We have been seeing the phrase “alpine meadows closing day” in our search logs for a week or so now. It’s not really a subject that we really want to talk about, but someone has to mention it. That said, there’s no definite answer yet. Sure, many of us want to see a Miracle March and Awesome April and continue skiing and riding into May, or beyond. But with the Sierra snowpack still running at around 20% of average, we must be realists.
The best we can offer as far as a real date is based on this comment that was posted about two weeks ago. It appears to be from an e-mail sent out to SquAlpine teams:
“The last day of team has changed to Saturday, April 19th for Gaper Day. (No team Sunday, April 20th) ***
The end of season party & awards ceremony will be on the evening of Saturday, April 19th. Location & time: TBA”
We also noted that the last day of the Spring Music series is scheduled for April 26th. Based on past years, that would put closing day on the 27th of April, which is the weekend after Easter. Quite a few schools still center their spring break around Easter, so that would cover the last of the typical spring break weeks. We’re guessing that is the most likely scenario that was under consideration two weeks ago, when it looked like we were going to keep the storm door open, and that a Miracle March may happen. It’s also possible that the season could have extended longer if the snow continued to fall.
But that’s not the picture that our weather god’s have in mind right now. Although some forecasters are trying to remain optimistic, a very strong ridge of high pressure is forecast to return by the weekend. There is very little rain or precipitation in the 16 day GFS model:
Yeah, that’s truly showing only about 0.5 inches of water, or about 6 inches of snow within that 16 day period. Most of that does not appear until day 15 in the model. One trend we have seen over and over this season is the GFS trying to break down the ridge and produce a storm at the end of each model period. More often than not, that has not happened.
The Climate Prediction Center’s 8 to 14 Day Forecast also looks warm and dry:
The main positive signs we see is that the Euro is seeing a storm about 10 days out and the PNA index is still showing a negative trend about 10 days out. All hope is not lost. We’re removing snow tires this week, as soon as possible!
Coverage on the mountain? Well that is an interesting situation. At the higher elevations, coverage is still quite good, except for south facing slopes. Lower on the mountains is a different story. As we noted last week, rocks and brush were appearing on the mountain, as well as some serious brown skid marks left by groomers in thin areas. No picture says it better than this one, posted by Snowbrains today:
It’s that getting up and down the lower areas of the mountains that is going to be the challenge. There will be plenty of snow in Alpine and Wolverine Bowl for some time. But getting down the mountain from there will be an issue as the lower mountain melts out. In a normal season, mountains would “farm snow” from upper areas of the mountain to cover the returns to the lifts at the base. But this year, there’s just not that much extra snow to move around. We’ve also seen the question asked if the mountain would run snowmaking guns to keep the base areas covered. Given that there are only two kinds of snow-making, expensive and damn expensive, we don’t see that as a likely scenario. Snowmaking is really only productive when temperatures are cold enough to make snow around the clock. It does not make sense to blow snow at night, only to have it melt again by noon.
Normally, Alpine Meadows is in a better position to offer late season operations as it can be done with just Summit. This season, Squaw may have the upper hand as they could offer tram access to the upper mountain and the High Camp pool.
What should you do? Come skiing and riding as much as possible, while it’s still there. With high peaking in the mid-50′s this weekend, the fat lady will be singing for Sherwood and Lakeview very soon, with Scott not too far behind. We will likely see one more day with some cool east winds, then the warm up begins. There should be some epic corn conditions this weekend, with warm days and cold nights. You can bet there will be bathing suits and sunburns. It’s also the first weekend of the Spring Music series. “Joy And Madness”, a funk and soul band, will be playing on the Sun Deck Saturday afternoon…a great warm up for the SAF fundraiser or Johnsville Snow Ball that night. Rejoice in spring skiing conditions, it’s all we can do.