Yesterday evening at some point after 9:30 P.M., light snow began falling at our house in Waterbury with the approach of Winter Storm Caly. Winter Weather Advisories were put in place for a fairly moderate 3 to 6-inch snowfall, which was expected to fall overnight and into the Monday morning commute.
This morning for my 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS observations at the house I found 3.3 inches of snow on my snow measurement boards. Snow was still falling in the form of small (1-2 mm diameter) flakes, and based on the density of the snow in the accumulation stack it appeared as though that smallish flakes had been the general trend throughout the storm up to that point. My liquid analysis revealed that the snow was right around 10% water content, so it’s certainly not Champlain Powder™, it’s very much your typical synoptic snow. This standard, medium-density snow is great in terms of building up the snowpack, which is important this time of year.
“…the turns could really flow, and they did.”
School was cancelled for E and the boys, not so much due to massive amount of snow falling, but presumably the timing right during the morning commute. I wished them a good snow day, and headed off to stop in at Bolton Valley on my way into Burlington. Bolton’s Timberline area had looked just a touch lean on base when I check on my way to the resort on Saturday, but I figured with this latest round of dense snow it was time to check it out. At the Timberline Base I’d say there was a similar amount of accumulation to what we picked up at the house – roughly 3 to 4 inches.
The skin Track on Twice as Nice was in excellent shape, so I made good time up to the Timberline Mid Station, where I decided to mix things up a bit from recent outings and head a little father to ski Brandywine. This turned out to be a great option, since it hadn’t seen any skier traffic and I got to enjoy first tracks. While this new snow is fairly medium density, it actually skis quite well where no wind has affected it, and Brandywine certainly delivered there. Although this certainly wasn’t out lightest powder of the season, today’s outing featured some of my favorite turns up to this point because the snow was consistent, there was plenty of base, and of course the untracked nature of the trail meant that I could get first tracks on whatever line I wanted. That meant that the turns could really flow, and they did.
It sounds like we’ve got light snows in the forecast this week, with the potential for a larger system toward the weekend.
This is opening weekend for lift-served skiing at Bolton Valley, but with only minimal terrain served by the lifts at the moment and fairly chilly temperatures in the forecast, I decided to make it my first visit of the season to the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. Although we haven’t had any big storms in the area in the past few days, we’ve had some lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes and additional snow from an arctic frontal passage that has given the mountains additional bouts of snow almost every day. The Mt. Mansfield Stake is indicating a snowpack depth of 34”, and it’s definitely not just fluff. With the high elevation and maintenance that goes on in the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, I’ll usually feel OK poking around on appropriate terrain once the stake kits 24” (depending on the composition of that 24”), so with 34” I figured it would definitely be ready to go.
I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon, and temperatures in the Village at ~2,000’ were in the mid-teens F, but fortunately there was minimal wind. There was blue sky at times, but light snow was still falling off and on. My goal was to head to the upper glades along the Catamount Trail out past the resort boundary. Those glades are up around the 3,000’ elevation, so I suspected the snowpack would be more than sufficient.
I headed up the usual Bryant Trail, and the most interesting thing I saw was that there are some new structures going up around the Bryant Cabin. One structure looked like a shed of sorts, and there was a larger structure that seemed to be partially built. It also seemed that there had been some work done on the cabin itself. In terms of snowpack depths, down at the Village at 2,000’ the surface snow was generally 14-15” of powder over a fairly thin layer of base snow. Up at the Bryant Cabin at ~2,700’ there was 16-17” of powder over a much more substantial base, and when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range, which seems pretty reasonable with the Mt. Mansfield Stake at 34”.
“…when I finally got up to ~3,000’ in the glades on the back side of Bolton Mountain there was a healthy 18-20” of powder. I was able to punch through the base at one point in my measurements, and the base snow seemed to be in the 8-10” range. So, that would put total snowpack depths up at that elevation approaching the 30” range…”
The skiing was generally excellent, especially in those upper glades. Since it was afternoon there had certainly been some traffic up there, but I still found areas of fresh snow. I made my way down via Gardiner’s Lane, and eventually decided to check out the Alchemist glade that I hadn’t visited in a while to the south of Gotham City. It’s a south-facing glade, so conditions can be quite variable, but aspect almost doesn’t matter right now because we’ve had November/December sun over the past couple of weeks… and not much of it anyway, so south-facing terrain isn’t all that different from north-facing terrain. One does have to watch out as they get down near 2,000’ though because the base below the surface snow does start to get pretty thin, so you don’t want to ski anything with many obstacles at that point. One could easily just lap terrain up above 2,500’ though with minimal concern about base depths. Skiing is definitely quite good up high right now.
There was a bit of accumulation of snow on my car when I got back to it after the tour. It was rather minimal though, about ¼“ of new after 2 to 3 hours away. Currently, Winter Weather Advisories are up ahead of our next storm that is coming into the area tomorrow. I signed up for Washington County weather alert texts through VT-Alert, so I was notified of our Winter Weather Advisory just I was finishing up my ski tour today. It was definitely nice to get that heads up right away without having to actively check, and it really doesn’t matter where you are. Anyway, the advisory calls for a general 4-7”, which seems pretty consistent with what’s been expected of this event for a few days now.
Today the family headed up to Bolton Valley to pick up our season’s passes and go for a ski tour to check out the snow from our recent storm. The snowfall has finally slowed down, and with temperatures staying in the 20s F, conditions were indeed great for getting out on the slopes.
What immediately struck us when we got to the resort was how many people were there. The top tier of the main Village lot was totally full, and the uphill side of the next tier down was full as well. Plenty of people were coming and going, and it was obvious that a lot of them were picking up season’s passes and leased equipment, but we could also see that there were a lot of people geared up for ski touring.
We got our gear together, headed up to the main base lodge to take care of our passes, and when we were done we put our skis on behind the lodge. There were a number of snow guns running near the base as the resort prepares for opening next weekend, but there was plenty of natural snow as well, and it was staying dry and powdery.
We made our way over to the Lower Turnpike skin track, and I’d never seen so many people out on the ascent. Just within eyeshot there were a dozen people on the track in groups of varying size. A lot of things (fresh snow, weather, pass pickup, etc.) had presumably come together to get people out, but the number of people out there has clearly got be a sign that the word is out on the resort’s uphill routes and touring options. Hopefully it’s a great sign for a busy season at the resort in general.
In terms of the skiing, indeed the snow quality was great, just like yesterday. Bolton didn’t quite pick up the totals that I found at Stowe yesterday though – I measured 8-10” of new snow in the Village elevations around 2,000’ or so, and I’d say Stowe picked up those amounts about 500’ lower. We measured roughly 14-15” of new snow at the 2,500’ elevation mark, and I’d say that was about the same near the 3,000’ level.
We took a nice break at the top of our ascent to enjoy some soup and hot chocolate (Ty really loved the peppermint mocha creamer that I added) before we finally got out descent underway. Everyone got in some great powder turns, and the boys were in much better Telemark form on this snow without the slight crust that challenged them on their previous Bolton Valley outing. Although our big storm just finished up, it looks like we’ve got a smaller system on the way tomorrow to add a bit more. Let’s hope we can keep the snowy systems going as we move forward to set up some good December skiing.
There really wasn’t much lead up discussion on the American Weather Forum about the winter storm we’ve been having in the Northern Greens the past couple of days. That’s because, while it looked like the mountains would muster up some snow accumulation, the models hadn’t really suggested that we’d be getting TWO FEET of accumulation. But, once the snow levels dropped into the mountains, Mother Nature just continued to drive that moisture into the spine of the Greens, and it kept snowing. It’s been snowing continuously now for two straight days.
Temperatures were a degree or two above the freezing mark around in the lower mountain valleys at mid-morning when I was heading out today, and the precipitation was all snow, but accumulations were quite variable with the borderline freezing temperatures. We had about an inch on the ground here at the house on the Waterbury/Bolton line, and that tapered off to much more patchy accumulations in Waterbury and Waterbury Center. The accumulations picked back up again once I was into the Stowe Village area, fairly similar to what we had at the house. At The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ mark I’d say the snow depth was roughly 2 inches.
“…and then there was that snow. There’s so… much… snow. Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing.”
Just making that jump up to ~1,500’ at the base of the resort resulted in a huge increase in accumulations. My depth checks revealed ~10” of new snow at the base of the Gondola, and that measurement was fairly easy, since the old base had generally melted out down at that elevation. I skinned up Chin Clip Runout, since I like the grade, seclusion, and protection from any wind more than heading right up Gondolier. Actually though, winds today were pretty minimal in the lower mountain elevations, and with the temperature just a bit below freezing, it was really pleasant.
Above mid mountain I started to get into the snow guns, and I meandered here and there from Switchback to Gondolier to Perry Merrill following various skin tracks to see if there were any quiet areas. But aside from Chin Clip, they had guns running all over the place. It’s noisy and ruins the natural snow in spots, but of course the resort has to blow snow when it’s time. I actually only headed above the 3,000’ mark for the exercise and to see what was up at that elevation, because I knew the skiing was going to be much better below that point. The winds were howling on that last section of Upper Gondolier, and pounding snow from the storm combined with snow guns every 50 feet or so blasting out their little ice particles made it a virtual whiteout. It was absolutely miserable. If you’ve ever wondered why people are willing to pay a premium for really high quality alpine/backcountry/ski outerwear, there’s an example. It’s not as if it was even midwinter cold (somewhere in the 20s F), but with the snow guns added in, there was just so much liquid being blasted at you on the strong winds. Gear was thoroughly put to the test today. The skin track from the guy who was just a few minutes in front of me had absolutely vanished in that short amount of time. All I could think as I struggled up that final pitch was that if I was ever going to Tweet something at that point it would have been #itsbrutaloutthere. It was a major relief to be able to get out of the wind, snow, and the roar of the guns under the deck of the Cliff House.
Above the base elevations where the old snowpack had melted out, I did my best to try to measure on top of the old base snow/crust, and here’s the summary of my best estimates for settled accumulations from this event from the valley and up into the Gondi area below The Chin:
That last number there from the Cliff House is just an estimate because as is often the case, the wind made it really tough to find a representative spot for measurement.
“The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great.”
Anyway, as much as that last, wind-exposed stretch of Upper Gondolier was brutal on the ascent, the skiing was actually fine. But, just below that on Chin Clip was heavenly. The air was calm, the noise of the snow guns was gone, the plentiful flakes falling form the sky were friendly… and then there was that snow. There’s so… much… snow. Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing. I actually felt bad on the ascent for anyone that wasn’t skinning up because if you were trying to boot pack through this storm’s bounty, you were doing a lot of work. There’s no walking though airy dendrites out there right now, this is hard-workin’, blue-collar stuff that’s just been put down. Powderfreak is estimating this storm’s likely going to leave a couple inches of liquid equivalent all together. That’s a season starter right there. On my ascent I’d chatted with another guy near the bottom on Chin Clip Runout who was just coming down, and he said he never touched a thing below the snow… and he wasn’t kidding. On 115 mm boards I’d say I was sinking in about 8 to 10 inches on hard pressured turns on steep terrain. So you can imagine up high where there’s 20 inches of new stuff plus an old base below that, you aren’t touching anything. Even back down near the base elevations though, where the snowpack was dropping below a foot, there were no issues. The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great. I actually found a bit of upside-down snow at times on my descent, no doubt due to some changing densities throughout the storm, but even for Tele turns it wasn’t too notable within the scope of the overall snow that was available.
On the way back down into the valley on my drive home, I’d say that in general a bit more snow had accumulated during the morning/midday, but you could tell that the snow was struggling to accumulate too quickly with temperatures right around or slightly above the freezing mark. Surprisingly, back in Waterbury Center and Waterbury, there were very sparse accumulations if any, but then accumulations picked back up again once I head toward the house and into the mountains.
The weather pattern is actually looking active and potentially snowy going forward, so we’ll see what Mother Nature wants to give us. It would be really nice to get in even an average December after the past three running in the range of 50% of normal snowfall. Even normal would feel quite snowy with the way things have been the past few seasons.
When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard. It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished. Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there. This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.
“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”
We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing. The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder. It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.
“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”
As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder. It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder. We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees. While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis. She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon. While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.
I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below. I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go. It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder. You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had. Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine. In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you. I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation. We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing. If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.
Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up. That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation. He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.
“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”
In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did. We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week. And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.
Based on the way the snow had picked up during my tour at Bolton Valley yesterday, I knew the resort would be reporting more snow today, but when I was checking on the snow totals for the Vermont Ski areas this morning, I was surprised to see that Bolton’s storm total was already up to 25 inches. That definitely called for a morning visit to the hill on my way into Burlington, and with the numbers they were reporting I suspected depths would be sufficient for my first visit to Timberline this season. It was a pleasant morning, with reasonable visibility despite snow showers touching off in the higher elevations. Winds had died down somewhat, allowing snow to more easily collect on trees in the mountains, and I enjoyed the whitened views of the peaks as I headed down the Winooski Valley.
Indeed the snow depths at Timberline looked great, and there were several cars in the south parking lot belonging to eager skiers and riders out earning turns. As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”. That was encouraging. I took a quick measurement above the Timberline Base Lodge and found a fairly consistent 15 inches of depth. It seemed like a good mix of denser snow below, and some fluffier stuff on top – if that was representative of what was out on the trails, it would mean good protection from underlying obstacles and smooth turns on top.
“As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.”
I hopped on the Twice as Nice skin track and made my way upwards until I cut over below the Spell Binder headwall in preparation for my descent. There was some drifting around, but Timberline is pretty sheltered in its lower elevations, so there was a lot of unadulterated powder out there. I changed over for the descent, dropped in for my first turns, and promptly headed over the handlebars in classic Telemark style. Even with my 115 mm fat skis, the buoyancy of the snow had just dropped out from under me as I hit a pocket of powder that was 24 inches deep. I took that under advisement, adjusted my style to be a bit more prepared for any buoyancy changes, and cruised my way down through some fine November powder. The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.
“The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.”
As is often the case with storms in the upslope areas of the Northern Greens, the effects linger, and the remnants of Winter Storm Argos are still delivering snow to the area today. Bolton Valley was reporting a 26” storm total as of this afternoon. We’re still getting snow even down here at the house this evening, so there should certainly be a bit of freshening in the mountains for anyone heading out for turns tomorrow.
While the heaviest snows from Winter Storm Argos had been off to our south and west, the main low pressure system was expected to move a bit today to put the Northern Greens in position for some of their classic upslope snow. Ahead of that uptick in snow though, temperatures in Northern Vermont had dropped enough to bring snow accumulations all the way to the valley floors, and I decided to swing by Bolton Valley this morning for a quick ski tour.
“Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.”
The additional accumulations were immediately evident in the lowest elevations. The base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ had an inch or two of new snow vs. the faint trace that was there yesterday afternoon. As soon as I got up into the main Village parking lot it was also obvious that the wind had changed direction from what we’d encountered yesterday, and heavy snowfall of at least 1”/hr was moving in. I had the back of my vehicle open for just a couple minutes while I changed boots, and being on the windward side I found my gear half covered with snow in just that amount of time.
The new influx of snow and wind since yesterday was a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to snow quality. There’s no doubt that the base has been substantiated between the wind and additional snow – the wind moved snow around, packed it down a bit, and just generally gave the snowpack more girth. Where I touched down in a couple of spots yesterday there would be no issue today. With those changes came more inconsistency in the snow density due to wind crust, so turns weren’t as light, airy, or consistent as yesterday from a powder skier’s perspective. Each powder day is different though, and it was nice to be able to charge a bit harder and not worry as much about touching anything under the snow.
I toured up to roughly 2,800’ on Peggy Dow’s, and fairly heavy snowfal continued for the hour or so that I was up there, with small to moderate size flakes. From the Village elevations on up it looks like ~3” of new snow fell by early morning. Below I’ve updated the total snow depths I found (yesterday afternoon –> this morning), and it looks like the resort had generally hit that 1-foot mark for settled depth on the upper mountain:
A check on Bolton Valley’s snow report, showed them reporting 9-12” as of ~9:00 A.M. this morning, which seems right in line with what I encountered.
With the lower valleys around here finally getting in on the snow action today, I was able to see a lot during my travels to and from the Burlington area. This afternoon, heavier snow pushed eastward from the Champlain Valley where it had been focused, and the drive home from Burlington to Waterbury was the classic journey from no precipitation into an ever-thickening maelstrom of big flakes. Roads were actually dry in Burlington, became wet by the Williston area, and then snow-covered past Richmond. Those who drive Route 2 or I-89 eastward know some of the spots with those long views down the trench-like Winooski Valley, and at each one today, the visibility to the east simply dropped another notch. Consistent with the visibility trend, the intensity of the snowfall was greatest once I got past Bolton. There was a van sideways on I-89 just before Exit 11 that had me in slow traffic for about 15 min, but I was able to get home by 5:00 for observations and liquid analysis on our recent snows. I was greeted by almost a half foot of new snow at the house, and it’s really come down in density. My analysis revealed ratios in the 30 to 1 range, which is going to supply some great powder provided it wasn’t totally blasted by the wind.
With the timing of the storm, our plan today was to hold off until mid-afternoon to let accumulations build up in the mountains. E was feeling a bit under the weather, but the boys and I eventually headed up to the mountain to hopefully catch a ski tour and some turns before dark. Similar to what was going on at our house, the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ was right on the verge of accumulating snow, and you could see whitened areas in spots. Seeing at least minimal accumulations right down at that elevation suggested good things up high though. By 1,000’ there was a solid coating of an inch or so, and although we didn’t stop in at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ to formally check, I’d estimate accumulations of ~4”. Up in the Village parking lots at ~2,000 Dylan measured 5” on the parking lot surface, but most surfaces revealed depths in the 5-7” range.
“Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever…”
Temperatures were a couple of degrees below freezing, and moderate snow fell around us as we geared up for the tour. We watched other folks around the Village, some out on ski tours of their own, and some playing with their dogs or just out walking in the snow, but you could tell that they were all excited for winter’s return. We ascended up the usual Lower Turnpike route, and the boys has a chance to test out lots of new gear that they’d acquired in the off season. Ty was on a new Telemark setup with 160 cm skis, and being 20 cm longer than anything he’d skied before, I was curious as to how it would work out for him. Dylan was really happy to finally be into a pair of Voile Switchback bindings and out of the old three-pin setups.
There was a nice skin track in place, and it had picked up an additional inch or so due to the continued snowfall, but it was a really smooth and swift ascent. By the time we reached the 2,500’ elevation mark the snow depth was up to ~9”, and we continued our ascent up to ~2,700’ on Cougar before we decided that going higher wasn’t necessary. We knew that the descent would be a little slow in lower-angle spots based on a couple people we’d seen going down earlier, but we were all on fairly wide boards and floatation definitely wasn’t an issue. The boys had a blast and were skiing well, and not only did Ty have no issues with the longer skis, he actually made some of his best Tele turns ever. Perhaps the extra ski length and the floatation that comes with it were just what he needed to make a jump in his Telemark skiing. Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever, and along with the fun conditions I think some of that comes from getting stronger each season and finding that the touring is that much easier for them.
The depth of the base snow isn’t quite what it was on my October outing with almost 20 inches of dense paste, so we had to negotiate a couple of bigger rocks (I failed in one case with the fading light) but there’s supposedly plenty more snow to come with this storm. We got to finish the tour around dusk, which always sets a fun mood with the Village lights amidst the snowfall of a storm. It looks like we’ve got more chances for snow coming during this Thanksgiving holiday week, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to head back out again soon.
The snow that’s fallen is by no means just fluff – it’s really hefty stuff with a lot of water in it. Thus there hasn’t been a lot of settling, and the snow has really put down quite a base. Indeed, the ski resorts know what a substantial contribution this snow can represent to the start of their base building – Killington opened up for lift-served skiing starting on Tuesday, and even Stowe has started making snow, which they would never do in October if they didn’t think they’d be able to hold onto a good amount of it heading into November.
“…I was really psyched with how the turns felt – they were actually some of the easiest first turns of the season that I can recall in a long time, so I guess my legs are ready.”
I wasn’t able to get out for the last big storm on Sunday, but I had a bit of time this morning and had a chance to head up to Bolton Valley to check out what had transpired in the higher elevations and catch a few turns. The bulk of the snow fell last night while it was dark, so I really only knew what was going on at our place down at 500’ in the Winooski Valley. It was snowing for much of the evening, although it only accumulated to 0.2” due to the marginal temperatures in the 34 to 35 F range. When I checked on the weather this morning, it appeared as though the snow level had crept upward a bit because our precipitation at the house was a mix of mostly rain with just a bit of snow. That had me a little concerned about just how high the snow level had climbed, but so much liquid had fallen by that point (0.79” in our gauge) that there had to be a lot of snow up high.
I assembled my ski gear for a tour, paying special attention to not miss any of those items that one can often forget on that first outing of the season, and headed up to Bolton. On the way up the Bolton Valley Access Road I saw the first signs of what I think was vestigial snow from last night’s lower snow levels at around 1,000’. Snow quickly began to appear more frequently above that point, and it was around 1,400’ when the precipitation changed over to all snow. Up in the Village lots at 2,000’ it was dumping big, fat flakes up to 2” in diameter. It was hard to get a handle on how much snow fell from this most recent event since it was on top of previous rounds of snow, but depending on when the last plowing happened, I was finding 4” new in the 2,000’ elevation lot. The mountain was reporting 6-8”, which didn’t surprise me at all for the higher elevations.
“It was a great ascent, temperatures were right around the freezing mark, there was no wind, and those huge flakes just kept pouring down.”
I headed up the usual Lower Turnpike ascent route, and was happy to find that there was a skin track in place from a couple of earlier skiers. It was a great ascent, temperatures were right around the freezing mark, there was no wind, and those huge flakes just kept pouring down. I only had enough time to make it up to the intersection with the Wilderness Lift Line at ~2,500’, but I’d pressed a quick pace and got a decent workout nonetheless. When I began my descent I was really psyched with how the turns felt – they were actually some of the easiest first turns of the season that I can recall in a long time, so I guess my legs are ready. And, as I noted earlier, this snow is most certainly not fluff – it’s dense with lots of liquid in it. There was no concern about hitting the ground on turns, and there’s actually hardly any brush even showing on the trails. The skiing was great; they certainly weren’t the highest “quality” October turns I’ve had with respect to snow consistency, but the snow certainly wasn’t sopping wet. I was happy to be on my115 mm fats to keep myself from getting bogged down in that dense stuff though. I’d recommend going fairly fat for anyone that is heading up for some turns in this snow. The snow though dense, actually delivered some nice powder turns.
During my tour I checked total snow depth frequently, and I’d say it was something in the range of 8-12” at 2,000’, and a solid 15” at 2,500’. I’m not sure how much more it increased above that point, but 15” at 2,500’ is obviously great for October. All I can say is “wow” with regard to the coverage on those trails though. It’s been an impressive series of storms up high, and I can’t wait until we can get into some more winter storm cycles, which at this point appears like it will be a week or two away in November. Whatever the case, it would be nice to get at least a bit of a break from storms to take care of the lawn and everything else around the house that needs to be prepped for winter.
Snow was still falling at the house this morning, and if anything it was becoming drier as time went on, so that was encouraging. I decided to head out to Stowe as planned, and I brought along a bunch of camera gear because I expected there would be some fun photo ops along the way. As I traveled to Mt. Mansfield, it was clear that the lower mountain valleys in the 500’ to 1,000’ elevation range were right around the snow line, and that produced a fantastic amalgam of snow accumulations and touches of spring greenery. Aspect wasn’t too critical in determining accumulations since it was quite cloudy, but the type of surface and whether or not it was elevated really played a big role. Also, you could travel just a few hundred yards and see quite a variety of accumulations depending on which areas had been hit with heavier snow showers. Some yards had snow on the grass, some had accumulations only on elevated surfaces, and some had neither. In some spots only the rooves, or just sections of the rooves, held accumulations. The precipitation I encountered was all snow, but temperatures were generally in the mid 30s F, so that contributed to the variable accumulations.
Fairly continuous coverage on the ground really started once you got above 1,000’ in elevation, and up around 1,600’ at the Midway Lodge I found roughly an inch of accumulation. My initial plans were to skin up Nosedive, since it’s always a good late-season bet, but from what I could see, the snow depth really didn’t jump up that quickly with respect to elevation. With that in mind, I headed along Crossover toward the main North Slope route to hopefully find solid base coverage down to lower elevations. The coverage on Crossover wasn’t quite enough to make skinning worth it, so I hiked along until I caught North Slope at around 1,800’ or so, where I was able to start skinning. Indeed the snow depth was building slowly, as even at roughly the 2,000’ mark there was still only 1”-2” of new snow.
I was starting to think that I was going to be out for more of a hike than a real quality powder skiing session, when suddenly I got up around 2,500’ and the snow depth really began to jump up. Here’s my best estimates of new snow depth based on measurement pole probing along my route:
I didn’t really detect any notable gains in snow depth between 3,000’ and 3,600’, and the stronger winds made the measurements more challenging anyway, but my best guess was around 8” up at the Octagon.
I stuck my pole right in the snow by the main Octagon doorway and found 14” – this was clearly due to some drifting, but that’s a decent idea of what you could find if you were hitting the deeper spots along the trails in the upper elevations. The winds were nice in some respects though – they had erased most tracks from previous skiers without really hammering the powder. For the most part it was a gentle sifting in of new snow without any formation of wind crust. You could certainly see signs of old tracks in various locations, but in many cases the trails had been wiped clean, wall to wall.
“…those turns above 2,500’ would have held up as high quality in any season.”
Anyway, that top ~1,000’ of vertical offered up simply fabulous turns – the powder was mid to heavy weight, but not sticky at all and it had plenty of buoyancy to keep things bottomless right down to 2,500’ as long as you followed the deposition patterns along the trails appropriately. I had decent turns back down to 1,800’ at Crossover, but they generally weren’t bottomless down there – laps above 2,500’ were the way to go depending on one’s time and how they set up their tour. You’d have consistently very high quality turns with that approach. The turns for me were clearly some of the highest quality I encountered this season, and certainly some of the most consistent at such a high level. Granted, we know how this season went with regard to blowing away the record books on the low end, but those turns above 2,500’ would have held up as high quality in any season. I had debated bringing my mid-fats today since I was unsure of how the accumulations were going to play out, but there was no question after my run – the fat skis were totally in their element and delivering just like they should.