The first week of April saw some warm, sunny spring days sandwiched between a small snowstorm that had come through at the end of March, and another snowstorm that arrived on Friday, April 4th. I’d managed to get in a couple of ski runs in the sun on Thursday afternoon, and by Friday morning we were getting right back into the winter weather. I monitored the incoming storm from Burlington throughout the day as it gradually transitioned to more wintry precipitation:
9:17 A.M.: “I saw the first flakes of this event in Waterbury at 7:25 A.M. just as I was heading to Burlington. After an overnight low at the house of 26.6 F, the temperature at that point was 31.3 F. Aside from the few flurries I saw when I was leaving Waterbury, I didn’t see anything but cloudy skies on the drive to Burlington. Over about the past hour or so, the clouds have begun to drop on the Green Mountain spine from south to north. The peaks to the south of the Route 2/I-89 corridor have essentially disappeared into the clouds, and I can see some snow falling out there now on Camel’s Hump and the Mt. Ellen/Lincoln Peak area. Mt. Mansfield and Bolton Mountain are both still visible, but the cloud deck looks close there so it’s probably at an elevation of around 5,000’ to 6,000’ north of the Route 2/I-89 corridor.”
10:30 A.M.: “We’ve got precipitation now here in Burlington – mostly rain with a little snow mixed in.”
1:50 P.M.: “I thought we’d be trending more toward rain during the day here in Burlington, but for the past couple of hours the precipitation has been all snow as far as I can tell, and it’s been coming down rather steadily. It’s still a very wet snow, but it’s starting to accumulate here on the hill at UVM (380’). The cars outside have a thick slushy coating on their windshields, and the hoods and roofs are becoming white. The grass is also becoming white, but all the paved surfaces here (not sure about salt treatment) are just wet. With what I’ve seen here in town, it seemed that the snow had to be accumulating in the mountains, so I checked out a few of the ski area websites. Stowe said their snow started at around 9:30 A.M. and they had about an inch up top as of 1:00 P.M. A few midday accumulations I’ve seen reported are listed below”:
Jay Peak: 2 inches (12:45 P.M.)
Stowe: 1 inch (1:00 P.M.)
Sugarbush: 3 inches (11:10 A.M.)
The snow actually changed back to rain in the Burlington area as the afternoon wore on, but when I got home to Waterbury in the evening I found that we had some snow accumulation so I recorded some observations:
New Snow: 0.7 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.31 inches
Ratio: 2.3 to 1
Snow Density: 44.3% H2O
Temperature: 34.5 F
Barometer: 29.85 in Hg
Sky: Light Rain
Cumulative storm snow total: 0.7 inches
Cumulative storm liquid total: 0.31 inches
Current snow at the stake: 17 inches
Season snowfall total: 202.3 inches
“After a few hours of snowfall in Burlington during the middle of the day, the precipitation appeared to have changed back to mostly rain by the time I was leaving the UVM area at around 4:00 P.M. As I was walking to my car however, I could see that there was actually still a fair amount of sleet among the rain. My car had retained some slush accumulation on the bottom of the windshield near the wipers, but much of the snow that had fallen earlier had melted in the rain. I don’t recall checking the temperature at that point, but as I was driving around town, I could see that there were still ice crystals in the raindrops landing on my windshield. When I was finally leaving the Burlington area at around 5:30 P.M., my car thermometer was reading 37 F, and the precipitation was just rain; there was no longer any sign of ice crystals in the raindrops at that point either. The temperature and precipitation remained the same until I reached the Richmond area, where the thermometer jumped a degree to 38 F. I looked for signs of snow among the rain as I traveled up the Winooski Valley, but didn’t see any. However, once I passed through the center of Bolton (~340’) the temperature began to drop fairly quickly, and by the time I got to our house (only about 4 miles distant) the car thermometer had dropped 3 degrees to 35 F. Coincident with the temperature drop, I began to see new snowfall accumulation off the sides of the road, whereas I’d seen no hint of residual accumulation prior to that. When I checked my house thermometer upon arrival, it was reading 34.5 F, fairly consistent with what I’d seen on the car. The precipitation was just light rain at that point (6:00 P.M.) and I was surprised that there wasn’t at least a mix of snow and rain as we were getting close to the freezing mark. That made me suspect there was some fairly warm air somewhere up in the atmosphere. I’m not sure how much snow we actually accumulated down here at the house (495’) during the day, but we had a slushy 0.7 inches left at 6:00 P.M. It had clearly been saturated by the rain that came after it, and the consistency of the accumulations on the snowboard was exactly like cream of wheat. It was an interesting feeling as I cleared it off with the squeegee. I couldn’t see an obvious snow line through the clouds as I looked up into the mountains, but it’s definitely been snowing up there – Jay Peak is up to 6 inches of accumulation and counting. I’ve added some of the snowfall accumulations reported by the Northern Vermont ski resorts below, listed north to south.”
Jay Peak: 6 inches (6:26 P.M.)
Burke: 1 inch (3:21 P.M.)
Smuggler’s Notch: 3 inches (3:48 P.M.)
Stowe: 3 inches (5:30 P.M.)
Mad River Glen: 2 inches (4:30 P.M.)
Sugarbush: 2 inches (2:12 P.M.)
Pico: 1 inch
Killington: 1 inch
Jay Peak appeared to have done the best out of that little system with a decent half foot of accumulation, and the snow seemed to fall off rather quickly as one headed south toward Stowe. I figured Bolton would likely have seen accumulations in the range of what Stowe had reported, so Ty and I prepared to head up to the hill on Saturday morning. Depending on how hard the base snow was and how dense the new snow was, a few inches might make for some decent skiing.
When I checked my thermometer for the overnight temperature information from our house in Waterbury (495’), I found that the low temperature was 34.0 F so we hadn’t dropped below freezing. By 5:00 A.M., our temperature was still at 34.5 F, and around 8:30 A.M. when we headed up to the mountain, the temperature had risen up to 38 F according to the car thermometer. At that point the precipitation in the valley was light rain, and the temperature stayed at 38 F to the base of the Bolton Valley access road (340’) before it started dropping as we climbed in elevation. Up at the village (2,150’) the temperature was down to 34 F, light snow was falling in the form of very fine flakes, and the cloud ceiling was right down on us. The resort was setting up their pond for the pond skimming that was going to be taking place later in the day. It was too bad that they had to do it on a rather cold, overcast day, because it looked like Sunday was going to feature stellar spring weather. There didn’t appear to be much of anybody on the mountain in terms of skiers, which wasn’t too surprising at such an early hour with non-spring weather.
We hopped on the Vista Quad so we could see what the accumulations were like at the summit (3,150’). They’d definitely received a few inches of snow in the summit areas, and the temperature was below freezing up there, but they had also received some glaze so there was a hard crust on top of the new snow. I’d suspected that there was some warm air up higher in the atmosphere when we didn’t have any snow mixing in at the house on Friday, even though we were down around 34 F. The groomed terrain was the only practical option for skiing on the upper half of the mountain, and if the conditions had been like that at all elevations, we would have just headed home. But, once we hit the lower mountain, things changed. The groomed terrain was still somewhat firm like the upper mountain, because by grooming they had churned up some of the spring-cycled base into the new snow. However, the areas on the lower mountain that hadn’t seen a groomer were quite nice. There were a couple inches of wet snow that hadn’t seen any freezing, and it was on top of a soft subsurface. Ty and I hit the fresh snow on the skier’s right of Beech Seal and were soon whooping and hollering as the snow peeled away under our skis. We were wishing they hadn’t groomed anything on the lower mountain because it was so nice. Based on that, there was no need to head to the upper mountain again, so we stayed for a few more runs on the lower mountain using the Snowflake and Mid Mountain lifts. I know many people like top to bottom lifts, but these are the kind of days when having some mid mountain lifts is especially useful.
During our time on the lower mountain we had some really nice turns, those on the skier’s right of Beech Seal and then some more on Snowflake Bentley and Sprig O’ Pine off the Snowflake lift. We headed up the Mid Mountain lift after that, and had a decent run, although amazingly, the temperature seemed to be dropping and the untracked snow on the lower mountain was starting to freeze up. I couldn’t believe that the temperature was dropping as the morning wore on, but that’s what was going on. When we got back down to the car at around 10:00 A.M., the snowfall had increased a bit, and it was below freezing even at that elevation. The altimeters had recorded 4 runs, with 2,150’ of descent on the Avocet and 2,005’ of descent on the Suunto for a difference of 7.0%. The temperature at the bottom of the access road was down to 35 F (vs. 38 F when we’d ascended about 90 minutes earlier), and it really seemed like some cold air was coming in on the west side of the mountains. Back at the house a few miles to the east it was noticeably warmer at 39 F, and it was getting lighter out because the clouds appeared to be thinning.
The Suunto S6 plot from the day is also available at:
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