Up here in Northern Vermont, I hadn’t been expecting to ski this storm at all, but as the models revealed a more northward trend in guidance, it looked like we were going to get something out of it. Indeed, by midday I’d recorded over four inches of snow, and nearly half an inch of liquid equivalent from it. Snowfall with a half inch of liquid definitely has enough substance to get some floatation above the base, so I figured it was worth a quick tour to see how conditions were faring up at Bolton. They’ve got the extra elevation to potentially enhance the snowfall even more, but they’re also a few miles farther to the northwest of our site, and the farther north and west one went with this system the more the accumulations quickly drop off. Once up at the mountain, accumulations I found at 2,000’ in the Village were 4-5”, so roughly the same as what we picked up here at the house.
That was more than enough to make the powder skiing quite nice on low angle terrain though – on my 115 mm fat skis the turns were smooth and bottomless with the snow that had just fallen. We still haven’t had a big, 1”+ liquid equivalent storm affect the Northern Greens yet this season, so base snow is still pretty meager. There were a few inches of base snow left at 2,000’, with some variability and patchiness, but it’s still probably too inconsistent for steeper pitches or areas down around 1,500’. We’ve got a couple smaller round of snow in the forecast over the next couple of days though, so those should help bolster that overall snow in the higher elevations. Temperatures are expected to be single digits and even below zero F in the coming days, so snowmaking should be taking off as well to enhance the manmade base in areas of the resort.
The midweek system that brought nearly a foot of snow to the mountains had produced some excellent turns on Thursday, so I decided to head back up to the mountain today with E for a quick tour in the Wilderness area. Warmer weather is expected to move into the area over the next couple of days, so this morning seemed like the best time to get in on the remaining powder before it consolidated too much.
Being a weekend, there were a good number of people out on the hill, and we saw several groups using the Wilderness skin track and enjoying the nice weather. We toured up to around the Cougar area, and enjoyed a nice descent on Lower Turnpike. Much of the trail was skier-packed snow after a couple days of ski traffic, but it was a really nice packed surface with soft snow and temperatures in the lower 30s F. There was even powder remaining around on the sides of the trail that I was able to hop into for some floaty turns. The power was getting a little thick with warming temperatures, but it was definitely serviceable. There were certainly a few thin spots here and there, and one had to pick their spots for traversing the water bars, but obstacles were minimal enough that avoiding them could easily be worked into the flow of your turns for an enjoyable down mountain ride.
Yesterday, an upper-level disturbance/Alberta Clipper-style system began to affect our area, and as of this morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 4-8” of new snow in the past 24 hours, and 10” in the last 48 hours. Although we haven’t had too much base snow yet this season, those accumulations, as well as the view on the Bolton Valley Main Base Webcam, suggested that there was enough snow out there for a tour.
Temperatures up in the Bolton Valley Village were in the upper 20s F, and I generally found 7-10” inches of snow from the Village elevations upward. There’s decent substance to the snow (i.e. it’s not just fluff), but as expected, there’s really not too much base below that snow from what I saw. I just don’t think there was any dense snow, or rain-affected snow that had a chance to consolidate below these most recent accumulations. The snow quality is good though; the snowpack I encountered was right-side up with some medium weight density snow below fluffier powder on top.
Roughly 2,700’ was as high as my tour took me today, so I can’t provide observations above that level, but snow depths probably would have increased a bit more with elevation.
I’m surprised to see a depth of only 8” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 3,700’ as of the most recent report, but I’m not sure when that depth was last updated. Based on the amount of liquid equivalent that seemed to be in the snow, and the sub-freezing temperatures up there, this would likely be the start of the winter snowpack unless we get a really warm/wet, long-duration event. Consolidating the snow that’s there right now and/or adding some water to it would certainly help form a base. We certainly want to get in a decent synoptic winter storm to substantiate the base, but the mountains have got at least a minimal start with this system. I’m not sure if the snow we have in the valleys around here is quite enough to mark the start the season’s snowpack, but it’s possible. We’ll see what the next couple of weeks bring as we head into the busy holiday season.
In terms of the ski conditions it was certainly a fairly typical early season affair, and I’d say waiting for that second storm to put down the extra snow was the way to go. I opted to tour up at the main base, and there were clearly at least a couple more inches of settled depth up there (~2,000’) vs. what I found at the Timberline Base (~1,500’).
I could tell from the get go as I was ascending the Lower turnpike skin track and watching other skiers descend there, that the density of the snow was going to call for more moderate angle terrain vs. low angle terrain. The snow was fairly medium weight powder, which was of course good with respect to providing some base for skiing. There was obviously no existing snowpack below these storms, so if these recent snow had been 2-4% H2O champagne, there would have been a lot of dicey contact with the ground. But, this medium weight snow was dense enough that there was just too much resistance for low angle terrain – skiers and riders had to straight line their way down and/or use old tracks to keep moving on those angles.
Here’s the settled snow depth profile I observed during my tour:
Terrain in the medium to low-angle range was required for solid turns, and that meant that it was a balancing act between choosing terrain that had enough pitch for turns, but not too much pitch that you were going to be outskiing the available snow depth. There was also the factor of finding relatively protected terrain – that first storm especially, had some ridiculous winds, and scouring of the exposed slopes was rampant.
So, good knowledge of the local terrain was important, but once you found the appropriate setup there were some nice midwinter powder turns to be had. There was as always that exercise of not going too steep, aggressive, or rocky to outperform the available snow, so of course having knowledge of those grassier options was important in providing the best ski experience.
It was a solid first day out at the mountain, and it looks like we’ve got some warmth coming in the next week or so before we have any additional chances for snow.
I woke up this morning to find snow on the grass and elevated surfaces at our house, most notably our picnic table out back on the deck. This was the first snow I’ve seen at our house this season, and although our weather forecast did suggest there was some potential for accumulation, you never quite know how it’s going to play out in marginal situations like this one.
In any event, the snow stuck even down here at 500’, so it should have easily accumulated in the higher elevations. I measured 0.6” on the boards at observations time, and it did look like it could have melted some since the point at which most of it fell.
This is about a week on the late side for average occurrence of first frozen precipitation here at our house, but just a day off for the average date of first accumulating snow, so it’s very typical in that regard.
Details from the 6:00 A.M. Waterbury observations:
While in many areas around the state, the leaves have mostly fallen and it’s looking like stick season, there are still a lot of beautiful scenes with fall foliage. We were up in Newport today for a soccer game, and the views of foliage along Lake Memphremagog were beautiful.
“Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns.”
Although Ty was at work today, E and Dylan and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to check out the new accumulations and overall conditions. Temperatures have been quite chilly over the past couple of days, with highs only around 10 F or so, but today they were getting nicely up into the 20s F in the afternoon.
Lift-served trail options are fairly limited right now since natural snow trails off Vista don’t have nearly enough snow to support those levels of skier traffic, but we rode the Vista Quad and eventually made our way over to Wilderness to see what the terrain over there offered With mostly skinning traffic on that part of the mountain, many areas on the lower slopes of Wilderness are in great shape. Lower Turnpike has a nice skier packed base with 4 to 6 inches of medium weight powder on it, and the areas of untracked snow offered fantastic turns. We only saw three folks skinning up during the course of our descent, so skier traffic seemed light, in line with the conditions we found.
We stopped in for some slices at Fireside Flatbread before leaving, and there was modest midafternoon crowd enjoying the atmosphere. The pizza was fantastic as always!
The forecast actually looks fairly benign over the course of the next week, but the weather models due hint at a couple of possibilities for snow. We’ll be watching to see if anything develops.
Last weekend, Winter Storm Ezekiel brought some hefty snowfall to the Northeastern U.S., with totals exceeding two feet in areas around Albany, NY and Southern Vermont. Up here in the northern part of the state we only picked up a few inches of snow from the storm, with totals falling off to almost nothing near the international border in a total reversal of the usual trend.
“My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.”
The upslope snowfall on the back side of the Clipper looked like it would continue all day today, so I decided it was time for a quick trip up to the mountain to check out the new powder. Thanks to our cold November temperatures, Bolton Valley has actually been open for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t even picked up my season’s pass yet because I’ve been so busy. E and D were both a bit under the weather, and T was at work, so unfortunately they’ll have to wait until another trip to get themselves set up with their passes.
I was worried about a long wait to get my season’s pass, but once up at the mountain it turned out that picking it up was very quick. While I was walking toward the lodge from my car, I ran into a member of the resort staff who was checking in with everyone about picking up their passes. For pick up, he said to head right toward the Village Café, and they’d take care of everything. Indeed, there was only one person ahead of me picking up their pass, and it was very quick. The process of pick up and filling out the waiver was all done very efficiently on a handheld, wireless iPad-type device, and there was plenty of nice seating on couches in the lobby area so you could have a seat while you finished off the process.
Of course the greatest part of picking up my pass this year was the fact that Bolton has gone RFID!!! Dylan and I suspected it when we saw electronic gates by the lifts during a ski tour last month, but I can definitely say it’s for real. It’s so nice to be able to just stick the pass in my pocked (my Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket has a pocket on the sleeve that works perfectly) and I never have to mess with getting it out at the lifts. I tested out my pass at the Mid Mountain Chair and the process was perfectly smooth.
“I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow. Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.”
In terms of skiing, my plan was to use an assist from the Mid Mountain Chair and head over to Wilderness to ski some of the fresh powder in that area. I figured there would be no one on the upper mountain without the Vista Quad running, but when I was traversing over on Fanny Hill, I ran into a patroller who was prepping the trail for opening because they were going to open Vista. He reminded me that I wasn’t on the designated uphill route, but thankfully let me continue on over since I was just about onto the Wilderness terrain. I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow. Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.
Once connecting to the standard skinning route, I finished my ascent on Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness ridgeline and got ready for some turns. Light snow with breaks of sun that had been with me on the last part of my ascent were replaced with a sudden change to a maelstrom of huge flakes coming down as I began to descend. I really didn’t have to venture far afield from Peggy Dow’s and Turnpike to find powder – there was plenty of it throughout the route because skier traffic had been low enough. Powder depths ranged from as much as 15 to 20 inches on the upper mountain, to typically 12 to 15 inches on the lower mountain, so even with the incredibly dry powder there was plenty of it to keep you floating. I’d brought my 115 mm fat skis and they were definitely the right tool for the job. I was surprised at how quickly my legs got cooked from making Telemark turns – they’d often be fried after just a dozen or so turns! I guess it has been roughly three weeks since I last skied, so my legs are clearly telling me they need to get back into ski shape. Today should get the process started though, and hopefully ski days will become more frequent as we move into December and we continue to get snow.
On the weather side, it looks like we’ve got a warm system to start off this next week, which will consolidate the snowpack somewhat, and then temperatures should cool down for midweek with potential for some moisture from the Great Lakes affecting the area. Then there’s the potential for another large system next weekend, but it will be a bit before we can figure out how much snow we might get from that one.
Temperatures continued to run below average today, but were expected to top out around 20 F in the midafternoon, so Dylan and I headed back up to the mountain to check out the new snow and get in a ski tour. Not surprisingly, we found snow that was much improved over last week. At base elevations around 2,000’ we were finding 5 to 7 inches of powder atop the base, and up around 2,700’-2,800 where we topped out, depths were right around a foot.
Dylan is in the process of getting new equipment and gear since he’s outgrown so much of his stuff, so he was using E’s powder Telemark skis and Ty’s outwear. It all seemed to work really well for him though, and he was ripping up the powder when we found it. I’d say that was actually the main issue on the day; since the big storm was back on Monday and Tuesday, people have skiing that snow all week and large areas of untracked snow were at a premium on the lower slopes of Wilderness. We definitely got in some nice turns, but we had to really stick to the edges and seek out those spots that people has missed.
We’ve got yet another winter storm coming into the area tomorrow into Tuesday. This one’s expected to be a bit messy on the front end with some freezing rain, but it’s supposed to change over to snow as the system pulls off to the east. Whatever the case, it should all represent more material for building the base. It looks like there’s another storm expected toward the end of the week as well, so we’ll be watching to see how that will set things up atop the current base of snow.