2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Topics of a general nature regarding snowsports, which don't easily fit into one of our other Liftlines categories. This is also the place to post Letters to the Editor.

Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby rfarren » Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:21 pm

Patrick wrote: Nothing in Ontario


There are mountains there?
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:36 am

rfarren wrote:The way I see it, the skiable portion of the NE that is natural snow dependent is congruent with Tony's other regions.

That was precisely my mindset when I was setting up the database in the early 1990's. No criticism whatsoever from Leslie Anthony/Powder magazine on the region split. Leslie Anthony did think I needed more areas from the Northeast (and western Canada) and the article was delayed into the next season due to the time it took to collect that data.

Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island is probably a tough daytrip from Vancouver city, but my point is that it is part of the Pacific Northwest climate zone of B.C. that had huge snow in 2010-11 and also significant skier visit numbers.

Patrick wrote:definitely missing some significant data points in the East particularly in ECanada to make a NA claim.

There is no evidence whatsoever that including missing areas would change the overall conclusion about North America for 2010-11.
1) The missing Quebec areas where snowfall is relevant (mainly Townships, but Saguenay would qualify also) were close to average and would thus not move that 102% number for the Northeast much.
2) If you count the snowmaking dependent subregions in Eastern Canada that were bad (Laurentians, Ottawa), for consistency you must count the similar Northeast subregions (southern New England, Catskills) that we know from Kottke were high. Given Kottke's 126% number for US Northeast the resulting total Northeast percentage will likely be higher than the 102% that I'm using.
3) And finally, using 102% for the Northeast with a 1/3 weighting (that's 20 million skier visits including Laurentians, Ottawa, southern New England, all of NY State) 2010-11 is still the #1 season at 124% with second place being 1981-82 at 116%.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:46 am

Tony Crocker wrote: for consistency you must count the similar Northeast subregions (southern New England, Catskills) that we know from Kottke were high.

Can you repost the link to the Kottke report? I was under the impression that the Catskills were average in snowfall last season.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby rfarren » Mon Jul 18, 2011 8:53 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:
Tony Crocker wrote: for consistency you must count the similar Northeast subregions (southern New England, Catskills) that we know from Kottke were high.

Can you repost the link to the Kottke report? I was under the impression that the Catskills were average in snowfall last season.


I think they were slightly above average, but I don't think it was statistically significant, whereas the Daks were significantly above average in snowfall. I think WF got over 240 inches. It's funny that WF was so far above average whereas Northern Vt wasn't.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:59 pm

I never posted a link to Kottke. I received a document from someone in NASJA. The participating Northeast areas in 2010-11:
NORTHEAST
MA Jiminy Peak Mtn. Resort
NH Attitash
NY Four Seasons Ski Center
VT Burke Mountain Ski Area
MA Wachusett Mountain Ski Area
NH Bretton Woods Ski Area
NY Gore Mountain
VT Jay Peak Ski Resort
MA Camden Snow Bowl
NH Cranmore Mountain Resort
NY Greek Peak Mountain Resort
VT Killington Resort
ME Lost Valley Ski Area
NH Gunstock Mountain Resort
NY Holiday Valley Resort
VT Mount Snow Resort
ME Mt. Abram Resort
NH Loon Mountain Recreation Corp.
NY HoliMont Ski Area
VT Okemo Mountain Resort
ME Saddleback Maine
NH Mount Sunapee Resort
NY Hunter Mountain
VT Pico Mountain
ME Shawnee Peak Ski Area
NH Pats Peak
NY Thunder Ridge Ski Area
VT Stowe Mountain
VT Smugglers’ Notch Resort
ME Sugarloaf
NH Ragged Mountain Resort
NY Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center
ME Sunday River Ski Resort
NH Waterville Valley Resort
NY Whiteface
VT Stratton
VT Sugarbush Resort
NH Abenaki Ski Area
NH Wildcat Mountain Ski Area
NY Windham Mountain
NH Arrowhead Recreation Area
NY Bristol Mountain Winter Resort

Total Kottke areas reporting (2010-11 snowfall inches vs. 20yr average):
42 Northeast (172 vs. 137)
18 Southeast/mid-Atlantic (69 vs. 65)
29 Midwest (81 vs. 75)
49 Rockies (341 vs. 277)
19 Pacific Southwest (486 vs. 299)
20 Pacific Northwest (431 vs. 337)

The average overall snowfall figure for 2010-11 quoted by Kottke is 248 inches. I cannot replicate this number based upon what's in the report. My guess is that the 177 areas above all reported skier visits but not all of them reported snowfall.
Kottke Report wrote:1991-92 - 2010-11 average based on maximum (and varying) resort sample each season

Weighting the 6 regions equally yields 263 inches. Weighting by the above area count yields 256 inches. Weighting by skier visits yields 299 inches. At any rate the 248 inches was quoted as:
Kottke Report wrote:national average snowfall was the highest recorded in 20 years of Kottke research.
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Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:51 pm

Patrick wrote:I never said Tony's conclusion was wrong, but I only said that he was missing a huge amount of data to back it up and make the claim for all of North America.

I hadn't quite addressed this point directly. Each region needs enough data points so that the sample size should reflect the overall results for the region.

The natural snow dependent Northeast as I see it extends from Gore/Whiteface in the west to Sugarloaf in the east, and from southern NH/VT to Quebec City/Charlevoix on a north south basis.
rfarren wrote:the skiable portion of the NE that is natural snow dependent is congruent with Tony's other regions.

I think so. The Wasatch and Front Range Colorado are more compact than that but they have a huge concentration of ski terrain also. The other western regions are similar in geographic breadth to the natural snow dependent Northeast, except for the US Northern Rockies and interior western Canada regions which are much larger.

Quebec City/Charlevoix is far enough away from New England that its weather can be different. So I've been using Le Massif data even though there's not enough of it yet (only 7 years) to meet my usual standards. I've felt less pressed to use Sutton's (which lacking monthly would need some creative massaging) because it's going to be closely correlated with Vermont, where I have plenty of data already.

The weighting of Quebec within the Northeast is a smaller scale variant of the East vs. West weighting issue. The upper New England areas tend to be larger in terms of both acreage and vertical. In the data supplied by EMSC acreage + vertical > 2,000:
ME: 3 areas
NH: 4 areas
VT: 11 areas
QC: 4 areas, but I'll give you 6 since Sutton and Orford are just over 1,950.
Adding in Gore and Whiteface that's 20 US Northeast areas vs. 6 in Quebec. Over 3,000 it's 6 areas in the US Northeast and none in Quebec.

I know some of you think we're :dead horse: here. But I believe Patrick's points were worth close examination.

I believe the only real point of disagreement is with respect to relative importance of ski areas, in which he gives considerable weight to skier visits. I think a snowfall analysis is defined more by geography and lift served ski terrain.

"Best Ski Season" is probably well defined by skier visits, or at least deviation vs. a long term trend line. At Kottke's regional level skier visits are correlated with my snowfall data 53% in the Northeast, 60% in the Sierra and Rockies and 83% in the Pacific Northwest. In the US 2007-08 and 2010-11 are essentially tied as the top seasons in skier visits (2010-11 has been revised up to 60.54 since this chart).
Kottke2011.JPG
Kottke2011.JPG (96.58 KiB) Viewed 8079 times

I do note from this chart that east of the Rockies visits have been flat since the mid 1980's. All of the growth over the past decade is coming from the West. As noted elsewhere some of this is demographics; the western ski states are growing in population relative to the East. I suspect this is true in Canada too.

In the Canada link I posted earlier http://www.jti.gov.bc.ca/research/Resea ... rofile.pdf 2007-08 is the highest in each province of the previous 5 years. While those records may have been equaled or surpassed in B.C. and Alberta this year it's safe to say they were not in Quebec, which had record snow in 2007-08. So I'm inclined to believe that Quebec is responsible for US+Canada skier visits not quite reaching the 2007-08 record in 2010-11.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby J.Spin » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:01 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I don't think J.Spin and the northern Vermont contingent that were skiing the fresh snow in March/early April 2011 would share your view. My Vermont table assumes a local who can choose the right place on short notice, not someone locked into the same hill all season due to lodging/season pass etc. And I think it's a fairly established fact that Killington conditions are generally not as good as at the places north of I-89.

With regard to Riverc0il's comments, I assume he would think the 102% is a fair representation of the New England season. I never said it was a great New England season; I said it was a great overall season, with the East at a 1/8 weight in that determination. Actually the East being the worst region at 102% is one of the reasons 2010-11 was so good. 1981-82 is the only other season with NO region below average.

Tony told me about this thread and suggested that it might be nice to have some input, so I figured I would comment on my impressions of the ’10-’11 season from the Northern Vermont local perspective. It’s interesting to note that for Burlington, winter ’10-‘11 was well above average for snowfall (128.4”, 175%), while out in the mountains at our house the deviation was much less (197”, 114%), and indeed in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens like Bolton it was even closer to average (330”, 106%), so indeed ski resort snowfall around here was essentially average like Tony’s number would suggest. I actually made a chart for a post at Americanwx.com concerning the ’07-’08 season, which used Bolton’s snowfall from the past several seasons as a general indicator of how the snowfall has been in Northern Vermont:

Image

One can see from the chart that ’10-‘11 was basically average for snowfall, and that the amount of snow (330”) was identical to ’07-’08. I would add that the general impression was that consistency of winter temperatures was a bit better than average in ’10-’11 due to fewer warm events, so the quality of snow surfaces was higher. I’m not sure how much better than average it was though, since it seems that during midwinter, the norm in the higher elevations of the Northern Greens is to have about one warm episode per month. Also, since we were essentially out of the main track of synoptic storms until February, there wasn’t much in the way of moderate-density snowfall to resurface the slopes. I try to address the consistency of temperatures/quality of the snow surfaces in the text below though, at least in the context of weekends; I should note that it’s possible there could have been some midweek weather issues that simply flew under the radar for me. For the quality assessment I simply focused on whether or not we were skiing powder, because unless there is some sort of notable rise in temperatures, there is always powder available.

A monthly breakdown of snowfall and my perspective on the season follows below – you can click on each month (except November) and it should bring up that month’s posts in the J&E Productions Web Log. I only have the monthly snowfall for my house and not the ski areas, but the percentages relative to average often parallel the mountains reasonably well, especially for Bolton which is right up above us:

October: Pretty typical in that we got at least some snow for skiing; we had 1.0” of snow at the house. October snowfall in the lower valleys is often minimal enough that the percentages aren’t all that relevant, but that number is 111% vs. the five year average since we’ve been at our house, so indeed that’s rather “normal”.

November: Very poor; we got just 2.4” of snow at the house (29% of average) and I don’t really remember it, nor do I have any entries for that month in my ski log, so that says plenty right there. I do have a vague recollection of storm after storm tracking to our north and west giving us mostly rain though, so that would explain the low snowfall total. The lack of snowfall wasn’t necessarily a huge concern at the time since it was “only November”, but without good November snowfall, getting to appropriate base depths and excellent skiing in December can be that much harder.

December: Quite normal, 46.0” of snow at the house (right about average at 102%). Fortunately, even with minimal November snow we were skiing natural snow terrain by December 10th up at Bolton; the holiday period featured some decent skiing, with 7 outings for me during that stretch, indicating that the snow was obviously OK. Bolton had picked up 4 feet of snow from the storm at the beginning of the month, however, a lot of that snow, as well as what fell later in the month, was upslope fluff. So, even if one assumes a fairly average amount of snowfall for the mountains like we saw in the valley, the very dry nature of the snow meant that there was less liquid than usual, resulting in base depths that really didn’t build quickly. The Boxing Day Storm was unfortunately the start of a pattern that would last the next five to six weeks, with the big synoptic storms staying well south of the region and pounding Southern New England, while northern areas remained on the fringe and essentially survived on fluff. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and out of the 12 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Friday, Dec 31st, so that suggests pretty consistent temperatures.

January: We got 55.5” of snow at the house, which is above average (137%) in what can sometimes be a dry, midwinter month. However, January was essentially a month-long continuation of the trend that started on Boxing Day, and we were living on mostly Northern Vermont Champlain Powder™ fluff. We had a couple of good upslope storms in the early to mid part of the month (January 7th and January 12th) that made for some fine skiing, but obviously since so much of it was pixie dust, the base depths just could not build the way that they would with some synoptic storms. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, and out of 11 outings in my records, the only outing without powder skiing was Saturday, Jan 1st due to the warmth at the end of December. So I think one could argue that weekend ski surface consistency through Dec/Jan was better than average with only one (instead of two) weekend-affecting warm up(s) for the two months.

February: This is when the storm track finally shifted north and we got some notable synoptic storms; the first one was right on the 1st, and then we had a second storm on the 5th. That first storm brought just over a foot of snow for us down in the valley, and was by far the largest for the month. Thus there weren’t really any mega dumps based on my records from the house, but there was plenty of the usual good skiing at Bolton and even good skiing at Stowe. Snowfall was 48.1”, which is roughly average at 108%. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Out of the 10 outings in my records, all 10 of them had powder skiing, so February was perfect in that regard. However, while skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, we had to wait until Monday of the long weekend to ski because there had been some sort of warm-up. So I’d say the month was pretty typical with at least that one warm-up.

March: We continued to stay in the storm track for most of March, with our biggest valley snowfall of the season (25.0”) coming from the March 5th storm. We did wind up with notably above average snowfall in the valley for the month (39.6”; 155%), essentially due to that one big storm and aided by the fact that what I’ve got for a March average could be a bit low due to very poor Marches in ’09 (12.6”) and ’10 (2.1”). Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 4 weekends of the month, and powder skiing was done on all those weekends, however, there was also notable infiltration of non-powder skiing days into the weekends. Relative to the previous three months, only 9 of our 12 outings for March featured powder skiing, so while still a pretty good ratio, it was certainly a decrease. Indeed there were multiple warm ups in the Month because those three non-powder days were actually on three different weekends (the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends). Fortunately, those weekends were somewhat redeemed by powder on the other day. By March, especially toward the end, things may start to fall off a bit from the typical rate of one warm episode per month, but I would expect that with at least 3 individual warm ups in March, it was nothing great or even above average in terms of consistency.

April: This was again quite a poor month in terms of snowfall and powder skiing; although snowfall correlation between our location down at the house and the mountains can really start to wane as one moves through April and snowfall becomes more and more elevation dependent. Snowfall at the house was well below average for the month (4.4”; 61%). We did at least start out the month with a snowstorm on the 1st and another one on the 4th; these events produced some good weekend powder skiing at Bolton and helped the mountain snowpack to surpass 100 inches at the Mt. Mansfield stake. However, the snowfall really fell off after that. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: Skiing was done on all 5 weekends of the month, but only 3 out of 9 days had powder and only 2 of the weekends had powder skiing. People were excited because we had a relatively deep snowpack during the month and coverage stayed longer than normal, but after that first week the storm track had shifted to the north/west and it was just storm after storm that featured warmth and little to no snow, even for the mountains. I commented on that trend in a post at Americanwx.com, since there can easily be feet of snow in the higher elevations in April, and instead of just some corn days or spring crud, we could have been skiing some great powder.

May: The May skiing was good due to the healthy snowpack, and I did get out in the powder on the 6th for top to bottom skiing on Mansfield. We didn’t get any snowfall at the house during the month, but May’s average snowfall numbers down at our elevation are pretty minimal like October, and with the high sun angle and warming as we approach the solstice I suspect even more removed from correlation with what the mountains see. Temperature consistency/snow surface quality: I wouldn’t say May powder is consistent enough to worry about. I only got out for two days during the month, but at least one was a powder day; the other day was a corn snow day at Bolton so that was also good even if there wasn’t fresh snow.

June: Our only day in June was outside VT on the East Snowfield on Mt. Washington, and the snowfield was probably smaller than usual for that time of year due to the below average Mt. Washington snowfall for the season. There actually had been some frozen precipitation in the northern mountains leading up to that day, but we were skiing corn snow.

So in terms of overall snowfall, the two above average months of January and March were basically counteracted by the two below average months of November and April, and with the rest of the months being about average, the snowfall for the season ends up… about average. Some plusses were better than average snowpack in April and May, but that’s somewhat counteracted by the lower than average snowpack in November, December, and January. It looks like there was an uptick in consistency in the December-January period due to just that one notable warm-up, but with February and March coming in probably about average in that category, and while November is not especially consistent in terms of temperatures, even in the higher elevations, it must have been below average to get so little snow for the month. So taking the trends of consistency as an aggregate from November through April, I wouldn’t say that there was a massive improvement in temperature consistency/snow quality for this area. Something that I have noticed around here is that having a few more storms with mixed precipitation is not necessarily a huge detractor in terms of snow quality. The ’07-’08 season was a good example of this. We were right in the storm track, so if we did receive some mixed precipitation, there was often another storm on its heels so quickly, that old snow surfaces were covered up. It felt like we were right in the storm track for most of that winter, except that we had a relatively poor April with little snowfall (we picked up just 1.6” of snow at the house, even less than this past April). It is interesting to note that winter ’07-’08 (consistently stormy from November through March) and winter ’10-’11 (biggest synoptic storms focused on just February and March) provide quite disparate examples of how to get to very similar seasonal snowfall totals (203.2” and 197.0” respectively at the house, and 330” and 330” respectively up on the mountain).

Tree skiing: While working on some web page material, I came across the post I made about the average date for the start of Northern Vermont tree skiing, so I decided to add in the ’10-’11 data and see how the season compared. In my initial analysis through the ’09-’10 season, the average start date for tree skiing was December 9th ± 13 days with an average of 28.2 ± 6.8 inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. In terms of my personal log of outings from last season, I’ve got a start date of December 18th, 2010 for tree skiing, and the addition of these data alters the averages very slightly, bringing the date one day later to December 10th ± 13 days, and the average snowpack down a tenth of an inch to 28.1 ± 6.5 inches. So in terms of the ’10-’11 season, the start to tree skiing was slightly late in that it started about a week later than the mean date I’ve calculated. With the horrible November in terms of snowfall, and much of the December snowfall being dry fluff, the late start is not too surprising. However, the date is well within one standard deviation, so in that sense the start to tree skiing was another parameter of the season that was basically “average”.

On that temperature consistency/snow quality note, I was curious about the powder skiing we did throughout the season, so I checked my reports. For the list of outings below, I placed a P whenever we were skiing powder, and put a red X if we weren’t, so it shows the pattern of when we did have powder, and when we did not. Links to the text and pictures for all the individual reports are available below if people want more details about the depth/consistency of the snow, or one can also step through the J&E Productions web log, which has an entry for each outing. It’s interesting to note that starting at the beginning of the season in October and continuing through to March 26th, there were only four days (December 31st at Bolton Valley, January 1st on the Bolton Valley Nordic/Backcountry Network, March 5th at Cochran’s, and March 20th at Stowe) where we weren’t skiing powder. Strangely enough, I’ve never looked at a season in that way before, but it did give me an even greater appreciation for just how much powder there is to ski around here. After March 26th, the powder skiing really trickled off this season, although there were still at least a few days in there. I’m not sure how this season compares to others since I’ve never looked at one like this before, but I suspect most other “average” seasons would look similar for the way we ski, and with our pattern of skiing there might be similar patterns even in seasons that deviate more from average snowfall.

P Stowe, VT, Saturday 16OCT10
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 05DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 10DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 11DEC10
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 12DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 18DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 19DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 23DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 24DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 27DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Tuesday 28DEC10
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 30DEC10
X Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 31DEC10
X Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 01JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 08JAN11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 09JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 13JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 15JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 16JAN11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 17JAN11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Saturday 22JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 29JAN11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 30JAN11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 03FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 05FEB11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 06FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12FEB11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 13FEB11
P Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT, Monday 21FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25FEB11
P Bolton Valley (Timberline), VT, Saturday 26FEB11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26FEB11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 27FEB11
X Cochran’s, VT, Saturday 05MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 06MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Monday 07MAR11
P Stowe, VT, Tuesday 08MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 12MAR11
P Stowe, VT, Sunday 13MAR11
P Monroe’s Sugarin’, Barton, VT, Saturday 19MAR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 20MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Wednesday 23MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Friday 25MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 26MAR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 27MAR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 02APR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 03APR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Thursday 07APR11
X Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 09APR11
X Stowe, VT, Sunday 10APR11
X Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 17APR11
X Stowe, VT, Tuesday 19APR11
X Sugarbush, VT, Friday 22APR11
P Bolton Valley, VT, Saturday 23APR11
X Bolton Valley, VT, Sunday 01MAY11
P Stowe, VT, Friday 06MAY11
X Mount Washington, NH, Saturday 04JUN11

So yeah, long story short, pretty average season for Northern Vermont in my book. On that note, since we’ve been back from Montana, the only season we’ve had with substantial snowfall deviation from average for Northern Vermont was a negative one in ’09-’10 as I show in that table of Bolton Valley snowfall near the top of the post. There definitely hasn’t been anything like what many parts of the Western U.S. saw last season, but as I look at the list of outings above, there’s still been plenty of great skiing, so there’s not too much to complain about from my perspective.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:48 am

That's what I'm talkin' about.
Image
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:01 pm

I had already seen enough info to be confident in my 102% overall figure for the Northeast in 2010-11, so no surprise JSpin's analysis supports that. I examined JSpin's post more closely for the accuracy of my http://bestsnow.net/vrmthist.htm chart, particularly with respect to March and April 2011. JSpin reported powder both days of one March weekend and one day but not the other for the other March weekends and the first weekend of April. The split weekends are a judgment call as in SoCal. Here I usually have some info to tip the balance one way or the other. In this case I gave 3 of the 4 split weekends in March/April an "A," but I also gave "B's" to one January and one February weekend where JSpin had only powder ratings. So on balance I think my chart is in line with JSpin's reporting for Northern Vermont.

I do think JSpin's reports may push my chart to the optimistic side as he's fanatical about searching out the very best snow. If that's only in the backcountry, sidecountry or a very limited amount of lift service and most ski area snow is hardpack/spring conditions I probably don't want to give those weekends an "A."
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby J.Spin » Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:21 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:That's what I'm talkin' about.
Image

Indeed, that was Thursday, January 13th at Bolton; there was certainly some quality Champlain Pow to top things off by that point. Looking at the details for that storm, when I did a snow analysis at 4:00 P.M. on Wednesday, it was coming in at a very synoptic-like 10.9% H2O, by the 10:00 P.M. analysis that evening it was down to 4.7% H2O, and then the 6:00 A.M. analysis Thursday morning came in at 1.8% H2O. Bolton’s snow total for the week by that point was about 3 feet, and with the sweet density gradient in the snowfall, that picture is what you get. Even with the light and fluffy nature of the snow, it’s funny how durable it is and how long the powder skiing stays great on days like those. You can see that the trench is basically half refilled with powder after one pass, so one can continue to get great powder turns even after two or three passes through the same snow. I find it interesting that snow at the denser end of the spectrum, while obviously more durable in many respects, is more ephemeral when it comes to powder turns - one pass through that dense stuff and it’s often pretty consolidated and no longer skiing like powder. March 8th at Stowe was one of those more consolidated days, and I was thinking of days just like the one above when I wrote the following:

My analyses down here in the valley revealed snow densities between 9.7% and 11.4% H2O through the bulk of the storm, which isn’t quite in the cement/concrete range, but there’s something about this denser snow and the way it behaves as it gets tracked up. Despite better staying power as a base, it seems to have less staying power as “powder” compared to the fluffier stuff. A good dump of very fluffy snow will create those trenches that almost fill back in after the skier passes through, and it’s almost like it can serve up fluff to round after round of skiing. But with the denser powder, it seems to take a much heavier hit when a skier goes through it. Also, the denser powder doesn’t settle as much, but it seems to set up stiffer as it does settle.”

The skiing was still great, but you can really see the difference in how it tracks in the shot of Dylan from that day below:

Image

Hitting the untracked snow was more important there because even a single track through made it much more difficult to ski.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby marcski » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:46 am

J.Spin wrote:
Image



As, I've said before, I love those pics of your kids ripping..! =D> =D>
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:44 am

JSpin wrote:I find it interesting that snow at the denser end of the spectrum, while obviously more durable in many respects, is more ephemeral when it comes to powder turns - one pass through that dense stuff and it’s often pretty consolidated and no longer skiing like powder.

This observation is right on by my experience. At Mammoth (average 12.9% density, can ski even denser with wind packing) you usually need to find an untracked line or time your turns to cross other tracks close to perpendicular. The lightly chopped up stuff usually still skis mostly like powder at Altabird, or as Patrick probably recalls also, in places like Moran Woods at Jackson Hole. This was also my observation skiing 4-6 day leftovers at Niseko. Sierra Cement is usually very tough when it's that old.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby J.Spin » Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:41 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I do think JSpin's reports may push my chart to the optimistic side as he's fanatical about searching out the very best snow. If that's only in the backcountry, sidecountry or a very limited amount of lift service and most ski area snow is hardpack/spring conditions I probably don't want to give those weekends an "A."

I agree, if the aim is to track and represent typical in-bounds resort conditions, some tempering may need to be done with respect to the quality of surfaces being skied on certain days. We’re just skiing what’s out there of course, but not everyone is willing to put in the extra effort to get to the best snow if that means traversing, hiking, or heading to the sidecountry and beyond. On the other hand, with the advancement and availability of gear, along with the shift in skier’s interests over the past couple of decades, there’s certainly an argument for working these aspects into the equation to some degree. Obviously avalanche awareness and training are an issue in some areas, but if in-bounds conditions have degraded in the easily accessed areas due to weather, skier traffic, or whatever, most advanced skiers I know don’t think twice about traversing/hiking to less accessible in-bounds areas or heading into the sidecountry for higher quality snow. There was a time when that was more novel, but for many people it’s now a given, and they may be factoring this aspect in when choosing a resort – it certainly comes into play when I think about places to visit. Unless some on-slope commitments, logistical considerations, or group dynamics don’t permit it, I’ll typically eschew lackluster conditions for superior snow quality (i.e. powder) or some other activity entirely, following the typical progression of on piste --> off piste --> sidecountry --> backcountry --> high elevation --> other activities. I’d say all of the main Northern/Central Vermont resorts support this progression for a knowledgeable group, although Bolton tends to make it easier thanks to the integrated sidecountry and backcountry network. Anthony and his family may be a good example of factoring in these aspects; they seem to have a great time during their trips to Bolton, and while it sounds like value is part of the attraction, I suspect that knowing they can get to even better snow with a little work is a lure as well.

Putting together the list of days with powder skiing in my post above really crystallized the benefits of the approach for me, but a great example of optimizing conditions from last season was Monday, February 21st. As I stated in the first sentence of that report: “Temperatures warmed up above freezing at all elevations in Northern Vermont at the end of last week…”, which could easily have meant no powder skiing. But, by the end of the weekend there was about a half foot of powder in the higher elevations. That may not be enough to get to bottomless skiing on piste, or even in bounds in the trees where people had recently skied, but it’s plenty of snow for moderate angle terrain on Bolton’s associated backcountry network where the subsurface is unblemished – especially with fat powder skis. Fatties aren’t just for the deep days and Champlain Powder™; they’re quite versatile, so it’s no surprise that they’re so popular around here. We only ascended to the Bryant Cabin at around 2,700’ in that outing, but even the 4 to 5 inches of powder at that elevation was sufficient for great turns. With skier traffic from the weekend and sub-surfaces that had seen previous skier traffic as well, I suspect most skiers in-bounds at the local resorts weren’t going to be getting quite the quality of skiing that was available on suitable backcountry terrain. And although we skinned up, that terrain can also be accessed as sidecountry that involves mostly traversing.

The above outing shows the benefit of receiving frequent snowfall though; if we hadn’t had at least that minimal storm, we would have been out of luck in terms of getting snow of that quality. As I mentioned in my post above, I commented, and Powderfreak did as well, about how '07-'08 was a great season even though there were numerous mixed precipitation events. Either the mixed precipitation would be overwhelmed by all the snow in each storm, or more snow came in so quickly that the slopes were resurfaced. It’s interesting to compare the '07-'08 and '10-'11 ski seasons on your “History of Vermont Snow Conditions” chart:

Image

Both seasons delivered the same amount of snowfall (330”) to Bolton Valley and were fairly comparable at the other Northern Vermont resorts, but in your analysis, '07-'08 received a higher total score of 62, vs. the 56 from last season. I’m sure the quality of December 2007 helped bolster that score, but all those mixed precipitation events couldn’t have been much of an issue with only one grade of “C” from early December all the way through to the beginning of April, and a total score that surpassed '10-'11. So is it ultimately better to be right in the storm track and hit with some occasional mixing like '07-'08 & ’08-’09, or safely “high and dry” like ’09-’10 and that late December through Early February stretch from '10-'11? I’m sure many would prefer the more Quebec/Colorado-style “high and dry” approach, which was definitely how it felt around here during some agonizingly long periods in ’09-’10. Certainly the backcountry snow stayed quite nice in that type of regime as would be expected, but on piste, continuously skiing old snow for days or weeks on end, even when it’s that lauded chalky stuff, can get old pretty fast.

When I was making the comments in my previous post about the typical frequency of warm episodes during the winter in the mountains of Northern Vermont, I’d forgotten where I’d seen the data, but when I was at your site I came across the table in which you had that type of data for Mt. Mansfield:

Image

Seeing it again now, it does indeed jive with the impressions I had of roughly 1 warm episode per month during the winter. I’m surprised to see that even March runs at about that pace based on the total amount of rain, with surprisingly, less total rain than December. I don’t have the numbers for how much total rain fell this past March, but based on your numbers it wouldn’t seem to be especially consistent in terms of temperature if I noted at least three warm events/periods; it may even have been worse than average in that category.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Magpir » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:35 pm

The chart is a look into my life pretty much. It triggers all kinds of memories.
Being in Vail I can say that the Epic Pass has changed the business model in a big way. Anyone can buy a pass for $600 and be a local for 5 months a year at any Vail Resort Town. You see so many of the same people everyday.
3 years ago we had huge amounts of snow that slacked of 2 years ago and last year was Epic. Skiing into the Abyss on a regular basis kicks butt.
It looks like la nina is here again and we are ready. Bring it on.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:05 am

Vail is neutral to El Nino/La Nina. It was coincidental that I-70 Colorado had such a great season in 2010-11. Remember the Sierra also had a huge year and nobody thinks it's enhanced by La Nina. Other factors were involved. Some weather people said the Arctic Oscillation was in an unusual mode coincident with the La Nina and pushed the jet streak and numerous storms tracks a bit farther south than in most La Nina years.
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