Tag Archives: Winter Storm Argos

Bolton Valley, VT 23NOV2016

An image of Jay skiing powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We had to hunt a bit more to find good powder today – but it was still out there.

When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard.  It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished.  Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there.  This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.

“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”

We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing.  The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.  It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.

“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”

As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder.  It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder.  We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees.  While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis.  She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon.  While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.

An image of Erica removing skins from her skis on a ski tour at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E and her slick de-skinning

I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below.  I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go.  It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder.  You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.  Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine.  In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you.  I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation.  We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing.  If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the whole family out for a ski tour, Dad gets a chance to get out from behind the camera today.

Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up.  That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation.  He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.

“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”

In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.  We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week.  And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.

Bolton Valley, VT 22NOV2016

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Spell Binder trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
We’re onto our third day of snow from Winter Storm Argos, and the powder skiing at Bolton Valley just keeps getting better!

Based on the way the snow had picked up during my tour at Bolton Valley yesterday, I knew the resort would be reporting more snow today, but when I was checking on the snow totals for the Vermont Ski areas this morning, I was surprised to see that Bolton’s storm total was already up to 25 inches.  That definitely called for a morning visit to the hill on my way into Burlington, and with the numbers they were reporting I suspected depths would be sufficient for my first visit to Timberline this season.  It was a pleasant morning, with reasonable visibility despite snow showers touching off in the higher elevations.  Winds had died down somewhat, allowing snow to more easily collect on trees in the mountains, and I enjoyed the whitened views of the peaks as I headed down the Winooski Valley.

An image of the snow depth behind the Timberline Base Lodge at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont after Winter Storm ArgosIndeed the snow depths at Timberline looked great, and there were several cars in the south parking lot belonging to eager skiers and riders out earning turns.  As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.  That was encouraging.  I took a quick measurement above the Timberline Base Lodge and found a fairly consistent 15 inches of depth.  It seemed like a good mix of denser snow below, and some fluffier stuff on top – if that was representative of what was out on the trails, it would mean good protection from underlying obstacles and smooth turns on top.

“As I was gearing up, I heard one snowboarder that had just finished a run shout to a friend “I didn’t hit base once”.”

I hopped on the Twice as Nice skin track and made my way upwards until I cut over below the Spell Binder headwall in preparation for my descent.  There was some drifting around, but Timberline is pretty sheltered in its lower elevations, so there was a lot of unadulterated powder out there.  I changed over for the descent, dropped in for my first turns, and promptly headed over the handlebars in classic Telemark style.  Even with my 115 mm fat skis, the buoyancy of the snow had just dropped out from under me as I hit a pocket of powder that was 24 inches deep.  I took that under advisement, adjusted my style to be a bit more prepared for any buoyancy changes, and cruised my way down through some fine November powder.  The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.

“The combination of sufficient underlying snow and lighter powder on top definitely made today’s turns my favorite of this storm cycle.”

As is often the case with storms in the upslope areas of the Northern Greens, the effects linger, and the remnants of Winter Storm Argos are still delivering snow to the area today.  Bolton Valley was reporting a 26” storm total as of this afternoon.  We’re still getting snow even down here at the house this evening, so there should certainly be a bit of freshening in the mountains for anyone heading out for turns tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 21NOV2016

An image of a ski track in powder snow partially filled in by the wind at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The effects of the wind were evident out on my tour at Bolton Valley today as seen in the faded tracks of previous skiers

While the heaviest snows from Winter Storm Argos had been off to our south and west, the main low pressure system was expected to move a bit today to put the Northern Greens in position for some of their classic upslope snow.  Ahead of that uptick in snow though, temperatures in Northern Vermont had dropped enough to bring snow accumulations all the way to the valley floors, and I decided to swing by Bolton Valley this morning for a quick ski tour.

“Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.”

The additional accumulations were immediately evident in the lowest elevations.  The base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ had an inch or two of new snow vs. the faint trace that was there yesterday afternoon.  As soon as I got up into the main Village parking lot it was also obvious that the wind had changed direction from what we’d encountered yesterday, and heavy snowfall of at least 1”/hr was moving in.  I had the back of my vehicle open for just a couple minutes while I changed boots, and being on the windward side I found my gear half covered with snow in just that amount of time.

An image of a skin track partially filled with snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The main skin track was almost filled with snow at times due to the wind.

The new influx of snow and wind since yesterday was a bit of a mixed blessing with respect to snow quality.  There’s no doubt that the base has been substantiated between the wind and additional snow – the wind moved snow around, packed it down a bit, and just generally gave the snowpack more girth.  Where I touched down in a couple of spots yesterday there would be no issue today.  With those changes came more inconsistency in the snow density due to wind crust, so turns weren’t as light, airy, or consistent as yesterday from a powder skier’s perspective.  Each powder day is different though, and it was nice to be able to charge a bit harder and not worry as much about touching anything under the snow.

I toured up to roughly 2,800’ on Peggy Dow’s, and fairly heavy snowfal continued for the hour or so that I was up there, with small to moderate size flakes.  From the Village elevations on up it looks like ~3” of new snow fell by early morning.  Below I’ve updated the total snow depths I found (yesterday afternoon –> this morning), and it looks like the resort had generally hit that 1-foot mark for settled depth on the upper mountain:

340”: Trace –> 1-2”
1,000”: 1” –> 3”
1,500”: 4” –> 6”
2,000”: 5-7” –> 8-10”
2,500”: 9” –> 12”
2,700” 9”+ –> 12”+

A check on Bolton Valley’s snow report, showed them reporting 9-12” as of ~9:00 A.M. this morning, which seems right in line with what I encountered.

With the lower valleys around here finally getting in on the snow action today, I was able to see a lot during my travels to and from the Burlington area.  This afternoon, heavier snow pushed eastward from the Champlain Valley where it had been focused, and the drive home from Burlington to Waterbury was the classic journey from no precipitation into an ever-thickening maelstrom of big flakes.  Roads were actually dry in Burlington, became wet by the Williston area, and then snow-covered past Richmond.  Those who drive Route 2 or I-89 eastward know some of the spots with those long views down the trench-like Winooski Valley, and at each one today, the visibility to the east simply dropped another notch.  Consistent with the visibility trend, the intensity of the snowfall was greatest once I got past Bolton.  There was a van sideways on I-89 just before Exit 11 that had me in slow traffic for about 15 min, but I was able to get home by 5:00 for observations and liquid analysis on our recent snows.  I was greeted by almost a half foot of new snow at the house, and it’s really come down in density.  My analysis revealed ratios in the 30 to 1 range, which is going to supply some great powder provided it wasn’t totally blasted by the wind.

Not surprisingly, Bolton Valley picked up a lot more snow today as well – as of this evening they’re reporting a storm total of 20”.  Even though they aren’t planning to run the lifts until December 10th, storms like this are a great way to start the season.

Bolton Valley, VT 20NOV2016

An image of Ty Telemark skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The boys and I got out this afternoon for some Telemark touring and powder turns compliments of Winter Storm Argos.

Since our winter storm cycles back in October, it’s been a fairly mild and uneventful period, but the weather models have been offering the potential for a quick and potent return to winter.  A storm was predicted to cross the country, move through New England, and position itself to our northeast to set up the Green Mountains for an extended period of upslope snow.  Indeed the storm formed, acquired the name Winter Storm Argos, and as of last night it began affecting our area.  Snow levels dropped to the summits of the Greens early this morning, and finally dropped to the elevation of our house sometime before 10 A.M.  It was too warm to accumulate much snow down in the valley bottoms, but the mountains were definitely getting hit, and Bolton Valley had already accumulated several inches by mid-morning.

An image of fresh snow on a fence in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow piling up in the Bolton Valley Village today

With the timing of the storm, our plan today was to hold off until mid-afternoon to let accumulations build up in the mountains.  E was feeling a bit under the weather, but the boys and I eventually headed up to the mountain to hopefully catch a ski tour and some turns before dark.  Similar to what was going on at our house, the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road at 340’ was right on the verge of accumulating snow, and you could see whitened areas in spots.  Seeing at least minimal accumulations right down at that elevation suggested good things up high though.  By 1,000’ there was a solid coating of an inch or so, and although we didn’t stop in at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ to formally check, I’d estimate accumulations of ~4”.  Up in the Village parking lots at ~2,000 Dylan measured 5” on the parking lot surface, but most surfaces revealed depths in the 5-7” range.

“Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever…”

Temperatures were a couple of degrees below freezing, and moderate snow fell around us as we geared up for the tour.  We watched other folks around the Village, some out on ski tours of their own, and some playing with their dogs or just out walking in the snow, but you could tell that they were all excited for winter’s return.  We ascended up the usual Lower Turnpike route, and the boys has a chance to test out lots of new gear that they’d acquired in the off season.  Ty was on a new Telemark setup with 160 cm skis, and being 20 cm longer than anything he’d skied before, I was curious as to how it would work out for him.  Dylan was really happy to finally be into a pair of Voile Switchback bindings and out of the old three-pin setups.

An image showing the depth of snow from a November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThere was a nice skin track in place, and it had picked up an additional inch or so due to the continued snowfall, but it was a really smooth and swift ascent.  By the time we reached the 2,500’ elevation mark the snow depth was up to ~9”, and we continued our ascent up to ~2,700’ on Cougar before we decided that going higher wasn’t necessary.  We knew that the descent would be a little slow in lower-angle spots based on a couple people we’d seen going down earlier, but we were all on fairly wide boards and floatation definitely wasn’t an issue.  The boys had a blast and were skiing well, and not only did Ty have no issues with the longer skis, he actually made some of his best Tele turns ever.  Perhaps the extra ski length and the floatation that comes with it were just what he needed to make a jump in his Telemark skiing.  Both boys said it was one of their favorite ski tour outings ever, and along with the fun conditions I think some of that comes from getting stronger each season and finding that the touring is that much easier for them.

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in powder on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying some storm day turns on a great November day

The depth of the base snow isn’t quite what it was on my October outing with almost 20 inches of dense paste, so we had to negotiate a couple of bigger rocks (I failed in one case with the fading light) but there’s supposedly plenty more snow to come with this storm.  We got to finish the tour around dusk, which always sets a fun mood with the Village lights amidst the snowfall of a storm.  It looks like we’ve got more chances for snow coming during this Thanksgiving holiday week, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to head back out again soon.