Hello Skiers and Riders! There’s no better time to drop the first edition of this season’s “State of the Tahoe Backcountry”. Last weekend’s storms covered the Tahoe Basin in a blanket of fresh snow that has kept hikers busy all week. Even though Squaw is set to open this Friday a majority of snow junkies have already gotten more than a few powder turns under their belts from our early season storms. Thankfully, the 2012-2013 ski season is starting off on a fresh note in Tahoe.
It started October 22nd with our first new snowfall of the season and since then, although we’ve had a few warm snaps, there’s been skiable snow in the greater Tahoe area. The first systems brought Sierra specific base material to our local mountains. However, the most recent storm produced nothing but pure fluff. Thin cover has been a recent issue encountered by backcountry skiers and riders, but where coverage is adequate there have been phenomenal early season ski conditions to be had.
In the past few weeks turns have been laid from Kirkwood in the south up to Sugar Bowl in the north. Tahoe’s West Shore has even seen a few tracks, and places like Alpine Meadows and nearby Grouse Rock have seen more than their fair share of action. Although we have gotten a decent amount of snow in the past few weeks it’s still mid November, and we’re a few feet away from having most go-to backcountry locales put in action.
Avalanche activity has been observed quickly after storm cycles. The most recent observations speak to increased warmth in the region causing isolated roller ball activity and crust formation on influenced aspects. There is potential for facet development where crusts have developed. There are also many places that are too thin to ski, and even some places that look great but are hiding large obstacles like rocks and tree stumps. Please take caution no matter where you’re skiing or riding!
Our go-to resource for the most current up-to-date local backcountry ski conditions is the venerable Sierra Avalanche Center (SAC), who plans to start daily reports very soon. Please bookmark their site and get in the habit of checking out their reports before you head out into the backcountry everyday. You can also support SAC through the Tahoe Vertical Challenge put on by local Tahoe City cornerstone business Alpenglow Sports. Even though some skiers and riders have as many as twenty days out there already today is actually the first day of the fundraiser! So check out what “the Glow” has going on and support a cause that goes right back to our very own local avalanche forecasters and observers.
As we approach the new weekend NW-N-NE aspects have been holding great snow, especially above 7500′. The snow has settled considerably since last weekend. Even though it’s been warm there has been amazing powder to ski all week. The incoming storm is the thing to watch through the weekend. No specific snowfall amounts are available yet, and while the initial buzz for a huge system has somewhat diminished, it still looks like we’re going to get a few feet by the time Thanksgiving has come and gone.
In the spirit of the early season if anyone’s looking for a refresher on backcountry gear, education, etc. the following three links were written last year, but still contain helpful local advice to get your brain into backcountry mode-BC Basics 1, BC Basics II, BC Basics III.
All of the shots that accompany this piece were taken over the past several days. The shots from some renegade crew that shared a few pics from a ski of the West Face of KT, with personal observations from the West Shore, Little Alaska and Twin Peaks all speaking to how good it’s been. If you want to check out some coverage from our first October storm system take a look at these pieces on the Powder and Backcountry Magazine’s websites, along with this one by local photographer and splitboarder Seth Lightcap on TGR.
With all of this early stoke please remember to be safe out there and take an extra minute or two to assess what you’re getting into, the gear you’re using and the company you’re keeping. Not just with this incoming storm but in daily backcountry practice. On the one hand it’s been an amazing start to the season, but on the other hand it’s beyond sad to have already lost a member of the tribe. I just learned that a skier has passed away due to injuries sustained from an early season fall. Unofficial sends our deepest condolences to the friends, family, and all who were involved. Respectfully, let’s hope it’s our only one. You can read a little more about the incident here.
I look forward to seeing folks out on the skintrack. Here’s to a safe, abundantly fresh season for Tahoe!
This edition of “State of the Tahoe Backcountry” is sponsored in part by Black Diamond, one of the leading backcountry ski manufacturers on the planet. Check out their latest winter offerings here-gear that will keep you stoked lap after lap in the Tahoe backcountry.
You can check into more regular “State of the Backcountry” conditions reports through its Facebook page linked here.
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