It might feel like Déjà vu, but the choice is yours. When you’re working with close to nothing you have to get creative, be positive and find a way to stay fired up. I’m not going to try and sugar coat that after a strong December we’re once again feeling the loss of winter in the middle of the season in Tahoe. However, to accept defeat this early in a ski season is in my opinion unacceptable. There’s snow on the ground in spots, corn has been skied, sheltered recycled powder is out there, and the only way you’re going to reclaim the domination of our current weather pattern is to find a way to keep enjoying the gifts that are out there.
Trust me, I’m over the pep talks too, but it’s too easy to dwell on the negative side of things. For crying out loud we live in Tahoe and there is literally always something fun to get yourself into no matter what the season is, or the shape the current season takes. As the photos speak to in this report, I promise you there’s worthy snow to track down in the Sierra. Ok, I’ll play a little too, there’s white stuff to slide down and if you make good choices, you might find much better conditions than you would’ve thought existed out there.
Since the last State of the Backcountry report, it’s getting thinner and thinner. The high grey days as of late hasn’t really helped the corn hunters, but when conditions present themselves like this it goes back to the first line of paragraph one-the choice is yours. Over the past several days it’s still been more of a corn hunt than anything. The main problem is that we’re lacking coverage on a host of our S and E aspects. Throw in a lingering inversion and I know I’m not the only one who went out for a few days searching for corn only to go back to more northerly aspects to ski winterish snow due to unconsolidated snow on the solar aspects.
What I can say is I’ve found the highest quality cornish snow poking around E and S aspects around the Carson Pass area. I also had a blast with a stellar crew out deep in Desolation Wilderness, but there needs to be a comfortable level of acceptance for any explorers who head out this way in terms of the in and out, as well as the fact that again a host of S aspects are either bare or super thin. Still, the corny snow skied was almost as good as the carpets I’ve been skiing off Carson Pass. In the now, no matter where you go it’s hard to beat a long walk in Desolation, and as much as we all want the weather to change asap, hunting for winter corn is better than not skiing.
Believe it or not, as I know most people who don’t go looking never believe me or any others that share such beta, but there is also recrystallized powder out there on sheltered N aspects. Above 8-8500K feet is where to look on the N, W and S Shores. I even headed south to the Eastside just to see how good/bad it really was down there in an effort to branch out the snow search. The plan was initially to head north to California volcano country, but strong winds caused us to rethink our mission. That said, if you’re itching to get out, Lassen and Shasta have a much better base than we have right now and with the perfect combination of minimal wind and maximum sun, there’s some winter corn to be harvested to the north. Back to the Eastside, we found winter snow on NE-N aspects that escaped the incredibly strong winds that recently blew through, and while I assure you that my crew and I skied some highly enjoyable winter snow, the low snowpack factor is daunting. If you feel like sledding out to Sonora Pass that would be a worthy objective, but for the human powered only crowd it’s a lot of walking with minimal coverage to the south. There were “regulars” holding though (panels off Virginia Lakes, Bloody, select Dana Plateau lines, etc.) so if you’re feeling adventurous go get some.
Overall, avalanche danger is low, but that’s never to say don’t think about the inherent hazards that come with skiing in the backcountry when you head out this week. I’d say the shallow snowpack is something to watch the most right now because there’s not that thick of a base out there to keep skiers and riders from nicking lurking rocks, stumps or barely covered debris. Weather wise-I’d say this continues to be the crusher. There are really no hard indicators pointing to something large coming our way, which is exactly what we need. For now let’s hope February, or perhaps the end of the months brings us something positive. Go skating, or even biking if you’d like. There’s riding to be done at resorts and there are turns to be had in the backcountry that will surprise you in a good way if you choose diligently. It’s been a mental fight the past three seasons and while we’re living through number four, don’t let the low snow get you down. There’s too much raddness around here and too many good people to let that happen. If you can make it work, traveling elsewhere to find more snow isn’t the worst thing you can do right now. The worst thing would be giving into an unsupportive vibration that won’t help anything. Stay positive, tap into what’s available, choose to accept what’s going on out there and make it work for you in the best manner possible. Stay fired up!
“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.