Bolton Valley, VT 30NOV2008


Pictures and data plots are embedded in this report, but also available at:


Upon returning to Vermont after our Thanksgiving holiday travels in Southern New England, I wasn’t expecting the skiing to be all that exciting since there hadn’t been much in the way of recent fresh snow.  I didn’t think we’d head out to the slopes until we got another storm, but I happened to catch Robert Pfister’s SkiVT-L trip report from Smuggler’s Notch, and it turned out that the mountain slope conditions featured a few inches of fresh snow over a reasonably soft base.  That seemed pretty decent to me, so E and I took the boys up to Bolton Valley for some earned turns on the afternoon of Sunday, November 30th.


Sunday morning had been sunny, although the afternoon saw clouds building in with the approach of the next winter storm.  Up on the mountain, the temperatures were in the upper 20s F, and there was a slight breeze that spoke of the approaching weather, but it was very comfortable which was good for the boys.  The mountain was making some snow over on the main trails above the lodge, but our plan was to head over to the Snowflake area for skiing.  I figured we could find some slopes that were mellow enough for Dylan as well as Ty, since he was using his Telemark skis and might want to do some work with Telemark technique.  Along with Ty, E and I were also using our Telemark skis and skins, while Dylan, who doesn’t have a setup for skinning yet, went with his alpine ski boots on snowshoes while I carried his skis.  We did let Dylan use his Nordic poles for the ascent, although the downside of that choice is that he often wants to keep them for the descent.  At this point poles are mostly a distraction for him while he’s skiing, since he’s far from being able to use them.  However, he sees his brother using them and of course wants to do the same.



We skinned up Lower Bentley, which had pretty unadulterated snow aside from one snowmobile track.  Finding some untouched snow was important because wherever people had traveled, they had really left their impressions in the base.  Those of us on skins took turns leading the way up the trail, although with the powder only a couple inches deep there was no extra effort in taking the lead and sometimes we even created two skin tracks in parallel.  Dylan started mentioning that he was getting tired about halfway up Lower Bentley, but we managed to urge him on to reach roughly halfway up the Snowflake Lift, which was about 1/3 of a mile in distance and ~200’ of vertical.  Ty wondered if we could go to the top of the lift, so with Dylan and E willing to hang out in their spot for a while, Ty and I continued on up.



Ty’s initial enthusiasm for reaching the top of the chair waned a bit as we hit the steeper sections of Snowflake Bentley, but I managed to keep him going with encouragement and pointing out that it was his idea ;).  There was quite a steep short pitch ascending directly above the Villager crossover, and my skins even slipped a little in a couple spots.  I was concerned about how Ty would handle that spot, but I checked with him and his skins seemed to be holding well.  Ty made it to the top a few minutes after me, and we were soon ready for the descent.



The snow was feeling a bit firm under the couple of inches of loose snow, but it was a crunchy/bonded sugar type of base as others had described, and it did have some give.  The turns were most fun away from any previous tracks or marks in the snow, and there was lots of open space so we got plenty of untracked turns.  Even where there hadn’t been any human activity the base snow was a bit runneled from a previous storm, but the surface was generally smooth and the skiing was decent.  Ty had to ski parallel alpine technique on the upper part of Snowflake Bentley, as it’s certainly an intermediate pitch and there was no way he was going to be trying anything Telemark with that combination of slope and snow surface.  Fortunately alpine technique works fairly well for him, even if the stability of his alpine turns was reduced a bit on Telemark gear and he ended up tipping over a couple of times.




We reached Dylan and E just about the time Dylan was wondering where we were and wanted start heading up to see us.  The slope of Lower Bentley was a bit mellower, so as we descended there Ty was able to work on some paramark turns and he seemed to be having fun with that.  Dylan got himself into some nice powder and had a really good time making tracks and looking backwards to check them out.  Before long we were back at the car; my GPS odometer recorded a distance of 0.92 miles for the round trip, with a bottom elevation of 2,104’ and a top elevation of 2,442’ for a difference of 338’.  The vertical descents recorded by the altimeters for the trip were 335’ on the Avocet and 358’ on the Suunto, for a difference of 6.6%.






When we were leaving from the main parking area (~2,100’) at around 4:00 P.M., it hadn’t started snowing, but it sure felt close.  Later in the evening the incoming storm finally started to drop its snow.  I didn’t see when the first flakes started falling in Waterbury (495’), but at 4:50 P.M. I was heading off to the supermarket and it was already snowing in the light to moderate range.  The temperature at the house was a degree or two above freezing at that point, and there wasn’t any notable snow accumulation, so I’m guessing the snow started sometime between 4:30 and 4:45 P.M.  When I went into the supermarket, I suspected that things were going to look quite a bit different when I came out, and that was definitely the case.  It was about 6:30 P.M. when I finally left the market, and roughly a half inch or so of somewhat wet snow had accumulated.  Everything was plastered with snow, I had to take some time to clean off all my car windows, and the parking lot was already getting a bit greasy.  By 7:30 P.M., we’d received 1.4 inches of snow at the house, and we had moderate to heavy snow falling with flakes ranging in diameter from 0.1 to 0.5 cm.  The snow was dense but didn’t appear to be overly wet on the snowboard, so I guessed that it was probably in the ~10% H2O range.  I got the real number when I collected my observations later in the evening, and the data indicated that my initial density estimate was a little low:


Sunday, November 30th, 2008:  10:00 P.M. update from Waterbury, VT


New Snow: 2.7 inches

Liquid Equivalent:  0.32 inches

Snow/Water Ratio: 8.4

Snow Density:  11.9%

Temperature:  32.2 F

Humidity:  97%

Dew Point:  31.1 F

Barometer:  29.77 in. Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Moderate/Heavy Snow

Storm snow total:  2.7 inches

Storm liquid equivalent total:  0.32 inches

Current snow at the stake:  4 inches

Season snowfall total:  21.6 inches


“At approximately 9:25 P.M., I looked outside and the snowfall had really slowed to almost nothing.  The flakes that were falling were quite granular, and there was even some sleet coming down.  I figured that was going to be it in terms of snowfall tonight, but as I was out clearing the snowboard at 10:00 P.M. it was already snowing again in the moderate to heavy range.  Within a few minutes there was a substantial coating on the snowboard again; there’s another 0.3 inches of snow on the board at this point (~10:30 P.M.) and we continue with moderate snowfall.”


I completed a final set of observations for the event the following morning:


Monday, December 1st, 2008:  6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT


New Snow: 0.6 inches

Liquid Equivalent:  0.32 inches

Snow/Water Ratio: 1.9

Snow Density:  53.3%

Temperature:  34.7 F

Humidity:  98%

Dew Point:  34.0 F

Barometer:  29.50 in. Hg

Wind:  Calm

Sky:  Rain

Storm snow total:  3.3 inches

Storm liquid equivalent total:  0.64 inches

Current snow at the stake:  4 inches

Season snowfall total:  22.2 inches


“At about 11:00 P.M. last night our snowfall started to become granular, and I didn’t check on the precipitation again before going to bed, but it was probably transitioning to sleet.  This morning the precipitation was rain, and the accumulation on the snowboard was saturated with water.  Whereas yesterday morning the yard snowpack was down to ~1 inch, this morning there are 4 inches there and it’s very dense stuff, so thus far this event has represented a substantial increase in the snowpack, at least down at our elevation.  I didn’t pay attention to the snow on the ground for the entire trip to Burlington this morning, but in the Williston/Burlington area there is a somewhat variable coating of slushy snow up to about an inch.  Here on the UVM campus (380’) the ground is mostly white.”


“Now that it is December 1st, our November Waterbury snowfall is complete and this event makes November 2008 the snowiest at our location since I started recording in 2006, even edging out November 2007 (18.8 inches) and obviously ahead of November 2006 where we amazingly received no snowfall.”



Pictures and data plots from the day are also available at:




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