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Our snowy February in Northern New England had finished off with quite a bang, and March came right in on its heels continuing the trend. The first of two storms in that timeframe had come through during the February 26th-28th midweek period, dropping 8.5 inches of new snow at our house in Waterbury, and leaving us with 54.7 inches of snowfall for the month. As a measure of just how snowy the winter season had been, that number still fell far short of our snowfall for December, which had delivered 67.2 inches of snow to our location in the Winooski Valley (elevation 495’). That first storm had also brought 1 to 2 feet of snow to the local mountains, and we had gotten out for some turns up at Bolton Valley on Saturday with Dave and Lori to take advantage of it.
The second storm was really just an Alberta Clipper type of system that began in our area Friday night, and by Saturday afternoon at 5:00 P.M. when I made a round of weather observations it had dropped just 4.1 inches of snow at the house. However, the Green Mountain upslope came into effect late Saturday into the overnight, and we woke up in the morning to another half foot of absolutely blower Champlain™ Powder. I sent in a quick message to alert the SkiVT-L community of the overnight snowfall in the area, and then ran my measurements to see just how dry that snow actually was:
Sunday, March 2nd, 2008: 6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT.
New Snow: 5.7 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.14 inches
Ratio: 41.5 to 1
Snow Density: 2.4% H2O
Temperature: 20.3 F
Barometer: 28.85 in Hg
Sky: Moderate Snow
Cumulative storm snow total: 9.8 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.52 inches
Current snow at the stake: 34 inches
Season snowfall total: 178.1 inches
“The upslope fairy paid us a little visit last night and brought in some very fluffy Champlain™ Pow. I knew it was going to be sub 4% H2O snow, but I couldn’t quite tell beyond that. The numbers say it was at 2.4% H2O, which is pretty darned dry so I melted two core samples to be sure. Our storm accumulation is up to 9.8 inches now, but there’s already another 0.3 inches that I’ll roll into the next measurement. Our 30-inch stake in the yard is officially buried for the first time this season. I installed our 4-foot stake and it says we’re up to 34 inches of snowpack.”
With the anticipation of only a typical clipper-sized dump of snow to freshen the slopes, we had initially planned on Sunday being a backcountry day, but now there was enough new snow to make us think twice about that option. Bolton’s report of 7 inches of new snow was enough to sway us toward another lift-served day. E and Dylan were staying home, but the rest of us headed up to the mountain for turns. Dave and Lori were able to get going a bit earlier than Ty and I, so we planned to use our radios to meet up. Ty and I arrived at the Timberline base area at around 10:00 A.M. and were able to meet up with Dave and Lori at the mid station of the Timberline quad. The upslope snowfall and associated clouds had broken up and we were already under mostly sunny skies, so it looked like it was going to be a great day on the slopes.
We jumped onto Twice as Nice for our first run together, and soon everyone found themselves skiing the powder in the glades between Twice as Nice and Showtime. Ty blasted right through the trees, and as Lori was still learning to ski powder and learning to ski glades, she had some crashes that slowed her down. Ty was very anxious to keep going, and having to wait for several minutes wasn’t easy for him. I had to explain to Ty that prior to Saturday, I don’t think Lori had ever skied in powder or among trees of any kind, let alone throwing them together. She was actually doing a great job. It was definitely trail by fire, but Lori had enough athleticism and desire to make it work. Unfortunately, there was no way to make Ty understand her situation by having him remember what his experience was like when he was learning to ski such terrain and conditions; he was far too young to recall much of it, and he also had a very gradual exposure to that stuff. Dave was doing a nice job of instructing Lori on her skiing in there, but Lori was up against the problem of having to learn a million new techniques at the same time. Focusing on just one wasn’t necessarily going to cut it. Staying out in more open terrain would have simplified things a lot, but she was really enjoying the trees despite the occasional fall so it was worth the wait. Soon enough, we were all reasonably close together on more open terrain, and Ty was off like a shot getting in his turns.
We all decided to slow things down for Lori with a trip along the Villager/Timberline Run combination. That route let Lori work on specifics of technique and get into more of a groove than she could in the powder and trees. We followed that up with a Timberline mid station run where we continued with the easy terrain theme taking mellow lines along Wood’s Hole. Lori was doing quite well, and easily handled the steep part of Lower Tattle Tale despite lots of chowder. Ty wanted to take a break after that run, so we headed into the Timberline Lodge and made a meal out of some PowerBars and chips that I had on me. Dave and Lori took another run so they could work on Lori’s technique together, and then they came in and joined us during our makeshift lunch.
The mostly sunny skies of the morning gave way to full sun for the afternoon, helping to keep the temperatures up around 30 F in the lower elevations of the resort. When we were done with lunch, we all went back to the Timberline summit and began a run down Villager with plans of heading to the main mountain, but we saw some interesting lines above us in the Villager woods and decided to do another exploratory run off Timberline. I couldn’t find an easy approach to the terrain and didn’t want to lead everyone on a wild goose chase, so I made a mental note to explore that area at a later date and we continued on to the village.
We took a trip up the Snowflake lift and I introduced Dave and Lori to my favorite line in the Chill Zone woods. The powder was quite deep, and Dave did a nice job of ripping it up on his snowboard. Lori struggled a bit with the deep snow and had a good crash and burn at a key left turn. She lost both skis and was nicely buried in powder, but I think she was getting better at extricating herself by that point. Her attitude was positive as usual and she seemed to enjoy the experience. At the bottom of that run Ty decided that he wanted to ride the Mid Mountain lift, so we took that and then he made a run through the Kid’s Terrain Park to hit some jumps.
The Vista summit was our next destination. As we ascended we found that it was getting windy in the higher elevations, so we decided we’d make the full run back to the more sheltered Timberline area. Cobrass was the obvious choice to get us there, but we found that due to blasting by the wind, the steep south facing shot at the top of Cobrass didn’t have quite the quality of snow that we’d been finding everywhere else. The snow was very crusty and firm and we were happy to get past that section. Fortunately, once we got below that area and down into the splits of Cobrass Lane and Cobrass Run, the snow was fantastic again. We also opted to do the extension of Timberline Run to catch turns on Lower Tattle Tale, and that held excellent snow as well. We arrived back down at Timberline, and while the temperature was really nice down there compared to the Vista Summit, we decided to call it a day anyway because we’d had our fill. My altimeters had recorded 8 runs, with 6,470’ of descent on the Avocet, and 6,375’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 1.5%.
That weekend, Bolton Valley had just started selling its season’s passes for the 2008-2009 ski season, and for only about $400 you could get a pass that gave you unlimited skiing for all of 2008-2009, as well as the rest of 2007-2008. Dave was seriously considering taking advantage of the offer, since not having to worry about any ski tickets for the rest of the season and all of the next would really simplify ski trips. Free lodging was already available with us, so having a pass would leave only gas money to worry about, and that would make for pretty inexpensive ski trips down the road. Dave already knew about the quality of Bolton’s snow and general lack of crowds since he had been an instructor there, but he still had to convince Lori that committing to passes was the right idea. Lori was blown away by the snow conditions, but as only an occasional skier up to that point, the commitment of the season’s ski pass was probably a little intimidating.
Dave and Lori decided to look into the pass offer up at the village, so Ty and I bid them adieu for a bit and headed home. When they got back to our house later that afternoon, Dave and Lori were the proud owners of Bolton Valley season’s passes. They had headed up to the main base area, where they visited the deli in the village to get some sandwiches, and seemed to have a good time. In terms of purchasing the passes, I think the deal was sealed when the resort let Dave and Lori roll most of the money they’d spent on the past two day’s lift tickets into the purchase of the passes. It essentially meant they’d need to ski 6 or 7 more days between the rest of the season and next. That seemed like it would be pretty simple feat with unlimited passes.
That afternoon I took my final weather observations for the clipper/upslope storm:
Sunday, March 2nd, 2008: 4:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT.
New Snow: 0.3 inches
Liquid Equivalent: N.D.
Snow Density: N.D.
Temperature: 29.1 F
Wind: 5 MPH
Cumulative storm snow total: 10.1 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.52 inches
Current snow at the stake: 32 inches
Season snowfall total: 178.4 inches
The upslope snow added at least another 3 tenths of an inch after my 6:00 A.M. reading yesterday, but that was the highest value I was able to actually verify with measurement and put down in my records. The snow continued to be very light fluff in the 2 to 4% H2O range, and all it took was a little breeze to come in and totally wipe the board clean. But, I doubt there was much more than a half an inch of total additional accumulation, and I don’t think I would have been able to get a core sample for density on such a small amount of fluff anyway. The final accumulation did push this even into double digits for snowfall however, which was mostly due to Saturday night’s upslope because the snow had accumulated rather slowly in the first part of the storm. The strength of the March sun is becoming quite apparent, as the snow in sunny areas in the yard picked up a thin melt crust. The snow in shaded areas actually remained fluffy, despite a maximum temperature of 34.0 F being recorded by our thermometer in the shade. Even up on the mountain yesterday the sun was making its presence felt. I’m not sure how high the temperature got up in Bolton’s Timberline base area (elevation ~1,550’), but I’d say it stayed below freezing and probably topped out at around 30 F. However, the clouds had totally cleared out by about noon, and the strong afternoon sun had just enough energy to work on snow that was positioned at the perfect aspect at the lowest elevations. I found a southwest-facing spot at around 1,600’ in open woods where the powder had just started to get a bit mushy and stick to my skis. I never found any of that effect at any higher elevations, but it shows that a touch of spring had crept up to the very lowest levels of the resort. Up at the Vista Summit (~3,150’) it was an entirely different world however, with much cooler temperatures, wind, and some blowing snow.
So with 10.1 inches from the weekend storm, and 8.5 inches from the previous midweek storm, we’d picked up about a foot and a half of new snow in the valley over the few days spanning the months of February and March. We’d reached 178.4 inches of snowfall for the season at the house, and hit 34 inches of snow depth at our back yard stake. The snowpack at the Mansfield stake (~3,700’) had reached 92 inches, and off-trail conditions in the local mountains were ranging from bottomless to somewhere in the range of very bottomless. Ty and Dylan went out in the twilight that Sunday evening to play in all the new snow, and created a pretty steep sliding chute on one of our snowbanks. Based on what I used to do all the time when I was a kid, I suspect they’ll also want to dig out some snow forts in these big piles of snow at some point.
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