KT and Headwall were loading at 8:30 on the dot this morning and a handful early birds, myself included, had the mountain to ourselves for about and hour and a half. Temps were in the single digits, but the sun was bright and the views were spectacular. I rode KT to Headwall and eyed the Palisades from there. Completely pristine, they had not been open since before the recent storms. It’s a holiday week, so I didn’t expect them to open, but decided to ride up Siberia to get a better view. At the top of the lift, I saw the blue “Palisades Open” sign and no one hiking up. Barely believing my good fortune, I started the hike. Looking down from the top, I could see that no one had started up yet. Because of the cold weather, south-facing aspects are still holding powder, and I decided to ski the Kitchen Wall, the steep southeast face that goes down into Sun Bowl. I got two fresh laps in before Patrol closed the Palisades around 10am.
The Palisades, 8:45am
The Moon, I Mean the Top of the Palisades.
Later in the morning, I skied over to Granite to check out the peak. Also pristine, but with a huge slide having ripped out the middle, Granite Peak was not open. By 11 the crowds were thick and the lift lines long and I skied down the sunny side of the mountain run and called it a day.
Geoff Forcier plays the low angle pow game on December 23.
A Christmas made brighter and whiter by more than six feet of new snow was tainted by two in-bounds avalanche fatalities at Tahoe ski areas on Christmas Eve. A veteran ski patroller was caught in a slide during his control route in Sherwood Bowl at Alpine Meadows and a Truckee man was killed in a slide at Donner Ski Ranch. The wind blast from an in-bounds slide on KT22 at Squaw Valley the day before pulled a skier from the chairlift. He survived with injuries.
Heavy snow in downtown Truckee on December 23.
PlumpJack in the front, Tram Face in the rear.
Last Chance Chutes and Broken Arrow looking great but likely remain closed because south facing aspects are similar to those which resulted in two avalanche fatalities on Christmas Eve at Alpine Meadows and Donner Ski Ranch.
Dude, where’s my car?
Huge crown under Adrenaline Chute.
Here’s a look back at the weather on Sunday, December 23rd.
December 23rd Storm Footage from Nut Hut Studios on Vimeo.
KT opened after 10am this morning, with much of its terrain — including East Bowl and Red Dog ridge — off limits. Bluebird skies and lots of fresh snow made for great conditions where skiing was allowed. Large, visible crowns underscored the danger hiding beneath the sparkling surface.
Fracture in G.S. Bowl
Arriving at Squaw this morning, I figured that continued heavy snow and low visibility would keep KT closed. Standing in line at Exhibition, I turned around to see that it had started loading. It was 9am sharp and the line was not crazy long. I skated over to KT and was on the chair by 9:10am. My chairmates and I decided to partner up since we were all skiing alone and were a little sketched out about it.
We took one deep and fast run down Chute 75 and another completely untracked run down the Alternates, which had just opened. After our second run, we saw that KT was closed and rode up Exhibition instead. From the top, we could why KT had been shut down — a large avalanche had started above the Fingers, pouring down a crowded slope and sweeping one person off of the chairlift. A search was underway below, with beacons, probes and avy dogs. As far as I know, KT and Exhibition shut down for the day and did not reopen. According to the news reports, there were several injuries, but no fatalities. I’m grateful for that and for the two unexpected and amazing KT runs. Today was a good reminder that conditions are dangerous, even when the resort is open, and to wear a beacon and ski with a partner.
Crown Above the Fingers, KT
Skiers Search for Avalanche Victims
The good news is the Lake Tahoe Basin is expected to receive three to six feet of snow this weekend. The sketchy news is that we have a weak snowpack that will likely fail at some point during the storm cycle resulting in widespread avalanches. Check out details from the Sierra Avalanche Center here:
Snowpack in poor condition to handle new loading
You can keep track of ongoing storm conditions with our favorite local weather reporter Bryan Allegretto who is now posting at a new site called the Tahoe Daily Snow. This site is a preferred link at Skiing-Blog.com.
The Tahoe Daily Snow
Squaw Valley on December 18.
Today featured the type of snow true Sierra fiends live for. Six to eight inches of wet snow that fell yesterday had the moisture sucked out of it by cold overnight temps allowing you to rail the top four or five inches in total control at high speeds. Many Squaw locals will argue this type of hero snow is more fun to shred than bottomless powder.
Oly Bowl with patrol tracks.
Ski conditions have been remarkably good lately. Cold temps and steady light snow has been falling for days and should continue for several more. Enough new snow has fallen to warrant paying attention to wind loading and windslab avalanche potential.
Sierra Crest last Sunday.
Squaw Valley received 6 to 12 inches of new snow over the last couple of days.
Kevin Quinn gives us another aerial tour of terrain from North Lake Tahoe to peaks well south of Kirkwood. Nearly all of the terrain in these photos is above 7,500 feet. You would never know there is virtually no snow at elevation 6,000 feet right now.
Tinkers Knob and Pacific Crest
Deep in the Sierra Nevada.
Deeper in the Sierra Nevada.
The decrepit and outdated 1980’s time capsule that was Plaza Bar has been restyled into a swanky ultra lounge. Well not quite, but it does look great. Contemporary furniture fills a variety of nooks and crannies for hanging out. For those looking to class it up a notch from the Chammy, Plaza Bar may be worth a visit…especially on a storm day.
Plaza Bar upper lounge.
Plaza Bar Main Lounge.
Plaza Bar main bar.