Pico, VT 30OCT2011

An image of Erica skiing powder on the Birch Glades Trail at Pico Vermont - October 30, 2011
E enjoys some of the October powder at Pico after back to back storms set up some great ski conditions.

On Thursday, Vermont got hit with its first major storm of the 2011-2012 winter season.  The greatest effects were felt in the central and southern parts of the state, where areas like Killington picked up about a foot of snow.  Then yesterday, an early season Nor’easter came through the Northeast, and it turned out be historic for the Mid Atlantic and Southern New England, where some areas picked up more than 30 inches of snow.  That’s a good dump of snow for any time during the winter, but it’s incredible for October, and numerous October snowfall records were shattered.  Through the combination of the two storms, some areas in the Berkshires of Massachusetts had already picked up over three feet of snow for October. Up in Vermont, the Nor’easter was focused on the central and southern parts of the state, just like the previous storm.  We did actually pick up 1.2 inches of snow at our house in Waterbury last night, but with areas south of us getting another good dump of snow on top of the base they already had from the previous storm, our eyes were definitely drawn southward for some potentially great October skiing.

Since Killington had already opened for lift-served skiing, we decided that Pico would be a much mellower option for earned turns, with similarly great snow.  Despite many days of skiing at Killington in the past, nobody in the family had actually ever skied Pico, but it’s hard not to admire the way 3,967’ Pico Peak towers well above Sherburne Pass on Route 4.  Since the base area of Pico sits at an elevation of ~2,000’, it’s got plenty of elevation to help keep the snow dry if lower elevation temperatures are above freezing.

E hosted a Halloween pumpkin-carving party last night, but I still had plenty of time after clean up to prep some of the gear and put the skins on the skis so that we’d be able to save time this morning.  After a hearty breakfast to ensure that the boys were charged up for the mountain ascent, they got dressed very quickly and headed out to play in the snow while we got everything together for the trip.  I recorded the final couple of tenths of an inch of snow that had accumulated on our snowboard from the morning’s light snow, and we were on our way southward.  To read the details about the skiing and see all the pictures, head to the full report from Pico on October 30th, 2011.

An image of Sherburne Pass from Pico ski area in Vermont with October snow
Looking down from the trials of Pico at the base area and Sherburne Pass, October almost seemed like mid winter.

 

2010-2011 Ski Season Summary

Having now compiled all our ski trip and winter storm summary reports for the ’10-’11 ski season, I’ve put together this season summary as a view of how things transpired from a Northern Vermont local perspective.  It’s interesting to note that for Burlington, winter ’10-‘11 was well above average for snowfall (128.4”, 175%), while out in the mountains at our house the deviation was much less (197”, 114%), and indeed in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens like Bolton it was even closer to average (330”, 106%), so ski resort snowfall around here was essentially average.  I actually made a chart for a post at Americanwx.com concerning the ’07-’08 season, which used Bolton’s snowfall from the past several seasons as a general indicator of how the snowfall has been in Northern Vermont:

A table showing the snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont from the 2006-2007 through to the 2010-2011 season

One can see from the chart that ’10-‘11 was basically average for snowfall, and that the amount of snow (330”) was identical to ’07-’08.  I would add that the general impression was that consistency of winter temperatures was a bit better than average in ’10-‘11 due to fewer warm events, so the quality of snow surfaces was higher.  I’m not sure how much better than average it was though, since it seems that during midwinter, the norm in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens is to have about one warm episode per month.  Also, since we were essentially out of the main track of synoptic storms until February, there wasn’t much in the way of moderate-density snowfall to resurface the slopes.  I try to address the consistency of temperatures/quality of the snow surfaces in the text below though, at least in the context of weekends; I should note that it’s possible there could have been some midweek weather issues that simply flew under the radar for me.  For the quality assessment I simply focused on whether or not we were skiing powder, because unless there is some sort of notable rise in temperatures, there is always powder available.

A monthly breakdown of snowfall and my perspective on the season follows below – you can click on each month (except November) and it should bring up that month’s posts in the J&E Productions Web Log.  I only have the monthly snowfall for my house and not the ski areas, but the percentages relative to average often parallel the mountains reasonably well, especially for Bolton which is right up above us:

October:  Pretty typical in that we got at least some snow for skiing; we had 1.0” of snow at the house.  October snowfall in the lower valleys is often minimal enough that the percentages aren’t all that relevant, but that number is 111% vs. the five year average since we’ve been at our house, so indeed that’s rather “normal”.

November:  Very poor; we got just 2.4” of snow at the house (29% of average) and I don’t really remember it, nor do I have any entries for that month in my ski log, so that says plenty right there.  I do have a vague recollection of storm after storm tracking to our north and west giving us mostly rain though, so that would explain the low snowfall total.  The lack of snowfall wasn’t necessarily a huge concern at the time since it was “only November”, but without good November snowfall, getting to appropriate base depths and excellent skiing in December can be that much harder.

December:  Quite normal, 46.0” of snow at the house (right about average at 102%).  Fortunately, even with minimal November snow we were skiing natural snow terrain by December 10th up at Bolton; the holiday period featured some decent skiing, with 7 outings for me during that stretch, indicating that the snow was obviously OK.  Bolton had picked up 4 feet of snow from the storm at the beginning of the month, however, a lot of that snow, as well as what fell later in the month, was upslope fluff.  So, even if one assumes a fairly average amount of snowfall for the mountains like we saw in the valley, the very dry nature of the snow meant that there was less liquid than usual, resulting in base depths that really didn’t build quickly.  The Boxing Day Storm was unfortunately the start of a pattern that would last the next five to six weeks, with the big synoptic storms staying well south of the region and pounding Southern New England, while northern areas remained on the fringe and essentially survived on fluff.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and out of the 12 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Friday, Dec 31st, so that suggests pretty consistent temperatures.

January:  We got 55.5” of snow at the house, which is above average (137%) in what can sometimes be a dry, midwinter month.  However, January was essentially a month-long continuation of the trend that started on Boxing Day, and we were living on mostly Northern Vermont Champlain Powder™ fluff.  We had a couple of good upslope storms in the early to mid part of the month (January 7th and January 12th) that made for some fine skiing, but obviously since so much of it was pixie dust, the base depths just could not build the way that they would with some synoptic storms.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, and out of 11 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Saturday, Jan 1st due to the warmth at the end of December.  So I think one could argue that weekend ski surface consistency through Dec/Jan was better than average with only one (instead of two) weekend-affecting warm up(s) for the two months.

February:  This is when the storm track finally shifted north and we got some notable synoptic storms; the first one was right on the 1st, and then we had a second storm on the 5th.  That first storm brought just over a foot of snow for us down in the valley, and was by far the largest for the month.  Thus there weren’t really any mega dumps based on my records from the house, but there was plenty of the usual good skiing at Bolton and even good skiing at Stowe.  Snowfall was 48.1”, which is roughly average at 108%.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Out of the 10 outings in my records, all 10 of them had powder skiing, so February was perfect in that regard.  However, while skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, we had to wait until Monday of the long weekend to ski because there had been some sort of warm-up.  So I’d say the month was pretty typical with at least that one warm-up.

March:  We continued to stay in the storm track for most of March, with our biggest valley snowfall of the season (25.0”) coming from the March 5th storm.  We did wind up with notably above average snowfall in the valley for the month (39.6”; 155%), essentially due to that one big storm and aided by the fact that what I’ve got for a March average could be a bit low due to very poor Marches in ’09 (12.6”) and ’10 (2.1”).  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and powder skiing was done on all those weekends, however, there was also notable infiltration of non-powder skiing days into the weekends.  Relative to the previous three months, only 9 of our 12 outings for March featured powder skiing, so while still a pretty good ratio, it was certainly a decrease.  Indeed there were multiple warm ups in the month because those three non-powder days were actually on three different weekends (the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends).  Fortunately, those weekends were somewhat redeemed by powder on the other day.  By March, especially toward the end, things may start to fall off a bit from the typical rate of one warm episode per month, but I would expect that with at least 3 individual warm ups in March, it was nothing great or even above average in terms of consistency.

April:  This was again quite a poor month in terms of snowfall and powder skiing; although snowfall correlation between our location down at the house and the mountains can really start to wane as one moves through April and snowfall becomes more and more elevation dependent.  Snowfall at the house was well below average for the month (4.4”; 61%).  We did at least start out the month with a snowstorm on the 1st and another one on the 4th; these events produced some good weekend powder skiing at Bolton and helped the mountain snowpack to surpass 100 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake.  However, the snowfall really fell off after that.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, but only 3 out of 9 days had powder and only 2 of the weekends had powder skiing.  People were excited because we had a relatively deep snowpack during the month and coverage stayed longer than normal, but after that first week the storm track had shifted to the north/west and it was just storm after storm that featured warmth and little to no snow, even for the mountains.  I commented on that trend in a post at Americanwx.com, since there can easily be feet of snow in the higher elevations in April, and instead of just some corn days or spring crud, we could have been skiing some great powder.

May:  The May skiing was good due to the healthy snowpack, and I did get out in the powder on the 6th for top to bottom skiing on Mansfield.  We didn’t get any snowfall at the house during the month, but May’s average snowfall numbers down at our elevation are pretty minimal like October, and with the high sun angle and warming as we approach the solstice I suspect even more removed from correlation with what the mountains see.  Temperature consistency/snow surface quality:  I wouldn’t say May powder is consistent enough to worry about.  I only got out for two days during the month, but at least one was a powder day; the other day was a corn snow day at Bolton so that was also good even if there wasn’t fresh snow.

June:  Our only day in June was outside VT on the East Snowfields on Mt. Washington, and the snowfield was probably smaller than usual for that time of year due to the below average Mt. Washington snowfall for the season.  There actually had been some frozen precipitation in the northern mountains leading up to that day, but we were skiing corn snow.

So in terms of overall snowfall, the two above average months of January and March were basically counteracted by the two below average months of November and April, and with the rest of the months being about average, the snowfall for the season ends up… about average.  Some plusses were better than average snowpack in April and May, but that’s somewhat counteracted by the lower than average snowpack in November, December, and January.  It looks like there was an uptick in consistency in the December-January period due to just that one notable warm-up, but with February and March coming in probably about average in that category, and while November is not especially consistent in terms of temperatures, even in the higher elevations, it must have been below average to get so little snow for the month.  So taking the trends of consistency as an aggregate from November through April, I wouldn’t say that there was a massive improvement in temperature consistency/snow quality for this area.  Something that I have noticed around here is that having a few more storms with mixed precipitation is not necessarily a huge detractor in terms of snow quality.  The ’07-’08 season was a good example of this.  We were right in the storm track, so if we did receive some mixed precipitation, there was often another storm on its heels so quickly, that old snow surfaces were covered up.  It felt like we were right in the storm track for most of that winter, except that we had a relatively poor April with little snowfall (we picked up just 1.6” of snow at the house, even less than this past April).  It is interesting to note that winter ’07-’08 (consistently stormy from November through March) and winter ’10-’11 (biggest synoptic storms focused on just February and March) provide quite disparate examples of how to get to very similar seasonal snowfall totals (203.2” and 197.0” respectively at the house, and 330” and 330” respectively up on the mountain).

Tree skiing:  While working on some web page material, I came across the post I made about the average date for the start of Northern Vermont tree skiing, so I decided to add in the ’10-’11 data and see how the season compared.  In my initial analysis through the ’09-’10 season, the average start date for tree skiing was December 9th ± 13 days with an average of 28.2 ± 6.8 inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake.  In terms of my personal log of outings from last season, I’ve got a start date of December 18th, 2010 for tree skiing, and the addition of these data alters the averages very slightly, bringing the date one day later to December 10th ± 13 days, and the average snowpack down a tenth of an inch to 28.1 ± 6.5 inches.  So in terms of the ’10-’11 season, the start to tree skiing was slightly late in that it started about a week later than the mean date I’ve calculated.  With the horrible November in terms of snowfall, and much of the December snowfall being dry fluff, the late start is not too surprising.  However, the date is well within one standard deviation, so in that sense the start to tree skiing was another parameter of the season that was basically “average”.

On that temperature consistency/snow quality note, I was curious about the powder skiing we did throughout the season, so I checked my reports.  For the list of outings below, I placed a P whenever we were skiing powder, and put a red X if we weren’t, so it shows the pattern of when we did have powder, and when we did not.  Links to the text and pictures for all the individual reports are available below if people want more details about the depth/consistency of the snow, or one can also step through the J&E Productions web log, which has an entry for each outing.  It’s interesting to note that starting at the beginning of the season in October and continuing through to March 26th, there were only four days (December 31st at Bolton Valley, January 1st on the Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry Network, March 5th at Cochran’s, and March 20th at Stowe) where we weren’t skiing powder.  Strangely enough, I’ve never looked at a season in that way before, but it did give me an even greater appreciation for just how much powder there is to ski around here.  After March 26th, the powder skiing really trickled off this season, although there were still at least a few days in there.  I’m not sure how this season compares to others since I’ve never looked at one like this before, but I suspect most other “average” seasons would look similar for the way we ski, and with our pattern of skiing there might be similar patterns even in seasons that deviate more from average snowfall.

Stowe, VT, Saturday 16OCT10
Stowe, VT, Sunday 05DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 10DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 11DEC10
Stowe, VT, Sunday 12DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 18DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 19DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 23DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 24DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 27DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Tuesday 28DEC10
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 30DEC10
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 31DEC10
X  Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 01JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 09JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 13JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 15JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 16JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 17JAN11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 22JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 29JAN11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 30JAN11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 03FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 05FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 06FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 13FEB11
Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 21FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25FEB11
Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT, Saturday 26FEB11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26FEB11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 27FEB11
X  Cochran’s, VT, Saturday 05MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 06MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 07MAR11
Stowe, VT, Tuesday 08MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12MAR11
Stowe, VT, Sunday 13MAR11
Monroe’s Sugarin’, Barton, VT, Saturday 19MAR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 20MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Wednesday 23MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25MAR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26MAR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 27MAR11
P  Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 02APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 03APR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 07APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 09APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Sunday 10APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 17APR11
X  Stowe, VT, Tuesday 19APR11
X  Sugarbush, VT, Friday 22APR11
Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 23APR11
X  Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 01MAY11
Stowe, VT, Friday 06MAY11
X  Mount Washington, NH, Saturday 04JUN11

So yeah, long story short, pretty average season in my book.  On that note, since we’ve been back from Montana, the only season we’ve had with substantial snowfall deviation from average for Northern Vermont was a negative one in ’09-’10 as I show in that table of Bolton Valley snowfall near the top of the post.  There definitely hasn’t been anything like what many parts of the Western U.S. saw last season, but as I look at the list of outings above there’s still been plenty of great skiing.

Mount Washington, NH 04JUN2011

Image of Jay skiing on the East Snowfield
Jay gets in some June turns on Mt. Washington’s East Snowfield

The Mt. Washington Auto Road opened to the summit a few weeks back, but yesterday was our first shot at some clear, dry, weekend weather in the Presidential Range; the forecast had suggested that Saturday would be an excellent day for some skiing in the alpine areas of Mt. Washington, and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.  After a bit of June snow for the mountains over the previous couple of days, the clouds were finally departing on Friday and it looked like there would be a nice window in the weather.

 

Since I’d read an East Snowfield trip report on the Time for Tuckerman Forum last weekend, I had a decent idea of how much snow was left in that area, but I still wanted to see where it was now that an additional week had passed.  On Friday I checked on the Ravines Webcam from Mt. Washington, and as the clouds cleared out in the afternoon I was finally able to see where the snow was located.  The bulk of the remaining snow could be seen in Tuckerman Ravine, but there were still areas with coverage up in the snowfields.  While the broad snowfield that we’d skied at the end of last season was essentially gone, vestiges of the main East Snowfield were visible.  The layout and extent of the snow around the Mt. Washington summit was quite different from what it often is at this time of year, because although it had been a fairly cool spring, snowfall on the mountain was roughly 70 inches below average.

04JUN11E.jpg – Ravines Image

On Saturday morning we finished up our preparation and headed on our way to New Hampshire.  As we traveled on Route 2 east of Montpelier, we could see all the washouts that had come down with the heavy rains a couple of weeks earlier; some places had picked up 4 to 6 inches of rain practically overnight.  Fortunately it was the weekend, so most of the construction vehicles were parked and travel was unimpeded, but the construction sites were everywhere.  As we approached the Danville area, Ty suddenly noticed a spider below his feet where we had placed our firewood.  That left him somewhat freaked out and reluctant to put his feet anywhere in the area, so once we had the chance we stopped at a viewpoint to see if we could clear it away.  I had to pull all the logs out of the back, but we eventually found the spider and took care of it.  Ty was much happier after that.  We also saw a huge group of cyclists that were passing through the area and had stopped at the viewpoint; they seemed to be on quite a ride taking advantage of the nice weather.  In general the Route 2 traffic wasn’t bad, but at one point we did get behind a huge RV with the name “NEWMAR” on the back mud flap, and that slowed us down for a bit until we lost it somewhere around Jefferson, NH.  We joked about getting behind “NEWMARs” for the rest of the trip.  As we closed in on Mt. Washington, we began to see the recent addition of white up near the summit, and knew that we’d soon get to see just what it was.

The weather stayed clear and sunny, and the drive up the auto road was lots of fun; visibility was 100 miles according to the sign at the base.  Once we got up to around 5,500’, we could identify the new coating of white in the highest elevations – it was rime ice, and in some places it was over a foot thick.  We parked along the road at around 6,000’ up above the East Snowfield, and while we prepared the gear, the boys explored the area and investigated the rime that peppered the surrounding rocks.  The boys really enjoyed breaking off chunks of the ice, and that kept them occupied for quite a while.  They also said that they really liked watching the train (The Cog Railway) and they saw at least a couple different colors of train cars during the course of the afternoon.

04JUN11A.jpg – Rime on sign

04JUN11F.jpg – Rime on sign with boys

04JUN11G.jpg – Rime below observatory

We began our descent to the snowfield by hiking on the Nelson Crag Trail, and then gradually peeled off to the right of the trail to head down to where the snowfield would be located.  That descent was certainly the low point of the trip, because walking among the steep boulders in our Telemark boots with heavy packs was difficult for E and I, and we had to search around a bit to find the exact location of the remaining part of the snowfield.  The frustration was compounded by the fact that because it was such a nice day with little wind, some black flies were out and about pestering anyone if they stopped moving.  Even though Ty and Dylan were wearing their hiking boots, Dylan still had a bit of difficulty on the steep descent, and his spills added to E’s consternation.  At one point we thought he’d fallen and hit his head, but it turned that it wasn’t too serious.  Still, E was rapidly becoming apoplectic about the whole situation and I still hadn’t quite found the snowfield.

04JUN11B.jpg – Rime at Nelson Crag Trail

04JUN11R.jpg – Hiking down toward snowfield

Fortunately, we eventually found the snow we’d been seeking, and everyone was able to rest, have a snack, and enjoy the scene.  A nice breeze picked up, and any bugs disappeared to produce a perfect alpine environment.  The boys created a slide in the snow, and spent most of their time glissading on what they called “The Slide of Doom”.  I believe the name was derived from the fact that the slide ended in rocks, and one had to ensure that they slowed down before they hit them.  Ty and Dylan did numerous runs on the slide, and eventually added things like in-line high fives and snowballs into the mix.

04JUN11S.jpg – boys looking off rock

04JUN11H.jpg – Dylan sliding

04JUN11C.jpg – Ty sliding

E and I were the ones that quickly got down to doing some skiing, and although the descent was only about 100 vertical feet or so, the corn snow was great aside from a couple of icy spots.  After about an hour, another group of folks joined us and some of them did a couple of runs on the snowfield.  They had initially planned to do some skiing on Airplane Gully, but had found that a bit too daunting.  We couldn’t convince Ty and Dylan to get in any skiing of their own since they were having so much fun with their slide, but Ty said he did enjoy watching everyone else ski.  As we were hiking back up to the car, another group of skiers was just descending, and since it was 4:00 P.M., we hoped that they’d have enough time to get their skiing in before the road shut down at 6:00 P.M.  Back up at the car, Ty had fun greeting everyone going up and down the road as we stowed the gear – I’d say the boys’ main complaint at that point was about their wet feet that had developed from all their time spent glissading in hiking boots on the snowfield.  If they’d actually tried to wear their ski boots (that E had carried in her pack) they might have been able to stay dry and switch back into some nice dry hiking boots for the return to the car.

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Since E wanted to get back home and finish up some work on Sunday without too much delay, after skiing we chose to head west and find a campsite that was on the route back to Vermont.  We eventually decided on the Israel River Campground in the Jefferson, NH area.  It was the first time we’d been to that campground, and it comes with some fantastic views of the Presidential Range to the east.  Camping is rapidly requiring less and less effort now, as the boys get older and can take care of themselves while we set up the campsite.  Ty and Dylan are becoming more helpful all the time when it comes to camping; they helped with tent setup, starting the fire, and even splitting some firewood into kindling.  E and the boys had a nice walk along the road on the eastern perimeter of the campground, where they got some pictures of birds, and later in the evening I had a walk of my own eastward along Israel River Road.  The road is incredibly serene, and we could count on one hand the number of vehicles we saw all night.  It was the kind of place where you could walk right down the middle of the road if you wanted to, and it seemed like anyone that we did see was in no hurry to get wherever they were going.  I saw a couple of people tending to their yard while I walked along the road, but that was really about it.  It’s actually quite an interesting out of the way area.  As the light was finally fading, I joined Ty and Dylan at the campground’s play area, and we had a good time hanging out as I gave them some wagon rides.

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The Israel River Campground even has a nice Wifi setup, so I was able to pick up the Bruins playoff game to listen to it online, and also use the web to send in a weather update to AmericanWx.com.  Ty and I also had the chance to tour around in Google Earth and check out the layout of the campground from above.  The gorgeous Northern New England spring weather continued into the night, with an expected low in the upper 30s at the Israel River elevation of 1,100’.  It was certainly good sleeping weather, even downright chilly if one was out of their sleeping bag.

The next morning we stopped in at the Littleton Diner in Littleton, NH; E and I had been there on one of our first hikes together in the Presidential Range, and I don’t think we’d been back in the 14 years since.  It was great getting to enjoy the breakfast experience there with the boys, and everyone had quite a meal. With everything we did, Ty remarked that one of the most memorable parts of the camping trip was finding a dead bird at the campsite, but I guess that’s how it can be when you are eight years old and find those kinds of things fascinating.

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Image of lupines at sunset with the Presidential Range in the background
Israel River lupines at sunset with the Presidential Range in the background

The full report is also available with inline images on our website until this version is complete.

Stowe, VT 06MAY2011

Picture of the gondola slopes of Mt. Mansfield
The fresh snow on Mansfield's slopes in the morning

I headed up to Mt. Mansfield this morning to get in a workout and take advantage of the fresh snow that had fallen since Wednesday.  Once I got out of the fog that had settled around our house in the Winooski Valley, there were fantastic views of the fresh snow on the Green Mountains, and Mt. Mansfield’s alpine terrain was especially scenic.  I started my skin up the gondola side of Mansfield at around 7:00 A.M., and found the following new snow accumulations with respect to elevation:

1,600′:  ~1/4″
2,000′:  1-2″
2,500′:  ~4″
3,000′:  ~6″
3,600′: ~10″

A picture of ski tracks on Upper Gondolier at Stowe
Cutting some arcs into the new snow on Upper Gondolier

It was a little tough to get the depths on what had fallen because the new snow was so well integrated onto the old base, but those were my best estimates and I’d say they’re pretty decent.  In terms of the skiing, the new snow was certainly more akin to dense Sierra Cement than Northern Vermont’s famous Champlain Powder™ fluff, but the turns were really nice; the dense snow did a great job of keeping one up off the old base.  For the full details, links, and all the photographs from the day, click through to the full trip report from Stowe on May 6th, 2011.

Bolton Valley, VT 01MAY2011

Image of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from Bolton Valley's Vista Summit
Looking westward near sunset from the Vista Summit

It was a busy weekend culminating with Ty’s first communion and the ensuing party today, but once things had wound down by the afternoon, I had a chance to head up to the mountain and make some turns.  There was fresh snow on April 23rd, but the snowpack has certainly crept upward in elevation since April 17th, which was the last sunny day I was out on the mountain.  At that point the first signs of natural snow appeared at around 900’, but today the natural snow didn’t appear until roughly 1,750’.  Timberline had just a couple patches of snow remaining, but up at the main base the snowpack was quite substantial.  There is continuous snow coverage on Sherman’s Pass to Beech Seal, and possibly other routes as well, and I caught a sunset run through the corn to finish off the amazing sunny weekend that we were given.  For more details and pictures, click through to my Bolton Valley trip report from May 1st, 2011.

The snow in the yard has melted

The last of the snow in the yard melted today, so I can finish off that portion of my seasonal snowfall numbers.  The data for the last of the snow melting out in the yard (as of this season the mean date is April 15th ± 10 days) is actually something I’ve recorded all the way back since our first winter here (2006-2007) and April 24th is one day later than the previous record I had down (April 23rd, 2007).  This puts the continuous snowpack season in the yard at 141 days, which is exactly the same number recorded for ’06-’07.  Both of those seasons had slow starts with poor November snowfall, and snowpack that did not become established until early December, so they are well behind the highest value of 152 days recorded for the 2007-2008 season.  The next benchmark I’ll monitor will be when the last of the snow melts out in our neighborhood, which tends to be about a week beyond when the snow melts out at the house.

As I was skiing at Bolton yesterday I was reminded of some outings in April ’07, and realized that while the snowpack is in excellent shape this spring, the skiing this month has really paled in comparison to the equivalent period back in ’07.  Even down at this elevation we had almost two feet of snowfall in April ’07, and this season we’ve had just 4.4 inches.  I’m not sure what the mountains have had this April, but in ’07 it was measured in feet; I skied one day mid month on the mountain where I found up to 19 inches of new snow, and that was for just one of the storms.  The reading from the Mansfield stake on Friday was certainly respectable at 82 inches, but for the same date in ’07 it was actually at 84 inches.  It’s really been just an issue of the storm track this April; the moisture has been there, but the track has been too far to the north/west to get into the appropriate combination of precipitation and temperature.  With a good track over the past few weeks we probably would have had another April 2007 on our hands.  I think that the past couple of springs have been so poor in the snowfall department that some perspective has been lost on April’s potential, this one is good in terms of base/snowpack, but I’d say subpar for snowfall (we’re still below average by a few inches at the house).

Bolton Valley, VT 23APR2011

Picture of ski tracks in the powder on Lower Turnpike
Cutting some big arcs across the lower part of Turnpike

While the weather was full-blown spring with sunshine and corn snow yesterday at Sugarbush, today it was back to winter with a bit of fresh powder in the mountains.  I headed up to Bolton for some turns and found snow that was dense enough to keep me from touching down to the old subsurface much of the time.  The base snow provided wall to wall coverage, so with the powder on top it was a great ride.  For all the details and pictures, go to my April 23rd trip report from Bolton Valley.

Sugarbush, VT 22APR2011

Picture of Sugarbush's Clay Brook complex and trails
A view of the Clay Brook silo-style structure with some of the Lincoln Peak trails in the background

The forecast called for sun and spring temperatures today, and Mother Nature delivered just that, so I headed to Sugarbush with the boys for some spring turns.  It was our first day of skiing away from Stowe and Bolton this season, and thus our first day actually buying real lift tickets.  Fortunately, spring ticket specials are in effect throughout the area, making things more affordable; Sugarbush has a two for one offer on their already reduced spring rate if you bring your season’s pass from another ski area, so the boys and I skied for $59 total, which was pretty economical.  It was an excellent afternoon on the slopes with the boys, with lots of snow and sun, and then we stopped in at Timbers for some après ski snacks.  For the full details and pictures, click through to my April 22nd Sugarbush report.

Stowe, VT 19APR2011

Image of Stowe's Gondolier trail from the Spruce Peak base
Looking up at Gondolier from the Spruce Peak base area

Ali and Wini were heading to The Shed for dinner today, and since I had the time and E and the boys were out of town, it was the perfect chance to get in an evening of skiing and dinner in Stowe.  I stopped off first at Spruce Peak where the coverage is still excellent; that’s a really good gauge of just how much snow is out there because the bottom of Spruce Peak is both low elevation AND south facing – it’s hard to find a tougher challenge to the snow than that.  The skiing was great, with a couple of inches of beautifully smooth corn that had softened during the day and had partially recrystallized into airy goodness.  Dinner with Wini and Ali was great; definitely one of those classic Vermont spring evenings, and with the current snowpack it looks like there can be many more!  For all the details and images, go to my trip report from today.

Bolton Valley, VT 17APR2011

Image of Whiteface from Bolton
Looking between the chairs of the Timberline Lift to take in the view of Whiteface across Lake Champlain

Unlike yesterday, where temperatures stayed rather wintry and didn’t give the snow a chance to warm up, today the temperatures were warmer and the sun was starting to break out in the afternoon, so I headed up to Bolton for some turns.  The snow coverage is still great all the way down to the Timberline elevations, so I made turns there and found some excellent spring corn.  The full details and all the pictures can be found in my Bolton Valley trip report from today.  There is a lot of skiing to be done in the coming weeks, so get out and enjoy that great snowpack!