Stowe, VT 17DEC2011

An image of the Spruce Peak Village area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont on a snowy morning - December 17, 2011
Stowe Mountain Resort: A quiet morning in the Spruce Peak Village area

Today started off great when E woke me up and said that it was snowing, and that we’d already picked up an inch of new snow. Last I’d heard, the overnight forecast was for partly cloudy, so the snow was quite a surprise. I measured 1.1 inches of snow on the snowboard at 7:00 A.M., sent in my observations to CoCoRaHS and posted them on American Weather, and then E and I were off to Stowe for school ski program training day. There was some snow on the way to the mountain, but once we got there we found consistent light snowfall, and it turned out that that’s what we’d encounter all day. E had arrived early as one of the program coordinators, so the scene in the Spruce Peak Village was incredibly quiet for a Saturday morning. It wasn’t long though before people began to arrive and the old Day Lodge building where we were set up was bustling.

After about an hour or so of taking care of paperwork for passes and getting tickets, we met up with our instructor Tom, whom we’d had as our instructor a couple years in the past and really enjoyed. We started out with a few runs on the Adventure Triple Chair on Spruce Peak, where we practiced drills for beginners; it was our first chance to try out Stowe’s new RFID system for lift access. It worked really well as far as I’m concerned; you just stick your little card in a pocket of your clothing (we were instructed that it’s best to choose a pocket without your credit card or cell phone) you walk up to the turnstiles at the lifts, and they open for you. You do want to move right through the turnstile though, as I found out when I got lightly smacked from behind by the next bar coming through. Turnstiles are used for a wide variety of different purposes and are also widely used as a method of physical access control. You can find more information about the security benefits of turnstiles on the DaoSafe website. The conditions on the Inspiration trail were certainly decent, a typical man-made surface, although the falling snow did help to freshen it a bit.

“…on my first run I
popped into some
fresh powder below
the Octagon and it
was simply glorious!”

After our time at Inspiration we headed over to Mt. Mansfield for some more advanced drills. The new Fourrunner Quad is very cool, and whisks you right up the mountain like the old one. Our ride up felt surprisingly cold though, and with temperatures that we thought were in the 20s F, we figured it had to be our acclimatization. However, it turns out that temperatures were in the single digits F with wind chills below zero F up high, so it was legitimately cold out there. I’d heard from Powderfreak in an early morning report on the American Weather forum that they’d received 3 inches of new snow up high, so I was curious to see what the conditions were like. With only so many trails open, it wasn’t like there was going to be tons of fresh powder, but on my first run I popped into some fresh powder below the Octagon and it was simply glorious! I’d say there were four inches down by that point, and I wasn’t even touching down to the base on the moderate angle terrain, so it was a real treat. In fact, the whole top half of that first run on Upper Lord was really impressive in terms of snow conditions. While it wasn’t fresh powder beyond that first stretch, the new snow added a lot to keep the conditions nice along the side of the trail. With less fresh snow it wasn’t quite as good on the lower half of the mountain on North Slope, it was more typical surface that one would find any time of year with high traffic. On our second run we took a different route, with Ridge View up top and Lower Lord down below. That run was certainly not as glorious, perhaps in part due to another few rounds of traffic, or the fact that Lower Lord was notably scratchier than North Slope.

We headed back to Spruce Camp after that to get our pass pictures taken, have some lunch, and finish up additional paperwork. It was our first chance to get back to some of that excellent food from the Great Room Grill after the off season, and E and I had a nice lunch of soup and salad. Tom continued with some great training discussion at lunch, and then E and I headed back over to Mt. Mansfield with him for a couple more runs. Everyone else had had to leave for various commitments, so basically E and I got a private lesson with Tom for the afternoon. We had a great time there with a lot of advanced drills and private tutoring.

An image of Mt. Mansfield shrouded in snowfall taken from the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

Heading back home later in the afternoon, we stopped in at the Alpine Mart on the Mountain Road for some gas and a snack, and the cashier asked how we were enjoying the sunshine. I told him that we’d been up on the mountain all day and we hadn’t seen much sun because it was snowing the whole time. He was pretty excited by that, and commented that they were expecting and other 2 to 4 inches tonight, and then we were going to get blitzed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with 8 to 10 inches on Christmas Eve. The woman next to me commented on how that was going to be horrible for travel, and he said the plows were going to be out all night. I hadn’t looked at the weather models in a while, but with the surprise shot of snow I could only assume everything had gone topsy-turvy with the forecast. Anyway, I think his estimate might be a little on the high side for tonight – the forecast seems to be more like partly cloudy and very cold. I do see the potential Monday, Thursday, and Saturday snowfall events on the ECMWF, but I’m not sure where he’s getting his weather information because it doesn’t look quite like we’re getting the storm he was talking about.

It looked like the sun came out in parts of Waterbury today, because the new snow had disappeared in a lot of spots east of the mountains, but once we headed back toward the spine the accumulations picked back up. The fluff we’d received overnight at the house had certainly settled some, but I did find a couple of additional tenths of an inch on the snowboard. It’s also interesting to note that there seemed to be more snow left on the west side of the range – we were in South Burlington in the evening for my sister’s birthday, and they had a good inch of snow there, which is more than we saw back toward the center of Waterbury. They may have gotten in on some lake-effect snow or enhancement that was going on. It’s nice to have snow on the ground at this point though, and we’ll have to watch what Mother Nature brings this week as we head toward the holiday.

Bolton Valley, VT 10DEC2011

A December image from the mid mountain area of Bolton Valley looking up toward Ricker Mountain
Checking out a December scene from mid mountain as the snow clouds pull away

With lake-effect snow coming off the Great Lakes, and some upslope hitting the Green Mountains, we picked up about a half inch of snow at the house overnight.  The local ski areas also picked up an inch or two, which was enough to get me interested in heading up to Bolton for opening day.  Checking their morning update on the website, I found out that they weren’t opening until 10:00 A.M., so that gave me a chance to take it easy for a while in the morning.

At some point after 9:00 A.M., I headed up to the mountain – I did check in with E and the boys to see if they wanted to head up for turns, but none of them were interested.  I can’t blame them, since I knew it was going to be pretty vanilla with just Bear Run off the Mid Mountain Chair and the Mighty Mite learning area going.  In terms of natural snow, at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snowpack was sitting at around an inch, with snow melted out on south-facing slopes, pretty much like it is at our house.  At around 1,000’ the snowpack became consistent on all aspects – the depth was only about an inch or so, but the consistent snowpack gave everything a much wintrier look.  Up above 2,000’ in the Village there was a general 2-3” inches of snow everywhere – not enough to open any natural terrain, but certainly enough to know that winter was here.  Temperatures were in the mid 20s F, and there was on and off light snow falling, so that really helped to fill out the wintry scene.

An image from the Bolton Valley Village area - December 10, 2011
Checking out the snow in the Bolton Valley Village area this morning

I still had some time before the lift would be loading, so I skinned up Bear Run to catch an early descent.  I could see that the mountain had made just enough snow to get the Bear Run area open wall to wall, and it sounds like they were crunched for time to even do that.  Up at Mid Mountain I enjoyed the solitude while I de-skinned, and took in the scene for a few minutes.  There were patches of blue sky appearing as the snow clouds began breaking away, and it was turning into a nice December day.  I had a nice mellow descent of Bear Run, enjoying my first groomed turns of the season.  The snow was a little firm since it was almost 100% man-made, but it was decent enough for opening day.  I poked around a little off the edge of the trail at the junction with Sprig O’ Pine, and there was that roughly half inch to inch of new snow to be found, but they had groomed essentially everywhere that they had put down the man-made base so there weren’t really any fresh turns to be had.  The few inches of snow on the natural snow trails actually looked pretty nice aside from the tall grass sticking through, and there’s plenty of snow out there to make it a paradise for junkboarders.

It was just after 10:00 A.M. when I got to the bottom, and a queue was already forming at the Mid Mountain Chair, but I decided to hop on and catch a lift-served run before I left.  I got a nice little burn going from continuous Telemark turns, and was reminded of the benefits of lift-served skiing in that regard.  Heading down toward the lodge after my run I ran into Jason, one of the instructors I know from the summer glade crew, and we chatted for a while.  They had about 200 people from some group visiting the resort that were skiing and taking lessons, and they were all still quite keen to go despite the limited terrain.  I popped into ski patrol to pick up my Powder Pass tickets from summer glade work, and then I was able to find patroller Quinn in civilian clothes up in the lift queue to thank him for getting all of us the tickets.  The mountain appeared to be running the lift a little slow, perhaps to keep any trail crowding to a minimum, and there had been some starts and stops of the lift, so the queue was actually getting pretty big.  It would have been a bit of a wait for another lift-served run if I had been planning to do any more.

A picture of some of the Vermont food vendor tables at Bolton Valley - December 10, 2011
Vermont food vendors hosted by Bolton Valley Resort upstairs in the main base lodge

I checked the time and decided that I could catch the start of the Vermont food vendors display that was going on upstairs in the main lodge, so I stopped down at the car, changed out of my gear, and then headed up.  I sampled everything they had and got some of their business cards to keep for holiday gift options, clearly timing was great in that regard for all the vendors that participated.  The mountain really got together a lot of fun stuff to make opening day festive; they were having an Eastern Mountain Sports Telemark Demo Day and a Christmas tree lighting and visit from Santa later in the day as well.

The resort is planning to go top to bottom on the main mountain for next weekend, which should be possible with what looks like decent snowmaking temperatures for the coming week (low in the 10s and 20s F, and highs generally in the 20s and 30s F).  In terms of natural snow, the next shot appears to be in the Wednesday through Friday period; it’s not expected to be any huge dump as far as I know, but we’ll see what plays out when we get there.

Vermont’s first notable storm of December on the way

An image of the winter weather advisories put out by the National Weather Service in Burlington for the morning of December 7, 2011
The initial Winter Weather Advisories are up in Vermont for the upcoming snow event in the eastern and southern parts of the state

A storm that was initially looking to hit Southern New England with the heaviest snows is tracking a bit farther north, so most of Vermont will now be getting a shot of snow out of it.  It’s not a huge storm, but it should provide a nice start to a base for the ski areas, since it will likely be cold enough to keep it around for the foreseeable future.  The initial warning map put out by the National Weather Service Office in Burlington is posted to the left and the first map of snowfall estimates has been added below:

An image of the projected sowfall from National Weather Service in Burlington for the morning of 07DEC2011
A few to several inches of snow are expected to fall overnight tonight throughout the state of Vermont.

An image of the winter weather advisories put out by the National Weather Service in Burlington for the evening of December 7, 2011

An image of the projected sowfall from National Weather Service in Burlington for the evening of 07DEC2011

Thursday, December 8th, 2011:  The snow totals for the storm in this area are shown in the map below, in general the storm produced 2 to 6 inches of snow throughout the state:A map of snowfall totals for the December 7 & 8 snowfall event for Northern Vermont and New York

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

Vermont’s first snows of December

We picked up our first December snow yesterday, just 0.4 inches here at the house, but Mt. Mansfield picked up a couple of inches and the slopes are looking much nicer with the fresh coat of white.  Powderfreak put up some great pictures of the new snow from both yesterday and today over in the New England Regional Forum at American Weather.  I’ve added some of my observations from yesterday below:

“I’m not sure of the temperature, but it was raining lightly when I left Burlington around 5:00 P.M.  At the Waterbury Park and Ride, the precipitation looked like a mixture of rain and snow, and the only accumulations I saw were a fairly thin coating of slush on the cars.  True to form though, once I hit the Cider House a couple miles west toward the spine, I started seeing accumulations of snow on the grass, and at the house I found 0.3” of slushy snow on the snowboard and a temperature of 33.3 F.  The snow picked up for a bit after the 6:00 P.M. board clearing, and we received another tenth of an inch of snow, but the snowfall has tapered off since then and it’s very light now.  It is nice to have the first accumulation of December in the books though, hopefully there will be plenty more to come.” Some details from the 6:00 P.M. observations are below:

New Snow: 0.3 inches
New Liquid: 0.06 inches
Snow/Water Ratio: 5.0
Snow Density: 20.0% H2O
Temperature: 33.3 F
Sky: Light Snow (1-2 mm flakes)
Snow at the stake: Trace

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