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.

Stowe, VT 01MAR2020

An image of Ty and Dylan exploring some of the recent deposits of snow left by Winter Storm Odell at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Spruce Peak Village view during our food break at the Great Room Grill this afternoon

For today’s BJAMS session at Stowe, Dylan and I were joined by Viviana, as well as Jessica and Sienna who were back from vacation.  Viviana has progressed to the point where Erica feels confident enough grouping her up with Sienna, and I’d say that was a good choice.

Before session started, Ty, Dylan, and I had the chance to take a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad to get a sampling of the snow.  Winter Storm Odell has wound down now, but it left 40 inches of new snow at Stowe, and the effects were still very obvious.  When the boys and I ventured off piste, we found that the powder skiing was simply amazing, and this was after a day or two of settling.  As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.  It’s hard to say whether it was simply the extra 10 inches, or if the snow at Stowe happened to be just a bit lighter and drier, but the snow quality was indeed at that next level.  We skied the powder along the edge of Slalom Hill, and I just couldn’t believe the quality of it.  And, this was on south-facing terrain down near the 1,500’ base elevations of Spruce Peak.  One can only imagine what the snow quality was like up at 3,000’ on Mansfield.  Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine too much – Powderfreak’s over-the-head white-room photos from the mountain on Friday pretty much told the tale.

“As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.”

We started out today’s session with a warm-up run off the Meadows Quad to make sure Sienna was up to speed after missing a number of ski program days due to illness, and her skiing was in great shape.  She’s skiing notably faster than Viviana, although Sienna isn’t quite progressing toward parallel the way Viviana is.

Based on Erica’s suggestion, we took the whole group over to Mansfield ski Toll Road.  Neither Jessica, Sienna, or Viviana had ever been over there, so it was going to be a whole new adventure for all of them.  We decided to access the Toll Road only from the Mountain Triple Chair, since we were unsure how difficult it would be for the girls to navigate from the top of the Fourrunner Quad to the Toll Road area, and they already had some trepidation about the new environment.  The trip was also exciting in that it meant the use of three new lifts for Viviana, the Over Easy Gondola, the Mountain Triple Chair, and the Toll House Double Chair.

The Toll Road experience turned out to be a great success.  The route was well within everyone’s abilities, and it allowed them to ski a really long, continuous run on a scale that they’d never done before.  The groomed snow quality was excellent, and the quality of the powder off to the sides of the trail was simply amazing.  Dylan was constantly playing around in the powder off piste, and the overall snow conditions were forgiving enough that everyone started to join in.  Jessica was raving about the experience, and that was great to hear.  Not every storm cycle is going to bring 40 inches of snow to set things up like what they experienced today, but they’re all certainly ready for another run over there from the top of the Fourrunner Quad.

An image from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
At the Great Room Grill this afternoon following everyone’s big Toll Road adventure

Although Jessica and Sienna had to leave early, we got in a few more Meadows Quad runs with Viviana, and she got to do more trips through the Easy Street Trees.  She also began to venture into the various little chutes and tracks that are available off the sides of her usual Catwalk run, and navigating those was actually a good challenge with respect to controlling her speed.

There aren’t any huge storms in the forecast for the coming week, but we could have snow from some smaller systems toward the end of the week, so we’ll see how those set us up for next weekend.

Stowe, VT 23FEB2020

An image of Spruce Peak Village and the skating rink area at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica and the boys having a snack at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
E and the boys having a snack today during an afternoon snack at the Great Room Grill

Today at Stowe we had some absolutely fabulous weather and ski conditions for our students in the BJAMS ski program.  Temperatures were in the 30s F with plenty of sunshine, and on the slopes of Spruce Peak where we spent our time, the snow had softened to just the right consistency to be perfect for confidence building, exploration, and advancement.

Dylan and I were with Viviana, so we started her off with a couple of runs off the Meadows Quad where she’d last been skiing.  I was astonished to see that in many spots on the standard Easy Street run, she was already making parallel turns – these were just happening naturally without any mention of it from us, which is a great sign.

“Temperatures were in the 30s F with plenty of sunshine, and on the slopes of Spruce Peak where we spent our time, the snow had softened to just the right consistency to be perfect for confidence building, exploration, and advancement.”

Before program today we’d taken an early trip to the Sunny Spruce Quad to check on the West Run route.  We’d confirmed that there was no ice and no moguls, and with the consistency of the snow I was confident that Viviana could make the progression to those trails.  While on the lift we noted that this was Viviana’s fourth day on skis, and each day she’d progressed to a new lift.  Viviana did great oh her Sunny Spruce runs, although the steepest pitches on West Run were definitely pushing her.  She had to work hard to control her speed, but it was challenging her to just the right level.  She even got to ski trees for the first time along Easy Street and really liked that experience.

After a break for some food at the Great Room Grill, E joined us for a run to see how Viviana was doing off the Sunny Spruce Quad.  Even though Viviana’s brain didn’t know it, I could tell by her body language that she needed to be done for the day during the course of that run.  She had a real hard time controlling her speed on the steep pitches, and she barely turned for the last part of Easy Street.  Even though she wanted to keep going, I had to explain to her dad that she needed to be done, and he understood.  Viviana made excellent progress with the fantastic snow conditions today, so the last thing we wanted to do was ruin it with one of those “last run” injuries.

After dropping off Viviana to her dad, we did join up with one of the other groups for a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad.  Dylan and I had an amazing time skiing the ridge off to the left side of West Slope, catching nice air with each turn for a really fun end to the day.

We may have a substantial winter storm coming to the area from midweek into the weekend that could drop a foot or more of snow in the mountains, so we’ll be watching for that as the forecast develops.

Stowe, VT 09FEB2020

An image from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont on a sunny February day.
An image from the Great Room Grill restaurant in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The group having our snack/lunch break today in the Great Room Grill in Spruce Camp

Dylan and I were assigned a different group today for our BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  Erica was planning to work with Viviana, our student from last week, and we were going with Meredith and Bella.  They’re farther along in their skiing and they’re working on transitioning from wedge to parallel.  After spending time with them today I’d say they’re about 50% of the way there.  They still need their wedge to control their speed on more challenging terrain, but on beginner/green terrain they can make parallel turns most of the time.

“Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.”

Our group spent time on the Adventure Triple Chair, Meadows Quad, and Sunny Spruce Quad today, and conditions were essentially perfect on beginner terrain.  There are some slick areas on intermediate terrain depending on traffic levels.  Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.  It seems that we may have more powder on the way as well – the Mt. Mansfield forecast is suggesting an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow.

Stowe, VT 02FEB2020

An image of a beautiful February day at the base of the Spruce Peak area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Inspiration learning trail at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The Inspiration Trail today at Stowe with its excellent packed powder conditions and Dylan helping Viviana with her turns on the far left

Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th.  For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction.  We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful.  It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills.  In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.

An image from inside the Magic Carpet beginner lift at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan leads Viviana on the Magic Carpet today as we make a few initial runs there.

We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink.  Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair.  She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.

There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run.  The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent.  There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn.  The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.

“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”

We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having.  As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next.  I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.

Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration.  Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today.  We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.

Stowe, VT 26JAN2020

An image of Dylan skiing powder in the Kitchen Wall area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty jumping near the Kitchen Wall area on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty blasting through the snow today up high on Mt. Mansfield

We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend.  This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces.  The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.

We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions.  Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense.  The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.

“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”

A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session.  We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain.  After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic.  It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it.  With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers.  We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.  Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.

An image of Dylan blasting through powder in the Kitchen Wall area of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan blasting that powder!

Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’.  That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces.  I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.

It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday.  The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.

Stowe, VT 12JAN2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First snows of the season for the Green Mountains

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

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