Since daylight lingers so long into the evening now, I stopped off at Bolton on the way home from work today for a ski tour. I hadn’t had the time to get out yesterday, but it kept snowing much of the day today as well, so this gave me the chance to see how all the snow had accumulated from this most recent April storm. Valley temperatures had edged a bit above freezing in the afternoon, but on the mountain the temperatures were down in the 20s F.
Accumulations from this storm went right down to the lowest valleys, and even the broad, low valleys down near sea level like the Champlain Valley had accumulations that stuck around. At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at ~340’ there were a couple inches of accumulation, and naturally, the depths just went up from there. The wind had kicked up by this afternoon on the back side of the system, and that really pushed the snow around a lot, but using the typical calmer, unaffected spots, here’s the accumulations profile I observed during today’s outing:
“So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches.”
The snow from this storm was certainly not as dense as what last week’s storm delivered, but the initial accumulations were substantial enough to set up a good base, and then in typical Northern Greens style, the upslope came in after to boost the depth and polish things off. Overall, the snow put down by this storm cycle was right side up, just as PF noted in his post at the American Weather Forum. We picked up roughly ¾” of liquid equivalent at our site, and I’d say they’d had at least 1” of liquid in the snow on the mountain. So, while not the 2”+ of liquid that some areas saw in the last storm, this snow offered plenty of substance for solid turns on most terrain, and it was easily bottomless on moderate-angle pitches. There was also still some snow left from the previous storm in spots, so that bolstered up the base a bit more.
Anyway, turns were great with the right-side-up deposition, with midwinter consistency all the way down to the Village areas at ~2,000’ this afternoon. I didn’t tour down to 1,500’, but even there at the base of Timberline the snow was still powder as of early evening.
Since the snow totals from our latest storm were a bit higher to the south of our area, E and I decided to mix things up a little and head down to Pico for some turns today. The accumulating snow levels for this storm in our part of the Winooski Valley were generally around 1,000’ or so, and you could tell that the snow line was a bit lower as you headed south. The lowest elevations of the White River Valley were still generally devoid of snow though.
Pico certainly got a nice shot of snow from this system. With temperatures above freezing at around 2,000’ in the base area, it wasn’t surprising that we were seeing a bit of melting and consolidation there. In general, settled new snow depths we found around the base this morning were in the 9-12” range. There were about 40 to 50 cars in the main parking lot this morning, and some were from people who were staying in the lodging areas there at the base, but many were also from folks who were there for some skiing.
During our ascent we found that the new snow depth increased quite quickly on the bottom half of the mountain, and at times it felt like every 100’ of vertical we’d climb we’d find another inch of depth. It wasn’t quite that quick, but by the time we’d hit the 3,000’ elevation range the depth was in the 15-17” range. The snow depth didn’t increase nearly as quickly on the upper half of the mountain, and it topped out around 18” up around 4,000’. Here’s the rough snow depth profile with respect to elevation:
As the elevation profile data suggest, you’re essentially looking at a foot and a half of new snow on the upper half of the mountain – and it is certainly not fluff. There’s got to be at least two inches of liquid equivalent in that new snow, so there’s been a full resurfacing up there (or in places that didn’t have existing snowpack, a full recovering).
Up on the mountain it also snowed during the entire time we were out on our tour from mid-morning onward. The snowfall was generally light in intensity, but increased with elevation and was borderline moderate at times up near the 4,000’ level. You could see that the new snow, and/or other recent snow from the later part of the storm was helping to take a bit of the density out of the topmost layer of snow up high. The best turns were unquestionably up in the 3,500’ to 4,000’ elevation range, where you had a few inches of drier snow atop the rest of what the storm left. I’d say that may have been where the freezing line was located at that point, so you had dense, but dry powder for the top few to several inches. Below that, there was an increasing density gradient, but it went pretty quickly to snow that was 10%+ H2O in the vein of typical winter-style Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete. It was still quite skiable though, and you’d certainly sink in several inches, so it wasn’t that super dense stuff that has your just riding on the surface.
All told though, since there’s a foot and a half of that snow, you’ve got a bomber subsurface in place. We spoke with a guy who told us that the 49er and Pike were the routes with the best snowmaking base before this storm, so they were good options in terms of coverage, but it really didn’t matter. With 2+ inches of liquid equivalent in place, you could pretty much ski anything you wanted. There were water bars to watch out for the lower you went, but even all the way back down to the base elevations, you could ski just about anything, whether it had existing base or not. The challenging part was handling the denser/wetter snow down low, and fat skis or a snowboard were unquestionably your tool of choice. Width was the best bet in general for the most fun riding, but especially down low where temperatures were above freezing and the snow was getting a bit wetter.
For the best quality turns today, laps on the upper half of the mountain would have been a good bet if you had the time, but experienced skiers and riders would be able to handle the lower mountain conditions. We skied the bottom half of the mountain with a couple of older guys on fat Telemark gear like us, and it was well past manageable; the turns were definitely fun even in that wetter snow.
As I mentioned, it was snowing most of the time above the base elevations, and to further reduce the visibility we were often well up in the clouds on the upper mountain. This of course made the ski photography a fun challenge up high, but I’d say we still got some nice images to document the experience.
Today our plan was to play Tennis with Dylan in the afternoon, but that plan fell through once he realized that he had to work. So, moving on from that option I decided to get some exercise by heading back up to Bolton to catch that run on Hard Luck that I’d missed on Friday.
Temperatures were definitely a bit cooler today than yesterday, with more clouds around, but it was still plenty warm to keep the snow soft. Hard Luck is nearly continuous except for a small area near the top, but from there on down it has solid coverage that runs right into Sherman’s. There’s still top-to-bottom coverage on the main mountain via the usual Sherman’s route to Beech Seal, but it’s getting close to a gap near the middle of Beech Seal. So, I don’t think coverage on the main mountain will be continuous through next weekend with these reasonably warm temperatures in the forecast over the next few days, unless we get a substantial spring snowstorm down the road to cover up the bare areas.
On a whim, I put in a call to The Mad Taco Bolton to place an order when I was done with my tour. I figured they would be closed, since lift-service at the resort ended last weekend, but they were open! I talked with the associate for a while when I placed my order, and this was their last day of business for a few weeks while they do some remodeling, but they’ll be opening back up in May for the summer season. So, it looks like they’re planning to run year-round up in the Village supplying great Mexican food for the area!
Today I headed to Stowe to go for a tour on Spruce Peak, and again the weather was simply sunny and fabulous. I hadn’t been to the resort in a while since we didn’t have our school’s ski program this season due to COVID-19, so I poked around the Spruce Peak Village for a bit first. There’s a huge new building going up where the ski patrol building was at the base of the Sunny Spruce Quad, so that’s another substantial addition to the village area. I’m not sure what’s going to be going in there, or if it’s more lodging? As usual, the crowd of folks earning turns was in the MMSC lot, and I found about a dozen cars or so there and ran into Shalagh, who was there skiing with some of her friends. You almost can’t help but run into someone you know on these days.
All I can say is that Main Street delivered what were unquestionably the best turns of the weekend, and probably the best corn snow I’ve skied the entire spring season so far. I’m not sure what it is about Main Street, but year after year after year, it just seems to deliver superior corn snow. Maybe it’s because it faces south and really starts its corn snow cycling early, or maybe it’s because they blow that massive amount of dense snow for the racers, or maybe it’s because it gets so much less traffic than the trails on Mansfield. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors, but it just delivered ridiculously smooth, perfect peel-away corn snow turns when I was there.
In terms of the ascent route, Main Street is really the best option with respect to continuous coverage for skinning, but those steep pitches are rough. Despite the tough ascent, my legs felt great making Telemark turns on the way down. Everything just seemed to flow, and I’m sure a lot of it was the quality of the snow. The snowpack there seems quite deep, and it’s definitely worth more trips while that snow is around.
The weather over the past several days has been great, and I guess we sort of lose perspective in how we can often be battling marginal temperatures and cloud cover to even get these nice warm spring days in April. We’ll certainly take them when we can get them.
With this continued run of pleasant weather, I headed up to Bolton this afternoon to check out the spring snow and get in a few turns. I wanted to take a run on Hard Luck since I knew the snow there was fairly deep and probably just about continuous to make for a nice steep run. It’s funny, but Spillway, which is a usual the big spring holdout with snow in terms of steep terrain on the main mountain, isn’t really an option at this point. Mother Nature covered it up enough on her own this season that I guess the resort decided to save the money and skip the snowmaking there. Hard Luck did look good as I passed by on my way up Sherman’s Pass, but I was a little too tight on time to fit it in my tour, so I ended up skiing a moderate descent on Sherman’s and Bear Run.
It was a nice run, but I’ll have to see if I can get up for another trip to try out Hard Luck!
Today was Bolton Valley’s last scheduled day of lift-served skiing for the 2020-2021 season, so with some nice spring weather and a bit of time, I stopped up for some turns this afternoon.
Today we’ve definitely transitioned from the wintry, powder conditions of Friday and Saturday, back to spring snow conditions. On untouched terrain, the snow from our recent storm was a bit sticky, but on terrain that had seen skier traffic, I actually found some of the best corn snow of the season. I had good turns on Hard Luck and Beech Seal, and there seemed to be some additional trails opened up today after ski patrol had assessed the combination of new snow and softening that came together. I did traverse out to the Snowflake area to see what opportunities it held, and ended up taking Sprig O’ Pine back toward the main base – it had seen some grooming and seemed to offer the best turns.
In the parking lots, the warm weather meant that spring tailgating was in full effect, and folks seemed to be trying to practice their social distancing and stay with their specific groups. Around the base area, you could hear lots of conversations related to the final day of lift-served skiing, and I’m sure the employees are ready for a nice break after the extra stress of dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and precautions all winter.
The precipitation changed fully over to snow today not long after my morning CoCoRaHS observations at the house. I headed up to Bolton for some turns, and found the following storm accumulations starting from near the Bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road:
The biggest jumps in accumulation certainly appeared to be in the 1,000’ to 2,000’ elevation band. The resort is reporting 9” in the past 48 hours on their snow report, so that seems in synch with what I found up at the main mountain.
When I was out today at Bolton I saw that the front face trails on Vista had been absolutely hammered by the wind, which is not surprising with the way they face west, but apparently even areas of the east side of the Green Mountains got hit pretty hard as well. Timberline is usually a nice place to go to get away from the wind, but it’s not open right now because coverage just isn’t great down that low, but lower Wilderness is another good option for sheltered terrain, and that was serving up some great powder.
I started skiing not too long after opening today, and it was really dumping when I arrived thanks to a fresh push of moisture that hit in the morning. The old base snow is just so consolidated and hard after a couple weeks of spring weather and no new snow, that I didn’t really find any of the steep groomed terrain that had really improved. Either the wind had blown everything away, or it was exposed enough to the wind that the groomers couldn’t do much with it. Low and moderate angle groomers on the bottom half of the mountain seemed to have incorporated the snow nicely though – turns were nice and quiet, so the new snow must have stayed put and been churned in by the groomers.
Low and moderate angle powder terrain was the way to go though. I’d thrown both fats and midfats on the car today, and ended up using the midfats and found they had plenty of float. There’s was definitely enough L.E. in the snow to set up everything below black diamond pitch.
After skiing, I found that it continued to snow all the way in to Burlington. The snowfall intensity actually kept increasing as I headed into the Champlain Valley, but temperatures were a few degrees above freezing so the roads just stayed wet. During the day today in Burlington we had some periods of heavy snow with huge flakes during that banding, and it accumulated to an inch or two. At our house in Waterbury it continued to snow, but outside that heavy snowfall band off to our west, the snowfall intensity was just too light to accumulate to more than a tenth of an inch at valley elevations in our area.
We picked up most of our snow at the house with a subsequent round of precipitation that came through in the afternoon, and we’ve been having another round of that around here this evening as well.
It cooled back down overnight, and with continued snowfall, I suspect the snow levels dropped based on the fact that it was down into the 30s F at our place in the valley. I would have liked to see where accumulations stood as of this morning, but I had a car maintenance appointment, so I couldn’t stop by the Village until about midday. All that new snow at elevation made for some impressive views as I drove on I-89 returning from Burlington, and I stopped at Williston Southbound Information Center in I-89 to get a few images of the Green Mountains.
By the time I got up to Bolton today I’d say accumulations were generally back to what I reported yesterday, so accumulations were really only beginning to appear up near the Bolton Valley Village elevations. Temperatures had risen well above freezing by that point as well, so the snow was getting quite wet and dense. As the brilliant late-April sunshine appeared, it felt downright hot out as I was touring. The sun created fantastic views of the fresh snow gleaming white on all the trees, and the views had an almost midwinter feel. The temperatures and sunshine had the snow pretty quickly melting off the trees on aspects facing toward the sun, so the sound of dripping water and crashing piles of snow was the most prominent thing accompanying me on my tour.
With the new snow getting quite wet by the time I was out, the descent portion of the tour was pretty much just a free ride down with a few turns here and there, but there weren’t really notable powder turns like we had yesterday. It was of course still great to be out in the fresh snow getting exercise on such a beautiful day.
We’re almost on to May now, but it does sound like snow potential is going to stay around for a couple of weeks with the weather pattern, so we’ll see what Mother Nature brings us.
Although I haven’t seen it being an issue at Bolton Valley, we’ve purposefully stayed off the mountain for the past couple of weeks as we learned that the local ski resorts have asked people to refrain from touring because of potential crowding at base areas. As of today though, with the strong positive strides Vermont has made in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through its social distancing, Governor Scott took another notable step in relaxing the restrictions. The new order states that, “Expanding on Addendum 10, outdoor businesses, construction operations and recreation maintenance work may operate with a maximum of five total workers per location. (Effective April 27). It’s only outdoor work that is being phased in at this point, but that makes sense to ramp that activity up first where people are not in the close confines of interior spaces. With respect to the pandemic, we’ve been fairly lucky here in Vermont with our small total population, and relatively low population density, so the spread of the virus appears to be on the decline locally. Modeling was already reflecting the positive trends here as of 10 days ago, with Vermont being one of only four states that could potentially begin loosening social distancing measures as early as May 4th.
“…the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations.”
From down here in this part of the Winooski Valley, even this morning at the coldest part of the day, you wouldn’t know that there was a solid amount of snow falling with this storm if it weren’t for some of the resources like Bolton’s webcams. I don’t think I’ve seen a flake here at 500’, and even our local hills surrounding the valley that top out around 2,000’, don’t have signs of white on them.
Seeing what was on the webcams though, it was obvious that snow was falling and accumulating at least down to the elevation of the Bolton Valley Village. My trip up the Bolton Valley access road allowed me to get a sense for what was going on with the accumulations. I knew the snow line had to be way up there, but I just kept climbing and climbing, and there were no signs of new snow anywhere. The first signs of old snow from the remaining winter snowpack were around 1,400’, but even at the Timberline Base at 1,500’, the precipitation was all rain. The rain didn’t even change over to snow until about 1,900’, just before I reached the Bolton Valley Village. That’s also right about where I saw the first accumulations of new snow taking hold. The snow accumulations picked up quickly with 1-2” at the main parking lots at 2,000’ and 2-3” at 2,100’ near the base of the main lifts.
The snow was dense, but not really wet, and the snow depths increased dramatically as I headed up above the base elevations. Thankfully there were some skin tracks to use, because as the depth of new snow surpassed a foot, breaking trail was tough in many areas. The skiing was definitely challenging in the dense snow, akin to the snow from that storm that Erica and I encountered when we skied at Schweitzer Mountain Resort back in 2001. This storm didn’t drop four feet of that dense stuff all at once, but I’d brought my mid-fat Telemark skis because I hadn’t anticipated the depths I found, and my fat skis would have certainly been the better tool for the conditions. Some of the best turns I had on my mid-fats today were actually in the middle elevations around Five Corners, where the snow depths were still more than plentiful for bottomless turns, but not so deep that they pushed your skis around with strong resistance.
Here’s the full accumulations profile for this storm as of ~5:00 P.M. based on what I saw up to the Village and beyond. It gives a pretty good sense for the elevation ranges with the largest jumps in accumulation, but on average it looks like once accumulations took hold, they increased by more than an inch per 100’ of elevation gain:
Morning revealed some additional snow accumulation at our house at 500’ in the Winooski Valley, and as we climbed the road up toward Bolton Valley we could see that the snow levels had indeed come down compared to what I’d seen on my tour yesterday. After whatever settling occurred since that point, total accumulations at 2,000’ in the Village were now up to roughly 8”. We topped out at around 2,800’ on today’s tour, and accumulations are a foot plus from there on up. The elevation profile from yesterday’s tour is updated below with the addition of today’s total new snow depth numbers, which are in bold below:
So with depths of new snow hitting a foot or more in the higher elevations, and snow continued to fall during our tour as well, the skiing was of course even better than yesterday. Indeed, the snow was deeper and drier, and the turns were even more bottomless and effortless. We saw a few other skiers out there on the slopes, but traffic was quite light and fresh tracks were in great supply. I gave Dylan my Canon EOS 30D with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens, so we had a couple of cameras available to document the outing, and it was great to be out with the family. Ty was working in the morning, but he would definitely had been there if he was free.