And then there was snow. If you happened to stay above the 8500’-8700’ foot mark the past few days then you’re Fired Up because you just scored three stellar powder days out of the long awaited storm cycle. It wasn’t pretty down low, at least until Saturday morning, but above that magic snow level it didn’t rain at all which meant great ski conditions for those that sought it out. State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2012: II | Sponsored by Cloudveil | Unofficial Networks

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2012: II | Sponsored by Cloudveil

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2012: II | Sponsored by Cloudveil

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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2012: II | Sponsored by Cloudveil

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And then there was snow. If you happened to stay above the 8500’-8700’ foot mark the past few days then you’re Fired Up because you just scored three stellar powder days out of the long awaited storm cycle. It wasn’t pretty down low, at least until Saturday morning, but above that magic snow level it didn’t rain at all which meant great ski conditions for those that sought it out.

We all know what’s been going on this season, and we also know snow levels started out extremely high when the storm train finally started showing itself last Thursday evening. But anything is better than nothing. This is a shot from the top of the Deep Creek drainage looking over to Pole Creek, Squaw, and Twin Peaks before the recent storm system.

Local backcountry skiing’s been adventurous to say the least this season, but with low expectations, and blobs like this one making its way across our forecast area

Saturday turned out to be a much better day than any takers initially thought. The trick with Saturday, that remained the call for Sunday and Monday, was staying as high as possible. Starting mostly from scratch in late January that meant either heading to the south and skiing off Carson Pass with a trailhead elevation around 8500’, or heading north and hoping enough precipitation made its way from the Sierra Crest over to the Mt. Rose area.  Thankfully it did.

I was getting a bit worried when the rain still hadn’t even turned to snain yet late Friday night, but waking up and driving to Rose with this for a view was a sight for sore eyes!

Keeping in mind that snowline initially hovered around 8500’-8700’ feet Incline Peak saw solid action the past few days. Those that ventured out were full of stoke. Even though conditions were still thin the north facing low-angle trees provided the perfect backdrop for hungry backcountry riders to get their skin and ski on.

With low expectations the first lap astounded everyone. The snow fell dense and skied thick for just a couple of feet on top of, well, nothing. But since it was still lightly snowing the light fresh layer on top made for a perfect sliding surface. The dense snow kept you on top, but the fresh layer facilitated speed.

A quick depth check showed at least three feet had fallen near the 9k-foot mark, 

and with our tracks getting filled in after every lap

 we just kept skiing.

Even the dogs looked surprised with the playfulness of the new snow.

Sunday offered similar conditions on Incline Peak, although with a few added inches and further settling the skiing actually got better. However, take note that wind transporting was ongoing Sunday. While dropping in on a windward pitch to gain a leeward line wind slabs were developing, and still currently exist.

Monday Tahoe expected a cold system to drop 15-30 inches of blower, and while it was yet another welcome sight to wake up to this,

the snow felt much denser when a few of us started breaking trail towards the Tamarack area of Rose.  With a strong storm dropping an additional 1-2 feet, warming temperatures, and noted instability in the storm snow Sunday and also on Monday, sincere caution was taken while breaking trail moving up towards skiable terrain.

The avalanche danger rating for the day was HIGH. Our full profile snow pit, which means it was dug until we hit ground, helped showcase two interfaces layers beyond a thin layer of old facets at the ground. Compression tests showed weak instability in the new storm snow, and failure with a layer of lighter snow buried shallowly by new denser snow on top. However, the shears we observed were not fully clean and settling of the snowpack was also noticed.

Our collective thought was to keep it mellow, which was an easy thing to do based on forecast, observations, and how well the low angle snow skied.

As the day wore on it kept snowing and the freshly falling snow got even more explosive.

But as soon as we took off and landed back at lake level a major spike in temperature was unmistakable. It almost seemed impossible that we were getting face shots minutes ago. Couple that with the forecast for the next week on and it’s not looking like the cold snow has much of a chance at survival, although you never know… so take advantage of Tuesday, and seek out protected northerly aspects bearing in mind that there remains quite a bit of potential danger from wind slabs and denser snow from Monday sitting on lighter snow from earlier in the storm cycle. Temperatures are also forecasted to be high through the week.

It’s been three beautiful powder days. What a relief to have had such a drought and finally get a few days of snow caked trees, friends with permagrins, and unlimited fresh tracks on perfectly pitched fields of powder all over the Mt. Rose area.  Hopefully we can all figure out what to do with the blanket we have and the forecast ahead until the next wave of precipitation finds it way to Tahoe. It might be a minute, again, if this ridge builds back in as forecasted so get out there while you can and enjoy the return of winter to Tahoe!

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