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We Should Wake Up To Some Whiteness Tomorrow

Image courtesy of Weather.com

Image courtesy of Weather.com

You could feel the change in the weather today. Temperatures were 10° colder, the winds blew and a mid-level cloud deck covered the skies for part of the day. Snow has already been reported near Susanville and Portola, so it should be in Tahoe soon. While the radar image doesn’t look all that impressive, it’s hopeful the start of a reasonably long wet period. The building confidence in this weekend storm caused the Reno NOAA office to extend the Winter Weather Watch into the Tahoe Basin. The WWW replaces the old “Snow Advisory” terminology.

URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RENO NV

219 PM PST FRI NOV 28 2014

…MODERATE SNOW TONIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING FOR LAKE TAHOE…

.DEEP MOISTURE WILL PUSH INTO THE SIERRA TONIGHT WITH SNOW LEVELS

LOWERING TO LAKE TAHOE LEVEL. SNOW WILL LIKELY CREATE HAZARDOUS

TRAVEL CONDITIONS FOR HOLIDAY TRAVELERS AROUND THE TAHOE BASIN AND

SIERRA PASSES.

CAZ072-NVZ002-291200-

/O.NEW.KREV.WW.Y.0012.141129T0600Z-141129T1800Z/

GREATER LAKE TAHOE AREA-

INCLUDING THE CITIES OF…SOUTH LAKE TAHOE…TRUCKEE…

INCLINE VILLAGE

219 PM PST FRI NOV 28 2014

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO

10 AM PST SATURDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN RENO HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER

ADVISORY FOR SNOW…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO

10 AM PST SATURDAY.

* TIMING: SNOW WILL INCREASE LATE TONIGHT AND INTO SATURDAY

MORNING. ADDITIONAL SNOW IS POSSIBLE SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY

MORNING.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: 1 TO 4 INCHES WITH 4 TO 8 INCHES ABOVE 7000

FEET. LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE WEST OF HIGHWAY 89.

* SNOW LEVELS: STARTING AROUND 7000 FEET THIS EVENING THEN

LOWERING TO LAKE LEVEL AFTER MIDNIGHT.

* IMPACTS: SNOW WILL CREATE SLICK AND ICY CONDITIONS THROUGH

SATURDAY MORNING. PASSES WILL SEE THE SLICKEST CONDITIONS…

INCLUDING DONNER PASS…ECHO SUMMIT…SPOONER SUMMIT…BROCKWAY

SUMMIT… AND CARSON PASS. CHOPPY LAKE CONDITIONS ON LAKE TAHOE

WILL PERSIST OVERNIGHT.

Looking at the models more deeply today, there seems to be far more agreement on the potential for the mid-week storm. The 7 day outlook bumped up the expected precipitation again today. As BA pointed out in his post today, the mid-week storm should do a great job of filling in the upper mountain terrain. Areas below 7000 feet will be likely to see a lot of rain over the week. Fortunately, given the frequency of temperature inversions around Tahoe, it is far easier to make snow at the base of the mountain than at the top of the mountain.

The second change we’re seeing in the models today is that they are trending toward one system blending into another, with not much of a break on Monday. The latest runs of the NAM and SREF show the weekend storm tapering off Monday afternoon and the next storm starting to work in by early Tuesday. There was also an improvement in the PNA Index today. While the ensembles still show a positive trend, it looks less positive, and the tail end of the forecasted index is showing a negative trend today. In simple terms, this means a ridge could be short lived.

We sure hope we can post some ski reports tomorrow that include white mountains rather than WROD. No matter what, skiing today was far better than shopping today. It always is.

The Only Thing Consistent About The Weather Forecast Is Inconsistency

Photo by Ozzy

Photo by Ozzy

We have to be thankful today for the snowmaking teams at local resorts. For those of us that have always included a day of skiing into our Thanksgiving, their efforts really mattered. There were more spring conditions out there today, not surprising, with Reno breaking a record at 73° today. Ozzy reported that lines at Gold Coast were significantly longer today, but they still appeared to be much shorter than the norm for opening weekend. Tomorrow should be the last day for spring conditions, as there is some agreement surrounding the weekend storm.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 6.56.34 PM

The NAM puts about a foot of snow into the area by late Sunday. The GFS puts a bit less and the Euro puts a bit more. Snow levels have also been lowered for this first storm, which is pretty remarkable given the warm temperatures this week. Snow levels are expected to drop to lake level by Saturday morning, and down to 5500 feet by Sunday. So the storm for the weekend is seeming like a pretty sure bet. Even if we get closer to the 18 inches forecast by the Euro model, it won’t be a total game changer, in the sense of allowing resorts to open new terrain immediately.

The NAM total precip forecast through Monday.

The NAM total precip forecast through Monday.

When you start looking at the second storm, which should have been “the big one”, the inconsistency between forecasters is a bit frustrating. Had the low followed it’s initial track into Tahoe, we would have seen a lot of moisture and a lot of cold air combining to make some really big snow totals. But 36 hours ago, the models picked up on a strengthening ridge over Utah that will slow the progress of the low, or prevent it’s movement into California entirely. There’s a wide spectrum of opinions on what this means for this system.

The Reno NOAA office has the least confidence in the storm, which now appears in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe. They suggest that the low will stay primarily off the coast, then slide to the south due to a lack of a strong jet driving it inland. For total precipitation amounts, they are suggesting that roughly another foot of snow would fall with that system.

LONG TERM…SUNDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY…

THE 00Z ECMWF HAS BACKED OFF FURTHER WITH LOW NEXT WEEK AND NOW
PAINTS A MORE DISMAL PICTURE FOR A BIG STORM HITTING THE REGION.

-Reno Forecast Discussion this morning

At the other end of the spectrum, BA at OpenSnow.com continues to push for the wetter outcome for the storm. The Canadian and Euro show a second low dropping out of the Gulf OF Alaska, which pulls the big low to the north instead of to the south. If that solution pans out, then we could see as much as 5 feet of snow by the end of the week. The 7 day QPF, released today, from NOAA seems to verify that solution.

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We’ve been watching WeatherWest.com to see what forecaster Daniel Swain made of the situation. He’s just not sure either. He delayed his forecast a day or two, waiting for the models to settle. His report, released this morning, only verifies the inconsistency in the models.

Looking at the teleconnections is not much of a help either. The MJO is currently in the favorable Phase 3 position. The GFS ensemble shows that it should be moving rapidly into Phase 4, 5, 6 and 7 over the next 2 weeks. In those phases, the southern jet is not in a position to direct storms toward the west coast, hence the unpredictability with the big low off the coast.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 7.34.45 PM

mjo-phases

The MJO phases and how they affect average precipitation in the western US.

 

The truth of the matter is, we’re just going to have to just enjoy the storm this weekend, and hope that it does turn out to the biggest storm we have seen since last season. Next week, it’s either going to snow a lot or it’s not. Some of us will keep skiing and riding, and others will keep not skiing and riding, while they wait for “the big one”. Thanks again to all of the snowmaking teams around Tahoe that have managed to cover some runs and provide some fun for those of us that just can’t get enough.

 

Dueling Reports Today: Squaw Vs Boreal

Call us crazy (and many have), but even with the limited number of ski options in Tahoe, we’re bringing you reports from 2 ski areas. Ozzy reported in from opening day at Squaw Valley, while Mark returned to Boreal for opening day for the Accelerator lift. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about which ski area will work for you through the holiday. :) The Boreal report follows the Squaw picture gallery.

Squaw Valley Opening Day

Well, today was fantastic!  Much better than Boreal was yesterday.  Below is my report with some pictures.

We got to Squaw a little late today, at around 10:30.  There was no line at the bottom of the Funitel. Gold Coast had a small line, no longer than five minutes.  We were paired up with two other people, making it a total of four people on the chair, despite Gold Coast being a six-person chair.  The liftees could have made the line move even faster if they packed each chair.  The line length varied throughout the day, sometimes about five minutes long, and other times less than one minute long.

The only open run at Squaw, Gold Coast (green run), was a little firm in the morning, but the top layer of snow softened up later.  The conditions were similar to spring (or even summer) conditions, the temperature was 64° as we left the Squaw parking lot.  Comparing today’s conditions at Squaw to the conditions at Boreal on Monday, I think that the Gold Coast run is better, longer, and more fun than Boreal’s South 40 run.  The Gold Coast run is more than double the length of South 40 run at Boreal.  The Gold Coast lift also doesn’t stop as much as the Castle Peak quad chair at Boreal. There is a very little amount of snow at Squaw, but they did a great job getting it open in time for Thanksgiving.  But, I have to give Boreal some credit for opening very early!  I also hear that they opened the Accelerator, which probably makes the conditions there much better.

Squaw has set up a small terrain park off of Gold Coast, with one flat box, one rail, and another curved box.  The jumps onto these features were perfect regular jumps, enough for me to get 31 jumps. By 12:15, the lift line stayed short until we quit at around 1.  On the way back down to the base, I realized how much snow Squaw (and Tahoe, in general) really needs.  Hopefully this weekend storm brings a considerable amount of snow to Tahoe allowing for more terrain soon.

I also saw many Alpine Meadows logos around (not the “new” one, but the old one); liftees wearing hats with the old Alpine logo and the Squaw logo, Ski Patrol backpacks with the old Alpine logo and the Squaw logo.  There were also a few people with Alpine stickers on their helmets, boards, and skis.  I have a few Alpine stickers on my helmet and an “I ❤️ Alpine” pin attached to my goggles.  #freealpine

I’m hoping tomorrow we’ll get out earlier to rip up the corduroy!

Ski (or frost) you later!

Ozzy

First Day Of Top To Bottom At Boreal

You would think that if my Alpine Meadows pass worked at Squaw Valley, I would want to be there rather than Boreal. But I have hedged my bets for the early season with a pass at Boreal many times over the years, especially since Alpine Meadows has become the “traditionally the last resort to open in Tahoe.” So with the news that the Accelerator lift was opening 2 days early today, providing top to bottom runs at Boreal, it was an easy decision. I eliminated the process of walking through a large parking lot, strolling through a village and riding a funitel from the process of skiing today, both before and after skiing. Although today is the “soft beginning” of the holiday weekend, I parked less than 50 steps from the snow, where I could easily ski right onto the Accelerator lift.

As Ozzy reported, the conditions were more like spring skiing, with temperatures at the base nearing 60° today. The difference is that manmade snow is not spring corn, so it is often sticky in warm conditions. Fortunately I worked this morning and skied in the late afternoon, and as the shadows got long, the snow got faster and faster. Boreal now offers three lifts, and that spreads the traffic nicely. In the 20 laps I did on Accelerator today, it didn’t stop one time, and there was never a line. In most cases I rode the chair by myself.

The pitch on the upper part of Accelerator on Prospector was a nice change of pace from the green circles I have endured so far this season. Although the snow was not super deep, there was no significant appearance of obstacles, even late in the day. There was barely any snow on the run last Sunday, so the fact that the Boreal crew got it open 2 days early with marginal snow making conditions continues to be #borealmagic.

Once you’re on the lower section of the mountain, you can make a hard right to the Mini-Shred park which is now up to about 8 features, including a nice 10 footer jump and a small wall ride. Or you can cut a hard left onto Racer’s Return and rally back to the lift quite quickly with essentially zero traffic.  Having Accelerator open also peels a lot of traffic off of the short Castle Peak Quad, making quick park laps easy and fast.

It’s likely that I’ll be continuing to put in days at Boreal over the holiday…and likely until Alpine Meadows opens. For those of you without a Boreal pass, it would be a tough choice to make.

We encourage you to check out BA’s post for the weather update today. He seems to understand the situation. I am anticipating doing a significant weather update tomorrow, once Swain releases his update.

Update: Northstar reported yesterday that they wold also be opening to the top today. That means that West Ridge and Luggis are now open. It’s not the most exciting run in Tahoe, but it is probably the longest run currently available in Tahoe. It still involves way too much of a parking and village slog for me, even with a free s’more at the end of the day. We think it’s hilarious that the Olympic Village Inn in Squaw Valley said on their Facebook page that Northstar offers the best conditions in Tahoe right now. Tickets at Northstar are now $98…ouch.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 6.25.53 AM

 

Will Monday’s Storm Be Miraculous?

Image via Reno NOAA

Image via Reno NOAA

The word is getting out that a big storm is setting up in the Pacific, and the models are still not quite sure how to handle things. We first noted the potential for this one about 5 days ago. Since then, it has grown into what will likely be the biggest storm we have seen this season. At one point yesterday, the Canadian models were calling for as much as 11 inches of moisture, which frankly could have been very problematic.

This is not bad forecast for water lovers...we just need the cold air for snow lovers.

This is not bad forecast for water lovers…we just need the cold air for snow lovers.

The latest models have scaled things back a bit, with up to 6 inches of moisture in the Sierra, and we hope that’s not a trend that continues. It will bear some watching. Today’s last model run shows the ridge over the Central US holding a bit stronger than previous runs, preventing the cold low from fully moving on shore. That not only limits the precipitation somewhat, it also keep us on the warm side of the jet. The latest NOAA discussion talks about snow levels this weekend running 6500 to 7000 feet, rather than the 5000 foot levels we were looking at earlier in the week. That is not a trend we want to see continue. We are certain the models will continue to change, we hope for the colder.

We are also looking at a fairly rapid transition back to a ridge state after this storm, with the MJO progressing to the drier phases by next week and the PNA rapidly flipping back to a positive state. The GFS keeps that ridge parked over the Western US through mid-December. So whatever snowfall we get out of this storm, it’s likely what we are going to be skiing and riding for quite a while. Things do still look on track for moderate El Niño conditions to develop at some point soon. In the mean time, we will have to enjoy what we have and keep sacrificing to the snow gods.

Opening Day At Squaw Valley Tomorrow

What we have here is a failure to provide information...

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate…

It’s finally about to arrive, the day that some of us have waited for since last May. Squaw Valley’s opening date has been set for November 26th for quite some time, with that caveat of weather and conditions permitting. So what can we expect for tomorrow? Excellent question. We would love to help you figure that out. Unfortunately, the current SquawAlpine.com website is a complete disaster, at least in terms of finding out about skiing and riding. You’ll find it simple and easy to find out about lodging, activities and shopping in the Village though.

With some educated guesses and intuition, we were able to locate some information about opening day with only 7 mouse clicks. Here’s what we found out:

• Terrain & lift ticket information coming soon!

• Portions of lift ticket sales and beer sales will benefit the Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows Foundation

Yes, less than 24 hours before opening and that is the extent of information available. Word on the street is that snowmaking operations have been focused on Gold Coast. Several people have reported that when they called, no commitments were made beyond the magic carpet lifts at Squaw Kids. The lack of information is somewhat appalling but not really surprising,  given that there has been some transitions in the marketing and PR departments lately.

We’re not just dismayed about the lack of information for opening day. Prices have not been posted yet for daily lift tickets, and the season opens tomorrow. I just don’t even know what to say about that. I do know it does not bode well for those of us that used to enjoy a useful and complete website for Alpine Meadows. #FreeAlpine

Update: Squaw Valley sent this out by email at 1:00 pm today…bit late for planning your holiday eh?

• Funitel with access to Gold Coast lift, no mountain run access
• SnoVentures with First Venture chair
• Squaw Kids with Wiley carpet for lesson participants
• Tucker carpet at SnoVentures
• Snow tubing at SnoVentures 11am to 4pm
• Ice skating at High Camp 11am to 4pm 
• Aerial Tram for sightseeing with dogs on leashes still permitted
• Silvey’s and Bar North open at High Camp
• Arc open at Gold Coast lodge
• We’ll also be donating $20 from the sale of each ski/ride lift ticket to the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows foundation. 

Photo via SkiAlpine.com

Photo via SkiAlpine.com

 

Tahoe Sports Hub Adds New Staff, New Products & New Services

The peak of the holiday shopping season is upon us, and the Tahoe Sports Hub has made some exciting additions to their staff, products and services.  New team members Kenny Good and Corey Champagne are a great addition to the awesome staff at the Hub, allowing for the additions of a snowboard line-up and custom boot fitting options this season.

IMG_0828Champagne is the new head boot-fitter and is developing a new running shoe department which will debut in the spring of 2015. With extensive bootfitting experience in various local ski shops, he has drastically improved the boot fitting service at Tahoe Sports Hub. A foot expert and on his way to becoming one of few licensed pedorthist’s in Northern California, Champagne will be taking his pedorthist board certification exam in the spring of 2015. In addition to his pedorthist training he has over ten years experience  custom fitting ski boots and holds certifications from the Robert M. Palmer MD institute of biomechanics, Superfeet University, and Masterfit. When Champagne is not fitting custom ski boots or building custom orthotics for running shoes he is playing in the mountains. He is an accomplished outdoorsman and has kayaked the Grand Canyon and finished multiple Tough Mudders. He also has multiple ski mountaineering summits under his belt including; Mt. Rainier, Mt Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt St. Helens, and plenty of impressive ascents in the Cascade Range, Eastern Sierra and Chamonix France.

562814_10100758495655523_93952689_nGood has a long history in the ski industry. He has repped snowboard lines, managed shops, overseen retail websites, and even dabbled in product development. Good spearheaded the new Tahoe Sports Hub snowboard department. The department features boards, bindings, and boots from some of Snowboarding’s most respected brands as well as a huge selection of splitboards. Good is an expert on all forms of backcountry travel and snow safety equipment and has improved the snow safety and backcountry department dramatically.  Good is passionate about advances in snow safety technology and wants to make sure that Tahoe Sports Hub customers have the knowledge to make educated equipment choices.

“We are so lucky to have Kenny and Corey on the team this year; they both bring so much to the shop and make us well rounded. We believe in investing in the right people and both Kenny and Corey are great additions” – Rob Cavallo, Tahoe Sports Hub owner