How Big Is Winter Storm Stella?

Updated at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, March 15. 

Schools are closed, roads are salted and the powder is growing deep. Winter Storm Stella, called a “blizzard” by NOAA and a “major nor’easter” by pretty much everyone else, is the biggest winter event Vermont has seen in years.

Six years ago, in March of 2011, Vermont scored 25 inches in a single storm, and in January of 2010, the biggest storm on record came in at 33 inches. Over the past decade, Vermont has only seen five storms that have accumulated more than 15 inches of snow, and among them, Stella ranks third.

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“Dynamically and structurally, the current storm is one of the more impressive to smack Vermont,” said Josh Fox, author of Mad River Glen’s Single Chair Weather Blog, “but several others in the last 10 years have scored 2 feet or thereabouts across Vermont ski country.”

“I would put this definitely in the top 5 storms though over the past 10 years,” said Scott Braaten, Stowe’s forecaster. “There was a big Valentines Day storm also in 2014 and then another big storm in March 2014 that will likely be comparable to this with snow totals of 1-2 feet. ” As of 4 pm on Wednesday Braaten noted that 36 inches had fallen at 3,000 feet and 27 inches at the base as Stowe.

Conditions were equally good around the state.  This will be a rare storm in that the entire state of Vermont should get hit fairly equally,” Braaten noted. ” Jay Peak in the north to Mount Snow in the south and everywhere in between should get fairly equal snowfall.  Of course, local variations, wind and measuring locations can bring some different totals, but overall from a weather standpoint everyone has equal chances with this storm.”

As of Wednesday morning Jay Peak was already logging in more than 38 inches with a snow total of 85 inches in the last seven days.  Sugarbush, the Middlebury Snow Bowl, Killington, and Mount SNow  were reporting 20- to 26 inches and snow was still coming down heavily through the day.

As of Wednesday morning reports were:

  • Jay Peak Resort: 35″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Bolton Valley: 26″- 30″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Middlebury College Snow Bowl: 26″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Mad River Glen: 24″- 26″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Smugglers’ Notch Resort: 23″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Killington Resort: 22″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Bromley Mountain: 20″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Magic Mountain: 20″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Stratton Mountain Resort: 20″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Mount Snow Resort: 19″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Burke Mountain: 18″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Stowe Mountain Resort: 17″- 22″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Okemo Mountain Resort: 16″- 18″ in the past 24 hrs
  • Sugarbush Resort: 14″- 22″ in the past 24 hrs

Stella is expected to undergo bombogenesis, a “weather bomb” that occurs when the central pressure of a low-pressure system drops 24 millibars within 24 hours. Stella’s central pressure was 1003 millibars on Monday evening, is currently at 992 millibars and is expected to drop to 979 millibars by Tuesday evening.

According to The Weather Channel, bombogenesis is fairly common–it was observed in Winter Storm Mars, which hit Cape Cod and Nantucket Island last February, in Winter Storm Iola, which hit a few locations in Massachusetts in 2015, and in Winter Storm Nemo, which “bombed out” in February 2013 along coastal Massachusetts and Long Island.

Wondering what to expect from a “weather bomb?” Winds pick up, snowfall intensifies, and on rare occasions, lightning flashes.

But skiers need not worry about the ominous-sounding bombogenesis; Fox says the conditions are looking fine. “Assuming we score the 2 feet, conditions should be terrific, although skiers can still expect a few obstacles in the ungroomed areas. Vermont took quite a hit from the mild weather, so there wasn’t much of a base, particularly below 2500 feet.”

Two feet can remedy a lot, Fox says, but skiers should be cautious in the backcountry, keeping an eye out for the rocks and sticks below all the snow.

“Simply put, this is a great storm for the entire state, and there will be lots of powder everywhere,” Fox says. Braaten adds:  “I’ll be celebrating by skiing pow!”

An earlier version of this article mistakenly attributed Josh Fox’s quotes to Scott Braaten. We apologize for the error and have corrected this.