Another week, another storm

Exploring the Lost Sierra as another storm moves in.

Before the snow quality from last week’s storm could decline, another system pounded the Sierra Nevada. Squaw Valley received just under 4 feet of snow in 24 hours. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows did not open on Sunday in order to dig out and conduct extensive avalanche mitigation. Both resorts opened nearly all of their terrain at once on Monday morning resulting in a powderhound feeding frenzy. It seemed nearly every local in the region took the morning off and traffic from Truckee and Tahoe City reflected this. Low snow levels with the last two storms have made this an opportune time to pursue elusive ski descents down to the dessert floor in Nevada. Don’t look now but even more chaotic weather is headed our way.

Scott Gaffney hucks Main Air in the Fingers at Squaw Valley.
Bro, have you seen my car?
Savoring the post storm goods.
Robb Gaffney drops 5,000 vertical feet into Carson Valley.
…and here’s the chaotic next chapter. Torrential rain!

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Hammered!

As good as it gets at Squaw Valley. Photo by Kevin Quinn

This winter went from great to amazing as a four day storm dropped five to eight feet of snow over the Tahoe Region. This one finished with a day and a half of blower pow that resulted in truly bottomless ski conditions. Squaw Valley’s legendary KT-22 opened at noon on Tuesday, February 5 just as the skies cracked bluebird. MSP Filmaker and North Tahoe local Scott Gaffney called it the deepest sunny day he’s ever skied at Squaw. Ski touring was nearly futile as pole plants pushed into the abyss and ski tips were prone to submarining. Cold temps this week are keeping the trees looking like a Dr. Seuss winter wonderland. If one can obtain Nirvana through skiing, this must be what it looks like.

Trenching in the backcountry.
Mark Durgin makes the most of lunch break at Squaw Valley.
Squaw Valley just before noon on February 5, 2019.
Brickelltown.
Farming pow at Alpine Meadows.

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2018/19 Ski Season So Far: Situation Normal

Ahhh! Winter!

How refreshing it feels to be in the midst of a perfectly normal, average, standard ski season. Feast or famine style winters seem to have taken a hiatus as we chug along with pleasant consistency. A warm and dry November was followed by a snowstorm the first weekend in December and we’ve been in good shape ever since. Storms have rolled through and refreshed the mountains in well spaced intervals. A couple of the larger systems were puking fluffy blower in the early evening hours only to be pissing rain by midnight. Fortunately conditions morphed into wintry bliss within a day or two. If one could complain about anything (and one really shouldn’t), it would be that elevation 7,000 feet seems to be the new normal for snow/rain line. That said, the last storm cycle plastered a good solid base down to 6,000 feet so lake level trail heads are now in play. Advance weather reports are calling for two to three feet of snow this coming weekend. And it’s only January.

Pondering options in Desolation Wilderness.

A sneaker pow day in mid December. Dusting in town = 6 inches up high.
Expressway
Glorious ice on New Year’s Day.

Peek a boo!

We’ve come a long way since November.
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Miracle March Delivers

Feels like a miracle has happened in the Tahoe backcountry. Photo by Grant Kaye.

Mother Nature continued to save the soul and spirits of Tahoe riders with another massive one-two punch snowstorm over the course of four days. By the time it stopped snowing ski areas were digging out from 100 inches of new snow. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows received over 40 inches in 24 hours. People were claiming Saturday to be one of the deepest days of their lives. What started as one of the worst seasons on record seems poised for a dramatic comeback. With over 150 inches of new snow this month we can start officially calling it a Miracle March. More snow is forecast for later this week so it seems the gift will keep on giving. Enjoy!

Stairway to heaven.

Alpine Meadows on Friday afternoon, March 16, 2018.

Grant Kaye floats through nearly 100 inches of new snow on Donner Summit.

Skier: Rob McCormick. Photo by Grant Kaye.

Deeeeeeep. Skier: Grant Kaye

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In Like a Lion

Winter has finally arrived in Tahoe. Skier: Mark Durgin

Tahoe riders are celebrating five to seven feet of snow that fell in the last week. The multi day storm cycle started with wet, dense snow and transitioned to ultra light fluff with snowfall rates approaching four inches an hour on Friday night. Valley floors received over three feet of snow finally bringing lower elevation trailheads into play. Conditions have been spectacular though not without hazards that frequently accompany tremendous snowfall in a short time frame. A snowboarder was reported missing at Squaw Valley on Thursday night and found dead Friday morning (cause of death still undetermined). Friday afternoon an in-bounds avalanche below the Olympic Lady chairlift at Squaw Valley overtook five skiers. Some sustained injuries but no-one died in the incident. Backcountry skiers should be aware of a deep slab avalanche problem throughout the region. Large destructive avalanches have occurred over the past several days.

Check out more on this concern the Sierra Avalanche Center: https://www.sierraavalanchecenter.org/advisory

Deep slab avalanche crown visible on top of Schallenberger Ridge.

Donner Summit on March 4, 2018.

The Palisades at Sugar Bowl.

82 inches of new snow has Squaw Valley looking like it’s normal winter self.

Elevation 7,400 feet was still dirt just a few weeks ago.

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Trending toward winter

Fifteen inches of new snow at Squaw Valley on Monday.

Small storms last Thursday and Monday combined with cold temps have finally made it feel like winter here in Tahoe. More terrain is coming into play and the skiing has been quite good. Forecasters are calling for the first big time snow event of the season later this week. This one looks to be measured in feet, not inches. Locals and business owners are hoping for a mega March to salvage what has been an extremely disappointing season so far.

The Pacific Crest looks about one good storm away from game time.

Geoff Forcier hoping for a miracle March in the Donner Summit backcountry.

The gremlins are starting to leave their marks in the high country.

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Nothing to see here

South facing terrain as seen from Mountain Run at Squaw Valley on February 10, 2018

The tremendous ski seasons of 2016 and 2017 seem like a distant memory now that Tahoe is in the throes of another horrifically lean winter. How bad it is it? Historical snowfall data has us trending with the three least snowiest of all time. If we don’t receive substantial snow by the end of February we could end up with the least snow in history up to that point. It’s hard to fathom that we are already grasping for a miracle March as our best and only hope. Although a strong finish is possible, a look outside is more likely to induce flashbacks to the not so distant drought cycle of 2012 through 2015. While mid mountain base depths are adequate, there is virtually no snow at elevation 6,000 feet.

Great ice skating was the silver lining to an extremely dry December.

Despite the somber season thus far there is still plenty to be grateful for. Modest snow events have kept ski areas in the game and groomers and off piste (at times) have skied remarkably well given the circumstances. Temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s have inspired some people to ride bikes, go for a hike or paddle on the lake. Sometimes you just have to find a nice patio to drink beer in the warm winter sunshine and remember that after all it’s still sunny California. Life could be worse. But for reals can we please get a late season miracle?!?

Those looking to hit the road in search of powder should consider Montana which is having a splendid season. Lone Peak at Big Sky on January 21, 2018.

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Eastern Sierra Corn Harvest

Mt. Warren serving up heaps of good corn!

The Eastern Sierra is in prime corn cycle right now. Lower elevations and approaches are melted out but above 9,000 feet is stacked!

Chris Stewart ascends South Peak with Lundy Canyon and Mono Lake in the background.

Pick your poison.

Harvesting a perfect crop in Lundy Canyon.

Carson Peak

South Peak in Virginia Lakes.

Red Lake Bowl looking like Tuckerman Ravine’s distant cousin.

Steph Brodi and Robb Gaffney step it up on Black Mountain.

Kyle O’Neal gets squeezed.

Hot springs near Bridgeport.

Mystery couloirs.

Camping in the Eastern Sierra.

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April Showers

Donner Summit backcountry.

Awesome skiing has continued into April with small storms buffing out great conditions for those who get out before it cooks.

Slide debris on Donner Peak.

Desolation Wilderness.

After you ski you get to apres-ski!

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March Madness

Donner Peak.

Mother Nature finally took her foot off the gas pedal in March and we have transitioned into smaller snowfall events followed by warm weather. A deep snowpack and plenty of sun equals California skiing at it’s best.

Morning glory on March 23.

Mini golf.

Sixteen year old Noah Gaffney skis the Eagles Nest at Squaw Valley on Saturday, March 25.

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