Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2020

An image of Erica getting some powder turns and Dylan looking on from behind during Winter Storm Jacob at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing powder from Winter Storm Jacob in January 2020 at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Thanks to Winter Storm Jacob, the whole family got out today for skiing in the fresh snow. We got to the mountain just as the Vista Quad was starting up, and Dylan loved all the fresh tracks!!

The snow from Winter Storm Jacob began yesterday while Dylan and I were out on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network, and the intensity continued to ramp up while we finished our tour.  The winds increased and flakes were flying while we packed up our gear at the car, and I definitely had to take it easy coming back down the Bolton Valley Access Road with the accumulating snow.  The snow was falling in the form of relatively small flakes, so the accumulations were coming in quite dense.  By morning, Bolton Valley was reporting 5 inches of new snow with more to come during the day.

Ty wasn’t scheduled to work today, so the whole family had the chance to ski together and we decided to head up to the mountain early enough to hit the lift openings.  The Vista Quad was opening at 9:00 A.M., and we got there right as folks began loading.  We had an excellent run down Alta Vista, and especially Fanny Hill, and everywhere that hadn’t been groomed held several inches of dense powder that contributed to a solid resurfacing of the slopes.

“That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.”

Timberline has finally come on line this weekend thanks to the recent snows, so we next chose to head over that way and catch it near the lift opening.  Cobrass still isn’t open, but we were able to take Preacher and a combination of various glades to get us over to Five Corners and onward to Timberline.  That was probably my favorite run of the day, with a lot of fresh snow on trails that had hardly been touched by anyone.

Timberline still needs a bit more snow to open all the terrain, but we had an excellent run down Sure Shot and in and out of various sections of trees and nearby trails.  Being a holiday weekend with fresh snow, people were arriving at the resort in droves, and when we stopped in at the Timberline Lodge for a quick break, the ticket line inside was roughly 150 feet long.  That line was a sign of what was going on throughout the resort, and indeed a substantial lift queue was forming at the Vista Quad when we returned to the main base.  Seeing that, we did a couple of quick, powder-filled runs on Snowflake and called it a day because we’d had our fill.

An image of Dylan skiing powder during Winter Storm Jacob in the Cobrass area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the powder on our run over to Timberline

Cars full of holiday visitors continued to stream into the resort as we were leaving, and the Timberline lots must have been filled because they were already starting to have cars parallel park on the access road.  The number of visitors today must have been great for the resort, even if it meant there were some lift queues at times.  We’d seen Stephen and Johannes right when we’d arrived, and we didn’t get to do any runs with them, but they apparently had a big group with a number of Johannes’ friends.  Stephen also said that he rode the Wilderness Chair, so the opening of the Wilderness area must have been a nice addition to disperse all the holiday visitors.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 18JAN2020

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in some January powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan below the Gotham City sign in the backcountry ski trail network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan in Gotham City during today’s ski tour as snow begins in association with Winter Storm Jacob

So far, this week has done a nice job of rejuvenating the local ski conditions, with a total of four storms expected to affect the area.  We had a couple of very minor storms earlier in the week that dropped a few inches in total for the mountains, and then a larger storm that hit the area on ThursdayThat one actually wound up being our largest storm of the season to date here at the house, dropping almost a foot of snow.

I suspected that the most recent storm wasn’t going to be quite enough to get the backcountry into perfect shape, but the forecast called for chilly temperatures topping out in the 10-15 F range, so earning some powder turns in the new snow seemed like the way to go.  Dylan joined me in my plan to head up and take a quick tour on some moderate terrain on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network.

A copy of the 2018-2019 Nordic and Backcountry trail map from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
This season’s update of Bolton Valley’s Nordic & Backcountry trail map is once again listing a lot of the glades.

“Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.”

The idea for today’s tour was to head partway up the Bryant Trail, connect over to Gotham City, catch some turns in the Gun Sight area, and then finish off the run with some lower glades.  Depth checks revealed about 6-12” of surface snow at Village elevations, and that increased to 12-16” in protected areas on the backcountry network where to topped out around 2,400’ or so.  There were some nice powder turns in that snow, but the base depths are very inconsistent.  In some spots the base snow was sufficiently deep, but in others there was little to no base, and obstacles like rocks and logs definitely needed to be avoided.  Dylan’s most memorable quote of the day came after he had an altercation with some sort of obstacle under the snow and took a tumble.  He was on Erica’s fat skis, and we were really hoping it wasn’t a rock.   D quickly reassured me… “It was a log”.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying the shelter of the trees and nice powder on today’s backcountry ski tour

We’ve actually got our next significant weather system, Winter Storm Jacob, starting to affect the area this afternoon.  I’m not sure exactly when the snow from the storm first started to appear, but around 4:00 P.M. we were in Gotham City finishing our ascent, and I realized it was snowing.  It’s kind of fun when you’re touring in the forest like that with limited views and protection from the elements, and before you know it you’re getting covered with fresh snow.  The density of snow from this next storm will probably be on the high side, so it should make a solid contribution to the base to cover some of the obstacles we’ve been encountering.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley backcountry network

Stowe, VT 12JAN2020

An image of Ty and Dylan getting their ski gear on in the locker area of the Spruce Camp base lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.
The boys get suited up for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season by the lockers in Spruce Camp.

Today we were at Stowe for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season.  In terms of weather, this was one of those days where we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to the slopes if it weren’t for the program.  We’ve been in the midst of Winter Storm Isaiah over the past couple of days, and it’s been a warm storm that has switched last week’s wintry conditions over to spring conditions.  That actually wouldn’t be a deterrent for skiing, but the anticipated strong winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s F through the afternoon were concerning.

We were at the mountain early enough that I took a couple of runs with E and the boys, and we found conditions to be spring-like and decent.  We had a touch of rain, which quickly changed over to snow in the higher elevations and made its way down to the base.

“It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming. ”

During my instruction session today I was working with a student named Viviana, an absolute first-time, never-ever skier.  We worked on the magic carpet all afternoon, with one break in the middle where we got to hang out with E and the boys, their ski groups, and a number of other people from the program while we had some good food at the Great Room Grill.  Viviana spent her ski time figuring out how to pressure her wedge to slow herself down and make turns, and she had progressed quite a bit by the end of the day in having the strength to stop herself.  That actually says a lot, because the soft conditions we had at midday gradually changed to very hard conditions by the end of the afternoon.  The cold air moved in, the groomed surfaces became much slicker, and the ungroomed surfaces became a frozen moonscape.

Strong winds put the Over Easy Gondola on hold at the end of the day, so we had to take one of the shuttles back to our car at Mansfield, and the wait for the shuttle felt like forever because of the frigid winds.  It was only about five minutes of course, but many of us had dressed for the gondola vs. being out in the open.  We found our car was encased in quite a layer of refrozen material from the wet snow that had fallen, so it took a bit of time to warm it up and melt that off.

It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming.  There are four potential winter storms in the next six days, so depending on how they play out, it could set things up very nicely for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Bolton Valley, VT 05JAN2020

An image of a snowcat and the base area of Timberline at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Wood's Hole area with fresh snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The beautiful snowy scene at Wood’s Hole today

Since yesterday morning, Winter Storm Henry has been bringing snow to our area, and Bolton Valley reported several new inches as of this morning.  With the passage of the system came some wind however, which was enough to keep the Vista Quad on hold.  Watching the Bolton Valley Live Web Cam from home, we could see that the Vista Quad closure led to long lines for the Mid Mountain Chair and Snowflake Chair.  My colleague Stephen said that he’d been skiing in the morning, but the lift lines grew to 30 minutes as more people arrived and he’d eventually decided to call it a day.

Our family had planned to head up for some lift-served runs this afternoon, but the wind hold made that impractical and I ended up heading to the mountain to skin up for some turns instead.  I figured this latest storm would be just about enough to get Timberline in reasonable shape for turns, so with the crowds at the main mountain, I decided to check it out.

“In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.”

The main skin route on Twice as Nice was well established, but I could see that in general the west-facing trails had seen just a bit too much wind to provide really nice turns.  Having seen that, I ended up descending by the more protected Wood’s Hole and Brandywine route, and that worked out well.  In general, I found 6 to 7 inches of powder in protected areas along the route, which was enough for mostly bottomless turns on low and moderate angle terrain.

We’ve got yet another modest system coming through the area tomorrow, so that should bring conditions up another notch.

Bolton Valley, VT 01JAN2020

Ty cranking a turn in the fresh snow t at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder after Winter Storm Gage at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan out for some Telemark turns today on the great snow put down by the past couple of storms

With the addition of snow from Winter Storm Gage Sunday through Tuesday, ski conditions have seen substantial improvement over the past few days.  I was already pleased in general with the conditions I found at Bolton Valley yesterday, and I expected them to easily move up another notch with the follow up system that came into the area last night.  As of this morning in the valley we’d already picked up over a half foot of snow (with a solid shot of liquid equivalent) between the two storms, and yet another round of snowfall was building in as we headed up to the mountain around noon.

An image of Dylan making a Telemark turn at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan was really laying down some great turns today as he tested out Ty’s Tele skis

“I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.”

Today was actually the first day of the season that the whole family had a chance to ski together, or at least the first day where both schedules and snow conditions made it happen.  Unlike yesterday, the mountain was really busy today, and we parked in the lowest tier of the main lots down by the Sports Center.  We even had to wait for a couple minutes to get on the Vista Quad, but that wasn’t bad considering the other mains lifts aren’t running yet.  Temperatures were still relatively nice in the 20s F, but there was some wind in the higher elevations.  D was having fun buttoning up with his magnetic Anon MFI Tech Balaclava and his helmet-compatible hood on his Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket just to see how everything came together.  I have the same combo and think it’s fantastic for keeping out the wind.

An image of Erica in her ski gear with a bit of snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontFrom the Vista Summit we skied Alta Vista, and in discussions about the conditions, E and D said it was definitely better than the last time they’d been on it back on the 24th.  All the snow from these past couple of storms has really put some quality coverage above the old base, so the trail edges were quite nice with hardly a sound from hard snow.  We also had some time to visit Wilderness, which is still seeing just a modest amount of traffic from people using the uphill route.  Conditions over there were very good, building on what I found yesterday.  I’d say you could typically find 6 inches or more of powder above the first thick layer in the snowpack.  D was actually trying out Ty’s Telemark skis today for the first time, and he was really taking to them.  His Tele turns looked strong on both the groomed slopes and in the powder, so I see him using those skis a lot until he gets his own new Tele setup.

Looking ahead, we’ve got the chance for another modest system this coming weekend, so conditions could get another shot in the arm if that system delivers something similar to what we’ve just received.

Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2019

An image of trees coated with snow from Winter Storm Gage at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of holiday lights in the evening in the center of the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Early evening in the Bolton Valley Village with some new snow from Winter Storm Gage

Over the past couple of days, Winter Storm Gage brought several inches of snow to the area, so I headed up to the mountain today to sample the goods.  We picked up close to an inch of liquid equivalent from the storm down at the house, so the mountains should have had at least that much as well.  Bolton Valley was noting 5 inches in their official report, which was likely a fairly dense 5 inches.  There was some mixed precipitation in the middle of the storm cycle, but it seemed like the slopes should have gotten a decent resurfacing with the mixed components sandwiched between a decent amount of snow.

Temperatures were really nice up at the mountain – they were right around 30 F, and with essentially no wind, it was very comfortable and calm.  I was up in the late afternoon heading into twilight, so it was a relatively quiet period of the day and I walked right on the Vista Quad when I arrived.  Although there was still plenty of light when I first got up to the mountain, light snow was in the air and we’re in late December, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before it would be dark enough for the slope lights to come on.  I put a clear lens in my goggles, and that was really perfect for my twilight session.

New snow from Winter Storm Gage coats cars in one of the parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Cars coated by Winter Storm Gage in the upper tier of the Bolton Valley parking lots.

The new snow was certainly a boon to the conditions.  There were still slick areas, but there was a lot of loose snow throughout the trails as well.  A check on the ungroomed areas from roughly mid mountain up revealed about 4 inches of powder, then a thick/crustier layer below that, then another 4 inches of snow above the base.  Even the uppermost layer of snow was reasonably dense, so moderate angle terrain skied quite nicely.  Finding the natural snow in decent shape, I ventured over toward Lower Turnpike and got some excellent powder turns.  I would occasionally touch down to the harder layers below, so the turns were just a notch below what we experienced back on the 21st of the month.

“It’s a bit strange continuing to ski as 4:00 P.M. hits because it feels like everything should be closing up, but you just get to keep going – almost as if the resort forgot you were there.”

I really enjoy these twilight sessions that you can get at Bolton Valley – it can be a very peaceful time of the day as many people have finished up their skiing and folks planning on the evening may not yet have arrived.  It’s a bit strange continuing to ski as 4:00 P.M. hits because it feels like everything should be closing up, but you just get to keep going – almost as if the resort forgot you were there.  The night skiing lights come on at some point, and the scenery around you changes by the minute as the daylight fades.  It’s definitely a unique experience, which is certainly enhanced when you’ve got some new snow.

There’s another small system coming into the area tonight, with the potential for another few inches on top of what we’ve had.  We’re hoping it makes for some nice New Year’s conditions!

Bolton Valley, VT 07DEC2019

An image of fluffy upslope snow from an early December Alberta Clipper system at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing the snowpack depth around mid mountain in early December at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking the depth of the snowpack today at around 2,600′ near Mid Mountain. Total depth was around 27″, with about 20″ of it being powder from recent storms.

Last weekend, Winter Storm Ezekiel brought some hefty snowfall to the Northeastern U.S., with totals exceeding two feet in areas around Albany, NY and Southern Vermont.  Up here in the northern part of the state we only picked up a few inches of snow from the storm, with totals falling off to almost nothing near the international border in a total reversal of the usual trend.

A couple of smaller, Alberta Clipper-style systems came through the area this week though, with the second one being especially potent as it interacted with the Northern GreensBy this morning we’d already picked up 5 to 6 inches of pristine powder at the house, and Bolton Valley was reporting 9 inches in the past 24 hours.  We’re known for getting plenty of dry, “Champlain Powder™” here in the Northern Greens, but this snow was way up there on the quality scale.  My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.

“My analyses at the house were revealing snow to water ratios of 50 to 1, and even as high as 85 to 1, so that’s incredibly dry powder with just 1 to 2% H2O content.”

The upslope snowfall on the back side of the Clipper looked like it would continue all day today, so I decided it was time for a quick trip up to the mountain to check out the new powder.  Thanks to our cold November temperatures, Bolton Valley has actually been open for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t even picked up my season’s pass yet because I’ve been so busy.  E and D were both a bit under the weather, and T was at work, so unfortunately they’ll have to wait until another trip to get themselves set up with their passes.

An image from outside the Village Cafe area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontI was worried about a long wait to get my season’s pass, but once up at the mountain it turned out that picking it up was very quick.  While I was walking toward the lodge from my car, I ran into a member of the resort staff who was checking in with everyone about picking up their passes.  For pick up, he said to head right toward the Village Café, and they’d take care of everything.  Indeed, there was only one person ahead of me picking up their pass, and it was very quick.  The process of pick up and filling out the waiver was all done very efficiently on a handheld, wireless iPad-type device, and there was plenty of nice seating on couches in the lobby area so you could have a seat while you finished off the process.

Of course the greatest part of picking up my pass this year was the fact that Bolton has gone RFID!!!  Dylan and I suspected it when we saw electronic gates by the lifts during a ski tour last month, but I can definitely say it’s for real.  It’s so nice to be able to just stick the pass in my pocked (my Arc’teryx Sidewinder Jacket has a pocket on the sleeve that works perfectly) and I never have to mess with getting it out at the lifts.  I tested out my pass at the Mid Mountain Chair and the process was perfectly smooth.

An image of snow falling in the Village Circle area during an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the snowy Bolton Valley Village today after picking up my season’s pass

“I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow.  Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.”

In terms of skiing, my plan was to use an assist from the Mid Mountain Chair and head over to Wilderness to ski some of the fresh powder in that area.  I figured there would be no one on the upper mountain without the Vista Quad running, but when I was traversing over on Fanny Hill, I ran into a patroller who was prepping the trail for opening because they were going to open Vista.  He reminded me that I wasn’t on the designated uphill route, but thankfully let me continue on over since I was just about onto the Wilderness terrain.  I checked the total snowpack depth in that area and measured a healthy 27 inches, with about 20 inches of that being powder from recent storms, and the rest being base snow.  Clearly Bolton has gotten clobbered from some these smaller systems we’ve had.

An image of snowy trees and a skin track after an early December snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the snowy views along my skin track in the Fanny Hill area.

Once connecting to the standard skinning route, I finished my ascent on Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness ridgeline and got ready for some turns.  Light snow with breaks of sun that had been with me on the last part of my ascent were replaced with a sudden change to a maelstrom of huge flakes coming down as I began to descend.  I really didn’t have to venture far afield from Peggy Dow’s and Turnpike to find powder – there was plenty of it throughout the route because skier traffic had been low enough.  Powder depths ranged from as much as 15 to 20 inches on the upper mountain, to typically 12 to 15 inches on the lower mountain, so even with the incredibly dry powder there was plenty of it to keep you floating.  I’d brought my 115 mm fat skis and they were definitely the right tool for the job.  I was surprised at how quickly my legs got cooked from making Telemark turns – they’d often be fried after just a dozen or so turns!  I guess it has been roughly three weeks since I last skied, so my legs are clearly telling me they need to get back into ski shape.  Today should get the process started though, and hopefully ski days will become more frequent as we move into December and we continue to get snow.

On the weather side, it looks like we’ve got a warm system to start off this next week, which will consolidate the snowpack somewhat, and then temperatures should cool down for midweek with potential for some moisture from the Great Lakes affecting the area.  Then there’s the potential for another large system next weekend, but it will be a bit before we can figure out how much snow we might get from that one.

Bolton Valley, VT 09NOV2019

An image of the Vista Peak area of Bolton Valley taken from near the Wilderness midstation after an early November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing some snowmaking taking place in early November at the main base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A bit of early season snowmaking going on at the main base area today

The end of the week brought our first significant snowfall to lower elevations here in Northern Vermont, with a couple inches accumulating in most valleys by Friday morning from the initial passing of the cold front.  Friday continued to bring additional snow however, with another 5 inches coming down at our house during the morning in the span of just a few hours.  By the time the system had wrapped up on Saturday morning, we’d accumulated over 7 inches at the house and the yard had been transformed from stick season into winter.

The local ski resorts hadn’t picked up too much more than we had, but totals in the 6 to 10” range seemed typical, and that was certainly enough to entice me out for some early season turns.  With that in mind, this morning I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to get in a ski tour and check out the new snow.  With the fairly fluffy nature of the snow and based on what we’ve seen at the house over the past couple of days, I’m sure there had been some settling since it fell, but here’s the snow depth/elevation profile of what I found from the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road up to the local summit areas:

340’:  1-2”
1,000’:  2-3”
1,500’:  3-4”
2,000’:  4-6”
2,500’:  6-7”
3,000’:  7-9”

I started my ski tour around midday, when temperatures were just edging a bit above freezing at our house down in the valley, but above 1,500’, and certainly above 2,000’, temperatures never got above freezing so the snow was all winter consistency.

In terms of the skiing, it was undoubtedly early season, and rock skis would be your best bet if you’re going on anything with substantial pitch.  I actually found the skiing better on the lower half of the mountain because there was a bit of a base there – I think more of the snow down in those elevations was melting on contact with the ground to create that dense layer.  Up higher, the consistency of the snow was more straight fluff from top to bottom.  As is often the case, most water bars had reasonable crossings at least at one point, but a few were dicey and took some extra navigation.  There’s still running water in plenty of spots, and ponding in some flat areas.  On my descent it was obvious that my skis got in contact with at least traces of that moisture, because about halfway down I had to pull out a credit card and spend probably 10 minutes doing a scrape down on the ski bases to really get things back in shape for gliding.

That effort was worth it though, because for the bottom half of my run I was on Lower Turnpike, and that offered what was unquestionably the best skiing of the tour.  The combination of that bit of dense snow that accumulated as some base down in those elevations, plus some skier traffic packing down areas of the new snow as well, clearly created the best subsurfaces I encountered.  On top of that you’ve got the fact that Lower Turnpike is essentially all grassy terrain, and it has a pitch that isn’t really overbearing for the amount of snowpack we’ve got, and it comes together for real winning combination.  Even with some skier traffic, there was still plenty of powder to play around in throughout the trail, so that was a great way to finish off my run.

An image of drifted snow atop some of the condominiums near the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after an early November snowstorm
Enjoying the wintry views at the end of my tour as drifted snow adorns some of the condos by the base of the Wilderness Lift

For anyone heading up, you may still want to hit the summit areas to check things out and get the exercise from a more substantial tour, but if you’re just looking to get out from some quality turns, Lower Turnpike is probably going to get you the most bang for your buck.  It’s one of the designated ascent routes anyway, so there’s a nice skin track and it’s an efficient way to in some nice turns on the new snow.

I just got an alert on my phone this morning that we’re under a Winter Storm Watch in association with the next system.  This one looks more substantial than this past one, but we’re still a day or two out so we’ll need to watch for any final refinements to the forecast.

First snows of the season for the Green Mountains

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

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

Stowe, VT 14MAY2019

An image showing the snow line on Mt. Mansfield at the start of a ski tour in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of some ski trails signs in the Nosedive area with fresh snow during a May ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today was quite the snowy day in the local mountains as I got out for a ski tour in the fresh May powder on Mt. Mansfield.

It turns out that we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.  It probably feels like May snowstorms are rarer than that, maybe because, well… it’s May.  By this point in the season it typically hasn’t snowed in a few weeks, we’ve had some warm weather, Memorial Day is approaching, and people are well along into thinking about spring and summer.  But I felt as though I’d been out on fresh snow several times in May since we’ve been back in Vermont over the past decade or so, and being curious about the actual numbers during the lead up to our current storm, I checked my ski report archives to see.  Indeed, with today’s storm that makes at least five significant May snowstorms in the past decade.  Here in the Northern Greens we also don’t catch the brunt of every May snowstorm that hits the Northeast, especially with the Presidentials in the mix, so I suspect that for the region as a whole the frequency of May snowstorms averages out to somewhere around a storm each season.

“…we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.”

Whatever the actual frequency is for these May snowstorms, we’ve got one going on now.  We’ve been monitoring the potential of this current storm for several days in the New England forum at American Weather, and the mountain snowfall was well under way last night.  That meant that this morning was time to get a sense for what happened where and decide on a good location for some turns.  After checking out the accumulations on the various mountain webcams this morning, I decided to head to Mt. Mansfield for a ski tour.  I hadn’t seen any obvious differences in accumulations at the various resorts from the webcams, so I opted for Stowe because they seemed to have the most substantial existing snowpack right down to the base elevations.

An image showing a dusting of May snow at an elevation of 1,300 feet near the base of the Toll House chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
As I approached the mountain today, the first signs of fresh snow were at around 1,300′ just above the base of the Toll House Lift.

As expected, it was a cool, borderline wintry morning as I made my way to the mountain.  Temperatures were in the upper-30s F in the mountain valleys, and mid-30s F at the resort base.  I’d seen on Stowe’s web cams that the North Slope area had its typical late season residual snowpack, so I chose that for my ascent route.  By the time I got out on my tour, the snow level was certainly rising relative to its lowest point overnight or this morning when there were more optimal temperatures and snowfall rates.  New snow accumulations varied considerably depending on the underlying surface, with the best accumulations and retention found atop the existing snowpack.

“The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.”

Continuing up from the North Slope area, I headed through the Fourrunner Quad Summit and up the Toll Road past the Mt. Mansfield Stake to the Mansfield Summit Station at around 3,850’.  Precipitation was snow at all elevations on my ascent, and it was fairly light for the most part until I got to the Summit Station along the Mansfield ridgeline.  While I was hanging out there refueling and changing over for the descent, the intensity of the snowfall ramped up somewhat, with lots of tiny flakes at first.  Eventually though, the snowfall picked up to a pounding of much larger flakes.  There was definitely a lot of liquid coming out of the sky at that point, and my Gore-Tex® was getting a workout.

An image showing the Mt. Mansfield snow stake area during a May snowstorm near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Stopping for a look at the healthy snowpack still present at the Mt. Mansfield stake as I pass by during today’s ski tour

Observing the new snow accumulations along my ascent, the big jump in depths really seemed to happen between 2,000’ and 3,000’.  Above 3,000’ I didn’t really see too much with respect to additional accumulation, so presumably temperatures were sufficient down to 3,000’ to maximize the snow from the available moisture right from the get go yesterday.

Here’s the elevation profile for the accumulations I found this morning:

500’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,300’:  T
1,500’: ½”
2,000’:  1”
2,300’:  3-4”
2,500’:  5”
2,700’:  6”
3,000’:  7-8”
3,500’:  8”
3,850’:  8”

An image showing the Summit Station/Visitor Center atop Mt. Mansfield in Vermont during a May snowstorm
Snowfall picked up when I was on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline by the Visitor Center today, with huge flakes and reduced visibility for a time.

The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.  Of course, the density also meant that the snow was Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete and you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns.  I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a lot of work.  It is mid-May though, so even dense powder turns this time of year are always a treat, and getting the workout is a big part of the experience anyway.

“…you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a LOT of work.”

In some cases it wasn’t just the descent that added an extra challenge due to the dense snow.  I followed a pair of skin tracks on my ascent and noticed that in some spots the new snow had stuck to their skins.  I wasn’t having that issue with my skins, but I eventually caught up to the gentlemen who were making the skin tracks, and they said for them it was an issue when they traveled over areas without an existing snowpack.  I was able to pay them back for their helpful skin track by setting the track for the second half of the ascent, and while I didn’t see them on the descent, I saw them back at my car and at Edelweiss Deli where I grabbed a sub for lunch (great minds think alike) and it sounds like they had a great tour.

Wintry conditions in May are typically quite ephemeral, so I guess we’ll be back to spring skiing soon, but these late season powder days are always a treat.  There’s a certain mystique with these late season elevation snow event because it feels like you were in another world when you get back to the strong sun, spring warmth, and rapidly emerging greenery in the valleys.