Andy Wertheim: Today Was A 9

Hello Skiers and Riders,

The powder has all been chewed up (at least most of it), but excellent cold skier packed powder exists on much of the mountain.  Soft skier packed bumps, a few untracked patches of nice left over powder, and sunny skies made the skiing today wonderful.  All major lifts at Alpine were open which made traveling around the mountain fun, especially with so many prior days when no much was available.

We skied D6, Pigmy Forest (under Alpine Bowl Chair), High Yellow, Chute That Seldom Slides, Gentian Gully, Sympathy, and a few runs off Lakeview.  With the visibility being very good, surface conditions like a good day in Utah, and the entire mountain open, plus a small crowd, I would give skiing today a 9.  If it had been a foot or so of light powder with the same size crowd, it would have been a 10.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Powder. He Gone.

It was another beautiful day at Alpine Meadows, as long as you were not still expecting to get much in the way of powder turns. Much of the mountain was groomed and that is where 95% of the people were skiing and riding today. For me, it was a day to enjoy a quiet, non-crowded day, relearning how to tele after a month of pure alpine turns.

Photo by Patty

Sure, there were some isolated places to get off piste. I noted some people had hiked to the summit of Ward Peak to catch those last few pow turns above the ABC lift shack. Another friend mentioned that they found good winter snow in Counterweight Gully, while another claimed he found sick powder by hiking out well past Grouse Rock.

We’re hoping with all of the lift ramps built and roads put in, that we see “grooming maximus” for the upcoming weekend, as that is where the true fun will be for the weekend. We also see that Alpine Bowl Chair is about dug out and we hope it also joins the weekend schedule. If we learned one thing this year, all weekends are crowded…

A Quiet Mid-Week Day At Alpine Meadows

After a busy day of double duty yesterday, it was abnormally quiet around Alpine Meadows this morning. With Squaw reopening today, we’re guessing that many people headed in that direction to find powder that remained untouched after yesterday’s closure. The atmosphere around Alpine was a little bit more dreary with a gray cloud deck and a chilly north wind that hung out through the day.

Just about everyone that was at Alpine today headed right to Sherwood, which hasn’t been open for a while. The pictures that Jim B. sent us yesterday certainly made me anxious to get out there. With just a little bit of sun exposure yesterday, the pure powder conditions suffered just a bit. On some exposures, that led to the powder getting a bit heavy with a little bit of crust from the overnight cold. That did not stop people from ripping big turns down South Face. Speed was an asset in the heavy pow, but that often lead to some entertaining tumbles.

Not all areas of the Sherwood side suffered from sun exposure. Changing your aspect or location just a bit could lead to nice soft powder turns. It was enough to keep me at Sherwood making hot laps all day. Sometime around 10:30, patrol opened access to High Traverse and reports from that direction were a lot of whooping and hollering. By noon, it was deserted all around the mountain.

Looking ahead…for tomorrow the clouds will return along with a chance of light snow flurries. An east wind is expected to strengthen Thursday night, with ridge winds expected to reach 40-50 miles per hour. That means it is quite possible that Summit will be starting the day on wind hold for Friday. Winds are expected to taper by the afternoon.

For the weekend, a strong inversion will develop, which should bring sunny and warm temperatures to the mountains while the valleys sit in the cold fog. Expect north facing slopes to be chalky winter snow. Exposures with more sun that are ungroomed will likely remain like a coral reef. If anyone tries to convince you that there’s still a lot of powder turns left for the weekend crowds, consider it “alternative facts.”

While most locals are enjoying this break from constant shoveling and snowblowing, there is another storm on the horizon. The models are beginning to come together with bringing a storm in next Wednesday, Feb. 1st through Friday, Feb 3rd. The models indicate that as much as 3-5 feet is possible, but those amounts are still a WAG this far out. There has been some discussion that this will be the start of another series of AR events, for now things still look cold enough to keep it all snow.

Both Howard at Mammoth and BA at Open Snow have discussed the possibility that February may set up just like January. A rex block could set up in the Gulf of Alaska, blocking storms initially…until the jet stream undercuts and the parade of storms returns. We’ll be keeping an eye on that situation…

Andy Wertheim: Close To Perfect

Hello Skiers and Riders,

On such a beautiful sunny day with trees laden with snow and mountains covered in a thick white blanket of deep light snow, an unfortunate incident occurred at Squaw Valley.  A ski patrolman died during avalanche operations.  Squaw Valley closed for the day which sent skiers to Alpine Meadows, which remained open.  The details of the death of the patrolman appear to have been from an explosives accident and not an avalanche.

Lines at Summit and Scott were long at times in the morning, but became minimal later in the afternoon.  Yesterday’s powder appeared to be lighter this morning as the cold overnight temperatures apparently dried the pack out.  All of the upper mountain was untouched and ready for the throng of skiers and riders waiting to deface it.  It did not take long for all the normal runs off Summit and Scott to turn from a smooth white face to a picture that looked more like a wrinkled hillside.

All of the mountain was open with the exception of Sherwood which did not turn today.  However, Lakeview opened for awhile sporting long lines, but broke down around noon.  This forced some people to walk out.  Many hiked up Reily’s Run for a powder run and to return via the road from Sherwood.  Evidently the lift started up again and then ended up shutting down causing some skiers to hike out twice.

What about the snow?  It was perfect.  Real light powder where we could find it.  Nice chop after it was skied out in many areas, and excellent skier pack when it was fully packed out.

We skied Scott Chute, Gentian Gully, Promised Land and Standard Run (see attached photos), as well as the trees between Lakeview Runs.  Palisades was filled with plenty of snow that was excellent soft pack created from slides that occurred during the week.  Although I did not get out to the further reaches, I did watch skiers and riders coming down Keyhole, High Yellow Face, Beaver, Estelle, Bernie’s Bowl and the Buttress.  It all looked great.  Skiing was awesome today.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Our photo selection tonight highlights the beauty of skiing. Thank you to the people that make it happen…

Our thoughts are with the Squaw Valley community tonight…

Contributions to the Patroller Joe Zuiches Memorial Fund can be made here.

Andy Wertheim: Epic

Hello Skiers and Riders,

There was another 2 feet of snow last night.  This time it was lighter and easier to handle.  The storm finally seems to be abating, as some blue sky is visible this afternoon.  A slide across Hwy. 89 between Alpine Meadows and Tahoe City closed the road for a time this morning.  You may have heard that two locals were stuck in the natural slide.  They were fine, but the road department feared additional natural slides so they closed the road until avalanche control could be completed.  Avalanche work also closed the main Alpine Meadows Road again this morning.

These two delays, plus the normal delays at the mountain created a perfect situation for those that were able to get to the mountain and wait for a lift to open.  It was after 11 before Roundhouse opened, but there was not much of a line, which made the wait worthwhile.  Roundhouse was again the top of the mountain.  Snow showers fells off and on during the morning and into the afternoon.

Given the amount of snow the ski area has had to deal with over the past week and the constant avalanche control that has been required I am amazed that any lift opened this morning.

The wait was worth it.  There were ew people and two feet of light powder.  Face shots all morning…yelping, thumbs up, yahoooo’s, and smiles were pervasive.  It was an epic morning as we were cutting fresh tracks until 2 in the afternoon.  Gunner’s Knob, Sympathy, God’s Knob, Fall Line, Yellow Trail, Tigel Chutes, and all areas between the top of Roundhouse and the Sister’s were exceptional.  It does not get much better.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s Notes: It would have been far easier for area managers to just say the resort was closed today due to the avalanche concerns, especially after the Highway 89 avalanche took many resources away from the mountain. They didn’t and we totally appreciated that. Andy did not note in his report that they also made a huge effort to get more terrain open today. They started setting up Scott around 1 pm…and unbelievably, they started setting up the Summit corral around 2 pm. There was some furious bombing going on through the early afternoon, and unfortunately the decision was made to not open those lifts. This gives the snow another chance to settle overnight, and also gives patrollers another round of bombing.

Given the demonstrated slide potential today, it was totally the right call. Right around 3:15 today, there was an inbounds slide below the Three Sisters that left a crown of about 4 feet and carried 3 skiers downslope. All were okay but it’s a big eyeopener to those that wonder why more terrain did not open today! The patrol response was reported to be ultra quick and efficient…after what has to be some of the longest days of their careers. Total. Heroes.

We also wanted to note that for the two guys that were trapped in last night’s avalanche, while their health is fine, their wallets are not. Their Subaru was left during the removal of avalanche debris. After being towed, they now owe a $55o impound fee to reclaim the vehicle. A GoFundMe page has been established here.

For tomorrow…more of the mountain should be open, especially over at Squaw. It was very crowded over there today so the skiing must have been excellent. Note to Andy…it’s “world class”, not “epic”. All photos are by Andy Wertheim

Highway 89 Avalanche Delays Opening

Update: At 11:15, Highway 89 and Alpine Meadows Road were opened. Check the app for updates on lift openings. 🙂

There’s not really any doubts that the last wave of the storm came in like a wrecking ball last night. This snap from the Alpine Meadows webcam shows just how deep it got.

Image via

In case you have not heard, a good sized avalanche trapped two cars on Highway 89 near Alpine Meadows Road overnight. All people were rescued without injuries. The road remains closed while avalanche danger is mitigated. Note those are Alpine Meadows patrollers assisting in securing the road, which means fewer people are available to work at getting the mountain open. Patience is the name of the game here. I would consider any opening at Alpine Meadows today to be the result of some very hard working people. Squaw will have some lifts open around 11 AM for those that just can’t wait.

All photos below are via Truckee CHP Facebook page: