Bolton Valley, VT 3/31/2009

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  1. #1

    Camera Bolton Valley, VT 3/31/2009

    Date(s) Skied: March 31st, 2009

    Resort or Ski Area: Bolton Valley, VT

    Conditions: 8 inches of new snow at ~3,000', 6 inches at 2,500', 5 inches at 2,100'; Snow density in the 10-12% H2O range akin to freshly-fallen Sierra cement. Temperatures in the 20s F, light snowfall to start the day

    Trip Report: Based on earlier forecasts, this week’s Monday/Tuesday period had shown promise for some snow, so I’d mentally penciled it in as something to watch. It didn’t look like anything too outrageous, but with the way this March has been unusually warm and dry, it would have to suffice. However, as time went on, the idea of a snow event seemed to diminish, and even the Burlington NWS was making little mention of snow as of Monday. It wasn’t until Monday evening at some point between 10 and 11 P.M. when I realized that the snow might actually be coming. I happened to look outside before heading off to bed, and saw that we were receiving a steady, moderate rain. More importantly though, I noticed that big fat snowflakes were starting to mix in with the rain. I checked the outdoor temperature, which indicated that we were at 35.8 F. That certainly wasn’t all that cold for accumulating snow, but if snow was already mixing in all the way down to our location in the Winooski Valley (495’) then it was likely that the mountains had been getting snow for a while. I popped on the BTV composite radar and saw a big mass of moisture smashed up against the spine of the Green Mountains in the Bolton/Mansfield area. It had that look that said powder could be coming.

    In the morning I awoke and wondered if we were in for another valley surprise like we’d had back on the 22nd, where we ended up getting 4.7 inches of snow at the house. I lay there and listened to what I could hear. The sounds from outside didn’t seem too muffled, so it didn’t appear as though we’d had too big a dump in the valley. Eventually I had to get up and have a look. I could see that the ground was white, even beyond the areas where the spring snowpack was holding on. I could also see that the new accumulation of snow was quite wet, but at least we’d picked up something. At 6:00 A.M. I went out and made some snowfall observations:

    Summary: 0.8” snow total in Waterbury (495’) as of 6:30 A.M. EST

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2009: 6:00 A.M. update from Waterbury, VT

    New Snow: 0.6 inches
    Liquid Equivalent: 0.10 inches
    Snow/Water Ratio: 6.0
    Snow Density: 16.7%
    Temperature: 33.6 F
    Humidity: 98%
    Dew Point: 32.9 F
    Barometer: 30.21 in. Hg
    Wind: Calm
    Sky: Light/Moderate Snow
    Storm snow total: 0.6 inches
    Storm liquid equivalent total: 0.10 inches
    Current snow at the stake: <1 inch
    Season snowfall total: 178.4 inches

    “I happened to take a look outside last night between 10:00 and 11:00 P.M. and noticed that it was raining moderately, but snow was starting to mix in even down at this elevation. It was in the mid 30s F at the time, but I figured if the temperature kept coming down there might be some accumulation. That was the case this morning as the whole yard has a new white coating instead of the just the leftover spring snow areas. Mt. Washington picked up 5 inches of snow in the past 24 hours, but I haven’t seen any reports out of the local Vermont mountains yet this morning.”


    The snowfall slowed down by around 7:00 A.M., and before leaving the house I gave the snowboard one last check to reveal that we were still at 0.8 inches of snow accumulation. Based on the forecast for warm temperatures, I suspected that’s all we’d be able to accumulate in the valley. Unfortunately I still had no idea what had gone on in the higher elevations, but if it was snowing all the way down to the house elevation, I was certainly going to stop in at the mountain and see what they’d picked up. The snow accumulations tapered off a bit as I headed west a few miles to the Bolton Valley access road, so that at the base of the road (340’) there was just an irregular coating of snow on parts of the ground and nothing on the trees. Any decrease in new snow accumulation from the house elevation to the base of the access road hadn’t been that obvious over the course of a few miles, but I was about to get a dramatic presentation of just where the snow line was located for this storm. The only mildly snowy scene I’d encountered at the base of the access road was instantly transformed into a winter wonderland as soon as I crested the road’s first steep pitch and hit an elevation of roughly 500’. My surroundings immediately became white, as the trees, the ground, and every other object was well covered with fresh snow. It was one of the more tight snow lines I’ve seen recently. Consistent with that tight snow line, the depths of the new snow increased rapidly as I went up in elevation. I initially wasn’t sure how much snow there would be up high, but as I started seeing cars come down the access road with what looked like a half foot of snow on them, I figured that the mountain had received a good shot of the white stuff. Seeing how elevation dependent the snowfall was, I drove right past the Timberline Base (elevation ~1,500’) and up to the main mountain.

    It was 29 F when I arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village area (2,100’) at around 7:30 A.M. I found 5 new inches on the ground in the parking lot and it was still snowing lightly. It was very quiet as I started skinning up the mountain, and all I saw was one lone groomer that appeared to be making a pass here and there in the new snow. I was able to use his freshly-groomed track on Beech Seal for my skin up to mid mountain. The depth of new snow had increased slightly at the mid mountain elevation (2,500’) to 6 inches, and I was starting to see some nice accumulations on the trees in leeward areas. I skinned up New Sherman’s Pass and then Sherman’s Pass, exchanging greeting with one of the lift operators that I usually see as he powered his way up hill on his snowmobile.



    Up around 2,800’ after I’d ascended the Sherman’s Pass switchback, I started to see signs that there had been some wind near the Vista Summit. By that point I was measuring new snow depths in the range of 8 inches in protected areas. I skinned along above the steep trails of the main face, and could see that some of them had been affected by wind, so I kept going and decided to hit Cobrass. It didn’t seem like the wind had been a problem over there. It appeared that Cobrass had been groomed before the new snow, so I found a nice deep layer of untracked snow covering its smooth surface. Once I’d removed my skins I was quickly ripping up some nice big Telemark carves on the first big pitch. Even with only about 8 inches of new snow, the turns were easily bottomless because the snow was quite dense. The snow was probably in the 10-12% H2O range, sort of like freshly-fallen Sierra cement stuff. It was dense but not wet, and it did a really nice job of covering up the old spring snow base. There had been a little drifting and scouring in the middle sections of Cobrass as I turned more westward, but the turns were still decent. I then cut back north and hit the Glades trail for the lower half of the mountain. There was a bit less snow than up high, but the powder was still plenty deep and I was able to cut some dreamy first tracks across the trail.







    I wasn’t initially sure if I was going to stick around for any lift-served skiing, but that run had definitely sealed the deal. I still had a few minutes before the Vista Quad started loading, so I hung out in the lift queue… which consisted of me. I gave myself cuts because I didn’t want to be one of those “No friends on a powder day” sorts. One of the patrollers asked me what the snow was like, and I gave him the rundown on how it was in the league of Sierra cement, providing a nice covering to the slopes. He was glad to hear that the snow had dried out, because he said that on Monday afternoon it had been wet and slow. I was surprised to hear that it had already been snowing at the end of the day on Monday. Ultimately a snowboarder showed up at the lift and I let her have fist chair as we were loading. Unfortunately, there was some rime ice on the safety bar of her chair and she barely got on before the bar closed down on her. Noticing this, I was wary of my own chair, and barely had time to jump out of the way as my bar closed down as the chair rounded the bull wheel. The operators stopped the lift and then ran it slowly so they could break off enough rime before loading chairs. Fortunately, they were quickly away from the most coated chairs (which had presumably sat at the top of the mountain overnight) and we were back to full speed.





    I opted to check out Spillway for my next run. I could see that it was bit wind scoured at the top, but it would connect me over to Show Off, which looked really nice. I was enjoying some nice turns at the bottom of the Spillway Chute when I ran into patroller Quinn on his snowmobile at Sherman’s Pass. I’d seen him earlier and we’d chatted about the nice little dump that Mother Nature had given us as I filled him in on the conditions I’d encountered. Quinn was just about to open up Vermont 200 and said I could guinea pig it if I wanted, since he was on the sled and wouldn’t be able to do it himself, but I figured I’d let him go for it if he wanted and stuck with my original plan. Spillway was scoured in some spots as I’d seen, but there was some protected snow along the skier’s right that offered up nice steep turns. Show Off was protected and much better all around. To switch things up I skied Beech Seal on the lower mountain, and I found some surprisingly deep snow off to the skier’s left.





    I headed out after that run, and my car thermometer indicated that the temperature in the village was 31 F, rising to about 34 F at the bottom of the access road. As I cruised along through the Winooski Valley, I was treated to some really great views to the sharp snow line hovering just a couple hundred feet above the valley floor. The contrast of brown grass and dark trees on the valley floor with the low snow line was dramatic, so I stopped to grab a few photos. As I headed toward the Richmond area the precipitation was mostly snow, but the temperature rose a bit and I could see that the snow line was elevated a couple hundred more feet as I headed west. When I’d reached Burlington the temperature was 39 F and there was no sign of snow.







    Later in the afternoon I finally had a few minutes to check on the local snow totals for the event, and as the evening’s radar had suggested, the accumulations seemed to peak in the Bolton/Mansfield/Smugg’s area and fell off to the north and south. Here are the reported accumulations in the usual north to south order:

    Jay Peak: 2”
    Smugg’s: 6”
    Stowe: 5”
    Bolton: 8”
    Mad River: 3”
    Sugarbush: 2”
    Killington: 2”
    Okemo: 3”

    With 8 fairly dense inches of snow picked up at Bolton, I was curious how much new moisture had been added to the snowpack. When the Mt. Mansfield stake report came in that evening, it indicated 1.0 inches of liquid equivalent and 6 inches of snow had fallen, with a maximum temperature of 29 F. The snow depth at the stake had reached 84 inches, which due to the weather this March was actually the highest it had been since back in February. With March complete I was able to total my Waterbury snowfall for the month, and at just 12.6 inches it was by far the lowest we’ve received in March in the three years I’ve kept snowfall records at my location. It was roughly a third of what we received in March of 2007 (40.2 inches) and March of 2008 (33.3 inches). Now I guess we’ll see what April will bring.



    On the way home from Burlington in the afternoon, the sun had come out in some areas and there were some nice views as I traveled westward through the Winooski Valley. The area between Richmond and Jonesville was particularly nice with the way it was lit up.



    J.Spin

  2. #2
    you take some sweet pics man. keep up the good work.

  3. #3
    wow, what a difference a little el makes. Amazing pics from the highway. Too bad I had to do some real work. How do you do it J?
    Sent from my TACPOD (Tactical Airborne Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Pod) using Satellite TADIL J Alternate Gateway Controller (Alternate STGC) via Blackjack

  4. #4
    reefer's Avatar
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    Wink

    Well done as usual. Bolton Valley will always be on my radar after hitting it up for the first time this year!

  5. #5
    Mikey1's Avatar
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    Great Report, always a pleasure to read your detailed observations and see your beautiful pics. I skied BV for the first time on 3/20/09. Definitely will make the effort to get back again!

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