State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIX

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIX

Squaw

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XIX

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More new snow fell over the past two days in the Tahoe Basin and a few good turns were had as a result. Although the holiday weekend will start a bit windy, the sun should be out, and there’s a ton of skiable terrain out there that hasn’t been this available this late in the season for several years.

At the turn of the week, after yet another refreshening of our local slopes, I got a brief taste of buttery corn that skied surprisingly well without full consolidation.

Most reports through the weekend came back “sloppy”, but others sounded like they had better luck on Sunday/Monday. Personally, I skipped out of town for a little snow break to the coast over the weekend, and upon return to Tahoe took in views of some of our more northern mountain snowpacks. Traveling through the Trinity Alps region, Mount Shasta, and Lassen Peak, surprise, surprise, there’s a ton of snow. The coverage is amazing in the Trinities, although the snow is going fast, but Shasta and Lassen are undeniably fat (unfortunately no shots to share as the camera was dead). The weather looks unsettled up there through this holiday weekend, and although the forecast could be workable for the intrepid, skiing in Tahoe or down on the Eastside might be a better call.

With Memorial Day Weekend on tap the major backcountry skiing question is what’s holding up and what passes will be open? The unofficial word is Ebbett’s Pass may be open by Saturday, Sonora Pass should be open by Friday, and Tioga Pass will be closed. The latter of the passes mentioned is of the highest interest, and although if Ebbett’s and Sonora opens there’ll be some great high elevation access to tap into, Mount Dana and the Dana Plateau are prime right now and ready for some solid ski traffic. Word is the pass is clear up to the top of Tioga, but all statements have stayed true to the Pass not opening for the weekend. We’ll see. Hopefully someone will report seeing this sometime over the weekend,

but I wouldn’t plan on hitting it without a nearby backup plan you’re stoked on. Here’s a link to the Caltrans updated road conditions website, http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi . If anything does pop it should be listed on the site when it does.

As far as  current conditions go generally unconsolidated corn skiing from the weekend gave way on Wednesday and Thursday to a brief round of precipitation. The few inches that fell were best enjoyed on lower angled slopes, especially those on protected north facing aspects above 7k feet.  Wednesday saw periods of complete raging storm conditions that also brought a quick window of waves on the north and northeast shores. The water at Tahoe Vista actually felt quite a bit warmer than what I had just been surfing in Humboldt County over the weekend. The crux of this session was the blinding snow that was actually pretty fun to sit through and pick off a few rides in, but was incredibly hard to keep your eyes open to actually see what you were doing.

Turns on Maggies felt like two inches on top of mush. Not perfect by any means, definitely not true porn snow, but buttery is better than dust-on-crust, right? Thursday had an interesting start to the day as things got real cold Wednesday night after the precipitation stopped. Around Lake level there was this ice rime layer reminiscent of something you’d see on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. 

Mt. Tallac was still looking unreal, especially on the upper mountain,

 but it was clear after the little disturbance we got this week that Lake area skiing down the West Shore and to the south is fading. It’s all still entirely skiable, but the Emerald Bay Chutes are finally melting out and skiing to the road is thin. Still, no worries above 7500’, even 7k feet as if you’re feeling the desire to get out in the backcountry this weekend you’ll have plenty of choices. Apparently Alpine was amazing Thursday and saw some great traffic from a bunch of skiers and riders all day. Just watch out for skiing in zones that have a sign like this,

and hopefully Friday and Saturday night will stay clear enough for a good weekend of backcountry skiing.

Quality will be tough to nail as the wind from mid week has definitely stripped some areas, buffed some spots, and even loaded a few obvious locations as of Thursday afternoon. The new snow was slabbing off on steeper slopes on Thursday as well, but snow in the moderate angled sweet spots was pure quality. If the temps stay as cold as forecasted there’s a chance some renegade powder skiing might be found, but the last lap I skied Thursday on an east facing slope was already turning at 10 a.m. So higher elevation north could be cold and wintery, while east and south shots should be moving towards cornish conditions depending on how the temps, wind, and sun play out. Go figure, less than a week away from June and it’s still hard to predict when and if we’ll be skiing dependable corn in the near term. Regardless, lifts are turning at Squaw, backcountry coverage is thick, and a bunch of people will be looking to party this weekend.  Sounds like another fine couple of days in Tahoe, and we might even get some real high pressure overhead next week for an actual corn season…if we’re lucky.

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