deep snow lake tahoe

deep snow lake tahoeDeep snow in a Lake Tahoe neighborhood.  photo:  Sean Regan

I just got off the phone with the Randal Osterhuber, the lead researcher at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory on Donner Pass. I wanted to get the final numbers of the 2010/2011 winter from the horse’s mouth.


– 643 Inches of Total Snow

– 4th Snowiest Winter on Record

– 71.25 Inches of Snow Depth on June 13th, 2011

– The Deepest Snowpack On Record on This Date, June 13th, 2011

– Records at the Snow Lab began in 1946 and are the most accurate in the Sierras

deep pow skiing

I had a few questions and Randal was kind enough to answer them all.

When I asked Randal What were the most interesting anomalies in the winter of 2010/11?”

He told me about these two interesting situations from the 2010/11 winter season:

“We have more snow on the ground today than we’ve ever had at this date.”

“The main unique feature this winter was how we had huge snow events from November through New Years, had a giant 6 week window of no snow, then went right back into enormous snow storms from Valentines day until June.”

Buried house in Lake Tahoe.  photo:  Garner White

I also asked Randal about the huge discrepancies between the Snow Lab numbers (643″) and other nearby place’s numbers like Squaw’s (810″).

Randal admitted that a 150 inch difference is big, but at the same time he told me that he thinks those numbers could be pretty accurate.

“Very close to our Snow Laboratory is Palisades Peak in the Serene Lakes area.  Palisades Peak is a forested peak that gets about a third more snow than we do here.  Just a ton of snow falls in there.”

Squaw takes their numbers from around 8,000 feet and the Snow lab gets their numbers from 6,900 feet.  Randal thought that elevation difference could easily account for the differences in the numbers.

powder skiing squaw valleyThis is what every single day of the 2010/22 ski season looked like.  photo:

In 2006 my friend Duane from Adventure Film Works interviewed Randal about climate change. At that time Randal spoke of our winters trending wetter and the precipitation shifting later.  Today, Randal agreed that this was continuing to happen and he added:

“We are experiencing a slight shift towards liquid.  We are essentially seeing more rain [at 6,900′] than we used to.”

This is depressing news, but not shocking considering global climate change.

I  want to thank Randal for his time today and for his continuing efforts at the Snow Laboratory. We need the numbers these guys produce to learn more about our Sierra snow and I think we all love geeking out on what they come up with.


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