Bolton Valley, VT 26JAN2008


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The fourth week of January didn’t have the northeast looking at any major winter weather events, and therefore there wasn’t much chatter among the snow enthusiasts on the internet weather forums.  However, the mountains of Northern Vermont were ready to work their usual magic by producing significant snowfall anyway.  Things got going on Tuesday, Jan 22, when some of the local ski resorts started to receive accumulating snow, and on Wednesday morning at 6:00 A.M. I recorded my first accumulation of the week down at our house in Waterbury (495’).  It was only 0.8 inches of snow, and as the overnight low at the house was 13.3 F, I recall it being fairly fluffy.  That seemed to get the ball rolling however in terms of snowfall for the valley.  Later that morning while I was at work in Burlington, a band of very heavy snowfall came through the area and I made a quick report to SkiVT-L indicating that the snowfall seemed to be heading in the Mt. Mansfield direction.  By later in the afternoon, it was obvious to me that the Northern Vermont ski resorts were getting a thumping, and Scott Braaten confirmed that with a report around dinnertime.  He indicated that Stowe had been slammed with snowfall at the rate of several inches per hour.  Scott’s report and pictures from the day told the usual story, as Mansfield quickly ended up with about a foot of new snow.


Back down in the valley, I found another 0.5 inches on my back yard snowboard that evening, which was followed up by another 0.4 inches by Thursday morning.  Those amounts weren’t much in terms of deepening our valley snowpack, but from the way the mountains looked, and based on the conditions reports that people were sending out on the web, it seemed like it was time to send a quick summary to SkiVT-L about what was going on in the valley and up at the local resorts.  So, I sent out the following message on Thursday:


“Well, I thought the snowfall was going to shut off today, but it seems as though something is still going on.  I haven’t been able to see the mountains this morning from UVM, and we’ve actually got very light snow falling even here in Burlington, so it prompted me to check the BTV radar.  It’s back up and working after some maintenance yesterday, and there appear to be some +12 dB composite echoes in the Smugg’s/Stowe/Bolton area.  Scott might know what +12 means in terms of intensity.  The echoes are notably less intense than yesterday, but something is going on because the spine, and even most of the foothills, are totally hidden and it’s not because of low clouds.  As of this morning we’ve picked up just 1.7 inches from this event at our house in Waterbury, but here’s what I’ve culled from what the resorts are reporting for the past day or so:


Jay Peak:  11 inches

Smugg’s:  9 inches

Stowe:  12 inches

Bolton:  9 inches

Mad River:  4 inches

Sugarbush:  4 inches

Middlebury:  3 inches

Pico:  2 inches

Killington:  2 inches


It looks like the heaviest snowfall has been focused north of Route 2/I-89 as is often the case with these events.  I’m not sure if today’s snow will amount to anything, but hopefully we’ll get some more first-hand accounts.”


Various reports continued to come in that week about the ample snowfall across the area, and by Saturday morning, our small events at the house had totaled up to 4.6 inches, while the resorts were pushing two feet of new snow.  I wrote a few comments along with my Saturday morning weather update:


“It looks like the trend for snowfall this week is continuing with another little dump.  I woke up to a fluffy 2.5 inches here in Waterbury (not super fluffy, maybe 6 to 8% H2O), there’s another 6 inches reported at Stowe overnight, and it’s still snowing.  That puts many of the Northern Vermont resorts at around two feet of accumulation over the past several days.  The forecast is also calling for some sun this weekend, so I’d say get out there.  This morning’s weather observations from Waterbury are below”:


Saturday, January 26th, 2008:  7:30 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  2.5 inches

Temperature:  21.6 F

Humidity:  87%

Barometer:  29.03 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Light Snow

Cumulative storm total:  4.6 inches

Current snow at the stake:  14 inches

Season snowfall total:  110.4 inches


With all the new snowfall for the week, and some additional accumulations overnight, we decided to head up to the mountain reasonably early to get in on some of the powder with the boys.  With just a touch of snow each day throughout the week, we’d been ignoring the accumulation in the driveway, but it had really reached the point that it needed a clearing.  I don’t actually recall clearing it at that time, since getting to the mountain was a bigger priority, but that’s one of the reasons you get an all-wheel drive vehicle.


We headed up to the mountain, and I recall it being rather quiet for a Saturday with fresh snow.  While parking in the village area (elevation ~2,150’), I checked on the recent snow accumulation at that elevation.  I found a few inches of fluffy powder on top of the consolidated snow piles that the plows had made.  The resort was reporting 3 new inches overnight, so that seemed to fit.


By the time we got to the top of the Snowflake area to begin our first run, it was already around 9:30 A.M., but we were still able to nab first tracks on Snowflake Bentley.  I would have though that somebody would have skied the trail so long after opening, but that wasn’t the case.  I pulled out E’s camera and shot some video of Mom and Ty getting their first tracks of the day.  There were several inches of new snow on the trail at that elevation (~2,400’).  It wasn’t anything too outrageous in terms of depth, but it was nice and dry (~6-8% H2O) and worked well on the blue and green pitches of the trail.  Interestingly, the subsurface under the powder was firmer than I would have though it would be after 1 to 2 feet of snow in the previous days, but it may have had something to do with when/how it had been groomed.


We returned to the top of the lift again, and as there was still nobody in the Snowflake area aside from us, we decided to hit Snowflake Bentley again for the next run.  It was similar to the first run aside from the presence of the tracks we’d just set down, but we switched up the responsibilities of guiding Dylan a little differently.  After watching Ty and Mom make their turns through the powder, Dylan began to experiment with his own movements.  He started making some very rapid turns, which were perhaps best described as very quick shifts of his weight from side to side.  We had been trying to instill in him the idea of making quicker turns, so perhaps the ability to see Ty and Mom’s squiggly tracks on such a clean slate had struck a chord in Dylan and given him the idea to try it.  Although those rapid turns weren’t the most picturesque, it was clear that he was experimenting with his turning style.  He actually had a fine time skiing throughout the powder in that area as it wasn’t deep enough to be totally bottomless, and he could essentially use his normal groomed-slope technique for making turns.  It was nice to see that as with some of his other forays into powder; he still got a kick out of the way that his skis would sometimes disappear under the snow.  Ty also did a little more exploring, and found a small kicker off to the right of Lower Bentley that let him jump into the powder.  It was another great run and we were torn between hitting it again or venturing off to explore something else.


As we hit the Snowflake summit for the third time, we saw that another pair of skiers was about to venture onto the bounty of snow on Snowflake Bentley, so we decided that was enough incentive to check out something else.  I figured we’d head over to the Mid Mountain Lift, but with such nice powder everywhere I thought it would be fun to get there by taking everyone through the trees.  As we headed off the side of Sprig O’ Pine, I could see that Dylan was pretty excited about venturing deep into the trees with the rest of us, but I knew he’d need some help negotiating the traverse on his own.  He’d been using the tip lock on his skis for our morning’s runs up to that point, and we took it off to maximize his freedom of movement as we traversed our way through the trees.  I directed Ty and E as they led the traverse, while Dylan followed and I helped him progress from behind.  There was a good foot of powder in the trees, which made blazing the traverse a bit of work for the leaders, but it was all fairly dry snow and the work seemed trivial when we knew that the skiing was going to be so good.  Dylan appeared to be having a lot of fun with the experience, even if he didn’t know exactly what was going on.  After a couple of minutes we’d made our way to one of my favorite lines in that area, where E and Ty headed down first.  Ty did a great job in the deep snow, and I recall E being pretty excited as she watched Ty take his line through the trees with so much powder; she doesn’t get to watch him skiing deep snow in the trees as much as I do.  I knew Dylan would have no chance of skiing so much powder on his own through the trees, so he rode along with me between my legs.  Everyone had gotten a good dose of fresh powder by the time we exited the trees.  With some tree skiing under out belts, we headed down to the base of the Mid Mountain Lift, where E decided it was a good time to take Dylan in for a break.  Ty and I decided to stay out for an additional run, where we rode the Mid Mountain Lift and then sliced and diced some of the powder off to the skier’s left of Beech Seal.


After lunch it was back to the top of the Snowflake Lift, from where we made a run around the far side of the Mid Mountain Lift to get us to the base of the Wilderness Chair.  We even saw Kurt Ries along the way, smiling and enjoying the snow as usual.  We headed up the Wilderness Chair and decided that a trip all the way to the top was in order.  Along the way, Dylan spotted a nice gentle crossover trail off to our left above the mid station, and it seemed to be just his speed so we put it on the agenda.  It was an area that I wasn’t very familiar with, but I had a good idea how to get there.  We took Peggy Dow’s down from the Wilderness Summit, where we found that resort visitors seemed to be making up for their absence earlier in the day.  Peggy Dow’s is a rather narrow trail, especially along its traverse at the top, and as we moved along slowly with the boys we could feel the pressure from other skiers.  Once we switched off to the traverse trail in the proximity of the lift however, everyone had spread out in other directions and Dylan was able to have fun on the run he’d spotted.  From there we paid a visit to the steep Cougar trail to get us over to Turnpike.  I spied some nice stashes of deep powder off to the skier’s left of Cougar, and made a note to bring Ty there later.  Once down in the Turnpike area, we skied a lot of trees.  I assisted Dylan in that area, where we began with a trip through the Lower Turnpike/Wilderness Lift Line trees, and finished up following a favorite line through the trees to the skier’s right of Lower Turnpike.


Once we were back down at the bottom of the Wilderness Lift, it seemed that the boys needed a break from the slopes so we ended up hanging out there while the boys played in the powder along the edge of the townhouses.  The sun was out and the temperature was great so we stayed there for a while.  Eventually the boys began sticking their faces in the powder and I had to get some pictures.  As he often does, Dylan eventually took off his mittens to better get at the snow, and he was soon yelling about how cold his hands were.  He’ll figure that out eventually.  The session ended up with some butt sliding on the local slopes.  After an extended stay in that area, the boys were ready for more skiing, and we did pretty much the same run for our next round.  I guided Ty over to the deep powder I’d seen off to the side of Cougar, where he did a nice job and even worked on some jump turns in a couple of the tighter spots.  He still did a lot of wedging though, so I think it will be a little while before he’ll be skiing the steep and deep with fluidity.  Below that we worked the same areas of trees that we had on the previous run, although Dylan was starting to get pretty tired so he stayed on the trail with Mom.  After that he was done for the day so they hit the base lodge.


So, for our final run of the day it was just Ty and Dad.  We got off at the Wilderness mid station, and headed off into the trees on the skier’s left of the lift line.  We hit various routes through the woods and found plenty of powder, at one point passing a bunch of snowboarders who were stuck in deep snow in a low spot.  Having personally experienced that scene of frustration far too many times, I did have to point out to Ty that that was one major deficiency that snowboarding has compared to skiing.  Ty certainly wants to snowboard at some point, but I’m in no rush to get him going on one anytime soon.  Snowboards are a lot of fun, but they’re clearly inferior to skis for roaming around in the woods in deep snow and I find myself getting quite frustrated when I can’t get to places I want to go.  Anyway, we were on skis so we could explore at will.  We caught a few more shots in the trees before heading back onto the lower-mountain trails and heading to the lodge.


Overall, the altimeters had recorded 8 runs for the day, with 4,335’ of descent on the Avocet and 4,252’ on the Suunto for a difference of 1.9%.  When we got back to the car in the village lot I noticed that the outside temperature was at 29 F, but it was much colder than up high.  When we were up at the Wilderness summit on E and Dylan’s final run, I had really felt the difference in temperature.  By the end of the following day we’d picked up another half inch of snow in the valley, and in my morning updated I noted that the depth of the Mansfield stake was looking decent after the recent snows:


“I looked outside and it was snowing, so I recorded my usual weather observations.  From the regional radar it looks like most of the moisture is south of us at this point, but it’s still snowing so we’ll see where we end up.  Yesterday’s BTV climate summary says the Mansfield stake is at 60 inches.”


Sunday, January 27th, 2008:  6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  0.2 inches

Temperature:  19.6 F

Humidity:  86%

Barometer:  29.00 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Light Snow

Cumulative storm total:  0.2 inches

Current snow at the stake:  13 inches

Season snowfall total:  110.9 inches


Some pictures and video from the day are available at:





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