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As I look back on my Waterbury weather data from the winter of ’07-’08, I can see that the first two weeks of February stand out as one of the more concentrated periods of valley snowfall for the season. By February 16th the month had already delivered 41.3 inches of snow at the house (elevation 495’), and our snowpack throughout the yard had reached roughly 2 ½ to 3 feet. Then, there was clearly a slow period for the next week because I recorded no snowfall at all between the 16th and the 22nd of the month. However, that short snow drought ended on Friday the 22nd when a moderate winter storm brought us a dose of sub 4% H2O “Champlain™ Powder”. The first of the snow from that storm cycle fell during the day, and in the evening I took my first snowfall and weather observations for the event:
Friday, February 22nd, 2008: 7:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.
New Snow: 3.8 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.14 inches
Ratio: 26.4 to 1
Snow Density: 3.8% H2O
Temperature: 21.6 F
Barometer: 28.76 in Hg
Sky: Light/Moderate Snow
Cumulative storm snow total: 3.8 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.14 inches
Current snow at the stake: 27 inches
Season snowfall total: 158.7 inches
“There were about 2 inches of new snow accumulation in Burlington when I left there at around 6:00 P.M., and it looked like we had about double that at our house in Waterbury. When I finally measured the accumulation off our snowboard at 7:00 P.M., I found 3.8 inches of new fluff. And boy what fluff it is – the flakes have been in the 0.5 to 1.0 cm range in diameter, and are building some fantastic loft. I haven’t been measuring liquid equivalent for every storm this season, but this is one of drier snowfalls we’ve had. The boys have been playing out back in the new snow this evening, and they’ll let themselves fall into it and it’s so light that it really explodes up into the air when they hit it. My wife and I both guessed independently on the water content in the snow based on the look and feel, and each came up with our best guess of 4% H2O. That was confirmed when my liquid measurement revealed that it was 3.8% H2O, or a snow to water ratio of 26.4 to 1. Even if this event hasn’t thrown a ton of liquid equivalent down for the ski areas up here, the skiing should be pretty decent with this new accumulation on top of the bit the resorts got earlier this week. I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of skiing tomorrow, but now I’m a little more psyched to get out and check out this new champagne powder. The central and southern New England ski areas should get a nice boost from this event. There’s been another 0.3 inches of accumulation on the board since I cleared it, but the snow looks like it’s shutting off so 4.1 inches might be where we end up with this event. The snow at the stake is at 27 inches, but I suspect it will drop a couple inches with the way this snow is going to settle.”
The timing of the snowfall set us up nicely for some fresh powder on the slopes by Saturday, and a bit more of the same fluff fell overnight as I noted in my observations from the next morning:
Saturday, February 23rd, 2008: 6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.
New Snow: 0.5 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.02 inches
Ratio: 25 to 1
Snow Density: 4.0% H2O
Temperature: 17.8 F
Barometer: 28.70 in Hg
Cumulative storm snow total: 4.3 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.16 inches
Current snow at the stake: 27 inches
Season snowfall total: 159.2 inches
“We picked up another half inch of fluff overnight to bring our event total to 4.3 inches. A mere 0.5 inches of fluff doesn’t equate to much liquid of course, but I’m getting a bit better at measuring very small amounts of melted snow with the equipment I have, so I was able to determine a number of 0.02 inches of melted precipitation. That does indicate a snow density of 4.0% H2O, and since the snow consistency appears identical to last night’s 3.8% H2O reading, that provides some confidence in the measurement. I thought we were done with this event, but there’s still snow falling outside and another two tenths on the snowboard so it looks like it wants to keep going a bit longer. Montpelier is our reporting station for The Weather Channel local updates, and over the past couple hours that I’ve had the TV on this morning, they’ve been reporting light snow, so there’s still a bit of something out there. There are also some echoes on the BTV composite radar, although it seems to be having a hard time picking up the flurries/light snow we’re getting at the moment.”
In the mountains: “It looks like a general 3 to 6-inch event for the VT ski areas around here, although I'm surprised that the southern areas aren't reporting much more than the northern areas on SkiVermont.com. Mount Snow says 6 inches in the past 24 hours, and Stowe reports 5 inches, although Stowe probably received less liquid than Mt. Snow and got there on fluff factor. The snowfall has actually picked up here in Waterbury now, although this is probably drifting in from the mountains as I can see some blue sky trying to appear overhead.”
We headed up to the slopes that morning, arriving a bit after 9:00 A.M. or so to temperatures in the 20s F, little wind, and partly sunny skies. After the previous weekend’s extra visitors due to racing and the holiday, the number of people at the mountain seemed to be back to their usual levels. Up at the Timberline summit area (~2,500’), we found roughly 5 to 6 inches of new snow, and there was a little less down by the Timberline base area (~1,550’). The snow was the same 4% H2O fluff that we’d received at the house, so it was only occasionally bottomless for me, but I was able to float in some low angle spots on my Telemark skis, which are less than 70 mm underfoot. The powder was more often bottomless for Ty of course, but it was just generally fun to play around in it because it was so light.
We kicked things off with a run on the Villager/Timberline Run combination that had been working well for Dylan, and according to my records it was one of the first times that we let him ski for substantial distances without use of the leash. He only did this in a couple of the flatter sections of the trail where he wouldn’t build up too much speed, but it was clearly a first step toward his independence on the slopes. The trails were pretty clear of other skiers, which helped the process for everyone since Dylan traveled very slowly on the flat slopes that he could actually ski without assistance. The slow pace gave us extra time to enjoy the scenery, and it was a good day to be out. While it was generally sunny, it actually snowed lightly for an hour or two in the morning and the combination of sunlight and snowfall provided some neat scenes. The recent fluffy snow had collected on many of the deciduous trees and set down a coating of perhaps ½ inch, which gave them a fantastical look. I didn’t seem to catch any of this scenery in my still shots from the day, but I did manage to get some of it in the video clip of Dylan skiing on Timberline Run.
We did the same route again for the next run, and by about halfway down Dylan was kaput. I’m not sure if the extra time being off the leash and moving himself along worked him a bit harder, but ~1,500 vertical feet was his limit for the morning. He finished off the trail with some extra support from me, and at around 10:40 A.M., we headed in for about an hour’s worth of lunch.
After our break it was back out to try the same route again, this time with Dylan under control of E. Dylan was doing a great job in the areas we let him roam free of the leash, so we wanted to keep the pattern going. Based on Dylan’s morning runs where he tired out halfway through the second descent, we made the second run of the afternoon a mid station run because we knew he might be on the verge of tiring again. We proceeded through the mellower areas for part of Wood’s Hole, and then I helped Dylan substantially as we took one of the steeper shots before finishing off on the gentler areas of Timberline Run. As we might have expected, Dylan said he was done after that run. He’d put in close to 4,000’ of descent, which was a decent day, especially with the extra work from time off the leash.
In terms of what Ty was doing with his skiing at the equivalent stage of the learning process, there are a couple ways to look at it because of the boy’s difference in birthdays. There is a three month difference between their relative ages because Ty’s birthday is at the end of January, and Dylan’s birthday is at the end of April. One thing to look at is what was happening with the boys at exactly the same age, and another is to look at what was happening at the same date in their respective third seasons of skiing. To see what Ty was doing at roughly two months before his third birthday, I checked my report from November 26th, 2005 at Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana. Ty had actually just received his first pair of formal hard plastic ski boots and skis with metal edges (which are now Dylan’s equipment) and he was just barely learning how to put them into a wedge. Dylan was well beyond that point at the same age, and had the wedge down quite well. For the seasonal comparison, to see what Ty was doing on his skis at the end of February of his third season, I checked my report from February 24th-27th, 2005 at Montana’s Big Mountain Resort (now Whitefish Resort). That trip was a clear benchmark for Ty in that he made the transition to going completely off the leash, skiing both beginner and intermediate terrain all on his own. So, looking back at Ty’s progress it’s easy to see that Dylan was well past where Ty was at an equivalent age, probably due to Dylan having several months of his third season under his belt by that point. In contrast, in terms of looking at the end of February of season three, Ty was well past Dylan in his ski progression since Ty was completely off the leash even for intermediate terrain, and Dylan was just barely getting off the leash for only the easiest of beginner terrain.
Anyway, with “partially off the leash” Dylan done for the day, he headed into the lodge with Mom, while Ty and Dad went out for a couple more runs. The mix of sun and light snow had given way to full sunshine, so we had great light towards the end of our day. We started with a mid station run and skied Twice as Nice, which had pretty good snow. Then, for our final run we headed all the way up to the Timberline summit and headed directly below the lift to Intro. The snow wasn’t as good as it was on Twice as Nice, so we quickly headed off to the right on Brandy Wine and found much better snow. Overall I’d say that while the groomed slopes were really nice in the morning, by the time we were leaving in the mid afternoon the surfaces were deteriorating and there were slick spots forming in the higher traffic areas. Even with the relatively low volume of traffic at Bolton, the amount of new, rather dry snow atop the old base could only last for so long until it needed to be groomed again. By the end my altimeters had recorded 6 runs for 5,720’ of descent on the Avocet and 5,673’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 0.8%.
For Ty and Dylan the most exciting part of the day may have come after they changed out of their ski boots. They started sliding on the snow along the edge of the base lodge to pass the time while I changed out of my gear and got the car. There was a pretty good luge track forming there, and there were hitting it rather aggressively so I paused for a few minutes on my way to the car and grabbed some photos. Ty was especially fun to watch; he’d sometimes get airborne at the start of the track as he threw himself into the run. Eventually I had to pull myself away and go get the car but it looked like almost as much fun as skiing.
Once we got home, I saw that we’d picked up a little more accumulation from the snow showers during the day, so I took a final set of observations that closed out my observations for the system.
Saturday, February 23rd, 2008: 2:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.
New Snow: 0.6 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.02 inches
Ratio: 30 to 1
Snow Density: 3.3% H2O
Temperature: 26.1 F
Barometer: 28.73 in Hg
Sky: Mostly Clear
Cumulative storm snow total: 4.9 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.18 inches
Current snow at the stake: 26 inches
Season snowfall total: 159.8 inches
“We’ve cleared out now, so it looks like 4.9 inches of fluff will do it for this system. Up on the mountain today, we found about 5 to 6 inches of similar (~4% H2O) density snow up at Bolton’s Timberline summit area (elevation ~2,500’) with a bit less down near the Timberline Base (elevation ~1,550’). The new snow does look quite nice now that the sun is out.”
Some pictures and video from the day are available at
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