Tag Archives: Snowfall

Bolton Valley, VT 04FEB2017

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty out enjoying some of the recent upslope powder bounty at Bolton Valley today

There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week.  As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct.  We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order.  What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area.  Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.

“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”

Things really started to ramp up on Thursday night.  My phone alerted me to the fact that the National Weather Service in Burlington had put out a Special Weather Statement for snow squalls.  It wasn’t long before eyewall sent along some pictures of the heavy snow falling in the Burlington area, and eventually, light snow at our house in Waterbury farther east turned into a 1 to 2-inch per hour maelstrom of flakes.  In the morning, Powderfreak started reporting in from the Stowe area, and initial thoughts of at least 6” on Mt. Mansfield turned into 8”, and quickly 9-10” at his 3,000’ snow plot on the mountain.  When adk sent along some of the shots taken during his usual morning wanderings on Mansfield, they revealed that however much snow had fallen, it was skiing deepsome awesome “over the shoulder Champlain powder” shenanigans were already taking place.

“By 2:00 P.M. he reported in with close to 17” of new snow…”

By midday, Powderfreak was reporting a foot of snow at Stowe, and Mother Nature was still pouring out the flakes over the spine at 1 to 2-inches per hour.  By 2:00 P.M. he reported in with close to 17” of new snow, and followed up with his own collection of powdery pictures a bit later in the afternoon.  At times, during the afternoon there were just huge snowflakes pouring from the sky, and Powderfreak sent along a bit of slow-motion video that he caught at Stowe’s base area showing some of the huge aggregates.  Folks quickly started talking about the day as “Big Friday”, no doubt because it was likely the biggest powder Friday of the season thus far.  When you start off with almost a foot of powder, and then tack on another half foot through the morning while you ski, you can’t help but have a “Big Friday”.  I was too busy yesterday to get out for any skiing, but when I posted the Vermont snow reports yesterday evening, all the resorts in the Northern Greens along the spine were coming in with 15-17” of new snow, so a trip to Bolton Valley would definitely be in order.

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Tattle Tail trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty, feeling the powder groove on his Soul 7s today

From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning.  E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later.  From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere.  Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder.  I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats.  For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day.  It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow.  We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.

An image of the "South of Solitude" Mexican restaurant logo at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E.  We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season.  Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season.  The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge.  I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito.  They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!

An image showing the Chimichanga on the blackboard menu at the "South of Solitude" restaurant at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area.  We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation.  A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season.  Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.

An image of Erica on the Timberline Quad at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont

It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it.  We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.

Stowe, VT 29JAN2017

An image of Ty skiing powder with heavy snowfall at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty cranking out some powder turns during some of the heavy snowfall this afternoon at Stowe

Ty and I had an appointment in Burlington this morning, which mean that we’d be arriving a bit late to our BJAMS ski program at Stowe in the afternoon.  We were arriving just in time for the afternoon snows however.  The first encounter was when we driving to the resort during the noontime hour.  We could see snow moving in to our north as we headed through Waterbury, and it finally hit us as were rising up to the Waterbury/Stowe line near Chutesville Hill.  Some fairly intense graupel was a big feature of the precipitation at that point.

There were on and off periods of snow throughout the afternoon at the mountain, and Ty and I worked our way over from the Gondola to the Fourrunner Quad trails around Tyro with a dip into the Chapel Glades.  The snow surfaces were excellent in there, and there were plenty of spots with fresh tracks to be had.  We continued all the way down into the Toll House terrain because we were looking for something mellow, and I’d say there has certainly been plenty of visitation to the mountain over the past couple of days based on some of the areas I saw with tracks in them.  You typically don’t find too many people spending much time in the trees around the Toll House Lift, since the terrain is very low angle and the return to the rest of the resort exceedingly long on the slow double.  I’ve never seen as many tracks in there as I did today though, and we’re not talking a week after a storm, we’re talking a day or two after a storm.  It was unusual, but hopefully a lot of beginners got their chance to check out the awesome powder in the trees!

An image of macarrons at The Beanery at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe made our way back to Spruce Peak for a final couple of runs of visiting some of our favorite powder stashes, and that last hour before closing definitely featured some of the heaviest snowfall of the day.  I’m sure rates were an inch per hour or more at that point, and the photography was difficult during the heavy stuff, but we still fired away.  Images captured successfully during intense snowfall are always fun anyway.  In general I’d say we found about a foot of powder around the mountain in untracked areas, and the skiing was great.  The quality of the powder was definitely very high, and it looks like it will stay that way with the upcoming forecast for the next week or so.

Bolton Valley, VT 28JAN2017

An image of Erica skiing some powder snow in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E in the Wilderness Woods at Bolton Valley this morning enjoying some of the powder put down over the past couple of days

Snowfall has been somewhat lean in Vermont this January, so we haven’t been up to Bolton Valley since the early part of the month.  Things are definitely picking up now though.  The past couple of days have featured plenty of upslope snow in association with an upper level low to our north pushing various smaller impulses through the area.  Over the course of the past two days, the resorts in the norther half of the state have picked up 1 to 2 feet of new snow.

With Bolton Valley reporting nearly a foot of snow over the past two days, the family headed up this today to see just how it well it was settling into the terrain.  The snow report let us know that some of the upper lifts would be delayed a bit due to winds, but they were opening just as we were arriving around mid-morning.  The word was definitely out about all the new snow today – cars were already parking down to the lowest Village lot when we arrived, and more were coming in by the minute.

We started off with a quick run on Snowflake, and enjoyed some excellent powder on the side of Snowflake Bentley.  Since he’s been Telemark Skiing and snowboarding up to this point, it was Ty’s first time on alpine boards all season, and he was really enjoying the powder turns much like a new sensation.  There was no line for the Vista Quad by that point, so we hopped on and got to see the impressive rime up near the Vista Summit.  Catching some of the first turns on the groomed Alta Vista was nice treat that we don’t usually experience, and it really was soft and carveable from edge to edge.  We also got first tracks in the powder off to the ungroomed areas to skier’s left.  The only downside in the powder there was occasionally hitting some old grooming chunks under the snow, but the new accumulations were deep enough to make them only a minor hindrance.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Wilderness Woods at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontWe made our way over to Wilderness and took a quick pass through part of the Wilderness Woods.  The powder was really nice in there, and there had been little traffic up to that point.  We finished off with some groomed and powder turns on Lower Turnpike, and found that the Wilderness Double Chair was running, but they weren’t quite loading it yet.

We stopped into the lodge for an early lunch, and by the time we came out they were loading the Wilderness LiftPeggy Dow’s was in nice shape, but out favorite part was actually the Wilderness Lift Line, which had a lot of powder left on it.  Everyone had so much fun there that we would have easily done it again, but a bit of a queue was forming at the Wilderness Lift so we decided to call it a morning.

An image of Dylan drinking some chocolate milk with two straws in the base lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
What can even be said about the Dylan?

When we were leaving, a woman was more than willing to wait for our parking spot way down by the sports center, so obviously the lots were really filling up.  Even the Timberline lots looked full when we passed by.  Temperatures were in the upper 20s F today, so folks were definitely out in force to enjoy it with the new snow – we’d even heard comments on one the local weather reports about just how good a ski day it was going to be.  The current trends with the snow will probably go on for a couple more days, so conditions should stay quite good.

Bolton Valley, VT 30DEC2016

An image of the White Rabbit Glade with fresh powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An afternoon visit to Bolton Valley today with some first tracks on White Rabbit

I haven’t been up to the mountain for turns since last week, but today when I arrived at Bolton Valley I was reminded just how popular skiing can be over the holidays.  I pulled into the Timberline lot expecting to find a few cars from folks earning turns there, but found it nearly full of vehicles.  The main lots had presumably filled up, and I could see that the shuttle was ferrying people to and from the Timberline lots.

An image of some toppled chairs with snow at the Timberline Base Area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontAlthough the Timberline Quad isn’t running yet, I was starting at Timberline today as part of a combination sidecountry and lift-served tour that I’d planned.  The resort had picked up 4-6” of snow yesterday from Winter Storm Fortis, and an additional 4-5” the previous day from a weak cold front, but I didn’t expect that to be enough snow for a thorough resurfacing that would hold up to holiday skier traffic on all terrain.  The Wilderness Lift is running though, so my plan today was to skin up from Timberline to the main mountain, catch a lift-served run through White Rabbit and Snow Hole, and then return via some Timberline skiing.

An image of ski tracks on powder snow on the Tattle Tale trail at Bolton Valley Resort in VermontThe skin up Timberline was very pleasant, and I saw a few skiers and riders skiing the trails to make their way back to their vehicles at the Timberline Base.  I could see why Timberline isn’t open for lift-served skiing yet though – exposed areas were really windswept and wouldn’t be able to support lift-served levels of skier traffic.  Sheltered areas like most of Spell Binder, Brandywine, and Tattle Tale looked really nice though with all the new powder, and I suspected I’d find some great turns at the end of my tour.  When I reached the main base I found that there were plenty of visitors, but fortunately lift queues were almost nonexistent.  There was generally light snow coming down, with some hefty wind at times that was enough to cause a short stoppage of the Wilderness Lift when I was on it.  By the time I reached the top of Wilderness it was definitely cold – it had to be in the teens F, and feeling much lower than that with that wind.

“I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape. The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.”

I caught first tracks down White Rabbit, which was in great shape.  The base is really deep up there, with another 5 to 10 inches of powder atop the older layers.  Snow Hole had seen a good deal of traffic, but there were still plenty of routes available with powder, and the traffic actually helped to compact the snow at the water crossings.  Lower Turnpike was its usual smooth self and offered a nice groomed surface on which to carve some Telemark turns.

An image of a man making balloon art at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontBack at the main base I had a little time to stop in for a slice at Fireside Flatbread, and it was sort of that transition time between day and night skiing with lots of visitors coming and going.  One of today’s holiday week activities was balloon art, and you could see people around with their colorful balloon headgear.

“I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.”

I didn’t linger too long in the lodge, but by the time I came out the snowfall had really picked up – it was falling heavily and dramatically reduced the available light as we approached dusk.  I quickly headed over to the Snowflake Chair and made my way toward Timberline.  I ran into a family on Timberline Lane trying to make their way back to the Bear Run condominiums where they were staying, and their younger son on a snowboard struggled to move along in the flats, and then struggled more on the ungroomed steep pitch of Timberline Run below.  I headed to Lower Tattle Tale to catch some fresh tracks in the powder there (which I’d say were actually the best of the day) but waited at the intersection of Timberline Run to make sure everybody in the family was getting along OK.  I actually had already pulled out my headlamp for the last bit of skiing since it had gotten so dark, and that was helpful in making sure the family found their way to their lodging.

It was a great tour today with plenty of powder, and it looks like we’ve got another storm coming into the area tomorrow.  Just as I was arriving at the resort today I got an alert that we’ve got a Winter Weather Advisory starting up tomorrow at 10:00 A.M.

Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2016

An image of Ty snowboarding at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty was back on the snowboard today as we headed back up to Bolton Valley to take advantage of yesterday’s new snow.

Since we found such great conditions on our outing at Bolton Valley yesterday evening, we decided to head back up for a little more skiing and riding today.  Yesterday’s storm had cleared out, so today it was mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 20s F – a great December day to hit the slopes.  Ty was psyched to get back on the snowboard, so E planned to work with him on his riding again today, while Dylan and I brought our Telemark skis to head off into the powder from the recent storm.

An image of the Vista Quad chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Moth Nature delivered a gorgeous December day for some skiing and riding.

We headed up to the mountain around noontime, and the resort was hoppin’ based on the number of cars in the Village lots.  With the weather and proximity to the holiday period, that wasn’t surprising.  E and Ty stayed focused on the lower mountain terrain so that Ty could continue to work on his snowboard turns, and Dylan and I took the Vista Quad to see what conditions were like on the upper mountain and make our way over toward Wilderness.  Skier traffic definitely had its effects on the snow surfaces, and we found lots of firm or icy areas on trails like Alta Vista and even lower-angle terrain like Sherman’s Pass.  Fortunately, Wilderness had seen much less traffic and the snow surfaces were excellent.  There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes.  We even made our way into the Wilderness Woods, and there was plenty of coverage and very little traffic.  Snowpack is certainly not an issue at elevation – I probed the depths at around 2,800’ over toward Wilderness and found as much as 30 inches.  The consistency of the snowpack is interesting.  There’s definitely a refrozen layer in there from the warm storm we had over the weekend, but it many spots it’s not really crusty, it’s just thick and has bonded pretty nicely to the snow that fell more recently.

“There was plenty of packed powder, chowder, or even untracked powder on the lesser-used routes.”

The snow from yesterday’s storm is holding up well and keeping conditions great in minimal traffic areas of low and moderate-angle terrain, so seek those out if you’re looking for soft turns.  Our next winter storm is actually coming into the area tomorrow.  It’s similar to yesterday’s event, with the potential for 2 to 4 inches in the higher elevations, but if it works out like that last one it should be another nice boost to the conditions.

Bolton Valley, VT 22DEC2016

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder at night under the lights at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We headed up to the mountain this evening for some turns and found some great conditions brought on by today’s new snow.

I was home this afternoon with enough time to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs before dark, with the incentive being a bit of snow that we picked up today from a small Alberta Clipper-type system.  Although the snowfall had generally been quite light in intensity today, it had been snowing continuously, and reports of 3 to 5 inches were coming in from the mountains.  I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested, so I figured it would just be a solo outing for me to scope out how the new snow was setting things up for coming days.  But, before I knew it, the whole family was interested in getting some turns, and once we confirmed that night skiing was on, up to the hill we went!

“…combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would.”

The temperature at Village elevation (~2,100’) was right around freezing, and while we were at the mountain the cloud deck fluctuated between there and Mid Mountain (~2,500’).  There was light snow falling the entire evening, and although we never went higher than Mid Mountain, there was no wind to speak of.  So overall, it was an incredibly nice time to be out skiing under the lights.  I measured 3” of snow in the Village parking lot, and generally found 3-4” on the hill, which jives perfectly with the 3-4” that I see this evening in the Bolton Valley snow report.  My liquid analyses down here at the house (500’) revealed a very mid-weight 10% H2O snow, and while we may have had a touch of compaction due to being slightly above the freezing mark at our elevation, I’d say that 10% density is fairly consistent with what the mountain received.  So the new snow has got a bit of girth to it and can float you pretty well on low- to moderate-angle terrain as long as there’s a smooth subsurface.

An image of Erica snowboarding in the Mighty Mite area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontOne thing that got Ty excited to head to the mountain this evening was the chance to do some snowboarding.  He’s big enough to use my snowboard now, so E said that she’d give him some instruction to get him started.  We all started off at the Mighty Mite to ensure that Ty was set on the board, and then spent the rest of our time on the Mid Mountain Chair so that Ty could work on his snowboard turns with E, while I worked with Dylan on his Telemark skiing.

An image of Jay skiing powder at night under the lights at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dad having a blast in the fresh snow!

There was plenty of powder available this evening off to the sides of the main runs and on the easily accessible side trails, and combined with the weather, the overall ski conditions were so good that we ended up staying a lot longer than I’d thought we would.  There obviously hasn’t been enough liquid added atop the snowpack to keep folks from touching down to the old surface on steep terrain yet, but lower-angle to moderate terrain is skiing beautifully.  I suspect the groomed terrain could have been pretty loud before this new snow, but turns were very silent and peaceful tonight.  And, there’s the aesthetic quality of all the new snow.  Folks coming up for the holiday weekend should be pretty psyched, especially if Mother Nature tops this current snow off with a bit more from the system potentially affecting the area on Saturday.

An image of the dart board outside the James Moore Tavern at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWe capped off the evening with a trip to Fireside Flatbread for the first time this season.  It was a quiet midweek evening, and service was really quick – we sent the boys downstairs to the cafeteria to get a couple of appetizers and the pizza arrived before they even got back!  Anyway, tonight’s experience with the soft conditions has got everyone in the family interested in getting more turns this weekend, so hopefully we’ll have another chance to get out and enjoy the new snow.

Stowe, VT 17DEC2016

An image of snow building up on a skier during a snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
We got to enjoy the new snow from Winter Storm Decima today on our annual school ski program training day at Stowe.

Each year in December we head to Stowe for the training day that gets us ready for our school’s ski program.  E is the director for the BJAMS program and typically takes care of the logistics on one of the weekend days, while a co-director would manage the other.  In the past, when the boys were younger and couldn’t stay home alone, we’d either set up to have someone watch them, or split the two training days between us and each go alone.  On those occasions, even though selecting the days was done well in advance, I always seemed to luck out and get the great conditions – comfortable temperatures, fresh powder, soft surfaces, etc., while E on the other hand would get refrozen crud, frigid temperatures, or whatever else you can think of that would make the ski experience less than stellar.

This year though, we were going to the training day together, and it looked like E was going to go for a ride on the luck train with me.  Winter Storm Decima was marching across the country, and the timing looked just about perfect for a great powder day on Saturday.  In fact, the National Weather Service Office in Burlington even felt strongly enough about it to incorporate a statement in their forecast discussion on Thursday:

“Should be a glorious powder day with mean snow ratios around 18-20:1 and temps gradually warming into the lower 20s valleys and upper teens mountains by early afternoon.”

By this morning, Winter Storm Decima had already begun to deliver snow as we headed off to the resort.  The snowfall rates weren’t outrageous, but it was a good steady snow and you could see that little bit of extra spring in everyone’s step knowing that training day was going to feature fresh snow.  As we gathered outside the Midway Lodge for the morning’s announcements, you could just see the snow piling up on the anxious skiers ready to get underway.

“There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.”

We had Steve for our group leader, similar to some previous seasons, and he regaled us with his usual assortment of giving lessons to celebrities and assorted well-heeled folks.  We did a quick first run off the Meadows Quad, and that was our first chance to experience the snow.  Oh was it glorious!  There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.  Stowe’s already hit 110 inches on the season, and we’re only about three weeks or so into it.

We had several runs on Spruce Peak before we broke for some lunch, then got a couple more runs in over on Mansfield.  Even after a day of weekend ski traffic, conditions were still amazing in the afternoon even on the most heavily-used areas.  The snow is deep-down good.  The only downside today was the chill in the morning at elevation with the wind, but it was still a small price to pay for such consistently awesome conditions.

Bolton Valley, VT 12DEC2016

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Brandywine trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Getting out to Bolton Valley for a quick morning tour on the snow from Winter Storm Caly delivered some excellent turns.

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 CalyWinter 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 BurlingtonBolton’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.

An image of a skin track for ski touring on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Making use of the great skin track on Twice as Nice today

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.

Stowe, VT 03DEC2016

An image if a ski track in powder snow on the Chin Clip trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Over the past couple of days, a storm has dropped over 20 inches of dense snow on Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort. This storm is both building base and delivering plenty of powder.

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.

While our last winter storm (Argos) hit Bolton Valley hard with over two feet of snow, the initial reports from Powderfreak indicated that Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort were really doing well with this one.  Stowe had picked up a half foot by Friday morning, and by early this morning Powderfreak was reporting a 16” storm total.  And, the snow just wasn’t letting up.  I had a number of great Bolton Valley ski days last week, and with the way the storm was going it looked like a perfect opportunity to mix things up a bit and head for the slopes of mighty Mt. Mansfield.

An image of the sign for Maxi's restaurant in Waterbury, VT
Snow filled the air down to the lowest mountain valleys today.

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.

An image of icicles below the deck of the Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAbove 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:

1,000’: 2”
1,500’: 10”
2,000’: 14”
2,500’: 17”
3,000’: 20”
3,600’: 20”+

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.

An image of a snowy mountain in Waterbury, VT
Snowy views of the mountains on the drive home.

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.

Bolton Valley, VT 22NOV2016

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We’re onto our third day of snow from Winter Storm Argos, and the powder skiing at Bolton Valley just keeps getting better!

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.

An image of the snow depth behind the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm ArgosIndeed 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.