Bolton Valley, VT 31DEC2007


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As I look back at my weather records, I see that this past December produced 67.2 inches of snowfall down at the house in Waterbury (elevation 495’).  This is the largest monthly snowfall I’ve recorded since we moved to our current location in the fall of 2006, with the next closest months being February 2008, with 54.7 inches of snow, and March 2007, with 40.2 inches of snow.  So, of course it was only fitting that the snowy month of December 2007 closed out with yet another snowstorm.  Before heading up to the slopes on the 31st, I took a reading of the snow accumulation we’d obtained from the event at the house up to that point:


December 31st, 2007:  7:30 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  3.7 inches

Temperature:  29.1 F

Humidity:  98%

Barometer:  29.88 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Moderate Snow

Cumulative storm total:  3.7 inches

Current snow at the stake:  17 inches

Season snowfall total:  82.2 inches


“The snow is a little fluffier than the past couple of storms; at the time of the observations flakes were small to medium.  I didn’t melt any down but I’d guess 8-9% H2O.”


Based on the quantity and density of snow that we’d already picked up at the house, and the fact that it was still snowing with good intensity in the valley, it was obviously going to be a great day on the hill.  So, we got the boys going as quickly as possible and we were up in the village by 8:30 A.M.  That was certainly better than our usual arrival time with the boys, and the fact that the Bolton Valley hosts weren’t even set up at the village circle to aid with drop-offs, made it feel even earlier.  As I placed the skis on one of the racks behind the base lodge, I noticed that they were starting to get somewhat buried and even accommodated the boys shorter skis at one end.


We started off the day at the Snowflake Lift, and the boys really enjoyed the view of the snowcats working on the huge jumps in the Chill Zone Terrain Park.  The scene was enhanced by the fact that we had fairly heavy snowfall, and about 5 new inches in the village elevations (~2,150’).  It looked like the trails in the Snowflake area had last been groomed before the snow started falling, so even the groomed runs had a substantial coating of powder for the boys to play in.  We dropped right into an untracked Snowflake Bentley for our first run, and E and Ty were really ripping up some nice powder turns on the steeper blue pitches.  Ty liked following E’s tracks at times, but he could also be found exploring everything else on and around the Snowflake trails when the mood suited him.  He’d be on the trail one moment, then off in the trees the next, then following the tracks of a snowmobile after that.  E couldn’t believe that he would follow a semi-packed snowmobile track with all the powder around, but he sees things from his own frame of reference and just explores whatever strikes his fancy.  In one particularly nice stretch of powder, E was surprised that she couldn’t see Ty shredding it up right along with her, but then she realized he was directly behind her… making about four turns for every one of hers.  It created quite an interesting powder signature.


While E and Ty were slicing and dicing the new snow, I was alongside working with Dylan.  By that point, we had about a half foot of fresh powder in the Snowflake area, so it was interesting to watch how Dylan dealt with it.  We were still using the ski leash for speed control, but I think this was some of the deeper snow that he had skied entirely under his own power up to that point, and he was very intrigued by the way his skis would entirely disappear under the powder.  Oftentimes with powder of that depth, I’ve had to hold Dylan between my legs to allow him to ski it – there’s just too much resistance, instability, and irregularity in the unconsolidated snow for him to maintain his speed and balance on his own.  On this occasion however, he could easily handle the skiing where the new snow was over the groomed base.  It was fairly dry powder, and I don’t recall it being entirely bottomless even for someone of Dylan’s weight.  However, while skiing the powder over the groomed surface went fairly smoothly for Dylan, he would get into a lot more trouble when he tried to follow E and Ty off the sides of the trails, as the powder was potentially deeper and the subsurface uneven.  I would generally try to guide him back onto the trail when he’d wander off, but he wanted to follow his mom and brother so much that I’d still let him go when the snow looked reasonably uniform.  I ended up having to pick him up from several tumbles in those areas of course, but I really like to let him do his own thing when it looks like he’ll be reasonably safe, despite the sometimes snowy consequences.  With that said, we noted a substantial improvement in his ability to adjust and stay balanced as he moved between powder, chowder, and more packed surfaces, which is a nice sign that his abilities were moving forward.  I also have in my notes that Dylan may have been pulling to one side a bit, which was undoubtedly the right side as we’ve seen that he’s tended to favor that turn.


We stayed in the Snowflake area for our first couple of runs, and literally had those slopes to ourselves before we decided to head off elsewhere.  I tried to extol the virtues of early morning powder day arrivals with a focus on Ty, telling him that getting to the mountain early means we can have the trails to ourselves for a while and get even more time for untracked powder skiing, but I know it didn’t fully sink in.  Perhaps there will be a day when he’s up at the crack of dawn trying to get me up to the mountain for first tracks, but that day isn’t here yet.


We next moved on to the Mid Mountain lift.  Ty headed right for the Enchanted Forest area with Mom, while I took Dylan around on Bear Run/Sprig O’ Pine.  Ty really seems to love the Enchanted Forest route, partly because it drops him off above the Kid’s Terrain Park.  But, he also seems to enjoy the chance to ski the powder and trees in there, or the bumps that sometimes form in the main forest line and on the subsequent section of trail below the Vista Quad lift.  On their first pass through the Enchanted Forest area, E and Ty stuck more to the trees and headed straight down to the terrain park.  I didn’t get to see them skiing in there, but I’m sure it was great with all the fresh powder.  We followed that run up with a trip on the Vista Quad to the summit, worked our way along Sherman’s and got back to the Enchanted Forest area again.  While traversing through one of the flatter areas on the route, we gave Ty a pull with one of our poles, and as soon as Dylan saw that, he wanted the same treatment.  Dylan is very much “monkey see monkey do” when it comes to skiing with Ty.  Sometimes it’s very helpful as he learns to turn, although it slows things down a bit when he’s always trying to follow Ty off piste.  That second time through the Enchanted Forest, E and Ty headed skier’s left and hit the more open/moguled terrain instead of the trees and powder.  I took Dylan around on the groomed, and based on his body language, it seemed like he was getting tired.  He confirmed that as soon as we approached the lifts, indicating that he wanted to go inside for a break.  Mom took Dylan inside, where I heard he hit the Cheez-Its and cheese sticks pretty hard.  He also got to have some water from the water dispensers they have available in the lodge; he couldn’t even dispense the water by himself back then, but he still loved holding the cup while Mom helped him.


It was about 10:30 A.M. by that point, and a few people had started to filter onto the mountain, but it was still amazingly quiet.  As I think back now I wonder if there was an accident or slick conditions on the access road that slowed everyone down, or maybe folks were just taking it easy for the holidays.  Ty and I stayed out to keep riding the powder and work on some more advanced terrain.  We headed up to mid mountain again, and proceeded to shred the powder along the skier’s left of Beech Seal.  Ty did a great job there in mostly open terrain that we intermixed with an occasional foray around sparse trees.  In the process of that run, I decided that we’d next take things a little farther in toward the Enchanted Forest.  With the way the base was building up after repeated storms, I had a sense that some of the lines would be getting very good in there.  We accessed the area from the top of Beech Seal instead of the usual Enchanted Forest entrance, and found a variety of untracked lines that neither of us had ever skied.  That area is a good mix of blue/black pitch with medium to tight tree lines.  Ty did really well, and was patient enough to let me pull out the camera and get some shots.  At one point when he stopped below me a good distance and I was putting away my camera, three big snowboarders came by.  He had to pull to the side of his line and let them pass, and I think he was a bit intimidated because one of them had to ride pretty close to him to pass through.  Ty had conquered everything we’d hit in there so handily, that it was time to raise the bar and give him some additional challenge.


I decided to knock it up a big notch and bring Ty to Devil’s Playground.  Devil’s Playground has some of the steeper marked pitches on the main mountain, with various lines in excess of 30 degrees.  When you combine that pitch with chutes that are only 10 to 20 feet wide in places, I knew it would be a challenge for Ty.  We rode the Vista Quad to the summit, and before we could even access Devil’s Playground, Ty would have to navigate his way down part of Preacher.  Preacher is perhaps my favorite “standard” trail at Bolton.  It’s the signature steep and narrow trail that many of our local mountains seem to have, like Rumble at Sugarbush, Goat at Stowe, or maybe Robin’s Run at Smugg’s.  I can remember the days before Devil’s Playground was even around, when Preacher was the only official run cut in that area, but now once you ski the first steep pitch of Preacher you’ve got a variety of options.  Preacher jogs to the skier’s left at that point, and the more popular Devil’s Playground lines fall away below that turn.  Ty handled Preacher well, and instead of heading straight down to some of the main Devil’s Playground lines, we traversed in the direction of Spillway to catch some untracked powder.  There are some very open areas just off to the skier’s left of Spillway that I knew Ty would enjoy.  He had difficulty with one small section over there, but it was fairly easy because there was so much powder.  After that, we worked our way skier’s left back to some of the main Devil’s Playground lines. Ty met his match (at least mentally) when we were atop one of the steep, narrow chutes in there.  The pitch of that line was certainly in excess of 30 degrees, but I’ll have to go in at some point with my inclinometer to see where it really falls.  I had to help Ty though the crux of that one, because he felt it was just too much at once.  Overall we had an awesome run in there though, with fantastic snow.  The main lines were mostly tracked out since we were approaching midday, but there were only a few spots where we even contacted any of the old snow surface.  It turned out to be a great way to test Ty and see just where his limits were.


We finished off the lower sections of Devil’s Playground, and Ty had a lot of fun as the pitch mellowed out into something he could handle with ease.  I found out that E had been trying to contact me on my cell phone for much of that run, but I hadn’t gotten the call because my cell phone battery had been drained from being outside all morning.  Once we got down to the lodge, we had to quickly head out because we were meeting some friends for lunch at our house.  It was a decent time to finish off the ski day however, as people were really starting to arrive at the mountain.  It was roughly noontime as we were heading back to the house, and a steady stream of cars was heading up the access road.  I’m sure the great snow lasted all day, especially since it continued to snow, but as is often the case, the morning had been the pick of the powderhounds.  It’s still hard to argue about the quality of any part of the day however.  With decent continued snowfall, temperatures in the 20s F, and little wind, even in the folks that didn’t get out for first tracks should have been loving life.  Both altimeters had recorded 7 runs, with 4,025 feet of descent measured by the Avocet.  I forgot to shut off my Suunto until we hit the bottom of the access road, which altered the descent data, but I was able to use the ascent data from the day, which are essentially the same as the descent data when you finish off at the same location.  So, the Suunto recorded 3,612 feet for the day, resulting in a surprising 10.8% difference between the two.  This was certainly the largest disagreement I’ve observed between the two altimeters for a sample in that magnitude range.  I’ve found that they usually agree within 1 to 2% of each other unless the vertical sample is extremely small.


Back down that the house, the snow had continued to accumulate, so I ran the snow thrower through the driveway while the others were preparing lunch.  Once the six-hour interval had been reached since my previous snowboard clearing, I took another round of measurements and observations before clearing it again.  The data and some associated comments from the morning are below:


December 31st, 2007:  1:30 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  2.0 inches

Temperature:  31.8 F

Humidity:  89%

Barometer:  29.85 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Moderate Snow

Cumulative storm total:  5.7 inches

Current snow at the stake:  18 inches

Season snowfall total:  84.2 inches


“We headed up to Bolton this morning with the boys and it was quite a blast.  I found about 5 inches of new snow in the village elevations (~2,150’), when we started skiing around 8:30 A.M. or so.  It was coming down pretty hard the entire time we were up there – if you set anything down outside for even a minute it would pick up a couple mm of white coating.  Snowflakes weren’t huge though, just small to medium size.  When we headed up higher on the mountain (~3,000’), accumulations seemed to be in the 6 to 8-inch range.  It was a pretty good day for skiing with all the new snow, temperatures in the 25-30 F range, and no wind to speak of.  I’m sure they’ve picked up additional accumulation because down here in the valley (495’) we’ve had moderate snow for much of the afternoon.  The snow had actually shut off down here when we got back around noontime, at which point I cleared the driveway with the snow thrower.  I was surprised to find that the snow I was clearing was getting pretty dense – perhaps we went above freezing for a bit.  For the past couple of hours the regional radar had actually shown snow building back in off in towards the Champlain Valley; I’m not sure if we’re getting into some upslope yet, but it looks like there is at least a bit more snowfall to come.


The snow eventually picked back up in the afternoon, and we had accumulated 7 inches at the house as of 4:00 P.M.  By the time that snowfall event had finished off in the evening, we’d reached a final tally of 7.5 inches down at the house, as reported in subsequent observations I took at 9:30 P.M.:


December 31st, 2007:  9:30 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  1.8 inches

Temperature:  25.5 F

Humidity:  94%

Barometer:  30.18 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Cloudy

Cumulative storm total:  7.5 inches

Current snow at the stake:  19 inches

Season snowfall total:  86.0 inches


“It looks like 7.5 inches is going to do it for this round, but more is on the way tomorrow – Burlington NWS has us in the 8 to 14 inch range for the storm.  The last few inches of snow from today’s event have been notably fluffier – the 1.8 inches I swept off at 9:30 P.M. was very crystalline; I’m guessing around 6% H2O.”


As noted, the forecast was looking good for more powder, and Mother Nature certainly delivered, as I measured another 10.6 inches of snow at the house from the event that followed.  So, with essentially back to back storms combining to drop over 18 inches of snow in the valley, things were certainly going off up in the mountains as we rung in the new year.  Ty and I headed up to the mountain the following day to cash in on some January 1st powder, and the appropriate seasonal tune would have to have been “There’s no place like home for the holidays” if you were a local skier.  It was certainly a good way to wind out the holiday period for all the out of state visitors and the ski resorts as well.


Some pictures from the day can be found at:




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