It’s undeniable that 2013 has been pretty dry thus far in the greater Tahoe area. We even had confirmation from the National Weather Service that it’s been one for the record books. It’s not the sort of record any of us would like to be living through, but the fact of the matter is we’re literally right around the corner from March, a historically snowy month for the region, and in actuality the backcountry skiing has been much better than what the snowfall trackers would suggest.
Since the last “State of the Tahoe Backcountry” we’ve been scratching around to make the most of the extremely small fresh precipitation that’s fallen. However, there has been quality snow to ski, most of which has been found on lower to moderate angled north-facing terrain. While the lead shot speaks to seeking out less traveled, smooth terrain on Tahoe’s West Shore, the next two give a better idea of what the West Shore looked and skied like after our little refresh last week.
It sure didn’t seem like much in my driveway, or from the reports from the resorts, but in the backcountry the snow skied much better and deeper than what actually fell. The most snow fell near Donner Summit (up to 12″), and while the West Shore only had 4-6+ inches or so, thanks to a mixture of wind and bonding you weren’t really feeling bottom, and the snow was quite responsive.
After several days of moderate to strong wind, variability across our greater backcountry area is in full effect. SW-S-SE slopes are starting to corn, wind slabs are sporadically found on most aspects with some degree of north including straight west, but there is also some truly sugary powder out there to enjoy as well. We’re pretty locked up regarding avalanche danger, but keeping aware of sunny aspects producing wet slide instabilities is advised, as is watching for renegade wind slabs that are especially prevalent near the Sierra Crest.
In between seeking out sheltered powder locally a couple of regional trips were had in the past several days. The first was last week down to the Eastern Sierra where overall, like Tahoe, the snowpack remains relatively low. That said, it’s still fully worthy to poke around especially north of the Mammoth area. My partner and I skied lines in the Lundy and Bridgeport areas are were pleasently surprised by the conditions we found. Variable, yes. But high elevation powder in the couloirs with some biteable chalk made for some quality days out.
The real kicker of a mission came this past weekend with a trip to the Hot Springs Ranch out in the middle of nowhere Nevada. You might have caught wind of the recent storms that have missed us and unleashed in the most mountainous state in the lower 48, and I have got to say it was more than a pretty cool adventure to get out there and score some dry Nevadan powder. The Toiyabe Range is one of the biggest in Nevada, and “BG” is the man to get you out into the goods, unless you have your own sled and feel comfortable charging into the zone. Here’s a piece that will give you more beta on the adventure. Hanging with BG on his property and skiing dry Toiyabe pow is highly recommended, and it’s just a 4ish hour drive from Tahoe.
Looking ahead, as mentioned above, we’re in a transitional period where slopes are corning, variable conditions are sporadic (thanks in large part to heavy winds), but there’s still some great soft powder out there. We’re supposed to get a little something this upcoming Sunday, nothing much, but it’s better than nothing. We’re looking to stay dry and warm until then, and next Wednesday we should get another little refresh that will hopefully freshen things up. I’m personally about ready for a total reset, which I know I’m not the only one, and while there’s talk that that could happen next week, I say make due with what we’ve got and wait and see. At this point in a season that started fat and has fizzled a bit there’s no reason to get our hopes up, but I will say it’s much better out there than most people think. So get out there and poke around. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised and stoked you got out. Here’s to making the most of what’s out there and going all-in for a Miracle March!
“State of the Tahoe Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.
You can check into more regular “State of the Backcountry” conditions reports through its Facebook page linked here.
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Previous “State of the Tahoe Backcountry” Reports from the 2012-2013 season:
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