Bolton Valley, VT 01JAN2008


To head right to the pictures and video from the day, go to:


On the morning of Tuesday, January 1st, we found ourselves smack in the middle of back to back snowstorms to close out the holiday week.  Monday had been a nice powdery family outing enjoying the bounty of storm #1, but the New Year’s Day plan was for Ty and I to get out and rip up some fluff by ourselves.  Storm #2 was just starting to deposit its payload in the morning, so we decided to hang out at the house and head up at some point in the afternoon when the snowfall really got going.  Whenever a decent storm rolls through, I always think of a comment from my friend Greg Prior, who noted that while skiing the morning after the storm is great, there’s also something to be said for being out there while the fat flakes are flying.  If you can catch the afternoon of an incoming storm, you can often find yourself floating through powder in relative solitude while your tracks get filled in after each run.  One of my favorite memories from Lost Trail Powder Mountain, our local ski area back in Montana, was from just such a day.  It was Sunday, February 16th, 2003, and we were using the weekend at our local mountain to kick off our upcoming ski week.  I was skiing with Weston, James, Derek, Yvette, and Jenny, and we found ourselves virtually alone on the terrain of Lost Trail’s Chair 4 at the end of a day:


“Outside, it continued to dump.  If Derek and Yvette had considered leaving after lunch, I think the snow convinced them otherwise.  We all decided that Chair 4 was in order, and the snow was so intense during our trip up on the lift, that another 2 inches must have accumulated in just that amount of time.  It was after 3:00 P.M., and we knew that this would be our last run on Chair 4.  The great thing about the lift closing down was that everybody, and I mean everybody, had left the Chair 4 area for other parts of the mountain.  We had joined up with our friend Jenny, and now the 6 of us had the area to ourselves.  The snowfall had put down a rich layer of powder, and the group proceeded to rip up almost two thousand feet of virgin snow along the lift line and the Two Dot trail.  Nobody wanted to stop during the run, but there was a strong desire to express the amazement at the conditions with the group.  Even Yvette, who is normally quite reserved in her enthusiasm for skiing, was starting to get very loud.  She was experiencing the float of the Double Xs, and the freedom of hundreds of acres of powder shared with a few friends.  It was one of the most memorable runs of the season, not because it was the deepest snow, but because it was one of those unexpected sessions that comes out of nowhere.  You can't really plan these sorts of things, and when they happen you realize how special they are.  We were all in the right place at the right time, and the feeling was sweetened all the more by the fact that we knew it was our last run of the day on Chair 4.”


I’ve found that in the case of Bolton Valley, getting in on the early part of a storm cycle can help in finding the fluffiest turns because the predominant exposure is westerly, and the west/northwest winds that can come in later in the cycle may compact the powder.  The incoming storm wasn’t an especially huge one, just a typical one foot plus sort of system for the mountains, but it was big enough that I knew there would be the chance for wind to adversely affect the new snow.  While catching up on other stuff in the morning, I monitored the Burlington weather radar, local reports from, and the intensity of the snowfall at our house (495’) to get a sense of when we should head up to the hill.  At noon, I took my first snowfall reading from my snowboard before heading up to the mountain:


January 1st, 2008:  12:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  2.7 inches

Temperature:  27.7 F

Humidity:  92%

Barometer:  29.94 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Snow

Cumulative storm total:  2.7 inches

Current snow at the stake:  21 inches

Season snowfall total:  88.7 inches


“It’s dumping outside now, big, fluffy flakes in the dime to nickel size range.  We’re going to head up to the mountain for a bit to enjoy some turns in the intense snowfall; I’ll report back with observations later this afternoon.”


At that point, the storm was producing those fluffy dendrites that powder skiers adore, and it was time to hit the mountain.  I decided that Ty and I would focus our skiing efforts on Bolton’s lower-elevation Timberline area (1,550’ – 2,500’) since temperature and snowline didn’t seem to be an issue with this storm, and if there was going to be any wind, Timberline is often pretty protected from it.  We got the mountain at about 1:00 P.M., where we found temperatures in the 25-30 F range, and little wind at the base area.  It was snowing pretty hard, but the size of the flakes wasn’t what I’d seen down at the house.  The flakes at that point were only in the 1-2 mm range, which still puts down accumulation, but doesn’t give you the loft that larger ones can.  I’m laughing to myself as I write this, thinking, “Sure Ty, it’s snowing an inch per hour, but I say the QUALITY counts too, not just the quantity… maybe we’ll come back up when the flakes get better.”  Of course we still headed right for the lift, since the skiing was going to be great either way.  As we were up on the lift, we could feel that there was already some wind coming in with the storm.  I estimated the wind to be around 20 mph up on the lift and figured that staying low and in the trees would be the best bet.  So, we got off at the Timberline mid station (2,250’) and headed off to some of Ty’s (and Dad’s) favorite terrain, the Twice as Nice glades.


The first thing I noticed as we approached the upper entrance to the glades, was that the new sign that had recently been placed there was gone.  A couple of weeks earlier (Friday, December 14th) while on one of my midweek session of earned turns up on the mountain, I had noticed that a new sign was present at that entrance.  The sign read “7-UP WOODS”, and I remember thinking it was interesting to finally discover a name for that area.  It seemed like a quality sign that had taken at least a little time to create, with nicely trimmed wood; it even looked like it had been varnished.  It reminded me very much of the “not quite official” signs I’ve seen at some ski areas, such as the “NO QWEEBS” sign off of Chin Clip and numerous others I’ve seen around at Stowe.  The glades on both sides of Twice as Nice are very nicely maintained, but neither of them are listed on the Bolton Valley trail map, so I guess they aren’t 100% official.  Perhaps the sign wasn’t quite sanctioned either, but for whatever reason, it had been taken down.


Ty was really psyched for the glades, so we knocked off four runs in there before he even considered going anywhere else.  We found excellent snow, even if the main parts of the glades were somewhat tracked because it was the end of the day.  The snowfall was doing its best to clean the slate though, as the flakes continued to fall at around an inch an hour.  As a bonus, the size of the falling snowflakes increased in diameter to about the 5 to 8 mm range, and with the trees blocking any wind, the surface was dreamy in the glades.  Much of the skier’s right side of the glades hadn’t seen any activity at all, so I spent a lot of time in there in the untracked.  Ty was in and out of that area, often visiting the central part of the glades to look for fluffy bumps that supported his practice of launching himself into the air.  At one point when he was over skiing in the untracked snow with me, he took out part of a small tree, and ended up with a branch hitchhiking a ride on his leg.  He got a bit of a kick out of that, although I guess I got even more of a kick out of it.  After our fourth run in the glades, Ty decided that he wanted a change of pace, so we skied Twice as Nice itself.  It wasn’t quite as protected from the wind as the glades were, but we found very good snow off to the skier’s left as usual.  We decided it was time for a break at that point, and headed into the lodge.


I’d sort of forgotten about the upstairs portion of the Timberline Lodge up to that point in the season, but I decided that we’d head up there and hang out instead of using the downstairs area.  I was glad we’d gone up, since it was bigger than I’d remembered and there were very few people around.  While we snacked, I walked around and took a few pictures, and then I shot a little video of Ty talking about the day.  It felt a little like pulling teeth to interview Ty since he wasn’t in an especially talkative mood while I was doing it, but I captured a couple of fun moments.  We actually hung out for a while in the lodge, but as it started to get on towards lift-closing time, we decided that we should get back out for at least one more romp through the powder.


We finished off with a final run through the Twice as Nice glades that we’d been in earlier.  I asked Ty if he wanted to head farther into the deeper section of the glades, since it seemed to have received even less traffic, but he was really enjoying the lines where we’d been, so we stuck there.  With the end of the ski day looming, there were actually very few people around on the mountain at that point, so the glades had been freshened nicely during our break.  We’d been walking right onto the lift all afternoon anyway, except for our very first run when there had been a queue of about 10 people.  We called it a day after that run in the glades, with the altimeters recording 6 runs through the period, 4,675’ of descent on the Avocet, and 4,662’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of just 0.3%.  Ty and I had experienced a great father and son ski outing that afternoon, and with the fresh snow falling and so few people around, it had certainly reminded me of some of the stormy powder afternoons I’ve experienced in the past.  That day we added another one to the list.


The snow continued to fall with vigor both on the mountain and down at the house, so at 4:30 P.M. I put together an intermediate weather and ski conditions update:


“We’re now up to 6.3 inches of accumulation from this event here in Waterbury.  I won’t clear the snowboard until 6:00 P.M., but I just took an intermediate snowfall reading, and we’ve picked up 3.6 inches between 12:00 P.M. and 4:30 P.M.  That indicates an average snowfall rate of 0.8 inches/hour.  We spent the afternoon skiing up at Bolton Valley in the 1,550’ to 2,250’ elevation range (their Timberline area up to the mid station) and snowfall rates there didn’t seem to be anything astronomical.  I’d say they were getting roughly in the inch per hour range as well, base on the accumulations I saw in the parking lot when we left.  When we first got to the mountain around 1:00 P.M., the snowfall was in the form of small (1-2 mm) flakes, and then during the middle of our time we had some larger (5-8 mm flakes) that added more fluff, and they had backed off a little from that size when we left.  Winds were sometimes strong ~20 mph on the lift and up in the higher elevations, but at the base there wasn’t too much.  Right now here at the house we look to be in roughly inch per hour snowfall and flakes are in the 2-5 mm range.


The roughly inch per hour snowfall continued right through to 6:00 P.M. when I finally took a measurement of our afternoon’s accumulation and cleared the snowboard:


January 1st, 2008:  6:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  5.2 inches

Temperature:  28.0 F

Humidity:  98%

Barometer:  29.77 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Snow

Cumulative storm total:  7.9 inches

Current snow at the stake:  24 inches

Season snowfall total:  93.9 inches


“The snow has really come on in the past couple of hours.  Between 4:30 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. we picked up 1.6 inches of snow, so it was at a bit more than an inch per hour.  Flakes have been pretty big as well.”


That storm wound down the next day, so the final snowfall observations I took for that event were on the following morning.  The storm left a total of 10.6 inches at the house and about a foot or so in the local mountains:


January 2nd, 2008:  7:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  2.7 inches

Temperature:  13.3 F

Humidity:  98%


Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Flurries

Cumulative storm total:  10.6 inches

Current snow at the stake:  25 inches

Season snowfall total:  96.6 inches


“Last night I was actually still awake at around midnight, but there appeared to be only about ½ inch of new snow on the snowboard since the 6:00 P.M. clearing, and as I was pretty tired I just headed off to bed instead of clearing it and taking a measurement.  I suspected there might be some additional overnight accumulation based on what the Burlington NWS was saying, but I wasn’t sure how much.  This morning my wife got the word that she and the boys had a two hour delay at school in Morrisville, so I assumed there must have been a bit more snow overnight to slow things down.  I hadn’t looked at that point, but my wife said there were roughly 2-3 inches on of new snow on the snowboard, so I slept in a bit more and waited until after 6:00 A.M. to run the snow thrower for this storm. We were still under a foot of total accumulation, and the snow is relatively light, so clearing the driveway went quickly.  At 7:00 A.M. I measured and cleared the snowboard, and there were 2.7 more inches, bringing the accumulation for the storm to 10.6 inches.  It was only snowing lightly at that point, but as I was waiting for the bus at around 8:00 A.M. at the Waterbury Park & Ride, the snowfall had picked up.  It appeared to be snowing lightly to moderately all the way into Burlington, and it sounds like there’s a bit of Lake Champlain effect going on here.  It sounded like the Burlington area got off to a slow start with this event, but it certainly looks like they did OK from a quick visual inspection and a couple of my colleagues that live here in the Champlain Valley said their accumulations were around 8 inches.  From my window I can see that there’s still significant snow falling out toward the mountains, so we may pick up a bit more accumulation at the house from this morning’s activity.”


Here are some of the Vermont ski area accumulations I’ve found for this event as of this morning, listed roughly from north to south:


Jay Peak:  13 inches

Burke:  4 inches

Smuggler’s Notch:  12 inches

Stowe:  11 inches

Bolton Valley:  12 inches

Mad River Glen:  10 inches

Sugarbush:  8 inches

Killington:  10 inches

Ascutney:  8 inches

Middlebury:  12 inches

Okemo:  4 inches

Bromley:  10 inches

Magic Mountain:  3 inches

Stratton:  5 inches

Mount Snow:  2 inches


Accumulations seemed to fall off a bit to the south, and interestingly, Burke is sort of an exception in the north with only 4 inches, suggesting that the Northeast Kingdom may have had some reduced accumulations as I saw posted earlier in this thread.


I put together a few video clips I had of some snowfall during the day, along with a clip discussing the day’s skiing with Ty in the Timberline Lodge.  I pieced those together and made a short video, which can be found along with some pictures from the day at:



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