With the great run of November snowfall we’ve had, Bolton Valley decided to run some of its lifts today as an early kick off to the season. In addition to running the lifts, they had a number of events taking place, such as special discounts and lunch specials for pass holders, as well as roasting marshmallows outside by an open fire.
“The powder from Thanksgiving has settled somewhat, but I still found a general 12 to 24 inches in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range.”
E and the boys and I headed up to catch a few runs, and I decided to skin up from Timberline and meet the rest of the family up at the Village. Since our last visit to the mountain on Wednesday, the Thanksgiving cold front snows had definitely freshened up the powder on the slopes. Some skiers had been out since then, but overall traffic was much lighter than what it had been at the beginning of the holiday week. The powder from Thanksgiving has settled somewhat, but I still found a general 12 to 24 inches in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range. Temperatures were right around 30 F when I arrived, and were even climbing a bit above freezing as I made my ascent to the Village.
Only the lower mountain lifts were in operation today, so there were lift queues of about 10 minutes, but it was such a nice day that nobody seemed to mind hanging out as they kicked off the season. E and the boys had done a couple runs before I arrived, and once we caught up, Dylan and I headed for a little tree skiing in the powder while Ty worked on some snowboarding with E. We then stopped in for the lunch special at the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery, which has been remodeled a bit to provide more seating.
After lunch I headed back to my car at Timberline via the Timberline Summit, and snow in the sunny areas was getting a bit thicker, but I found some excellent dry powder by sticking to north-facing and sheltered terrain. We’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory in effect overnight into tomorrow, but that’s for mixed precipitation. This system should add a bit of liquid to the snowpack, but there’s not really any snow associated with it. There’s another storm coming in the midweek period however that appears to have much more snow potential.
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.
By Friday morning, I already knew this was going to be a big weekend for skiing at Bolton Valley. The initial round of snow from Winter Storm Avery had just finished up, and Emma, one of my undergraduate students rushed in just a few minutes before the start of class. She’d been out on a ski tour at Bolton Valley’s Timberline area earlier that morning, and being the dedicated student that she is, she was back right on time for our class session. That good school-life balance if you ask me.
Naturally I had to give her some ribbing about stealing my powder, but I got a good rundown on the conditions, and there was indeed a ton of new snow even down at the Timberline elevations. Combining our third significant winter storm cycle in a week with the start of the Thanksgiving break, and what appeared to be some excellent winter-like temperatures coming on the weekend, sounded like a recipe for a lot of people getting out to enjoy the powdery terrain at Bolton Valley. Indeed, when we were on our ski tour at Timberline yesterday morning, we found that there had been substantial skier traffic on all the trails.
“My depth checks found 16-20” of snow at Bolton’s main base area, and it went up from there with elevation.”
Yesterday’s tour also revealed that the freezing line on Saturday had crept up to around 2,000’, so for today’s tour I decided to head up to the main base and start my ascent from there. The mountain picked up another 2-3” of fluff overnight, and with all the snow at elevation avoiding any warmth and remaining well preserved, the snow surfaces were simply excellent. My depth checks found 16-20” of snow at Bolton’s main base area, and it went up from there with elevation. The resort is reporting 36 inches of snow in the past week, so those depths really shouldn’t be that surprising
“The resort is reporting 36 inches of snow in the past week…”
I toured in the Cobrass/Cobrass Run/Five Corners area today, and found lots of fresh tracks still available. With all the visitors that the resort has seen this weekend, there are literally skin tracks all over the place to get you wherever you want to go – it’s almost like having a skin track highway system. I even checked out some of the tree skiing as I was coming back from the Five Corners area, and you’d almost think it was midwinter with the depths that are available in the woods.
We’ve had some great snow in the Northern Green Mountains over the past week. Three coastal storms have affected the area: a double barrel low pressure system last weekend, a low pressure system hugging the coast in the midweek period, and now Winter Storm Avery this weekend. All told, the local mountains have picked up two to three feet of snow in the past seven days, with Bolton Valley reporting 32 inches during the period as of today. That’s a good pace of snowfall for any week during the winter, but it’s an excellent pace for November. This is when the mountains should be building that natural snowpack, so this is an especially good time to be getting these substantial storms.
“Snow depths were generally 1 to 2 feet throughout the tour…”
Timberline had already seen lots of visitors as of late this morning, so there was a well-established skin track on the usual Twice as Nice route. Snow depths were generally 1 to 2 feet throughout the tour, and temperatures were just creeping above freezing down at the base, so the powder down in the lower elevations was starting to get just a bit wet. In the higher elevations the snow was fairly dry, middle-weight powder, so the skiing was quite good. I’d say starting at the main base up above 2,000’ would be a good move to optimize the best snow, so I might think about that for my next tour, but even touring down to the 1,500’ elevation is still quite reasonable.
After our tour we headed up to the main base to pick up our season passes, and learned that there’s talk of starting the lift served season a week or two early. I’d say we’re happy either way, since there’s still plenty of touring to do even if the lift-served skiing hasn’t started.
Temperatures in the higher elevations stayed well below freezing overnight, and indeed they weren’t even going to rise above freezing during the day today. So as expected, whatever state the snow was in by the end of the day yesterday was essentially how it was going to stay. I found very nice powder conditions on the upper half of the main mountain when I was at Bolton Valley yesterday, and with that in mind, we got the family out for a ski tour today.
“So that meant some nice powder turns on the upper half of the mountain, and a melt crust under a little fluff on the lower mountain.”
The temperatures we found today were very much like what I’d encountered yesterday, with uppers 20s in the Bolton Valley Village, and 19 F up around 3,000 feet. This afternoon featured nearly cloudless skies however, so we had much more sunshine today, and that made it at least feel a bit warmer to me, even if the thermometer didn’t have much to say about it.
I took E and the boys on essentially the same tour I did yesterday, and the snow depths and conditions we found really were unchanged today. So that meant some nice powder turns on the upper half of the mountain, and a melt crust under a little fluff on the lower mountain. E and the boys were definitely leery of the conditions on the lower half of the mountain when we began our ascent, but I told them to stick with it and we’d get up into the good snow. We did just that, and I’d say everyone had a lot of fun working on their first turns of the season in the powder. We got back to the car just as the sun was beginning to set, and all in all it was a great first family ski outing of the season.
We’ve actually got a couple more storms on the way over the next several days that hold the potential for additional snow. There’s one on the way for Tuesday which could be similar to this past one, and then another one near the end of the week that bears watching as well.
You can put away the rock skis for this storm. Indeed the Northeastern U.S. has been under the influence of a double-barrel low pressure system that the weather models have been showing for more than a week, and it’s finally delivered a healthy shot of snow to the Green Mountains. With one low pressure system traveling through the eastern Great Lakes, and another up the New England coast, there was some warm air involved in this event, but the precipitation in the mountains has generally been frozen, and it’s been plentiful.
“There’s definitely a nice density gradient to give you those easy powder turns with ample protection below.”
Most of the mountain valleys even picked up some snow, but when the snow began yesterday afternoon, the eastern slopes seemed to be the areas getting the most precipitation and notable accumulations even in the valley bottoms. I was hoping to head up to Bolton Valley for some turns today, but the lower accumulations in the valleys of the western slopes had me wondering how the resort had done with respect to snowfall. They don’t have their webcam in operation yet, and they’re not making immediate snow reports, so I quickly popped up to the mountain this morning to assess the potential for turns.
Signs of leftover snow like we had at our house disappeared as I dropped down into Bolton Flats, and at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) there was no accumulation. There weren’t even any signs of white until I hit 1,000’. So I’d say that indeed, accumulating snow levels were definitely lower in elevation on the eastern slopes – snow at 1,000’ in the Bolton Valley area was about equivalent to 500’ at our house slightly east of the spine. The snow depths did eventually did go up dramatically with elevation however. I found 3 to 4 inches at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and up in the Bolton Valley Village (2,000’) there were 6 to 8 inches on the ground with heavy snowfall adding to that by the minute. The resort was clearly all set in terms of snow, so I hoped to head back up in the afternoon for a tour when I had sufficient time.
After visiting the ski swap in Waitsfield in the early afternoon, I was able to head back up to Bolton Valley in the midafternoon period to get in that ski tour. The accumulations I’d see in the Village in the morning just continue to increase as I skinned up toward the summits, and all told I found the following accumulation profile with respect to elevation:
I did get readings as high as 16” on the upper mountain, and one drifted spot with 20”, but I’d say 12-14” is a decent measure of the top end I found for depth. It seemed like there was some old snowpack up high, but I don’t think it interfered with measurements of the new snow because it should have been pretty solid by now.
Even base temperatures had dropped into the 20s F when I was up there in the midafternoon, and my thermometer was showing 19 F when I was up at the Vista Summit, so the snow wasn’t wet at all. Below ~2,500’ there was a thick layer in the snowpack that was only an issue in wind scoured areas. I’m not sure when that developed (maybe during the warmest part of the storm), but today’s additional snow sort of mitigated that, at least with the 115 mm skis I was on. Above 2,500’ it didn’t seem like that layer was even present, and turns were fantastic in midwinter snow. There’s definitely a nice density gradient to give you those easy powder turns with ample protection below. With tonight’s temperatures, the only enemy of the powder would be wind, so the good snow should be there a while for those who want get after it.
It’s been quite a while since I last used my “rock skis”. Although I’ve certainly gotten out for many early- and late-season turns over the past several seasons, I just haven’t had to worry much about conditions that were going to damage my skis. Late-season snow is dense, for the most part covering rocks where it’s present, and our early-season storms of late have generally been substantial enough that I wasn’t concerned about rocks on the terrain I was skiing. This year has been a bit different here in the Northern Greens though, and rock skis turned out to be just the right choice for today’s outing. We’ve had numerous rounds of snow in the mountains over the past couple of weeks, but none of the storms have been the type that really put down a big dump of 6 to 12 inches or more at once. New Hampshire did get a big shot of snow from the last storm that hit, but over here in the Greens we’ve just been adding an inch or two here and there. Those smaller bouts of snow have added up over the past couple of weeks though, and with the nor’easter affecting the area today, it finally seemed like it would reach that threshold of base depths to lure me out to the slopes.
“Up by the Mountain Chapel, the 3 to 4 inches of dense snow on the smooth surface of the Toll Road really produced some excellent floaty turns.”
As the nor’easter approached, snowfall at our house in Waterbury began mid-morning, and then in the midafternoon Mother Nature really turned on the spigot and we got into a period of heavy snowfall composed of big wet flakes up to 2 inches in diameter. With the heavy snow falling it seemed like as good a time as any with respect to catching any new accumulations on the slopes before any potential mixed precipitation. I was planning to take an initial look at Bolton Valley to see how the snow was up there, but the Bolton Valley Access Road still hadn’t been plowed as I started up, so I didn’t go very high before I decided it was best to turn around. There was no way I wanted to try heading all the way up to the Village above 2,000’ on an unplowed road.
In line with my plans, I next headed off to Stowe for some skiing, and I was fairly confident that the driving would be fine with the route at mostly low elevation. Indeed the driving was fine, and unlike Waterbury, the town of Stowe really hadn’t picked up any snow, so that made the drive very easy. Rain through the valley switched to mixed precipitation as I approached the base elevations of the resort at 1,500’, and I found a solid covering of 1 to 2 inches of snow on the ground at the Mansfield Base Lodge where I parked. I’d brought two pairs of skis and skins, and after surveilling the area I decided that the rock skis were the way to go for a more enjoyable descent because I wouldn’t have to work too hard trying to avoid any rocks.
I wanted some mellow, grassy slopes for my tour, so I headed up in the area of the Mountain Triple Chair toward the Stowe Mountain Chapel. The mixed precipitation that I’d found when I first arrived changed over to all snow as I began my ascent, and I really needed the hood of my coat at times due to the intensity of the precipitation. I quickly found 3 to 4 inches of snow on the grassy slopes, which is about where the depth stayed up to the Mountain Chapel at ~2,300’. Although I could have used my skins, I never really needed them because once I got up to the Crossover road I was able to simply walk in my Tele boots easily.
I really thought that the grassy slopes would offer the best skiing, but it turned out that the service roads were the best. Up by the Mountain Chapel, the 3 to 4 inches of dense snow on the smooth surface of the Toll Road really produced some excellent floaty turns. The Crossover Road isn’t nearly as smooth, and the snow depths did drop a bit on the descent, so nothing compared to the turns up on the Toll Road. On the grassy slopes, the depth of the cut grass relative to the few inches of snow, combined with my fairly skinny rock Tele skis, made turns much more challenging. I was low enough down in the grass that there was substantial resistance to making any short-radius turns.
The snowfall had let up for the most part by the time I’d descended back to the base, but the weather show wasn’t quite over. I got to see some plowing of the parking lot, and the slushy snow was so wet that it was almost as if the plow was simply plowing water! This was the 4th storm with accumulating snow at our house this October, and based on my count, it was the 6th storm with snow for the mountains, so we’ve really had quite a run. It might not be the last of our October snow though; we may get a couple of chances through midweek before we get into a slightly warmer pattern heading into November.
There’s apparently a Nor’easter brewing for this weekend, although there’s not a ton of cold air around for the system to use, so the current forecast suggest snow will only be up near the summit elevations and fairly limited in amount.
“The data suggest that our first snow of the 2018-2019 winter season from this past Saturday (October 13th) is a few days on the late side of the mean for first accumulating snow (October 10th), but overall quite typical.”
There are a couple of seasons that I couldn’t include in the statistical analysis because of gaps in the data collection early in the co-op site’s history, but there were still 62 seasons in the data set that provided useful information. The data suggest that our first snow of the 2018-2019 winter season from this past Saturday (October 13th) is a few days on the late side of the mean for first accumulating snow (October 10th), but overall quite typical. The full results from the statistical analysis are below, so have a look and think snow!