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.
“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!
“The turns were definitely the best I’ve had this season.”
While I didn’t have time to head out for any turns yesterday, I was able to find a little time for a ski tour at Bolton Valley this morning. Overnight low temperatures were down in the teens F, pretty chilly by November standards, but the air was calm so it was quite comfortable, especially while skinning. I headed up the Lower Turnpike ascent route, which had a well-established skin track. There had been a decent amount of traffic on Turnpike itself, so when I got up to the final corner of Peggy Dow’s, I headed toward the Wilderness Lift Line where skier traffic had been rather light.
As usual, I made an effort to monitor snow depths throughout the ascent, and what I found should represent the state of the snow with yesterday’s additional snowfall, plus settling through this morning. It was a bit tough to discriminate between the newest snow and what was below, so the numbers I’m reporting below represent what I found for total snowpack depth starting at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road.
Although it was hard to get an idea of where the base snow stopped and where the surface snow began, I do have some info. Down at 1,500’ it seemed like there was maybe an inch or so of base, so most of that was new. Up at 2,100’ there were a couple of inches down, and probably around four inches at 2,500’. I’d guess six inches of base at the 3,000’ level. The wind in the higher elevations made for a larger range of depths, but I didn’t find a huge increase relative to 2,500’. Now that the resort has reported in with 10 inches, that seems like it makes reasonable sense. There may have been a bit of settling, but I’d say snowfall of 10-12” was probably what they picked up.
With respect to the descent, the skiing was great! The turns were definitely the best I’ve had this season. The upper mountain had that substantial base with close to a foot of powder on it, and while overall depths were a bit less on the lower mountain, it was fine on the lower angle terrain there. The snow was definitely on the dry side, so the fat skis were certainly in order for maximizing floatation, minimizing contact with the base, and planing on the lower-angle terrain.
“Even with fat skis, it can be a challenge to float in snow that dry unless you’ve got a lot of it.”
I wanted to see how the storm played out on the slopes, so I stopped for a quick ski tour at Bolton Valley this morning. My calculations had revealed that the snow was very dry, down around 2% H2O, so fat skis seemed to be in order this time around. Arriving up at the Bolton Valley Village, I’d describe the weather as having a very Colorado-esque vibe. The ground was covered with desert-dry, champagne powder and temperatures were in the mid-20s F. Even before the sunshine hit you, the air just had that comfortable feel, and with the clear skies, the day just held that promise of being sunny, dry, and warm. I guess it also reminded me of a March ski day to some degree.
I haven’t seen an official report on snow accumulations from the resort, which is not too surprising since they’re still in pre-season, but based on settled depths of the new powder and the rate of settling I’d seen at the house, I’d guess the Village elevations around 2,000’ picked up a half foot of snow. That’s similar to what we picked up down at the house. I’d tack on another couple of inches higher in the mountain, which would put accumulations there similar to the 7” reported at elevation for Stowe. With the 7-8” of fluff, the total snowpack depth I was finding on the upper half of the mountain was in the 10-12” range. I see that the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake came in at 11” as of tonight’s reading. The high temperature up there was only 32 F, so that snow probably didn’t undergo much melting and is likely comparable to what I found at Bolton this morning.
The skiing was good, although the powder certainly wasn’t bottomless on every turn. Even with fat skis, it can be a challenge to float in snow that dry unless you’ve got a lot of it.
I was attending the BJAMS Thanksgiving lunch with Dylan on Thursday, and that gave me a chance to check out how the snow was doing in some of the local mountains. From what I saw at both Stowe and Bolton Valley, the natural snow was just a bit too thin for skiing, but it was getting close. As of Friday morning though, the mountains had picked up a few more inches, and today I had a chance to head back up to Bolton Valley to see if the slopes were ready for some turns.
“…with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.”
I headed up for a ski tour at the mountain this morning because it seemed the best part of the day to catch some winter snow before warming temperatures affected it. At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snow depth is similar to what we’ve got here at the house – generally 1 to 2 inches. As the recent snow reports from the local ski resorts suggested, there wasn’t a massive increase in snowfall amounts with elevation from our storm earlier this week. Snow depths increased slowly as I headed up the access road, with about 2” at the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign (1,000’), 2-3” at the Timberline Base (1,500’), and then 3-4” around 2,000’ in the Bolton Valley Village.
There were a few other skiers in the Village who were coming and going on tours, so that seemed like a good sign that the snow was decent. Indeed, as I headed up Lower Turnpike, the snow depth increased to a half foot at the 2,500’ level. I had actually planned for a quick tour up to ~2,500’ if the snow wasn’t that good, but with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.
Below I’ve got a summary of what I saw for snow depths today with respect to elevation:
There was a crust on the snow in places, and I couldn’t figure out the trend in its distribution for a while, but I eventually figured out that areas with the most northwest exposure has the most crust. The crust wasn’t actually too thick, so it was still fairly easy to ski the snow there, but there’s no doubt that the very best turns were in the crust-free zones – the snow was smooth, mid-weight powder in those areas. I had some really nice turns on parts of Sherman’s Pass, and probably the day’s best on Work Road, but Lower Turnpike offered the longest consistent lines.
When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard. It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished. Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there. This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.
“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”
We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing. The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder. It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.
“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”
As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder. It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder. We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees. While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis. She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon. While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.
I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below. I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go. It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder. You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had. Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine. In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you. I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation. We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing. If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.
Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up. That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation. He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.
“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”
In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did. We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week. And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.
Based on the way the snow had picked up during my tour at Bolton Valley yesterday, I knew the resort would be reporting more snow today, but when I was checking on the snow totals for the Vermont Ski areas this morning, I was surprised to see that Bolton’s storm total was already up to 25 inches. That definitely called for a morning visit to the hill on my way into Burlington, and with the numbers they were reporting I suspected depths would be sufficient for my first visit to Timberline this season. It was a pleasant morning, with reasonable visibility despite snow showers touching off in the higher elevations. Winds had died down somewhat, allowing snow to more easily collect on trees in the mountains, and I enjoyed the whitened views of the peaks as I headed down the Winooski Valley.
Indeed the snow depths at Timberline looked great, and there were several cars in the south parking lot belonging to eager skiers and riders out earning turns. As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”. That was encouraging. I took a quick measurement above the Timberline Base Lodge and found a fairly consistent 15 inches of depth. It seemed like a good mix of denser snow below, and some fluffier stuff on top – if that was representative of what was out on the trails, it would mean good protection from underlying obstacles and smooth turns on top.
“As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.”
I hopped on the Twice as Nice skin track and made my way upwards until I cut over below the Spell Binder headwall in preparation for my descent. There was some drifting around, but Timberline is pretty sheltered in its lower elevations, so there was a lot of unadulterated powder out there. I changed over for the descent, dropped in for my first turns, and promptly headed over the handlebars in classic Telemark style. Even with my 115 mm fat skis, the buoyancy of the snow had just dropped out from under me as I hit a pocket of powder that was 24 inches deep. I took that under advisement, adjusted my style to be a bit more prepared for any buoyancy changes, and cruised my way down through some fine November powder. The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.
“The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.”
As is often the case with storms in the upslope areas of the Northern Greens, the effects linger, and the remnants of Winter Storm Argos are still delivering snow to the area today. Bolton Valley was reporting a 26” storm total as of this afternoon. We’re still getting snow even down here at the house this evening, so there should certainly be a bit of freshening in the mountains for anyone heading out for turns tomorrow.
While the heaviest snows from Winter Storm Argos had been off to our south and west, the main low pressure system was expected to move a bit today to put the Northern Greens in position for some of their classic upslope snow. Ahead of that uptick in snow though, temperatures in Northern Vermont had dropped enough to bring snow accumulations all the way to the valley floors, and I decided to swing by Bolton Valley this morning for a quick ski tour.
“Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.”
The additional accumulations were immediately evident in the lowest elevations. The base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ had an inch or two of new snow vs. the faint trace that was there yesterday afternoon. As soon as I got up into the main Village parking lot it was also obvious that the wind had changed direction from what we’d encountered yesterday, and heavy snowfall of at least 1”/hr was moving in. I had the back of my vehicle open for just a couple minutes while I changed boots, and being on the windward side I found my gear half covered with snow in just that amount of time.
The new influx of snow and wind since yesterday was a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to snow quality. There’s no doubt that the base has been substantiated between the wind and additional snow – the wind moved snow around, packed it down a bit, and just generally gave the snowpack more girth. Where I touched down in a couple of spots yesterday there would be no issue today. With those changes came more inconsistency in the snow density due to wind crust, so turns weren’t as light, airy, or consistent as yesterday from a powder skier’s perspective. Each powder day is different though, and it was nice to be able to charge a bit harder and not worry as much about touching anything under the snow.
I toured up to roughly 2,800’ on Peggy Dow’s, and fairly heavy snowfal continued for the hour or so that I was up there, with small to moderate size flakes. From the Village elevations on up it looks like ~3” of new snow fell by early morning. Below I’ve updated the total snow depths I found (yesterday afternoon –> this morning), and it looks like the resort had generally hit that 1-foot mark for settled depth on the upper mountain:
A check on Bolton Valley’s snow report, showed them reporting 9-12” as of ~9:00 A.M. this morning, which seems right in line with what I encountered.
With the lower valleys around here finally getting in on the snow action today, I was able to see a lot during my travels to and from the Burlington area. This afternoon, heavier snow pushed eastward from the Champlain Valley where it had been focused, and the drive home from Burlington to Waterbury was the classic journey from no precipitation into an ever-thickening maelstrom of big flakes. Roads were actually dry in Burlington, became wet by the Williston area, and then snow-covered past Richmond. Those who drive Route 2 or I-89 eastward know some of the spots with those long views down the trench-like Winooski Valley, and at each one today, the visibility to the east simply dropped another notch. Consistent with the visibility trend, the intensity of the snowfall was greatest once I got past Bolton. There was a van sideways on I-89 just before Exit 11 that had me in slow traffic for about 15 min, but I was able to get home by 5:00 for observations and liquid analysis on our recent snows. I was greeted by almost a half foot of new snow at the house, and it’s really come down in density. My analysis revealed ratios in the 30 to 1 range, which is going to supply some great powder provided it wasn’t totally blasted by the wind.
With the timing of the storm, our plan today was to hold off until mid-afternoon to let accumulations build up in the mountains. E was feeling a bit under the weather, but the boys and I eventually headed up to the mountain to hopefully catch a ski tour and some turns before dark. Similar to what was going on at our house, the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ was right on the verge of accumulating snow, and you could see whitened areas in spots. Seeing at least minimal accumulations right down at that elevation suggested good things up high though. By 1,000’ there was a solid coating of an inch or so, and although we didn’t stop in at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ to formally check, I’d estimate accumulations of ~4”. Up in the Village parking lots at ~2,000 Dylan measured 5” on the parking lot surface, but most surfaces revealed depths in the 5-7” range.
“Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever…”
Temperatures were a couple of degrees below freezing, and moderate snow fell around us as we geared up for the tour. We watched other folks around the Village, some out on ski tours of their own, and some playing with their dogs or just out walking in the snow, but you could tell that they were all excited for winter’s return. We ascended up the usual Lower Turnpike route, and the boys has a chance to test out lots of new gear that they’d acquired in the off season. Ty was on a new Telemark setup with 160 cm skis, and being 20 cm longer than anything he’d skied before, I was curious as to how it would work out for him. Dylan was really happy to finally be into a pair of Voile Switchback bindings and out of the old three-pin setups.
There was a nice skin track in place, and it had picked up an additional inch or so due to the continued snowfall, but it was a really smooth and swift ascent. By the time we reached the 2,500’ elevation mark the snow depth was up to ~9”, and we continued our ascent up to ~2,700’ on Cougar before we decided that going higher wasn’t necessary. We knew that the descent would be a little slow in lower-angle spots based on a couple people we’d seen going down earlier, but we were all on fairly wide boards and floatation definitely wasn’t an issue. The boys had a blast and were skiing well, and not only did Ty have no issues with the longer skis, he actually made some of his best Tele turns ever. Perhaps the extra ski length and the floatation that comes with it were just what he needed to make a jump in his Telemark skiing. Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever, and along with the fun conditions I think some of that comes from getting stronger each season and finding that the touring is that much easier for them.
The depth of the base snow isn’t quite what it was on my October outing with almost 20 inches of dense paste, so we had to negotiate a couple of bigger rocks (I failed in one case with the fading light) but there’s supposedly plenty more snow to come with this storm. We got to finish the tour around dusk, which always sets a fun mood with the Village lights amidst the snowfall of a storm. It looks like we’ve got more chances for snow coming during this Thanksgiving holiday week, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to head back out again soon.