Bolton Valley, VT 17DEC2020

An image showing the logo for the Outdoor Gear Exchange store on a roof-top ski box of a nearby car while skiing at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image showing an evergreen with a bit of the snow picked up at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont from Winter Storm Gail
An evergreen captures a bit of the snow picked up today at Bolton Valley from Winter Storm Gail

The weather models have been showing a potentially substantial east coast snowstorm system for probably a week.  For much of the time, it looked like more of a Mid-Atlantic event, and I hadn’t really been paying any attention to it, but then Phin stopped in the Northern New England Winter Thread at American Weather Forums and gave us a heads up that we shouldn’t be sleeping on this storm, even up in the north.  Ultimately, Winter Storm Gail did have its greatest impacts north of the Mid-Atlantic Region, with parts of Upstate New York and central New England getting in on an incredible band of snow.  There were numerous reports across that band of storm totals exceeding 40 inches, and reports of as much as four feet of snow in parts of New Hampshire.

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 12DEC2020

A scene with a couple pairs of skis on a ski rack and some snowy rocks in the background at the main base area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some skiers ascending the skin track on the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A few folks on the Turnpike skin track today as we were out enjoying the pleasant ski conditions at Wilderness

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 10DEC2020

An image of the village circle area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a small December snowstorm
An image of fresh snow with some buried ski tracks from a small December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
One of the beautiful scenes from Bolton Valley this morning, showing a few old ski tracks on Lower Turnpike

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.

Here are the snow depths I observed from the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road and up above the Bolton Valley Village:

340’:  2”
1,000’:  3-4”
1,500’:  4-5”
2,000’:  7”
2,500’:  8-9”
2,700’:  9-10”

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.

An image of fresh snow on an evergreen bough after a December snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the recent snow on a spruce bough

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 03NOV2020

An image of snow on a Jack-o'-lantern from an early November snowstorm in Waterbury, Vermont
An image of a bike trail sign at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont while out on a ski tour at the mountain during an early November snowstorm
Views of autumn clashing with winter while I was out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley today

Last week we had an early season storm that dropped some snow up here in Northern New England, and some notable amounts down in Southern New England.  Looking beyond that event, there was a signal for some snow in the Northern Greens developing by Thursday, that signal continued to grow on Friday, and by Saturday, the National Weather Service in Burlington was calling for a foot of snow in the local peaks.

It was hard to tell if we were going to see one extended storm during the Sunday through Tuesday, or a couple of discrete systems, but by Sunday afternoon, snow had started in the mountainsThe precipitation started as rain down here in the valley, with fairly high snow levels, but we had changed to snow at our house by yesterday morning.  E told me that the snow had started around 5:10 A.M., and the snowfall at our house continued at roughly an inch per hour all morning.

The snow tapered off in the afternoon, and then in the evening, the second system came into the area.  That storm delivered another several inches overnight, and in the morning, I head up to Bolton for a ski tour.

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.

An image of a snow shower down in the Champlain Valley taken from the top of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Viewing a snow squall in the Champlain Valley from the top of Bolton Valley.

Here’s the settled snow depth profile I observed during my tour:

340’: 4”

1,000’: 4-6”

1,500’: 6-8”

2,000’: 8-10”

2,500’: 10-12”

3,000’: 12”+

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.

An image of snow accumulations in the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after an early November snowstorm
Down in the Bolton Valley Village today

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.

One more round of October snow for Vermont

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area in late October showing some valley foliage and snow in the mountain peaks from a recent storm
An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area in late October showing some valley foliage and snow in the mountain peaks from a recent storm
An image of Mt. Mansfield today taken from my office at UVM showing signs from the recent storm and fall foliage still hanging on in the valley.

The local mountains picked up some more snow in what looks to be our final snowfall event for the month of October.  Down here in the valley at our house, I found a few flakes on my snow measurement board yesterday evening, but no measurable accumulation.  This storm was more notable down in Southern New England where there were totals up around 7 inches in the Worcester, Mass area.

Powderfreak got a beautiful picture of the slopes of Stowe Mountain Resort today, which he posted in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forums.  I grabbed a shot of Mt. Mansfield from the other side of the range when I was in my office today because it was so great to see the snow starting to come back to the peaks.

Snow for the valleys in northern Vermont

An image of October snow on a picnic table in Waterbury, Vermont
An image of October snow on a picnic table in Waterbury, Vermont
I woke up this morning to find snow accumulating on grassy and elevated surfaces like this picnic table on our deck. It’s the first accumulation we’ve seen in the valley this season!

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:

New Snow: 0.6 inches

New Liquid: 0.09 inches

Snow/Water Ratio: 6.7

Snow Density: 15.0% H2O

Temperature: 34.0 F

Sky: Light Rain/Snow (1-2 mm flakes)

Snow at the stake: 0.5 inches

Accumulating snow for the mountains of Vermont

An image of the Mt. Mansfield Chin in Vermont with some early season October snow
An image of foliage in the Newport, VT area along Lake Memphremagog with the mountain Owl's Head visible off in Canada.
Foliage in the Newport, VT area along Lake Memphremagog with the mountain Owl’s Head visible off in Canada.

A low pressure system moving along the coast of New England brought a chance for some accumulating snow to Vermont starting last night, and white could be seen in the peaks this morning.  The snow line over here in Vermont seemed to be around 2,500’, with a very sharp elevation cutoffAccumulations were 3-4” up around 4,000’ on Mt Mansfield, and similar atop Jay Peak.  I heard reports of some frozen precipitation up high earlier this season, but this was the first notable accumulation around here.  Off to the east over in New Hampshire and Maine, the snow line was much lower, and accumulations were even more substantial.  Some accumulations in northern New Hampshire were over a foot.

An image of the Mt. Mansfield Chin in Vermont with some early season October snow
The Mt. Mansfield Chin today with some early season October snow

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 21DEC2019

An image of Dylan skiing in the Wilderness area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont in mid-December after a couple of small snowfalls
Dylan catching some turns today on the natural snow over at Wilderness

We’ve had just a couple of modest systems bringing fresh snow this week, Winter Storm Finley on Tuesday/Wednesday, and then an arctic front with snow squalls soon after that.  In combination they brought 6 to 7 inches of snow down here at the house, and close to a foot up at Bolton Valley.  We had some warm storms last week that firmed up the slopes, but a photo of Powderfreak’s from Wednesday showed some gorgeous powder skiing thanks to the new snow.

“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.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in the Wilderness area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Erica masquerading as Ty by borrowing his ski clothes for today’s outing.

Pizzas set up at Fireside Flatbread at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe 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.

Bolton Valley, VT 07DEC2019

An image of fluffy upslope snow from an early December Alberta Clipper system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the snowpack depth around mid mountain in early December at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking the depth of the snowpack today at around 2,600′ near Mid Mountain. Total depth was around 27″, with about 20″ of it being powder from recent storms.

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.

A couple of smaller, Alberta Clipper-style systems came through the area this week though, with the second one being especially potent as it interacted with the Northern GreensBy this morning we’d already picked up 5 to 6 inches of pristine powder at the house, and Bolton Valley was reporting 9 inches in the past 24 hours.  We’re known for getting plenty of dry, “Champlain Powder™” here in the Northern Greens, but this snow was way up there on the quality scale.  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.

“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.

An image from outside the Village Cafe area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI 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.

An image of snow falling in the Village Circle area during an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the snowy Bolton Valley Village today after picking up my season’s pass

“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.

An image of snowy trees and a skin track after an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the snowy views along my skin track in the Fanny Hill area.

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 16NOV2019

An image of ski tracks in some November powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in some November powder on the Turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont.
Getting Dylan out for his first turns of the season today, we found up to a foot of powder in some areas thanks to the three storms we had this past week.

Since last week’s ski outing up at Bolton Valley, we’ve had three additional rounds of snow.  The first one at the beginning of the week was the most significant, with roughly an inch of liquid equivalent going into the snowpack in the form of some dense snow.  The next two systems later in the week were smaller, but featured drier snow that topped off the denser base snow with some nice powder.

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.