6-12 inches of new snow ='s fun to be had in the Tahoe backcountry. State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013: XI | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports | Unofficial Networks

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013: XI | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013: XI | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports


State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013: XI | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports


Toby Schwindt enjoys a brief moment of winter on May 7th in the Tahoe Basin.

It’s been a sunny spring in the greater Tahoe area, but there’s always at least one late season blast to throw things out of whack. That blast came in over the weekend bringing thunderstorms and moderate precipitation to our zone, and by Tuesday morning some locales had more than 12 inches of new snow.

Above 8500 feet the skiing was much better than you think. Skier: Toby Schwindt

The snow came in as thick and saturated as possible. In the north the Mt. Rose area picked up 6ish inches, while to the south peaks around Highway 88 and 50 collected 8-12 inches above 8k feet. As we all know by now the pickings are slim if you’re still looking to slide on some snow in Tahoe. Mt. Rose is high in terms of elevation, but doesn’t have the base that areas to our south are holding. As we look to Wednesday there is some smooth skiing out there. The Carson Pass and the Kirkwood area will be your best bet.

Getting Walled at Sonora Pass, CA

Wednesday will be tricky as the temperatures are forecasted to rise. Snowline could jump to 9500-10,000 feet, so the earlier the better. The skiing was much better than expected on Tuesday, especially above 8500 feet. Although heavy, the snow skied fast and smooth. Below 8500 feet slide activity was observed. The snow was not bonding as well to the base below this elevation and deep turns initiated releases that acted like wet slides. Be cautious as the sun pokes out through the week if you’re out skiing, and be aware of rocks and other natural hazards that might be lurking below the freshly fallen snow.

Jeremy Frumkin and Jillian Raymond head up the shoulder of Mt. Dana.

Last weekend, Eastern Sierra high passes were serving up high quality skiing. While this most recent storm has closed the passes back down, they should reopen once these disturbance vacate the area.

Mt. Dana with the Dana Couloir to the left, and the Solstice Couloir to the right.

Conditions above 9k should be all fresh snow down to our south, but with the high temps it’s uncertain if the passes will open in time for winter snow to be enjoyed, or if we’ll have to wait a bit for the sun to work its magic. In either case, this new snow should smooth out a host of terrain and will extend what’s been a precipitation starved season.

Jeremy drops into the “Unknown Chute” while Jillian looks on.

If you do want to get a little more skiing on the Eastside this season it’s going fast, so you best be on it. Sonora and Tioga Passes are still your best bet. The snow is melting fast around Tioga. The best coverage is out toward Saddlebag Lake, and while the “Powerhouse Chutes” have been skiing amazingly well this late spring the exit is getting thinner by the minute.

Jillian Raymond lays a pretty track down the rider’s left entrance of “Powerhouse”.

Jeremy Frumkin does the same down the middle entrance of “Powerhouse”.

Locally, we’re looking at unsettled weather until the weekend. It should get nice again by Saturday, but we do have some disturbances that may impact our area through the month. You never know in May around Tahoe, so if you do have an itch to get on snow remember that the snow changes dramatically with the intense rays of a late spring California sun. Our greatest local resource, the Sierra Avalanche Center, has issued an advisory for the remainder of the season. It’s always worth a visit to their site before heading out for a tour, and especially at this time of year when it’s easy to think there are no dangers out there when in fact they always exist when traveling in the backcountry.

“Round Top” and “the Sisters” as viewed from the west by Kirkwood.

Over it? Get out for an off the beaten track tour in the a.m., then head out for a bike, climb, or paddle on the lake in the afternoon.

As our local Tahoe options continue to slim down and the Eastside looks more prime for climbing than skiing, many folks are turning their attention north to the great Cascade Range. Although I have not been able to make it to my favorite peak in the range yet, Mt. Shasta, I have heard reports that if you want to get on it you better do so now. Even in our light winter last season we got late snow that really helped the greater snowpack. That did not happen this season. The California Cascade region skied well last season, but our two peaks are slimmer this year than normal. Since we received more snow early than late this year many peaks and lines, even Lassen and Shasta, are showing the impacts. That said, get up there and get it while you can. The rest of the range to the north (Oregon into Washington) should still be good well into summer.

Mt Rainer as seen from the south on 5/5/13.

It’s been another light snow year in Tahoe, but rather than dwell on the negative, which is prevalent and much easier to do, there really has been some great skiing to be had. The final shot in this piece speaks to that-my personal favorite in the absence of powder-going from ski boots right into flip-flops.

Best footwear ever.

Many people have been out biking, climbing and getting into their summer/fall routines. The coast has been serving up some quality waves and it’s never a bad idea to link up a classic Tahoe multi-sport day, especially when the sun is shining and there’s snow on the ground. I hope there’s some Shasta action to be had in June, but until then, and as always thanks for checking out the “State of the Backcountry” reports this season. I’m currently gearing up to work with Ice Axe Expeditions in Norway for the rest of the month and look forward to checking in from the Arctic.

There’s still some goods to be had on the snow whether it’s some freshness this week, or some Grade-A California corn that will be back in play momentarily. Be safe and have fun out there!

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 Backcountry” Reports from the 2012-2013 season:

Early Season Edition

Edition II

Edition III

Edition IV 

Edition V

Edition VI 

Edition VII 

Edition VIII-Chugach, AK

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