Bolton Valley, VT 15JAN2008


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


As mid January approached, we hadn’t seen a substantial snowfall at our house in over a week, which felt like a big stretch of time.  But finally, people began discussing a potential snowstorm and it was time to get ready for another powder day.  The most recent forecasts suggested that the snow would start falling in Northern Vermont on Monday morning, January 14th.  There was nothing falling from the sky by the time I’d gotten to work in Burlington a bit before 7:00 A.M, however, at around 7:20 A.M., Mike Taub sent a message to SkiVT-L indicating that the snow had started to come down in Waitsfield.  With Burlington’s lower elevations and more northerly location, there would probably be a delay before I saw the white stuff on the UVM campus, but I suspected it would get there soon enough.  With that in mind, I looked out my office window every so often so I could help in updating the local weather and ski communities on the storm’s progress.  A bit after 8:00 A.M., I saw that the snow was just beginning to fall and sent out an update:


“8:09 A.M.:  First flakes observed here in Burlington at UVM (elevation 380’ in my location).  The flakes are rather large (4-6 mm) and drifting on what looks like a bit of north wind.


I’ve been taking a glance out the window every so often after reading Mike’s report of snow starting at 7:20 A.M. in Waitsfield.”


Snowfall continued throughout the day, and it was fairly light for the most part in Burlington.  When I got home to Waterbury that evening, I took a reading off the snowboard and made an update with my observations from the day:


January 14th, 2008:  6:30 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  3.8 inches

Temperature:  28.8 F

Humidity:  92%

Barometer:  29.91 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Moderate Snow

Cumulative storm total:  3.8 inches

Current snow at the stake:  12 inches

Season snowfall total:  101.8 inches


“It hadn’t started snowing yet when I left Waterbury this morning, but it started snowing in Burlington a bit after 8:00 A.M.  During the day, the snowfall there was fairly light, but the grassy surfaces were probably covered by early afternoon, and the most intense snowfall had really been since that point on.  Waiting for the bus back to Waterbury, the snowfall was light to moderate, and the flakes were in the 3 to 4 mm range.  The temperature was very comfortable – probably not too far from freezing, and there was no wind so the flakes were fluttering straight down and accumulating on everything.  When I left Burlington at around 5:30 P.M., I’d say they had a fluffy inch or two on the ground, but the roads were just wet.  It was snowing lightly when I got to the Waterbury Park and Ride, but the snowfall intensity increased as I headed the few miles to the house.  At the house it was snowing moderately when I took the 6:30 P.M. reading, but that gradually diminished over the next hour.  Some light snow came back in when we were out shoveling the driveway in the 8:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. timeframe – I decided not to run the snow thrower because the 4 inches was very fluffy and easy to just push around with the shovels.  I’d guess the snow was in the 6-8% H2O range for density.”


The snowfall slowed down substantially in the overnight period, with just another half inch at the house.  But, the event was still significant in that it had pushed us past the century mark for the season in total valley snowfall.  And, despite not being a monumental dump, I knew there’d been enough new snow up in the higher elevations to make the conditions worth a quick trip to the mountain before work.  I took my final valley observations form the storm before heading up to the slopes:


January 15th, 2008:  6:30 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  0.5 inches

Temperature:  21.7 F

Humidity:  92%

Barometer:  29.91 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Mostly Cloudy/Light Snow

Cumulative storm total:  4.3 inches

Current snow at the stake:  12 inches

Season snowfall total:  102.3 inches


“We picked up another 0.5 inches of snow overnight at the house in Waterbury (elevation 495’).  Unlike yesterday’s accumulation with its big fluffy flakes, this accumulation was composed of rather fine flakes that made a very smooth surface across the entire snowboard.  Although this wasn’t a huge storm in this area, it did push us past the 100-inch mark for accumulation on the season (based on the NWS-style six-hour accumulations method).  It’s nice to hit that milestone this early, as last year we didn’t reach the century mark until March.  Despite the last round of snowfall being comprised of smaller flakes, the 4.3 inches that fell from this event were pretty fluffy overall, and had already settled down to around 3 inches or so by this morning based on what is at the stake.”


After that, I headed up to Bolton and observed the new snow accumulations along the way.  At the base of the Bolton Valley access road (elevation 340’), which is only a few miles to the west of us, there appeared to be just about an inch or so of new accumulation.  I’m not sure if the area was shadowed with regard to precipitation, or if that effect had been combined with their location being a few miles more to the west, but their accumulation was notably diminished from what I saw over in Waterbury.  Up at the Timberline area (elevation 1,550’) I got out of the car with the possibility of starting my tour there, but found only 2 to 3 inches of accumulation, so I headed up to the village area.  I was pleased to see that the accumulation continued to increase with elevation, as up in the village area (elevation 2,150’) I found about 4 inches in the parking lot.


I skinned up Sprig O’ Pine toward mid mountain as usual.  I couldn’t believe the quality of the groomed snow I was on – there was no hard subsurface to be found on the lower mountain’s groomed runs.  When we had been up at the mountain on the previous Sunday for a couple of hours with the boys, the groomed runs had been uncharacteristically loud.  Bolton must have really groomed the hell out of the slopes and integrated the latest fluff into the base, because boy did that corduroy seem nice.  Perhaps they’d done multiple passes in some areas with the groomers.  As I ascended the mountain, I continued to get 4-inch readings for the accumulation, until about the mid mountain area (2,500’) where I started to get some 5 and 6-inch accumulation readings.


Above mid mountain, I decided to try a new ascent route and skinned towards Cobrass to check out some of the lower-angle woods over in that area.  As I was skinning Cobrass, there were a few spots on the trail that broke up the groomed perfection; a couple of areas revealed gravel that had been milled into the snow, and one spot below the steep upper section still showed a patch of ice.  I had planned to follow Cobrass up to where the groomer stopped (not wanted to ski anything that was steep and hadn’t seen a groomer), but the darned groomer went all the way to the top so I soon found myself at the Vista Summit.  I actually didn’t know that the resort groomed that last pitch of Cobrass, as it’s pretty steep.  The new snowfall accumulations I’d found on much of the upper mountain were in the 4 to 5-inch range, and by the time I hit the summit area (~3,000’) accumulations were generally in the 5 to 6-inch range.  Getting new accumulation readings was fairly easy in general because the new snow was quite fluffy, and its interface with the base snow could quickly be distinguished.  The mountain itself reported 3 new inches as of their 3:00 A.M. report, although perhaps they took that measurement at the village elevation.  In terms of temperatures, they were generally around the 20 F mark, with some spot checks of my Avocet thermometer indicating 23 F near the base area, 21 F somewhere along my ascent, and 17 F at some point in the higher elevations.


Since Cobrass had been groomed, it wasn’t going to have powder in the middle of the trail, but I was actually rather interested in at least testing out a bit of the amazing corduroy I’d seen on the way up.  It had seemed like a very good surface while I was skinning on it, but I was suspicious of how it would actually ski on the way down.  I thought I’d eventually cut down to something very firm if I carved hard enough.  Well, hats off to the groomers (and probably the new snow as well) because it was just bottomless corduroy except for the couple of spots I mentioned on Cobrass.  I figured a firmer subsurface would eventually reappear as the runs saw some traffic, but being Bolton with its relatively smaller crowds, I also figured that the good snow might last for quite a while into the day.  After some groomed turns on Cobrass, I ventured into some low- and intermediate-angle powder terrain that rode very nicely with my fat skis.  In general I was in the area of low-angle woods below Devil’s Playground/Cobrass Lane, and the area provided some great turns.


The skiing had been so good that I decided to stay for a lift-served run off the Vista Quad.  That run brought me over toward the Wilderness area, where I found fairly similar conditions to what I’d experienced over in the Cobrass area.  Even with my fat skis, I was still touching down on the old subsurface at times on medium and even low angle terrain, so I didn’t expect any of the advanced and expert terrain that hadn’t seen a groomer to be optimal at that point.  At least it didn’t seem like the steep terrain would have the “slide for life” type of surface like I’d seen the previous Sunday.  There was more snow coming through the area in the Thursday to Saturday timeframe, which would hopefully add anther dose of powder and get some softness back on the steep terrain.


After that run I called it a ski day.  The altimeters recorded 2 runs, with 2,145’ of descent on the Avocet and 2,106’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 1.8%.  When I arrived in Burlington there appeared to be a total of about an inch or two of snow on the ground.  It certainly hadn’t been a huge snowfall event for them, but it at least did a nice job of covering up the grass on campus.  Unlike the areas in the Green Mountains farther to the east, the Champlain Valley had warmed up substantially during the week and lost most of its snowpack.


Some pictures and data plots from the day can be found at:




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