The Relative Calm Before The Storm

It was another lower mountain storm day at Alpine Meadows, as well as another day where crowds and traffic were beyond what should be acceptable. Once again, the message was put out that there was a lot of new snow in Tahoe through countless media reports and marketing efforts. Once again, the mountain ops blog predicted that all of Alpine Meadows was scheduled to opened today, even though it was quite unlikely. That resulted in full parking lots, big lift lines and an uncomfortable amount of crowding on the limited terrain that actually opened for the day.

The weather was relatively quiet for much of the day though, with about 4 inches of new snow falling and variable winds on the lower mountain. The last of the current trio of storms will be making its way into Tahoe overnight. Alpine Meadows has already tweeted that they will be closed tomorrow due to high winds and avalanche danger. We already told you this would happen in yesterday’s post.

A voluntary evacuation order was issued for the Alpine Meadows area due to increasing avalanche danger. The order may be made mandatory by tomorrow. Several employees have reported that they have been told to not report to work tomorrow, unless they are essential employees for snow safety and snow removal. It is expected that Alpine Meadows Road will be closed for much of the day Sunday.

As far as today goes, Roundhouse was the top of the mountain, as we predicted in yesterday’s post. Also in the mix was the Chair To Nowhere, the Roo, Meadow and Subway. Curiously absent from the mix was Yellow, which would have alleviated the oppressive wait times at Roundhouse. So yeah, that happened. Squaw also saw limited operations today. In comparison here’s what some comparable resorts offered today:

  • Sugar Bowl: Opened all main lifts except for Crow’s Nest
  • Mount Rose: Opened all main lifts except for Chuter
  • Kirkwood: Opened all main lifts on the frontside of the mountain

We’re not bothering comparing small resorts in protected areas like Homewood or Northstar. Each of the three resorts above shares commonalities with Alpine Meadows: Exposure to high winds, abundant avalanche terrain, plenty of snowfall, and cheap passes. Why they manage to get more terrain open through pretty much every storm cycle…well, you tell me.

Yesterday, SnowBrains ran an extensive “educational piece” about operational delays at SquAlpine. We’re not saying that none of that is true – but as you read that article, remember that SnowBrains seems to have some back-scratching deal with SquAlpine this season. SnowBrains writes nice articles about everything Squaw Valley, and Squaw Valley is happy to cross promote SnowBrains’ posts in their social media. Update: It looks like Snowbrains pulled the piece, which is too bad as the commentary on it was pretty fun. Somebody posted a PDF of the article in the comments below.

The facts are, the three resorts above face identical issues: high winds, heavy snowfall, rime ice build up….yadda yadda yadda. The new and popular hashtag around SquAlpine? #weclosewhenitsnows

Point of clarification: The mountain closure for Sunday 1/22 based on the potential for avalanche concerns is justified and we totally get it. The rant here applies to the more typical Tahoe storm days like Saturday.

Moving on to a positive close…there was good skiing all over the lower mountain today. You just had to know where to look, and be willing to beat a horde of people to it. The 11th Annual Alpenglow Backcountry Demo also happened at Alpine Meadows today. The free demo gives participants a chance to try out the latest in backcountry boots, skis, bindings and snowboards. As usual, there was a very strong presence for DPS and Moment Skis today. With nearly unlimited opportunities to stand in line today, it was easy to notice those brands on many feet.

Our pick of the day for new equipment was the skis and snowboards offered by a new local company, Coalition Snow. Coalition focuses on gear that is designed and built specifically for women. Their goal is to eliminate the “shrink it and pink it” approach taken by the major brands. We loved the energy these ladies brought to the mountain today. My wife, and ski partner, took out the all mountain SOS model on for a few pow laps on Kangaroo, just as that lift opened. An order will be placed soon at the Coalition Snow site.

Here’s the Winter Storm Warning, as issued from the Reno office of NOAA:

GREATER LAKE TAHOE AREA-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, TRUCKEE, STATELINE,
AND INCLINE VILLAGE
334 PM PST SAT JAN 21 2017

...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 4 AM PST MONDAY...

* TIMING: MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW WILL RETURN BY AROUND MIDNIGHT
  AND CONTINUE INTO EARLY MONDAY MORNING.

* ADDITIONAL SNOWFALL THROUGH MONDAY MORNING: WEST OF HIGHWAY
  89...3 TO 4 FEET WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS. EAST OF HIGHWAY
  89...2 TO 3 FEET WITH HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE NEAR MOUNT ROSE.

* WINDS: SIERRA RIDGE WINDS INCREASING FROM 70 MPH TO WELL OVER
  100 MPH ON SUNDAY. GUSTS 30 TO 40 MPH POSSIBLE IN THE LOWER
  ELEVATIONS. WINDS MAY DAMAGE TREES AND POWER LINES.

* IMPACTS: DANGEROUS CONDITIONS FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AND TRAVEL
  WITH PERIODS OF WHITEOUT CONDITIONS FROM TONIGHT TO MONDAY
  MORNING. AVALANCHE DANGER WILL INCREASE. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO
  TRAVEL AROUND THE TAHOE BASIN ON SUNDAY. STAY HOME...STAY SAFE.

So enjoy some quality time with your snow blower and snow shovels tomorrow. We’ll remind you now that operations for Monday…we think it’s questionable at Alpine Meadows. I wonder whether my street will even be plowed by that time…

40 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *