Be honest. How many times have you checked the weather in the past few days? Between all the hype surrounding the storm, snow line, and the forecasted wind for Thursday, I know I’ve scoured just about every site and source I know multiple times each day for over a week. It’s geeky for sure, but exciting to say the least.
Before we take a look at upcoming weather and current snowpack conditions, let’s acknowledge that since the last State of the Backcountry report, our overall backcountry skiing picture has gotten much brighter. Yes, we’re still looking for something white to stick at lake level. However, if you’ve had the chance to go for a ski tour in the past week you’ve certainly noticed how spackled terrain above 8500′ is in the greater Tahoe area.
In the high elevation locales off Donner Summit, my partners and I measured about 3-3.5′ of new snow after the last round of big precipitation last week. The skiing was great in around Donner up high, although I’d have to say for overall coverage (and use) the Mt. Rose area was the clear winner. I spent several days of the last week touring around the Rose zone finding perfect plaster conditions coating a host of worthy ski terrain. A singular mission to the West Shore proper felt in order after checking out Rose thoroughly and scoring off Donner, but I wouldn’t point anyone in that direction right now until we get a few more feet up high, and at least something resembling a base down low. There is some excellent skiing to be had on the West Shore, especially the NW Shore, but thin cover on the lower flanks of our peaks just doesn’t make that much sense to deal with when you can be on relatively quality snow off Donner or Rose. The southern reaches of our forecast area are reportedly doing better as well. There’s backcountry skiing to be done, but there is still less overall coverage to the south than on the north side of Lake Tahoe.
Snowpack wise we’re doing much better now than we were prior to our last major precipitation event. That said, there are still instability issues out there on the aspects we all want to be skiing the most. Above 8500′, where again, a dramatic difference in skiability is found, some N pockets are harboring weak layers near the base of our snowpack. Getting something to pop and nailing the “right” trigger is not uniform nor is it easy. But as a backcountry user be aware that persistent weak layers are in play in Tahoe, and as we’re expecting a significant weather event, large scale instabilities may result when more weight is added to the current snowpack.
Back to the weather, what a roller coaster, huh? A few days back I read just to our north there could be 7-8″ of liquid associated with this storm. I had issues falling asleep that night, but for real, we all know how bad we need a big storm. Unfortunately, the monster that was seems to have backed off quite a bit. Most forecasters are calling for a hopeful foot at lake level, which could only end up being several inches. We’re going to get snow measured in feet above 7k feet, whether it’s 1, 2 or 3 remains to be seen. At least cold air should be in place by late Thursday when the precipitation is forecasted to really come down, so when all is said and done, by Saturday morning, we should have a fresh new blanket to play on. As always, stay up-to-date with our changing snowpack via SAC, be safe, and get stoked. It’s not as gnarly as was originally forecasted, but no matter what, this storm is going to help us in a big way!
“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.