Storm Day Skiing, Second Shift

Arriving for the snowy part of the day was a good strategy…

The next series of storms has begun. My strategy for the day was to wait for some new snow to accumulate before going skiing today, as yesterday was pretty firm off piste. The blue skies finally clouded over in Truckee around 10, indicating it was time to depart for the mountain. There was a sinking feeling in my stomach as I got half way to Squaw Valley and the temperature climbed to 37° with a steady rain. As I turned up Alpine Meadows Road, there was heavy rain and a steady stream of cars making a hasty departure.

The rain turned to heavy sleet in the parking lot and I contemplated turning around for a moment, but instead slogged on to the locker room. Everybody that was just coming in was drenched and said “good luck”. But a couple of other late arrivals were around, and together we dawdled just long enough for the sleet to turn into snow while we booted up.

I managed to get in 4 laps on Roundhouse before the plug was pulled, reportedly due to wind. While visibility was poor, my body was managing to stay dry. The ski surface was like crushed velvet, soft but slightly unpredictable. But it got better and better with each lap, especially knowing the end was near for Roundhouse.

After a short break to have lunch and assess options, it was back to laps on Hot Wheels and Yellow. Both chairs were in slow motion due to the wind – but the turns in the fresh snow were addictive. In hindsight, Sherwood may have offered some of the best skiing today, except for the long slog required to get there from Hot Wheels and the lack of any sort of indoor area to take a warming break. Sometime around 2:30, operations of the rest of the lifts were curtailed. I was happy to have chosen to ski the drier and snowier second shift today.

I’m not sure how to interpret lift operations and how they were reported to the public today. As late as 7:17 this morning, both the app and the SkiAlpine.com website were indicating that all lifts were closed. When that was finally updated later in morning, I am guessing I was not the only one scratching my head. I am really curious what combinations of winds puts Scott, Lakeview and Kangaroo on wind hold, while Summit and Sherwood are not. I have put in a lot of days at Alpine and have never seen that combination of lifts start on hold. Oh, and in case you did not notice, Summit was put on wind hold almost immediately today…definitely blowing there!

So, looking ahead at the next 7 days…why 7 days you ask? It looks like this storm series may carry all of the way into next Tuesday based on the latest model runs.

There is a lot of precipitin headed to California between now and Monday!

The first wave of the storm, currently ongoing, will continue into tomorrow. Snow should taper to showers by mid-day and 15 to 20 inches of new snow seems like a pretty reasonable expectation. Temperatures will be cold overnight and into tomorrow, with winds still gusting. Expect both the potential for upper mountain wind holds and delayed openings…although we hear Squaw Valley will have everything open right away.

Update: As snowfall slowed a bit this evening, snow levels crept up a bit. Temperatures are at 31 near the base. Theoretically there is one more cold band coming through tonight to cool things down again.

There’s not much of any break as on Friday, the next wave does roll in and carries into Saturday morning. Currently this looks to be the weakest of the three waves.

The wave for Sunday into Monday, and even Tuesday, continues to grow. Remember how the last cycle ended with a blizzard? We could be headed that way again. The big caveat will be the snow levels. A couple of model runs have tried to paint a picture of rapidly rising snow levels for the third event….possibly into that double digit place we don’t like. Most of the models try to keep it at a more reasonable “lake level” scenario – you know, that snow that is so awesome for shoveling! By Sunday, it is a very safe bet to say that large parts of California will be having issues with flooding, all of the way into Southern California. It’s still several days away and we’ll look for updates.

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