Tag Archives: Upslope

Stowe, VT 16MAR2014

An image of Joe skiing Profanity Chute in the alpine terrain above treeline at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
After a Northern Greens fluff bomb visited the area last night, we got some incredibly great snow above treeline on Mt. Mansfield today.

Overnight we had one of those classic Northern Greens mini upslope snow events – the kind that almost seem to come out of nowhere and drop localized fluff bombs of Champlain Powder™.  We’d been up at Bolton Valley yesterday from mid morning to mid afternoon, and by the time we left, it was really dumping up there – snow accumulation on the road was down to ~1,500’, and snow/mix was down to ~1,000’.  It was still just rain down at our house in the bottom of the Winooski Valley at the 500’ elevation, and that was essentially all I’d noted about the weather before we went on with our evening indoors.  We’d watched the second Hunger Games movie, which kept us pretty enthralled for a good couple of hours, and it was a while before I checked in on my computer to see what weather discussion was going on in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forum.  I noticed eyewall in Burlington reporting some snow accumulation, and it prompted me to take a look out back.  Low and behold, it was dumping snow out there, easily 1” an hour type snowfall, and there was already a couple fresh inches of snow down.  By the wee hours of the morning, we’d picked up half a foot of snow at the house, and of course that got me thinking about what was going on in the mountains.

“The snow in the
chute looked so
good it was
almost spooky.”

My thoughts of a very early departure to Stowe for me and Ty were stymied by the fact that I had to get some work done and send it off to Stephen, but we managed to get going by around 9:30 A.M.  I hadn’t eaten by that point, and we stopped in at the DD on Route 100 to really calorie up with some hearty food.  Although he’d had some breakfast, Ty followed suit with at least a cream cheese bagel; it was a good idea, because I suspected we’d need those calories, and as we’d find out later in the day… they were going to be burned.  We got to the mountain by mid morning, and the slopes were looking very good.  The resort was reporting a fresh 9 inches overnight, and they appeared to be in the sweet spot for accumulations.  We were of course really happy that the surprise dump of snow coincided with our usual Sunday visit to the mountain.  We’d dressed warmly since temperatures were around 10 F, but truth be told, the temperature just didn’t have the bite that it seems to in January.  It’s mid March, and either we’re acclimated, or the March sun just helps to fight off the cold.

An image of Ty skiing powder snow on the Lower Smugglers trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Warmin’ up for the day

Ty and I kicked things off with a run on the Sunny Spruce, featuring some Lower Smugglers Trees just like we’d done a couple of weeks ago, followed by a visit to the terrain above Meadows.  The new snow was indeed light and dry, and the skiing in the trees was awesome, although the base was stiff in low elevation areas that were unprotected from the sun.  I’d suspected that as a possibility based on the dense snow we’d found in the lower elevations at Bolton Valley yesterday, so after that warm up run our plan was to head right up into the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield, where we knew the snow would be very well preserved.

We started off with a trip along the Kitchen Wall traverse, and hit some of the deep powder there.  There had really been minimal traffic through the area at that point, so we just picked an untracked area in one of the first snowfields and had at it.  That essentially led us on a long and meandering trip through various areas of tree skiing that brought us to the Fourrunner Quad.  From the top of the quad I took Ty down Pipeline, which I probably haven’t skied in 20 years.  I was happy that I was able to find it, but less enthused about how narrow it was.  My skis have only gotten shorter since 20 years ago, so I have no idea how I skied it back then.  It was already well packed out, which probably doesn’t take much, since in general people are going to side slip a lot of it anyway.  It was just as steep as I remembered though, and the fall away views were spectacular.  We eventually found ourselves dropping into the Hazelton Zone from the south side, and that resulted in a great run with tons of untracked snow.  Somehow we even managed to get into some of the same lines we’d hit back on the 2nd, and I think our noses naturally lead us in certain directions.  Knowing more about some of the big, north-facing gullies though, we managed to get ourselves into one of those, and that was pretty sweet.  We’ve still got several of those to explore however, the trick is just finding exactly where to enter the zone to get there.

An image of Ty spraying powder while skiing in the trees on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty sending up a huge spray of powder out there in some of the trees on the lower elevations of Mt. Mansfield

By the time we traversed out of the Hazelton Zone, it was time to head over to Spruce Peak for some lunch, and to meet up with Dylan, E, and all the other folks for the afternoon BJAMS ski program.  After climbing and skiing the Cliff Trail Gully last Sunday as a refresher, today the plan was to kick things up a notch and visit Profanity Chute.  Skiing Profanity is a bit of a larger endeavor, since it involves going all the way to the top of The Chin, with a longer hike and a longer descent.  This was a great day for it though, with a couple feet of snow midweek from winter storm Vulcan, topped off with another 9 inches of fluff from the overnight snows, the odds were favoring some really nice snow in the alpine.  Joe had heard about our plans, and since he was interested in bringing his group up as well, we joined together with him, Ethan, and Julia to make a nice gondola-sized group of eight.

I’d checked on some of the boys packs down in the lodge, so once we got to the top of the gondola, the preparation for the hike went fairly smoothly.  The ascent of the Climbing Gully was a little slow at first, simply because of all the fresh snow.  The boot ladder was just not consolidated enough.  That issue gradually waned as we got up into terrain that had been brushed by the wind a bit more.  About 1/3 of the way up the gully, we stopped for a break and to let Jack and Kenny catch up with the group.  In order to give them a rest, we waited a bit longer, and with temperatures in the single digits, we had to worry about getting too cold.  In the upper half of the hike, I eventually had to put Kenny’s and Jack’s skis on my pack to allow them to keep pace with the rest of the group.  That worked well though, and we eventually got everyone up to the Chin and the area atop Profanity Chute.  Winds were probably 30-35 MPH up along the ridgeline near The Chin, but fortunately we were able to quickly get on the leeward side of the mountain by the chute.

The snow in the chute looked so good it was almost spooky.  There was just one obvious ski track over on the skier’s left, but the right side was a huge field of what appeared to be powder.  Just to be safe and to check on wind loading, I ski cut through that area to make sure it wasn’t going to release.  It passed that test, and we let the kids just rip it up.  I didn’t even have time to get my camera out because they were so quickly enamored with what lay beneath their feet.  Indeed that was some mighty fine snow we hit, two to three feet of soft powder, with the denser accumulations from Vulcan topped off with last night’s fluff.  I was at least able to shoot some images of Joe in the chute, since he’d waited for all the kids to go.  The kids were treated to some fantastic conditions up there, with almost no tracks all the way down the second part of the chute toward Taft Lodge.  There’s not much to say other than that the snow was deep, bottomless, and everywhere; that leeward side of Mansfield just really knows how to do snow right.

After following the mazes of tracks and bobsled runs through the subalpine area, getting down to Chin Clip, and then skiing all the way to the base, it was time to head back to Spruce Peak and call it a day.  The kids really earned high marks today, and I was amazed at how comfortable with the exposure of the chute up in the alpine.  I think that the amazing snow helped with that of course, because even when people did fall, they just immediately stopped thanks to the deep powder.  The temperatures were doing a great job of preserving the snow, even when the March sun came out, and it looks like those temperatures will continue to keep preserving the snow as we head into the coming week.

A Google Earth GPS map of a ski tour in the Mt. Mansfield alpine area above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont  including Profanity Chute
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour to Profanity Chute in the Mt. Mansfield Alpine area – Click to view the full size image.

Bolton Valley, VT 23DEC2012

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Tracks on Spell Binder – sometimes you can tell the quality of the snow just by the ski tracks.

The upslope snow that started yesterday really delivered in the evening, and we got to witness it first hand as we drove off to a Christmas party in the Champlain Valley.  We almost turned around right at the house as the snow was coming down at 2 inches an hour or more, and we could only see a few yards in front of the car.  Fortunately that tapered off a couple miles to our west, but in the end we wound up with 9.5 inches of upslope fluff at the house, and Bolton Valley probably had over a foot, bringing them to 30 inches of snow in the past week.  This snow was some incredibly high quality Champlain Powder™ to boot, with my snow density analyses coming in at 2 to 3% H2O.

This morning we got up to the resort around 9:00 A.M., and similar to yesterday the scene was fairly mellow – after dropping off E and the boys I was able to park in the third tier of the main lot.  We started off with a run down Alta Vista, and it was E’s first chance to try out her Black Diamond Element skis, which are the women’s version of the AMPerage.  I warned her that unlike my first experience with the AMPerages, which was entirely under powder conditions, she might not be that impressed with how they skied on the groomed areas before we made our way to the powder.  Indeed she was very unimpressed, noting that there was so much ski width (115 mm at the waist) that she couldn’t even get them on edge.  I hadn’t found that to be an issue for me with the AMPerages, so it could certainly be attributed to a difference in our ski styles, but I think it questions again the potential for these skis to serve as a one ski quiver for all surfaces.  We got them as our backcountry/powder Telemark skis anyway, but it will be interesting to see how our usage patterns develop; being more comfortable on them so far, I might take them out on more marginal lift-served powder days, where E might stick with her narrower Telemark skis.  E did point out that her Telemark ski boots are a bit loose, and she could feel the slip in them today due to the thinner socks she was wearing.  Having that slip in there may make it challenging to get the pressure necessary to roll these fat skis on edge on groomed surfaces, so we’ll have to see if a better boot fit helps out, or if there’s going to be an adjustment period due to something else.

“We found a foot plus of
Champlain Powder™ over a
consolidated base – and it
was more than enough to
be bottomless…”

We made our way over to Wilderness and got into some powder, and not surprisingly, E didn’t have any issues with the skis there.  But, neither did she find them to be as amazing in the powder as I had on my previous outings.  Of course we were skiing in roughly a foot of amazingly dry snow over a well consolidated base, so almost any ski could handle it.  We enjoyed lots of fresh turns on Lower Turnpike, and it was a bit slow with the modest pitch and all the powder, but the boys had a great time.  Ty had an especially fun time straight lining sections of the powder.  We also jumped into Wilderness Woods, which were being skied extensively – they’re certainly skiable, although you still needed to be somewhat cautious to avoid underlying objects.  On that note, the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit 28” inches yesterday, passing the magic 24” mark that I’ve used as a measure of when those initial forays into the trees begin.  Bolton even opened steep tree areas like Devil’s Playground today, so many trees are definitely ready for skiing if patrol deems areas like that acceptable.

We headed for the same route again on the next run at Ty’s request, but wound up taking the Wilderness Lift Line when Dylan led us that way.  Conditions along the edges still offered up plenty of nice turns though.  The boys were calling for an early lunch after those two runs, so we headed into the lodge, and eventually got a call from Stephen that he and the kids had finally made it to the mountain.  We finished up our lunch and met up with Helena and Johannes to take a run while Stephen picked up his skis from the ski shop.  We opted for the standard Sherman’s Pass route to let Helena and Johannes warm up.  Surfaces were decent packed powder aside from wind-exposed areas, which were blasted down to whatever nasty hard surface lay below.

When we all got back together we hit Lower Turnpike again, and it felt much faster that second time.  There were a few more tracks around to let you gain your speed, but somehow it was more than that.  Whatever the case, the turns were smooth and silky in the powder.  Johannes and Helena needed their lunch break by that point, so while they went in the lodge, E and the boys and I went back for another round.  Dylan and I came in at a higher entrance and got some bonus fresh turns.

We had spotted a car over at Timberline on our way up to the resort, with the intent of finishing off the day there, but Dylan was pretty beat, so E decided that they would drive down and meet Ty and me there.  Johannes had enough energy, so he joined Ty and me for the trip.  Aside from windblown areas, which were reduced thanks to the lower elevation, the snow was simply amazing at Timberline as is typical for these types of events.  We found a foot plus of Champlain Powder™ over a consolidated base – and it was more than enough to be bottomless, even on the Spell Binder headwall as long as you stuck to the skier’s right.  That’s some pretty primo skiing.  The only part to avoid was the bulk of the headwall section with sastrugi (or “fake powder” as it often looked today) from the winds.  Both boys did well, and we made reasonable time down to the car, with the requisite photo sessions as well.  Dylan missed some great turns, but he was certainly tired – while E was out getting a couple of final things for the holiday in the evening, I found that Dylan had gone and tucked himself into our bed and gone to sleep.

An image of Ty skiing in about a foot of Champlain powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty taking on Spell Binder today

I was worried about the cold today due to the potential wind chill, but it turned out to be a fine day with temperatures in the 20s F and only minor breezes.  We’ve got more snow falling tonight with the potential for four more storms to pass through the area this week.  It could be an excellent holiday period for skiing if the potential storms hit our area as snow.  The mountain is already opening up lots of natural snow terrain, so the snowpack is building with the weather pattern we’re in.  The Mt. Mansfield Stake just hit 42” today, and that is a sign that off piste skiing should be well under way.

Bolton Valley, VT 25FEB2012

An image of Ty skiing in heavy snowfall during a two-foot snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
It was storm skiing today at Bolton Valley

We’re currently in the midst of what could be one of our largest snowstorms of the season here in Northern Vermont, with multiple feet of snow possible for the higher elevations along the spine of the Greens.  Earlier this week, the mountains already picked up about a foot of snow from the combination of two storms, one on Tuesday/Wednesday, and another on Thursday, so a substantial dump from this storm will really have conditions going off.  The current storm actually started up in this area midday yesterday, and I saw a fresh inch of snow on the ground in Burlington when I left around 4:00 P.M.  We’d received up a couple of inches of snow at the house as of 6:00 P.M., and thanks to inch an hour snowfall, we picked up another quick couple of inches through 8:00 P.M. before the precipitation tapered off overnight.

This morning, temperatures were around the freezing mark down in the valley, and little snow was actually falling at our house, but the mountains were getting pounded with upslope flakes.  Powderfreak sent in a report to Americanwx.com this morning indicating that it was a total whiteout at Stowe Mountain Resort.  So much snow had fallen overnight that snowmobiles and even snowcats were having difficulty getting up the mountain.  The upslope power of the Northern Greens was in full effect.

Looking through the windshield at heavy snowfall we make the ascent of the Bolton Valley Access Road toward Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ascending into the higher elevations of Northern Vermont today revealed a world of heavy snowfall and challenging driving conditions.

Not surprisingly, heavy snowfall was hitting Bolton Valley as well, but high winds meant that all the chairlifts were on wind hold at the resort, and employees were stationed at the bottom of the Bolton Valley Access Road to save people the hassle of driving up if they didn’t know about the weather delays.  We’d all brought our Telemark skis and skins and were planning to earn turns as needed, so when we reached the bottom of the access road we let the employees know that we’d be earning turns and they waved us through.  Having old tires with minimal tread, even the Subaru struggled to get up the steep S-curve on the access road this morning, and a big part of that was because the snow was falling so quickly that the plows couldn’t really keep up.  Fortunately, we were able to get up to the Village safely.  The snow was indeed falling very heavily up above 2,000’ in the Village; I’d estimate that was coming down in the range of 1 to 3 inches per hour.

An image of cars parked in the Bolton Valley Village under heavy snowfall at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
When we finally arrived up in the Bolton Valley Village this morning, we were greeted by snowfall pounding down at rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour.

Dylan had to use the restroom right when we arrived in the Village, so E and the boys headed up to the base lodge quickly with some of the Telemark gear, while I finished suiting up and got the rest of the gear together.  Just as I was about to head up to the lodge as well, I got a call from E that the Mid Mountain Lift was running, so I grabbed the boys’ alpine gear for them to use.  It was quite a load with three pairs of skis, two pairs of poles, and a couple sets of boots, but I managed to get everything up to the lodge, and indeed the Mid Mountain Lift was humming along serving at least a little vertical to happy skiers and riders.

Dylan’s stomach was bothering him a bit, so E hung out inside with him while Ty and I headed out for a few Mid Mountain runs.  Outside the lodge at the ski racks, we met up with Jason, who had just come down from Wilderness with another one of the instructors.  He said there was indeed a lot of snow up there in the higher elevations – enough that you wanted to stick to terrain with good pitch if possible.  The wind was also strong, so that was having an effect on the distribution of the snow.  Heading to the upper mountain would have been my plan as well, but it’s still a lot of work for the boys at this stage, so sticking to lift-served terrain on the bottom half of the mountain was the way to go.  We’re already very excited about how far the boys have come in terms of ascending for skiing, but it’s going to be fun to see what things are like as their skills and stamina continue to increase.

An image taken while riding the Mid Mountain Chair at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont showing heavy snowfall obscuring the view
Riding the Mid Mountain Chair during the storm

Ty suggested Enchanted Forest for our first run off Mid Mountain, and the snow was excellent, but only the steepest spots were really good for skiing in the deep powder, so we headed back to Beech Seal to finish off the run.  Acknowledging the need for steeper pitches, I took Ty over to the Butterscotch Terrain Park via Deer Run.  We did get some nice turns in the park on the steep pitches on the back side of the features, but some of the best turns were actually on that steep pitch where Deer Run drops down to Sprig O’ Pine.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos there, but I pulled out the camera and got some nice shots of Ty skiing of the terrain park features amidst the very heavy snowfall.

The intense snowfall from the storm was lots of fun to witness, but the strong winds that came with it were much less enjoyable.  The winds were from the west/northwest, so riding the chair was no problem, but they really bit into you when you headed down the west-facing runs.  Thus it wasn’t too long before Ty and I were ready for a lunch break.  Dylan had actually fallen asleep while we’d been outside, but he woke up once we were back inside; he was feeling much better and was ready for lunch.  We headed upstairs and had lunch near the Fireside Flatbread area; crowds were pretty minimal with so many people being turned back at the base of the access road, so it was very quiet up there.

A view out the window of the base lodge at very heavy snowfall hitting Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the view of the tremendously heavy snowfall during lunch

The four of us headed back out for a few more runs after lunch, starting with a run down Glades since Ty and I hadn’t checked it out earlier.  The steeper terrain at the top was sufficient for some decent powder skiing, although that meant that it was getting plenty of traffic, so fresh tracks were a little harder to come by.  We also checked out Beech Seal, since it’s got reasonably steep terrain at the top.  It was also fine for turns, but it’s pretty exposed to the west wind and that took away from the experience.  It continued to snow, so it was hard to pull away from the slopes, but the wind was unabated and we eventually decided it was time to take off the skis and save some energy for tomorrow, which looks like it’s going to be a memorable one.  We had also promised the boys that they could do some swimming at the sports center after they skied, so they were anxious to get down to the pool.

An image of Ty and Dylan playing in the snow near the base lodge during a big snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys hit the snow for some fun while E and I pack up the ski gear

The pool at the sports center was hopping with many visitors that had decided to stay inside out of the storm, and while E and the boys swam, I took the opportunity to tour around the Village and get some photographs of the snow.  I got some great images of where the fluffy Champlain Powder™ had accumulated with fantastic loft in sheltered locations such as on the leeward side of the Courtside 2 Condos, and in other spots I got some cool shots of the dramatic drifting caused by the wind.  I found cars in the parking lots that sat through the whole storm and had virtually disappeared beneath the snow.  Even in some of those drifted areas though, the snow often managed to retain incredible loft.  One could walk through some waist or chest deep drifted areas where the snow would simply dissolve around you as you went through it.  The snow was actually letting up for a time while I toured around the Village, and there were some points where it almost appeared as though the storm was over, but it always seemed to make a resurgence.  The breaks in the blizzard-like conditions certainly helped with the photography though.

An image of deep snow accumulating on the Courtside 2 Condominiums during a big snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the snowy sights as I walk around the Bolton Valley Village in the afternoon

At the end of the afternoon, our descent of the access road was much easier than the ascent had been; the snow wasn’t falling quite as hard, so presumably the plows could keep pace.  When we’d left the house earlier in the day, it wasn’t really snowing, so we were very curious to see if anything had gone on down in the valley while we were away.  That question was answered pretty quickly when we found that the snow in the driveway was now a foot deep, and 7.1 inches of new snow had accumulated on the snowboard while we were at the mountain.  I took a core sample from atop the snowboard and the snow came in at a density of 3.8% H2O.  But the storm isn’t done delivering Champlain Powder™ just yet; through 10:30 P.M. this evening we picked up an additional 8.4 inches of 2.1% H2O powder, and it’s still going.  We’ve now received over 20 inches from this storm down here in the valley, and the mountains will likely double that amount; it looks like tomorrow at Stowe is going to be simply off the hook!

Another storm for the holiday week, another foot of snow for the northern mountains

We were very happy when the local mountains got about a foot of snow from our Christmas Day Storm, a few days ago, but apparently Mother Nature wasn’t quite done delivering the goods for the holiday week.  We just had another storm drop similar amounts of snow thanks to upslope conditions on the back side.  The storm was actually rather warm, and it cut right through Northern New England such that mixed precipitation was expected in the middle of the event, leaving us unsure if it would be a big net gain for the slopes.  Fortunately the slopes did get quite a net gain in liquid equivalent, with snow on the front and back ends, and only modest amounts of rain or mixed precipitation in the middle.

I followed the storm down at the house, and it began yesterday with a front end shot of snow that gradually mixed with sleet and went to a bit of rain overnight.  The morning, the back side of the storm came through with plenty of snow.  It started up in the morning, and then pounded the mountains and mountain valleys today with snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour.  In the end we wound up with 9.7 inches of total snow at the house, and the local mountains topped out at around a foot of snow.  Below is the list I’ve seen for storm totals for the Vermont ski areas using their 48-hr snow totals.  The list is from north to south along the spine of the Greens:

Jay Peak: 8”
Smuggler’s Notch: 12”
Stowe: 8”
Bolton Valley: 11”
Mad River Glen: 8”
Sugarbush: 12”
Middlebury: 6”
Pico: 10”
Killington: 10”
Okemo: 4”
Bromley: 0”
Magic Mountain: T
Stratton: 1”
Mount Snow: 0”

While last time around with the Christmas Day Storm, the Stowe area was the sweet spot for accumulations, this time around the east side of Addison County seemed to do the best with some locales topping the one foot mark for snowfall as indicated in the map of snowfall totals from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington:

A map of snow totals from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington Vermont for the snowstorm on December 27-28, 2011
While the Christmas Day Storm delivered the highest snowfall totals in the Stowe area, this storm seemed to hit hardest in the mountains to the east of Addison County.

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