Looking back at the start of the 2018-2019 ski season in Vermont – Mt. Mansfield snowpack depth and historical comparative analysis.

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.

One approximate measure of when the potential natural snow/off piste skiing begins each season here in Northern Vermont is the date when the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake reaches 24 inches.  This is by no means an exact date, especially since it’s possible to get great turns on just a few inches of snow if the snow is dense and the underlying surface is grass instead of rocks.  You can indeed get by with much less than 24 inches of snowpack if the snow is very dense, but not if it’s all Champlain Powder™ fluff.  Based on empirical observations and reports from skiers in the area each season though, hitting the 24” mark is reasonable for most situations.

With that preface, let’s take a look at where last season sits with regard the start of the natural snow/off piste skiing around here.  By most accounts, last season started off with bang.  Even in the local mountain valleys, the winter snowpack started as early as November 10th.  That’s very early for the valleys, and when the valleys are doing well, the mountains certainly are too.

The updated plot for the 60+ seasons in the Mt. Mansfield Stake database is below, with last season represented by the red star:

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.
The updated plot showing the date of reaching 24-inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. The point for the 2018-2019 winter season (November 27th, 2018) is indicated by the red star.

Before I add a bit of context to last season’s start, here are the stats for the data set:

n:  64
Mean:  Dec 12th
Median:  Dec 9th
Mode:  Dec 16th
S.D.:  18.8 days

Entry of this year’s data point had no effect on the mean, mode, or S.D. (within a tenth of a day), but it did drop the median by one day from Dec 10th to Dec 9th.

The plot would suggest a reasonably good start, but nothing outrageous:  last year’s 24” date was Nov 27th, which is only 0.78 S.D. ahead of the mean, so well within 1 S.D.  That puts it in roughly the top 22% of seasons, so about 1 in 5 seasons will have a similar or earlier 24” date.

While the 24” date is a nice snapshot for the start of the natural/off piste season, there are of course a number of other factors to take into account that made last November more impressive than that number alone:

1) Near miss:  If you look at the raw November stake depth data (posted below), you can see that the snow depth at the stake reached 23” on Nov 21st.  That’s as close of a miss as you can get to hitting 24”, so even as of the 21st of the month, the snowpack had essentially hit that two-foot level.  Getting to that level by the 21st brings a season past 1 S.D. and into that top ~15% of seasons.  That’s not a huge bump in this regard, but having nearly an extra week of borderline two-foot snowpack at that part of the season could easily mean an entire additional weekend of natural snow skiing potential.

2) No going back:  This is a much bigger feather in last season’s cap.  Even from about mid-month, the snowpack never really took a major hit, and once it did hit that 24” mark on Nov 27th, there was really no going back.  It sailed past 24” and just kept climbing as you can see in the numbers at the end of the month.  I haven’t added the December numbers below, but even with the lackluster December we had, the snowpack never dropped below ~40”.  That can’t be said for all of the seasons on the left side of the plot (certainly not Mr. October out there in front, which was the 2006-2007 season – he was back to 0” at the stake by mid-November).

3) Snow-depth days:  I haven’t calculated this for any November with the stake data, but it will obviously be a good integrative measure of how much snow was on the ground for the start of the season.  I’m sure last November would have a solid ranking if I put those data together.

So, if we look into that left side of the plot, do we have any other recent seasons in there that we can use for comparison to last season?

Actually, that lone star (Nov 25th) just to the left of the red star for last season is for 2007-2008.  We know that was a solid season around here.  The snowpack began building in the first week of November, and there was really no going back there either.  Unlike this past season, that solid November was followed up by a stellar December (almost 70” of snow here at the house) and the Mansfield snowpack was hitting five feet by the holidays.  With a solid December, last season certainly would have given 2007-2008 a run, but instead it was languishing at around 40” at the stake during the holiday period.

With regard to some of the other stars up at that end of the plot:

The two compatriots of last season on the plot, those other two stars on Nov 27th, are 1997-1998 and 1977-1978.  1997-1998 looks pretty solid with a snowpack start in the first week of November, and snowpack at about that five-foot mark by the holiday period.  There’s also a nice-looking bonus stretch of snow at the end of October, with snow at the stake for almost the last third of the month, and the depth peaking at 16”.  Checking my archives, I actually went for some lift-served skiing at Sugarbush on Oct 28th, so that speaks to that period snow being a bit of something special.  1977-1978 was before my time around here, but it looks a bit tamer.  There was nothing in October, then snowpack began to build around mid-November and was getting around the four-foot mark by the holidays.

The two stars right at Nov 20th are interestingly, back-to-back seasons of 1967-1968 and 1968-1969.  Both had a little October snow, and then a snowpack start in the first week of November.  Both had pretty steady climbs right through November and December, with 1967-1968 getting to around 40” for the holiday period, and 1968-1969 hitting a very robust 6+ feet of snowpack for the holidays.  I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, as that was just the start of a season that would become legend.

The star at Nov 18th is 1965-1966, and the progression looks sort of like 1967-1968.  That’s quite a 4-year stretch of good early seasons from ’65-’66 to ’68-’69 with those three solid starts.

The star at Nov 16th is 1980-1981.  That season is interesting in that the snowpack started building on Oct 20th and sailed right into November without ever going back to zero.  Snowpack was 4+ feet for the holidays, but the rest of the season looks modest (relatively speaking) with the snowpack depth never getting above 6 feet.

The star on Nov 14th is for something more recent:  2003-2004.  I was out in Montana for that one, but snowpack started building in the second week of November, it was 4+ feet at the holidays, and hit the 100” mark in March.

The star on Nov 13th is for 1976-1977.  That looks like an impressive start, with snowpack taking hold in the second half of October, climbing right through November, and hitting roughly the 4-foot mark for the holidays.  The stake didn’t quite top out at 100” that season, but it did pretty well topping out at 94”.

The final early star I haven’t mentioned yet is the one on Nov 11th, that’s for the 1990-1991 season.  It seems like the only other boom and bust start to go with Mr. October (2006-2007).  There was a little inkling of snow at the end of October and start of November, but snowpack started building at the end of the first week of the month and topped out at a very impressive 45” on Nov 14th!  It was a downhill slide after that though.  The snowpack never went lower than 9” but there were only 12-18” on the ground for the holiday period, and on Dec 30th it dropped from 18” to 13”, so that must have been quite a dagger in the holiday week (I guess that depends on whether it was a nice spring skiing day or a nasty rainstorm).  The rest of that season seemed pretty blasé because the snowpack never even hit 5 feet.  I don’t recall much about that season, but I’m assuming there was nothing too remarkable.

The November 2018 Mt. Mansfield snow depth data are below – note that there are a few days with no depth data available:

Date                 Depth
11/1/2018        2
11/2/2018        1
11/3/2018        4
11/4/2018        4
11/5/2018        4
11/6/2018        3
11/7/2018        0
11/8/2018        3
11/9/2018        1
11/10/2018      7
11/11/2018      8
11/12/2018      8
11/13/2018     
11/14/2018      14
11/15/2018     
11/16/2018      19
11/17/2018     
11/18/2018     
11/19/2018      20
11/20/2018      21
11/21/2018      23
11/22/2018      23
11/23/2018      23
11/24/2018      20
11/25/2018      19
11/26/2018      19
11/27/2018      32
11/28/2018      43
11/29/2018      46
11/30/2018      44

Bolton Valley, VT 29NOV2018

An image of a truck along the Bolton Valley Access Road covered with snow from Winter Storm Bruce
A trail sign covered in snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A sign of the times – dense snow sticking to anything and everything thanks to Winter Storm Bruce

It’s been snowing now for four days, but Winter Storm Bruce is finally starting to wind down.  Bolton Valley is reporting a storm total of roughly 32 inches, and based on the 2.26 inches of liquid equivalent we’ve picked up here at the house, the new snow at the mountain must contain at least that much liquid.  That’s a fantastic addition to the early season snowpack.

I had some time this morning, so I headed up to the Bolton Valley Village for a ski tour from the main base.  Temperatures that were a degree or two above freezing in the valley with easy driving conditions gave way to temperatures in the upper 20s F, snowfall, and wind at 2,000’.  The main skin track on Lower Turnpike was in great shape, so the going was easy on my ascent.  Although there’s been more snow since my Tuesday outing with Ty, it’s settled now, so the overall feel is definitely denser.  The checks I made throughout my tour revealed a settled depth of 22 inches pretty consistently, so I’d say that’s where the recent snow sits.  There’s also been more wind over the past couple of days, so protected areas definitely offer the best turns.  The skiing definitely has a Pacific Northwest feel – that feeling that you can basically go anywhere you want and you’re not going to hit anything below because the dense snow is going to protect you.  The feel in the valleys fits right in as well, with temperatures right around freezing, and dense, dripping snow caked on all the trees – and any other objects upon which is sits.

“The checks I made throughout my tour revealed a settled depth of 22 inches pretty consistently, so I’d say that’s where the recent snow sits.”

As of today’s snow report, Bolton is indicating an impressive season snowfall total of 84 inches.  In terms of the local mountain snowpack, the snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit 46 inches today, which appears to be the deepest November snowpack on record.  What a November it’s been on the slopes!

Bolton Valley, VT 27NOV2018

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in 18 to 20 inches of fresh powder from Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of one of the chairs on the Wilderness Chairlift filled with snow from Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Winter Storm Bruce unloaded its snow on Bolton Valley today – we measured 18 to 20 inches of new snow during out afternoon ski tour at the resort.

Today our area has been under the influence of Winter Storm Bruce, a low pressure system that’s crossing through New England and bringing copious amounts of moisture with it.  School was cancelled for Ty due to the storm, so I came home a bit early in the afternoon with the hopes of getting together for a ski tour up at Bolton Valley.  There was some very heavy snowfall in the early afternoon period that was easily putting down an inch or two of snow an hour, so I was a bit leery about trying to negotiate the Bolton Valley Access Road under such conditions.  But, the heavy snow let up a bit in the midafternoon timeframe, and we figured the plows would be able to keep up with it so we headed out.

The Bolton Valley website indicates that the Timberline area is strictly closed to traffic right now (perhaps due to chairlift work) so we headed up to the main base for our tour, and that turned out to be a great starting point.  The amount of snow that the Village picked up from this storm was quite impressive – we both did numerous depth checks and found 18 to 20 inches of snow at 2,000’.  The depth of the new snow was essentially the same all the way up above 3,000’, so I’d say that everything from this storm fell as snow at least down to the Village level.

An image of snowplow piles and snowy trees during Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Up in the Bolton Valley Village today, the scene was incredibly snowy thanks to Winter Storm Bruce

There was a great skin track set on Lower Turnpike, which was a godsend with so much fresh snow.  Temperatures were in the upper 20s at 2,000’, so all the snow up there was quite dry.  It certainly wasn’t Champlain Powder™ fluff, but it was medium-weight powder with a right-side-up distribution and the skiing was fantastic – definitely a day for the fat boards.  Ty was on E’s 115 mm Black Diamond Element Telemark boards, and he really likes the way they handle the powder.  I knew we’d need some steep pitches to handle this snow, so that’s what we sought out, and the skiing was simply fantastic.  This storm brought plenty of liquid equivalent in the snow (1.5 inches of total liquid form the storm even down at our house in the valley) so it’s covered everything really well and there’s not much to worry about with such a substantial base already in place ahead of this storm.

An image of Ty Telemark skiing during Winter Storm Bruce at Bolton Valley Resort on Vermont
Ty enjoying the float of Mom’s 115 mm Black Diamond Element skis on our ski tour today as he tackles the snow from Winter Storm Bruce

The actual action photography was quite a challenge today because we’re talking fairly late afternoon, late November light, and snowfall, but I used my brightest lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM) and we did our best with the light we had.  Bolton Valley is now reporting 66 inches of snow on the season, which is a great way to get rolling in November.

An image of Ty finishing a ski tour at dusk with the glow of the Bolton Valley Village behind him at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Finishing our ski tour toward the glow of the Bolton Valley Village as darkness descends.

Bolton Valley, VT 24NOV2018

An image of the Timberline Quad from near the Timberline Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder in the trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan gets into some of the powder in Bolton Valley’s trees today as the resort opens up for a special early season day.

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.

An image of the base of the Timberline Quad with snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Powder covers the assortment of materials by the base of the Timberline Quad.

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.

An image of snow melting in the sunshine on an evergreen bough at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAfter 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.

Bolton Valley, VT 21NOV2018

An image of Dylan skiing powder after a snow squall at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in powder snow at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Today’s ski tour was quite an outing with heavy snow squalls and lots of fresh tracks.

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.

An image of Johannes skinning during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontStephen 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.

An image of Johannes jumping a water bar during a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Johannes with a bit of air as he negotiates a powdery water bar on today’s ski tour

“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.

Bolton Valley, VT 18NOV2018

An image of a snow gun making snow in mid November at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Valley Road area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont showing 16 to 20 inches of snow and ski track in powder snow
I found 16 to 20 inches of snow at the main base elevations on my tour of Bolton Valley today – with great snow for lots of November powder turns.

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.

An image showing a ski area boundary sign from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontIn the ski thread in the New England Regional Forum at American Weather, I noticed someone commented on how they were amazed that there was tree skiing in the eastern U.S. this November.  I actually have the statistics on that, which indicates that here in the Northern Greens you’re going to get November tree skiing in a bit more than ¼ of the ski seasons, so it’s actually not that uncommon.  Of course we’re most likely to have tree skiing in the last third of the month, so to be able to hit the trees this early in November is indeed a bit less common, only occurring in about 10% of seasons.  Tree skiing starts roughly when the depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake hits the 24-inch mark, and you can see from the plot below how often that happens by November:

A plot showing the dates when 24 inches of snowpack depth was reached at the stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont
Data from the past several decades showing the dates of reaching 24 inches of snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake, the typical depth at which tree skiing starts in the mountains

In any event, there’s certainly enough snow for some tree skiing at this point, and with decent temperatures and a couple of systems potentially in the works this week, it should be around for a bit.

Bolton Valley, VT 17NOV2018

An image of Ty performing an off axis flip into some of the snow in the Bolton Valley Village in Vermont after some November snowstorms
An image of Dylan getting ready to pack up his climbing skins during a November ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan gets ready to pack up his climbing skins as we get ready to start out descent during the family’s ski tour at Bolton Valley today.

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.

An image of snow from recent November storms at the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the recent snow accumulations at the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley

“Snow depths were generally 1 to 2 feet throughout the tour…”

The family got out for a tour in the snow from last weekend’s storm, but I had a busy week and wasn’t able to check out the snow from the midweek system.  We had time to get out today though, and there’s been enough snow now that even Timberline was an option.

An imae of Dylan skiing some of the powder from November snowstorms at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in some of today’s power at Timberline

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.

An image of Ty falling in the powder while on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty going down in the powder on today’s ski tour

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 11NOV2018

An image of Erica, Ty, and Dylan waving hello on their first ski tour of the season at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder after a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty getting down into a nice Telemark turn in the powder as the whole family got out for a ski tour at Bolton Valley today

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.

An image of Erica skinning up on a November ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E cruising along through the powder as we ascend during today’s ski tour

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder after a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI 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.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in powder from a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan gets behind the camera and captures Dad enjoying some of today’s powder turns.

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 10NOV2018

An image showing some of the four-wheel drive vehicles parked at the Timberline base area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont as heavy snowfall fills the arir from a November snowstorm
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Lower turnpike trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our most recent storm brought plenty of snow for powder skiing in the Northern Greens.

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.

An image of November snow in the Bolton Valley Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snowfall and plentiful snow on the ground in the Bolton Valley Village today

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:

340’: 0”
1,000’: Trace
1,200’: 1”
1,500’: 3-4”
2,000’: 6-8”
2,100’: 8-9”
2,500’: 10-12”
3,000’: 12-14”

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.

An image of afternoon light from the top of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Afternoon light and mountains off to the west as I begin my descent from the top of Bolton Valley

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.

Average date of first snowfall for Mt. Mansfield in Vermont

Having recently picked up our first snowfall of the season here in Vermont, reports and discussion in the New England Regional Forum at American Weather had people wondering where this event sat with respect to the average date of occurrence for the first snowfall on Mt. Mansfield.  I’d been curious about that date as well, so I used the data from the Mt. Mansfield co-op weather observations site, which comes from the ridgeline of the mountain up near the 4,000-foot elevation.  It’s a fairly substantial data set that goes all the way back to 1954, and Wesley Wright set it up to be available through the SkiVT-L site at UVM.

“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!

Date of 1st Accumulating Snow at Mt. Mansfield, VT Co-Op Station:

Mean:  10/10
Median:  10/8
Mode:  10/17
S.D.:  15 days
n:  62
Earliest:  8/28/1986
Latest:  11/17/1985