Beyond the epic snowfall

OK, I’ll use the word to describe Wednesday’s snowfall: EPIC.

Often overused, but I think this time the word fits.

The photo above taken Wednesday at Jay Peak helps tells the story.

Big winners from Wednesday’s impressive snowfall: Vermont areas and some New York State areas like Whiteface and Hunter that got up to two feet.

New Hampshire areas didn’t fare as well. Loon, Bretton Woods, Waterville and Ragged got less than a foot. Mount Sunapee, that’s closer to Vermont, received 14 inches.

Here are some of the snowfall totals that blessed Vermont ski area:

Stowe: 49 inches past seven days.

Sugarbush: 46 inches past two days.

Killington, Pico and Bolton Valley: 40 inches past 48 hours.

Smuggler’s: 39 inches past seven days.

Mount Snow: 37 past 48 hours.

Jay Peak: 36 inches in the past two days.

Magic Mountain: 26 inches.

Mad River Glen: 25 inches.

Stratton: 32 inches past two days.

Bromley: 29 inches past two days.

Okemo: 26 inches storm total.

But now to the meat of this blog … Are there any downsides to this storm?

This snow was not the dry, fluffy powder that you’d find in Utah or New Mexico. It had a high moisture content that made it heavy, especially on the lower elevation trails.

And today, there’s some snow, mixed with rain, and just plain rain … and in most parts of the north country many summits are covered in clouds. It is possible, however, that some Vermont areas could get another foot.

But the biggest problem I see is the wind as this nor’easter winds up toward Canada. This has prevented some lifts from running, particularly summit ones.

Winds will reach their peak speeds in Vermont tonight with gusts up to 55 mph. They diminish Friday with speeds between 16 and 25 mph with gusts up to 39 mph. That’s enough to affect some lift operations.

Since mountain weather can vary, it’s wise to check out the higher summits forecast.

Go to a ski resort’s web site and look for details that may tell you conditions are not perfect. Take Sugarbush’s, for example, many the lifts are on wind hold. And its weather report: Fog and 35 degrees this a.m.

Mount Snow’s noon update:  “Several more trails have been opened on the Main Face. Ego Alley, Drop and Short Fuse have been groomed and the ropes dropped while Pat’s Pitch and Roller Coaster are open without grooming. The North Face is now open.

Anywhere else on the mountain trails that have not been groomed will not be open today for safety reasons. As well the Summit and Sunbrook lifts will start off on hold and we hope to have them open late this morning. Today’s lift ticket rates will be at afternoon pricing.”

In Stratton’s mountain report:  “Due to the powerful nature of this storm and forecast icing some trails, lifts, will be delayed or closed. All terrain parks are closed for grooming.”

Okemo: “The Jackson Gore and Solitude lifts are on hold, in addition to the South Face. Terrain Parks on hold while the Parks and Pipe Crew digs out the features.”

Stowe: “We currently have cloudy skies and the forecast calls for high elevation snow showers today. So although it may be rain in the valleys, we hope to pick up some additional snowfall today thanks to Mount Mansfield’s lofty elevation.”

Jay Peak: “What a day we had yesterday.  Hope you were able to make it up as we picked up 28 – 36″ yesterday with more snow on the way today through Friday. Please be aware that the winds are forecasted to be high today which could put delays on the upper mountain lifts.  As always it’s a good idea (802) 988-2611 to call before making the trip to the mountain.”

Bottom line: Look beyond the impressive snowfall totals at other factors that can affect the quality of your ski day.

Friday and the weekend look to be much better days with a few inches of fresh snow.

Jim Shay