Firm, Fast, Flat…And The Future

There’s three parts to today’s report: Mark’s report from the morning, Andy’s report from the afternoon and another look at our weather future, which is getting real interesting.

Somehow I managed to ski the better part of the day. I made a lazy departure for the mountain today, fully expecting flat light conditions. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the skies were still relatively sunny this morning. The wind was also blowing strong in the parking lot, which did not match up with the lack of tweets indicating wind holds at Alpine. But Phil and JD gave the personal report in the breezeway and indicated that indeed, Summit and ABC were on windhold, and Roundhouse had just been added. “Real time updates” via the app or Twitter were definitely not happening today on the Alpine Meadows front. It was another twenty minutes before notifications were delivered. The app also indicated that those lifts were closed, not just on hold.

Given the very gusty nature of the winds, the holds were certainly justified. It’s all about the communication though. As often happens, a number of tourists came through the breezeway, only to drop their equipment and groan when they saw that Summit and Roundhouse had closed. You wonder if they came to Alpine because they saw the early tweets about holds at Squaw.

So off I went to Kangaroo, where the corduroy was perfect, albeit a bit firm. Eventually I spun that extra long lap on Chair To Nowhere and then onward to Yellow. Both chairs were in molasses mode due to the high winds. But if you could tolerate the numb buttocks from long rides, the skiing on groomers was excellent. It was a “Groomers Gone Wild” day. Many places were groomed wider than ever, and other places that are rarely groomed got a few passes overnight: the north part of Skadi Hill and The Face come to mind.

Around 11 AM Roundhouse reopened, also in molasses mode. That allowed for some very uncrowded laps down perfect grooming in Rock Garden and Dance Floor. Yesterday I said a lot of nice things about the new park features on Red Ridge. I have to throw out a caveat today. The rope line between Red Ridge and Dance Floor takes way too big of a bite out of Dance Floor, which has to have some of the highest skier traffic on the mountain. The rope line currently cuts off the entire right shoulder of the run, which provides an excellent escape route when things get crazy on the main part of the the run. With the sidehill nature of the fenced in terrain, it’s hard to imagine that many useful park features can be built there, and the new rope line makes Dance Floor look like Highway 80 during peak construction season. We hope somebody reconsiders that rope line and moves it back toward the trees, keeping that sidehill terrain in play for Dance Floor.

That rope line takes a big bite out of Dance Floor…it will be interesting on the next busy day.

I had every intention of coming back out for more after a quick lunch from Treats…but the light got flat, flatter and flattest. That did not stop Andy Wertheim from coming out for an afternoon session. Here’s what Andy reported:

Photo by Andy Wertheim

This afternoon I thought I would head out for an hour or so to clear my head and check out the conditions.  The sun was poking through a rather dark high cloud layer which quickly flattened out lighting.  Temperatures are on the warm side, at over 40 degrees.  North facing slopes seemed to remain in chalky condition, but a bit more firm than in past days. Slopes that have received sun the past few days appeared to be firm and not very pleasant for skiing this afternoon.  Winds were whipping around with snow racing across slopes as it is picked up in one spot and deposited on another.  Lifts were running on slow including Scott which was receiving heavy winds at the top making me feel uncomfortable on the chair.  Bobby’s Run was groomed but contained a mixture of slippery smooth spots and softer chewed up corduroy.  Gentian Gully remains chalky in most areas with the ground covered in pine tree debris.  I was not out long as the flat light and winds were not appealing to me today.  I notice the sun is now out again, at least at my office on the Truckee River.

The weather forecast for the next few days is still looking about the same. Here’s the highlights to consider:

• The snow should roll in overnight, with snow levels creeping up to 7000 feet by tomorrow afternoon. That means that although it may look like snow falling at the base, it will likely be mixed with a lot of clear powder flakes. It’s going to be a soggy day on the lower mountain Thursday.

• Winds will likely be problematic for Thursday and Friday, with ridge gusts at 90 mph. That means upper mountain closures are likely over the next two days.

• The Winter Storm Warning expires at 4 am Saturday and by that time 1-3 feet of new snow is expected above 7,ooo feet. Only about 6 inches of snow is expected at lake level, which will be a welcome change for those that have nowhere to put new snow accumulations.

The rest of the weekend will be relatively quiet with just snow showers expected.

It’s the next storm that has changed quite a bit over the last few model runs. It looks like it will pick up a lot of tropical moisture; and the supporting cold low from the north retrogrades back into the Pacific. The weather bloggers are abuzz today with talk of snow levels again running to 8-9K early next week. The most recent GFS shows the potential for 9 or more inches of precipitation along the west slope of the Sierra, and more along the north coast. If that comes to fruition, we’re bound to see a new round of hydrological problems in California. It’s a good time to start looking at where your runoff will flow if we see a big rain event next week.

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