First Round of October 2022 Snow for Vermont’s Green Mountains

Since our first snows of the season back in September, we’ve moved on into a new month and another window for early season snowfall.  This time the snow chances are associated with a series of small disturbances that started moving into the area last night and are expected to continue through the weekend.

The first notifications I saw of accumulation appeared this morning in the Northern New England Cold Season thread on the American Weather Forums – Powderfreak indicated that it was snowing all the way down to 1,500’ at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort, and flakes were even spotted as low as 1,000’ around The Matterhorn.  Powderfreak posted some images from both the top and bottom of the Stowe Gondola that showed the fresh snow.  As the snow and clouds pulled away a bit more by midday, he posted a beautiful snowliage image of some of Mount Mansfield’s slopes.

The temperatures stayed cold enough throughout the day that new snow continued to hang around on the ground, with the snow line rising to around 2,400’ in the midafternoon period.  Powderfreak sent along some additional nice views from his afternoon hike on the slopes of Mansfield, and he commented on how it was nice to be back out with the crunch of snow underfoot.

Stowe, VT 01MAY2022

An image showing some of the Mount Mansfield ski trails from near the summit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Main Street trail on a May ski outing at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A view of some of the spring snow on Main Street today during my ski tour

While Friday turned out to be a bit too cool and breezy to really soften up the slopes around here, and yesterday didn’t seem much better, today saw more warmth and sunshine as the forecast had suggested.  Mother Nature really wasn’t messing around, with temperatures moving up into the 60s F, a cloudless sky, and the disappearance of those persistent winds.

An image of the Chin of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont as viewed from the Moscow area
The Mt. Mansfield Chin poking up in the background from the Moscow area

There was no question about whether or not the snow was going to soften up today, so I decided to head to Stowe for some afternoon turns.  I hadn’t been to the general Stowe area in a while, but the usual views of Mansfield started to appear as I headed through Waterbury Center, and the alpine terrain was certainly lit up in the May sunshine.

I’d hoped that the south-facing terrain of Spruce Peak still had enough coverage to provide some nice uninterrupted turns, and indeed as I approached the resort I could see that the Main Street area and surrounding trails still had nearly continuous snow down the base of the Sensation Quad.

With the route I took on the lower part of the mountain, I ended up hiking about 1/3 of the ascent, and then skinning the final 2/3.  I was initially questioning my decision to bring skins as I navigated the lower slopes, but once I hit the point where I started skinning, it was definitely the right choice in terms of efficiency; the upper slopes of Main Street have so much snow that it would take more effort to find dry areas for easier hiking.

In terms of the skiing, it was far superior to what I had experienced on Friday.  The warmth and sun took care of getting the spring snow into something that was definitely worthy of turns.  It wasn’t perfect, because there were still some sticky areas from recent snows on terrain that hadn’t seen the sun and/or skier traffic, but those were generally avoidable by skiing the sunnier sides of the trails.

With such a gorgeous day, I was surprised that I didn’t see a single other skier out there during my entire tour on Spruce.  I did see two other cars when I first arrived at the MMSC Clubhouse parking lot, but they were just hikers.  I saw them finishing up their hikes while I was ascending, and the entire parking lot was empty when I got back to my car.  Everyone must have been skiing over at Mansfield!

An image of a single car in the parking lot of the Mount Mansfield Ski Club during a May ski outing at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The Mount Mansfield Ski Club parking lot where I parked today was just about empty.

A second round of snow for the Green Mountains

An image of the Sugarbush upper mountain webcam showing some October snow on their snowboard as well as the boughs of the nearby evergreens
A view of the Sugarbush upper-mountain webcam from this afternoon showing a touch of new snow with what looks like some additional frozen precipitation weighing down the evergreen boughs

Exactly a week ago, we had our first round of mountain snows for the season here in the Green Mountains, and the latest system moving into the area brought the next round last night into today.  Morning reports came in to the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forum, with flakes seen down to 1,500’ in Jackson, NH.  Powderfreak reported that the ski trails at Stowe were all white above ~2,400’.  It appears that much of Northern New England has been seeing snow today above ~2,500’, but the persistent clouds and precipitation haven’t quite given us the options for viewing the snow that we had with the previous system.  I was able to check out the Sugarbush upper mountain camera this afternoon and catch a view of the snow and drooping evergreen boughs from frozen accumulation, but that’s as much as I’ve been able to see from the valley.

​Based on Powderfreak’s comments of seeing some frozen precipitation last night at his place in the Stowe Village area, it sounds like we might have gotten our first frozen of the season down at our house in Waterbury as well.  I hadn’t seen anything before heading off to bed, and unfortunately, any frozen precipitation would likely have fallen in the wee hours of the morning as Powderfreak noted.

First round of snow for the season in the Greens

An image showing mid-October snow accumulating at the upper mountain snowboard webcam at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont
Snow accumulating today at the upper mountain snowboard webcam at Sugarbush Resort

Temperatures have been well above average over the past several weeks here in Vermont, but cooler temperatures moved in on Sunday, and reports of flakes and snow accumulations started coming out of the local mountains today.  In the early afternoon, we heard reports of snow above 3,300’ on the Stowe Gondola, and the Sugarbush summit camera at 4000’ was showing accumulation.  Later in the day, accumulation was seen down to 2,000’ at Stowe, with snow falling at the base area at 1,500’.

Stowe, VT 16MAY2021

An image from near the Mt. Mansfield Base Lodge showing Smuggler's Notch and various clouds on a spring ski day with thunderstorms in the area near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the Lower Standard trail with late-season leftover snow in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading up Lower Standard today, I found a little something extra that someone left alongside the snow.

On Friday, we got another update on the state of the snow on Spruce Peak from one of Powderfreak’s frequent Stowe hikes, and I could definitely see that the width of the available snow had contracted some since when I was there on my Sunday outing.

I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns.  Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple.  There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.

An image at the junction of the Crossover and Standard trails in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Topping out near the Crossover Trail on today’s hike

As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage.  That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches.  Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area.  The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.

That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around.  While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling.  Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive.  I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building.  I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well.  I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.

Stowe, VT 09MAY2021

An image of the snow on the Main Street Trail on a May ski day at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image showing some of the remaining snow on May on the Spruce Peak trails at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Looking up at the slopes of Spruce Peak today to get a sense for the best areas to put together some turns.

I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak.  I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.

Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area.  The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed.  The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.

An image of late-season snow left over from snowmaking on the Main Street Trail in the Spruce Peak area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort
I was encouraged by plenty of spots with deep snow on my ascent of Main Street today.

Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May.  From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next.  That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.

An image from Spruce Peak showing the snow in mid-May on the Nosedive trail on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out the snow on Nosedive as I look across from Spruce Peak toward Mt. Mansfield

It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns.  It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.

Stowe, VT 10APR2021

An image from the Meadows are looking across to Mt. Mansfield on an April day at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image looking up from the Mountain Mansfield Ski Academy lodge parking lot toward the Main Street trail on Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view up from the MMSC lot today toward Spruce Peak and the snowy Main Street trail

Today I headed to Stowe to go for a tour on Spruce Peak, and again the weather was simply sunny and fabulous.  I hadn’t been to the resort in a while since we didn’t have our school’s ski program this season due to COVID-19, so I poked around the Spruce Peak Village for a bit first.  There’s a huge new building going up where the ski patrol building was at the base of the Sunny Spruce Quad, so that’s another substantial addition to the village area.  I’m not sure what’s going to be going in there, or if it’s more lodging?  As usual, the crowd of folks earning turns was in the MMSC lot, and I found about a dozen cars or so there and ran into Shalagh, who was there skiing with some of her friends.  You almost can’t help but run into someone you know on these days.

All I can say is that Main Street delivered what were unquestionably the best turns of the weekend, and probably the best corn snow I’ve skied the entire spring season so far.  I’m not sure what it is about Main Street, but year after year after year, it just seems to deliver superior corn snow.  Maybe it’s because it faces south and really starts its corn snow cycling early, or maybe it’s because they blow that massive amount of dense snow for the racers, or maybe it’s because it gets so much less traffic than the trails on Mansfield.  Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors, but it just delivered ridiculously smooth, perfect peel-away corn snow turns when I was there.

An image looking down the Main Street Trail on an April ski day at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A view of Main Street during my descent today, with Mt. Mansfield and its trails visible across the valley

In terms of the ascent route, Main Street is really the best option with respect to continuous coverage for skinning, but those steep pitches are rough.  Despite the tough ascent, my legs felt great making Telemark turns on the way down.  Everything just seemed to flow, and I’m sure a lot of it was the quality of the snow.  The snowpack there seems quite deep, and it’s definitely worth more trips while that snow is around.

One more round of October snow for Vermont

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area in late October showing some valley foliage and snow in the mountain peaks from a recent storm
An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area in late October showing some valley foliage and snow in the mountain peaks from a recent storm
An image of Mt. Mansfield today taken from my office at UVM showing signs from the recent storm and fall foliage still hanging on in the valley.

The local mountains picked up some more snow in what looks to be our final snowfall event for the month of October.  Down here in the valley at our house, I found a few flakes on my snow measurement board yesterday evening, but no measurable accumulation.  This storm was more notable down in Southern New England where there were totals up around 7 inches in the Worcester, Mass area.

Powderfreak got a beautiful picture of the slopes of Stowe Mountain Resort today, which he posted in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forums.  I grabbed a shot of Mt. Mansfield from the other side of the range when I was in my office today because it was so great to see the snow starting to come back to the peaks.

Accumulating snow for the mountains of Vermont

An image of the Mt. Mansfield Chin in Vermont with some early season October snow
An image of foliage in the Newport, VT area along Lake Memphremagog with the mountain Owl's Head visible off in Canada.
Foliage in the Newport, VT area along Lake Memphremagog with the mountain Owl’s Head visible off in Canada.

A low pressure system moving along the coast of New England brought a chance for some accumulating snow to Vermont starting last night, and white could be seen in the peaks this morning.  The snow line over here in Vermont seemed to be around 2,500’, with a very sharp elevation cutoffAccumulations were 3-4” up around 4,000’ on Mt Mansfield, and similar atop Jay Peak.  I heard reports of some frozen precipitation up high earlier this season, but this was the first notable accumulation around here.  Off to the east over in New Hampshire and Maine, the snow line was much lower, and accumulations were even more substantial.  Some accumulations in northern New Hampshire were over a foot.

An image of the Mt. Mansfield Chin in Vermont with some early season October snow
The Mt. Mansfield Chin today with some early season October snow

While in many areas around the state, the leaves have mostly fallen and it’s looking like stick season, there are still a lot of beautiful scenes with fall foliage.  We were up in Newport today for a soccer game, and the views of foliage along Lake Memphremagog were beautiful.

Stowe, VT 08MAR2020

An image of the Main Street Trail set yup for racing at the Spruce Peak area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Without his ski boots today, Ty spent time exploring the Spruce Peak Village and holding down the fort at the Great Room Grill.

Today at Stowe I was with a group that I’ve yet to ski with this season at any of our BJAMS ski sessions; I was with Shane’s group, which included Jack, Colby and Ez in attendance.  Ty is typically with this group, and was indeed supposed to be with us today, but he forgot his ski boots and the house and thus ended up spending time around the Spruce Peak Village for the afternoon.  He did get to do a bunch of exploring though, which included a lots of Pokémon Go and a good analysis of all the village’s good and bad Wi-Fi spots among the various available networks.  He happily relayed that to the rest of us, so I’ve got a much better sense of spots to check when I really need a reliable signal.

Temperatures were expected to be in the 30s F with lots of sun this afternoon, so I wasn’t worried about getting soft snow on the lower half of Spruce Peak, but I was unsure about its upper elevations, or what the snow would be like on Mansfield.  It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce, and I got to experience that quite frequently because the boys were ravenously lapping Whirlaway off the Sensation Quad.  We’d probably done half a dozen runs there before we finally broke off after Shane called for a bathroom break at the base.  I’m not sure if the boys would ever have moved away otherwise.  Whirlaway, combined with Sterling lower down, offered pretty much everything they could have wanted though.  There were bumps, groomers, some nice tree shots, and of course jumps.  These guys love their jumps.  Thankfully, the soft snow today was good for lots of jumps, and the ensuing crashes.

“It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce…”

With their long session on Whirlaway, by the time we’d finished our bathroom/food break in the lodge, there was only enough time for a couple more runs.  I suggested we check out the Gondola, since that terrain also should have softened in the sun.  By that point in the afternoon only about the bottom half of the Gondola terrain was really soft, but the upper half wasn’t actually too bad.  It was partially softened, but you’d still run into some firm areas, so the soft consistency wasn’t there up high the way it was lower down.

“Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable.”

On the instruction side of things, all three boys are at that intermediate stage where they can certainly ski parallel, but they revert to their wedge for steep and/or moguled terrain that challenges them to control their speed.  Being a bit of an interloper in the group, I didn’t work with them specifically on anything about the skiing, but I did give then a quick instructional lecture during one of our Gondola rides on what they should be thinking about if they want to progress to that next level.  They need to bring short radius turns into their repertoire to be able to be able to tackled those steeper slopes and terrain obstacles like bumps and trees without using a wedge.  They’re at least aware of that now, so time on snow and even mixing in a bit of that short-turn flavor will help them progress.

Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable.  But, openings are definitely starting to appear, and if this week is warm without much new snow, those types of south-facing shots are probably going to develop gaps that won’t be passable.  There are some chances for snow this week, generally on the back side of modest systems, but there aren’t any large snow events in the forecast.