Bolton Valley, VT 19JAN2008


There are only a couple of data-related images with this report, which can be accessed through the link below:


After slowing down somewhat for the first part of January, our local snowfall began to pick up again as we entered the last half of the month.  A storm on Monday, January 14th  had dropped about a half foot of snow on the local mountains, and I’d popped up to Bolton for some powder that Tuesday.  A similar storm was right on its heels however, and we were soon tracking a system that was coming through for the end of the midweek.  It looked like those of us in Northern Vermont would be a bit north of the sweet spot for the snowfall, but at least we’d get in on a small to moderate event, with the local mountains trending toward the higher end of that range.  The snowfall began in our area in the Thursday overnight period, and on Friday morning I took my first observations for the event:


Friday, January 18th, 2008:  6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  1.7 inches

Temperature:  29.1 F

Humidity:  90%

Barometer:  29.91 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Heavy Snow

Cumulative storm total:  1.7 inches

Current snow at the stake:  11 inches

Season snowfall total:  104.1 inches


“Although this isn’t expected to be a very big snowfall event in this area (the Burlington NWS forecast has had us in the 2 to 5 inch range for the past couple of days), I was very impressed with the intensity of the snowfall I saw when I made my 6:00 A.M. observations at the house this morning.  I’d probably put the snowfall as borderline S+ by feel and estimated visibility distance.  I’ll have to pull out my GPS and set up some visibility distance benchmarks at some point to be more certain about that.  But, it was the kind of snowfall that falls so fast that clearing the snowboard evenly with my squeegee feels like a bit of a challenge – by the time you clear one section, notable blobs of snow have already formed in spots that were just cleared.  On that note, the snowfall was an interesting mix of both large and small flakes.  The majority of the precipitation was comprised of fairly large (4 to 5 mm) flakes, but there were also some small, granular flakes in there that became more obvious as I heard them on the windshield of my car.  It would have been fun to monitor the rate of that heavy snowfall for a little while using the snowboard, but unfortunately I won’t be able to provide another update until later this evening.  Arriving in Burlington a bit before 7:00 A.M., the snowfall was fairly light and composed of only small grainy flakes – it looks like they may have picked up an inch of new snow from what I could see.  From the radar it appears as though there will be several more hours of potential snowfall in the area.  I’d be very surprised if we haven’t passed the 2-inch mark at the house in Waterbury already so, we should easily fall into the accumulation range the NWS has indicated – where exactly we’ll end up I won’t know until this evening.  The forecast for the area during the coming week looks like the type where we can get a bit of snow each day, so that should be fun to monitor.”


It continued to snow lightly in the valley throughout the day, and I took another snowfall reading off our snowboard later in the evening:


Friday, January 18th, 2008:  10:30 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  1.2 inches

Temperature:  26.2 F

Humidity:  57%

Barometer:  30.06 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Partly Cloudy

Cumulative storm total:  2.9 inches

Current snow at the stake:  12 inches

Season snowfall total:  105.3 inches


“There were 1.2 additional inches of snow on the snowboard when I got home this evening.  Actually, I suspect I would have measured more than that if I’d been at the house during the day, because the snow had clearly formed some crust and consolidated at some point, and the thermometer below the snowboard even recorded a high temperature of 41.7 F.  It seems like the temperature warmed up in the afternoon when the sun came out, because I haven’t heard any reports of mixed precipitation around here.  So, we may have had snowfall somewhere in the 3 to 5 inch range before consolidation, but this event will go down in the books with 2.9 inches of new snow.”


The next morning, we decided to head up to Bolton and take advantage of the new snow.  Ty had been a bit of a brat, so therefore Dylan and I would be heading up to the mountain alone, while Ty stayed home with E.  A cold front was coming through for Sunday, and the temperatures were expected to drop substantially, so I definitely wanted to get Dylan out on Saturday for his turns.  I was also planning to use Sunday to take a tour from the house and hit some of the powder in our local backcountry.


As expected, the mountains had accumulated a borderline moderate dump of snow from the Friday event, with Bolton Valley reporting 5 inches relative to the 2.9 inches I’d recorded at the house.  In terms of the week’s snowfall obtained from the two events, the resort had picked up 13 inches in the previous seven days, while my records for the house during the same time period indicated that we’d accumulated 7.3 inches.  The snowfall events had been substantial enough in the valley that we’d had to shovel the driveway, although borderline enough that I hadn’t pulled out the snow thrower.  When I checked the snow report from the Bolton Valley website on Saturday morning, I was happy to see that the snow totals seemed to be right up to date, so I grabbed a screen shot for my records.  For whatever reason, Bolton had not been very timely about updating its snow totals on the web page relative to the previous season.  I found myself using Stowe’s daily snowfall totals as a rough estimate of what Bolton had received, and sometimes I’d even use Bolton’s Nordic report at because it would be updated even while the alpine report wasn’t.  In any event, the report seemed timely and indicated that they’d picked up over a foot of snow from the previous two storms.  The timing of the latest system hadn’t been optimal for an on-piste powder day on Saturday, especially with the potential of some extra skier traffic associated with the MLK weekend, but the off piste conditions were getting better and better.  On the weather forecasting front, our favorite Vermont ski forecaster, Scott Braaten, indicated that a third small to moderate event was on the way that evening with 3 to 6 inches of snow likely for the higher elevations.  The regional weather radar was already showing snow heading our way as it streamed from the Great Lakes, and the lakes themselves were under the lake-effect gun.  Overall it was good news for building up the local powder supply.


Dylan and I headed up to the mountain around midday, and managed to get a good parking spot from a car that happened to be leaving.  I hadn’t driven around the parking lots much, but it appeared as though they were rather full with all the holiday visitors.  The sky that had been clear and blue all morning was beginning to haze over in association with the next weather event.  The temperatures were still quite nice, running in the 20s F when we arrived, and aside from a lineup at the Snowflake lift that appeared to be composed of mostly ski school participants, we didn’t see any notable lift queues.  Dylan and I kicked things off with a ride on the Wilderness Lift, and at first glance I thought the snow conditions looked rather blasé.  I think that impression came from the fact that in most places I could see from the lift, there wasn’t much of the snowfall remaining on the trees.  I was also wondering what the powder was going to be like on the mountain based on my observations from down at our house in Waterbury (elevation 495’).  Down there, we’d actually obtained a sun crust over our Thursday/Friday snowfall.  The sun had really come out in the afternoon on Friday, and my outdoor thermometer at the house recorded a high temperature of 41.7 F.  It wasn’t a nasty crust like a rain crust, and I don’t think it would have affected the skiing too much, but it still made me wonder about what I’d encounter for snow surfaces in the higher elevations.


We unloaded at the Wilderness mid station (~2,770’) and headed off toward Lower Crossover and Work Road.  The snow surface turned out to be excellent, with generally soft packed powder on the trail, and powder off in the trees.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any substantial tree skiing with Dylan, so I stopped for a brief powder check in the snow off to the skier’s right of Lower Crossover.  I didn’t have my measurement ski pole with me, but I dug down and found what I estimated to be 10 to 12 inches of fluffy snow above the old base.  We looped back around to the Wilderness Lift Line, having bypassed its steeper section just below the mid station that would be too much for Dylan.  We continued to find great snow as we headed down the lift line, encountering just a couple of scratchy areas.  It certainly wasn’t the dreamy bottomless packed powder I experienced on Tuesday morning (right after new snow and before anyone had even been on the slopes), but you didn’t need to have edges for it.  I ran into Kurt Ries on the Wilderness Lift Line and we chatted briefly about the pleasant surface conditions.


At the end of that descent we prepared for our next run by heading to the base of the Vista Quad, where about eight people were queued up in front of us.  From what we saw of the steeper terrain, it sounded like it was still somewhat scratchy compared to the lower-angle terrain that we’d been skiing.  The foot or so of snow we’d received over the old base had improved conditions a lot, but the snow hadn’t been very dense, and a foot of snow can only do so much for steep terrain.  A good resurfacing storm was needed to get the steeps back in prime shape.  Up near the Vista Summit with its increased wind and traffic, even Sherman’s Pass had some icy sections among the packed powder.  Finding this, we quickly headed back in the Wilderness direction when we got the chance because the surfaces there were far superior.  I checked the powder off to the edge of Work Road on our second run (actually at a similar elevation to where I’d checked on my first run) and found about 6 inches of fluff there.  So it appeared that there was some variability in the depth of the powder, with about 6-12 inches in that elevation range.


Dylan made good use of the fluff at times when I’d slacken the leash, let him control his own destiny, and he’d frequently end up in a heap of powder off the side of the trail.  That was a notable change from the previous weekend when all the off-piste snow was glazed over.  I don’t recall any dramatic advances in Dylan’s skiing during that outing, although he had fun and continued on his gradual trend of improvement with the aid of the leash.  We were getting close to 2,000’ of vertical by the end of the second run, certainly a point where Dylan would have taken a break, but it felt like he’d done enough work so we just called it a day.  The Avocet had recorded 1,775’ of descent, and the Suunto had recorded 1,755’ of descent for a difference of 1.1%.


The sky had continued to thicken with clouds while we were on the mountain, and it even snowed lightly for a bit with some big (~1 cm) lazy flakes coming down.  With plans to hit the back yard backcountry around the house the following day, I stopped off at a similar elevation during my descent of the access road to check on the snow quality.  I pulled into the Ponds area (elevation ~1,500’) across from Timberline, and found about 4 inches of powder atop the old surface there.  Although the powder at that elevation was more dense than what I’d found higher up on the mountain in my previous checks, there wasn’t any crust from sun or warming.  That bode well for the following day’s tour, especially with some additional fluff on the way that night.  While I was in the Ponds area, I had also noticed that the Timberline parking lot looked pretty full, so that likely spoke of good business for the resort at the start of the holiday weekend.


I didn’t have a chance to pull out my camera during our short outing, so my images associated with this report just consist of the screen shot I grabbed of Bolton’s snow report and my Suunto S6 plot.  Those are at:




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