Waterbury, VT 20JAN2008


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After a couple of runs on Saturday afternoon with Dylan up at Bolton Valley, the temperatures were expected to drop off a bit for Sunday.  With cold temperatures and potentially extra resort visitors for the holiday weekend, I decided to stay around the house and ski some of the local backcountry terrain.  Fortunately, along with the cold front that was coming through, we were expected to get a bit a little extra powder to top off the foot or so that the mountains had received in the previous week.  In his forecast update to SkiVT-L on Saturday, Scott Braaten said he was expecting the frontal passage to provide a trace to 2 inches of snow for the valleys, with 3 to 6 inches for the higher elevations.  Nicely in line with his thoughts, my Sunday morning measurements indicated that wed picked up 0.4 inches of new snow down at our house in Waterbury (elevation 495), while the resort accumulations topped out at around 6 inches of new snow for Jay Peak.  I summed up my weather observations and gathered a few ski resort accumulations together in a morning report:


Sunday, January 20th, 2008:  8:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  0.4 inches

Temperature:  4.8 F

Humidity:  67%

Barometer:  30.09 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Clear

Cumulative storm total:  0.4 inches

Current snow at the stake:  12 inches

Season snowfall total:  105.7 inches


Down here in Waterbury, we picked up 0.4 inches of fluff from last nights event, and my thermometer says the low temperature was 3.0 F.  It was quite pleasant outside when I checked the snowboard and stake clear, crisp, and absolutely still.  The higher elevations certainly got some more substantial accumulations though heres a list of what Ive found this morning for the local ski areas that have reported accumulations in the past 24 hours:


Jay Peak:  6 inches

Smugglers Notch:  3 inches

Stowe:  5 inches

Mad River Glen:  3 inches

Sugarbush:  2 inches

Pico:  1 inch

Killington:  1 inch


With the temperatures, Im sure this snow is extremely dry, so I dont think it will last too long on piste with the holiday crowds, but it should add a little more loft to the backcountry powder.  The Jay Peak area backcountry would probably be a good spot for some low and medium angle glades today.




The colder air had certainly come in as predicted for Sunday morning, and after the low temperature of 3.0 F that I recorded at the house, it was still only around 10 F when I started my ski tour at 9:30 A.M.  The thermometer continued to rise slowly, but I was happy to be earning turns in those temperatures instead of sitting on a cold chair lift.  In terms of the snowpack at the house elevation, we were looking at 12 inches at our back yard stake, although some south-facing slopes in the neighborhood had just a few inches of snow and there were even a few bare patches as well.  Id recorded 7.8 inches of new snow at the house since the previous Monday, which had settled down to about 3 to 4 inches of medium-weight powder over a bomber base.  That base snow provided an even covering over just about everything that was underneath it.  On top of the fluff, a sun/melt crust had formed on Friday when the sun had come out in the afternoon and my outdoor house thermometer recorded a high temperature of 41.7 F.  None of the crust had been very thick, but I noticed that it was most substantial in areas that had seen direct sunlight and presumably warmed the most.  Since that time, the quality of the powder had actually improved substantially.  The snow had become drier, and the thin crust was gone in all but the most exposed areas, where it was still substantially reduced.  This improvement was presumably thanks to a couple days of cold, dry air with low temperatures around 0 degrees F.  Its nice to have some occasions where the powder actually improves with age.  I wondered how the ski conditions were going to be in the new terrain that I wanted to explore up in the 1,000 to 2,000 elevation range, and I was thankful for the well-established base because Id never ventured out into our local backcountry with a house snowpack of only a foot.  My previous outing in the area had been on December 16th when wed had 19 inches at our stake.  That amount of snow had clearly been sufficient for that days tour, which topped out at around 1,500 with a snowpack Id estimated to be a bit shy of two feet deep at that elevation.


The sky was clear and blue as I headed out from the house, and there was no wind so it certainly felt warm as I skinned along and created extra heat.  I stopped briefly to grab a picture of Camels Hump, and then merged onto the V.A.S.T. 100 trail and continued eastward.  I found roughly the same 4 inches of powder depth along the trail that we had at our house, until I started to rise in elevation.  By around the 800-foot elevation, I no longer found any signs of the sun crust except on a few exposed, south-facing slopes, and by the 1000-foot elevation my measurements indicated that the depth of the powder had increased to roughly 5 inches.  The trail had seen plenty of snowmobile traffic, so there was always a packed surface and the skinning was easy.  Once I hit the junction with Woodard Hill Extension (~1,450), I headed westward on the road with the intention of checking out some glades that Id explored in the off season.  After about three tenths of a mile, I started heading upward toward the glades using the driveway of one of the local camps.  I was soon following an old underutilized trail that had regressed into a small streambed based on my summer observations, and it was much easier to follow on skins with a good snowpack than it had been on my mountain bike.  When the glades finally came into view, they looked just like Id remembered.  They were comprised of mostly hardwood trees, and there was very little underbrush.  The south facing slopes offered up nice intermediate pitches among the hardwoods, and there was also a long stretch of east-facing terrain that dropped from a local ridge.  This east-facing terrain was somewhat steeper, with roughly an advanced/black diamond pitch and smatterings of small (5 to 8 foot) evergreens which added some variety.  I skinned up around the east side of the glade, and eventually topped out near the head of the south-facing terrain at an elevation of 1,732 according to my GPS.


There was more terrain above me, but I had hit the zenith of the local area that Id explored, and I also wanted to make it a fairly short tour because we were celebrating Tys birthday in the afternoon.  After a brief break and a little exploration to find one of the more plum lines, I switched into descent mode and headed down.  I found about a half foot of powder in that area, and while Im sure a bit of it was fresh from the previous nights snowfall, most of it was somewhat settled into medium weight stuff.  Although it was south-facing terrain, there was no sign of any sun crust because of the higher elevation and the way the snow was well-protected by all the trees.  The pitch I chose suited the snow depth and consistency quite well, and before I knew it I had skied all the way back down to Woodard Hill Extension, which crossed the fall line at an elevation of ~1,330 in that area.


It would have been very nice to continue straight on down from there, and the terrain looked quite inviting, but I hadnt yet explored that area and didnt have the time to get too sidetracked.  So, I decided to head back along Woodard Hill Extension and descend along the V.A.S.T. 100 trail and the surrounding slopes that I was familiar with.  I had to ascend for a few minutes on as I headed east on Woodard Hill Extension, but it was far too short to be worth switching back to skins, so I used a combination of side-stepping, herring boning, and hiking to get back up to the flat area.  The traverse along the flat portion of the snow-covered road/trail went quickly, and I was soon into the descent along the V.A.S.T. 100 trail.  Not long after I started down, I caught sight of an interesting vehicle.  It was a miniature snowcat, which I quickly recognized as one of the V.A.S.T groomers giving a fresh packing to part of the trail.  I gave the driver a wide berth, and continued on down once he had passed.  I mixed up my descent with a combination of turns on the groomed surface and in the powder off to the sides.  I actually didnt have much choice about heading off the edges of the trail though, as the descent would have been way too fast without making turns in the powder.


After starting out with an initial temperature of 10 F, it had risen to around 15 F during much of my tour, and our thermometer at the house indicated that we eventually hit a high of 25.3 F at some point in the afternoon.  In terms of vertical, the Avocet recorded a total descent of 1,670, and the Suunto recorded 1,601 for a difference of 4.2%.  My GPS trip computer indicated a total tour distance of 5.11 miles, which agreed reasonably well with the distance shown on the tours GPS profile diagram.  It was nice to be able to squeeze the local tour into the morning hours, since that afternoon, the family came over and we celebrated Tys birthday.  In terms of upcoming snow events, the Burlington NWS indicated that the next chances for snow were in the Tuesday through Thursday timeframe, with additional chances during the following weekend.  None of the events looked to be more than just light snow for the valleys, but they would hopefully be enough to keep the snow surfaces fresh in the mountains.


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








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