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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 fee 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Several projects have kept Squaw Valley and KSL busy this fall. Earlier this month a helicopter placed huge burlap and mesh foil mats over ski runs on Red Dog and Resort Chair terrain. The mats are designed to help with vegetation seeding and erosion control. One might also think they could help the resort open groomers with a minimal amount of snow since the mats basically create a glorified carpet over select ski runs.
Squaw is also undertaking an aggressive forest health management plan which will remove 5,000 dead or diseased trees from the Red Dog region of the lower mountain. Lower level vegetation that could serve as fire fuel will also be removed from Red Dog Face to Poulsens Gully. Although the primary intention of the project is to improve the natural habitat and reduce the risk of wildfire, skiers will be delighted in over 100 acres of new tree skiing access. This should be especially noteworthy on storm days when Squaw struggles to get the upper mountain open.
A few inches of snow fell above 7,000 on Saturday. More precipitation is forecast for the weekend.
The 19th Annual Truckee River Day was held Sunday. 400 volunteers completed restoration work at 14 different sites including Prosser Creek, Martis Valley and of course the Truckee River. The three year drought has reduced water levels enough to access and remove large amounts of Eurasion milfoil, an invasive weed which has flourished on the upper portions of the Truckee River.
JP Auclair and Andreas Fransson died in an avalanche on Mount Cochrane in southern Patagonia Monday. JP Auclair was one of the founding fathers of the New Canadian Airforce freestyle movement nearly 20 years ago and has been an innovator, leader and mentor in the sport of skiing ever since. In recent year’s Auclair gravitated toward bigger ski mountaineering objectives. Andreas Fransson had a passion for extremely bold and unforgiving descents, including the first and only descent of the South Face of Denali.
Drenching rains have doused the King Fire and brought much needed relief to the Lake Tahoe Region. The fire, which has been burning since September 13, is now 87% contained. Higher elevations around Tahoe also received their first snowfall of the year with 4 inches reported at Squaw Valley.