Oh That Powder Feeling…

We’re not going to lie. Today was likely the best day of the season yet at Alpine Meadows. The forecasts were all over the place over the last week, but none of them picked up on a band of heavy snow sticking around over SquAlpine overnight. When the morning report suggested that Alpine had 17 inches, nearly double all of the other resorts – we took it with a grain of salt. But pulling up in the parking lot just before 8AM, we saw that there was likely 17 inches and more right at the base. Some employees suggested the total was closer to two feet.

Predictably there were some delayed openings for snow safety work. It would not be a surprise that even Mountain Ops was caught off guard. Roundhouse spun at 9:20, and Summit some time later. Seeing that the snow was thigh deep and people couldn’t get speed on Werners, we headed immediately to Yellow. Breaking that first trail across the flats was a chore, but knee deep powder with pockets of pow to the pockets was the reward. It’s been a long time since we could get legitimate face shots on our first few laps off Yellow.

We were right in the right place at the right time to get one of the first rides up ABC sometime around 10. It was no surprise that visibility was pretty flat up top and steeper terrain tended to be a bit more scratchy under the powder. We had some excellent runs mid-day near Tower 19.

As we’ve been mentioning, even with closer to two feet of new snow, there were some definite issues with under snow obstacles. We took some pretty hard shots around skiers left of Sunspot and under the ABC chair line returning to ABC. We were well aware of rocks that were present in those areas but forgot about them due to powder fever. Fortunately the Slant Skis are burly and I am still core shot free. We did note a couple of significant skier versus rock injuries today. In one run down Yellow, we saw three of those. Be careful out there.

We’re going to take this time to note a significant flaw with the new official website. The report now only includes a base measurement of 52″. One would assume that report is from the upper mountain site at the top of The Sisters. Casual visitors to Alpine Meadows that view the official site may have been completely unaware that there is actually far less base lower on the mountain, in some cases 0″. The old website, and most other ski areas include separate measurements for the base area and the top of the mountain. This omission of information is disingenuous. Someone will get hurt…oh, that already happened.

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Correction: There is a separate number shown for the lower mountain if you follow the string of mouse clicks it takes to get to the snow report for Alpine Meadows. Then you’re supposed to know that this button says “Lower Mountain”:

Clear as mud, eh?

Clear as mud, eh?

Today’s report says that there is 34 inches on the lower mountain. We’re calling BS on that number, even with today’s new snow.

All in all, it was a fantastic day at Alpine Meadows, relative to what we have been skiing and riding, and as long as you understood the risks. As we left Alpine this afternoon, the snow was coming down heavily gain along Highway 89. Hopefully we will get some sort of reset overnight. There’s still a chance for more snow tonight and another shot on Tuesday.

Inside Slider Still On Schedule For Friday & Saturday

The latest GFS run puts a nice target near north Tahoe.

The latest GFS run puts a nice target near north Tahoe.

The forecast is holding together for a winter-like weather pattern this weekend. Although the total amount of water is not a lot for this system, lower snow levels will be a novelty we have not experienced for quite some time. We’ve refrained from saying too much about the system during the week as the models have been all over the place.

One nice change is that over the last three model runs, the bullseye for the system seems to have moved to the north end of the lake rather than the south end of the lake. The GFS, NAM and SREF have all come closer together in bringing in around 3/4 of an inch of precipitation, which should bring 6-12 inches of snow at Alpine Meadows by late Saturday. The SREF was a late holdout. This morning it was stuck showing just a quick shot of much less snow, and totals have now bumped up in line with the GFS as the center of the low is seeming to track further north.

We’re going to repeat our cautionary statement from yesterday. Although up to a foot of new snow is forecast to fall, it’s not falling in ideal conditions. As this storm will be coming in relatively cold, much of that snow will fall on firm ice surfaces, which means that it may not stay in place for long. Lower on the mountain and in south facing areas, the snow will cover rocks just enough to make off-piste conditions hazardous. Those earlier wet snow events we had earlier this season actually did a better job of covering obstacles. The fresh snow will soften up the groomed runs and possibly offer a little powder fun in lower angle terrain where there is still some sort of icy base.

The Sherwood side was looking very dry on Tuesday. Photo by Jim B

The Sherwood side was looking very dry on Tuesday. Photo by Jim B

Several people have wondered if new terrain will be reopened as a result of this storm. We’re going to be honest and say it’s pretty unlikely. A reader sent us this picture of the Sherwood side this week, which is quite a different story than the north facing slopes on the frontside. The view of Scott and Lakeview posted by Andy earlier this week shows the situation is not much better there. We would need a solid 3-4 foot storm to reopen most of that terrain. That sort of storm is not in the forecast yet.

In the longer term, there is no March Miracle in the cards yet. The models continue to show no significant pattern change until the Fantasyland range at the end of the 16 day model run. We could see one more small system work through mid week and then a drying out period as the ridge nudges back in closer to the coast. Looking at the teleconnections for guidance, the MJO remains essentially neutral for the next 16 days, and has remained so for about a month now. Our big hope has been the PNA Index, which has trended strongly negative for the last 12 days. Over the last two days, the PNA has trended back toward the positive side, indicating that ridge is moving in closer to the coast.

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It’s going to be interesting to have some weather for the weekend, but it may not be that powder day you really crave. You’ll likely get a chance to remember how to install tire chains, drive in snow and see if your snowblower still starts. See you out there!







DSUSAFW’s Wounded Warrior Program Highlighted By NPR


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It’s been a season of disappointments around Lake Tahoe. We haven’t a true Tahoe powder day all season, and resorts are closing at a time when the snow should be at its deepest. This morning I was reminded about what a privilege it is to even go skiing. While driving to work, I caught a segment on NPR about the Wounded Warrior Camp being conducted this week by Disabled Sports USA Far West, based out of Alpine Meadows. I encourage you to follow the link to check out the story and listen to the audio feed. It will brighten your day. Kudos to DSUSAFW for your awesomeness!

Tahoe Sports Hub: Store Wide Sale, Tacos & Daron Rahlves


Our friends at the Tahoe Sports Hub in Truckee will be holding their winter Customer Appreciation Party on Saturday, February 28th, beginning at 3 PM. That means we have two things to look forward to this Saturday, a brief return to winter and new snow, and another awesome event at our favorite sporting goods store.

The owners and staff at the Hub are always great about keeping the stoke level high with their customers. Here’s what is planned for Saturday:

• Almost everything in the store will be on sale, with some items marked down 70%

• Diego’s is conveniently located across the street and they’ll be bringing over free tacos for the event. There’s likely to be some other refreshments too.

• Daron Rahlves will be hanging out for a meet ‘n greet, photo ops and autographs

• 101.5 will be broadcasting live from the store

• A raffle will be held to benefit the Sierra Avalanche Center. There’s always a great selection of prizes available at the Tahoe Sports Hub. The grand prize winner will get to choose the skis of their choice from the ski wall in the store. That selection is huge this season. Everyone will get one raffle ticket just for coming in, with additional sales benefitting SAC.

In addition to all of that, it’s a great chance to just hang out with the friendly staff of TSH and the regular Tahoe Sports Hub customers. We’ll see you there!

Andy Wertheim: Shaved Ice

Hello Skiers and Riders,

The days are slipping by and getting longer.  I left town Friday and Saturday to see the foothills, where green grass and flowering trees make for a nice change in the color palette.

Last Thursday, we skied both Alpine and Squaw enjoying the warm weather and soft spring snow conditions.  Hotter days were predicted for Friday and Saturday to be followed by cold temperatures.  This forecast sent us off wine tasting in the Sutter Creek area.

Normally I would not be leaving Tahoe this time of year, but the lack of snow and predicted temperatures led me to believe the weekend would not be great on the hill.  It sounds as if I was correct as a friend reported Saturday to be crowded and very soft.  Sunday the cold air froze the mountain solid.

The same conditions remained for Monday and Tuesday.  It was very firm off piste with much of the mountain closed.  Today it warmed a bit.  First runs on the groomed were very nice, according to a friend who I met at 11 (when I went out).  At 11, we found frozen conditions off piste, but reasonable conditions on the few groomed runs available.  Basically, it’s a firm base with shaved ice on top allowing for edge control.  A clear sky and warm air, not hot, surrounded us. I am attaching a few photos we took today.  One is of Ridge Run on Scott, which is closed, showing a brown ribbon of snow with mostly bare mountain around it.  A second is the sign at the base of Summit today showing most of the mountain closed.  A third is a closed sign at the top of the Face which is closed do to icy mogul conditions.  Not a pretty picture.  Some snow is forecast for the weekend which may help, but it does not sound like a lot of new snow will arrive.

People are hiking to Five Lakes, biking up the Western States Trail and generally making do with the warm weather and lack of snow.

Enjoy your day.

Andy Wertheim


Added by Mark: As of today, the models are still bringing an inside slider in for Friday and Saturday. NOAA has put up to about 10 inches possible in the forecast through the storm for mid-mountain at Alpine. That seems a little bit optimistic, as both the NAM and the Ensemble forecast are only showing about 1/2 inch of moisture available. Snow levels will be lower than most of the events we have seen this year, so snow-water ratios will be high. Although we are looking at a powder day for Saturday – that new snow will be falling on either an icy base or bare dirt and rock. It’s reasonable to expect that steep terrain may slide, and extreme caution will be needed off piste due to under the snow obstacles. 

We plan to offer our usual Thursday deeper look at the weather tomorrow.