Bolton Valley, VT 28APR2010
We’d had a good run of four small powder days during the April 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th stretch that had gradually resupplied the area’s ski slopes, and in some cases made for wall to wall snow coverage right back down to the base elevations. However, spring warmth and sunshine returned during the midweek, and the lower slopes quickly lost the new coverage. At the end of the week I’d casually glanced at the forecast and saw that there was eventually another round of moisture coming in with valley temperatures around 40 - hinting at another potential round of elevation snows. Still, it was nothing obvious in terms of snow production, and another round of powder was far from our minds as we were back to spring skiing on Saturday at Killington.
It really wasn’t until I was listening to the morning radio weather forecasts the following Monday morning that I caught wind of a real potential for additional snow. Bob Minsenberger, who usually seems to lean more toward the Champlain Valley in his Point FM forecasts, was already talking about accumulating snow getting down to relatively low elevations, and Roger Hill’s thoughts were very similar. I checked out the discussion at the Burlington NWS, and of course they were talking about it too:
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BURLINGTON VT
750 AM EDT MON APR 26 2010
.SHORT TERM /6 PM THIS EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY/... PERSISTENT WRAP AROUND MOISTURE AND COLD AIR WILL PROVIDE THE INGREDIENTS FOR A LATE SEASON UPSLOPE SNOWFALL ABOVE 1000 FEET IN THE DACKS AND NORTHERN GREENS. LOOKS LIKE JACKPOT SPOT WILL BE JAY PEAK WITH FAVORABLE NORTHWEST FLOW OVER MORE THAN 24 HOURS. HAVE HOISTED WINTER STORM WATCH FROM 12Z TUE THROUGH 20Z WED. PRECIPITATION WILL BEGIN AS A RAIN AND SNOW MIX ON TUESDAY...CHANGING TO ALL SNOW AS COLD AIR FILTERS INTO THE REGION. HEAVIEST SNOW WILL LIKELY FALL TUESDAY NIGHT AS TEMPERATURES DROP BELOW FREEZING ACROSS THE FORECAST AREA...MAINLY ABOVE 1000 FEET...AS PERSISTENT NORTHWEST FLOW CONTINUES. SNOW WILL CONTINUE INTO WEDNESDAY ACROSS THE HIGHER TERRAIN AS COLD AIR ADVECTION KEEPS TEMPERATURES BELOW FREEZING AND PRECIPITATION WILL STAY MAINLY ALL SNOW...THEN MIX WITH RAIN BEFORE ENDING DURING THE AFTERNOON. BY WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON SNOW ACCUMULATIONS MAY EXCEED 9 INCHES ABOVE 1000 FEET...WITH MORE THAN A FOOT POSSIBLE IN THE JAY PEAK AREA.
On Monday evening, Powderfreak weighed in with a few weather thoughts, and he said that things were looking very good for an “absolutely classic Northwest-flow upslope event along the Green Mountains”. For those that like plenty of snow in the Northern Greens, that’s music to the ears.
By the time we got to Tuesday, everything seemed to be trending in the direction of increased snowfall. The northern tier of Vermont had generally been the expected hot spot for the snow, but as we got closer to the event, Winter Storm warnings and advisories continued to creep southward, forecast snow levels dropped down to the floors of even the lowest valleys, and snowfall projections pushed toward two feet for the higher elevations of the Northern Green Mountains. Even the Champlain Valley was expected to get in on the act. Unlike the previous round of snow that had dropped a few inches each day, it looked like this dump was going to come in the form of one mighty wallop in the Tuesday-Wednesday Period:
The updated forecasts were generally on the mark, although I think some people were surprised by how quickly the rain changed over to snow down in the Champlain Valley. At my UVM location (elevation 380’) in Burlington, the precipitation had already changed over to snow by 7:45 A.M. on Tuesday, and Powderfreak started to send in pictures from his place in Jeffersonville showing the onset of snowfall. The snow continued throughout the day, and back in Waterbury at the house (495’) we’d picked up 3.0 inches by 6:00 P.M. The west slopes of the Northern Greens were getting quite a pounding, and once he got his power back on, Powderfreak sent in some pictures of the area from Tuesday evening.
We picked up another 3.1 inches of snow at the house as of 6:00 A.M. Wednesday morning, and more pictures of the new snow started to flow in at EasternUswx.com. It started with some early morning pictures from klw in Peacham, although by that point I’d already headed off to the higher elevations to make some turns in the new snow.
Driving up the Bolton Valley Access Road, there was no real snow line to report on like the previous events, since substantial accumulating snow had fallen all the way to the valley. Instead of a snow line, there was a dramatic increase in snowfall amounts resulting from relatively minor increases in elevation. The 3 to 4 inches of snow at the base of the access road (340’) had more than doubled by the time I got up to the Bolton Valley welcome sign at around 1,000’. Those trees in the lower elevations that had decided to partially leaf out were a little worse for wear. Many were bent under the heavy snow, and in a couple of spots there were broken limbs on the road that required some negotiation. As I ascended higher, the trend of bent trees gradually decreased as the trees had fewer leaves. I couldn’t get a sense for how much snow was on the ground at the base of Timberline (1,500’) but there appeared to be plenty of snow for skiing right there. I continued on upward to the main base of the resort however, figuring I might as well maximize the available snow, get to the driest snow, and make use of the old base that was available on the upper mountain in case it was needed.
The Bolton Valley Village (2,100’) had a temperature of about 30 F, and it was really in the midst of winter’s fury; there wasn’t too much wind, but big flakes of snow were coming down in the 1 to 2 inch/hour range. I was early enough that only minimal plowing had been done, so my first priority was to find a place to park without getting myself stuck. I opted for the little parking lot just below the lodge. It wasn’t plowed and had about a foot of snow in it, but it’s flat and generally well drained. The Subaru did a nice job of plowing through that untracked snow.
I geared up and started getting some better measurements of the new snow; I found 12 inches on the ground, and 15 inches on elevated surfaces at the base area. Boy was that snow pounding down! It made me wonder just how deep the snow accumulations were ultimately going to get. I saw not a single track of any sort of vehicle or skier anywhere on the slopes, and it was quickly obvious that I was going to be breaking trail. The snow was reasonably light, perhaps 8% H2O or so, but there wasn’t any notable density gradient that I could find in the accumulation, so I was sinking way down into it. There’s something to be said for smaller snowfall events and those days that the resort puts down a nice groomed surface for travel. I opted to skin up the Bear Run route, not wanting to tackle the steeper pitch of Beech Seal in such deep snow. I trudged upward, creating a skin track at what felt like and excruciatingly slow pace. I meandered a bit with my ascent route, using any sort of moose track, deer track, or other imperfections in the snow to gain an edge on breaking trail through the deep. It was amazing, but even just a little compaction left by an animal trail made quite a difference in the ascension effort.
The slow ascent meant my time was running shorter than I’d expected, but I could also tell from the snow that I was going to need to hit the steepest slopes I could find to get moving. I opted to ascend in the New Sherman’s Pass area, shooting for a descent of Upper Glades/Glades. I stopped at ~2,600’ atop Upper Glades, measured the depth of snow at around 18 inches, and prepared for the descent.
Anything without pitch was almost as slow as skinning up hill, but fortunately I could make turns on the steeper pitches. The skiing on the steeper pitches was just as one might expect – a deep, full on powder wake-building experience. I opted for the Chute on the left side of Glades, and got some pretty decent turns out of that. Returning back to the base through flat terrain was another experience in trudging, one of the slowest returns to Beech Seal I can recall.
I didn’t have time to recheck any snow depths, but my car already had another inch plus of snow on it when I got back after my short tour. I was hardly prepared for that, and had to dig out my snow scraper to clear it all off. On the descent of the access road, I saw two utility trucks that were presumably working on lines affected by the storm, and there were still a couple of trees/branches down in the road. Even back in Burlington, the snow was still coming down like a blizzard. Although the snow wasn’t accumulating like it was up on the mountain, it was dumping with fury and plenty of wind as I walked from my car.
There was actually a rather interesting snowfall situation going on in Burlington on Wednesday morning. One of our graduate students lives down in the hill section of town, probably at an elevation a bit under 200’, and at his apartment that morning there was no snow. He’d seen the snow on campus the previous day, but based on what he observed at his place that morning, he figured it was all rain in the area. He started heading up the hill to campus, totally unprepared for what he was going to run into. About halfway up the hill he started seeing slush accumulations on the ground, and by the time he got to our part of campus at around 380’, he was into that raging blizzard with strong winds, heavy snowfall, and the ground covered with a few inches of wet snow. I’m not sure if it the lake had any part in it, or if it was simply elevation, but that was quite a sharp gradient in terms of accumulations.
Later in the day on Wednesday, the snow in Burlington changed over to a bit of rain before tapering off. I had contemplated heading back up to the hill for another run in the late afternoon, but just ended up having too much to do. Another student I know did head up for some afternoon turns at Bolton and said that conditions were nice. The resort had actually run a groomer up part of the mountain which made travel much easier, and he got some steep turns up on Hard Luck and Spillway. Powderfreak sent out another couple rounds of pictures from the event, some from the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield, and another round from the valley. Many thanks Powderfreak for doing such a thorough job of documenting the snowfall in his corner of the western slopes of the Greens.
By the time I was leaving UVM, skies were starting to clear and the sun was lighting up areas of the mountains. It was easy to see the substantial coating of white that had been put down on the mountains and higher foothills, while the trees in the lower hills in the Champlain Valley weren’t really covered. I grabbed a quick shot of Camel’s Hump before heading home.
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