Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2011 (A.M. Session)

An image of ski tracks in the fresh powder along the edge of the Sherman's Pass Trail at Bolton Valley in Vermont - December 23, 2011
Making some tracks in the fresh powder along the edge of Sherman's Pass on the upper mountain

The potential storm system that we’d been watching for the past few days started trending warmer in some of the later weather model runs – warm enough that even the lower valleys in Northern Vermont looked like they might be dealing with a little rain before the snow moved in.  That wasn’t the case though, at least in the mountain valleys east of the Greens.  This morning when I got up I found 2.2 inches of snow on the snowboard at our house in Waterbury, and no sign of rain.  Light snow was still falling at the house, and with even more snow expected to fall in the mountains throughout the day, it seem like an opportune time for some storm day skiing.

I decided to head up to Bolton a bit early to earn some turns ahead of the 9:00 A.M. opening of the Mid Mountain Double.  I couldn’t quite convince the boys to go with me, but I figured I’d come home after a couple runs and get them to go up later in the day.  The valley snow accumulations certainly dropped off as I headed west to the town of Bolton, and at the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’), I’d say the accumulation looked like about 1”.  As I ascended the road, I was surprised at how slowly the accumulation increased – even up at 1,000’ it didn’t seem like there was too much more than at the base of the road.  Eventually the depth of snow started to increase though – up at 1,500’ at the base of Timberline, the trails had a decent covering of a few inches (although they may have had some base left from earlier storms).  The ascent of the road was a little tricky; with temperatures near freezing, the new snow was a bit greasy.  The traction control in the Subaru came on a few times in the slickest spots, but the ascent was pretty controlled and uneventful.  Watching how slowly cars were descending in the other lane had also been a tip off that the conditions warranted caution.  Up in the Bolton Valley Village area at 2,100’ I found 2-3” of fresh snow on the car next to me when I arrived, and I suspect that car had been there since the start of the snowfall.  It was snowing a steady light snow as I prepared my gear, and there was no wind, so the potential for fresh tracks was looking good.

I ran into patroller Quinn at the base of the Mid Mountain Double Chair, and since it was getting close to the 9:00 A.M. opening time for the lift, he said that I should avoid skinning right up Bear Run to keep out of the way of downhill traffic on open terrain.  Fortunately, this round of snow was enough to make skinning practical on natural snow terrain – even on the lower part of the main mountain.  I was able to skin up Villager to Foxy, and with the addition of the new snow the natural snowpack was generally 3 – 4”.  The fresh snow was reasonably dense, so it was plenty to keep my skis away from the ground underneath.  I stopped in at the summit station of the Snowflake Chair, grabbed some snow photos, and spend a few moments enjoying the quiet and the snowfall.

I continued on over to the mid mountain area, then headed up Bull Run to Sherman’s Pass.  The mountain was running a couple of snow guns on Sherman’s, presumably in spots they wanted to finish up for tomorrow’s planned opening from the Vista Summit.  The snowfall definitely intensified on the upper mountain, coming in at a moderate level with some larger flakes up to 7 – 8 mm in diameter.  The more intense snowfall had made a difference in the accumulations as well.  Up around 3,150’ near the Vista Summit, depth checks revealed that new accumulations were 4”+, and I found total natural snowpack in the 6 – 8” range.  That snowpack is actually pretty substantial, since there is a good layer of consolidated stuff on the bottom that went through the recent thaw/freeze.  With this new snow on top, which is certainly not ultra fluff, one good storm is all it will take to open some of the mellower natural snow terrain on the upper mountain.  As I put away my skins and got ready for the descent behind the top station of the Vista Quad, I check on the thermometer and the temperature was 28 F.  Unlike below, there was a bit of a breeze, perhaps 10 MPH, and the wind turbine was running.  I got a call from Johannes asking about where I was and if I wanted to ski with everyone, and I told him that I was at the Vista Summit and would be down soon.

The descent was nice.  Although most of Sherman’s was messy with track marks and ruts from all the snowcat and snowmobile traffic, I was able to find some fresh turns off to the sides of the trail where equipment hadn’t blemished the snow.  Just as I was descending to mid mountain I saw Helena getting off the Mid Mountain Chair, so the timing was perfect for meeting up.  Helena was on her new twin tip skis, and although she commented that they felt weird at first, she made some beautiful, controlled turns, and it looked like she was going to take to them pretty quickly.  Thomas and Johannes soon caught up to us on our descent, and we did a couple of runs while Stephen finished getting into his gear.  At some point during that time we started to get some nice big 1” upslope-style flakes of snow – the intensity was still generally light to at most moderate at times, but it had that nice winter maelstrom look to it and it was helping to keep things fresh.  I caught one more run once Stephen joined the group, and then I decided that I should head home for lunch and see if I could get the boys to come up for some turns.  Even with the limited terrain that was open, the resort had that powder day buzz and the quality of the skiing was pumped up a notch due to the new snow.  There were powder pockets off to the sides in which one could play around, and it made Bear Run all the more enjoyable.

An image of the Mid Mountain Chairlift at Bolton Valley with snow falling on December 23, 2011
Thomas and Johannes enjoy a ride on the Mid Mountain Chair amidst big flakes of upslope snowfall.

Back down at the car I found close to an inch of new snow on it, and since I’d been there for a couple of hours, that would suggest a snowfall rate of ~0.5”/hr during that period down at the main base elevations.  The temperature was a bit below freezing at 2,100’, but back down at the bottom of the access road it was certainly above freezing at ~35 F.  Even back at the house it was above freezing at 34.3 F, and although the snow had continued to fall, the accumulation on our back yard snowboard had not gone above the 0.7” from this morning, presumably due to consolidation and warming.  I told the boys that the skiing was a lot of fun up on the mountain, and that they should get in some Telemark practice – it was the perfect time to do it with fairly minimal, mellow terrain being open.  Click through to get to a report on our afternoon session back up at the mountain.

Bolton Valley, VT 10DEC2011

A December image from the mid mountain area of Bolton Valley looking up toward Ricker Mountain
Checking out a December scene from mid mountain as the snow clouds pull away

With lake-effect snow coming off the Great Lakes, and some upslope hitting the Green Mountains, we picked up about a half inch of snow at the house overnight.  The local ski areas also picked up an inch or two, which was enough to get me interested in heading up to Bolton for opening day.  Checking their morning update on the website, I found out that they weren’t opening until 10:00 A.M., so that gave me a chance to take it easy for a while in the morning.

At some point after 9:00 A.M., I headed up to the mountain – I did check in with E and the boys to see if they wanted to head up for turns, but none of them were interested.  I can’t blame them, since I knew it was going to be pretty vanilla with just Bear Run off the Mid Mountain Chair and the Mighty Mite learning area going.  In terms of natural snow, at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snowpack was sitting at around an inch, with snow melted out on south-facing slopes, pretty much like it is at our house.  At around 1,000’ the snowpack became consistent on all aspects – the depth was only about an inch or so, but the consistent snowpack gave everything a much wintrier look.  Up above 2,000’ in the Village there was a general 2-3” inches of snow everywhere – not enough to open any natural terrain, but certainly enough to know that winter was here.  Temperatures were in the mid 20s F, and there was on and off light snow falling, so that really helped to fill out the wintry scene.

An image from the Bolton Valley Village area - December 10, 2011
Checking out the snow in the Bolton Valley Village area this morning

I still had some time before the lift would be loading, so I skinned up Bear Run to catch an early descent.  I could see that the mountain had made just enough snow to get the Bear Run area open wall to wall, and it sounds like they were crunched for time to even do that.  Up at Mid Mountain I enjoyed the solitude while I de-skinned, and took in the scene for a few minutes.  There were patches of blue sky appearing as the snow clouds began breaking away, and it was turning into a nice December day.  I had a nice mellow descent of Bear Run, enjoying my first groomed turns of the season.  The snow was a little firm since it was almost 100% man-made, but it was decent enough for opening day.  I poked around a little off the edge of the trail at the junction with Sprig O’ Pine, and there was that roughly half inch to inch of new snow to be found, but they had groomed essentially everywhere that they had put down the man-made base so there weren’t really any fresh turns to be had.  The few inches of snow on the natural snow trails actually looked pretty nice aside from the tall grass sticking through, and there’s plenty of snow out there to make it a paradise for junkboarders.

It was just after 10:00 A.M. when I got to the bottom, and a queue was already forming at the Mid Mountain Chair, but I decided to hop on and catch a lift-served run before I left.  I got a nice little burn going from continuous Telemark turns, and was reminded of the benefits of lift-served skiing in that regard.  Heading down toward the lodge after my run I ran into Jason, one of the instructors I know from the summer glade crew, and we chatted for a while.  They had about 200 people from some group visiting the resort that were skiing and taking lessons, and they were all still quite keen to go despite the limited terrain.  I popped into ski patrol to pick up my Powder Pass tickets from summer glade work, and then I was able to find patroller Quinn in civilian clothes up in the lift queue to thank him for getting all of us the tickets.  The mountain appeared to be running the lift a little slow, perhaps to keep any trail crowding to a minimum, and there had been some starts and stops of the lift, so the queue was actually getting pretty big.  It would have been a bit of a wait for another lift-served run if I had been planning to do any more.

A picture of some of the Vermont food vendor tables at Bolton Valley - December 10, 2011
Vermont food vendors hosted by Bolton Valley Resort upstairs in the main base lodge

I checked the time and decided that I could catch the start of the Vermont food vendors display that was going on upstairs in the main lodge, so I stopped down at the car, changed out of my gear, and then headed up.  I sampled everything they had and got some of their business cards to keep for holiday gift options, clearly timing was great in that regard for all the vendors that participated.  The mountain really got together a lot of fun stuff to make opening day festive; they were having an Eastern Mountain Sports Telemark Demo Day and a Christmas tree lighting and visit from Santa later in the day as well.

The resort is planning to go top to bottom on the main mountain for next weekend, which should be possible with what looks like decent snowmaking temperatures for the coming week (low in the 10s and 20s F, and highs generally in the 20s and 30s F).  In terms of natural snow, the next shot appears to be in the Wednesday through Friday period; it’s not expected to be any huge dump as far as I know, but we’ll see what plays out when we get there.

Bolton Valley, VT 23NOV2011

An image of fresh snow on an evergreen at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow from our pre-Thanksgiving storm coats an evergreen near the 2,800' elevation as I ascended Bolton Valley's Schuss trail today.

Our first big Northern Vermont storm of the season came in with a nice thump of snow during the overnight hours, and I awoke to find 7.1 inches of moderately dense snow on the snowboard for my 6:00 A.M. report to CoCoRaHS.  Later in the morning the National Weather Service Office in Burlington put out a map showing the overnight snow totals, but the snow was still coming down.  Snow continued to fall at the house all morning, and while it gradually tapered to very light snow, we picked up a few more inches to bring us into double digits for the storm total.

We played out in the snow for a while with the boys, and then in the mid afternoon I had to decide if I wanted to get out and make some turns in the new snow.  Ideally I was looking for a place where man-made snow had been put down as a base, but unfortunately most of the mountains that had been making snow were actually opening for lift-served skiing.  I thought about Sugarbush, since they aren’t opening until tomorrow, but they’ve been a bit testy with people earning turns in recent years and I didn’t want to drive over just to get turned away.

I eventually decided that I’d pop up to Bolton and see how the snow looked.  I wasn’t expecting much in terms of skiing without a prior base, but perhaps I’d be pleasantly surprised.  The temperature had gone a couple degrees above freezing at our house (elevation 495’), so the snow had been falling off the trees and the snow in the yard had also settled a bit.  As Powderfreak had mentioned, the snow accumulations really did fall off as I headed a couple of miles west past the Waterbury/Bolton line.  At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) it was really amazing, there were just a couple inches of snow on the ground from the storm.  It had me really worried about what went on up at the mountain, but fortunately the snow depths began to increase as I climbed in elevation as usual.  Up at around 1,000’ near the Bolton Valley Resort sign, it looked like there were about 4 inches on the ground, and by the time I reached the Timberline base at 1,500’ it was notably deeper.  I stopped in near the lodge and did a quick measurement with my pole to reveal 8.5 inches of settled snow.  I saw one guy putting his skins on his skis for a tour, and noticed a couple of other cars that might have belonged to skiers, but I decided to head up to the main base area and see if things got a bit deeper.  While at the base of the access road the temperature had been a couple degrees above freezing just like at our house, it dropped to around the freezing mark by the Timberline base, and it was a couple degrees below freezing up at the village (2,100’).  As soon as I parked the car I checked the snow depth there, and found that it was about 10 inches.  To read the full report and check out the rest of the pictures, head to the Bolton Valley trip report from today.

Pico, VT 30OCT2011

An image of Erica skiing powder on the Birch Glades Trail at Pico Vermont - October 30, 2011
E enjoys some of the October powder at Pico after back to back storms set up some great ski conditions.

On Thursday, Vermont got hit with its first major storm of the 2011-2012 winter season.  The greatest effects were felt in the central and southern parts of the state, where areas like Killington picked up about a foot of snow.  Then yesterday, an early season Nor’easter came through the Northeast, and it turned out be historic for the Mid Atlantic and Southern New England, where some areas picked up more than 30 inches of snow.  That’s a good dump of snow for any time during the winter, but it’s incredible for October, and numerous October snowfall records were shattered.  Through the combination of the two storms, some areas in the Berkshires of Massachusetts had already picked up over three feet of snow for October. Up in Vermont, the Nor’easter was focused on the central and southern parts of the state, just like the previous storm.  We did actually pick up 1.2 inches of snow at our house in Waterbury last night, but with areas south of us getting another good dump of snow on top of the base they already had from the previous storm, our eyes were definitely drawn southward for some potentially great October skiing.

Since Killington had already opened for lift-served skiing, we decided that Pico would be a much mellower option for earned turns, with similarly great snow.  Despite many days of skiing at Killington in the past, nobody in the family had actually ever skied Pico, but it’s hard not to admire the way 3,967’ Pico Peak towers well above Sherburne Pass on Route 4.  Since the base area of Pico sits at an elevation of ~2,000’, it’s got plenty of elevation to help keep the snow dry if lower elevation temperatures are above freezing.

E hosted a Halloween pumpkin-carving party last night, but I still had plenty of time after clean up to prep some of the gear and put the skins on the skis so that we’d be able to save time this morning.  After a hearty breakfast to ensure that the boys were charged up for the mountain ascent, they got dressed very quickly and headed out to play in the snow while we got everything together for the trip.  I recorded the final couple of tenths of an inch of snow that had accumulated on our snowboard from the morning’s light snow, and we were on our way southward.  To read the details about the skiing and see all the pictures, head to the full report from Pico on October 30th, 2011.

An image of Sherburne Pass from Pico ski area in Vermont with October snow
Looking down from the trials of Pico at the base area and Sherburne Pass, October almost seemed like mid winter.

 

2010-2011 Ski Season Summary

Having now compiled all our ski trip and winter storm summary reports for the ’10-’11 ski season, I’ve put together this season summary as a view of how things transpired from a Northern Vermont local perspective.  It’s interesting to note that for Burlington, winter ’10-‘11 was well above average for snowfall (128.4”, 175%), while out in the mountains at our house the deviation was much less (197”, 114%), and indeed in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens like Bolton it was even closer to average (330”, 106%), so ski resort snowfall around here was essentially average.  I actually made a chart for a post at Americanwx.com concerning the ’07-’08 season, which used Bolton’s snowfall from the past several seasons as a general indicator of how the snowfall has been in Northern Vermont:

A table showing the snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont from the 2006-2007 through to the 2010-2011 season

One can see from the chart that ’10-‘11 was basically average for snowfall, and that the amount of snow (330”) was identical to ’07-’08.  I would add that the general impression was that consistency of winter temperatures was a bit better than average in ’10-‘11 due to fewer warm events, so the quality of snow surfaces was higher.  I’m not sure how much better than average it was though, since it seems that during midwinter, the norm in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens is to have about one warm episode per month.  Also, since we were essentially out of the main track of synoptic storms until February, there wasn’t much in the way of moderate-density snowfall to resurface the slopes.  I try to address the consistency of temperatures/quality of the snow surfaces in the text below though, at least in the context of weekends; I should note that it’s possible there could have been some midweek weather issues that simply flew under the radar for me.  For the quality assessment I simply focused on whether or not we were skiing powder, because unless there is some sort of notable rise in temperatures, there is always powder available.

A monthly breakdown of snowfall and my perspective on the season follows below – you can click on each month (except November) and it should bring up that month’s posts in the J&E Productions Web Log.  I only have the monthly snowfall for my house and not the ski areas, but the percentages relative to average often parallel the mountains reasonably well, especially for Bolton which is right up above us:

October:  Pretty typical in that we got at least some snow for skiing; we had 1.0” of snow at the house.  October snowfall in the lower valleys is often minimal enough that the percentages aren’t all that relevant, but that number is 111% vs. the five year average since we’ve been at our house, so indeed that’s rather “normal”.

November:  Very poor; we got just 2.4” of snow at the house (29% of average) and I don’t really remember it, nor do I have any entries for that month in my ski log, so that says plenty right there.  I do have a vague recollection of storm after storm tracking to our north and west giving us mostly rain though, so that would explain the low snowfall total.  The lack of snowfall wasn’t necessarily a huge concern at the time since it was “only November”, but without good November snowfall, getting to appropriate base depths and excellent skiing in December can be that much harder.

December:  Quite normal, 46.0” of snow at the house (right about average at 102%).  Fortunately, even with minimal November snow we were skiing natural snow terrain by December 10th up at Bolton; the holiday period featured some decent skiing, with 7 outings for me during that stretch, indicating that the snow was obviously OK.  Bolton had picked up 4 feet of snow from the storm at the beginning of the month, however, a lot of that snow, as well as what fell later in the month, was upslope fluff.  So, even if one assumes a fairly average amount of snowfall for the mountains like we saw in the valley, the very dry nature of the snow meant that there was less liquid than usual, resulting in base depths that really didn’t build quickly.  The Boxing Day Storm was unfortunately the start of a pattern that would last the next five to six weeks, with the big synoptic storms staying well south of the region and pounding Southern New England, while northern areas remained on the fringe and essentially survived on fluff.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and out of the 12 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Friday, Dec 31st, so that suggests pretty consistent temperatures.

January:  We got 55.5” of snow at the house, which is above average (137%) in what can sometimes be a dry, midwinter month.  However, January was essentially a month-long continuation of the trend that started on Boxing Day, and we were living on mostly Northern Vermont Champlain Powder™ fluff.  We had a couple of good upslope storms in the early to mid part of the month (January 7th and January 12th) that made for some fine skiing, but obviously since so much of it was pixie dust, the base depths just could not build the way that they would with some synoptic storms.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, and out of 11 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Saturday, Jan 1st due to the warmth at the end of December.  So I think one could argue that weekend ski surface consistency through Dec/Jan was better than average with only one (instead of two) weekend-affecting warm up(s) for the two months.

February:  This is when the storm track finally shifted north and we got some notable synoptic storms; the first one was right on the 1st, and then we had a second storm on the 5th.  That first storm brought just over a foot of snow for us down in the valley, and was by far the largest for the month.  Thus there weren’t really any mega dumps based on my records from the house, but there was plenty of the usual good skiing at Bolton and even good skiing at Stowe.  Snowfall was 48.1”, which is roughly average at 108%.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Out of the 10 outings in my records, all 10 of them had powder skiing, so February was perfect in that regard.  However, while skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, we had to wait until Monday of the long weekend to ski because there had been some sort of warm-up.  So I’d say the month was pretty typical with at least that one warm-up.

March:  We continued to stay in the storm track for most of March, with our biggest valley snowfall of the season (25.0”) coming from the March 5th storm.  We did wind up with notably above average snowfall in the valley for the month (39.6”; 155%), essentially due to that one big storm and aided by the fact that what I’ve got for a March average could be a bit low due to very poor Marches in ’09 (12.6”) and ’10 (2.1”).  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and powder skiing was done on all those weekends, however, there was also notable infiltration of non-powder skiing days into the weekends.  Relative to the previous three months, only 9 of our 12 outings for March featured powder skiing, so while still a pretty good ratio, it was certainly a decrease.  Indeed there were multiple warm ups in the month because those three non-powder days were actually on three different weekends (the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends).  Fortunately, those weekends were somewhat redeemed by powder on the other day.  By March, especially toward the end, things may start to fall off a bit from the typical rate of one warm episode per month, but I would expect that with at least 3 individual warm ups in March, it was nothing great or even above average in terms of consistency.

April:  This was again quite a poor month in terms of snowfall and powder skiing; although snowfall correlation between our location down at the house and the mountains can really start to wane as one moves through April and snowfall becomes more and more elevation dependent.  Snowfall at the house was well below average for the month (4.4”; 61%).  We did at least start out the month with a snowstorm on the 1st and another one on the 4th; these events produced some good weekend powder skiing at Bolton and helped the mountain snowpack to surpass 100 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake.  However, the snowfall really fell off after that.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, but only 3 out of 9 days had powder and only 2 of the weekends had powder skiing.  People were excited because we had a relatively deep snowpack during the month and coverage stayed longer than normal, but after that first week the storm track had shifted to the north/west and it was just storm after storm that featured warmth and little to no snow, even for the mountains.  I commented on that trend in a post at Americanwx.com, since there can easily be feet of snow in the higher elevations in April, and instead of just some corn days or spring crud, we could have been skiing some great powder.

May:  The May skiing was good due to the healthy snowpack, and I did get out in the powder on the 6th for top to bottom skiing on Mansfield.  We didn’t get any snowfall at the house during the month, but May’s average snowfall numbers down at our elevation are pretty minimal like October, and with the high sun angle and warming as we approach the solstice I suspect even more removed from correlation with what the mountains see.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  I wouldn’t say May powder is consistent enough to worry about.  I only got out for two days during the month, but at least one was a powder day; the other day was a corn snow day at Bolton so that was also good even if there wasn’t fresh snow.

June:  Our only day in June was outside VT on the East Snowfields on Mt. Washington, and the snowfield was probably smaller than usual for that time of year due to the below average Mt. Washington snowfall for the season.  There actually had been some frozen precipitation in the northern mountains leading up to that day, but we were skiing corn snow.

So in terms of overall snowfall, the two above average months of January and March were basically counteracted by the two below average months of November and April, and with the rest of the months being about average, the snowfall for the season ends up… about average.  Some plusses were better than average snowpack in April and May, but that’s somewhat counteracted by the lower than average snowpack in November, December, and January.  It looks like there was an uptick in consistency in the December-January period due to just that one notable warm-up, but with February and March coming in probably about average in that category, and while November is not especially consistent in terms of temperatures, even in the higher elevations, it must have been below average to get so little snow for the month.  So taking the trends of consistency as an aggregate from November through April, I wouldn’t say that there was a massive improvement in temperature consistency/snow quality for this area.  Something that I have noticed around here is that having a few more storms with mixed precipitation is not necessarily a huge detractor in terms of snow quality.  The ’07-’08 season was a good example of this.  We were right in the storm track, so if we did receive some mixed precipitation, there was often another storm on its heels so quickly, that old snow surfaces were covered up.  It felt like we were right in the storm track for most of that winter, except that we had a relatively poor April with little snowfall (we picked up just 1.6” of snow at the house, even less than this past April).  It is interesting to note that winter ’07-’08 (consistently stormy from November through March) and winter ’10-’11 (biggest synoptic storms focused on just February and March) provide quite disparate examples of how to get to very similar seasonal snowfall totals (203.2” and 197.0” respectively at the house, and 330” and 330” respectively up on the mountain).

Tree skiing:  While working on some web page material, I came across the post I made about the average date for the start of Northern Vermont tree skiing, so I decided to add in the ’10-’11 data and see how the season compared.  In my initial analysis through the ’09-’10 season, the average start date for tree skiing was December 9th ± 13 days with an average of 28.2 ± 6.8 inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake.  In terms of my personal log of outings from last season, I’ve got a start date of December 18th, 2010 for tree skiing, and the addition of these data alters the averages very slightly, bringing the date one day later to December 10th ± 13 days, and the average snowpack down a tenth of an inch to 28.1 ± 6.5 inches.  So in terms of the ’10-’11 season, the start to tree skiing was slightly late in that it started about a week later than the mean date I’ve calculated.  With the horrible November in terms of snowfall, and much of the December snowfall being dry fluff, the late start is not too surprising.  However, the date is well within one standard deviation, so in that sense the start to tree skiing was another parameter of the season that was basically “average”.

On that temperature consistency/snow quality note, I was curious about the powder skiing we did throughout the season, so I checked my reports.  For the list of outings below, I placed a P whenever we were skiing powder, and put a red X if we weren’t, so it shows the pattern of when we did have powder, and when we did not.  Links to the text and pictures for all the individual reports are available below if people want more details about the depth/consistency of the snow, or one can also step through the J&E Productions web log, which has an entry for each outing.  It’s interesting to note that starting at the beginning of the season in October and continuing through to March 26th, there were only four days (December 31st at Bolton Valley, January 1st on the Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry Network, March 5th at Cochran’s, and March 20th at Stowe) where we weren’t skiing powder.  Strangely enough, I’ve never looked at a season in that way before, but it did give me an even greater appreciation for just how much powder there is to ski around here.  After March 26th, the powder skiing really trickled off this season, although there were still at least a few days in there.  I’m not sure how this season compares to others since I’ve never looked at one like this before, but I suspect most other “average” seasons would look similar for the way we ski, and with our pattern of skiing there might be similar patterns even in seasons that deviate more from average snowfall.

Stowe, VT, Saturday 16OCT10
Stowe, VT, Sunday 05DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 10DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 11DEC10
Stowe, VT, Sunday 12DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 18DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 19DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 23DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 24DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 27DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Tuesday 28DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 30DEC10
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 31DEC10
X  Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 01JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 09JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 13JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 15JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 16JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 17JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 22JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 29JAN11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 30JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 03FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 05FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 06FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 13FEB11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 21FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25FEB11
Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT, Saturday 26FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 27FEB11
X  Cochran’s, VT, Saturday 05MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 06MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 07MAR11
Stowe, VT, Tuesday 08MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12MAR11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 13MAR11
Monroe’s Sugarin’, Barton, VT, Saturday 19MAR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 20MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Wednesday 23MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26MAR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 27MAR11
P  Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 02APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 03APR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 07APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 09APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 10APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 17APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Tuesday 19APR11
X  Sugarbush, VT, Friday 22APR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 23APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 01MAY11
Stowe, VT, Friday 06MAY11
X  Mount Washington, NH, Saturday 04JUN11

So yeah, long story short, pretty average season in my book.  On that note, since we’ve been back from Montana, the only season we’ve had with substantial snowfall deviation from average for Northern Vermont was a negative one in ’09-’10 as I show in that table of Bolton Valley snowfall near the top of the post.  There definitely hasn’t been anything like what many parts of the Western U.S. saw last season, but as I look at the list of outings above there’s still been plenty of great skiing.

Stowe, VT 06MAY2011

Picture of the gondola slopes of Mt. Mansfield
The fresh snow on Mansfield's slopes in the morning

I headed up to Mt. Mansfield this morning to get in a workout and take advantage of the fresh snow that had fallen since Wednesday.  Once I got out of the fog that had settled around our house in the Winooski Valley, there were fantastic views of the fresh snow on the Green Mountains, and Mt. Mansfield’s alpine terrain was especially scenic.  I started my skin up the gondola side of Mansfield at around 7:00 A.M., and found the following new snow accumulations with respect to elevation:

1,600′:  ~1/4″
2,000′:  1-2″
2,500′:  ~4″
3,000′:  ~6″
3,600′: ~10″

A picture of ski tracks on Upper Gondolier at Stowe
Cutting some arcs into the new snow on Upper Gondolier

It was a little tough to get the depths on what had fallen because the new snow was so well integrated onto the old base, but those were my best estimates and I’d say they’re pretty decent.  In terms of the skiing, the new snow was certainly more akin to dense Sierra Cement than Northern Vermont’s famous Champlain Powder™ fluff, but the turns were really nice; the dense snow did a great job of keeping one up off the old base.  For the full details, links, and all the photographs from the day, click through to the full trip report from Stowe on May 6th, 2011.

Bolton Valley, VT 01MAY2011

Image of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from Bolton Valley's Vista Summit
Looking westward near sunset from the Vista Summit

It was a busy weekend culminating with Ty’s first communion and the ensuing party today, but once things had wound down by the afternoon, I had a chance to head up to the mountain and make some turns.  There was fresh snow on April 23rd, but the snowpack has certainly crept upward in elevation since April 17th, which was the last sunny day I was out on the mountain.  At that point the first signs of natural snow appeared at around 900’, but today the natural snow didn’t appear until roughly 1,750’.  Timberline had just a couple patches of snow remaining, but up at the main base the snowpack was quite substantial.  There is continuous snow coverage on Sherman’s Pass to Beech Seal, and possibly other routes as well, and I caught a sunset run through the corn to finish off the amazing sunny weekend that we were given.  For more details and pictures, click through to my Bolton Valley trip report from May 1st, 2011.

The snow in the yard has melted

The last of the snow in the yard melted today, so I can finish off that portion of my seasonal snowfall numbers.  The data for the last of the snow melting out in the yard (as of this season the mean date is April 15th ± 10 days) is actually something I’ve recorded all the way back since our first winter here (2006-2007) and April 24th is one day later than the previous record I had down (April 23rd, 2007).  This puts the continuous snowpack season in the yard at 141 days, which is exactly the same number recorded for ’06-’07.  Both of those seasons had slow starts with poor November snowfall, and snowpack that did not become established until early December, so they are well behind the highest value of 152 days recorded for the 2007-2008 season.  The next benchmark I’ll monitor will be when the last of the snow melts out in our neighborhood, which tends to be about a week beyond when the snow melts out at the house.

As I was skiing at Bolton yesterday I was reminded of some outings in April ’07, and realized that while the snowpack is in excellent shape this spring, the skiing this month has really paled in comparison to the equivalent period back in ’07.  Even down at this elevation we had almost two feet of snowfall in April ’07, and this season we’ve had just 4.4 inches.  I’m not sure what the mountains have had this April, but in ’07 it was measured in feet; I skied one day mid month on the mountain where I found up to 19 inches of new snow, and that was for just one of the storms.  The reading from the Mansfield stake on Friday was certainly respectable at 82 inches, but for the same date in ’07 it was actually at 84 inches.  It’s really been just an issue of the storm track this April; the moisture has been there, but the track has been too far to the north/west to get into the appropriate combination of precipitation and temperature.  With a good track over the past few weeks we probably would have had another April 2007 on our hands.  I think that the past couple of springs have been so poor in the snowfall department that some perspective has been lost on April’s potential, this one is good in terms of base/snowpack, but I’d say subpar for snowfall (we’re still below average by a few inches at the house).

Bolton Valley, VT 23APR2011

Picture of ski tracks in the powder on Lower Turnpike
Cutting some big arcs across the lower part of Turnpike

While the weather was full-blown spring with sunshine and corn snow yesterday at Sugarbush, today it was back to winter with a bit of fresh powder in the mountains.  I headed up to Bolton for some turns and found snow that was dense enough to keep me from touching down to the old subsurface much of the time.  The base snow provided wall to wall coverage, so with the powder on top it was a great ride.  For all the details and pictures, go to my April 23rd trip report from Bolton Valley.

Stowe, VT 19APR2011

Image of Stowe's Gondolier trail from the Spruce Peak base
Looking up at Gondolier from the Spruce Peak base area

Ali and Wini were heading to The Shed for dinner today, and since I had the time and E and the boys were out of town, it was the perfect chance to get in an evening of skiing and dinner in Stowe.  I stopped off first at Spruce Peak where the coverage is still excellent; that’s a really good gauge of just how much snow is out there because the bottom of Spruce Peak is both low elevation AND south facing – it’s hard to find a tougher challenge to the snow than that.  The skiing was great, with a couple of inches of beautifully smooth corn that had softened during the day and had partially recrystallized into airy goodness.  Dinner with Wini and Ali was great; definitely one of those classic Vermont spring evenings, and with the current snowpack it looks like there can be many more!  For all the details and images, go to my trip report from today.