Stairway to heaven.
Consistency has been the name of the game this winter. Small storms keep rolling in keeping conditions fresh. Big lines have been going down at Squaw Valley and the backcountry has been impeccable day after day. For the first time in years it’s starting to feel like a real ski season in Lake Tahoe. Pent up demand has Bay Area skiers rolling up in droves, local businesses are cranking and powder hounds are smiling. Gale force winds associated with our latest storm shut down lifts at Squaw Valley today. The current snowpack has several layers of buried surface hoar which should be carefully monitored by backcountry travelers. Forecasts are calling for more moisture over the next week.
Sierra Avalanche Center
Open Snow Powder Forecast
Mt. Tallac looking ripe on January 9.
Ski tracks exiting Tram Chute at Squaw Valley.
3,000 vertical feet to go.
Is this really the Lake Tahoe backcountry right now?
It’s difficult to tell whether the skiing is all time good right now or if it just feels that way because it’s been so long. Either way, it’s hard to find much to complain about. Last week the mountains around Lake Tahoe received two to three feet of heavy, base plastering snow followed by another storm which dumped two feet of low moisture fluff. It has stayed cold all week with highs just over 30 degrees keeping ski conditions perfect. The persistent weak layer that was a concern before Christmas has subsided and current avalanche hazard is low at all elevations and aspects. Ideal snow conditions and minimal avy risk make this a cycle of skiing we won’t soon forget. Be sure to check the Sierra Avalanche Center website every day before heading out. SAC forecasters dig pits all over the region which can help us better understand the local snowpack. Sierra Avalanche Center
Sugar Bowl’s Mt. Disney on Christmas morning.
Is this real life? Nobody at Sugar Bowl at 8:30 Christmas morning.
The west face of Mt. Lincoln.
Grant Kaye gets up early on December 26.
All time or just an illusion? Photo by Grant Kaye.
Plenty of great skin tracks out there right now.
Sneak a peak.
Let the good times roll. Photo by Grant Kaye.
Holidaze from Nut Hut Studios on Vimeo.
Grant Kaye slays pow on December 20.
By Rob McCormick
Skiing-blog.com has been observing radio silence since the pathetic end to last ski season. After a string of horrible winters I vowed not to post again until there was something worth talking about. That time is now. In conjunction with the release of Star Wars Episode 7, The Force Awakens, the Tahoe ski season has also awakened. A succession of modest but effective storms have gradually improved ski conditions to the point of being downright proper. Conditions over the weekend were cold powder. We are now experiencing a warm wet storm that looks to drop nearly 3 feet of snow at higher elevations. Squaw Valley is a mix of slushy glop at elevation 6,200 today while Alpine Meadows is nuking snow with gale force winds at elevation 6,800. Nothing is open but the bar at Alpine. A colder storm is expected on Thursday and Friday followed by a drier pattern for the holiday week. Wake up! It’s time to ski!
The snowpack is growing between Highway 89 and the Pacific Crest.
Geoff Forcier wakes up.
Nuking in Alpine Meadows on December 21.
Apres skiing Mellow Fellow style. Truckee, CA.
April pow day.
The Tahoe region received a legitimate powder day earlier this week when a spring storm dropped over a foot of snow.
Mother Nature throws skiers a bone in April.
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 drastically 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, 2015
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.
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 9,500 feet on Mt. Lassen’s north ridge.
The northeast gully at sunrise.
Camping is not technically allowed at the Devastated Area so a travel trailer is a nice option.
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 Shane McConkey Legacy Gala.
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.
Squaw Valley Funitel line on February 28.
The Space Cowboys unimog kicked off the Snowfest activities on the KT Sundeck over the weekend.
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.
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
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