We used the water relations model, WINWAT, to model winter water relations of three conifer species-eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr.), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) and red pine (P. resinosa Ait.)-growing at their upper elevational limits on Mt. Ascutney, Vermont, USA, in the winters of 1997 and 1999. Modeled relative water contents remained above 60% in the two youngest foliar age classes of all three species during both winters, indicating that desiccation stress in winter is not responsible for setting the upper elevational limits of these species at this site under present climatic conditions. WINWAT indicated that winter water relations of these low-elevational species were sensitive to low relative humidity, which increased transpiration rates, and low temperatures, which inhibited recharge, but are much less sensitive to summer climate than in the case of subalpine conifers in Colorado. Our results indicate that summer and winter temperatures and relative humidities (or precipitation/potential evapotranspiration ratios) should be incorporated into climate change models designed to simulate future tree distributions.