Bolton Valley, VT 21MAR2008
Pictures and data plots are embedded in this report, and also available at:
After a decent February that saw 54.7 inches of snow accumulate at our house in Waterbury (495’), the first three weeks of March were rather slow in terms of snowfall. Aside from one substantial storm at the beginning of the month that delivered 10.1 inches, we’d seen just 6.9 inches during the subsequent three week period. But change appeared to be on the horizon. On Monday the 17th, Scott Braaten sent in his first indication to SkiVT-L that things were looking snowy in the weather department, and that evening, a thread for the weather event was started on EasternUSwx.com. It looked like we were going to get in on a two-part storm cycle, with a front end dump of snow, followed by a lull with the potential for some mixed precipitation, and then a substantial upslope event on the backside. My first weather and snowfall observations came on Wednesday morning when we got some snow in Waterbury on the front end of the system:
Later that morning, forecaster Roger Hill proposed some accumulations for the upcoming upslope event on SkiVT-L, and then Scott Braaten followed up with his thoughts as well. Both were calling for 1 to 2 feet of upslope snow on top of what we’d already received on the front end, so things were looking good. When the report from the Mt. Mansfield stake came out that evening, the data indicated that the snowpack had just hit 100 inches. That was exciting news, especially coupled to how much additional snow was on the way when the upslope kicked in on the back side of the storm. Temperatures in the valley ended up being rather warm during the day on Wednesday, so snowfall accumulations were minimal, but I recorded what there was when I got back home that evening:
Overnight the temperature stayed above freezing and there was no snowfall at the house, but at some point between 5:30 and 6:00 A.M. on Thursday morning it started to snow. I noted the onset of snow when I took my 6:00 A.M. weather observations:
The lower valleys didn’t stay cold enough to accumulate much of the snow that fell during the day on Thursday, but in the mountains it was a different story. Mt. Mansfield got a decent dump, and by the evening stake reading the snowpack was up to 107 inches and climbing. With nightfall came some cooling of the atmosphere and even the valleys started to accumulate snow. I arrived home to intense snowfall in Waterbury as I took my evening weather readings:
The bout of very heavy snowfall at our house had slowed down as the evening wore on, but based on the Burlington weather radar it looked like the upslope was still going strong, and it was very likely that it was dumping in the mountains. I knew there would be the potential for a decent powder day up in the higher elevations on Friday, so I prepped my ski gear to ensure I’d be ready in the morning. I went to bed wondering just how much snow the mountains were going to get, and how much if any we were going to get down at the house. I woke up to a nice surprise on my snowboard:
Friday, March 21st, 2008: 6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT
New Snow: 4.9 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.14 inches
Ratio: 35.0 to 1
Snow Density: 2.9% H2O
Temperature: 17.6 F
Barometer: 29.91 in Hg
Wind: 0-5 MPH
Cumulative storm snow total: 7.8 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.93 inches (frozen precipitation only)
Current snow at the stake: 29 inches
Season snowfall total: 193.1 inches
“The upslope has really started to kick in now, and apparently it’s substantial enough that schools have been cancelled throughout the area. I’d qualify the intensity of precipitation we’ve got down here as “snow”, although we’ve also had brief bouts of what I’d call “heavy snow” this morning as well. Based on the fact that Mansfield had already had over a foot of accumulation from this event as of yesterday, and noting what we got for snow down here, I figured they could be in the two foot accumulation range as of today. Low and behold, I just checked their web page and as of 6:15 A.M. they’re reporting 21 inches in the past 48 hours, so they’re getting close. It will be fun to see how long the upslope stays around.”
That morning, the precipitation at the house was fluctuating between “snow” and “heavy snow” and it was enough to get school cancelled for E and the boys as well as numerous districts throughout the Green Mountains. Stowe was already reporting close to 2 feet of snow from the event, and although Bolton Valley wasn’t quite as timely in their reporting, I knew that they’d be right there with Stowe in terms of accumulations. I was definitely heading up to the hill for some skiing. Even if I didn’t take the time to ride the lifts, I was going to at least earn some early morning turns before work.
When I left the house it was still snowing fairly heavily, and as usual we didn’t have much wind in our neighborhood. However, that quickly changed once I got into the Bolton flats area of Route 2, where I found lots of gusting and drifting snow. Heading up the Bolton Access Road, it looked like quite a tempest, with howling winds and snow hammering down. It was just what one might want if they were a skier, perhaps minus the strong wind. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to use as a starting point for my tour, but when I reached the Timberline area (~1,550’) I found that the parking lots had yet to be plowed. It was still a while before opening time, and with the rate the snow was falling in the mountains it wasn’t too surprising that they hadn’t had a chance to get to the Timberline lot. I continued on up to the main base (~2,150’) where I parked in the uppermost of the standard lots. My car thermometer was reading a brisk 11 degrees F, but the wind was actually not too bad (~10-15 MPH) in the parking lot. And then there was the snowfall… oh what snowfall! The upslope snow was coming down in the range of 1 to 2 inches an hour. I left my driver’s side door open for about 10 minutes while I was booting up, since it was on the leeward side away from the wind and snow, and there was still a good ¼ inch of accumulation on the door console and left half of the seat by the time I went to close it. I’d set my poles down on the ground, and they had half disappeared in the same amount of time. The Green Mountain upslope was in prime form.
I began my ascent up the mountain, and my first snow depth check was right there in the village. As I passed by the little upper parking lot for hotel guests etc., I saw that it hadn’t been plowed yet that morning. Since it’s nice and flat and in a spot that wasn’t too windy or preferentially sheltered in any direction, it was a good location to get a sense of the overnight accumulation. My measurement pole revealed that the new accumulation since the last plowing was right on at 12 inches there. I then continued skinning up toward mid mountain, thankfully able to follow a packed swath that a groomer had just laid down as it descended in the Sprig O’ Pine area. Up at mid mountain (~2,500’) I checked the depth in an open area in the flats and found 15 inches of accumulation at that elevation. I had enough time to take Sherman’s Pass up to the top of Schuss (~2,800’), and I was happy when a snowmobile came by and cut a new track for me, because the snow was accumulating so fast that there were already a few new inches where the groomer had passed. There were actually 21 inches of new snow at the top of Schuss, although that depth was clearly due to some level of drifting. In the top 50 feet of the trail, the snow had been blown out of the middle, revealing a crusty base. However, the edges there had plenty of snow, and below the top, the trail was filled with deep snow wall to wall.
I prepared for the descent by taking off my skins, and for the first time I tried simply de-skinning without taking off my Telemark skis. It certainly wasn’t a perfect performance, but the process was really slick once I got the hang of it. I recall falling over into the snow once, but it was still worth the effort because it was easy to see how keeping one’s skis on saves time and avoids the hassle of being off your skis in deep powder. As I descended Schuss, the combination of deep powder on such steep terrain was still giving me some trouble with my Telemark turns, but I managed some decent ones. It was obvious that the depth of snow we’d received required substantial pitch, so below Schuss I took the route to the Upper Glades that I had learned from Quinn. I probed the depth of the drifted snow that filled the approach to the Upper Glades, and found that it was 28 inches deep. That wasn’t representative of the entire trail of course, but there was still a good 12-18 inches throughout. I had my Telemark turns dialed in a bit better by that part of the descent, and some of them were dreamy with deep snow billowing all over the place. They were running the Mid Mountain Lift by the time I got down to the base, so I stopped for a couple of minutes and thought about staying for some lift-served runs. Eventually though, I decided that I needed to get to work. My Avocet altimeter had recorded a descent of 835’ and my Suunto altimeter had recorded a descent of 837’, for a difference of just 0.2%.
When I was leaving the mountain, it had warmed up slightly and the temperature was in the low teens in the village. The snowfall was still absolutely ridiculous however. I was actually held up on the access road right at the Timberline base area for a while because there had been an accident in the big steep S curve area below. I was probably there for about a half hour, and I got to see part of the rescue team really earn their keep (although they may have been volunteers) standing out in the heavy snowfall coordinating traffic. Their fireman-style outerwear seemed to be doing a decent job of keeping out the snow as well. I got out of my car at one point to get something from the back, and being out of my shell and ski pants, I was covered in snow and starting to get soaked in a few moments. In terms of traffic, there weren’t too many of us descending the access road at that time of the morning, but there was still a decent line of cars behind me. Sitting in the car watching the huge flakes was a really fun way to pass the time; although had I known I was going to be delayed like that I would have just stayed on the mountain and grabbed a few more powder runs.
When I finally got the OK to proceed down the mountain at around 10:30 A.M., I quickly descended through a dramatic change in weather. The snow was still pounding just as hard up at the Timberline base, but I was amazed at the difference in snowfall with just over 1,000 feet of elevation drop. At the bottom of the access road (~340’) the snow had stopped altogether and the temperature was in the upper teens F. Once I got to the Jonesville/Richmond area, it was like a totally different world. It looked like they’d hardly seen any new snow at all from the event. In Burlington it was in the mid 20s F and about 50% blue sky, although there was still a stiff wind. From Burlington I could see that the mountains cleared out for a bit during the late morning, but then the clouds and snow built back in again early in the afternoon. Accumulations for the upslope part of the storm cycle ended up being in the 1 to 2 foot range for the Northern Greens, on top of the half foot they received on the front end. So, it was a very decent dump overall with 2 to 3 feet of snow for some of the mountains. That evening I made my final weather observations for the event.
Friday, March 21st, 2008: 7:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT
New Snow: 2.4 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.09 inches
Ratio: 26.7 to 1
Snow Density: 3.8% H2O
Temperature: 25.2 F
Barometer: 29.88 in Hg
Wind: 0-5 MPH
Sky: Mostly Cloudy
Cumulative storm snow total: 10.2 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 1.02 inches (frozen precipitation only)
Current snow at the stake: 28 inches
Season snowfall total: 195.5 inches
“It sounds like the snow finally wound down about midday in this area, but it was certainly a decent event overall. One aspect of the storm I found very interesting was how rapidly the snowfall fell off to the west. It seemed that past the Bolton area (~5 miles to the west of here) there was little if any accumulation. I headed up to the mountain this morning for a few turns, so the higher elevation accumulations I measured and some other weather observations from the day can be found in the report below.”
With the aid of that event we were rapidly approaching the 200-inch mark for our yard’s snowfall accumulation on the season. I would have never thought we’d reach a number like that at our low elevation, but the way the winter was going, we certainly seemed to have a shot at it. The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake had jumped again with the addition of the recent snow to reach 110 inches, its highest level of the season up to that point.
Pictures and data plots from the day are also available at:
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