We’re still looking for the first big dump of 2013 in the greater Tahoe area, but with a short corn cycle and a little refresh on the hills, skiers and riders have been making the most of current Tahoe backcountry conditions.
The end of January snapped us from a dreamlike state, exchanging cold temps and pristine snow for the more common Juneuary spring conditions many of us are used too. Until this most recent refresh graced the Tahoe Basin seeking out fickle winter corn has been on the minds of many. However, to our south winter snow has been available, although much like winter corn in Tahoe seeking out optimal conditions down south is never a gimme.
While the northern half of the Eastern Sierra was reported to have to pick up more snow from disturbances in the past couple of weeks, heavy winds scoured a majority of higher elevation slopes. In hopes to find more sheltered conditions my partners and I headed south with an open agenda looking for inspiration.
Noticing the obvious wind effect we chose to travel below 12k-ish feet and enjoyed a fun mix of winter conditions. Below 9500′ feet was pretty rough, but close to 10k we were treated to much better conditions. In the two couloirs we skied the mixed-winter bag of snow conditions were welcomed, and the aesthetic walls of the lines we skied were more than reward for our efforts.
Our third line of the day was a steep shot of trees back towards our car. It was the highest quality powder any of us had skied since mid-January. As fired up as we were it was obvious that higher elevation objectives were still largely thin and for the most part wind-hammered. Hopefully this most recent dusting worked some magic down there as reports from the Mammoth area have been sounding pretty good.
Back up in Tahoe the corn hunt has been on. Before last weeks storm temps were spiking close to 50 degrees and with little wind quality corn was being sampled throughout our greater forecast area. But one must remember, as a few partners and I were reminded of last week, this time of year it’s incredibly important to get on your chosen objective when it’s ready. Letting a corned slope go back into the shade may not be the worst thing you can do come spring, but this time of year edgeable can turn to bullet-proof pretty quickly. I stress this as although we’re all enjoying the nice new few inches out there, based on our current forecast outlook corn hunting will probably be back on relatively soon.
Monday (2/11) is calling for a solid E-NE wind event, which won’t help much of anything. Temperatures are forecasted to jump to the mid-forties by Wednesday this week, approaching the low 50’s by next weekend. My advice is to go enjoy the new blanket we have out there because it’s skiing better than you might think, and with no precipitation in the near future coupled with a strong wind event it may not last very long.
While there’s no getting away from hitting bottom, Thursday afternoon and especially last Friday were phenomenal sleeper powder days. With lower-angle terrain skiing the best, the snow was incredibly fast and light, making every little roll-over on the West Shore feel like you were skiing two-to-three times as much snow as it billowed up to your waist and face. In reality, 4-8+ inches is what actually fell. It’s interesting to note that many locales around Tahoe didn’t get much of anything out of this storm, but the West Shore certainly picked up as much as was dropped.
Avalanche activity has remained relatively minimal since the last “State of the Backcountry”. While we’ve yet to get more than two feet of new snow in 2013, you don’t need much (or any) new snow to have instability issues. Wind slabs have been observed on the higher reaches of West Shore peaks the past few days. Some spots were 10 or so inches deep and much more cohesive (slabby) than the rest of the snow observed in the region. While these wind slabs are avoidable it is important to know they’re out there, and with Monday’s forecasted wind event cross-loading and further snow transport should take place and potentially influence backcountry skiing conditions this upcoming week. As always SAC is your resource for staying as up-to-date as you can possibly be on the ever changing conditions in the Tahoe backcountry.
Looking ahead, I wish I had something to report about other than the hope for a fictitious storm, but at this point that’s exactly what we have. There’s some buzz about a pattern change around the end of the month moving into March, but that’s a ways off. As excited as I get about potential future storms I don’t think it’s all that worthy to bet on long-term forecasts as much as it is to live in the now and work with what we’ve got. So in that spirit enjoy our most recent little refresh that really worked some magic buffing out a host of local terrain, look for another winter corn cycle to come back around later this week as the sun starts to warm things up, and in the meantime let’s hope some disturbances return to our area before the end of the month.
“State of the Tahoe Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.
A huge thanks to Squaw, Dynafit, Alpenglow and everyone that made it out for the second annual Squaw Nachtspektakel! With a vibrant group of close to 100, people had a blast, and are already making plans for next year!
You can check into more regular “State of the Backcountry” conditions reports through its Facebook page linked here.
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Previous “State of the Tahoe Backcountry” Reports from the 2012-2013 season: