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Bolton Valley, VT 05FEB2008


The pictures from the day are also available at the following link:




Sometimes surprises are nice, and one morning in early February the skiers and snow enthusiasts in Northern New England received a little something extra from Mother Nature.  The forecast had called for minimal if any snowfall, and even the chance of rain, so I was rather surprised when I got up on the morning of Tuesday the 5th and saw about a half a foot of snow on my back yard snowboard… with light snow still falling.  The surprise snow sparked a discussion thread on EasternUSwx.com, and it was easy to see that everyone was caught off guard, especially with the unexpected snowfall coming in the middle of the night while most people weren’t watching.  I sent in a quick message to SkiVT-L about the unexpected accumulation to alert those that weren’t in the know:


5:49 A.M. – “I last heard that we were supposed to have minimal accumulations of snow associated with today's event, but I just woke up to roughly a half a foot of snow on the snowboard and it's still snowing.  I'll take a more accurate measurement soon, but this is somewhat of a surprise.”


A few other folks from SkiVT-L sent in observations as well, and amounts around the area were rather variable, with Michael Taub indicating 4 inches of new snow in Waitsfield, Chris Niggel noting little if any accumulation in Jericho, and Rachel Rose reporting about 3 inches near West Bolton.  At 6:00 A.M. I recorded my weather observations from Waterbury, including an analysis of the snow density:


Tuesday, February 5th, 2008:  6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  4.9 inches

Temperature:  32.0 F

Humidity:  98%

Barometer:  28.85 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Light Snow

Cumulative storm total:  4.9 inches

Current snow at the stake:  18 inches

Season snowfall total:  123.2 inches


“After measuring the snow on the snowboard, it turns out we’d received 4.9 inches as of 6:00 A.M.  It’s got decent loft and is rather fluffy, but it’s still a little sticky which is probably based on the temperature being right around freezing down here.  I roughly estimated a density in the 10-12% H2O range based on experience, but then decided to get a little more accurate water measurement using a graduated kitchen cylinder that we have.  It’s still somewhat rudimentary, but I took a core sample of the snow and came out with 10.2% H2O, or liquid equivalent of 0.48 inches.  The snow has shut off now, but we’ve picked up another 0.2 inches of snow to bring us to 5.1 inches total from this event.”


The arrival of a substantial amount of surprise snow down at the house elevation (495’) made my morning’s course clear:  it was time to head up to the mountain for some turns.  It was around 7:00 A.M. when the snowfall actually shut off, and since it appeared as though the temperature was going to climb in the valley, the 5.1 inches was probably going to be where we’d end up down there for accumulation.  As I hadn’t actually planned to ski based on the forecast, I had to gather up my gear and take care of a few other things, which meant I didn’t leave the house until after 8:00 A.M.  On my way to the mountain, I found out that the impromptu storm still had something up its sleeve.  After all the snow, the temperatures had warmed as suspected and it was actually sprinkling rain in the valley.  The sprinkles continued up the access road, but had stopped by around 8:30 A.M. when I got up to the village (~2,150’).


I didn’t really have time to skin for any turns before weekday lift service began at 9:00 A.M., so I just hopped on the Vista Quad when it opened.  Even up at the mountain elevations, it started to rain a bit as I rode the lift, and up near the Vista summit (3,150’) I could see that it was still below freezing at the surface and the rain was creating a slight glaze.  I first grabbed a couple of runs over in the Wilderness lift area.  The powder was nice, and although there was a slight crust that had formed on the upper mountain, it was generally a very thin crème brûlée-style crust that didn’t really alter the skiing; you could cut right through it like it wasn’t there.  The thickest crust I found was certainly in the very highest of elevations, which may have seen a bit more rain and colder temperatures, but even there it was easily sliced and diced.  I was on my Telemark skis once again, and the sensation of dropping a knee down low and letting it slice through and obliterate the paper-thin crust was quite a treat.  I had remembered to wear my knee pads, so while they probably reduced a bit of the crust-crumbling sensation, they made up for it by giving me the confidence to go wherever I wanted without the worry of knocking a knee too hard.  I also took a run over on the Cobrass side of the mountain, and I saw patroller Quinn and some friends hit that chute off to the right of Cobrass followed by the trees below.  I decided to stay on Cobrass itself, but I could hear them all whooping it up in the powder off to my right as I descended alongside them.  Cobrass was nice, and as I was the only one on the trail I was able to grab plenty of fresh powder.  At the junction with Cobrass Lane, I decided to head in the Cobrass Run direction where I got some very nice first tracks.  There was no need to practice any sort of powder preservation, so I just ripped some big fast turns across the entire trail.  When Cobrass Run finally dropped me into the Snowflake area, I shuffled up briefly to the Snowflake summit.  It was my first time doing a quick skinless ascension like that on my Telemark gear, and I noticed how incredibly easy it was compared to my alpine setups due to the free heel and the equipment’s substantially lighter weight.  I hit Snowflake Bentley for more first tracks before finally deciding to head to the car and call it a morning.  It had been a nice surprise powder session and I was ready to head off to work.  The altimeters had recorded 3 runs, with 3,210’ of descent on the Avocet and 3,071’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 4.4%.








On my way down the access road at around 10:30 A.M., I noticed that the Timberline lift still wasn’t running and none of the trails had been touched by skiers.  I wasn’t sure what the problem was, or if they were going to run it at all, but I sent out the word that it could end up being an especially nice place for earned turns during the day and evening barring any issues with crust.  Sometimes the lower elevations of the Timberline area can mean that the powder isn’t quite as deep as it is on the upper mountain, but with that storm elevation didn’t seem to make much of a difference.


All in all the rain that the mountain did receive wasn’t very extensive; there was light rain for probably the first half hour that I was on the mountain (9:00 A.M. – 9:30 A.M.).  After that point however, I didn’t see additional precipitation of any type.  In terms of the overall state of the skiing, most of the groomed runs were a few inches of new snow over corduroy below.  In the ungroomed areas it was a nice little powder day, with about a half foot of moderately dense snow that did a nice job of keeping you afloat.  Although the bit of rain hadn’t seemed to hamper the powder skiing, it was possible that the snow conditions would change once the temperature dropped.  The lower mountain had seemed to go above freezing, so I was anticipating that a more substantial crust might develop down there when the temperatures went below freezing again.


Despite picking up 5.1 inches of new snow down at our house in the valley, Bolton ultimately reported only 6 inches of new snow, so the final numbers agreed with the lack of elevation dependence I’d observed in the accumulations.  When I’d probed around with my measurement pole during my descents, I’d found mostly 5-inch readings for new snow depth in undisturbed locations.  However, that was probably after a little compaction from the rain showers.  I gathered up the snow reports sent in by many of the Vermont ski areas, and listed them from north to south:


Jay Peak:  3 inches

Burke:  3 inches

Smugg’s:  4 inches

Stowe:  5 inches

Bolton:  6 inches

Mad River:  6 inches

Sugarbush:  3 inches

Middlebury:  4 inches

Killington:  5 inches

Okemo:  4 inches

Bromley:  2 inches

Magic:  2 inches

Stratton:  2 inches

Mount Snow:  2 inches


It appeared as though everyone got in on the action to some degree, although the central to north-central areas did the best, with the real sweet spot being the Mad River to Bolton/Stowe stretch where there was around a half a foot of accumulation.  It was an interesting accumulation trend with the numbers falling off at the far north and south ends of the state.  After that round of snow had settled, the stake on Mt. Mansfield had reached 67 inches, and the snow at our house stake had reached 18 inches.


Based on the forecasts, it appeared as though that winter weather event was going to kick off quite a snowy period for the area.  The NWS forecast for the Northern Green Mountains indicated that there would be opportunities for snow every day out through Sunday, and Scott Braaten sent out a forecast message to SkiVT-L indicating that his thoughts were similar.  It looked like February was going to come in with quite a bang.


The pictures from the day are also available at:







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