman’s were really nice.  While skiing, I still only sunk down into those first few inches of light powder, but below that layer was a gradient of denser snow that was really smooth and soft.  Turns were decent down to about 2,400’, a bit below mid mountain, and below there it was still crusty and I just skied it out.  Certainly lapping the upper half of the mountain was the way to go if one had the time.

Just as I was approaching the base, I ran into Nile starting his ascent, and we chatted for a minute while I gave him the lowdown on the conditions I’d seen.  He said I’d be heading into more sun as I went into Burlington, and he was right.  The clouds gradually dissipated as I headed out of the mountains, and in Burlington it was getting really nice, even though there was still a bit of breeze.  The mountain has certainly been transformed with this event, brining nearly wall to wall coverage to most places above 2,000’.  I would expect the lower mountain areas to improve with the warming (although the lowest elevations will probably melt out quickly) and on the upper mountain, the quality of turns will probably drop a bit from where they were until the snow can be cycled into corn.

Bolton Valley, VT 18APR2010

Today I headed back for a morning session at Bolton to check out last night’s new snow.  I’d say the snow level only dropped down to somewhere in the 1,500’ range last night, but it was enough to whiten up everything in the valley from 2,000’ on up with a new round of snow.  I saw the first traces of new snow at around 1,700’ on the drive up the access road, just a touch below where I’d first seen the snow yesterday afternoon.  Snow accumulations on the road itself didn’t appear until about 2,100’, right as I approached the village, and the temperature there was right around freezing.

There was about an inch of new snow in the village area, and the sun was actually peeking out of the clouds when I first arrived at the mountain.  My skin track on Beech Seal was buried, but still visible.  Accumulations at mid mountain were 1 to 2 inches, and up at the Vista summit there was 3 inches of new snow.  That puts the event snow totals at around 3 to 4 inches at 2,100’, and 8 to 10 inches at 3,100’ based on what I’ve seen over the past three days.

This latest round of snow was dense as the others have been, and up at the Vista Summit there’s now about 4 to 5 inches on top of the crusty layer from Friday, although at the top of this latest batch of snow there is a weaker crust that may have developed from rime or wet snow freezing up.  The snow accumulations are really starting to build up now, and there are a lot of terrain options that weren’t there a couple of days ago – especially on the upper mountain.  Although there was no precipitation during my ascent, when I started my descent from the Vista Summit at around 10:15 A.M., it had just started to snow, and even as I dropped in elevation, the snowfall intensified.

Hard Luck clearly had enough snow for turns, so I made a descent on part of it.  It’s steep enough that even with the good accumulation of dense snow I was still touching down to that crusty layer, so I only did a partial descent and then hiked back up so I could get in a run down Sherman’s Pass.  I actually found that the best turns this morning were not at the very highest elevations, because that new weak crust was thickest there and made the skiing a bit tricky.  However, after a couple hundred feet of descent that crust got thinner and the skiing got better and better.  The very bottom elevations of the mountain are still a bit thin on coverage, but turns were good essentially all the way back to the base.  I’ve been watching that skier’s left section of Beech Seal over the past few days, and finally felt that the snow was right to hit it today.  The turns were so good that I quickly made another run at it and put some figure eights on my tracks.  The fun part about that run was that I was actually able to skin right up Beech Seal without putting my skins back on.  The consistency of the snow was such that I could stick if I wasn’t sliding, so that made for a very quick lap.  It took about a turn or two to convince my skis to get back into sliding mode after ascending, but once they did it was very smooth.  It almost felt like going the wax route on cross country skis.

By the time I was leaving, steady snowfall was coming down in the village, and the precipitation was snow all the way down to 1,100’ before it changed over fully to rain.  We’ve had on and off rain down here at the house all day from this latest round of precipitation, so there should be yet another accumulation of snow up in the higher elevations.  The mountain was pretty quiet while I was there, but I did see one person ascending with his dog at mid mountain on my way down.

Bolton Valley, VT 17APR2010

This morning I found another 0.80 inches of liquid in the rain gauge, which represents the 24-hour total since yesterday morning and brings the event totals at this location (elevation 495’) to 0.3” snow/1.32” liquid.  It did snow here for a bit in the morning, but there was no additional accumulation down at this elevation.  Watching the radar and forecast trends, I decided that I’d head out for an afternoon session of skiing today.  There was a lot of moisture pushing in from the west, and I was hoping that it would add some additional accumulation in the mountains.  Looking out across the valley during the day, I could see that the hills had accumulations of snow down to somewhere in the 1,000’ to 1,500’ range.  It continued to rain in the valley, and the temperatures were sitting around the 40 F mark for quite a while before things warmed up a bit later in the day.

I headed up to Bolton Valley in the 3:00 to 4:00 P.M. range this afternoon, and at that point the temperatures in this part of the Winooski Valley (elevations 300’ – 500’) were in the mid 40s F.  Ascending the access road, I could see that more snow had fallen since yesterday, and the higher elevations were coated in another round of bright white.  The temperatures were warmer and the distribution of snowfall at elevation was different than what I had encountered yesterday morning; whereas yesterday morning I saw the first traces of new snowfall at around 1,200’ on the access road, this afternoon they didn’t appear until roughly 1,800’.  The temperature at the main base area (2,100’) was around 37 F when I arrived there, and there was about an inch of new snow on the ground. There was a little precipitation in the air, which was just a few spits of rain.  I could see that the freezing line had crept upward from where it probably had been earlier, and it looked like it was somewhere around mid mountain (2,500’).

I ascended using the same skin track I’d created yesterday, which in the lower elevations was still mostly visible under the new coating of snow.  There was a crusty layer under this round of snow, which was presumably derived from yesterday’s mixed precipitation.  I could tell that the overall accumulations of snow on the ground have been growing however; it looks like most of what was there yesterday was still around, sealed under a crusty layer, and now there’s another round of snow on top of it.  Up at mid mountain (~2,500’) I found about two inches of new snow, and although I hadn’t seen any other skiers, the scene was far from quiet.  The ascent of the freezing line was causing the frozen coatings on the trees to come crashing down all around me.

Above mid mountain, the precipitation switched over to snow, and the snowfall gradually picked up in intensity as I ascended Cobrass.  While the overall coverage on the top steep pitch of Cobrass is much better than it was yesterday, the ascent was actually a bit trickier due to the crusty layer under the new snow.  Once I’d reached the lower part of the Vista Summit at around 3,100’, I checked out a protected area that I’d wiped clean yesterday to get a final number on the new snow at that elevation.  I found between 2 and 3 inches of new snow, and again the measurement was made easy by the solid layer from the mixed precipitation.  I wiped it clean, and I’ll use it again to see what fell at the Vista Summit if I go up tomorrow.  With that thought in mind, the snowfall had ramped up in intensity while I was up there, and at around 5:00 P.M. when I was beginning my descent, it was coming down with the greatest intensity I’d seen.  I’d say that it was still below the level of moderate snowfall, but it was very steady and certainly accumulating.

I descended via Sherman’s Pass again, which still seems the most practical option, and there were a couple of tracks on it from other skiers that had taken it earlier in the day.  I was worried about that crusty layer underneath, but the 2 to 3 new inches up there were more than dense enough to keep me off the base in untracked areas.  The skiing was very nice down to about the 2,700’ level, just below the Sherman’s Pass hairpin, at which point the snow quickly got sticky.  For quality turns, I’d say lapping the top 400 to 500 feet of vertical would have been the best bet, since below that level I was just letting the skis run to keep up speed in the sticky snow.  So, while those upper-elevation turns were almost on par with what I skied up there yesterday, yesterday morning wins for overall turns because they were nice almost right back down to the base area.

The snow line seemed to have dropped by the time I was finishing my descent, and it was almost back down to the base area around 5:30 P.M, although it was still mostly rain right in the village.  Based on what I saw in terms of how the snowpack is building up and the way that first round of snow is now locked with a solid layer on top, there shouldn’t be much concern about rocks on the Sherman’s Pass/Bear Run route anymore.  Even routes that had little base prior to this event are starting to look good as long as the underlying ground is smooth and grassy.  Depending on how much snow falls tonight, things could be very nice tomorrow.  Although the NWS isn’t suggesting much in terms of accumulation tonight, the BTV composite radar (below) still shows quite a bit of moisture around, and the snow line may even drop back down to the lower valleys tonight.  We’ve probably had about a third of an inch of additional precipitation here today, and it’s still raining out there.  E just came back from Morrisville and said it was raining the entire time, so it’s certainly snowing in the mountains.  We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.

Bolton Valley, VT 16APR2010

Snowfall came into the area last night, and accumulating snow reached down even into the Winooski Valley.  The ground was whitened in the yard this morning, and as of my 6:00 A.M. report we’d picked up 0.3 inches of snow and 0.52 inches of liquid at the house (495’).  Reports coming in from the higher elevations were indicating more substantial accumulations as expected.

With the appearance of the new snow, I headed up to Bolton for a few turns this morning.  Leaving the house (495’) at around 7:30 A.M. or so, the temperature was in the upper 30s F.  As I drove west from the house, the coating of snow that we’d received quickly vanished, and there wasn’t really anything on the ground from the Chittenden County line westward to the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’).  Climbing the road, there wasn’t even a hint of snow until right around elevation 1,200’ near the Catamount Trail access below the big S curve.  From that point up, the accumulations started to build with elevation.  At around 1,500’ at the base of Timberline there was roughly an inch.  Accumulations on the road began at around 2,000’, and up around 2,100’ at the main base I found 1 to 2 inches of new snow and a temperature a bit above freezing.  There was some wind, mixed precipitation, and nobody around.

I skinned up Beech Seal to mid mountain (2,500’) where new snow accumulations had increased to a couple of inches, and it was hard to tell with the new accumulations, but some of the old base snow had certainly been lost since Ty and I were up there on Sunday.  There is still a really nice line along much of the skier’s left of Beech Seal, with a good base under this new snow.  Above mid mountain, I skinned up Cobrass, and by around 3,100’ near the Vista Summit, I found about 3 to 4 inches of new snow.  As I’d heard in some of the forecasts, snow levels were expected to rise pretty high today, and the precipitation I encountered was mixed at best all the way up to the Vista Summit.

I descended via Sherman’s Pass from the summit, since many of the steeper trails seemed dicey, and with the dense snow and my longer skinny Telemark skis, there was plenty of excitement on just low and moderate angle terrain.  Below mid mountain, I opted for the Bear Run route because I knew the coverage had been good on Sunday.  Over the course of the entire run from the Vista Summit, there were a few areas of survival turns where I was avoiding underlying obstacles below the new snow, but in general the turns were really nice on the old base.  The snow was dense enough to make things bottomless, and while it certainly wasn’t flying up like Champlain Power™, it was sweet enough that I would have contemplated another run if I’d had the time.  I was surprised that I didn’t see a single other person or even and skin/ski tracks while I was up there.  I did see plenty of deer tracks though.

The precipitation remained mixed the entire time I was there in the 8:00 to 9:00 A.M. range at all elevations, and when I was leaving, it seemed to have cooled, and any liquid precipitation was starting to create a glaze on parts of my vehicle.  Back down that the base of the road (340’), and all the way into Burlington, the temperature was around 40 F, and the valley temperatures were similar when I came home in the evening.

We got more precipitation today, and it looks like there’s roughly an additional half inch in the rain gauge since I emptied it this morning.  I’ll get the 24-hour total tomorrow morning.  The upper atmosphere warmed and was providing the mixed precipitation today, but the NWS says the 850 mb temperatures are going to come back down and change things back to snow – I’m just not sure at what point that happened, or is going to happen, but it looks like tonight based on the NWS point forecasts.

The new snow that I skied this morning was pretty dense, but based on the snow depths I saw, I’d still recommend junkboards for any runs without notable sections of previous base at this point.  However, reading Scott’s Bolton report from this evening, it sounds like the mixed precipitation may have really locked things up and that may change how well the new snow serves as a base.  There’s more moisture to come with this system, so if this first round can serve as some extra base in places that didn’t have it, that will expand the options for turns in the coming days.

Bolton Valley, VT 11APR2010

Clouds built in yesterday evening, and the forecast showed the potential for a repeat of the snow we’d seen Friday night into yesterday morning.  I checked the temperatures atop Mt. Mansfield, and they were about 10 degrees warmer than when the previous day’s moisture had come through, but they were certainly still cold enough to support some snow.

Not expecting too much precipitation down at our location, I hadn’t even looked at the local radar during the evening, so I was rather astonished to find 0.44 inches of liquid in the gauge when I checked it yesterday morning.  It seemed to have come out of nowhere.  I did get a look at the recent frames of the BTV composite radar, which showed some moisture departing, but I didn’t look any further into it.  The temperature was roughly 37 F at the house though, which suggested that accumulating snowfall was just a couple thousand feet up.  I checked Stowe’s snow report, wondering if they had gotten in on the same moisture as my location, but all they were reporting was an inch of new snow.  In the highest elevations, it had been below freezing all night, so Stowe had to have missed out on some of that moisture; even with temperatures just a bit below freezing, the amount of liquid we received at the house would have produced more than an inch of snow.

Once the other morning CoCoRaHS reports came in, I could see that my station appeared to be in a bit of a hot spot for the overnight precipitation.  A couple of the other Waterbury stations reported liquid totals at around a third of an inch, but the totals seemed to fall off among the western slope stations to the north:

Perhaps Mt. Mansfield just hadn’t gotten in on the best moisture, but Bolton Valley was much closer to our location, so maybe they’d done better.  We had other obligations to take care of in the morning, but maybe an afternoon trip up to Bolton was in order.

When afternoon came around, Ty was the only one game for a little exercise, so he and I headed up to Bolton to check things out.  There were only a few patches of leftover snow down at Timberline, and no sign of any new accumulations, but the main mountain was looking pretty good.  It was obvious that there had been some new snow up there.  Even though it was mid afternoon, about a half inch to an inch of new snow remained on the snowpack down at the base elevations (~2,100’).  The lower flat part of Beech Seal didn’t provide continuous snow cover, and although the upper sections had good coverage for skinning, we still opted to hike to mid mountain (~2,500’).  Up there, we found roughly an inch or two of new snow, and residual accumulations even in some shaded places where the old snowpack was absent.

We took a snack break, and I asked Ty if he wanted to keep hiking or switch to skins; he opted to go with skins.  As we worked our way up Sherman’s Pass, we met a couple of Telemark skiers that said if we were looking for powder, the lightest stuff was up near the summit.  It would have been nice to head up there, but I let Ty make the call based on his energy level.  Ultimately, we skinned up to around 2,800’ on Hard Luck, to a point where Ty wanted to start skiing.  We found a couple inches of new snow there, which was by that point fairly wet due to rising temperatures and the afternoon sunshine.  I would have liked to know the depth of the new snow accumulations in the morning before the temperatures began to rise, as they were presumably more than what we saw.

Still, like we’d found at Stowe yesterday, the new snow skied well over the softened base.  We took a route over toward Spillway, since it seemed to have the smoothest snow, and then below mid mountain we took the Bear Run route because the snow on Beech Seal hadn’t been all that smooth.  We were able to ski right back down to the base of the Mid Mountain Chair at around 2,150’.  I got some pictures as usual, and Ty had E’s point and shoot camera and got a few of his own.  He even got a decent action shot of me skiing, and I was impressed because that can be tough with the delay on E’s camera.  I had contemplated skiing down via the big terrain park, but Ty’s choice of Bear Run was the way to go, since some areas between the terrain park features looked to be melted out.

We didn’t ski Spillway above the smooth bottom pitch, but above that point it was bumpy and seemed to be continuous as Matt indicated in his report from Monday.  This week’s temperatures have only been slightly above average, and the lows have been well below freezing each night so the snow shouldn’t be disappearing too fast.  If we end up getting more snow this weekend, there should be some more fun skiing up at Bolton.

Stowe, VT 10APR2010

April has generally continued our March trend of warm temperatures and very low snowfall, but leading up into the weekend, the forecast suggested that there was the chance for some overnight snows in the higher elevations.  Moisture didn’t look plentiful, but at least the temperatures were returning to more normal levels, and things were lining up to potentially produce some minor snow accumulations each night.

Yesterday, I started monitoring the temperatures near the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline (3,950’) thanks to the real-time sensor that Powderfreak told us about, and the air was already below freezing in the morning as a cold front came through.  One shot of moisture had come through the area yesterday afternoon/evening, and with that I’d already seen snow crashing out of the clouds along the Green Mountains south of the Winooski Valley.  While that precipitation had moved on eastward according to the radar, there were some developing echoes off to the northwest of the Burlington area, and according to the forecast, those held the chance for snow.

When I was outside this morning checking the gauge for my 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS report, I was surprised that I was only being hit with the occasional spit of precipitation – the BTV composite radar actually suggested that there was a decent amount of moisture flowing into the area:

We hadn’t received any snow at the house, but Stowe’s 6:00 A.M. morning report was indicating an inch of new snow – hat’s off to Stowe for always getting their reports out so early, even when the weather trends aren’t the most exciting.  I was surprised that they had only reported an inch of new snow, since it seemed like there could have been a bit more snowfall than that in the highest elevations based on the moisture and air temperatures in the low 20s F.  At that time of the morning however, it was the only indication I had of any snowfall.  I’d told E and the boys that there was the potential for at least a few powder turns over the weekend, but if the snow was going to be very minimal and temperatures on the mountain were going to stay down in the 30s (or even 20s) F, I didn’t think they’d be keen on heading out for dust on crust.

Everything changed right around 7:20 A.M. though, I looked outside and steady snow had started falling at the house.  It was light to only occasionally moderate, and it wasn’t sticking with our air temperature at 36 F, but it was looking good and it was the first snow we’d seen at the house in a while.  Right around that time, Allenson indicated that he was getting accumulation over in Corinth, and j24vt said that he’d actually accumulated an inch of snow in the lower elevations of Stowe.  It snowed for about an hour at our house, and although in our location it didn’t amount to more than a couple transient tenths of an inch of accumulation on the snowboard, it was a good sign.  If snowfall could make it all the way down to our location, there was likely to be additional accumulation in the higher reaches of Mt. Mansfield.  The temperatures had remained in the low 20s F high on the mountain, so the snow actually had the potential to be pretty dry as well:

With snow falling at the house, it wasn’t hard to convince E and the boys to head out for some turns.  We were still suspicious about dust on crust in some locations, but the plan was to use the quad to get up to the higher elevations, and then hike up the Toll Road from there to get some turns in the new snow.

Although somewhat excited to go skiing, E and the boys weren’t “jump in the car half dressed” excited, but we eventually headed out to the mountain toward mid morning.  We hadn’t picked up any lingering snow accumulations in the valley bottoms in our area, but I could see some hints of white in the hills on the other side of the Winooski Valley, and obvious white accumulations up in the Worcester Range as we drove through Waterbury.  Just as exciting was the fact that as we got to Waterbury Center, cars began to trickle past with accumulations of snow on them.  Ty and Dylan had fun picking them out, and the snowy cars started to become a bit more numerous as we headed farther north toward Stowe.  It didn’t quite have the feel of an April snow though, because spring seems to have progressed much more quickly than normal this year, and there’s no residual snow on the ground.  It almost had the feel of one of those October snowstorms, where folks who live in the higher elevations come down with cars laden with snow, giving you just a taste of what might be going on up in the mountains.  Perhaps with the lack of leaves on the trees it was actually more like an early November snowfall event, except that some trees had buds and green was starting to show in places.

Whatever the case, it was fun to see the snow accumulations on the ground gradually appear and increase as we passed through Waterbury Center and headed north toward Stowe.  By the time we’d reached the Moscow/Stowe area, the accumulations had become much more consistent, and as we finally approached the Mansfield area, it was obvious that a nice whitening had taken place.

We found it quite windy in the Mansfield parking lot – I joked with E that of course such a “massive” storm would bring a lot of wind with it.  I was initially worried that the quad wouldn’t even be running because of the wind, but we saw people on it, and the ride ended up not being that bad at all.  I’d say the parking lot was actually one of the windiest places we encountered.

E had been concerned about how things were going to go with regard to loading the boys onto the lift with all our packs.  Somehow the way that we used to frequently ride lifts with the boys IN packs was less stressful to her, but I reassure her that I had a good system that I’d used with Ty before.  I securely attached the boy’s packs to mine, and I could hold them comfortably in one hand during loading.

Even with the new snow, the bumps of Liftline and National looked quite menacing and hard as we looked down on them while riding the lift.  The new snow had settled into the troughs, but the peaks of old, dirty snow were quite prominent.  We were glad our plans were bringing us elsewhere at that point.  At the top of the quad, we cut past the Stone Hut, and headed toward upper Toll Road to find no wind and really nice temperatures.  I was surprised to see that nobody had yet ventured up onto the road at such a late hour, but based on the number of cars in the parking lot, there weren’t all that many people on the mountain to begin with.  We put on our skins, Dylan strapped on his snowshoes, and up the trail we went.

The new powder was very nice, roughly medium weight, and about 2 to 3 inches of it had settled in along the upper elevations of the Toll Road.  Temperatures were still in the 20s F, so for the time being the snow was staying dry.  The clouds were low and swirling above our heads near the Nose as we hiked along, but it wasn’t too long before the clouds began to break away and reveal blue skies.  The views got better and better as the clouds broke away, and by the time we neared the top of the road it seemed like an entirely different day.

We only spent a few moments up at the top while we removed our skins, but it was quite pleasant.  The wind was howling through the big tower near the Mt. Mansfield Summit Station, but it didn’t seem to be making it to our side of the ridge.  We carefully navigated a few sections of thin snow at the very top of the road, then got into some nice turns for the rest of the descent.  The appearance of the sun had come at a bit of a price, as the snow that got lit up was just starting to lose its fluff and get thick.  Fortunately that process hadn’t yet progressed too far.  I think everyone had some good turns

The final descent back to the parking lot was actually a bit of a treat.  We’d initially written that part of the day off as potentially dust on crust, but it was far from that.  By the time we’d descended, the sun and temperatures had already warmed the subsurface snow to a nice spring consistency, and left on top of that an inch or two of new snow that was either settled, dense, or wet depending on the elevation and sun exposure.  We took a combination of Lord and then Tyro, and then finally went through the half pipe at the boy’s request.  The lower part of the route featured many areas of untracked snow off to the sides, and made for some excellent turns.  The skiing was so nice that I actually brought up the idea of heading up for some more turns, but it was well into the afternoon, and E and the boys already had burgers on their minds – and I guess we really hadn’t had any sort of lunch.

On the way home we stopped in at Rimrock’s for food, and possibly because of the strange mid afternoon timing, it was deserted except for a couple of people at the bar.  This did give the boys a chance to mill around without bothering anyone.  The Bruins game was on in the background, and we were casually following it since they only needed 1 point to secure a playoff spot.  However, things suddenly got a lot more exciting when they scored three shorthanded goals in the span of 64 seconds.  One of the guys at the bar thought that had to be a record for three shorthanded goals in such a short span.

So in the end, a little spring snow had made for quite nice trip to the mountain, and it sounds like some of the SkiVT-L folks even had a bit of an impromptu party for good measure.  Things were very much spring later that afternoon in the valley, but towards evening, clouds began to build in and the forecast was calling for the process to repeat itself with a little overnight snow followed by clearing.  These little events aren’t much, but when snowfall has been so infrequent, they help to liven things up and keep the ski vibe going a little stronger.

Stowe, VT 04APR2010

Today was another nice one, so we were back at Stowe for a bit more of the spring weather and spring skiing.  I think the temperatures were about 15-20 degrees cooler than yesterday, which was of course still quite warm with base temperatures around 60 F.  Combined with a breeze that hadn’t been around yesterday though, the cooler temperatures were enough to keep us wearing vests over shirts.

We hadn’t had a chance to get to the Quad terrain yesterday, so we started off with a full run of Nosedive.  The boys had a good time working on the steeper bumps in the upper sections, where Ty commented that he thought it was Dylan’s best bump skiing to date.  Middle/Upper Nosedive had pretty good coverage, but it seemed like coverage in the lower half had changed a lot since the yesterday.  Apparently things just continued to melt with the day temperature of 70-80 F followed by a fairly warm overnight that didn’t get down to freezing.  Also surprising was the way in which the bumps on the bottom half of the trail seemed to have disappeared.  I didn’t think that the mountain was grooming with the warm temperatures, but something changed from yesterday.

After some snowball fights when we waited at the gondola base, we next joined up with Fred and his family and did a Cliff Trail run over toward Lower Nosedive.  Fred was on Telemark skis for the first time in many years, and it was his first time in plastic boots or cable bindings, so it was quite a change from his older stuff and he commented on all the differences that he could feel.  On the next trip up to the Gondola, we stopped in at the Cliff House and Fred got us all drinks while we hung out on the deck.  It was actually a little chilly up at that elevation with the breeze, but the sun was keeping us warm enough.  Fred talked with one of his buddies from behind the bar about which big boulder on the cliffs above was going to come down and take out the Cliff House kitchen.  It seems as though they have been watching them for years.

We made our way back over to the quad and finished off the day with a late lunch on the deck of the Octagon.  It was after 3:00 P.M. so there was nobody else around, but we got to take in the classic views of the Chin, Jay Peak, The White Mountains, etc.  Ty at first couldn’t figure out what that building was that he could see underneath the Chin, but once we told him it was the Cliff House at the top of the gondola, he remarked that he could see the deck we’d been on earlier.  When he said that I realized it was probably the first time I’d ever hit both of the Mansfield mountaintop decks in one day.

For our final run we stuck to the Lord area, and worked with the boys on riding the steep ridges along the edges of the trails.  In some of the steepest shots the angle was just too extreme for the boys to hold an edge, so that was good practice to see how they could re-engage them, or end up sliding off in the trees.  They ended up doing some of both.  Personally, I noticed that when the pitch became too steep, it was almost as if there wasn’t enough room for my uphill leg and ski to remain in a Telemark stance, and I’d have to switch to an alpine configuration to keep both edges engaged.

There was definitely a change in snow coverage between yesterday and today at Stowe, probably one of the more dramatic one-day changes I’ve seen, but of course yesterday had some of the highest temperatures I’ve witnessed in terms of spring skiing.  Some spots that seemed perfectly fine yesterday had become narrow passages by today.  There’s still lots of snow on the upper parts of Mansfield, but it looks like they’ll need to keep working with the groomers to keep things connected at the bottom of the mountain.

A couple of shots from today are attached below:

Stowe, VT 03APR2010

Today was a really gorgeous day, and we headed to Stowe with Stephen, Helena, and Johannes to get in on some spring… or perhaps even summer skiing with the way the temperatures went.  We arrived at the Spruce Peak base at around 10:30 A.M. and the temperatures were in the 60s F.  We spent the morning at Spruce, and as far as I could tell, I think it was just snowmaking terrain available over there.  There was still a good amount of terrain to choose from though, with just one race taking place – it looked like there was a slalom running on slalom hill.  A big treat was being able to ski the entirety of Main Street from the summit, since it often seems to be occupied by racing when we’re there.  Everyone had fun blasting the corn on some of Main Street’s steeper pitches; it must be quite an experience to hit those at super G speeds during the races.  Coverage was fine, with a few areas opening up to ground, but they were marked or obvious.  The very bottom of the Spruce terrain was definitely getting slushy in the warming temperatures, and we found our skis sticking a bit in a few spots, but in general we found that the corn was skiing fine even without waxing.

By later in the noontime hour we broke for lunch at the Great Room Grill, and then headed over to Mansfield for the afternoon.  We never made it over to the Quad area, but instead stuck to the Gondola.  I suspect options over on the Chin Clip side were limited, since they had a rope right near the top of the gondola preventing access to that side.  We skied parts of Perry Merrill, Gondolier, and Cliff Trail/Nosedive.  That first steep pitch of Perry Merril actually had some nice bumps.  Although I couldn’t see it, coverage must be getting thin on a section of Lower Gondolier, because they had it roped and everyone had to head back to Perry Merrill.  Everyone seemed to enjoy Lower Nosedive, it had lots of soft bumps, and jumps off to the sides, and coverage was great.  Off to the skier’s right of Nosedive, I even found some areas where the snow hadn’t quite softened.  That was amazing considering the temperatures, and certainly speaks to the snow-preserving power of Nosedive.

I’ve heard that this is the last weekend for the Gondola and Spruce Peak before they become hike/traverse only.  There’s enough snow to keep some trails open in both spots, but options would start to get pretty limited anyway.  When we left around 4:00 P.M., the temperature was 80 F at the Spruce Peak base, and 84 F lower down in the valley toward Stowe.  I’ve attached a few shots from today below:

Stowe, VT 28MAR2010

Based on today’s forecast of cloudy skies and temperatures in the 30-40 F range, there wasn’t a huge incentive to ski, but we did head up to Stowe for our afternoon session so I can provide an update.  Skies were actually pretty bright with a few small breaks in the clouds when we arrived at Spruce a bit after noon.  I’m not sure of the temperature at the base at that point, but it was probably around 40 F.  Fortunately, along with some sun, that warmth was enough to get the corn snow on the Spruce terrain to soften up nicely, at least to the top of the Sunny Spruce Quad (~2,500’).  I never got above that elevation on Spruce, but below that everything skied great.  The areas like West Smuggler’s, Freddie’s Chute, and the upper parts of Meadows that seem most susceptible to snow loss, were closed or inaccessible due to coverage, but just about everything else off Sunny Spruce was in fine shape as far as we saw.

The kids wanted to head over to Mansfield, and the conditions had been so nice on Spruce that it seemed like it would be worth a trip to check it out.  Conditions on the Mansfield side were definitely not the same as what we’d experienced over on Spruce; only the bottom few hundred vertical feet of Mansfield had softened up.  The bumpy part of upper Perry Merrill was a nasty bulletproof moonscape, and most of Gondolier was hard except for the last couple of pitches.  Cliff Trail felt like a mini half pipe of ice with the occasional crowds of skiers trying to squeeze through it.  The saving grace on some trails was the strip of soft snow that had been pushed to the sides, but the somewhat concave nature and narrowness of Cliff Trail meant that it didn’t even really have those.  Cliff Trail, which was probably my favorite Stowe run as a kid, has certainly become one of my least favorite runs this season.  Lower Nosedive was bad enough that I actually switched my left and right skis to get some new edges for the first time this season.  At around 3:00 P.M. the temperature written at the bottom of the Forerunner Quad was 36 F.  Although I’m not exactly sure what time that was from, it seemed reasonable based on the elevation where the snow started to soften.  With the sun heading west and the clouds coming in, it also seemed as though it had cooled a bit from earlier in the day.

As bad as all the Mansfield skiing had been, by far the roughest run of the day was our last one on Mansfield.  Luke, one of our students, wanted to ski Midway from National, which meant taking part of National/Liftline.  I was actually most inclined to take him on it for the absurdity of it all: rock hard ice and hard pack bumps on steep pitches.  Ty was also in our group, and was initially uninterested in going on such an escapade, but I talked him into it.  I suspect he’d never skied anything quite so heinous in terms of the combination of pitch and firmness, so it would be a “good” experience.  I had the boys look at Upper National as we passed by above it, just to see what they would say.  It literally looked like a no-fall zone at the very top, as it must be an almost 40-degree pitch covered with pure ice in places.  With no intention of actually subjecting them to that terrain, I asked them if they wanted to ski it, just to see what they’d say.  I don’t think they quite understood the actual gravity of trying to ski that, but they definitely shied away.  We traversed over to Liftline and I took them on the easiest possible line there.  It was still nasty enough that Luke got stuck on a section of steep ice in the sort of way that you feel you can’t move or you’re going to start a slide for life.  As I began hiking up to assist him, he managed to physically and mentally gain hold on the ice and was able to get back into some turns.  That was nice to see.  Ty did a nice job in general of taking on that part of Liftline, and while he didn’t enjoy it, I don’t blame him.  Down below, things gradually got easier, and on Lower National I did show the boys that while I wouldn’t recommend it, it was possible to ski the porcelain bumps there.  Doing a section of bumps there probably provided as much stress to my knees as the entire rest of the season.  The boys gave an effort in those bumps as well, but quickly got themselves back on the groomed terrain.  The actually goal of the run, Midway, was still all hard, but at least partially groomed.  The only really pleasant part of the run was the very bottom of National, which had fairly soft corn covering moderate angle bumps.  The boys had a lot more fun on that, although it was just a few hundred vertical feet.  Coverage on Mt. Mansfield was great overall, with just some of the steeper natural snow trails having some open spots.

We did one more run over at Spruce before the end of the day, and the snow was still nice and soft.  With the great conditions on Spruce Peak, it didn’t seem like there was much sense in going over to the Mansfield side, but the kids had some fun.  I’d say there wasn’t much melting anywhere at Stowe today, even on Spruce, and that Mansfield glacier should last quite a while into the spring.  They even picked up 4 inches of snow up high last night.  Thanks to Powderfreak’s link, I can see with the real time Mansfield temperature that the higher elevations are already down in the 20s F, and there’s still precipitation coming through.  Similar to last night, it seems like there could be a bit more snow tonight.