Bolton Valley, VT 07FEB2008


Pictures and data plots are embedded in the text of this report, and also available at the following link:


A surprise half foot of snow had brought me up to the mountain for some turns on Tuesday morning, but as that event had been somewhat out of the blue, I hadn’t arrived early enough to skin for any turns before the lifts opened.  As Scott Braaten had suggested though, the Monday/Tuesday event was the start of a good stretch of snowfall, and a much bigger midweek storm was right on our doorstep.  The prospect of this event got a good discussion going on  This time around, we’d had good warning of what was coming, so I planned to get up to the mountain early enough to catch some bonus powder turns before the lifts started loading.  Tuesday night, the National Weather Service in Burlington already had us down for not just snow, but heavy snow by Wednesday morning.  So, I wasn’t too surprised when I woke up to find that that it was snowing.  The snow had just started to fall, so the storm’s timing didn’t look like it was going to be optimal for the biggest powder morning on Wednesday, but Thursday morning was looking like a very good bet for skiing in some deep snow.  In the meantime, I got to see some very intense snowfall at the house, as I indicated in my morning weather update:


Later that afternoon I sent out an update from Burlington with my snowfall observations and a few early reports from the ski areas:


When I got home that evening, I found that we’d picked up 4.2 inches of snow at the house, and early afternoon reports suggested that the mountains in the Sugarbush to Bolton area were approaching a foot of accumulation.


That evening, Northern Vermont got in on some intense snowfall in the range of 1 to 2 inches per hour, so while I was awake I calculated some snowfall rates to share with some of the other posters in the Burlington area that were conversing on


“Hearing about the great snowfall rates from the Burlington crew, I decided to see what had gone on here over the past hour:”


9:11 P.M.:  1.8 inches on snowboard

10:11 P.M.:  3.4 inches on snowboard

Snowfall rate = 1.6 inches/hour


I made one more check on the snowfall rate at 11:00 P.M. before going to bed, and found that the snow had slowed down a bit, but we were already up to 9.6 inches of accumulation for the event:


4.3 inches on the board as of 11:00 P.M.

9.6 inches for the event

~1.1 inches/hour snowfall rate over the past 50 minutes


It snowed throughout the night, although not with the intensity that I’d seen before going to bed.  However, by the morning the storm had produced 13.4 inches of accumulation at the house and it was still coming down.  I was clearly going to have to head up to the hill for some turns.  I made my weather observations at 6:00 A.M., and noted that the density of the snow had come down to a delicious 6.5% H2O.  This storm was producing an excellent gradient of snow density for powder skiing:






Finally, it was time to head to the mountain and get up close and personal with nature’s white bounty.  I arrived in the village (~2,150’) at around 8:30 A.M., and began skinning up my usual Sprig O’ Pine route to Mid Mountain.  Since I still hadn’t cut any skins to specifically fit my Telemark skis at that point, I had to choose one of our other pairs that provided the closest fit.  It turned out to be our guest pair of skins, and the width was pretty close but the length was a little too long to use the tail clips.  So, I’d rigged the skins with a rat tail-style setup when I’d prepped them the previous evening.  I used a couple of bungee cords, with the hook on one end of them going into one of the sizing holes in my tail clip, and the hook on the other end grabbing a notch in the rear part of my binding.  The only deficiency I found in the setup wasn’t discovered until I’d started skinning:  the notch I’d hooked to in the binding was where my heel lifter locked in its upright position.  This limited my ability to lock up my lifter for steeper terrain, which I discovered on the first pitch where I attempted to use them.  Ultimately, I just went without using the lifters for my ascent.  None of the ascent route is so steep that elevated heel support is absolutely critical, but cutting an appropriately-sized pair of skins for my Telemark skis jumped up on my list of things to get done.



On my ascent, I probed the depth of the snow as usual, and found that on the groomed terrain about 4 to 5 inches of additional snow had accumulated since the snowcats had last been through.  Off-piste there was over a foot of fresh powder in undisturbed areas; with my measurements revealing about 15 inches of new snow on average.  There hadn’t been too much wind with the system that brought in the snow, but the accumulations still got distributed around to some degree.  It was getting on towards 9:00 A.M. when I reached the Mid Mountain area, so I decided to descend from there to catch the opening of the Vista Quad.  I opted for a Glades descent with its nice pitch, and I quickly discovered that I still had a bit to learn about Telemark skiing in the steep and deep.  The powder was twice as deep as anything I’d ridden in Montana on Telemark skis, and even deeper than anything I’d hit in Vermont in the past week or two since I’d finally gotten my Telemark skis on the hill.  The deep snow was a new experience in fore-aft balance.  I found myself wishing for some full-fat Telemark skis, wondering if they would make things a little easier by letting me float a little higher.  On the other hand however, it was quite fun being way down in the snow in a Telemark stance.  I did note again that wearing knee pads hampered a bit of that sensation of the snow cascading over the dropped knee, but I also discovered that once the snow is deep enough to consistently get up to the thigh area, you get plenty of that back.





When I arrived back at the base area the Vista Quad was open, so I jumped on for a ride to the top.  For my descent I headed over to the Wilderness Lift area where I caught some nice carves through the powder, and followed that up with a couple of runs in the Cobrass area, hitting some glades, Cobrass Run, and Sprig O’ Pine.  I had some waist-deep shots off the side of Cobrass (thanks to the Telemark stance) and tons of over the knee experiences.  I had actually planned to leave after a couple of runs, but it started dumping snow at an inch an hour so I had to stay for a bit and enjoy the added fluff.  Also, I was starting to feel a lot better on steep and deep terrain with Telemark turns and I didn’t want to waste that groove.  I hit Vermont 200 for a run and its pitch still managed to put me in my place.  I finished up with 6 runs recorded on the altimeters:  5,610’ of descent on the Avocet and 5,505’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 1.9%.  So overall I’d say the day wasn’t especially epic or anything, but a decent 1+ foot powder day with quality snow, comfortable temperatures, and minimal wind.



I saw that the mountain was making snow on Spillway, and that was the first time I’d seen it happening there all season.  It was nice to see the snow piling up on the steep middle pitches of the trail, perhaps in preparation for the spring season.  It seems that Spillway is just too wide for the windward exposure and amount of large obstacles it possesses.  I haven seen the trail build up very good coverage with only natural snow, especially when there are periods of strong westerly winds.  If it was a bit narrower, it would probably run on natural snow much better like the other steep runs to its north.  On the way back down the access road I stopped in at the V.A.S.T. parking area to get some scenic shots of the new snow.  The relatively low levels of wind with the storm had allowed some nice accumulations of snow on various surfaces.




When I got back home that evening, I found 2.1 inches of additional snow on the snowboard, bringing us to 15.5 inches for the event. The ski areas were passing the two-foot mark and it continued to snow:


Thursday, February 7th, 2008:  7:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  2.1 inches

Liquid Equivalent:  0.16 inches

Ratio:  13.5

Snow Density:  7.4%  H2O

Temperature:  22.8 F

Humidity:  91%

Barometer:  28.67 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Light Snow

Cumulative storm total:  15.5 inches

Current snow at the stake:  27 inches

Season snowfall total:  138.9 inches


“There was frequent snowfall today in the valley, but it was fairly light.  We picked up another 2.1 inches, but with settling it just helped to maintain the snowpack at 27 inches.  It’s been snowing lightly most of the evening, so I should have a little more accumulation to report tomorrow morning.  Some of the local ski areas have already passed the 2-foot mark with this event, which is setting up for some great skiing this weekend.”


Here are some of the ski area storm totals I’ve seen so far:


Jay Peak:  17 inches

Burke:  19 inches

Smugg’s:  18 inches

Stowe:  26 inches

Bolton Valley:  15 inches

Mad River:  24 inches

Sugarbush:  25 inches

Killington:  18 inches


The following day marked the end of the event, which ended up delivering 16.4 inches of snow for our 3rd largest valley snowfall of the season up to that point.


Friday, February 8th, 2008:  6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.


New Snow:  0.9 inches

Liquid Equivalent: N.D.

Ratio:  N.D.

Snow Density:  N.D.

Temperature:  19.4 F

Humidity:  92%

Barometer:  28.82 in Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Flurries/Light Snow

Cumulative storm total:  16.4 inches

Current snow at the stake:  27 inches

Season snowfall total:  139.8 inches


“Another nine tenths of an inch fell last night to add to the storm total, putting this storm at 16.4 inches.  This storm is actually knocking on the door to becoming our second biggest event of the season.  Still in front of it is the 16.5-inch event from December 16th and 17th.  The snow was still coming down this morning at an intensity somewhere between flurries and light snow, and this fluff adds up quickly so we’ll see what this evening’s reading reveals.  I didn’t have time to get a liquid equivalent on this morning’s snow, but it was very fluffy.  It was certainly sub 6% H2O, and my educated guess would be that it was in the 4% H2O range.  From what I’ve seen it can sometimes be easier to get these lower densities of snow with the smaller snowfalls because the weight on the snow is so minimal.  As for the local ski areas, accumulations for the week are in the 2 to 3 foot range, with Stowe reporting 37 inches for its 7-day total.  The snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake was at 77 inches as of last night’s reading.”


That was a nice event even for the valleys, but it looked like February was just getting started because the next winter storm was on the way.  In fact, we didn’t get much of a breather because not long after our 16.4-inch event finished up on Friday morning, the next one started up on Friday evening.  The forecast called for a strong chance of powder skiing.


The pictures and data plots from the day can also be seen at:




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