Third and largest snowstorm on the way today for Vermont

An image of the Winter Weather Advisories Map for February 24-25, 2012 from the National Weather Service Office In Burlington, Vermont
The National Weather Service in Burlington has put out Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Warnings for the upcoming winter storm in our area.

With our recent return to wintrier weather, three storms have been in the forecast, and thus far each one has been topping the previous one in terms of mountain snowfall.  The first one came through Tuesday night into yesterday, and dropped 1.7” of snow here at the house and a few inches in the mountains.  The second system started up yesterday, and while we picked up 0.5″ at our house in the valley, it was definitely a step up in accumulation for the northern mountains.  With the addition of this second storm, two-day snow totals are just shy of the 1 foot mark at some of the Northern resorts like Jay Peak and Smuggler’s Notch, with totals tapering to the 5 to 8-inch range in the Sugarbush through Stowe stretch of the spine.  I caught some turns yesterday at Bolton and the skiing was already excellent.  The third storm in this triumvirate is expected to start today, and depending on how it plays out with the mountain upslope snow, another 1 to 2 feet could be added in the mountains on top of what was already received from the first two storms.  Winter Storm Warnings are up for many areas, and this morning’s Storm Total Snowfall Map from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington is added below.  In any event, with the moderate density snow already down from the first two systems, whatever this storm delivers, the potential is there for a great weekend on the slopes.

The Storm Total Snowfall Forecast map for the morning of February 24, 2012 for the upcoming winter storm - 1 to 2 additional feet of snow are expected in the mountains.
The Storm Total Snowfall Forecast map for the morning of February 24, 2012 for the upcoming winter storm – 1 to 2 additional feet of snow are expected in the mountains.

Snow totals from this storm were quite impressive.  I’ve put together the north to south snowfall totals I’ve seen from the Vermont ski areas for this storm (list 1) and the sum of all three storms we’ve had since midweek (list 2).

Storm 3
Jay Peak: 40”
Smuggler’s Notch: 36”
Stowe: 36”
Bolton Valley: 24”
Mad River Glen: 20”
Sugarbush: 23”
Pico: 15”
Killington: 15”
Okemo: 6”
Bromley: 6”
Magic Mountain: 6”
Stratton: 8”
Mount Snow: 3”

Storms 1, 2 & 3 Combined
Jay Peak: 51”
Smuggler’s Notch: 46”
Stowe: 44”
Bolton Valley: 29”
Mad River Glen: 26”
Sugarbush: 28”
Pico: 17”
Killington: 17”
Okemo: 8”
Bromley: 8”
Magic Mountain: 10”
Stratton: 9”
Mount Snow: 5”

As is often the case, there’s a very clear north to south gradient for snowfall, this time with the northern resorts measuring in feet, while the southern resorts are measuring in inches.  This was a great enhancement to the snow depths in the northern and central resorts, and it looks like roughly 2 inches of liquid went into the snowpack on Mansfield.  You know it’s a decent storm cycle period when the depth of snowpack at the stake goes from a below average 49 inches on Wednesday, to an above average 81 inches as of today.

For more full details on this storm, head to the detailed report at the winter weather section of our website.

Bolton Valley, VT 23FEB2012

An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Snowflake Bentley trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching some fresh tracks down from the top of Snowflake Bentley today

After a slow stretch of winter weather for much of February, the last third of the month has been picking up in that department.  Three systems have been forecast to come through the area, each one with the potential for more snow in the mountains.  The first one came through Tuesday night into yesterday, and dropped 1.7” of snow here at the house and a few inches in the mountains.  The second system started up yesterday, and as of this morning we’d only picked up some rain here in the valley, but it was definitely a step up in accumulation for the northern mountains.

With only rain down here in the valley, it was difficult to assess what the mountains had picked up for snow around 6:00 A.M. when I was trying to make the decision about taking some runs, but fortunately Stowe was out with a nice early report indicating at least 5” up high.  With fairly high snow levels, I wasn’t surprised to see that it was a steep accumulation gradient with elevation; Stowe was only reporting 1” new at the base.  Still, the high-elevation number of 5” was enough for me to suspect that the main mountain at Bolton, which is all at 2,000’+, would be in great shape, so I prepared my gear and decided to stop in up at the mountain on the way to Burlington.

It was interesting to find that it was actually snowing way down at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’), but there was just a skiff of new white there.  In fact, the snow line for getting into to good snow was actually pretty high.  Even up at 1,000’ on the access road I’d say there wasn’t much more than a dusting of new snow, and there was probably only an inch up at the Timberline Base at 1,500’.  In the Village at 2,100’ I found 2-3” of new snow on the ground, although that was probably the accumulation from the last two days because the cars that appeared to have spent the night in the lot probably had an inch or so on them.  The temperature there at the main base was 31 F, and light snow was falling.

I was only about 30 minutes away from the opening of the Vista Quad when I started skinning up the mountain, so I stuck to the Wilderness side to stay out of the way of any potential downhill traffic.  Wilderness wasn’t scheduled to open until 10:00 A.M., so I had a good cushion of time.  The 2-3” of snow I’d seen at the base grew to 4-5” at ~2,500’ as I headed up Fanny Hill.  I made my way toward Upper Crossover, and stopped my ascent at the top of Bolton Outlaw.  Up there at around 3,000’, new snow depths were in the 5-6” range.  It was past 8:30 A.M. by that point, and I was just starting to hear the hoots and hollers of folks descending off Vista, so I didn’t linger long before I dropped in to see how the turns were going to be.

The powder was medium weight, not sticky at all, but with plenty of substance.  Still, I was touching down in spots, so it wasn’t completely bottomless with the steepness of Bolton Outlaw.  Turns were great though, and if this is just a taste of what’s to come when the third storm gets here, the next couple of days are going to be great on the slopes.  I continued on down to the Wilderness Lift Line, where turns became bottomless with the slightly lesser pitch.  Nobody had been down to Wilderness by that point, so it was first tracks all the way down until I merged into the Vista Trails.

An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Wilderness Lift Line at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching first tracks on the Wilderness Lift Line today

I decided to stick around for another couple lift-served runs, and first hit Hard Luck.  It had seen a few tracks, but the turns were excellent.  I cut through to Show Off, which was untracked at the point, and the turns were generally bottomless.  I finished off with a run below the Vista Quad above the Jungle Jib.  I opted for Vermont 200 on my next run, where I actually found the snow depths topping out around 7”.  I hit some woods, and then cut across on Deer Run to get to the top of Snowflake.  I combined the top part of Snowflake Bentley, which was about half groomed and provided some nice turns, with Lower Foxy, which allowed me to ski past the Wentworth Condos and out the access road.  The powder was excellent almost all the way back down to the main base, although I’d say the last couple hundred vertical were just a little thick – certainly enough that I noticed.  It was easy to see that the main mountain was the place to be though; dropping down to the elevations of Wilderness would likely have seen a dramatic decrease in both the quantity and quality of the powder.

A dusting of snow is seen on the mulch surround the "UVM" bushes at the University of Vermont
A touch of snow remained among the "UVM bushes" this morning.

The temperature was still at 31 F when I was leaving the mountain, and the light snow continued to fall as it has the entire time I was at the mountain.  The temperature was in the mid 30s F back down in the Winooski Valley, and on the way into Burlington, I saw that there were actually pockets of accumulation even in the lower elevations, with a decent coating in Richmond, and another good coating at the I-89 rest area in Williston.  There were even a few pockets of accumulation visible at UVM.

With the addition of this second storm, two-day snow totals are just shy of the 1 foot mark at some of the Northern resorts like Jay Peak and Smuggler’s Notch, with totals tapering to the 5 to 8-inch range in the Sugarbush through Stowe stretch of the spine.  So, we’ve already had a nice couple of appetizers leading up to the third storm, which is expected to start tomorrow.  Winter Storm Warnings are up for the mountains and mountain valleys, with 6 to 10 inches of snow expected through 7 A.M. Saturday, and then additional upslope snow on top of that.  If the third storm comes through as expected, it should be a great weekend out on the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 04FEB2012

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in the powder on Spell Binder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some Telemark turns today in that Bolton Valley powder

If it seemed like we had a lot of mixed precipitation events in Northern Vermont this January… that’s because we did.  Many winter seasons will have some sort of January thaw, where the weather pattern shifts or resets and the temperature temporarily bumps above freezing, but according to Roger Hill, this year we had seven January thaws.  None of these storms posed snow coverage issues for the local mountains; they were just winter storms with snow on the front and back ends, but warm temperatures with mixed precipitation in the middle.  But even though they weren’t notable thaws for the mountains, each time the precipitation changed over to something other than snow, that was snow we weren’t stockpiling into the base depths for the season.  The mixed precipitation was substantiating the total liquid equivalent in the snowpack, but once temperatures came back down after warming, the potential for hard snow surfaces arose.    Fortunately, the Northern Greens worked their magic, pulling out enough snow on the back end of each storm to provide a decent shot of powder to get things back to normal.  Last weekend at Stowe was a perfect example; we didn’t think the skiing was going to be any good, but Mt. Mansfield pulled that Champlain Powder™ out of the sky, and we found ourselves making fluffy laps off the Sensation Quad on Sunday afternoon.

Our latest mixed precipitation event came through during the Tuesday through Thursday period this week; snow started up on Tuesday, warmer precipitation mixed in on Wednesday, and then everything was back to snow on Thursday.  There wasn’t much snow on the back end of that event, but sure enough, another system came through yesterday and today that dropped another half foot of powder in the mountains.  Over at, Powderfreak posted text and pictures about the skiing at Stowe yesterday, so it looked like we were back in business in terms of powder skiing.

I was feeling down with a touch of stomach flu this morning, but we decided to head up to Bolton for some turns in the afternoon because the day was looking just too fantastic to miss.  There was bright sunshine, temperatures in the upper 20s F, and fresh snow to boot.  When Stephen called us around mid morning today, we let him know we’d be up to the mountain later, and that we were planning on making a special run for some extra fresh tracks.  With the Timberline Quad still not running, we decided to spot a car down there and catch a nice long run of powder from the Timberline Summit.  We let Stephen know about our plan, and with both Johannes and Helena in full day ski programs/lessons, he was totally free to join us.  Since we didn’t head up to the mountain last Saturday, we were eager to catch up with him and make some turns.

We parked a car at the Timberline Base, noticing about a half dozen other vehicles that were also there from people doing the same thing or earning turns, then dropped of our skis at the Village Circle and got a parking spot in the main Village lots.  The lots were pretty full, but since it was around 1:00 P.M., spots were opening up we were able to get one down near the recreation center.  E and I changed into our ski boots at the car, and the combination of sunshine and warm air was so mellifluous we could have just spent the entire afternoon right there.  We rang Stephen, who said he was just getting off the top of Wilderness and would meet us at the base.

An image of one of the Bolton Valley resort vehicles in the village circle with a coating of snow
A coating of snow covers one of the resort’s vehicles in the village circle this afternoon.

Ty wanted to do a warm up run on Snowflake, so we did, with a run through the Butterscotch Terrain Park as the boys often request.  There was powder available off to the skier’s right as usual, so Stephen, E and I naturally availed ourselves of that.  It was sometimes deep enough to get us floating, sometimes not, but even the subsurface was not half bad as Powderfreak had indicated; we were anticipating some very nice options over at Timberline.

With the warm up run out of the way, we could move on to getting ourselves over to Timberline.  We rode the Vista Quad and opted for the Cobrass route.  Stephen had warned us that the top, south-facing portion of Cobrass was icy, and he was right.  We had to pick out way through that, with even the normally soft skier’s right featuring little in the way of nice snow.  Once below that though, things improved on Cobrass Run, and improved even more once we got to Five Corners, where the skier’s right was filled with a delightful combination of powder and chowder.

An image of powder-coated snow whales on the Villager trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We discovered a layer of glorious Champlain Powder atop the snow whales on Villager.

Finding ourselves at the Five Corners intersection, it was time to make our way up Villager.  Although the trip up to the Timberline Summit is relatively short, E and I had our skins so that we could carry the boys’ gear more easily.  I was in the process of strapping the boys’ skis to my pack, when Ty decided that he wanted to ascend with one ski on and one ski off.  I warned him that it might be a bit tiring and inefficient, but he actually made it look pretty easy.  The hike up Villager was glorious, with sunshine and temperatures in the 20s F just as advertised.  We even got the occasional sunshower of snow when a breeze would blow some of the delicate fluff out of the trees.  I was excited because despite the stomach ailment that had plagued me in the morning, I was feeling just about 100%.  On the hike I checked on the depths of the new snow, and throughout the ascent we generally found 5 to 7 inches of powder over the old base.  Previous rounds of snowmaking had produced some large whales up and down the trail, and now that they were coated with that beautiful blanked of fluff, the boys made good use of them for some sliding.  It was fun watching the powder explode around the boys as they slid off the huge mounds, knowing that we’d hopefully be skiing that same stuff soon.  In some leeward spots, we found up to 20 inches of powder that had blown in, and the breezes that put it there must have been quite gentle because it was just as light and fluffy as the powder that hadn’t seen any wind.  I took it as a good sign that we’d be able to find some excellent powder on the descent.

An image of Ty and Dylan sliding in powder off one of the snow whales on the Villager Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty and Dylan dive off one of the Villager snow whales as fluffy powder explodes around them.

At the Timberline Summit we took our time and enjoyed the weather, with the boys playing around in the snow near the summit station of the lift.  Eventually E and I finished getting the gear readied, and with Dylan anxious to start skiing, we got on our way with the descent.  We headed down Brandywine and Intro to get access to the trails below the mid station, and the powder was indeed very good; consistent with what we’d seen on the way up Villager, there was roughly a half foot of classic Champlain Powder™.  It wasn’t ultra light, so there was plenty of substance for a lot of floating, and even when you weren’t off the base, the subsurface was unblemished and reasonably soft such that even that skiing was great.  There were some areas that had been hit by wind up high, but we able to find good powder on most pitches and knew that the effects of the wind would be even less below the mid station.

An image of Erica skiing in the powder on Upper Brandywine on a sunny day at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E testing out the powder on Upper Brandywine near the beginning of our descent

I was going back and forth in my head about whether we should head for Twice as Nice, with its consistent pitch, or Spell Binder, with its lower traffic and steep headwall.  The headwall isn’t always the best option if we haven’t had a dump large enough to provide floatation in the steeps, but with the quality of the subsurface we’d observed, I decided we’d give it a shot.  It turned out to be a fantastic choice.  I headed down first, keeping to the skier’s right for the best snow at the top, and then cutting back left as I got into the lower part of the headwall.  Even with only midfat skis, speed got one floating, and the smooth, undisturbed nature of the subsurface with the quality fluff on top made for an impressive ride.  I pulled up a good distance below the headwall, and got out the Canon to catch the descents of the others.  The boys went first and were looking extremely good, carving some big, high-speed turns down the headwall.  In anticipation of the powder, we’d brought their fat skis, so with their light body weight, the girth of their skis, and the high speeds, they had no problem floating.  Seeing Dylan with the confidence to arc down the slope at high speed was especially exciting, and it’s obvious the strides he’s making in his skiing this season; sifting through today’s action shots and observing his form really bore that out.

An image of Dylan carving a huge arc down the headwall of the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan slices a huge high-speed arc through the powder on the Spell Binder headwall.
An image of Stephen cutting tracks through the powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Stephen carving his way through the powder on Spell Binder today

Once below the headwall we all enjoyed a long run of powder cruising, gliding our way through the fluff that was most protected from the wind.  The dips and berms of the water bars were still occasionally visible, but fortunately the snowpack is well past the stage where they’re of much concern.  We did another couple rounds of photography, taking advantage of the great light and excellent snow.  The depth of the powder did decrease with elevation, but there were a few inches present even down to the 1,500’ level to make for quite a complete run.  If we’d had the time and the boys had had the inclination, it would have been fun to run some additional laps on the terrain, but the day was wearing on and since the Patriots were playing, we were thinking of watching some of the Super Bowl.  Stephen also had to pick up Johannes and Helena from their lessons… and let them know what they’d missed of course.

An image of Erica skiing a vast area of powder on the Spell Binder Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E enjoys the expanse of powder available on Spell Binder today.

We dropped Stephen off at the Village Circle and headed back to our car to complete the circuit.  We definitely need to get in more of these days, although I suspect Timberline will be opening soon.  There’s always spring though when the mountain shuts Timberline back down.  The weather pattern appears to be changing, and it looks like we’ll be trading in all the mixed events for something different.  Hopefully we can keep the precipitation coming in the form of snow.  E and I started up a two-day chili recipe yesterday, and the final stage was when it cooked in the crock pot today, so it was ready when we got home.  It was very good… very good – my only regret was that I had to take it easy due to what my stomach had been dealing with earlier.  Fortunately it stores very well!

Stowe, VT 29JAN2012

An image of Greg and some of the boys in our ski group on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort, with tracks visible in the powder on the lift line trail below
Greg and some of the boys riding Sensation today between laps in the powder below

There haven’t been any major snowfalls in the area since the storm that dropped up to two feet in the mountains around mid month, so when I assessed the monthly snowfall at the house through yesterday (27.2”), it wasn’t surprising that we were well below the January average I’ve calculated from the past five seasons worth of data (40”+).  Even without any huge storms though, the Northern Greens have been doing their thing to keep the slopes fresh as they capitalize on the moisture from more modest systems or make their own upslope snow.  Today was another perfect example, as we found ourselves amidst massive flakes when we arrived at Stowe around midday.  It was a bit of a surprise to see all the snow in the air and the cars covered in white, since all we’d seen at the house were a few flurries, but that’s Mansfield being Mansfield.

An image of arriving at the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont with snow falling and a couple of trails on Mt. Mansfield just visible in the background
Our snowy arrival in the Spruce Peak Village today

“Every week we seem to
get one of those mixed
storms to make a mess
out of the slopes, and
Mansfield pulls another
7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or
whatever out of the sky
to bring back the powder

The day was set up as a nice comfortable one with temperatures in the 30s F for the mountain valleys, and a high of around 25 F on Mt. Mansfield.  Naturally, the combination of nice temperatures and fresh snow had us excited to hit the slopes, so with some extra time before our coaching session began, I grabbed Ty and Dylan and we rode the Alpine Double for a run in the terrain above Meadows.  Consistent with the latest temperature fluctuations above and below freezing over the past week (which seems to be a theme this month) there was certainly a crusty layer under the powder, but the turns were very good with all the new snow, even down at the low elevations near the Spruce Peak Village (~1,500’).  In fact the snow was nice enough that when we met up with our group for the day, which consisted of Jack, Luke, and Greg Pause as a second coach, we headed right back up to do the same run.

An image of Greg and the boys stopping in the powdery woods for a photo during one of our trips on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching Greg and the boys on one of our snowy Sensation runs

Seeing how nice the skiing was down low with the new snow, we didn’t want to wait too long to get higher up on the mountain, so we caught Sunny Spruce to make our way over to Sensation.  While on the lift, we saw a few tracks on Spruce Line, but loads of untracked snow, so we worked our way through the trees to get there.  The boys were challenged by some difficult routes through the trees, but Ty encouraged everyone, letting them know that they could really handle it, and they did.  Indeed the powder skiing was excellent up at that elevation with the additional depth of new snow afforded by 1,500’ of increased elevation.  One aspect of the run that had everyone grinning was the fact that nobody else was skiing the area, so we had it all to ourselves.  We continued on down to Whirlaway, where the snow remained quite good, and then decided that it would be a shame if all the untracked snow on Spruce Line went to waste, so we did the exact same run again.  We concluded our Spruce Peak session with one more Sensation run, hitting the steep terrain of Upper Smuggler’s down to Side Street, then back to the Spruce Peak Base Area to catch the Over Easy to Mt. Mansfield.

“It was a bit of a surprise
to see all the snow in the
air and the cars covered,
in white, since all we’d
seen at the house were a
few flurries, but that’s
Mansfield being Mansfield.”

The second half of the afternoon was spent over on Mt. Mansfield exploring areas serviced by the gondola.  Waterfall continues to have good snow, so we enjoyed its somewhat steep terrain as a good variation down to Gondolier.  We played around a lot in the Switchback trees, and a quick check on the powder there revealed 7 inches of depth for the mid to lower mountain elevations.  We did a run on Perry Merrill as well, and worked our way back to Switchback for a variation on the trees we’d skied before.  The snowfall had slackened during the middle of the afternoon, but it resumed for the end of the ski day, and gave everyone a renewed sense of excitement.  The boys finished off their last run as they do with most gondola runs, the requisite trip through the small terrain park below Midway.  We headed back to Spruce as the light began to fade and the snowfall ramped up.

An image of Ty jumping over a sloped box in the small terrain park near the Midway Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching that last terrain park run in the fading light
An image of a pair of skis leaning on a carved wooden bear at the entrance to Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Spruce Camp entrance

We headed to the Great Room Grill for après ski, and the snow continued to fall; the forecast calls for up to another 6 to 8 inches tonight on top of what fell today, so I suspect that conditions are going to be even better tomorrow.  It certainly makes me want to hit the slopes instead of heading in to Burlington.  I’ve got to say, Stowe really continues to impress this season in terms of conditions.  Sometimes the heavy traffic at the mountain can really wear things down, but in this season of low snowfall, big temperature swings, and mixed precipitation, Mansfield just keeps coming through.  Every week we seem to get one of those mixed storms to make a mess out of the slopes, and Mansfield pulls another 7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or whatever out of the sky to bring back the powder skiing.  I really thought this was going to be the weekend in which the conditions wouldn’t make it back in time, with this week’s mixed precipitation storm coming so late in the week, but damn if there wasn’t some fine skiing out there today.

Stowe, VT 16JAN2012

An image of Ty half buried in powder in one of the gullies in the Hazelton Zone at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Getting buried in powder wasn’t a problem today at Stowe.

The Northern Vermont ski areas picked up 1.5 to 2 feet of snow from the winter storm that hit the area at the end of the week, and we’ve been doing our best to make good use of it with some Bolton Valley night skiing on Thursday, followed by another outing there on Saturday, and a solo outing for me at Timberline yesterday.  It’s been cold the past couple of days though, with a reading of -15.3 F at the house this morning for the coldest of the season thus far, but the forecast for today called for a good rebound in temperatures and we planned to get in some skiing at Stowe.  We didn’t start too early due to those sub zero temperatures, but by late morning the early morning lows were already well on the rise.  Knowing the forecast for great temperatures in the afternoon, we were probably like many folks; we didn’t start until late morning and focused on the second half of the day.

Ty had stayed at Kenny’s house overnight as planned, so E, Dylan and I decided to get in some runs before picking him up around midday.  It was tough finding a parking spot on the Spruce Peak side of the resort in the later morning period today, probably due in part to so many people thinking like us and going with a later morning start, so I dropped E and Dylan off at the lodge and they started skiing while I took care of the car.  After some searching, I eventually got lucky with a great spot right outside the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  E was working with Dylan on his Telemark skiing on Easy Street, and once I met up with them it was time for E to head to Morrisville to get Ty, but I made sure to keep Dylan’s Telemark groove going.  We worked in some runs off Easy Street as well as the Inspiration trail off the Adventure Triple, and I shot some video with E’s camera.  As designed, the pitch of Inspiration is really consistent and good for learning, so Dylan had some nice turns there.

An image of the fish tacos available in the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Fish tacos for lunch today – yum!

Once lunch time approached, Dylan and I headed in and ordered up lunch at the Great Room Grill.  I tried the fish tacos for the first time and they were excellent; I suspect I’ll get them again at some point.  When E returned with Ty, he got into his ski clothes, she had a quick bite to eat, Dylan switched to alpine gear, and we got ready to head back out for more turns.  We also picked up Luke, since he’d been skiing with his mom during the morning, but she had to head off to take care of some work.

We headed over to Mt. Mansfield for some runs off the gondola, and right from the gondola summit, I was excited to see that the very top of Waterfall was open – with plenty of coverage and great packed powder.  I’m not sure if it’s just my timing, but that area never seems to be open, so that says something about the coverage and snow quality that have been attained due to the recent storm.  We worked our way down to Perry Merrill, and after poking around a bit, we got sucked into the Hazelton Zone because the coverage and powder looked so good that it was just too hard to resist.  There was more than a hint of trepidation in Luke’s voice as we dove into the trees – he’s not nearly as comfortable as Ty and Dylan with being led off into the great unknown by me.  He’s survived trips with me before though, so he knows that he can do it, even if we’re well outside his comfort zone.

“He came down carrying good
speed, but crashed in an
intense blizzard of white,
and when the smoke cleared,
we could only see the
bottom part of him.”

We began dropping into one of the many Hazelton gullies, and got some OK turns in the powder, but didn’t want to fully commit to the base of the gully since coverage was still a bit marginal in spots for really exploring with reckless abandon.  Therefore, we kept ourselves on the slope marking the skier’s left of the gully with a healthy dose of traversing.  I was leading and breaking trail, making it easier for the kids to work their way through the deep snow, but navigating the combination of steep terrain, trees, and bottomless powder was still challenging for some.  At one point, E found a nice route, and suggested that Luke follow her.  He might have had to back up or navigate a bit of a steeper slope, but E heard him emit some sort of exclamation, and when she asked if he was OK, he replied with and exasperated “Nooo!”  Fortunately he was OK, just stuck in the powder and generally discombobulated.  E asked Dylan to check on Luke, but before he could even do that, Luke had managed to regain his footing and was back on track.  I think he’s learning more about dealing with powder all the time.

Not long after that, we found a nice steep pitch of powder in the streambed that we decided to ski.  Ty agreed to be the guinea pig, and check out the slope for the other boys.  He came down carrying good speed, but crashed in an intense blizzard of white, and when the smoke cleared, we could only see the bottom part of him.  The front half of his body was obscured under the powder, and he wasn’t moving.  Initially he didn’t respond to our inquiries about his status, but after a few moments he responded from beneath the snow with “Am I in heaven?”  We pulled him out and he was fine, but not surprisingly, the other boys weren’t overly enthusiastic about dropping into the line themselves.  We resumed our traversing along the skier’s left of the gully, and eventually made out way back out to Perry Merrill, and I’m sure Luke couldn’t have been more relieved.  We saw some other riders having fun in some lines on the other side of that gully, and there are definitely lines opening up in there, but a couple more storms are going to be needed to really get all the lines flowing in there for the boys.

“After experiencing the
mountain first hand
today, I’m not surprised
that Stowe was able
to open 100% of their
terrain as of Saturday.”

We made another run off the gondola, taking it easy on the boys and not venturing off piste to any great degree, and then we worked our way over to the Fourrunner Quad.  In general, there were amazing on piste conditions on the hill – I’m usually less than impressed with the conditions on the snowmaking trails at Stowe because of how that manmade snow turns to ice with skier traffic, but conditions on many of the trails were head and shoulders above what I’ve seen on them in quite a while.  For whatever reason, perhaps the good combination of dense snow/mix followed by fluff, there was a layer of natural snow that really had staying power to mask the manmade stuff underneath – runs like Centerline and Hayride come to mind (I think they’ve both got snowmaking).  The steepest pitches still got down to that slick stuff, but wow, last week’s storm was a great one for producing some packed powder conditions.  Coverage was quite impressive as well – at one point E said she couldn’t believe that we were in the midst of a low snowfall season.  After experiencing the mountain first hand today, I’m not surprised that Stowe was able to open 100% of their terrain as of Saturday.  Temperatures ended up topping out around 20 F at the base elevations, which wasn’t overly warm, but certainly fine for mid January, and there were no temperature issues for any of the boys.  Also, Luke survived another day with us on the slopes.  When we dropped him off in town with his dad, Luke seemed like he was pretty exhausted, but I think he was satisfied with his day.

A westward view from near the top of Mount Mansfield in Vermont showing the beginnings of a January sunset
Approaching sunset as the ski day winds down

Bolton Valley, VT 14JAN2012

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan smiles away as he blasts through the powder at Bolton this afternoon.

The complex winter storm that has been affecting the region finally wound down today, and it’s been a great boon for the Vermont ski areas.  The storm began on Thursday morning when it delivered some fairly standard synoptic snowfall, and through Thursday evening we’d picked up 3.7 inches of 9.2% H2O snow at the house, with the mountains picking up about a half foot.  Thursday night into yesterday morning we were in the dry slot of the storm, and then yesterday afternoon the second round of snow began… and boy did it come on strong in the evening.  While the first half of the event had favored the eastern slopes of the Greens, the second half pounded the western slopes, and that was very evident as I headed home from Burlington on Friday evening.  Our bus took Route 2 instead of I-89 because of storm-related travel issues, and at one point yesterday evening at the house we picked up roughly 3 inches of snow in an hour.  After last night’s snow, the storm totals wound up at 11.7 inches for our location in the valley, and in the 1.5 foot range up in the mountains, with Jay Peak approaching 2 feet.  It was ultimately enough snow to get Stowe’s ski terrain 100% open.

The downside of the new snow was that cold air came with it – it was approximately 10 F this morning at the house, and 3 F up in the Village at Bolton Valley.  Fortunately, there wasn’t any wind, but we still brought hand and foot warmers for the boys in case they needed to take the edge off the chill while skiing.  E wasn’t all that impressed with the conditions on Sprig O’ Pine after their preliminary run while I parked the car, but I was hoping that was due to effects of the wind and the exposure of that terrain.  After a little debate, the boys decided that they were cold enough that they would head into the lodge to fire up some of the hand warmers and put them in their boots and gloves, and then we headed back out into the cold in search of more powder.

Leaving the Mid Mountain Lift, we quickly saw that the Enchanted Forest looked extremely powdery with little traffic up to that point, so we headed in.  We found the coverage and powder to be pretty nice, but in general the snow just felt a little “slow” with the cold temperatures.  With this in mind, we headed to Glades to get a little more pitch, and that helped move things along a little better.  Glades had seen a fair bit of traffic to track up the snow, but we found some good shots of untracked in the jug handle area.

An image of Erica in a Telemark turn in the fresh snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E arcing through a Telemark turn in the fresh snow on Bolton Valley's Glades trail

The snow was decent, but none of us really seemed to be grooving, and Ty appeared especially glum and ornery about the day up to that point.  It turned out that his hands were still cold despite the hand warmers, so we decided to make another trip inside and have lunch in the process.  When we got into the lodge, we were astonished to discover that all the hand warmers the boys were using were stone cold.  That was extremely disconcerting, as we’d bough a big box of them at Costco, and were expecting them to work.  We fiddled around with them for a bit, and I also headed down to the ski shop and bought a couple packets of a different brand for comparison.  The new packets fired up right away and got quite hot.  With a little more shaking and processing we were actually able to get our original packets going as well, but they didn’t cook like the new ones, they just seemed to be of the “slow burn” variety and only got up to lukewarm relative to the hot ones.  Once we were done with lunch, we hooked the boys up with a combination of the “slow” and “fast burn” varieties of hand warmers, and headed out to see if we could finally get that groove going.

To get some challenge and potentially find Ty some “satisfying” turns, we headed up on the Vista Quad and descended via Vermont 200.  That turned out to be a good choice, with generally great coverage, lots of good snow, and only a couple of icy ledges to navigate.  Ty definitely got some of the turns he had been seeking, and everyone enjoyed the challenge and powder/chowder we found.  Below Mid Mountain we headed back to Glades and hit the jug handle area as we’d done before.  Both boys seemed to have fun ripping that up.

An image of Ty skiing fresh powder in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Ty cruising through that fresh powder in the Villager Trees

To continue with the positive energy, we sought out some untracked snow in the Villager Trees, and found an impressive snowpack for what has been a slow season for snowfall – I stuck my measurement pole in a representative protected area at ~2,600’ and got a depth measurement of 30 inches.  While we explored around, the boys amused themselves by taking down some huge icicles from one of the ledges.  On the descent, the powder was deep and thoroughly bottomless, and while many fun turns were made, the powder was almost too deep for some of the pitches in there.  The turns were so good though that we were able to call it a day after that and finished off with more powder on the sides of Lower Bentley.  It had actually gotten sunny and warmed up a bit as well, into the high single digits, and with the hand warmers cranking the boys didn’t have any more issues with the cold.  Back at the car we found out that the “fast burn” hand warmers had already burned themselves out after just a couple of hours, while those of the “slow burn” variety were still going.  At that point everything seemed to make sense – a combination of the two types would really be optimal.  So after a slow start today, things really picked up and we managed some decent powder from what has been the biggest winter storm of the season up to this point.

Significant mid-January winter storm for Vermont

Over the past couple of days we’ve been affected by a fairly significant, two-part winter storm that has really resurfaced the slopes.  The storm began on Thursday with some synoptic snow, where we accumulated 3.7 inches of snow comprised of 0.34 inches of liquid equivalent at the house, and the mountains picked up about a half a footWe headed up to Bolton for some skiing in the evening, and we found pleasant temperatures and nice powder.  Yesterday we were generally in the dry slot of the storm, but toward the afternoon and evening, the back part of the system came through and it really started to unload fluffy Champlain Powder™ in both the mountains and valleys.  Here at the house we picked up almost 3 inches of snow in one hour while the snowfall pounded the area around dinner time, causing temporary road closures and prompting the issuance of Winter Storm Warnings for the western slopes of the Green Mountains:

An image of the Winter Weather Warnings map put out by the National Weather Service in Burlington in the evening on January 13, 2012
Due to the heavy snowfall yesterday evening with rates of 3 inches per hour in some locations, Winter Storm Warnings went up for the western slopes of the Green Mountains.

Down here in the valley, the storm finished up today with a total of 11.7 inches of snow comprised of 0.91 inches of liquid equivalent.  Up in the mountains, snow totals were generally around 1.5 feet, with Jay Peak topping out around 2 feet.  The north to south storm totals list for the Vermont ski areas is listed below:

Jay Peak: 23”
Burke: 12”
Smuggler’s Notch: 15”
Stowe: 18”
Bolton Valley: 15”
Mad River Glen: 16”
Sugarbush: 18”
Middlebury: 13”
Suicide Six: 8”
Pico: 14”
Killington: 14”
Okemo: 8”
Bromley: 10”
Magic Mountain: 12”
Stratton: 12”
Mount Snow: 11”

The National Weather Service Office in Burlington generated a snowfall map for the second part of the storm, where totals in the Stowe area pushed past the 1-foot mark:

National Weather Service map of snowfall totals from January 14, 2012 for Vermont during the second half of  the two-part mid-January snowstorm
Snow totals topped the 1-foot mark for the second half of the storm alone in parts of the Stowe area.

For more full details on this storm, head to the detailed report at the winter weather section of our website.

Bolton Valley, VT 12JAN2012

An image of E skiing fresh powder at night on the Sprig O' Pine trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
E cruising through some fresh powder tonight on Sprig O’ Pine at Bolton Valley

The incoming multi-part winter storm started to affect the region today with the first round of snow.  The snow started falling at our location in Waterbury right around 6:00 A.M. this morning when I was making my observations for CoCoRaHS, and there was probably a half inch of accumulation when I left roughly an hour later.  There was the potential for downsloping on the western slopes of the Greens, and indeed, just a few miles west of the house, the snow really tapered off.  There was little if anything falling in Jonesville and Richmond as I drove through, and nothing going on in Burlington.  Later in the morning though, it did start snowing in Burlington, and there was roughly a half inch of accumulation when I left around 5:00 P.M.

When I got back to the house this evening, I found 3.7 inches of snow on the snowboard; the snow seemed fairly dense but it was still medium weight stuff at 9.2% H2O.  Up in the mountains, afternoon reports were indicating about a half foot of snow from the event, with the higher totals toward Central and Southern Vermont where the snow had come in a little earlier and stronger.  Here’s the north to south list of totals from some of the ski areas as of this afternoon:

Burke: 4”
Smuggler’s Notch: 5”
Stowe: 3”
Bolton Valley: 4”
Sugarbush: 5”
Suicide Six: 4”
Pico: 7”
Killington: 7”
Stratton: 7”
Mount Snow: 6”

Knowing that we’d picked up 3.7 inches down below in the valley, it was likely that Bolton had done better than 4 inches of snow reported in their early afternoon update, but even that was enough to get us thinking about an evening session of turns with the boys.  There are only so many times a season when the right combination of new snow, comfortable temperatures, and minimal wind come together to make for that optimal night skiing experience, and tonight was looking like one of those nights.

After dinner we headed up to Bolton; we were in the dry slot portion of the storm system at that point, so precipitation was minimal and the Bolton Valley Access Road was in good shape.  Arriving at the village (2,100’) we found a temperature of 30 F, and the only precipitation was some small snow grains/mist.  I dropped E and the boys off at the Snowflake Lift so that they could take a run, and made it back up to the loading area before they’d even finished their descent.  While I waited for them, I got to speak with our friend Matt who was checking tickets that evening.  He said that the mountain had received a decent shot of snow, and that they were even thinking of opening up Timberline for the weekend.  That will likely depend on how things look over there after the rest of the storm system comes through, but that was encouraging to hear.

When E and the boys returned to the lift, we headed up for another Snowflake run.  They had taken the Butterscotch Terrain Park on their descent, and conditions didn’t sound all that inspiring in terms of softness and powder since they had taken the main area with the big snow whales.  For that next trip we visited Sprig O’ Pine, and found some very nice powder off to the skier’s right before the area where it merges with Bear Run.  The 4 inches that the resort had reported seemed about right for the lower mountain, although I suspected there would be a bit more on the upper mountain with the continued snowfall.  We took one more Sprig O’ Pine run to enjoy that powder we’d found, and it continued to serve up some nice turns since it was dense enough to keep you from bottoming out.  Our 3.7 inches of snow down at the house was made up of 0.34” of liquid equivalent, so with Bolton presumably picking up at least that 0.3” to 0.4” of liquid, that was plenty of cushion above the base snow.

Next it was time for a summit run off the Vista Quad.  As we glided above Spillway on the lift, we were astonished by how good the coverage looked, and how many tracks were on it; it almost looked like it was open. We looked around for all the detritus that litters the trail, and it was really hard to find anything sticking out; I actually questioned if they had made snow on it because of how buried everything was.  Clearly it wasn’t open though, as there was a patroller stationed at the bottom to catch folks who were bending the rules.  More than likely, the new snow was just hiding all those object lurking below the surface, making for a very dicey descent.  Up at the Vista Summit the air temperature had cooled a bit down to 24 F, but it was still quite nice overall.  We took Sherman’s Pass, which generally had a nice surface for carving, and we had a really good time in the fresh snow off to the skier’s left above the Mid Mountain area.  Ty was making so much noise and having so much fun coming down through there, that the patroller stationed in the area checked to make sure we hadn’t poached Spillway.

An iamge of Dylan in front of snow-covered evergreens lit up by the night skiing lights at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan pauses on Sherman’s Pass as the night skiing lights illuminate some of the fresh snow on the trees.

Since it was a school night for the boys, we didn’t stay too much longer, but it had definitely been worth getting out for a few runs; it felt great to have the skis dig into that soft, fresh snow.  The recent snow was deep enough that we were able to ski right across the access road to the parking lot, and in terms of ski conditions, that’s typically a great sign to be able to comfortably ski across main roads to your car.  E had a good time and we’ll certainly be back for another evening session if circumstances line up appropriately again.  This front end dump has already featured plenty of snow and liquid equivalent to get some additional terrain going, because there were plenty of areas that were very close.  If some decent upslope comes in on the back end of this system tomorrow, that will provide additional help.  I’d say everyone is excited about where the mountains will be after this event, which all told may bring up to a foot and a half of snow.

Bolton Valley, VT 28DEC2011

Our current winter storm started up yesterday afternoon with some snow that gradually changed over to sleet and other mixed precipitation overnight.  As of this morning though, the precipitation was back to snow, and this afternoon we got pounded with 1 to 2 inch per hour snows in the local mountains and mountain valleys.  The snow was so intense that the northbound lane of I-89 between exits 10 and 11 (Bolton Flats area) had to be closed due to accidents.

With all the fresh snow, I decided that I’d head up to Bolton to check out the accumulations and get in a few late afternoon/evening runs.  Driving along Route 2 I noticed what seemed to be more cars than usual, but I knew the reason once I could see all the cars backed up on I-89.  I was thankful for my short trip to Bolton, because the driving was a bit tricky.  I did eventually run into travel issues on the Bolton Valley Access Road however.  At the big S-curve below Timberline I saw several cars stopped, and it looked like most of the snarl was due to what appeared to be a two-wheel drive vehicle having trouble on the hill.  I was even slowed down in the Subaru for a bit because I had to come to a dead stop and then get over into the snowier downhill lane to pass.  Our tires on the Subaru are getting close to the time for replacement, so it took a few attempts to really get the traction to get around that car while avoiding the downhill traffic.  It was definitely a greasy situation with the intense snowfall, which was falling too fast for the plows to keep up with it.  I even overheard a guy say that he was having trouble getting up the road with studded Hakkapeliitta tires.  Up in the village there was decent wind at perhaps 20 MPH, and moderate to heavy snowfall.  The new snow probably came in quite fast on the mountain while people were skiing – I saw a car having to be helped out by a tow truck in the relatively flat parking lot.

An image of a tow truck helping a stuck car int he Bolton Valley village during heavy snowfall from a storm on Decmeber 28, 2011
Amidst heavy snowfall, a tow truck helps out a stuck vehicle in one of Bolton Valley parking lots this evening.

The Vista Quad had been shut down with the high winds earlier in the day, but the Mid Mountain Chair was still running and I caught a ride.  From Mid Mountain I hiked up about 100 feet to see what the accumulations were like higher on the mountain, and I found about 7 inches of new snow in the areas that didn’t seem to have been hit by the wind.  The light was fading, but I caught some turns up there and they were very sweet – whoever gets out tomorrow in wind-sheltered locations is going to have some great turns.  I stuck around for another couple of lift-served runs off Mid Mountain, and conditions were of course very nice with the new snow.  The only issue was that the temperature was dropping quickly and the snow was actually starting to get “slow”.

An image of Bolton Valley's night skiing lights obscured by heavy snowfall - December 28, 2011
It was a white maelstrom tonight for skiing under the lights at Bolton Valley.

Although still quite snowy and slick, the drive back down the access road was uneventful, and the traffic was moving on I-89, but it was still backed up for quite a distance in the northbound lane.  Down here at the house I found 5.7 inches of new snow on the snowboard, representing the snowfall during the 12:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. collection period.  Relative to mid afternoon, the snow had definitely been getting fluffier; I estimated that it was probably in the range of 4 or 5% H2O.  The radar still shows the moisture stacked up against the Greens, and more snow has been falling this evening, so it looks like this will be a decent event.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the local mountains start to open up some natural snow terrain after this event.

An image of traffic backed up in the northbound lane of I-89 in the Bolton Flats area due to heavy snowfall on December 28, 2011
With the heavy snowfall, traffic was still backed up on I-89 when I headed home from the mountain.

First major winter storm of the season for Northern Vermont

An image of the Winter Weather Advisories and Warnings map from the National Weather Service in Burlington for November 22, 2011
Winter Weather Advisories are up throughout the state of Vermont for the upcoming storm

While the Northeast has already had a couple of big, snow-producing synoptic storms so far this season (one on October 27th, and another on October 29th), for Northern Vermont these events were fairly minor because the area was really on the fringe of the precipitation. A storm is developing now however, which is expected to bring more substantial accumulations to the northern part of the state. This storm is expected to head into the Ohio Valley later today, and then track east across Southern New England overnight. This storm may have some mixed precipitation with it, but the current forecasts do not indicated much mixing in the northern areas, and the chance is there for greater than 6 inches of snowfall. Damage from the storm could include water damage that homeowners may need to address with restoration services. Water damage can put stress on a home’s water pipe network and cause leaks. With this being the case, services that can clean up sewage leak incidents may well be in high demand following severe floods so it may be worth looking up such services local to you in advance. For a few more details, part of my morning report to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather is added below:

It was 17.6F and dropping when I left the house this morning around 6:00 AM, so this will certainly come in as the coldest morning of the season at our location thus far. I flipped on The Weather Channel before I left the house, and was surprised to see that the local forecast called for 6 to 10 inches at the Winter Weather Advisory level, but after reading the BTV forecast discussion, they spoke of the potential for mixing keeping totals down. The current point and click for our area down in the valley calls for 4 to 9 inches of snow, but doesn’t mention any mixing at this point.

Graphical point forecast for our location in Waterbury from the National Weather Service in Burlington for November 22, 2011
Snow is expected from tonight through Wednesday night, even for our location down in the Winooski Valley.

Today: Sunny, with a high near 34. Calm wind.

Tonight: Snow, mainly after 1am. Low around 24. South wind at 6 mph becoming north. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Wednesday: Snow, mainly before 4pm. High near 35. North wind between 3 and 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.

Wednesday Night: A chance of snow showers, mainly before 7pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 20. North wind around 6 mph becoming calm. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

I didn’t really see much of a bump in the point forecasts for the local mountains, so we’ll have to see if that gets refined for the higher elevations. I’ve added the projected snow accumulations map from National Weather Service Office in Burlington below:

An image of the projected snowfall accumulations for the upcoming November snowstorm in Vermont
The National Weather Service projected snowfall accumulations map for the northern portions of Vermont and New York as of the early morning on November 22, 2011

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 – Afternoon Update

The National Weather Service Office in Burlington has put out their afternoon update for snow accumulations, and our area has been upgraded to a Winter Storm Warningto reflect the potential snowfall. The latest advisory and projected accumulations maps have been added below:

An image of the afternoon updagte for the Winter Weather Advisories and Warnings map from the National Weather Service in Burlington for November 22, 2011
Winter Weather Advisories have now been upgraded to Winter Storm Warnings in some parts of Vermont and Northern New York to reflect the anticipated snow accumulations.


An afternoon update the projected snowfall accumulations for the upcoming November snowstorm in Vermont
The afternoon update for expected snowfall from the National Weather Service in Burlington

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 – Evening Update

This evening, Matt Noyes posted his latest snowfall prediction map for this storm, and he’s pretty bullish on some of the totals in Northern New England, including parts of Northern Vermont. I’ve added his map below:

Matt Noyes' snowfall map for Northern New England snowstorm on November 22, 2011
Matt Noyes’ snowfall map for Northern New England with the upcoming storm

For more full details on this storm, head to the detailed report at the winter weather section of our website.