It’s been a hell of a year. There were extreme highs and extreme lows. The year started with as deep of a base as we could ask for, and is ending after one of the driest December’s on record. Current backcountry snow conditions are bleak, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t out there searching for something fun to shred.
The thing is in Tahoe there’s always something fun to get into, and if the choice activity doesn’t speak to you there’s no doubt something worthy within a few hours drive. For the diehards there’s nothing to escape the painfully thin snowpack at hand. There’s even been a small rise in local avalanche danger due to the above freezing temperatures and rain that just came through our area saturating snow on NW-N-NE-E aspects.
In reality most regular backcountry users haven’t really even gotten out there yet since choices and snowpack have remained so low this season. What I can report is that terrain that has been decent has stayed that way for the most part. What that means is that some NE-N-NW sheltered aspects have held old recrystallized powder for weeks. Adventure skiing accompanies all of these spots, such as Grouse, and Castle Peak where the ski shots for this post were taken, but the truth is there are a few good turns out there even with this truly light snowpack.
Although looking south at Sugar Bowl and the Sierra Crest conditions don’t look that bad,
we all know Tahoe and the Sierra is in desperate need of snow. I’m sticking with the predictions for a dry fall and solid Jan-Feb-Mar to come through, but until then this dry December has certainly been a good excuse to pursue other means of outdoor fun. I think most locals and visitors have figured it out by now. In terms of skiing you have some inbounds runs to lap, a few thin backcountry spots, or you can join the earners who are consistently skinning inbounds terrain to stay on their game. But it’s really been choice to add some diversity into the mix.
I don’t normally think about climbing outside in December, but bouldering on the East Shore near Zephyr Cove works with our current weather and has showcased a few stellar days of late. Here Dave Hatchett enjoys sending yet another problem in impeccable style.
Lake Tahoe has either been a windy mess producing some fun waves or incredibly glassy perfect for the kayaking crowd. People have been out hiking dry south facing trails, ice skating, and the local ice climbing has remained top-notch.
Some people have been a bit more fired up to venture out of town looking for where there has been snow, or tapping into other seasonal delicacies like quality mountain biking conditions in the foothills,
or the steady swells that have been reportedly keeping coastal folks entertained for as long as we’ve been waiting for the snow to fall. This sequence is from 12/29 in Santa Cruz.
No matter what your choice the crux for now is not getting too bogged down in the lack of snow, making the most out of the situation, and looking forward to a smack-in-the-face January to welcome us back to winter. We had it really good at the turn of last year. Many remember last January as Juneuary, but some of us remember it as the best corn of the season.
And then it just puked. And it didn’t really stop. I recall face-shots in June and steady skiing through July with an easy 12 months of turns this year. Of course it wasn’t all perfect in 2011 as it never really is, and the reminder to live each day to the fullest with respect and conviction is always present. If we’ve learned anything in the last year it’s gotta be that. Feast or famine, good times and bad, live with a smile on your face and “let your life proceed by its own design”. There’s always fun to be had, it’ll snow at some point, and when it does the dry times won’t seem to matter all that much because we’ll be face, body and soul deep in what we all cherish so much.
Here’s to a memorable 2011 and the hope for an even greater 2012! Cheers and Happy New Year Everyone!!!!