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The Last Little Bit of June-uary

While the morning skies were still blue…just a few skiers dot Alpine Bowl

We had one last day of June-uary skiing at Alpine Meadows, until the altostratus cloud deck moved in mid-afternoon and killed off the sunshine. It was another day for big arcs and ripping groomers. In some of the sunnier locations of the mountain, the snow was just about turning into silky smooth spring goodness.

Conditions were just about perfect on Maid Marian, which is usually the first of the Sherwood groomers to ripen. The top half of Sherwood Run was equally good on the steeper pitch at the top, but became more clumpy and sticky near the flat section at the base. In the afternoon, it was similar on Bobby’s over on Scott, with the steeper pitches being silky smooth and lower angle pitches more firm and grabby. At this time of the year, with the lower angle of the sun, those lower pitch runs don’t quite get enough sun for optimum corn development.

We noticed today that a new jump line has been established on Red Ridge. The jumps are a bit bigger than those that have been in the Tiegel Park, and are bound to be popular with the big kids and kids at heart. We’ve already heard some grumbling about the location from those that don’t get the whole terrain park thing. If you’ve raised kids skiing or snowboarding over the last 2o years, you probably understand the draw of the park. The Alpine Meadows park crew was very sensitive in placing the park in a spot where you can still access Fall Line near Yellow Chair to the right; and you can still access Ladies Slalom and Gunner’s Knob from below the park.

For tomorrow, things will be somewhat of a crapshoot. It’s a transition day as the next storm moves in. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 45° and winds to 45 mph. If you have the right goggles and skis for firm conditions, we’re betting the crowds will be low.

The Winter Storm Watch has now been upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning. A few details have changed. The timing is now just a bit later and amounts have been bumped up a bit. Snow may continue into Friday night, which will impact weekend commute traffic over 80.

...WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 1 AM THURSDAY TO 4 AM PST
SATURDAY ABOVE 6500 FEET...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN RENO HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM
WARNING ABOVE 6500 FEET FOR HEAVY SNOW, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 1
AM THURSDAY TO 4 AM PST SATURDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO
LONGER IN EFFECT.

* TIMING: SNOW WILL BEGIN TO MOVE INTO THE SIERRA LATE WEDNESDAY
  NIGHT WITH PERIODS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW CONTINUING THROUGH
  LATE FRIDAY NIGHT.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: 1 TO 3 FEET ABOVE 7000 FEET WITH THE HIGHEST
  AMOUNTS ALONG THE SIERRA CREST. 4 TO 12 INCHES FROM 6500 TO 7000
  FEET WITH UP TO 6 INCHES DOWN TO LAKE TAHOE LEVEL.

* WINDS: SOUTH TO SOUTHWEST 15 TO 25 WITH GUSTS TO 45 MPH.
  SIERRA RIDGE GUSTS OF 80 TO 100 MPH.

* WAVE HEIGHTS ON LAKE TAHOE: 1 TO 4 FEET WITH THE HIGHEST WAVES
  FROM MID LAKE DOWNWIND TO NORTH AND NORTHEAST SHORES.

* SNOW LEVELS: STARTING AROUND 6000 FEET WEDNESDAY NIGHT,
  RISING TO 7000 TO 7500 FEET THURSDAY. SNOW LEVELS WILL FALL
  TO AROUND 6500 FEET FRIDAY, THEN TO LAKE LEVEL FRIDAY NIGHT.

* IMPACTS: TRAVEL WILL BECOME DIFFICULT DUE TO SNOW COVERED ROADS
  AND LOW VISIBILITY ACROSS SIERRA PASSES. AVALANCHE RISK MAY
  INCREASE WITH DANGEROUS CONDITIONS FOR BACK COUNTRY ACTIVITIES
  POSSIBLE.

The second update for today is that a second storm is now on the horizon. The latest runs of the GFS are now in agreement with the Euro that another storm will move in late Saturday and stick around into Tuesday morning. Similar amounts of snow are forecast to fall during that event, bringing as much as 6 feet of new snow to the crest by Tuesday. So the commute back over 80 on Sunday could get ugly as well. Those that stick around until Monday may find that the roads are still bad at that time. The saving grace for these storms are that snow levels will be higher than during the last round of storms. Based on the current forecast, chain requirements from DLI to Kingvale would be a reasonable guess. If you’re traveling from points west this weekend, you’ll be wanting to keep a close watch on the forecast.

Lazy Laps As We Wait For New Snow This Week

What a difference a day makes. I left my house 2.5 hours later than yesterday and was still able to park in the very first part of Lot 3. I feel blessed to now be a part of the crowd that can make it happen mid-week. There was no rush to get out there onto a lift and when I did, it was a day of lazy laps and corduroy.

The weekend warm up definitely did a number on off piste runs, with the exception of pure north facing terrain that never sees the sun. So the groomers were “the thing” today and it was my game to find those last little bits of untracked corduroy. For the afternoon, I even ran a few laps on the Chair To Nowhere. Usually it’s a cold 13 minute ride. But today, the temperatures were in the high 40’s and that big ball of fire in the sky made it tempting to nap on the chair for each lap rather than catching up on email.

There’s one more day of spring-like conditions for Tuesday, which is not quite going to be enough time to get any good mid-winter corn development, Wednesday will bring some increasing clouds, cooler temperatures and a chance of dust on crust.

There’s a classic winter storm out there…just not real cold…

The real storm action is slated to move in overnight Wednesday and remain in place through late Friday. Here’s the Winter Storm Watch that was released today:

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING THROUGH
FRIDAY EVENING ABOVE 7000 FEET...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN RENO HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM
WATCH ABOVE 7000 FEET, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING
THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING.

* TIMING: SNOW WILL BEGIN TO MOVE INTO THE SIERRA LATE WEDNESDAY
  EVENING WITH PERIODS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW CONTINUING
  THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: 1 TO 2 FEET. LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS ALONG
  THE SIERRA CREST.

* WINDS: SOUTH TO SOUTHWEST 15 TO 25 WITH GUSTS TO 45 MPH. SIERRA
  RIDGE GUSTS OF 80 TO 100 MPH.

* SNOW LEVELS: STARTING AROUND 6000 FEET WEDNESDAY EVENING, RISING
  TO 7500 FEET THURSDAY. SNOW LEVELS WILL FALL TO AROUND 6500 FEET
  FRIDAY.

* IMPACTS: TRAVEL WILL BECOME DIFFICULT DUE TO SNOW COVERED ROADS
  AND LOW VISIBILITY ACROSS SIERRA PASSES. AVALANCHE RISK IS
  LIKELY TO INCREASE AS WELL WITH DANGEROUS CONDITIONS FOR BACK
  COUNTRY ACTIVITIES.

You should definitely note the possibility for high winds on Thursday and Friday. In our ongoing mission of education, it would be reasonable to expect holds on the upper mountain if ridge winds are anywhere near 80-100 mph. You also may note the possibility of snow levels near 7500 feet for Thursday, which would lead to some very soggy ski conditions. You may want to consider that as a day to curl up with a good book in front of the fireplace. With snow levels at 6500 feet on Friday, it would be reasonable to guess that this will not be the light powder dump that will be advertised by TV media. It should do a good job at refreshing the base and covering moguls.

The GFS is looking a bit more optimistic over several runs today that the WSW would indicate. Image via TwisterData.com

The Plight Of The Weekend Skier

It was yet another über busy weekend. How many has it been in a row? I’m going to make a guess and say ever since mid-November. Have you looked at the forecast for this week? Snow is expected for Thursday and Friday, and a good amount of it. Then the weekend will be bluebird skies again. Can you guess what will happen next weekend? Then we drop into the February holiday season…oh boy.

We’ve mentioned several times through this season that Friday is the new Saturday, and that all weekends have become 3 day weekends. We discovered a new tool available from Google Maps that supports that idea. Similar to the way that Google crowdsources data to develop traffic maps, they apparently have been using that technology since 2015 to determine when popular attractions are most popular. Since that data has been collected, Friday appears to be just about as busy as Saturday at Alpine Meadows, even more busy than Sundays. For now, it only shows data during a business’ stated open times. We would expect that the bars start getting pretty tall around 7:30 am on weekends these days.

The most often proposed solution proposed is to just not ski on weekends. That might work out great if you have no job or have plenty of job flexibility. But for your typical family with kids, and parents with 9-5 jobs, it is not a real solution. Having just finished more than 30 years as a public school teacher, it is no picnic to miss a day of school – whether you’re sick or have powder fever, making lesson plans for a sub is more work than just going to school in the first place. While I am now free from that burden myself, my wife continues to teach. Since I enjoy skiing with her, I’ll continue coming to Alpine Meadows on weekends. Watching the interactions of families at Alpine Meadows for the different kids ski events this weekend was just awesome. The bringing together of families is what makes sliding on snow such an awesome sport.

Image via FastSkiers.com

Something has to change, because people are beginning to joke about just throwing weekend slumber parties in Locker Room #3. While that might be fun for the first night, it is not a long term solution.

We’re just throwing out some ideas that have been popping up around here:

• Pass sales must be limited to some reasonable number that is supported by available parking and transportation. That does mean that pass prices would likely increase, as with any commodity that is available in a limited supply. It’s the way resorts have operated for years. Interchangeable passes between resorts also leads to a lot of unpredictability in the system, which makes parking and traffic management a major headache.

• No new construction should be approved that does anything to increase traffic in the area, until appropriate solutions to transportation issues can be resolved. The problem is that every developer promises that somehow their proposal will reduce traffic. Most of the time, it won’t, because people don’t stay in one place. Tahoe is an amazing place, and people want to explore.

• Some sort of workable public transportation system is needed and everybody needs to work together to make it happen. It just seems ludicrous that a huge transportation center was constructed at 64 Acres in Tahoe City, meaning that visitors have to drive past nearly every major resort to park their car and ride a bus. Unfortunately, every major ski area in North Tahoe is located in Placer County or the State of Nevada, and most of the traffic problems begin along Highway 80 in Nevada County. Squaw Valley, during the approval process for the Village project disavowed responsibility for solving the areas transportation problems. We all need to work together for real solutions.

We would love to hear your thoughts…

Andy Wertheim: Beautiful Sunny Day

Quite the view from Alpine Bowl this morning…photo by Mark

Hello Skiers and Riders,

Parking lots appeared to be pretty full again today.  Commute times were again long.  People seem to be trying to get to every ski area earlier and earlier just to find a parking space. A friend mentioned that the parking area at Northstar was full at 8:30.

However, I found that the mountain was not overcrowded at Alpine this morning.  I arrived late (a friend dropped me off).  The lines were not excessive at any lift (perhaps there were fewer people at Alpine today).  I skied Lower Beaver, Peter’s Peril, Sun Bowl from the High Traverse, Expert Short Cut, and Gentian Gully.  I was basically alone on each of this slopes which was a bit of a surprise.  Sun Bowl was not really very good.  The terrain had been skied, but not enough to create skier pack.  It was made up of last weeks powder that had been sun soaked with multiple skier tracks crisscrossing the slope.  It was not firm, so it was not very difficult to ski, but it was not longer cold snow or chalky skier pack.  The rest of the slopes I skied remained filled with cold snow and chalky skier pack.

There were quite a few people on the lodge deck and sitting at the Ice Bar enjoying a lovely, warm January day.  I think we are in for a few warm days this week before the next storm rolls in on Wednesday and Thursday.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s Note: We had the same experience as Andy. It seems like everyone is now leaving much earlier just to make sure they get parking and don’t get told to go home. Today the lots were all full before 9:30 AM. So overall skier numbers may not be the biggest ever, it’s just that crunch to get there all at once. That crunch continued to be worsened today by the different comps still being held on the mountain, and all of those kids in competition needed to be “on time” for their events. 

The heat yesterday and today was beginning to take it’s toll. As an example, Gentian Gully was not very pleasant anymore and neither were the isolated powder patches we were finding yesterday. During today’s mid-afternoon sun, the snow got clumpy and grabby in spots with a lot of sun. There also appeared to be more skiers on the hill and in lift lines today. Small moguls appeared in several well traveled groomed runs today. We ended up just spending much of the afternoon enjoying the big mountain competition on High Yellow. 

Traffic out of Highway 89 was unpleasant this afternoon and Highway 80 is nearly at a standstill through the Yuba Gap this afternoon. Ouch.

Catching the sunniest part of the afternoon near the big mountain comp on High Yellow. Photo by Mark

Everybody, And Their Grandma, Went Skiing Today

West River Street in Truckee at 7:30am

When the main lots are filled by 8:30 AM on a non-holiday weekend, it’s going to be a busy day around Alpine Meadows. But we already knew that, as we ran into serious traffic along West River Street in Truckee at 7:30 AM. The lots were completely full at both Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley shortly after 10 AM. Did that stop people from coming? No, when we left around 1:00 PM today, the traffic coming into Squaw Valley was still backed up for several miles on Highway 89 toward Truckee. Roseville, we have a problem, if you know what I mean.

The traffic still trying to get to Squaw Valley around 1 PM this afternoon.

Just how many freakin’ passes did these guys sell this year?  –  Mark at UnofficialAlpine.com

Employees must have been directed to mention that there were several special events on the schedule at Alpine Meadows today, as they all mentioned it right away. Races were held on Kangaroo and Yellow, while the big mountain competition continued on High Yellow. You may have noticed where kids’ racing is involved, the whole family comes along, even the grandparents that might take one run and then hang out in the lodge the remainder of the day. Yeah, the lodge and food services were all a madhouse today. Somebody was raking in the dough today for sure.

Now all of that is off my chest, let’s talk about the skiing. With the mountain at 120% open (alternative facts), there was plenty of space to spread out today. If you knew where to look, it was easy to just avoid lift lines and people. Unfortunately, we won’t be sharing those locations with you. You have to get creative yourself. We did head right to Sherwood this morning and stayed only until Jim arrived to do line control, indicating it was time to move on. After that, we didn’t stand in a line the rest of the day, and had some runs completely to ourselves. You could completely forget it was a very busy day until you rounded the corner anywhere near the lodge or the Summit lift and said “Holy ^&*@”.

North facing pitches are still nice and chalky winter snow. We even managed to find some short patches of powder turns today with zero hiking. The groomers were also totally on point today and very fun for ripping big arcs, as long as you stayed away from the main runs. Some of those runs looked just as busy as Highway 80 will look tomorrow evening.

As some other people have pointed out, we have reached a tipping point in Tahoe. The carrying capacity is routinely being exceeded…not just on holiday weekends, but every weekend. Something needs to change. You can’t just keep selling a million season passes and then turning people away and telling them “Sorry, the park is closed.”

Andy Wertheim: Development In Alpine Meadows

The proposed White Wolf development (2015 rendering)

Hello Skiers and Riders,

It was another beautiful morning at Alpine Meadows.  Nice groomed runs and plenty of skier packed powder. Most of the snow is still cold and soft.  There were not many people at the area, so lines did not exist.

Another local development plan has been presented to Placer County.  Perhaps some of you will be excited by the proposed development of property known as White Wolf.  This is proposed to be a private 38 lot subdivision with lodge, clubhouse, tennis court, ice skating rink, and ski lift with access to KT22.  The property is located north of the Alpine Meadows Road.  Existing lift towers have been in place for a number of years, but the lift has never been completed.  The obvious idea of this development is to have direct access to both Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley with “ski in” and “ski out” homesites.  It all sounds exciting.

Unfortunately, as a long time resident of Alpine Meadows I must show my opposition to this proposed development.  One of the most beautiful and enchanting views available in Alpine Meadows is of the steep granite walls located on this property.  Views of these granite walls is most dramatic when hiking up the Five Lakes Trail.  In addition, they grow up out of a lovely valley (Catch Valley) also visible from the Five Lakes Trail which has become one of the most used trails in the Tahoe Area.  This development will impede views of a nearly pristine environment visible from an historical trail that has been in use since the 1800’s.

Roads and homes, no matter how inconspicuously they may be designed will destroy a major portion of the enjoyment currently available to hikers.  This is also an entry trail to the Granite Wilderness.  Walking along a trail that abuts a subdivision on the way to a beautiful wilderness is just not necessary.  When are we going to stop destroying our environment.

Must every mountainside, riverbank, and lakefront be developed?  In my opinion, this property should be public open space and not developed at all.  Oh, I forgot that much of this land is in avalanche paths.  You can engineer a building to withstand an avalanche, but you cannot stop the inevitable damage to property and human beings who drive up a road that has had deep natural slides cross its path or bury people out for a walk, snowshoe, or sledding down a hill in the back yard.  This development is located in a dangerous area of Alpine Meadows.  We should learn from past mistakes.

Placer County approved homesites along the main Alpine Meadows Road many years ago that should have been recognized as being in an avalanche prone location.  If it was not known when the original development was proposed, it is now.  Homes and cars have been hit and damaged many times by both natural and man induced snow slides in the past years.  These properties should not have been approved, but they were, and now we deal with it the best we can.  Someday someone will have a terrible end to their life while unloading groceries, walking their dog along the main road on a nice moonlit night, or just driving up the road.  I hope this never happens, but the danger exists.  We now have knowledge and should not build homes and develop property in or near avalanche prone areas.  Here’s a copy of the White Wolf proposal for any of you who are interested in reviewing it.

There are currently two proposed developments in Alpine Meadows both requesting permission for 38 homesites.  The second is the Alpine Sierra subdivision, which is just east of the Subway parking area and White Wolf.  Personally I would rather have 76 condominiums constructed in the existing Subway parking area which could be “ski in” and “ski out”.  They would be on existing destroyed land.  I do not want to see a village or commercial development at the base of Alpine Meadows Ski Area, but I rather see some development at the base of the ski area then see these developments constructed on such special and beautiful lands.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s note: We will likely be taking a closer look at the White Wolf proposal in the near future as it will tie in with the Base 2 Base Gondola proposal…