Bolton Valley, VT 22NOV2008
Picture and data plots are embedded in this report, but also available at:
Even with excellent local forecasters that are constantly on the lookout for Green Mountain upslope snowfall, we still get an occasional surprise event. As nice as is to have such great forecasting and be able to work these events into our skiing schedules ahead of time, there’s also something to be said for having lots of snow pile up out of nowhere. This season, we received our first snowfall surprise in the November 20-23 range, where we picked up 14.2 inches of snow in Waterbury (495’) and the higher elevations of the Green Mountains picked up a couple of feet.
Our first signs of the event were actually on November 20th, when Ty and I were out skiing on Mt. Mansfield and we encountered steady snowfall that was even starting to accumulate on my car in the base area. The snowfall in the Great Lakes had been going off for a while, and we’d reached the point where even Lake Champlain was getting in on the act to contribute some bona fide Champlain™ Powder. The event really started to hit home in Waterbury the following morning, where I found that we’d picked up an inch of the ultra fluffy snow on my snowboard:
Friday, November 21st, 2008: 6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT
New Snow: 1.0 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.01 inches
Snow/Water Ratio: 100
Snow Density: 1.0%
Temperature: 21.2 F
Dew Point: 12.9 F
Barometer: 30.00 in. Hg
Sky: Light Snow
Storm snow total: 1.0 inches
Storm liquid equivalent total: 0.01 inches
Current snow at the stake: Trace
Season snowfall total: 3.3 inches
“I woke up to find an inch of fluffy snow on the snowboard this morning (it came in as only 1% H2O based on the liquid I was able to obtain from it, although that number is probably off due to the small sample). Snowfall was also continuing in the form of big flakes in the 1 cm + diameter range. I’d suspected we might pick up something based on the way it was snowing when we were at Mt. Mansfield yesterday and the look of the local radar last night. It was snowing lightly but consistently all the way from Waterbury to Richmond this morning, and all those areas had a decent coating of snow up to perhaps an inch. In Burlington this morning there’s no new snow and the sky is actually partly clear, but I can see snowfall backed up against the mountains. There are still a couple of streamers visible on the radar this morning (see image below), which may be getting some enhancement from Lake Champlain. I think our house was getting snow from the band to the north of the more intense one with yellow echoes. I saw that more intense band as well last night and wonder if someone in the Camel’s Hump area got a more substantial accumulation from it.”
That day, we had some flurries in Burlington, but I could see that a wall of snowfall was sitting in front of the Green Mountains and reports indicated that the ski areas were starting to pick up substantial accumulations. We even got in on a little more of the action in Waterbury, bringing us to 1.6 inches of snowfall for the event:
Friday, November 21st, 2008: 7:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT
New Snow: 0.6 inches
Liquid Equivalent: 0.02 inches
Snow/Water Ratio: 30
Snow Density: 3.3%
Temperature: 21.2 F
Dew Point: 12.2 F
Barometer: 30.24 in. Hg
Sky: Light Snow
Storm snow total: 1.6 inches
Storm liquid equivalent total: 0.03 inches
Current snow at the stake: <1 inch
Season snowfall total: 3.9 inches
“In Burlington today we had little more than flurries, but the mountains were hidden the entire time by a wall of snow, and the radar had that upslope look. Arriving back in Waterbury, there was a bit of new accumulation on my car, and 0.6 inches on the snowboard at 7:00 P.M. As of 10:00 P.M., there’s already another 1.8 inches of snow on the snowboard. We’ve picked up an inch in the past hour, so the pace of snowfall certainly seems to have picked up in our area. Hopefully the mountains are doing well. Below I’ve added the latest 24-hour accumulations that I’ve seen reported by the local ski areas.”
Jay Peak: 4 inches (9:30 P.M.)
Smugg’s: 6 inches (11:57 A.M.)
Stowe: 2 inches (12:00 P.M.)
Mad River Glen: 6 inches (8:00 A.M.)
Sugarbush: 5 inches (2:29 P.M.)
Killington: 3 inches
“A shot of this evening’s radar is included below; the echoes don’t look all that intense, but we’ve got big flakes coming down in the form of 1 inch/hour snowfall right now.”
As indicated above, things really started to pick up in terms of snowfall rates after about 9:00 P.M. that evening. I didn’t actually expect the heavier snowfall to go on for very long, since the forecast didn’t call for anything too substantial, but it just kept coming down at about an inch an hour. I was intrigued by what was going on outside, and since I was still awake at 1:00 A.M. for the next six-hour accumulation point, I recorded my observations:
I again suspected that things would taper off at some point during the night, but I woke up to find that the inch per hour snowfall had continued, and I had quite a slug of additional snow on the snowboard. While it wasn’t quite time to record the six-hour snowfall total yet, I sent out a quick message to SkiVT-L and First Tracks to let the early morning local skiers know that they should be on the lookout for significant accumulations of new snow:
“Unless, we're under a special band of snow here, local skiers may be in for a bit of an extra treat this morning when they head out to the slopes. We've been receiving roughly 1 inch per hour snowfall here in Waterbury since about 10:00 P.M. last night, and it's still snowing out there. I'll have more details when I run the numbers after a 7:00 A.M. snowboard reading.”
When I finally took my measurements at 7:00 A.M., it turned out we’d had another 6 inches in the 6 hours since 1:00 A.M., and we were approaching a foot of snowfall for the event in the valley:
A little later I sent out another update after I’d checked on some of the local ski area accumulations as well. I was surprised to find that the valley accumulations I’d recorded weren’t all that different from what some of the mountains were reporting, and we even seems to have more snow than some of the mountain areas outside our local upslope zone. But, the incredibly light snow settled very fast, so that certainly affected snow totals:
“We've passed a foot of accumulation for this event down here in Waterbury (495'), with much of it coming overnight. As of ~8:00 A.M. the snowfall rate has slowed down here to about 0.5 inches/hour, but it's still snowing. Some of the local ski areas have reported in with their snowfall this morning, here are the 24-hour accumulations I've seen”:
Jay Peak: 4 inches (5:30 A.M.)
Stowe: 10 inches (6:15 A.M.)
Mad River Glen: 6 inches (8:00 A.M.)
Sugarbush: 8 inches (7:41 A.M.)
Killington: 3 inches
That morning the boys went out and played in the snow, and E and I joined them for a bit as well. We’d had over a foot of snow, so I contemplated running the snow thrower through the driveway to clear it, but the stuff was so feather light it didn’t seem like there was any need. Even when the plow came down our road and created the berm at the end of the driveway, it too was so light that it almost seemed pointless to deal with it. I figured we’d just drive over the stuff and pack it down, or do a little pushing with the shovels when it settled.
Later that afternoon, Ty and I headed up to Bolton to check out the snow and do a little skiing. It was certainly going to be interesting to see what had gone on up there if we’d already picked up over a foot of snow in the valley. Ty was anxious to try out his new Telemark gear and skins, and while I’d told him I wanted him to first get at least one day on his alpine gear to ensure that he had his skis legs back, he’d already been out three times without a change to try out his Telemark skis. Up to that point, the situation of each outing had either lacked the right snow, or easy enough terrain, or both, and I didn’t want him getting into trouble on the wrong slopes. This time, there was obviously plenty of snow, and we’d be able to visit some mellow terrain that would hopefully be manageable for him. We put the skins on our Tele skis, and after lunch we headed up to the hill.
The temperature was around 20 F in the valley areas below the access road (~300’) and 14 F in the upper village parking lot (~2,100’) when we arrived in the early afternoon. I could see from the various cars in the parking lot that the mountain had received a decent amount of snow, and it was still coming down nice and hard. I had been expecting quite a wind with all the upslope snowfall, but as we put on our gear in the parking lot, the air was fairly calm and it was quite comfortable. After setting up Ty with his gear, he got a chance to play around on his skins while I got ready, and then we were off. Right away as we reached the edge of the parking lot and prepared to skin up the slight rise to the access road, we came upon a drift off to our left. The drift was easily as deep as my ski pole is tall, and perhaps the most surprising thing was that even the drifted snow was still incredibly fluffy; you could almost walk through it like it wasn’t even there. The winds at that elevation must have been relatively mild to accumulate snow in that manner.
I gave Ty a few pointers on skinning, and we continued on up toward Beech Seal and the Mid Mountain Lift. When I saw that several of the chairs on the lift were occupied with people, I began to wonder if the resort had decided to open early for some reason because of the new snow, but we soon found out that the mountain was running its lift evacuation drills. We got to watch the drills in progress as we slowly skinned past, and since it was dumping snow pretty steadily, I suspect the folks who were up on the lift and more exposed to the wind were more than happy to get down when they got the chance. Ty and I continued skinning up into the Sprig O’ Pine area, and as I began to take measurements of the new snow in undisturbed locations, I was getting consistent measurements of between 14 and 15 inches. There wasn’t really much of a base below that, so we had to watch out where we were skinning and try to avoid any open water or obvious rocky spots. There hadn’t been any snow guns running down at the base lodge, but about halfway up Sprig O’ Pine we saw a big fan gun off to our right that was dishing out snow. We continued on up past that and toward the summit of the Snowflake Chair, where there was actually a bit of base below the new snow thanks to some previous snowmaking. I broke trail through the fresh snow with a little help from a faint track that might have been from a snowmaker walking between the guns, and Ty had a good task trying to work on his skinning. In deeper powder, even the second skinner in line has some work to do, so he got to experience that phenomenon. Ty even got to break trail on his own for a bit while I was taking some pictures. Before too long we were up at the top of the Snowflake Chair (~2,400’).
I showed Ty how it was possible to take one’s skins off without removing their skis, although for him this meant that I simply took them off for him. It was pretty quick for both of us, although he did enjoy watching me contort myself around a bit as I removed mine. We took a short break and enjoyed the wintry scene at the Snowflake summit before beginning our descent. For the descent, I let Ty know that even though he was on his Telemark skis, he could just go with alpine turns and only try to drop his knee if he felt comfortable. The Green/Blue pitch of Sprig O’ Pine wasn’t nearly enough to really get one moving very fast in all that powder, but I was able to get along OK and keep my momentum going. Ty was too light to get moving in all but the steepest spots, so he followed my track, and broke off into fresh snow when he could. The good thing about the slow pace was that it let Ty experiment with his Telemark skis a bit and he did a little heel lifting to get the feel. For the most part though, he stuck to Alpine technique, especially when we got down out of the untracked powder into the areas where the snow cat had passed. That shallower snow allowed more speed, but we also had to watch out for rocks since some of them had been churned up by the snow cats. Ty tried out a few more Telemark stances with motion as we got into the packed, flatter areas near the base, but that was about it for his first Tele day. My GPS odometer recorded a distance of 1.02 miles for the round trip, a bottom elevation of 2,080’ and a top elevation of 2,418’ for a difference of 338’. The vertical descents recorded by the altimeters for the trip were 345’ on the Avocet and 367’ on the Suunto, for a difference of 6.2%.
When we got home there was more snow accumulation on the snowboard, so I made observations:
With that final accumulation the event ended, bringing our total to 14.2 inches of snowfall. The event went down in the books as our largest November snowfall since I started keeping records here in 2006, with the next largest being a 7.5-inch event on November 27th and 28th, 2007.
Pictures and data plots associated with the report are also available at
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