Funky. With everything from rain above 9k feet, to Sunday’s bluebird powder day, funky is an accurate way to describe the range of backcountry skiing conditions found in the greater Tahoe area over the past several days.
Since the last report, higher elevation powder held on until a massive, wet storm system completely changed everything last weekend. Rain, and lots of it fell close to 9k feet. Lake Tahoe rose 6 inches. Kirkwood was claiming over 9 feet of new snow. As wet as the system was, its greatest gift beyond essentially hitting the reset button, was leaving what will be a lasting base. We all want it to snow more, but prior to this event base was something we were struggling to attain. It’s still relatively thin at the lower elevations of West Shore objectives, but there’s plenty of snow to tour on from car-to-car off Carson Pass, in the Mt. Rose area, and via other high elevation access points around Tahoe.
Conditions, as stated earlier, have been funky at best. At the very end of last weekend’s system a quick blast of cold came through with not as much liquid as we would’ve liked to see. Nonetheless, the skiing above 9k feet was silky powder, but below that conditions changed dramatically depending on where you were. For example, on the West Shore proper, cold snow held on with north facing, higher elevation aspects skiing well through most of the week. But with temperatures spiking into the high 40’s, and even 50’s, once you dropped closer to lake level you could find any mixture of crust, mank and springish snow, depending.
When it rained above 9k last Thursday, it was the spring like SE-S-SW aspects that gained appeal. However, the high winds and cold front that blew through on Saturday gave way to a nice little refresh that’ s brought a momentary break to our recent rollercoaster of conditions. Sunday was a full-on bluebird pow day! It wasn’t anything all that ridiculously deep, but after the projected forecast totals got knocked down along with what was looking like a perfect storm for us this week, Sunday ended up being a 3-8 inch wind-pressed, cold, fast skiing powder day.
In terms of avalanche conditions, anything that was wind loaded from the most recent storm is good to keep a close eye on. That includes all aspects with E and N. With a strong SW flow, those are the slopes that have been skiing well, but were also most impacted in terms of wind slab development from the storm. In the Mt. Rose area the new snow was bonding well to the old snow base, but as winds continue this week it’s prudent to be cautious of these aspects. As always, checking in with the daily reports issued by the Sierra Avalanche Center is the best way to stay as current as possible with the ever changing nature of our backcountry ski conditions.
Cold conditions are holding on through Monday, but turbulent midweek weather on Tuesday and Wednesday could change that up. We’ll have to wait and see, but it doesn’t look like much weather is coming our way until possibly the end of the month. Take advantage of the base up high, and the setup snow down low. Overall, conditions have dramatically improved in the backcountry this month and there’s no time like the present to take advantage. Have fun out there!
If you missed it, Alpenglow Sports is in the midst of hosting the inaugural Alpenglow Sports Mountain Festival. Here are links to a few pieces highlighting the numerous free backcountry events that will be running until March 2nd– One, Two, Three. It’s been a blast through the first weekend of the event and there’s much more set to take place. I hope to see you out and about enjoying this huge community gathering!
“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. You can check out more “State of the Backcountry” reports through Facebook, Instagram and its website.
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Previous “State of the Backcountry” Reports from the 2013-2014 season: