My oh my, things certainly change fast around these parts. Since our last backcountry report conditions around the Lake have gone from all-time blower to thick and goopy in the matter of a few days. But there’s no need to fret. Remember, the name of the game in Tahoe is adapting to what the given conditions are as there’s still great backcountry skiing to be done in the Basin.
Snapping out of the face shot daze we all enjoyed for almost two solid weeks, this past week we saw several warm storms pass through Tahoe with snow levels as high as 9k feet. Not a ton of precipitation, but enough warm temps and high snow levels to alter our current scenario quite a bit. Backcountry terrain that had been staying exceptionally good with the extremely cold temps and new snow was zapped into sludge. It kind of felt like we went from mid-January/February conditions to late spring skiing overnight.
A good motto to stick by when these events occur, which around Tahoe can happen at any given time, is to stay as high as you can. There was pretty good skiing to be done in the Mt. Rose backcountry this week, and even the big 3 on the West Shore (Jakes-Bliss-Rubicon) held good turns above 8k feet. However, variable conditions is probably the best way to describe full descents right now as there are definite elevation marks on most backcountry peaks where one’s ski might feel like some classic Tahoe cream cheese, a little windboard, and maybe some rain butter to finish it off at the bottom. This is definitely what Maggie’s and Tallac felt like the past few days.
As we move into the middle of December the best turns are going to be found above 9k feet. Not the best snowline in Tahoe, seeing as we don’t have a whole lot of skiable terrain above 9k, but that’s where it’s at right now. Below 9k is when some textbook sierra cement is found, and below 8k is when things are getting really heavy and wet.
Current observations show the potential for wind slabs to be located on loaded slopes, mainly on NW-N-NE-E-SE aspects above 9k. Below 9k watch out for wet snow instabilities with the rain we’ve received, helped in large part to continued warm temps. Again, if you’re looking for quality backcountry skiing this weekend and on into next week stay high, or with the solar baking we’re set to get for the next few days watch for the appearance of some corn-ish snow offering potentially good skiing on E-SE aspects.
I know I’ll be looking to head south in the next few days, trying to stay above 9k, and looking for some soft butter snow while the sun’s out until Tuesday. After Tuesday, we’ll see what happens, but current weather models show the potential for a cold blast on its way from the Gulf of Alaska. It’s still a bit off to know for sure what we’re going to get, but things look good at present for a return back to some cold snow ski conditions by next weekend.
We’ll keep you in the loop as the storm gets closer early next week. Until then, there’s a whole bunch of great local events happening this weekend from the North to South Shores, and the weather looks pleasant to stretch those legs and get out for a tour.