Snow & Weather Report

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Snow Reporter’s Notes

Friday, February 3 at 2:15 PM

Due to cold temperatures and high winds, the Adventure Triple and our two carpet surface lifts are the only ones still operating today. They will close for the day at 3pm. With those frigid temperatures and low wind chills extending into tomorrow, we will have a delayed opening tomorrow morning. 

Tomorrow we plan to begin our operations at 10 AM (wind-permitting) with the opening of all uphill lifts, except for the Sensation Quad, Lookout Double & Toll House Double.  Those three lifts will be closed for the day due to longer ride times and/or no available shelter at the top of them.  Shuttles will be operating from the Toll House base up to the Mansfield and Spruce Peak base areas, and the Toll House terrain will remain open for ski back. 

The forecast calls for a clear and cold night with temperatures bottoming out in the -20s.  Tomorrow we should see mostly sunny skies, though northwest winds of 20 - 35 mph will create very low wind chills.  There is a chance those winds affect tomorrow’s operations but the wind should be dissipating throughout the day.

If you head out for first chair at 10am, make sure to cover all exposed skin, dress in layers, use hand/toe warmers, and take frequent breaks to warm up.   

At this time there are 8 uphill lifts scheduled to spin tomorrow, along with the Over Easy Transfer Gondola.  First chair on all scheduled lifts is slated for 10am.  Make sure to stay tuned to for the most up-to-date lift status information tomorrow.

We plan to have 103 trails open tomorrow, for a total of 539 acres of top to bottom skiing and riding on Vermont’s highest peak.  Base depths range from 18 to 36 inches with machine groomed packed powder and variable wind-effected snow surfaces.  The fabled Mount Mansfield Stake is currently reading 42 inches of depth.

Please Note: Areas of thin cover exist on natural snow trails. Remember to ski & ride with care.

Our grooming team will lay down fresh corduroy on 45 trails tonight.  There will be no winch operations tonight, which will allow the operators to stay in their snowcats and not worry about getting out to hook up.  In total we expect to have 285 acres of groomed terrain to carve up in the morning. 

Stowe Parks will also groom the Lower Gulch terrain park, which has 11 freestyle features to get creative with.  The Standard terrain park may be closed again to lighten the work load on our Stowe Parks crew and allow for faster (and warmer) staff rotations.

Our snowmaking operations are on hold until Sunday afternoon.  At that time the team will get back to work building up base depths for springtime. 

The Best Weather and Snow Reports for Stowe, VT

If you want the most accurate weather data and forecasts for Stowe Mountain Resort, here’s where to go.
Woman skis fresh snow in Stowe, VT.
“Good morning skiers and riders!” If you have ever called the Stowe Mountain Resort snow phone (802-253-3600) for the day’s conditions, you know that’s what you will be greeted with. You’ll also get a detailed daily weather forecast that includes how much snow has fallen in the last 24 hours, snow conditions, the forecasted temperatures, wind speeds for the day and what trails have been groomed. The weather information is also here on Stowe’s weather and snow report page.

In short, it’s everything you need to know for that day of skiing summed up in a quick recorded message that is the most reliable daily forecast for anyone riding or skiing Vermont’s Mount Mansfield.

And it is something you should listen to every day — even when you are back home — because often Mount Mansfield will get very different conditions than the surrounding area, conditions even seasoned forecasters sometimes miss.

“It can be raining — or even sunny — in the village of Stowe and dumping snow up at the mountain,” says Scott Braaten, who has been skiing Stowe since 2008, describing himself as “a self-taught weather guru.” He now works for Stowe Mountain Resort and is often the voice on the recorded morning forecast on Stowe’s snow phone. To get that forecast, he combines his local knowledge with all the data the National Weather Service (NWS) provides out of its Burlington station.

As Braaten says: “The National Weather Service is 100 percent the place to go for the most reliable forecasts. Many of the NWS forecasters are skiers, and they are sitting in the Burlington Airport and can see Mount Mansfield,” says Braaten. “They know what’s going on and it’s where I get my data.” It’s a far better choice than relying on forecasters who may be 100 miles away and may not be aware of the variations in weather at Vermont’s ski mountains.

Measuring Weather Data on Mount Mansfield

What makes Mount Mansfield forecasts different from recreational forecasts in other parts of the state or from conditions reports submitted by ski areas? Mount Mansfield has weather stations near its summit that monitor hourly or daily data such as wind speed, temperature, precipitation and snowfall. That detailed information is relayed to the NWS, which posts it on its website.

“There’s also this really cool feature on the NWS site that allows you to click at any point on a map and see what the weather is at various elevations,” says Braaten. “If you just Google ‘weather in Stowe,’ you’re going to get the weather in the village. The weather on the mountain can be very different.”

“A lot of people don’t know about that clickable map,” says NWS forecaster Matthew Clay, who is based in Burlington. “Because Mount Mansfield is so big, it has an impact on the weather,” says Clay. “It really pays to look around and click on different areas,” he says.

The highest mountain in Vermont, Mount Mansfield also gets the most precipitation year-round.

While Burlington, to the west, is at an elevation 300 feet above sea level, Mount Mansfield’s summit is at 4,393. “The weather usually comes from the west, and it has to go up and over the Green Mountains,” says Clay. “That’s what we call orographic lifting and it results in upslope snow.” As the air rises, it cools and compresses the moisture, and when the temperatures are cool enough, that means snow.

Clay also notes that the Burlington station is working on an experimental avalanche conditions forecast. “We’re working with partners such as Stowe Mountain Rescue to document some of the freeze and thaw cycles that can set up the snowpack for avalanche conditions,” says Clay. While you won’t encounter avalanches on Stowe Mountain Resort’s groomed trail, there have been slides in the steeper backcountry terrain in Smugglers’ Notch.

“Mount Mansfield, with its long ridgeline, also acts like a wall,” says Braaten. “Whereas a single peak like Camel’s Hump might let the air move around it quickly, a system can get blocked on Mount Mansfield. While some studies have indicated that Mount Mansfield also benefits from what’s called “lake effect” from Lake Champlain, Braaten isn’t so sure. “I’d say any ‘lake effect’ we get is from Lake Ontario. Lake Champlain is only about 7 miles wide and there’s not enough fetch there for a storm to gather much moisture.” Additionally, during many winters Lake Champlain is frozen over.

The Mount Mansfield Snow Stake

One thing is certain and documented: Mount Mansfield gets plenty of snow, with an average annual snowfall of close to 300 inches.

In 1954, the first “snow stake” was put in on Mount Mansfield and snow depths have been recorded nearly every day since then. The 12-foot-high, two-by-four is marked off with feet and stands at a spot off the Toll Road at 3,900 feet of elevation.

For many years, observers with WCAX would note the snow depth every day and report it to the NWS. In recent years, the NWS has taken over monitoring “The Stake” as it is known, via a live web cam. “If the web cam fails, it’s usually me or one of our community members goes up to get a visual and we report it in,” says Braaten.

“How much snow is at The Stake?” is a question you’ll often hear from skiers around New England — and they mean the Mount Mansfield stake. While the stake is the best gauge for snowfall at Stowe, it has also become something of an icon for how much snow is there. Numerous websites track the snow over the years. Matthew Parilla, an engineer and a developer of web analytics reporting applications, has created a site with an interactive graph that tracks the snowfall and compares it to previous seasons on any given day. “Matt’s site is phenomenal – it’s the easiest way to see what’s going on and where we stand in a season” says Braaten.

For skiers who like to explore the backcountry, the Stake serves as an indicator of whether there is enough base to cover the fallen trees and other hazards that can cause an injury. “We usually say 50 inches or so is the minimum before you should head into the woods,” says Braaten. Parilla’s graph of previous years is also a good indicator of how much snow depth to expect on various weekends in the season. The graph shows that on average snow depths peak at the Stake in late March or early April. In April 1996, for instance, the Stake measured a whopping 135 inches.

So just because the snow may have melted in your backyard, there could still be plenty of skiing on the mountain at Stowe.

Produced in partnership with Vermont Ski + Ride Magazine.