The first "State of the Tahoe Backcountry" report for the 2013-2014 ski season! State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013-2014: I | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports | Unofficial Networks

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013-2014: I | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013-2014: I | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports

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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2013-2014: I | Sponsored by Alpenglow Sports

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Jillian Raymond tours in Blackwood Canyon following an early season storm.

Jillian Raymond tours in Blackwood Canyon following an early season storm.

Hello skiers and riders! Welcome to another backcountry ski season in Lake Tahoe! It hasn’t been the biggest start to a season we’ve ever seen, not by a long shot. But fresh snow did fall as early as September 22nd, and even though we’re thin, after our most recent storm it looks as though winter’s here to stay. The storm scheduled for this upcoming week should supoort backcountry conditions in the greater area, although we could really use several feet as opposed to several inches.

Some of the best turns of the early season.

Some of the best turns of the early season.

The dogs agreed.

The dogs agreed.

While it’s been nice to get a dusting here and there it wasn’t until last week’s storm that more terrain has become available for ski touring. It’s usually the same local routine at the start to the winter season with skiing and riding commonly reserved for our higher elevation access areas. That means Donner Summit and Mt. Rose in the north, with Carson Pass holding it down in the south. That’s held largely true for the storms that have come our way this season, and based on the precipitation we’re forecasted to get this week that will continue to be the way in early December.

The 11/22 east wind event brought a fun a.m. surf session to Tahoe's West Shore before an afternoon backcountry ski session sealed another memorable day in Tahoe. Surfers: Scott Gaffney and Jules Hanna

The 11/22/13 east wind event brought fun morning surf to Tahoe’s West Shore before an afternoon ski tour off Donner Summit sealed another memorable day. Surfers: Scott Gaffney and Jules Hanna

We’re working with very little base at present due to the low intensity of this years storms as well as the huge east wind event that accompanied our last system. There aren’t many aspects that ski well after such a big east wind. N and NW aspects can generally fare well, but since there wasn’t much base to work with the skiing went from fun, pressed powder to every type of snow you can think of over the course of a few days. Pre wind event temperatures were warm. Then the cold front blew through with Arctic air sucking out a majority of the moisture, which locked in what little snow was stuck to the mountains. This didn’t leave the softest snow conditions to shred on the hill, but it’s also why we have what we have at the higher reaches of our local mountains.

Here's Jules a few hours after a brisk fall surf on Lake Tahoe. The spindrift in the lower right shared a small indication of how strong the winds were. Each person in our group of four almost got blown over during this tour.

Here’s Jules a few hours after a brisk fall surf on Lake Tahoe. The spindrift shown in the lower right shares a small indication of how strong the winds were. Each person in our group of four almost got blown over during this particular tour.

As you can see in a few of the more recent photos from the Donner Summit area there is snow out there. However, variability will be a continuing factor until we get more. A mixture of melt-freeze crusts, wind board, facets and decomposing sugar-among other types of snow, have been observed recently. Hopefully next week’s disturbance buffs things out and offers a bit more of a workable base. As we anticipate this new blanket of snow it’s going to continue to be the higher elevation locales in and around Tahoe that will hold the best potential for backcountry skiing and riding. While most slopes were stripped and scoured from the recent east wind event the slopes that still have 1-2 feet of snow on them (mostly high elevation N-NW) hold the greatest potential for quality skiing in the now and will hopefully get better post storm. NE aspects with snow only look good due to wind loading so please take that into consideration as you’re assessing what to ski/ride in the near-term.

POV, Mt. Rose powder day, November, 2013.

POV, Mt. Rose powder day, November, 2013.

Remember as we continue to operate with early season snowfalls that skiing extra cautiously should be at the forefront of your decision making process. Rocks, stumps and other debris take a few to several feet to really get buried in most ski worthy places we want to be in the greater Lake Tahoe area. We’re still waiting for that big dump to really get us going so a shallow snowpack will be something we live with until that systems shows. The Sierra Avalanche Center (SAC) isn’t issuing daily advisories yet, but they do have some great seasonal observations to share and will be up and running shortly when there’s enough snow to warrant daily advisories. Regardless, it’s good habit to start with a check of their site everyday through the winter season, especially with this late start to reintroduce key terms and ideas into your mentality that might not have otherwise been there in the past several months.

The Alpenglow Sports dawn patrol crew taking care of business.

Jeff Dostie and the Alpenglow Sports dawn patrol crew, taking care of business.

Allison Lightcap takes the scenic route to another lap.

Allison Lightcap takes the scenic route to another lap.

Seth and Allison Lightcap ready for one more lap under a fiery Sierra sunset.

Seth and Allison Lightcap ready for one more lap under a fiery Sierra sunset.

Anderson Peak and Ridge look much better than present snowfall totals would have you believe.

Anderson Ridge, Anderson Peak, and the NW corner of Granite Chief Wilderness.

While we’re waiting for more snow it’s always a good idea to check your gear, practice with your beacon, and think about furthering your overall avalanche and backcountry travel/medical education as well. Check out Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) in the south and Alpine Skills International (ASI) in the north for the most up-to-date local offerings to attain such knowledge.

Even with such low snowfall so far this season there’s been more than a few good days out there around Carson Pass, Blackwood Canyon and in the Donner Summit area. People have been working with what’s fallen thus far and when you’re a backcountry rider that exactly what you do. Snow falls on the mountains and you work with what’s there. Remember that as always these reports are meant to motivate, inspire and support our greater backcountry community, one of the best there is across the globe-nothing more, nothing less. Acquiring the proper equipment and knowledge to safely access our local backcountry is paramount. Checking in with the professionals at LTCC, ASI and Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City is the best place to start if you have questions.

Here’s to hoping this season is a slow starter that builds and builds throughout the season! Be safe, take advantage of everyday and have fun out there!

“State of the 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.

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