One more round of October snow for Vermont

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area in late October showing some valley foliage and snow in the mountain peaks from a recent storm
An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area in late October showing some valley foliage and snow in the mountain peaks from a recent storm
An image of Mt. Mansfield today taken from my office at UVM showing signs from the recent storm and fall foliage still hanging on in the valley.

The local mountains picked up some more snow in what looks to be our final snowfall event for the month of October.  Down here in the valley at our house, I found a few flakes on my snow measurement board yesterday evening, but no measurable accumulation.  This storm was more notable down in Southern New England where there were totals up around 7 inches in the Worcester, Mass area.

Powderfreak got a beautiful picture of the slopes of Stowe Mountain Resort today, which he posted in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forums.  I grabbed a shot of Mt. Mansfield from the other side of the range when I was in my office today because it was so great to see the snow starting to come back to the peaks.

Snow for the valleys in northern Vermont

An image of October snow on a picnic table in Waterbury, Vermont
An image of October snow on a picnic table in Waterbury, Vermont
I woke up this morning to find snow accumulating on grassy and elevated surfaces like this picnic table on our deck. It’s the first accumulation we’ve seen in the valley this season!

I woke up this morning to find snow on the grass and elevated surfaces at our house, most notably our picnic table out back on the deck.  This was the first snow I’ve seen at our house this season, and although our weather forecast did suggest there was some potential for accumulation, you never quite know how it’s going to play out in marginal situations like this one.

In any event, the snow stuck even down here at 500’, so it should have easily accumulated in the higher elevations.  I measured 0.6” on the boards at observations time, and it did look like it could have melted some since the point at which most of it fell.

This is about a week on the late side for average occurrence of first frozen precipitation here at our house, but just a day off for the average date of first accumulating snow, so it’s very typical in that regard.

Details from the 6:00 A.M. Waterbury observations:

New Snow: 0.6 inches

New Liquid: 0.09 inches

Snow/Water Ratio: 6.7

Snow Density: 15.0% H2O

Temperature: 34.0 F

Sky: Light Rain/Snow (1-2 mm flakes)

Snow at the stake: 0.5 inches

Accumulating snow for the mountains of Vermont

An image of the Mt. Mansfield Chin in Vermont with some early season October snow
An image of foliage in the Newport, VT area along Lake Memphremagog with the mountain Owl's Head visible off in Canada.
Foliage in the Newport, VT area along Lake Memphremagog with the mountain Owl’s Head visible off in Canada.

A low pressure system moving along the coast of New England brought a chance for some accumulating snow to Vermont starting last night, and white could be seen in the peaks this morning.  The snow line over here in Vermont seemed to be around 2,500’, with a very sharp elevation cutoffAccumulations were 3-4” up around 4,000’ on Mt Mansfield, and similar atop Jay Peak.  I heard reports of some frozen precipitation up high earlier this season, but this was the first notable accumulation around here.  Off to the east over in New Hampshire and Maine, the snow line was much lower, and accumulations were even more substantial.  Some accumulations in northern New Hampshire were over a foot.

An image of the Mt. Mansfield Chin in Vermont with some early season October snow
The Mt. Mansfield Chin today with some early season October snow

While in many areas around the state, the leaves have mostly fallen and it’s looking like stick season, there are still a lot of beautiful scenes with fall foliage.  We were up in Newport today for a soccer game, and the views of foliage along Lake Memphremagog were beautiful.

First snows of the season for the Green Mountains

A radar image showing moisture streaming into the Green Mountains of Vermont and producing snow along the peaks in mid October
A radar image showing moisture streaming into the Green Mountains of Vermont and producing snow along the peaks in mid October
A look at the local Burlington weather radar from today showing the classic upslope signature of moisture streaming into the Green Mountains from the northwest and snow/mixed precipitation along the peaks.

Although we did have some reports of frozen precipitation around the area back in the beginning of the month, the bombing cyclone that’s moved through New England over the past couple of days has brought the first real snows of the season to the Green Mountains.  As the system moved by yesterday, the summit areas of Killington picked up an inch or two of snow.  There wasn’t much going on with respect to snowfall in the northern part of Vermont at that point, but snow levels finally dropped overnight and we started to see accumulations in the higher elevations around here.  Although I wasn’t out in the mountains today, the view from my office in Burlington showed that classic look of upslope precipitation along the spine of the Northern Greens.  A quick check on the local radar showed that classic signature of moisture streaming into the spine of the Greens, with snow and mixed precipitation along the peaks.  Powderfreak sent in pictures to the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forums, revealing snow accumulations down to roughly 2,400’ at the Gondola, and a couple of inches of accumulation at the top of the Fourrunner Quad.  At the end of the day, Powderfreak passed along one more photo that showed accumulating snow levels at around 2,300’ at the Gondola, and commented on how snow levels were somewhat lower on that part of the mountain below The ChinWinter’s first salvo of snow is now in the books, and we may see a bit more near the end of the month based on what the weather models are showing for that period.

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

Stowe, VT 27OCT2018

An image of snow sliding off a roof in front of the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont as an October nor'easter affects New England
An image the Crossover trail and mountains in the background at Stowe Mountain Resort during an October snowstorm
Views on my ascent of the Crossover trail with the mountains in the background obscured by snowfall

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.”

There wasn’t a lot of cold air around ahead of this nor’easter, so the forecasts called for at best a few inches of snow in the higher elevations.  Based on Powderfreak’s Stowe reports however, there were 3 to 5 inches of snow already on the slopes at Stowe, and even a couple more would be enough to get me interested in checking out the potential for some 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.

An image of the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont with snowfall during an October storm
Mansfield Base Lodge

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.

An image of a small evergreen with snow on its boughs during an October snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontI 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.

An image of the Mountain Chapel in an October snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Stowe Mountain Chapel along the Toll Road

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.

An image of a plow spraying some very slushy snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after an October nor'easter snowstorm
Plowing some snow so slushy it looked like water in the Stowe parking lot

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.

Potent October snowstorm hits parts of Northern New England

On Tuesday, a fairly compact low pressure system formed off the New England coast and spread snowfall back into parts of Northern New England.  During the afternoon, mixed precipitation was falling at roughly the 1,500’ elevation near the bases of local resorts like Sugarbush and Stowe, with the accumulating snow line around 2,000’.  At the end of the day, Powderfreak sent in a nice picture to the NNE thread at the American Weather Forum showing the snow line at Stowe’s Gondola area.

The most impressive accumulations came on Tuesday night, with Wednesday morning revealing 5.1 inches in Derby Center, VT, 7 inches at Pinkham Notch, 11 inches of new snow in Randolph, NH, 17 to 18 inches in Tuckerman Ravine, and 18 inches atop Mt. Washington at the observatoryWildcat ski area picked up roughly a foot of snow and plans to open on Saturday with top-to-bottom skiing.  Back here in along the spine of the Northern Greens, Powderfreak was reporting 3 to 4 inches of snow for the upper elevations of Mt. Mansfield by Wednesday evening.

As of this evening, we picked up a bit of accumulation at our house in Waterbury, and Powderfreak was reporting a general 3 to 5 inches of total snow accumulation on Spruce Peak at Stowe.

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.

More Vermont snow on northwest flow

A weather radar image showing upslope snow coming into the Green Mountain of Vermont from the northwest in an October snow event
A weather radar image from midday on Sunday showing the continuous push of moisture from the northwest hitting the Northern Green Mountains and giving us continuous light snowfall.

After a simply gorgeous fall day on Saturday, Sunday kicked off cold and blustery, and once the snow showers got started in the morning, they literally kept going all day with that classic upslope flow from the northwest.  There were still a few flakes coming down, even around midnight last night.

We had numerous rounds of transient snow accumulations during the day, and it stuck around better after dark when the temperatures had dropped a bit, but there was still nothing around as of this morning.  I recorded one of the early 0.1” accumulations, and then a 0.2” accumulation later in the day after one of the heavier bouts of snowfall, but what I found in the rain gauge this morning was a bit under 0.01” so liquid goes down as a trace.

“…once the snow showers got started in the morning, they literally kept going all day with that classic upslope flow from the northwest..”

This event was the second accumulating one at our house this month, and the fourth one for the mountains.  Looking ahead, there seems to be some potential for snow in the midweek timeframe, and then again out toward the weekend.

Additional rounds of snow for Vermont

Since mid-month, our weather pattern has shifted to a more seasonable, and even below average one with respect to temperatures here in Vermont.  After our first mountain snows of the season over the weekend, there was a touch of snow Tuesday night in the upper elevations to put down the second coating of the season.

This season’s most notable snowfall so far affected the area from Wednesday into Thursday.  Colleagues of mine at UVM reported seeing frozen precipitation for a time around midday Wednesday, and as the afternoon wore on, snow levels began to drop more consistently.  Snow levels were approaching the bottoms of the mountain valleys as evening approached, and by 7:00 P.M. we were starting to get accumulation at our house.  By Thursday morning we’d picked up 1.2 inches of snow to mark the first accumulation of the season at our house.

Killington opened for skiing today, and there are still additional chances for snow in the forecast over the next week, so we’ll be on the lookout for whatever wintry weather Mother Nature might bring our way next.

 

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