Thank You Cupid

We woke up on Valentine's day to a foot of fresh snow. For skiers and riders this storm has turned around a winter that has been far from epic. The snow stake on top of Mt. Mansfield reached 60 inches indicating that making turns in the trees is free and clear. The skiing and riding has been outstanding on and off trail all week. I am sure the snow-machine riders have been loving the deep snow pack as well. A good snow pack is much more preferred on the golf course during the winter compared to bare ground or ice. The snow provides a buffer to the extreme cold temperatures and the harsh winter winds. Snow is very porous and allows for gases to escape from the ground and allow oxygen in. In essence, snow allows the turf canopy to be protected and breathe in the winter.
Patchy ice on the 12th green, January 14, 2014

Yesterday brought everyone back to the realities of our fickle New England weather. A rapid warm up made the precipitation that fell all afternoon be of the liquid state. I hate to even udder the word during February in northern Vermont. However, the reality is that .64 inches of rain fell yesterday. That is a lot of rain to fall in mid-winter. The snow pack is now much more dense allowing less of a protective buffer and more in the way of a barrier. This sealing off or barrier effect is compounded by the potential for more ice accumulation. The existing snow will absorb much of the rain but there is also a good chance that slush will form at the base. This slush will then form into ice as the temperature drops back to normal.
Nature's Concept

In my last post I described a not so good scenario for golf course turf leading into mid-winter. To follow up, the subsequent days after that post stayed above freezing and rainy. Due to this continued abnormal weather, the ice accumulation on the golf course went from really bad to just bad. The rain kept falling and the ice kept melting. When the rains finally stopped in mid-January the ice coverage was half of what it had been. The total for winter rain, after this last event, is at 7.7 inches. There are still pockets of ice all over the golf course. The maintenance team is preparing to remove the snow from greens beginning in March to reveal these ice pockets. Once the snow is removed we will begin to carefully remove the ice.Removing the snow too soon exposes the tender turf to harsh conditions. Mid-March through Mid-April is always a tricky time when it comes to golf course turf survival in Northern New England. The extended ice cover and freeze-thaw cycles play havoc with the turfgrass plant as it slowly breaks out of winter dormancy.
Vertical black drainage pipe over catch basin
13th green December 13, 2013

To ensure the removal of water off the turf surface during the spring thaw and winter rain events like we just had, we protect the catch basins from freezing over. Keeping the catch basins open so that water does not pool up and sit on the turf is of critical importance to winter turf survival. To assist in this we took a trick from nature. The idea came from the observation that the base of trees tended to have less snow than adjacent areas. The heat from the tree trunk warming up in the sun along with the wind swirling around them reduced the snow pack at the base of the tree. To mimic this phenomenon the maintenance team places a vertical drainage pipe directly over the catch basin. The pipe acts as a tree to help reduce the ice and snow from accumulating over the basin. These pipes also help us locate the basins in the snow so that we can be sure that the free water is moving into the basin. This practice is one of many that is done to keep the turf alive in our beautiful, yet harsh, mountain environment.