Bolton Valley, VT 01MAR2008
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After a moderate weekend storm brought 4.9 inches of snow to our house in Waterbury for February 22nd, and 23rd, the snowpack in our yard was in the two to three foot range and we had reached 46.2 inches of snowfall accumulation for the month. When you get into the four foot range of accumulation, you’re already talking about a decent monthly total for the valleys here in Northern Vermont, but February wasn’t quite done with us yet. Two more large storms were looming on the horizon for the next week, with the chance for another couple feet of snow in the valleys, and several feet in the mountains. It looked like things would continue to be very exciting on both the winter weather and skiing fronts. People began discussing the first of the two storms well in advance of its arrival, and on the morning of Saturday the 23rd, Scott Braaten gave us his initial forecast for the event on SkiVT-L. We were still a few days out, but he was confident that at least a moderate storm would develop for our area. By Sunday evening, the storm was looking even more impressive on the models, and in a second SkiVT-L update for the event, Scott indicated that he was expecting more than just moderate accumulations of snow. Monday morning brought even better news, as Scott forecasted that up to two feet of snow could be on the way for the Green Mountain spine from just the first event. On Tuesday morning, the storm was right on our doorstep and Scott posted his final storm total predictions to SkiVT-L. He was going with 1 to 2 feet of snow along the spine in the northern half of Vermont, with 8 inches or so in the lower valleys where temperatures were likely to be marginal for snowfall during the first part of the storm.
Snowfall began just as expected on Tuesday, and Tuesday night gave me my first opportunity to record Waterbury weather observations for the event:
Overnight we got a few more inches of snow in the valley, and I made my next set of weather observations early the following morning:
"As of this morning it looks like new snow accumulations are approaching about a foot at some of the VT resorts, although snow will continue to fall today so those numbers will be climbing. We've thrown another half inch plus of liquid equivalent into our valley snowpack in the Waterbury area in the form of about 6 inches of snow, and our back yard stake has once again matched its season high of 30 inches, so skiing options should be great from the valleys to the summits in along the spine. The latest round of snow was running at 7.4% H2O. I plan to have another update from Waterbury this evening with additional snowfall/liquid equivalent information.”
Wednesday was the first big powder day from the event, and although I didn’t get a chance to pop up to the mountain for any turns, Scott Braaten provided everyone with a great conditions update from Stowe, complete with some powdery pictures as usual. As of 1:00 P.M., Burlington had already accumulated 8.9 inches of snow from the event and broken the all-time record for snowiest February. They had reached 39.6” of snowfall for the month, and also passed the 100” mark for the season, reaching 104.4”. In Waterbury, as of that morning, we were at 51.8” of snowfall for the month, and 165.4” for the season based on my observations. But, the storm still wasn’t finished. It snowed a bit more during the day on Wednesday, and since E and the boys were at home due to winter break, they had time to get out and enjoy the snow. Ty set up a nice sledding track, and from what I saw in a video that E captured, he took some pretty good tumbles on his saucer.
I recorded the next round of weather observations that evening:
The final round of snow fell that night, and early on Thursday morning I took my final observations to finish us off with 8.5 inches of snow for the event. Meanwhile, ski areas were hitting accumulations of one and a half feet of snow, so I updated the ski area’s reported snowfall totals along with my observations:
As my observations above indicated, the weather had blown out by the morning to clear and calm conditions. So, the local skiers were left with blue skies and powder on the slopes for the next couple of days. In that vein, Scott Braaten sent in some nice reports and pictures from both Thursday and Friday at Stowe, as the Wednesday storm frenzy was over and it seemed like it was time to relax and enjoy the sun and powder at a more leisurely pace.
Although not directly related to snowfall, of note in terms of winter weather is the fact that Friday morning started out quite cold before the sun warmed it up. In Waterbury we bottomed out at -16.6 F, our coldest reading of the season up to that point, and some places in the region neared the -40 F range. I made a quick post to eastern since they were monitoring temperatures in the same thread as the upcoming storm:
“It's been a busy morning so I couldn't find time to post, but here's a little temperature info from our place in Waterbury.”
"We bottomed out at -16.6 F last night, although I had to call my wife up for the info as it was only down to -16.1 F at around 6:00 A.M. when I left.
That temperature marks our coldest reading of the season, with the previous coldest being -13.5 F from 1/4/08
The coldest temperature I recorded last season was -20.6 F on 3/7/07"
The blue skies of Thursday and Friday eventually gave way to storm cycle number two, which began to drop its payload on Friday evening. That second storm was actually supposed to be just a clipper with a bit of lake effect snow for the usual areas, but as is often the case, there was the chance for the Green Mountains to turn on their upslope machine and transform a small to moderate event into something much more.
Dave and Lori came up from the Boston area that evening for their first ski visit of the season. Their timing was excellent for plenty of powder skiing, and they basically snuck their drive in between the two snowfall events. They brought a new puppy “Bacca” with them, who had never been in snow of the depths we had in our yard, so that was an experience. Bacca was initially let loose in the deep snow, which was quite a sight since it was more like swimming, but eventually the concept of using the available paths in the yard was realized. We went to bed with the snow falling, and on Saturday morning I noted my initial observations for that second event:
We took things at a fairly leisurely pace in the morning and got up to the mountain around 9:30 A.M. Bolton was reporting 5 inches of new snow, so their elevation (2,150’) had certainly helped with accumulation compared to our house (495’). There was still some wind kicking around from the storm system and the Timberline lift was on wind hold, so we had to switch from our initial plan of starting our ski day and basing ourselves at Timberline. The woman at the Timberline ticket window said that the lift was definitely going to be running soon, and we could wait if we wanted, but we decided to head up to the main mountain and just get skiing.
Staying down low seemed like a good idea until the wind died down, so we kicked things off at the Snowflake Lift. For our first run we hit our old Standby Snowflake Bentley, which delivered up fresh (and perhaps even first) tracks for everyone as usual. The on trail accumulations were just a few inches since the last grooming, but this was a very good setup for Lori, as she’d never really skied in powder before. She seemed to take to the conditions nicely though. The pace and terrain had been great for Lori (as well as Dylan on the leash) so we hit the same thing again and mixed it up with a bit of the Foxy trail for Ty. We did a couple more runs in the Snowflake area, with Ty testing out one of the easy boxes in the terrain park with success, while Dave worked with Lori over on Bentley. Finally, Lori was feeling confident enough that she joined everyone for a trip through and along the edge of the terrain park. I think she may have even hit the box with Ty.
Ty decided that he needed to go in for a second breakfast at that point, but as the wind had died down, Dave, Lori, and I headed up on the Vista quad while E went into the lodge with the boys. From atop the Vista area I took Dave and Lori on my usual route over to Wilderness, and we shuffled across one of the connectors form the Wilderness Lift Line to hook onto Turnpike. The groomed snow on Turnpike was excellent packed powder/chowder and Lori was able to get some nice work done on her turns. Since we were right at Wilderness, we headed back up via the Wilderness lift, and at the summit we got a call from E to meet up at the bottom of the next run. I looked up toward the top of Ricker Mountain (~3,400’) and noticed a couple of snowboarders hiking up through one of the snowfields to hit some of the options off the summit. It was really cool to see them hiking up and disappearing into the clouds, and it would have been nice to do the same thing, except that Dave and I would have had to abandon everyone else. There was no way Dave was going to abandon Lori, and there’ll be more time for that stuff eventually when the boys (and hopefully Lori as well) are ready. Turning our attention in a more downward direction, we skied Peggy Dow’s along with some of the associated trees, and while it may not have had the excitement factor of exploring lines of the Ricker Mountain summit, the conditions were fantastic. Thanks to storm number one and part of storm number two, there were 15 to 20 inches of powder in many off trail areas, although due to the wind there were also some locations where the powder was only in the range of 8 to 9 inches deep. Lori, being only an occasional skier who hadn’t really skied many places, said she was blown away by the ski experience. She’d never skied in powder before that day, nor had she experienced the freedom to go wherever you wanted on the mountain, whether it was on or off trail. It was something totally new. She said that she had no idea that skiing could be like that, and it actually felt like “an entirely different sport” from the skiing she was used to.
Wet met up with E and the boys at the base and did a Wilderness mid station run. While everyone else went straight down the lift line and possibly into some of the surrounding trees, I took Dylan around on the Lower Crossover and Work Road terrain. I don’t have any notes about specific improvements in Dylan’s skiing for the day, although after spending some time off the leash during our prior outing the previous week, I’m sure I would occasionally release him on his own when we were on appropriate terrain. Other than that I’m sure he simply continued to improve his turning as usual with some leash support. Ty was out of sorts when we got to the bottom of the run, so E took him into the lodge while the rest of us went back up for more. We followed a similar path to what I’d hit with Dylan on the previous run, eventually crossing over to get back toward the base of the Vista and Snowflake lifts. In crossing over, we took part of Fanny Hill, and Lori decided to explore some of the trees off to the skier’s right of the trail. They were open enough, but pretty steep and I’d say she was definitely in over her head. But, all the powder slowed things down to a manageable level and made the crashes rather enjoyable. She really seemed to take to that section of fairly steep terrain, so I started referring to it as “Lori’s Woods”. With that run, everyone had had a good morning of skiing under their belt so we headed in for lunch.
We picked things up in the afternoon with everyone joining in a reprise of our morning’s early runs in the Snowflake area, and as we did another run along and through the terrain park, it was great to see how much more confidently and easily Lori could handle that route. What had taken some warming up to in the morning seemed pretty simple once she’d been over much of the mountain on steeper terrain, deeper powder, and in the trees. The whole group decided to take a run over to Timberline, since it had been closed at the start of the day and we wanted to give Lori a chance to check out that area. Heading over would of course mean another long run to get back, and I was worried that Dylan wouldn’t last that long. Snow was great along the route, and a bit below the junction of Sure Shot and Timberline run, Ty decided to explore a little farther off the trail and managed to get stuck in the deep powder. As I’d suspected, Dylan had been getting close to the end of his energy supply, and by the time we reached the Timberline base he was cooked and ready to go inside. He’d already descended about 4,000 vertical feet and covered quite a distance on his skis, so it wasn’t too surprising. He had been getting used to us basing ourselves out of the Timberline area and wanted to go in there, but unfortunately, our stuff was up at the main base area so we had to get back to the village. We all ascended to the Timberline summit for our next run, but there was no way Dylan was skiing that entire long run to the village on his own legs. I helped him out by carrying him for much of the run, so it was a good workout for me at least.
The entire group made it back to the base, and along with Dylan, Lori was also done for the day, so that left just Ty, Dave, and myself to continue skiing. The three of us rode the Vista quad, made a fun run through the Vista Glades, and, inspired by Lori, made a trip through part of “Lori’s Woods” for good measure. The snow was still really good (and DEEP) in there, and at some point in the Coyote/Fanny Hill environs we just had to take some additional photos. Dave called it a day after that run, leaving just Ty and Dad to go for another. We took the Mid Mountain Lift, meaning we’d actually ridden Bolton’s entire quintet of chair lifts. We skied through the trees down to the Kid’s Terrain Park, getting both of us a dose of powder and then a chance for Ty to hit a few jumps. After that I was finally able to convince Ty that we should get going, trying to walk around the fact that many people around us continued to ski right into the evening session. We really would need to get around to having dinner, so that helped in giving him a reason to go. He immediately asked, “Can we go skiing tomorrow”, which made me smile and I was very happy to say that we could.
All in all it had been a rather long day compared to our usual routine, and the crazy look of my Suunto S6 plot from the day certainly spoke to that. My altimeters had recorded 13 runs, with 7,575’ of descent recorded on the Avocet and 7,470’ of descent recorded on the Suunto for a difference of 1.4%. The temperatures and snow had been fabulous, you could find hard snow in a few select high-traffic areas on the trails, but you basically had to look for it. On the spring side of the conditions, the only place I noticed a little deviation from mid winter snow was down in the very lowest elevations at the bottom of Timberline (~1,550) where the powder had started to soften just a bit with the afternoon sunshine. After all, we had entered March. It had certainly gotten warm in the valley during the day, where my thermometer at the house in Waterbury recorded a high temperature of 39.2 F. We did pick up another couple inches of snow as well, which I noted when I recorded weather observations at 5:00 P.M.:
It was only snowing lightly when I took my weather observations at 5:00 P.M., but as the evening wore on, it looked liked an upslope snowfall event was taking shape based on the Burlington weather radar imagery. By 10:00 P.M. the conditions had built up to much more significant snowfall at the house, and upslope was clearly in effect. It appeared as though our clipper was turning into quite a bit more than just a moderate event in the valley, so another decent powder day for Sunday was basically imminent.
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