Sneaker pow day rocks Tahoe

April pow day.

April pow day.

The Tahoe region received a legit pow day earlier this week when a spring storm dropped over a foot of cold snow.

Mother nature throws skiers a bone in April.

Mother nature throws skiers a bone in April.

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Tahoe ski season limps to a finish

Squaw Valley has experienced warm, balmy weather all season long.

Squaw Valley has experienced warm, balmy weather all season long. This photo taken at the end of March looks more like the middle of June.

Last ski season was so bad one would have thought it nearly impossible to get any worse. 2015 managed to do just that. Many Tahoe resorts closed very early and some barely opened at all (Homewood and Donner Ski Ranch). California is in the midst of a severe, multi-year drought. Governor Jerry Brown has instated mandatory water restrictions on both agricultural and civilian consumption. The Sierra snowpack is an astonishing 6% of normal. Historical scientific trends are not reassuring. Paleo-climate data indicates we have suffered two, 100 to 200 year droughts in the last 1,200 years.

A Tale of Two Winters: Photographs below of Squaw Valley on March 30, 2014 and March 30, 2015. 2014 was a very poor ski season but improved dramatically toward the end of March. 2015 has proven much worse with snowpack withering away for weeks by the end of March.

KT 22 on March 30, 2014.

KT 22 on March 30, 2014.

KT 22 on March 30, 2015

KT 22 on March 30, 2015

No snow at the Sugar Bowl gondola terminal elevation 7,000 feet on March 20.  Sugar Bowl typically receives the most snow in Tahoe.

No snow whatsoever at the Sugar Bowl gondola terminal elevation 7,000 feet on March 20. Sugar Bowl typically receives the most snow in Tahoe but closed for the season on March 22.

Alpine Meadows on March 29. The resort closes on Easter Sunday, April 5.

Alpine Meadows on March 29. The resort closes on Easter Sunday, April 5.

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Mt. Lassen delivers late season goods

The northeast face of Mt. Lassen as seen from the Devastated Area parking lot.

The northeast face of Mt. Lassen as seen from the Devastated Area parking lot.

As the Tahoe ski season sputters to a finish, backcountry skiers looking for more turns should check out Mt. Lassen. The peak offers bountiful climbing and skiing options which allow you to ski wherever the snow is good. The road through the park is not open yet but it probably won’t be long. It’s currently about a 20 minute walk to snowline from the Devastated Area parking lot on the north side.

Chris Stewart approaches 9,000 feet on Mt. Lassen's north flank.

Chris Stewart approaches 9,500 feet on Mt. Lassen’s north ridge.

The northeast gully at sunrise.

The northeast gully at sunrise.

Camping is not technically allowed at the Devastated Area so a travel trailer is a nice option.

Camping is not technically allowed at the Devastated Area so a travel trailer is a nice option.

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It’s Time to Bring the Pain

The greatest ski competition known to man or woman will go down this weekend when the Pain McShlonkey Classic returns to Squaw Valley. Studio 54 is the theme of this year’s Legacy Gala, the sexiest party on the planet.

Pain McShlonkey Schedule of Events

Revelers in the photo booth at the 2012 Legacy Gala.

Revelers in the photo booth at the 2012 Shane McConkey Legacy Gala.

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Snowfest brings the snow

The unfamiliar sight of snow on the valley floor as February comes to an end.

The unfamiliar sight of snow at the base of Squaw as February comes to an end.

For the first time this season it snowed at elevation 6,000 feet, just in time for the annual Snowfest. Another refreshing change was that weather forecasters actually under predicted snowfall amounts. Squaw Valley received 34 inches up top and nearly two feet of fresh snow on the valley floor. Conditions were great at Squaw and Alpine over the weekend. Backcountry conditions on north faces in particular have held up all week.

Perfect conditions in the backcountry on March 3.

Perfect conditions in the backcountry on March 3.

Squaw Valley Funitel line on February 28.

Squaw Valley Funitel line on February 28.

The Space Cowboys unimog kicked off the Snowfest activities over the weekend.

The Space Cowboys unimog kicked off the Snowfest activities on the KT Sundeck over the weekend.

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Tahoe conditions and morale improve

Nothing down low, stacked up high at Squaw Valley.

Nothing down low, stacked up high at Squaw Valley.

Last weekend’s precipitation greatly improved ski conditions and local morale in the Tahoe Region. Elevation 6,000 received nothing but rain while elevation 8,000 was caked with nearly two feet of dense pow. Skiers have been smiling all week. You can shred great terrain up high and finish your ski day with a beer on the grassy surroundings of Le Chamois in Squaw Valley.

Granite Chief on February 10.

Granite Chief on February 10.

Perfect apres ski weather at the Chammy.

Perfect apres ski weather at the Chammy.

Meanwhile, not all of California is in a drought. Mt. Shasta received 10 inches of precip (five feet of snow) last week and is at 120% of normal. Check it out:
Mt. Shasta Conditions report February 11, 2015

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Dave Rosenbarger killed in avalanche

On January 23 American ski mountaineer Dave Rosenbarger was killed in an avalanche on the Italian side of Mt. Blanc. Originally from Oregon, Dave had spent summers in Tahoe and winters in Chamonix since 2003. He was a passionate soul skier and his zest for life rubbed off on nearly everyone he met. He was thirty eight years old.

Powder Coverage of Dave Rosenbarger

Backcountry Magazine Coverage of Dave Rosenbarger

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Git yer skate on

Noah and Kate Gaffney find blissful skating conditions near Kirkwood.

Noah and Kate Gaffney find blissful skating conditions near Kirkwood.

Here we are waiting for winter to show up for the fourth season in a row. There is some descent skiing up high but no snow whatsoever at 6,000 feet which greatly limits access and options. A recent NPR broadcast used the term Junuary referring to the balmy mid winter conditions which have become a regular occurrence. Meanwhile the ice skating has been quite good. Hockey has become popular on many reservoirs near Truckee. Some high alpine lakes have clean slates of spectacular black ice. Around the New Year a small shallow section of Lake Tahoe froze creating a once in a lifetime opportunity to skate on the majestic lake that never freezes.

If you can't ski powder, skating clean glass is a nice alternative.

If you can’t ski powder, skating clean glass is a nice alternative.

Hockey on Prosser Reservoir.

Hockey on Prosser Reservoir.

Tahoe Weekly cover photo of Robb Gaffney ice skating on Lake Tahoe.  Photo: Matt Bansak.

Tahoe Weekly cover photo of Robb Gaffney ice skating on Lake Tahoe. Photo: Matt Bansak.

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The Glass is Half Full

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley on December 13, 2014.

Many Tahopians were thoroughly disappointed that last week’s storm did not live up to to the hype generated by the media machine. Snowfall totals did not even scratch the low end of the forecast and virtually no snow fell at lake level. That said, there is still plenty to be grateful for. Most of drought stricken California received multiple inches of much needed rain. Higher elevations in Tahoe received a couple of feet of wet snow followed by cold nights and days which created velvety powder conditions.

The Funnel and the Roof at Squaw Valley.

The Funnel and the Roof at Squaw Valley.

Pristine conditions at 8,000 feet.  Photo by John Heyne.

Pristine backcountry conditions at 8,000 feet. Photo by John Heyne.

Idiot's Delight at Alpine Meadows.

Idiot’s Delight at Alpine Meadows.

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The Lost Ski Area

Eureka Peak and Eureka Lake.

Eureka Peak and Eureka Lake.

Eureka Peak, located about an hour drive north of Truckee, is home to some of California’s richest ski history and is still a great place to visit today. The gold rush of the late 1800’s brought thousands of eager miners to Plumas County in search of gold. During the winter months, mining operations slowed down and miners looked to winter activities to kill boredom. Longboard skis made from timber were used in the first official ski races in California in which skiers straight ran Eureka Peak reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Mining ore buckets on Gold Mountain (now Eureka Peak) were used by skiers as possibly the first ski lift in the world.

Poma lift and ski lodge at the old Eureka Ski Bowl.

Poma lift and ski lodge at Eureka Ski Bowl.

In the 1950’s Eureka Ski Bowl opened with a rope tow (later replaced by two poma lifts) serving the wide open slopes below Eureka Lake. Eureka Ski Bowl closed some time ago but a new cooperative group has been working to reopen it. They have raised $370,000 so far and have purchased the retired Mainline double chairlift from Squaw Valley. Work has begun on the lower terminal and will continue as funds permit. If the group succeeds, Eureka Ski Bowl will once again be a great place for families and skiers to gather and recreate. The lift will also provide great backcountry access to Eureka Peak proper which has everything from low angle glades to steep, north facing chutes and cliffs.

The north face of Eureka Peak.

The north face of Eureka Peak.

Neighboring Mt. Washtington as seen from the summit of Eureka Peak.  SBDC hopes to explore this zone as conditions permit this winter.

Neighboring Mt. Washington as seen from the summit of Eureka Peak. SBDC hopes to explore this zone in winter as conditions permit.

Stone hut at the foot of Mt. Washington.

Stone hut at the foot of Mt. Washington.

With or without ski lifts, Eureka Peak is a great place for a backcountry adventure. Eureka State Park is located in Plumas County, about four miles west of the town of Graeagle. From Graeagle, take route 506 past Mohawk to the tiny town of Johnsville. About a mile past Johnsville the road dead ends at a parking lot which is a popular starting point for snowshoers, nordic skiers and backcountry enthusiasts of all types. From the parking lot you can skin up Eureka Ski Bowl to Eureka Lake and Eureka Peak. In the summertime you can take a 4 wheel drive road through the old ski bowl to Eureka Lake and the start of a great hike called the Eureka Peak loop trail. Visiting this part of the Sierra feels like discovering a time capsule of Sierra ski history and a way of life long forgotten.

Plumas Ski Club history of Eureka Peak

Fundraising for the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl

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