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Firm And Colder…More Snow Soon?

It’s an equation that is easy to understand:

45° Sunday + 28° Monday + Weekend Skier Traffic = Firm Hardpack Conditions

After a nice weekend of near spring-like conditions, the weather got back to seasonal norms today. The chill is on again. Fortunately the hardpack surfaces were groomed just about perfect today and traffic was quite light. Which number do you think was the greatest today at Alpine Meadows?

  • A) The temperature in degrees Fahrenheit
  • B) The number of employees at Alpine Meadows
  • C) The skier count for the day

From what I saw before noon today, I would put my money on B. As one couple put it as they walked out of the breezeway, saying “It’s like a private resort today”.

Andy Wertheim concurred about conditions in his short report today:

After a number of days of skiing, along with the extra skiers on the mountain over the weekend, conditions are changing.  Moguls are larger and more firm. Groomed areas are firming up but still nice early in the morning. There is no ice on the slopes because the day time temperatures have remained relatively cool and the sun in low in the sky.   Low early season conditions persist with plenty of tree tops, rocks, and bushes poking through the snow.   – Andy Wertheim

The next couple of days will bring a chance of light snow, a better chance of cold temperatures and wind. By Thursday, the AR system on everyones’ minds moves in. The GFS is still looking good for moisture. The key difference from our last post is that the timing moves up from a Friday-Saturday event to a Thursday-Friday event. The latest runs if the GFS are also bringing the jet stream a little farther south than previously. That’s good news as it brings North Tahoe closer to the colder air on the north side of the jet. Theoretically that could keep snow levels from climbing too high. Nobody is really ready to place any sure bets on that just yet. BA’s morning report was a bit depressing to read as it pushed levels as high as 9000 feet. Other forecasters are seeing levels closer to 7000 feet. This storm could be somewhat of a washout for the weekend. More storms next week threaten to bring snow levels o near sea level in Northern California…

Image via TwisterData.com
Image via TwisterData.com

Summit Opens And A Case Of Yellow Fever

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It looks more like game on with each passing day at Alpine Meadows. Summit opened right on schedule today and we once again had much more terrain to explore and just more room to move around. Gone were the bitter cold and harsh east winds of the last two days. Temperatures rose to the lower 40’s today and winds remained calm until late afternoon. We even saw some skiers in t-shirts and shirtless.

The east winds definitely did a number on the upper mountain. Mountain ops did an excellent job maintaining a cat track to access Alpine Bowl and for what it was worth the quality of the ride on the Alpine Bowl groomed run was excellent. We also heard great reports from North Peril, as expected. Fairly heavy traffic quickly turned it into a mogul field. Access into the D Chutes was difficult at best due to wind scouring. Wolverine and the remainder of Alpine Bowl was pretty much wind ravaged. The run of the day according to several people was Sherwood Cliffs, accessed by the super long traverse from Terry’s Return.

Lower on the mountain, the groomed runs continued to ski well, as they have for the last several days. East Creek/Upper Weasel was finally groomed for today with the opening of Hot Wheels chair. It seemed like grooming was somewhat of an afterthought there. The number of groomer scars and curbs and ruts left behind for mountain beginners and intermediates was definitely a little bit alarming.

Charity and Werners also continued to deliver soft skier packed moguls, which are getting bigger by the day. I’ve had a case of Yellow Fever myself over the last few days. The moguls are also starting to grow there and I will claim responsibility for much of that growth.

It was probably the biggest day of the season so far. Where the real lines were today were for food services. Options are very limited upstairs, making Treats very attractive. It was definitely the longest line at Alpine Meadows today, extending into the breezeway and up the ramp to the stairs at peak lunch time. The lack of food services available by the 11th day of operations is a little strange. Maybe they just expect we will all just hop on a shuttle bus and have a lunch break in the village.

Tomorrow should bring more fair weather, with temperatures even a few degrees warmer than today. Early in the week a cold, but essentially dry, front will move through, bringing back the chill. The GFS runs were getting more consistent in bringing the next real storm in by Thursday, extending into Saturday. There will be plenty of moisture with an atmospheric river like flow. Snow levels are the big question here. The models could bring moisture from the deep tropics like a true Pineapple Express, so we should expect to see snow levels near 7000 feet or higher. That would mean new snow would be more of a cement than powder – which is just what is needed to open more terrain at Alpine Meadows. With this storm now only 5 days out, we’re hoping to see more model consistency and less flip flopping…we’ll stay tuned!

There's a lot to like in this model run! Image via TwisterData.com
There’s a lot to like in this model run! Image via TwisterData.com

That East Wind Blows

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The prediction for a strong east wind event came to fruition today, proving again that those weather guys do get a lot of things right. As of 1:50 pm today, Summit still remained on wind hold. In the last half hour wind speeds have crept down ever so slightly. Temperatures were also chilly today, and that wind chill thing was the real deal for exposed skin.

That said, there was some excellent skiing today. While Dance Floor and Weasel continued to offer good high speed laps, today was not that day due to the face chilling effects. The skier packed runs offered some very nice winter snow. Obstacles are there, but they are more visible after a little skier traffic. Charity, Boomerang, and Werner’s offered small soft mogul skiing. There’s lots of questions when these slopes will actually be groomed. Previous administrations would have had it done by this point as there’s just a few areas that are still “iffy” – specifically in the choke at Sandy’s Corner. We also found some other slightly less travelled places that skied very well today as the base has set up a bit.

The wind was stripping snow in exposed areas. Rock Garden gradually turned into an ice rink today and we would assume that Alpine Bowl will be similar when the wind stops. The key tomorrow will be to find those areas where the snow was transported. Since you don’t want to ski off the backside of Alpine into the Granite Chief Wilderness, you’ll want to look for the places where that snow has blown inbounds. The obvious ones are the D Chutes and North Peril, but there are some other places where we watched a lot of snow being deposited today.

The weekend still looks good with temperatures running up to 40° and much less wind. There is a pretty good chance of significant crowds, and a slight chance of snow flurries Sunday afternoon. We’re guessing that Hot Wheels will be added to the schedule this weekend. We also heard that the Meadows Cafe will be opening with a limited menu this weekend – if it can be fried, it will be served. They must know that kids teams start this weekend.

The Burning Dude sits atop of the bonfire awaiting ignition at tonight's Pray For Snow Party at Sky Tavern
The Burning Dude sits atop of the bonfire awaiting ignition at tonight’s Pray For Snow Party at Sky Tavern

Here’s one more reminder that the Sky Tavern Pray For Snow event happens tonight at the Sky Tavern Ski area on Mount Rose Highway. Don’t let a little cold weather and brisk winds stop you from supporting an awesome program that gets kids skiing and riding! Details are in this post.

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Andy On Schedule, Summit & Wind Scheduled For Friday

Photo by Andy Wertheim
Photo by Andy Wertheim

First off, Andy Wertheim checked in with his report today, which is great because skiing was not in my schedule today. We also note that Summit is on the schedule for tomorrow, as is an east wind. Then we look ahead for answers on more snow…

Andy Wertheim: Cold Winter Snow

Hello Skiers and Riders,

It looks as if they are getting ready to open Summit Six soon (Friday).  Skies are blue this afternoon clearing after a cloud covered morning.  Temperatures have been low overnight keeping the snow surface in good condition.  Most of the lower mountain runs at Alpine packed powder.  Blue, or Werner’s Schuss to the younger crowd, was covered with small, rounded, soft bumps today.  It was a pleasure for making slow easy turns.

I ventured off the main track a little today hoping not to encounter early season obstacles.  It was a success.  Soft cut up conditions existed on God’s Knob, which can hide rocks this time of year.  I skied it slow and careful.  The short area under Sympathy Face below the road was also quite nice.  Yellow Trail proved to be a narrow skier packed slope today with another slope of soft moguls.  A glance up into Wolverine Bowl from the top of The Face was not something to get excited about.  I am sure there are some good tracks to be made, but it still looks rather bare.  The Face, on the other hand, was another small mogul field where I did not scratch the base of my skis.  Dance Floor was being blasted with snow guns all day.  I found the snow to be nicely groomed with a firm surface.  Weasel, on the other hand, was softer, groomed and fun for the carving crowd.

Of course we need a lot more snow and nothing seems to be on the horizon in the very near future.  Perhaps a good storm in another week.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

A look ahead at Winds And Weather

Yes indeed, the Mountain Operations blog did announce that Summit will be on the schedule for Friday at Alpine Meadows. But in that same post they also cautioned that high winds are also in the forecast for Friday. Depending on the speed and direction of those winds, we might have to wait until Saturday for Summit skiing. We applaud their honesty.

The Reno NOAA office has called for Sierra ridge winds up to 75-95 mph. If that happens, it won’t matter what direction the wind blows. Summit would not open and combined with very cold temperatures, any exposed skin would likely be subject to frostbite. This afternoon, the NAM was trying to push the heavier winds more to the south side of the lake and points beyond. That model would keep winds in the 25-50 mph range, in which case Summit could operate, if the wind stays more northerly rather than easterly. Still, expect some bitter cold for Friday.

The NAM wind forecast for Friday via WindyTV.com
The NAM wind forecast for Friday via WindyTV.com

If you don’t want to bet on Summit, new terrain will also be offered at Squaw with the Belmont and Solitude lifts opening tomorrow.

Temperatures and winds should moderate a bit for the weekend to roughly seasonal norms. Hopefully we will see both Summit and Hot Wheels on the schedule for the weekend, as kids’ teams also start this weekend. By Sunday evening, another inside slider doubles up on the cold and brings a chance of snow showers to the mountains again. As of now that new snow would be nothing more than a nuisance.

The next real chance of accumulating snow is now about 7 days out. An atmospheric river event has been appearing in the models off an on sometime around December 10th. Snow levels would be higher, depending on the exact location the jet. Things looked very strong on the first three runs of the GFS today, with the last run being the outlier, bringing about 1/2 as much precipitation. We honestly haven’t been mentioning the models much lately because there has been so little run to run consistency. So we’ll just have to be patient and enjoy that fact that there are some very capable snow making teams around Lake Tahoe.

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Mid-Week Chill…And A Pray For Snow Party

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Alpine Meadows was back to its midweek chill today. Temperatures were brisk and many skiers and riders headed over to the other side of the mountain, where there were some lifts open that people like. We thank them for that.

Groomed on piste conditions were delightful today. Werner’s was also looking very skied in, offering small soft moguls. Charity was getting close to that state. Other off piste terrain was pretty stiff and not very user friendly. The exception was the one guy that I saw that took an extra long traverse to Hidden Knolls and came out smiling.

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Groomers did a rough pack down on Alpine Bowl yesterday. There’s supposed to be a strong east wind over the next two days with a potential for scouring, hence the effort. A bit of work was done overnight on building a loading pad at Summit, and there’s another large stockpile of snow in parking lot #3. There’s still chairs on the rack at the base of Summit, and summer wrappings are still on the chairs – so a Summit opening before the weekend looks less likely, especially with much less mid-week pressure at Alpine.

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This Friday, December 2nd, Sky Tavern will be hosting their “Pray For Snow Party” from 6-9 PM. There will be a giant bonfire dubbed “Burning Dude”, drinks, food, smores, and more. At 7:30, Matchstick Productions “Ruin and Rose” will show, presumably in the lodge. Sky Tavern offers youth ski teams and race programs that are affordable for the masses. Your support allows them to offer the programs to kids that otherwise may never get a chance to ski or ride. I’ve been proud to volunteer my time for Sky Tavern events many days over the last several years. If you really want to talk about the soul of skiing, it’s been at Sky Tavern since 1948. Admission for the event is only $5, but be sure to bring extra money for food, beverages, a raffle and some auctions. The Sky Tavern ski area is located on the Mount Rose Highway, less than two miles below the Mount Rose ski area.  More information about the event is here.

Roundhouse Opens Up The Mid-Mountain

The Roundhouse lift spun for the first time of the 2016-17 season today, shortly after 9 AM. Suddenly the Kangaroo lift stood off to the side like a forgotten friend. But opening Roundhouse meant that suddenly it was possible to access much more of the mountain, all with not much time spent in line. It’s a moment that many have been waiting for to start their season.

Groomers had prepped Rock Garden, Dance Floor, Weasel and the runouts back to the lifts…as well as the now underutilized Kangaroo and Nick’s runs. Coverage on the groomed runs was great and Dance Floor and Weasel had those lovely little terrain variations that disappear as the snow deepens later in the season.

Off piste conditions were definitely variable. Coverage is still fairly minimal in most areas. Whether or not you hit obstacles depended a lot on where and how you were riding, and the width of your skis and boards. We heard descriptions of the snow as everything from “Powder!” to “a little bit heavy” to “Quikrete”. Skiing the fresh snow successfully required you to be willing to hold speed while making minimal turns – thereby foregoing any thoughts about obstacles under the snow. Myself, I did two runs down Yellow Run, and one on Skadi Hill before deciding that keeping my knees intact for the better part of the season was a priority.

The rest of my day was spent doing hot laps on Dance Floor and Weasel, where the crowds were light and the snow fast. Off piste conditions will improve for most people as things get skier packed and obstacles become more obvious.

• Snow cats were seen working in Alpine Bowl today, and coverage down the main bowl is looking good. We’ve heard opening dates as early as Wednesday for Summit, and as late as the weekend. There’s hopefully a long season ahead and we understand it takes time and a ton of work to get a mountain open.

• There was a Melanie spotting today and she said that Treats will be opening this Wednesday.

• Whatever was going on over at the upper mountain at Squaw has apparently been resolved. The Funitel, Big Blue, Gold Coast and Shirley will be open tomorrow. Top to bottom skiing will be possible via the Mountain Run.

• The weather can be summed up pretty simply for now. It’s time for another dry spell in Northern California. Talks about any sort of significant precipitation this week have literally evaporated over the last 2 days. Temperatures should remain colder, allowing snow making teams to expand coverage on the mountain. We’ll be sure to let you know if anything changes there. Remember that November started the same way and it turned out okay.