Tony asked me to weigh in on this thread since the topic of snow measurement has surfaced. Unfortunately I don’t have any insight into how Jay Peak
does their snow measurement in the way we were able to get at it for Mt. Mansfield
. It is somewhat annoying how opaque the snow measurement methodology is at most ski areas, but especially so for Jay Peak
since they’ve got this amazing snow magnet of a mountain that seems really worthy of some rigorous snowfall monitoring.
I’m not a huge fan of the lack of snow reporting transparency, but I’m still not sure why everyone gets so bent out of shape about the snowfall reported from Jay Peak
. I think that most folks who are familiar with the isolation, location, topography, orographics, latitude, and meteorology of the Jay Peak
area can accept that a 10% bump in snowfall at the mountain relative to the other resorts of the Northern Greens
farther south isn’t unreasonable. That would put the average upper elevation snowfall in the mid 300” range each season, so I really don’t find their reported overall snowfall average that outlandish. I guess one can sort of “shrug” at the numbers from any given season like this past one when the difference is greater than 10%, but note that the 290” from Stowe is at 3,000’, and the 374” from Jay Peak
is presumably closer to 4,000’ up near the peak (more on this below).
Admin wrote:Regarding those Jay Peak numbers, I simply don't buy that summit figure. I patrolled there for 10 years. That summit is the rockiest, most windswept place on the planet, save for perhaps the Mt. Washington Observatory. There is absolutely no reasonable way to measure snowfall at that altitude at Jay Peak.
Admin wrote:The fact is that Jay's summit is a windswept point of almost solid bedrock right at tree line on an already notoriously windy mountain. Jay officials have a hard enough time keeping any snow there at all, as evidenced by the snow fencing lining the upper Vermonter and Northway trails, the two runs that leave the Sky Haus tram top station. Without that fencing, snow would be blown straight to Canada. Instead, that fencing creates drifts that may be redistributed and groomed by snowcat to cover those two trails. I personally can't imagine how anyone could accurately measure snowfall in that kind of environment.
Tony Crocker wrote:What Jay should have done is to place such a device in some upper mountain leeward tree stash, the same technique Jackson and Breckenridge used to bump up their marketing quotes but have the data to back it up. I realize that my use of the term "top of the mountain" set admin off given his personal knowledge of the place. The Jackson and Breck sites aren't top of the mountain either, yet both manage to report 25% more snow that the prior long term mid-mountain sites. That happens to be the long term difference between Jay "upper" and "lower" also.
Like Tony, I think Admin might be taking the “summit” term a bit too literal here. I find it highly unlikely that Jay Peak
is trying to measure “summit” snowfall at the true summit of the mountain. Why? Well, first of all, it’s just silly to try to measure snow accumulation accurately in a spot that doesn’t accumulate snow
. One has to assume that the resort would have figured this out after decades of operation. Secondly, the resort wouldn’t be getting the sort of summit snowfall numbers they are reporting if they were trying to measure out on a windswept, rocky crag. We see what happens when attempts are made to measure snowfall at such a location – we discussed at length in this forum the depressed snowfall number for the Mt. Mansfield co-op because snow measurements are attempted in this manner
. And, as exposed as that area is where the engineers work up on the Mt. Mansfield
ridgeline, it’s still a few hundred feet below the true summit and has far more protection than the summit of Jay Peak
. The resort has
to be measuring snowfall at a strategic leeward site, or sites, near
the Jay Peak
summit to get the numbers they are reporting, just like Tony mentioned for Jackson Hole
above. Even before Tony mentioned that practice by those resorts, I just assumed it was the case at Jay Peak
because it’s the only way they would be able to measure near the summit of that mountain anyway. Now whether they have an actual dedicated high-elevation snow plot like Powderfreak’s
3,000’ setup, or each day’s report is simply a combination of the patrol and/or snowcat drivers measuring in their favorite leeward spot(s) and reporting in, I don’t know. But come on, you know there’s not a guy walking out onto the Jay Peak
summit each morning, sticking his ruler down on bare rock and reporting back, “Well, no snow again today!”
Admin wrote:Combine that with the fact that it barely rained throughout the entire season, and there is no reasonable explanation for the substantial discrepancy between the base figure and the summit figure. I would be reasonably confident that the base figure is a reasonable approximation for the snowfall throughout the ski area's entire vertical drop.
Admin wrote:And with such a cold, rain-free winter, why in the world would there be such a discrepancy between the upper mountain and lower mountain figures? All of this leads me to suspect that the upper mountain snowfall figure is complete fantasy.
You’re pretty familiar with the winter climate here, so the strong assertions above are somewhat puzzling. Yes, the Greens
get elevation-dependent snowfall events with a snow line somewhere between ~0’ and 4,000’+ at times (sometimes in midwinter, but more typically early and late season when valley temperatures are more marginal). But by far the most common setup during midwinter is simply snowfall from top to bottom, all the way from the peaks down to the lowest valleys. If the Greens
get rain in midwinter, it’s almost always because of a system passing to the west of the area and brining in warm air at relatively high elevations. This is not a recipe for elevation-dependent snow – it’s a recipe for rain at all elevations, top to bottom
. So, the occurrence of midwinter rain events in the Greens
is not an argument for any sort of elevation-dependent snowfall distribution, nor is a lack of midwinter rain any sort of argument for the absence of elevation-dependent snowfall distribution.
Yes, typical elevation-dependent snowfall with a veritable rain/snow line can absolutely contribute to the greater seasonal accumulations of snow attained at high elevations, but in many places (such as Northern New England
, or high-elevation resorts in the Rockies
), where storms, especially midwinter ones, are typically snow from top to bottom, that’s not the major cause of snowfall differential at various elevations. The real reason for the difference is that it simply snows more at higher elevations
. Higher elevations get more snow regardless of whether or not there is a rain/snow line. The higher elevations are closer to the precipitation-producing moisture, the air there saturates faster, it starts snowing sooner, it snows harder, the air dries out more slowly, and the snowfall lingers longer. These things all add up to more snow with elevation, without any snow line involved.
So Jay Peak
reported 374” up near 3,800’ and 214” down around 1,800”. The bulk of this difference is not due to the rain/snow line, it’s simply due to the fact that the summit area gets more snow
. Apparently this is a bigger differential than usual based on Tony’s data, but if I had seen those numbers I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Why? Well, those numbers suggest that 57.2% of the amount of snow that fell at the summit fell at the base, over an elevation difference of ~2,000’. At Stowe
, Powderfreak recorded 171” of snowfall at 1,500’ and 290” of snowfall at 3,000’, so 59.0% of the amount of snow that fell at that higher elevation (actually several hundred feet shy of the lift-serviced “summit”) fell at the base, over an elevation difference of ~1,500’. Powderfreak’s
rigorously collected data reveal essentially the same ratio of snowfall between high and low elevations as Jay Peak
. In fact, with Jay Peak’s
elevation difference between the reporting sites apparently being greater
, they could easily be showing an even greater
snowfall differential between their low and high-elevation sites than they are. I have no idea what the typical snowfall ratio is between the high and low elevations sites at Stowe
, but if you use the snowfall ratio that Powderfreak
obtained this season and scale for the increased elevation difference of Jay Peak’s
reporting sites, Jay Peak would actually be allowed 412” of snow at the summit. If people are going to assert that the base area snowfall of 214” is the “accurately” obtained value, perhaps we should
be calling “BS” on Jay Peak’s
summit snowfall stat. Maybe we need to complain to them that they have to relocate their upper elevation snow cache because it’s doing a poor job of collecting all the snow that falls and we’re sick of bringing the wrong skis each time we visit. At my house at 500’ in the Winooski Valley
, year after year, I get essentially 50% of the snow that falls in the higher elevations of the Bolton Mountain
stretch up above. I recorded 144.7” this season vs. the 290” on Mansfield
, and you can’t get much closer to that 50% value than that. Yes, some of that difference came from elevation-dependent snowfall events, but most of it was simply due to the fact that even when it’s all snow from the peaks to the valleys, it just snows more in the higher elevations.
Admin wrote:Even in a typical year, there can be a marked difference between the two mountains that are separated by an hour's drive. However, this year many of the big snow events tracked south as coastal storms, evidenced by the record snow that fell in places like Boston. These coastal storms aren't Jay's calling card -- in fact, "Nor'easters" generally deliver bigger snow to places further south along the Green Mountain spine and much closer to the ocean, like Killington. Jay is simply too far from the Atlantic and separated from that giant bathtub by too many mountains. Where Jay excels is on Alberta Clipper-type storms that come in from the northwest. The first mountain of any substantial elevation that those storms hit is Jay, resulting in orographic lift that produces substantial snowfall in a similar way to how Targhee squeezes moisture from storms that roll in through the Snake River Valley of Idaho. It's no coincidence that Jay fans refer to the "Jay Cloud" and Grand Targhee is also known as "Grand Foggy."
After observing and reporting on the weather patterns in the Northern Greens
and the expert meteorologists in the New England Regional Forum at American Weather
, I’d say that Admin is spot on here with regard to his Jay Peak
climatology. Jay Peak
is the most extreme example, but this is essentially the climatology for all of the Northern Greens
, and then it tapers a bit as you move into the Central Greens
. The Northern Greens
can make fantastic amounts of snow out of nor’easters
if the storms take the right track that brings them up into the Canadian Maritimes
and they stall to form a cut off low, or even if they just pass through the Maritimes
on their way out of the area. When low pressure systems are located there in the Canadian Maritimes
or northern Maine
, the Northern Greens
are getting hit with cold, Atlantic
moisture-laden air that has wrapped around the top of the storm and comes from the northwest, smashing into the 4,000’ wall of vertical relief that sits to the east of the Champlain Valley
. For the Northern Greens
, the ideal tracks for nor’easters
are through the Cape Cod Canal
, or Boston
, or similar locations in Southern New England
, which will typically put the area in the sweet spot as the storm passes. If a storm tracking like that gets coupled with a stall in northern Maine
or the Maritimes
, that’s how the mountains can pull in storms with totals in the range of 3 to 5 feet of snow. The thing is, the track of nor’easters
is a crapshoot – they can basically pass through the area wherever. If they’re too far south or east, the Northern Greens
can simply get flurries, or even just be “smoking cirrus” as they say, and if they’re too far north or west, the area runs the risk of rains. Aside from the orographic “bump” in accumulations that the Northern Greens
can get from any storm that stalls appropriately, what really sets the mountains apart from the rest of the Northeast
are those Alberta Clipper
types of systems that Admin mentions. These are typically moisture starved, but they are quite reliable in terms of occurrence and have almost no potential for rain because they are not strong enough to wrap in warm air. These clippers come across with little fanfare in the region, often track along the international border, and BAM!... they deliver a foot of snow out of nowhere. Those are the events that really set the Northern Greens
apart from the rest of the region – they mean more powder days, they keep the snow fresher and of higher quality on the slopes, and they push the snowfall averages into that 300”+ range.
Based on Tony’s snowfall data for the Vermont resorts…
Tony Crocker wrote:
tseeb wrote:Thought some of you might like to see Mustang Powder's summary/farewell/good riddance to last season
Here's Vermont snowfall south-to-north for 2014-15:
Stratton 156, 82%
Okemo 129, 76%
Killington 197, 81%
Sugarbush 249, 93%
Mansfield Stake 184, 82%
Stowe 290, 93%
Smuggs 294, 91%
Jay 294, 90%
There's nothing particularly out of line in that list above, and it shows that northern Vermont was actually a bit closer to long term average than southern Vermont.
…I don’t think there’s any argument to be made for expecting relatively low snowfall at Jay Peak
due to its distance from this past season’s nor’easter
storm track. Based on the data, it looks like the entire state of Vermont
was out of the storm track, and if anything, those “alternative” methods of getting snow that affect the Northern Vermont
resorts were the most positive influences. Based on the south to north trend, one could make an argument for Jay Peak
possibly being on the higher
end of snowfall relative to average. I’m still blown away by those Southern Vermont
snowfall numbers though – it seemed like every storm that hammered the Boston
area was certainly hitting the Southern Vermont
resorts with more snow than we were getting up north. I know for a fact that some of those Southern New England
storms hit the southern resorts with more snow, so it boggles the mind how Okemo
can have such paltry snowfall numbers and percentages. I do measure snowfall in 6 and 12-hour intervals, but I recorded more snow at my house
than what’s shown for Okemo
. Unlike Jay Peak
, those southern resorts really appear to know how not
to get snow, but with the trends shown in Tony’s data Jay Peak
could easily have done relatively well like their numbers suggest.