In association with our coldest weather of the season thus far, the mountains of Northern New England saw some snow today. In Vermont, I heard about the frozen precipitation on Mt. Mansfield in a post from Powderfreak at Americanwx.com, and over in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire there were some visible accumulations above the 3,500’ to 4,000’ elevation level. A great video from TheAutoRoad with scenes of snow falling along the Mt. Washington Auto Road was posted, and can be viewed below. Even in the valleys the weather was quite cool today, with highs only in the 50s F, so the look and feel of fall was all around us. Enjoy the video!
The National Weather Service office in Burlington has posted a freeze warning for our area, and indeed the entire state of Vermont is under either freeze warnings or frost advisories, so cover up vegetation as necessary. Though the first frost for valley locations in the Central and Northern Green Mountains does typically happen in September, the average date for the occurrence is toward the end of the month (September 27th for Morrisville and September 30th for Montpelier) so this is a bit on the earlier side. Yesterday in the Northern New England thread at Americanwx.com, Powderfreak posted the chart from the National Weather Service that shows the average dates and ranges for first frost at some of our Vermont climate locations – mid September is in the 10th – 25th percentile. Take a look at that post for more information about average dates of 32 F temperatures around the state.
It’s that time of year again when we start to think more about the colder weather, and for the past few days our NWS point forecast for Waterbury has shown sub-freezing low temperatures at the end of the week. Talk about the first snowfall of the upcoming season, has already begun – over in the New England forum at Americanwx.com, Dryslot pointed out the potential snow showers and frost in the forecast from the National Weather Service office in Portland, Maine. This morning I saw that there is a cold weather update at the Famous Internet Skiers website, and on SkiVT-L, there was a visit from Roger Hill, who threw out the potential for a little snow accumulation at Jay Peak. Although it doesn’t seem to be the case this time, I’m certainly reminded of a couple of seasons ago when some September snowfall actually produced enough snow to get in some skiing. The past couple of days have been pleasantly summery, even up here in Northern Vermont, but it sounds like the crisp feel of autumn is on our doorstep.
Having now compiled all our ski trip and winter storm summary reports for the ’10-’11 ski season, I’ve put together this season summary as a view of how things transpired from a Northern Vermont local perspective. It’s interesting to note that for Burlington, winter ’10-‘11 was well above average for snowfall (128.4”, 175%), while out in the mountains at our house the deviation was much less (197”, 114%), and indeed in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens like Bolton it was even closer to average (330”, 106%), so ski resort snowfall around here was essentially average. I actually made a chart for a post at Americanwx.com concerning the ’07-’08 season, which used Bolton’s snowfall from the past several seasons as a general indicator of how the snowfall has been in Northern Vermont:
One can see from the chart that ’10-‘11 was basically average for snowfall, and that the amount of snow (330”) was identical to ’07-’08. I would add that the general impression was that consistency of winter temperatures was a bit better than average in ’10-‘11 due to fewer warm events, so the quality of snow surfaces was higher. I’m not sure how much better than average it was though, since it seems that during midwinter, the norm in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens is to have about one warm episode per month. Also, since we were essentially out of the main track of synoptic storms until February, there wasn’t much in the way of moderate-density snowfall to resurface the slopes. I try to address the consistency of temperatures/quality of the snow surfaces in the text below though, at least in the context of weekends; I should note that it’s possible there could have been some midweek weather issues that simply flew under the radar for me. For the quality assessment I simply focused on whether or not we were skiing powder, because unless there is some sort of notable rise in temperatures, there is always powder available.
A monthly breakdown of snowfall and my perspective on the season follows below – you can click on each month (except November) and it should bring up that month’s posts in the J&E Productions Web Log. I only have the monthly snowfall for my house and not the ski areas, but the percentages relative to average often parallel the mountains reasonably well, especially for Bolton which is right up above us:
October: Pretty typical in that we got at least some snow for skiing; we had 1.0” of snow at the house. October snowfall in the lower valleys is often minimal enough that the percentages aren’t all that relevant, but that number is 111% vs. the five year average since we’ve been at our house, so indeed that’s rather “normal”.
November: Very poor; we got just 2.4” of snow at the house (29% of average) and I don’t really remember it, nor do I have any entries for that month in my ski log, so that says plenty right there. I do have a vague recollection of storm after storm tracking to our north and west giving us mostly rain though, so that would explain the low snowfall total. The lack of snowfall wasn’t necessarily a huge concern at the time since it was “only November”, but without good November snowfall, getting to appropriate base depths and excellent skiing in December can be that much harder.
December: Quite normal, 46.0” of snow at the house (right about average at 102%). Fortunately, even with minimal November snow we were skiing natural snow terrain by December 10th up at Bolton; the holiday period featured some decent skiing, with 7 outings for me during that stretch, indicating that the snow was obviously OK. Bolton had picked up 4 feet of snow from the storm at the beginning of the month, however, a lot of that snow, as well as what fell later in the month, was upslope fluff. So, even if one assumes a fairly average amount of snowfall for the mountains like we saw in the valley, the very dry nature of the snow meant that there was less liquid than usual, resulting in base depths that really didn’t build quickly. The Boxing Day Storm was unfortunately the start of a pattern that would last the next five to six weeks, with the big synoptic storms staying well south of the region and pounding Southern New England, while northern areas remained on the fringe and essentially survived on fluff. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and out of the 12 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Friday, Dec 31st, so that suggests pretty consistent temperatures.
January: We got 55.5” of snow at the house, which is above average (137%) in what can sometimes be a dry, midwinter month. However, January was essentially a month-long continuation of the trend that started on Boxing Day, and we were living on mostly Northern Vermont Champlain Powder™ fluff. We had a couple of good upslope storms in the early to mid part of the month (January 7th and January 12th) that made for some fine skiing, but obviously since so much of it was pixie dust, the base depths just could not build the way that they would with some synoptic storms. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, and out of 11 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Saturday, Jan 1st due to the warmth at the end of December. So I think one could argue that weekend ski surface consistency through Dec/Jan was better than average with only one (instead of two) weekend-affecting warm up(s) for the two months.
February: This is when the storm track finally shifted north and we got some notable synoptic storms; the first one was right on the 1st, and then we had a second storm on the 5th. That first storm brought just over a foot of snow for us down in the valley, and was by far the largest for the month. Thus there weren’t really any mega dumps based on my records from the house, but there was plenty of the usual good skiing at Bolton and even good skiing at Stowe. Snowfall was 48.1”, which is roughly average at 108%. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Out of the 10 outings in my records, all 10 of them had powder skiing, so February was perfect in that regard. However, while skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, we had to wait until Monday of the long weekend to ski because there had been some sort of warm-up. So I’d say the month was pretty typical with at least that one warm-up.
March: We continued to stay in the storm track for most of March, with our biggest valley snowfall of the season (25.0”) coming from the March 5th storm. We did wind up with notably above average snowfall in the valley for the month (39.6”; 155%), essentially due to that one big storm and aided by the fact that what I’ve got for a March average could be a bit low due to very poor Marches in ’09 (12.6”) and ’10 (2.1”). Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and powder skiing was done on all those weekends, however, there was also notable infiltration of non-powder skiing days into the weekends. Relative to the previous three months, only 9 of our 12 outings for March featured powder skiing, so while still a pretty good ratio, it was certainly a decrease. Indeed there were multiple warm ups in the month because those three non-powder days were actually on three different weekends (the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends). Fortunately, those weekends were somewhat redeemed by powder on the other day. By March, especially toward the end, things may start to fall off a bit from the typical rate of one warm episode per month, but I would expect that with at least 3 individual warm ups in March, it was nothing great or even above average in terms of consistency.
April: This was again quite a poor month in terms of snowfall and powder skiing; although snowfall correlation between our location down at the house and the mountains can really start to wane as one moves through April and snowfall becomes more and more elevation dependent. Snowfall at the house was well below average for the month (4.4”; 61%). We did at least start out the month with a snowstorm on the 1st and another one on the 4th; these events produced some good weekend powder skiing at Bolton and helped the mountain snowpack to surpass 100 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. However, the snowfall really fell off after that. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, but only 3 out of 9 days had powder and only 2 of the weekends had powder skiing. People were excited because we had a relatively deep snowpack during the month and coverage stayed longer than normal, but after that first week the storm track had shifted to the north/west and it was just storm after storm that featured warmth and little to no snow, even for the mountains. I commented on that trend in a post at Americanwx.com, since there can easily be feet of snow in the higher elevations in April, and instead of just some corn days or spring crud, we could have been skiing some great powder.
May: The May skiing was good due to the healthy snowpack, and I did get out in the powder on the 6th for top to bottom skiing on Mansfield. We didn’t get any snowfall at the house during the month, but May’s average snowfall numbers down at our elevation are pretty minimal like October, and with the high sun angle and warming as we approach the solstice I suspect even more removed from correlation with what the mountains see. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: I wouldn’t say May powder is consistent enough to worry about. I only got out for two days during the month, but at least one was a powder day; the other day was a corn snow day at Bolton so that was also good even if there wasn’t fresh snow.
June: Our only day in June was outside VT on the East Snowfields on Mt. Washington, and the snowfield was probably smaller than usual for that time of year due to the below average Mt. Washington snowfall for the season. There actually had been some frozen precipitation in the northern mountains leading up to that day, but we were skiing corn snow.
So in terms of overall snowfall, the two above average months of January and March were basically counteracted by the two below average months of November and April, and with the rest of the months being about average, the snowfall for the season ends up… about average. Some plusses were better than average snowpack in April and May, but that’s somewhat counteracted by the lower than average snowpack in November, December, and January. It looks like there was an uptick in consistency in the December-January period due to just that one notable warm-up, but with February and March coming in probably about average in that category, and while November is not especially consistent in terms of temperatures, even in the higher elevations, it must have been below average to get so little snow for the month. So taking the trends of consistency as an aggregate from November through April, I wouldn’t say that there was a massive improvement in temperature consistency/snow quality for this area. Something that I have noticed around here is that having a few more storms with mixed precipitation is not necessarily a huge detractor in terms of snow quality. The ’07-’08 season was a good example of this. We were right in the storm track, so if we did receive some mixed precipitation, there was often another storm on its heels so quickly, that old snow surfaces were covered up. It felt like we were right in the storm track for most of that winter, except that we had a relatively poor April with little snowfall (we picked up just 1.6” of snow at the house, even less than this past April). It is interesting to note that winter ’07-’08 (consistently stormy from November through March) and winter ’10-’11 (biggest synoptic storms focused on just February and March) provide quite disparate examples of how to get to very similar seasonal snowfall totals (203.2” and 197.0” respectively at the house, and 330” and 330” respectively up on the mountain).
Tree skiing: While working on some web page material, I came across the post I made about the average date for the start of Northern Vermont tree skiing, so I decided to add in the ’10-’11 data and see how the season compared. In my initial analysis through the ’09-’10 season, the average start date for tree skiing was December 9th ± 13 days with an average of 28.2 ± 6.8 inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. In terms of my personal log of outings from last season, I’ve got a start date of December 18th, 2010 for tree skiing, and the addition of these data alters the averages very slightly, bringing the date one day later to December 10th ± 13 days, and the average snowpack down a tenth of an inch to 28.1 ± 6.5 inches. So in terms of the ’10-’11 season, the start to tree skiing was slightly late in that it started about a week later than the mean date I’ve calculated. With the horrible November in terms of snowfall, and much of the December snowfall being dry fluff, the late start is not too surprising. However, the date is well within one standard deviation, so in that sense the start to tree skiing was another parameter of the season that was basically “average”.
On that temperature consistency/snow quality note, I was curious about the powder skiing we did throughout the season, so I checked my reports. For the list of outings below, I placed a P whenever we were skiing powder, and put a red X if we weren’t, so it shows the pattern of when we did have powder, and when we did not. Links to the text and pictures for all the individual reports are available below if people want more details about the depth/consistency of the snow, or one can also step through the J&E Productions web log, which has an entry for each outing. It’s interesting to note that starting at the beginning of the season in October and continuing through to March 26th, there were only four days (December 31st at Bolton Valley, January 1st on the Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry Network, March 5th at Cochran’s, and March 20th at Stowe) where we weren’t skiing powder. Strangely enough, I’ve never looked at a season in that way before, but it did give me an even greater appreciation for just how much powder there is to ski around here. After March 26th, the powder skiing really trickled off this season, although there were still at least a few days in there. I’m not sure how this season compares to others since I’ve never looked at one like this before, but I suspect most other “average” seasons would look similar for the way we ski, and with our pattern of skiing there might be similar patterns even in seasons that deviate more from average snowfall.
P Stowe, VT, Saturday 16OCT10
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 05DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 10DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 11DEC10
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 12DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 18DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 19DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 23DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 24DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 27DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Tuesday 28DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 30DEC10
X Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 31DEC10
X Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 01JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 09JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 13JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 15JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 16JAN11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 17JAN11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 22JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 29JAN11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 30JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 03FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 05FEB11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 06FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12FEB11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 13FEB11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 21FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25FEB11
P Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT, Saturday 26FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26FEB11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 27FEB11
X Cochran’s, VT, Saturday 05MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 06MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 07MAR11
P Stowe, VT, Tuesday 08MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12MAR11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 13MAR11
P Monroe’s Sugarin’, Barton, VT, Saturday 19MAR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 20MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Wednesday 23MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26MAR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 27MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 02APR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 03APR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 07APR11
X Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 09APR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 10APR11
X Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 17APR11
X Stowe, VT, Tuesday 19APR11
X Sugarbush, VT, Friday 22APR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 23APR11
X Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 01MAY11
P Stowe, VT, Friday 06MAY11
X Mount Washington, NH, Saturday 04JUN11
So yeah, long story short, pretty average season in my book. On that note, since we’ve been back from Montana, the only season we’ve had with substantial snowfall deviation from average for Northern Vermont was a negative one in ’09-’10 as I show in that table of Bolton Valley snowfall near the top of the post. There definitely hasn’t been anything like what many parts of the Western U.S. saw last season, but as I look at the list of outings above there’s still been plenty of great skiing.
Today I went up to Mt. Mansfield to get some turns in the snow before it started to disappear. A nice cold snap has dropped over a foot of new snow on some of the mountains, with snowfall reaching even down to Burlington. Traveling on I-89, I first saw snow on the Robbins Mountain Power Line, up around 2,000′. It was very patchy and hardly noticeable, so I was worried about how the lower elevations would be on Mt. Mansfield. Things looked up as I entered Waterbury (~520′) and found traces of snow on the ground. At the base of Mt. Mansfield (~1,600′) there was an inch or two of snow on the grassy surfaces. I hiked up in the region of the triple, looking for slopes that had nicely mowed grass for the trip down – a map of my route is pictured along with this text. At around 2,500′, the snow was over 6 inches deep so I threw on my snowshoes to make the going easier. I stopped my hike at around 2,920′ (see map) since it was time to head to work, but the snow depth had increased to about 8-10 inches. The snow was fairly heavy (~11% H2O or so), but light enough to make powder turns. I’m sure it was even better up at 4,000′ and above. The first half of the run had the best snow, with much stickier stuff lower down, but I was still able to ski right back to the base of the triple and make a quick departure for Burlington.
Friday update: From Burlington, I can see that they’ve lost some snow on the mountain, but as of yesterday evening there were still 9 inches at the stake.
Today, the Sugarbush ski patrol continued applying the same liberal policy that we experienced yesterday with regard to opening trails; if they felt there was enough natural snow to ski them, they just opened them, and today they added Birdland to the mix. We got some of the first “legal” tracks there, which were actually far from the first ones put down on the trail, but they were still quite enjoyable. We followed right behind the ski patroller opening up Birdland as he worked his way down while closing off the side trails; it was certainly fun, and all legal-like. Ski patrol also opened up the North Lynx lift line (bottom 3/4) but it will need some time to bump up for those interested in skiing the great mogul lines that can develop there. Despite today being the canned-food day promotion, crowds weren’t bad at all, since the mountain just kept opening more and more terrain basically as fast as they could get the patrollers to stamp the water bars, close off side trails, and check the padding around the poles (so it seemed). My trail pick of the day, and in fact the whole weekend, would have to be Birch Run off of North Lynx; there was natural snow plus some real nice manmade, and lots of fun terrain without big crowds. All the other members of our Sunday ski posse (Tom “Mango Madness” Bursey, Chris, and E) gave it high ratings. I’m glad North Lynx has had a bit of a revival in the past few years, because there’s some real fun terrain over there. Similar to yesterday, the powder continued to be a bit on the denser side, but that also meant that there was plenty of substance for keeping one afloat. Snowfall continued to fall like Saturday, and it essentially seemed to snow all weekend on and off with a few inches each day.
Even though Mad River Glen isn’t open yet, a lot of people are earning their turns there, and that’s certainly a sign of our current November snow situation – Mark Renson sent in his report from the mountain today as he toured around, and it didn’t sound bad at all. Other reports I’ve seen from today include Jeff Strait’s report from Stratton; I don’t have any experience with skiing Stratton, but based on his comments, apparently even that far south people are skiing the glades. I also saw a brief report from Smuggler’s Notch today by Vickie Backus; there wasn’t too much info about the off piste snow, but she did say she skied on a natural snow trail
I hope everyone can get out for some turns over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday; get those legs moving because the best pre-season workout for skiing is… skiing!
Well, the first thing I’d like to say about today is that I love the new Sugarbush policy of opening trails as soon as they can (I was told that they were emphasizing opening trails this year whenever possible). Patrol opened Spillsville, along with Lower Paradise plus some others that I can’t recall. The coverage was all natural and plenty rocky, but at least they gave us the choice. The powder was pretty heavy, but floatable and it seemed to snow on and off with a few inches of accumulation. Not surprisingly, it sounds like the situation is similar at Jay Peak, with Mark Renson indicating powder up to his knees and even some open tree skiing areas in his report to SkiVT-L. There’s only 15” of snow at the Mt. Mansfield stake as of today’s report, which seems a bit on the lean side to be jumping into the woods per the 24-inch rule, but since we’re talking about Jay Peak, it’s very possible they’ve had a bit more snow than other areas. In any event, Jay Peak patroller Walter Pomroy certainly confirmed the ability to hit the woods in his SkiVT-L report; he was able to go into some areas like Timbuktu and Kitz Woods that are still officially closed, but just like our experienced at Sugarbush today, he spoke of the benefit of the somewhat dense snow, although he still recommended rock skis. Even farther to the south, people were getting off piste; in Dave Barcomb’s report from Killington today, he also indicated that they were skiing the woods, so there is definitely some good early season coverage out there. It’s great to be able to get into the trees before we even hit Thanksgiving; this is two to three weeks ahead of average based on the mean date of roughly December 12th for hitting the 24-inches of depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake that typically supports initial forays into the trees.