Bolton Valley, VT 11NOV2018

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

Temperatures in the higher elevations stayed well below freezing overnight, and indeed they weren’t even going to rise above freezing during the day today.  So as expected, whatever state the snow was in by the end of the day yesterday was essentially how it was going to stay.  I found very nice powder conditions on the upper half of the main mountain when I was at Bolton Valley yesterday, and with that in mind, we got the family out for a ski tour today.

“So that meant some nice powder turns on the upper half of the mountain, and a melt crust under a little fluff on the lower mountain.”

The temperatures we found today were very much like what I’d encountered yesterday, with uppers 20s in the Bolton Valley Village, and 19 F up around 3,000 feet.  This afternoon featured nearly cloudless skies however, so we had much more sunshine today, and that made it at least feel a bit warmer to me, even if the thermometer didn’t have much to say about it.

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

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder after a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI took E and the boys on essentially the same tour I did yesterday, and the snow depths and conditions we found really were unchanged today.  So that meant some nice powder turns on the upper half of the mountain, and a melt crust under a little fluff on the lower mountain.  E and the boys were definitely leery of the conditions on the lower half of the mountain when we began our ascent, but I told them to stick with it and we’d get up into the good snow.  We did just that, and I’d say everyone had a lot of fun working on their first turns of the season in the powder.  We got back to the car just as the sun was beginning to set, and all in all it was a great first family ski outing of the season.

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

We’ve actually got a couple more storms on the way over the next several days that hold the potential for additional snow.  There’s one on the way for Tuesday which could be similar to this past one, and then another one near the end of the week that bears watching as well.

Bolton Valley, VT 10NOV2018

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

You can put away the rock skis for this storm.  Indeed the Northeastern U.S. has been under the influence of a double-barrel low pressure system that the weather models have been showing for more than a week, and it’s finally delivered a healthy shot of snow to the Green Mountains.  With one low pressure system traveling through the eastern Great Lakes, and another up the New England coast, there was some warm air involved in this event, but the precipitation in the mountains has generally been frozen, and it’s been plentiful. 

“There’s definitely a nice density gradient to give you those easy powder turns with ample protection below.”

Most of the mountain valleys even picked up some snow, but when the snow began yesterday afternoon, the eastern slopes seemed to be the areas getting the most precipitation and notable accumulations even in the valley bottoms.  I was hoping to head up to Bolton Valley for some turns today, but the lower accumulations in the valleys of the western slopes had me wondering how the resort had done with respect to snowfall.  They don’t have their webcam in operation yet, and they’re not making immediate snow reports, so I quickly popped up to the mountain this morning to assess the potential for turns.

Signs of leftover snow like we had at our house disappeared as I dropped down into Bolton Flats, and at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) there was no accumulation.  There weren’t even any signs of white until I hit 1,000’.  So I’d say that indeed, accumulating snow levels were definitely lower in elevation on the eastern slopes – snow at 1,000’ in the Bolton Valley area was about equivalent to 500’ at our house slightly east of the spine.  The snow depths did eventually did go up dramatically with elevation however.  I found 3 to 4 inches at the Timberline Base (1,500’) and up in the Bolton Valley Village (2,000’) there were 6 to 8 inches on the ground with heavy snowfall adding to that by the minute.  The resort was clearly all set in terms of snow, so I hoped to head back up in the afternoon for a tour when I had sufficient time.

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

After visiting the ski swap in Waitsfield in the early afternoon, I was able to head back up to Bolton Valley in the midafternoon period to get in that ski tour.  The accumulations I’d see in the Village in the morning just continue to increase as I skinned up toward the summits, and all told I found the following accumulation profile with respect to elevation:

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

I did get readings as high as 16” on the upper mountain, and one drifted spot with 20”, but I’d say 12-14” is a decent measure of the top end I found for depth.  It seemed like there was some old snowpack up high, but I don’t think it interfered with measurements of the new snow because it should have been pretty solid by now.

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

Even base temperatures had dropped into the 20s F when I was up there in the midafternoon, and my thermometer was showing 19 F when I was up at the Vista Summit, so the snow wasn’t wet at all.  Below ~2,500’ there was a thick layer in the snowpack that was only an issue in wind scoured areas.  I’m not sure when that developed (maybe during the warmest part of the storm), but today’s additional snow sort of mitigated that, at least with the 115 mm skis I was on.  Above 2,500’ it didn’t seem like that layer was even present, and turns were fantastic in midwinter snow.  There’s definitely a nice density gradient to give you those easy powder turns with ample protection below.  With tonight’s temperatures, the only enemy of the powder would be wind, so the good snow should be there a while for those who want get after it.

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

First snows of the 2018-2019 winter season in the Green Mountains of Vermont

An image showing Camel's Hump in Vermont with the first snows of the 2018-2019 winter season in the Green Mountains
An image showing Camel's Hump in Vermont with the first snows of the 2018-2019 winter season in the Green Mountains
Camel’s Hump showing signs of the first snow of the season for the Green Mountain of Vermont

While the first half of October was fairly warm, the weather models have been suggesting a shift to more seasonal temperatures as we hit mid-month.  The potential for some mountain snow was in the forecast last night, and indeed as of yesterday afternoon snow was already being reported at Whiteface Mountain across the lake with video of the flakes.  Here on our side of the lake, we heard from Powderfreak early this morning that snow had been sighted in the mountains around Stowe, and he was heading up for some investigation.  An hour or two later, he had send along pictures, and indicated that accumulations on Mt. Mansfield were about a half inch and started at an elevation of roughly 2,300 feet.

“…it looks like we’ll have more opportunities for snow this week with accumulations potentially even down to the mountain valleys.”

Here at our house, I did a morning check to find that the cloud ceiling was still only about 2,000 feet and there were no obvious signs of snow below that level.  I gave the clouds some time to think about clearing a bit, and then headed out in the neighborhood during the mid-afternoon period to see what snow might be visible.  Indeed the cloud ceiling had risen by about another 2,000’ and I was able to catch Camel’s Hump as the clouds had just about broken away.  The snow line at that point looked to be around 3,000’.

The first snows of the 2018-2019 winter season are in the books here in the Greens, and the National Weather Service Office in Burlington says it looks like we’ll have more opportunities for snow this week with accumulations potentially even down to the mountain valleys.  We’ll see what transpires as even colder air moves in, so stayed tuned for more October snow updates!

Stowe, VT 19MAY2018

An image of a sprig of evergreen melting a hole in spring snow on a May ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of leftover spring snow on the Liftline Trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont on a ski tour in May
On today’s ski tour I was able to get to some of the snow higher up on Stowe’s Liftline trail

My time was limited for yesterday’s ski tour on Mt. Mansfield, so I only got to try out a portion of the skiing that Stowe’s Liftline trail had to offer.  Based on the intel I’d received from Jumpin’ Jimmy though, it sounded like some of the best skiing was in that big upper section of snow on the trail, suggesting that another visit was in order.  I had some time today ahead of the rain that was expected to move in during the afternoon, so off to the mountain I went.

Yesterday gave me a great sense for the available snow at the resort, so I parked right near the mountain operations building below Sepp’s Run, knowing that I’d be finishing my tour there.  I ascended Liftline yesterday through a combination of skinning and hiking, but the skinning was pretty challenging on some of the steeper, narrower pitches, so I wanted to try a different ascent route today. I took a gradual ascent toward the North Slope route via Lower Starr and Crossover, enjoying nice dry grass and easy walking.  Using various combinations of trails in the North Slope area, I was able to put on my skins around 2,800’, and had to take them off a couple more times before reaching the top of the Fourrunner Quad.

“All told you’re probably looking at around 85% snow for a trip down from the top of the Fourrunner Quad, so it’s certainly still worth it if you’re looking for some good spring turns.”

For the descent, the main breaks in the snowpack are right at the Liftline headwall, and then about halfway down the trail before you get to the terrain I skied yesterday.  Indeed the turns on the upper parts of Liftline were great – there’s a lot of snow up there on skier’s left, and plenty of terrain variety.  All told you’re probably looking at around 85% snow for a trip down from the top of the Fourrunner Quad, so it’s certainly still worth it if you’re looking for some good spring turns.

An image of spring flowers and some houses in the town of Stowe, VT in May
The sights of spring were in full force as showers approached and I made my way back through the town of Stowe.

Stowe, VT 18MAY2018

A late May image of spring slowly making its way up the slopes of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont
An image looking down at some of the snow on the Liftline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in late May
Looking down a steep pitch at some of the snow on Stowe’s Liftline trail today, with the Midway base area in the background.

It’s always fun each spring to see just how the snowpack finally melts out on Mt. Mansfield.  There are certainly those reliable, well-protected spots like Nosedive that hold snow well into the spring, but between the variability in natural snow deposition and snowmaking, you never quite know what areas are going to offer the best turns for your effort as we get farther into the spring.  I headed out for turns this afternoon expecting to make a traditional Nosedive run, but upon appraising the availability of continuous lines and low-elevation snow, it was actually Liftline that seemed to be the best bet.

“I only had time to head to the top of that large section of snow (~2,300’), but it offered up some nice steep turns and the corn snow was in excellent shape.”

I once again parked in the new lot by the Midway Lodge just as I’d done for my outing last week, and headed up the Crossover trail until I encountered Sepp’s Run with substantial snow right down to the bottom at ~1,700’.  I knew there was a break in the snow up toward Liftline, so I hiked until I hit the more substantial snow on there and then switched to skinning.  I only had time to head to the top of that large section of snow (~2,300’), but it offered up some nice steep turns and the corn snow was in excellent shape.  That section is one of the steepest of Liftline, so the skinning was a challenge without the ability to really spread out the switchbacks on the ascent, but it was doable with good support from my poles and ensuring that my skins were secure with each step.

An image of the Inspiration area at Stowe Mountain Resort's Spruce Peak in May
A view back toward the Inspiration area at Spruce Peak with a bit of snow left.

On my descent I ran into Scott Braaten out for an afternoon tour, and then Jumpin’ Jimmy and I believe Aaron Lavallee as well, so it was quite the SkiVT-L reunion!  We’re certainly past the point where you can easily skin up and get 2,000’ of continuous vertical feet of snow at Stowe, but we’re not too far off from continuous skiing from the top of the Fourrunner Quad from what I heard, so there’s definitely a lot of good skiing to be had.  Jim said that the snow in the next section above where I’d stopped was really good, so if I get a chance it would be nice to get up there and make some turns before the snow melts out.