Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of us have witnessed a dramatic change in daily life here in Northern Vermont as varying levels of social distancing and self-isolation are being practiced to slow the pandemic associated with COVID-19. Measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 have been ramping up in the form of people doing extensive telecommuting, a state of emergency declared for Vermont back on the 13th, the closing of bars and restaurants on the 17th, and beginning tomorrow at 5:00 P.M. an executive order to stay home/stay safe.
As of last week, the ski areas in the state had ceased operations, which obviously has the potential to be a blow to many employees and ancillary businesses. All things considered, this timing hasn’t been too bad for the resorts, since they would all be tapering down winter services and staffing in the next few weeks to some degree anyway. From the skier’s perspective, the timing of these resorts hasn’t been horrible either – weather has been in that spring doldrums stage for the past couple of weeks. The usual thaw-freeze cycles that we get at this time of year have taken place, and we haven’t had any big storm cycles to resurface the slopes nor beautiful warm days with copious sunshine to soften them up. We last skied back on the 8th for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe, and regardless of the ski area closings, there hasn’t been much to entice us out since then.
“Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more.”
That situation began to change yesterday though, as Winter Storm Quincy moved into the area and began dropping snow. I was returning from a meeting at work in the late afternoon, and the roads were already taking on some fresh accumulations. As of my 6:00 P.M. snow observations at the house we’d already picked up a couple of inches of snow. Our initial forecast called for a total of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation, but after we picked up 2.6 inches of snow in just a half hour (an impressive snowfall rate of over 5 inches per hour) yesterday evening, it was obvious that we were going to get more. I got a text alert around 7:30 P.M. that we’ve been put under a Winter Storm Warning here in Washington County, no doubt due to the continued heavy snowfall. By midnight, we’d picked up over 8 inches of snow at the house, composed of 0.65 inches of liquid equivalent. This storm was definitely entering the realm of a decent resurfacing for the slopes.
Since the resort is not posting snow reports now that they’re closed, we didn’t have a sense for how much snow Bolton Valley picked up in the storm, but Dylan and I finally had time around late morning to head up for a ski tour. On the way up the access road we stopped in at Timberline to check on the snow depth, and found about 7 inches of settled new accumulation at the base. We also noted that there were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot from folks that were out ski touring.
I was unsure of the base depths at Timberline, and figured they would be more substantial at the main mountain, so we continued on up to the Village. New snow depths were similar there, and indeed fairly similar all the way up to the Vista Summit. So overall, there really didn’t seem to be much change in accumulation with respect to elevations – from what we saw today, even up above 3,000’ the storm totals looked about the same as what we picked up in the valley at 500’
The turns we had today were very nice. The powder was of medium to perhaps slightly higher density, and temperatures were well below freezing even in the Village at 2,000’. The snow had a nice surfy consistency, with enough buoyancy for bottomless turns on even steep pitches in the black diamond range. You could certainly hit bottom on the very steepest pitches, but we focused on medium-angle terrain and it was bottomless all the way.
“Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing. As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.”
With many people not going to work right now as the state strives to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and a fresh dump of powder on the slopes, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how many people were out for turns. The number of people touring seemed notable though – between Timberline and the Village, there were at least several dozen cars out there. Where we really noticed that ski touring traffic was up was by the number of tracks on the trails. D and I definitely had to work a bit to find trails that had only seen a few tracks, but we just poked around until we found them. Fanny Hill delivered pretty nicely with only about four or five tracks on it and plenty of untouched snow. Despite the number of people up at the resort, it was clear that even resort ski touring is still a great activity for social distancing. As is typically the case, we actually saw only a few people while we were out on the hill, and you still never had to go within 50 feet of anyone if you didn’t want to.
There are a few early signs of another potential storm about a week out, but there’s nothing notable in the more immediate term, so we’ll be watching that timeframe to see if anything pops up.