The big synoptic snowstorms from last week put down a lot of base on the slopes, and this week has followed up with some modest refresher storms to keep the powder fresh. Today’s feather weather event was the passage of an arctic cold front with very impressive snow squalls that reduced visibility to near zero at times – and we were on a ski tour at Bolton Valley just as the first barrage of heavy snow hit the mountains.
Stephen and I had been talking about getting out together for a ski tour at the mountain during this holiday week, and things lined up today so that Johannes and Dylan could join us. I planned on a tour that would bring us from Timberline up to the trails of the main mountain, shooting for some of those lesser used routes to get everyone some fresh tracks. We began mid-morning with light flakes falling, and the snowfall gradually ramped up to a steady, heavy level of intensity with big flakes as we made our way toward Cobrass. While we were switching over our gear for the descent, a big squall enveloped the mountain. Snowfall rates were off the charts, with visibility down to less than 100 feet at times. It was the kind of snowfall where you put your gear down for a few moments, and small stuff could be easily lost because of how fast it became covered.
“Snowfall rates were off the charts, with visibility down to less than 100 feet at times.”
The descent portion of the tour brought us some great fresh powder on routes like Five Corners, Sure Shot, and Tattle Tale. It’s getting hard to tell exactly how much base is down now after so many recent storms, but I was generally getting depths of 15 to 20 inches, with much of that powder. Everything was also topped off with a couple more inches that fell during the tour itself due to the intense snowfall.
Tomorrow is going to be an impressively cold Thanksgiving day, with highs in the mountains around here in the single digits F, so I think it will be nice being inside enjoying some holiday food. Bolton Valley is actually planning to run the lifts on Saturday, at which point it should be much warmer.
The overnight forecast called for the passage of an arctic cold front, with snowfall projections of 2-4″ for the mountain valleys and a bit more in the mountains themselves. That’s actually a decent accumulation for one of these arctic fronts, and with the way this winter season has gone, we should probably have a good feel for these things. This has felt like the season of arctic air; these fronts seem to come through every few days, and they just keep driving that midwinter cold into the area. It actually hasn’t been brutally oppressive, “high temperatures in the negative Fahrenheit numbers” type of cold, but it’s definitely been a sustained period of below normal temperatures with plenty of days hanging in the single digits. You know that’s been common when days with highs in the teens or even 20s F feel surprisingly warm. One huge upside of this cold has been the snow preservation – with the temperature never creeping above the freezing mark, each round of snow simply piles on another layer of fluff that works into the snow base. And as usual, each one of these fronts brings with it the chance for the Northern Greens to do their thing, i.e., pull a miraculous foot of Champlain Powder™ out of the sky, so it’s good to be at the ready each time these things approach. And, true to form, the mountains and cold air got together to work some of their magic overnight.
“Well, my morning analysis of the snow for CoCoRaHS revealed a density of 4.3% H2O, which is indeed some “break out the bubbly” type of stuff.”
I woke up this morning to find that close to four inches of delicate, fluffy snow had fallen at our house in the valley. Just how dry was that snow? Well, my morning analysis of the snow for CoCoRaHS revealed a density of 4.3% H2O, which is indeed some “break out the bubbly” type of stuff. The snowfall must have really cranked up overnight, because when I looked outside around midnight there was just a dusting down. It seemed like such a short duration that I wondered how much snow could actually have fallen in the mountains during that time. It was early and I wasn’t sure if the snow report at Bolton Valley was even out yet, but four inches down here in the valley was definitely enough to get me interested in checking out what had fallen up on the hill.
“I made depth checks throughout my climb, and got a surprising range of 6 to 12 inches of surface powder over a soft base below.”
We actually had a bit of a respite from the more typical arctic air yesterday, and it was holding over into today with morning temperatures of mid teens F down at the house, and low teens when I arrived at the base of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley. There were three cars parked in the usual spot off to the right, and another car that had just followed me up the access road was parking as well. The skin track up Twice as Nice was in excellent shape, and it was consistently along the climbers left where it’s typically found. The resort had made one pass with the groomer on that side of the trail, which helped to make for a very easy ascent. I made depth checks throughout my climb, and got a surprising range of 6 to 12 inches of surface powder over a soft base below. I was really surprised that I was getting measurements of a foot of snow, and even a bit more at times, because I didn’t think the mountain could have gotten that much in the previous few hours. But, the potential for skiing looked really good – there hadn’t been much in the way of wind, which is just the way you’d want it for maintenance of loft in champagne-style snow.
“I finally began the descent, and whoa, indeed that snow was great – it was serious cold smoke.”
As I approached the top of Twice as Nice, I watched a couple of skiers cut the first tracks down through it, and that definitely got me intrigued. The powder skiing looked exceptionally sweet based on what I saw there. I took a quick look down Showtime from the Timberline Mid Station, but it appeared to have seen more grooming and I was soon headed back toward Twice as Nice; it sometimes gets hit by the wind, and this looked like one of those days where it seemed to have avoided that issue. I finally began the descent, and whoa, indeed that snow was great – it was serious cold smoke. Being roughly in that ~4% H2O range as my analyses from the house indicated, the powder was actually so dry that even on 115 mm fat skis with close to a foot of it, the turns weren’t completely bottomless all the time. But, the quality of the subsurface was so good that even if you did touch down you’d be interacting with something that was still very soft. I made some additional depth measurements on my descent, and if I had to pin the overnight accumulation down to something tighter it would be 8-9″ at around 2,300′. This was clearly one of those storms where the mountains got an elevation boost with respect to snow accumulations.
When I finally did get a chance to check the snow report today, I found that Bolton, as well as the other resorts along the spine of the Northern Greens were reporting close to a foot of fresh snow, with lower numbers in the Central and Southern Greens. So although the air has been on the cold side over the past few weeks, I don’t think you’ll hear too many skiers complaining about any of these arctic fronts that come with a foot of fresh.