Jaw-dropping storm totals

3 days of snow accumulation

The storm, she continues, and with much intensity. Since late Tuesday night (really, Wednesday morning), the Tahoe ski resorts have seen up to 106 inches of snow at the upper elevations.  That’s almost NINE FEET.

And while my local resort, Heavenly, doesn’t typically see as much snow as Kirkwood or Alpine Meadows, it still received five feet of snow as of today.  I’ve done a bit of product testing the past few days, and cannot keep count of the face shots and over the head blower powder turns.  Suffice to say it’s been good – stupid good. My cheeks hurt from my permagrin.

No action pics to share here.  Too busy skiing in the moment to capture the moment.  But there is the latest photo of N’s truck, which I’m using as a snow gauge to show him when he returns this weekend.  Just so he fully understands how much snow me (and the dog) had to clear on our own.

Tahoe storm cycle hilarity

Well, the storm is here, and while many folks wish it were a few degrees cooler, it’s definitely snowing if you’re in the sweet spot elevation, which at this exact moment in time could be anywhere between 7000 – 7500 feet.  Apparently there’s a bit of a battle between air currents, and Alaska’s not kicking Hawaii’s butt with the aggression we need.  This explains the Armageddon like warnings about having sandbags, water and an extra side of beef on hand.

That said, we did go skiing today.  For something different, we headed to Heavenly’s Nevada side.  It’s snow report indicated 20 inches in 24 hours, and we knew that its higher elevation meant a lesser chance of encountering rain-soaked snow.  It didn’t rank up there with the best snow of the season, but it was fast snow, it was fun (it was skiing!), and there were very few people there.  That meant no lift lines and limited areas we could access off the 3 open lifts weren’t tracked out right away.

The snow being what it was, with interesting layers and a crust in places, you had to be on your game on your skis.  The slightest hint of imbalance, and well, you were going down, usually with enough speed to induce whiplash.  On every lift ride up, we saw at least one person on their back feebly moving their skis in the air in an effort to clamber out of the snow.  My giggling tempted karma, as it later happened to me after I went over a small rollover faster than I realized.  Wha-BAM.  Because I never to anything halfway, I found myself with a bleeding lip and a dazed expression when I finally untangled myself.  Luckily, Nils did witness the magic as it happened.  Unfortunately, he had no video camera to capture the incident.

But snow is snow, and stormy days are my favorite days, even if I’m required to dress in a silly amount of layers to keep warm.

The battle of the non-contiguous states is expected to continue through Monday, with the potential for a lot of snow, snain or rain.  I’ve got money that Alaska will win out, though the realist in me is wearing my waterproof jacket the next few days.

Timing is everything

Amazing what a cell phone can capture

Mother Nature’s timing has been spot-on this season.  Yesterday’s storm and subsequent bluebird day today happened after  I had finished various larger projects, including a social media workshop I presented at in Carson Valley yesterday, as well as a social media class I just finished teaching at the local community college.

While last night’s drive back from the Carson Valley was a bit spicy, I figured that it was a necessary sacrifice to ski powder.  Ski resorts around Lake Tahoe were crowing about the snowfall this morning, so I knew I had to get out for a few hours in the name of ‘product testing’.  After a wet start yesterday, I was stoked to find very fluffy, very cold powder snow at Heavenly.   Coverage for this time of year is remarkable, and I’m still a bit shocked that I was able to ski multiple runs down Gunbarrel without hitting any major rocks.  I even skied some other areas that I typically don’t attempt until well later in the season, and the light, dry powder snow hid no rocks or other ski-damaging obstacles.  Quelle chance!

Telemarking in powder = fun

It’s unusual for me to bring my camera and actually try to take photos of people skiing, as I’m one that doesn’t have the patience to faff around, especially when there’s powder snow to ski.  However, in an effort to actually provide images both for this blog and for some other projects, I decided to try to remember to take photos.  Given my lack of skill, and the fact that much of the best snow was in the shaded trees, most pictures aren’t worth posting here.  But it’s a start, however small.

There’s a much bigger storm forecast to arrive for the weekend, and I’ve decided that if it actually delivers what forecasters are saying, I’ll be claiming more than a few vacation days next week.

Anyone wanna join me?

Lake Tahoe Winter – It’s On!

Big snowbanks in south lake tahoeWhen I left South Lake Tahoe on the Friday before Thanksgiving, there was no snow on the ground.  I returned a week later to 3 feet of snow in the driveway along with a 4 foot berm (thanks municipal snowplow driver).  There was more up high – much more. Final snow total for this month? TEN feet.  In November? That’s unheard of.

Apparently La Niña has arrived.

I was in LA for family shenanigans last week, but wasn’t so busy to not keep tabs on the snow and storms, partly for work and partly for my own edification.   Over 8 feet fell during the course of 4 days or so at the upper elevations, which meant that by Thanksgiving weekend, most Tahoe area ski resorts were open for business.  Mid-winter conditions and more open terrain than is typical for this time of year meant that skiing and riding at Lake Tahoe was truly all-time.  My Twitter & Facebook feeds were filled with powder photos, gloating, and ‘Viva La Niña!’

While we missed the Tahoe hilarity (including the sub-zero temps), we did get 4 great days of skiing at Mammoth, 3 of which were powder days.  Our return home was heralded by another storm, which dropped another foot-plus of snow.  And it was cold smoke.

So, despite the fatigue of driving without snow tires and shoveling out large volumes of snow on Saturday night, N and I were up fairly early on Sunday to get our first backcountry day in.   We figured that our favorite easy access tour was popular enough that someone else had already set the skin track.  Not so much.  But the trail breaking was so worth it.  Face shots in November? The fluffy turns convinced us to try another lap, and while it became apparent that neither of us is in top backcountry condition, we made it to the top without collapsing.  And promptly forgot how tired we were as we whooped and giggled our way down through the nearly thigh-deep snow.

Oh winter.  I’m so glad you’re back.

Because I live in the mountains

A storm ‘of substance’ hit Lake Tahoe yesterday, bringing with it a few feet of wind and *hopefully* up to 2 feet of snow at the higher elevations.  Because the word ‘blizzard’ was bandied about, it made the news, further exciting people.  Since it’s come after a few weeks of mild weather, many people weren’t ‘ready’ for it, and I’ve heard a surprising number of complaints today.

I’m gobsmacked because while it may technically be spring here, any ‘local’ knows full well that snowstorms aren’t unusual in late March, mid April, heck even mid May.  I, for one, love the surprise snowstorms,  even if it brings with it the requisite snow shoveling, driving chaos and delays.  It’s a welcome sacrifice when powder snow is involved!

Snow angelSo, for all the unhappy people living at Lake Tahoe who want sun and warm temps and refuse to let history be their guide, instead of telling you to quit yer bitchin’ or move to Sacramento, which is what my cranky side would tell you, I’m going to try to be nice and put a positive spin on things by sharing a snow angel with you.  I made it especially for all you snow-haters this afternoon, as I was out in the snowstorm skiing in untracked snow with the mutt.

Enjoy it, as it was not easy to make while wearing cross-country skis.

Why Tahoe rocks

Because we measure storms in feet, not inches. This latest storm dumped another 5 feet in the mountains, and it’s now GAME ON for the ski resorts.  This latest storm came in a bit wetter than the last one, building a base and covering a lot of the rocks and other obstacles. Note that there are still a few lurking about, as we found on Heavenly’s Face run yesterday, so you still need to be aware of things under the surface.

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen this much snow this early in the season, and my legs are definitely not yet in shape.  After 3 consecutive days of skiing powder, I’m walking a bit stiffly.

But it is SO worth it!

Got Snow?

Bare dirt 2 days ago

Whether it’s truly El Nino or just snow dances paying off in spades, Lake Tahoe got hit hard by a snowstorm yesterday and today.  It’s a much needed boost, both in terms of the snow pack and general attitude, for it’s a lot easier to get excited about winter and ski season when things are actually covered in snow.

Despite all the giddiness about powder snow, I didn’t ski at the resorts today.  Yes, there is 3 feet of new snow at the higher elevations, but there was a lot of bare dirt (and rocks) at the ski resorts before this storm, so I’d rather wait until there’s a better payoff.  And lower risk of hitting a rock and hurting my already decrepit self.

Instead, the dog and I explored our meadow, which just a few days ago was bare dirt in many places.  I spent an hour breaking trail in light and pristine shin deep snow, then enjoyed the fruits of my labors and skied back on said track.

Heck, I was so blissed out by the new snow that I didn’t even say anything rude to the lazy-ass chick who was walking in my ski track.  Talk about her lucky day.

The joy of skiing

Ski season has finally started at Lake Tahoe, with the openings of Mt. Rose, Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley this week.  N and I actually had plans to head to Mammoth (which has been open since October), but his asymptomatic manflu reared up again, leaving him with no desire to move, much less drive 2+ hours to ski – especially after a snowstorm left the roads a bit messy, and the mountains with upwards of 6 inches of new snow.

I decided to head to Heavenly for opening day on Saturday.  I was cautious in my enthusiasm, knowing that there would only be two runs open. I figured the resort would be mobbed with people by about 10 am, all fighting for the same 20 acres of man-made/natural groomed snow.  Add to that my own skepticism about my still-injured chest, and a strangely irrational fear that I’d forgotten how to make a tele turn, and, well, you might say I had low expectations.
Happily, my expectations were surpassed exponentially.  Not only did my chest not hurt, but I could still link a tele turn, there were very few people around for the first few hours, and the snow conditions were pretty darn good, with soft carveable groomers and some untracked snow on the sides of the run.
Did I mention it was a bluebird day after a snowstorm, which meant the white peaks nicely contrasted with the cerulean blue of Lake Tahoe? I had a huge, stupid grin on my face for the 2+ hours I was out.  I had forgotten how much FUN I have skiing, and it took a groomed blue run to remind me of the exuberance and dumb joy I get from telemark skiing.
And I’m not in this official Heavenly vid, but I think it shows the excitement everyone had about getting back on snow.

November Snow

While cynics may claim this is but a dusting, last night’s storm brought a few inches of snow to our house at lake level, and the resorts are reporting up to 6 inches.

So it’s a start.  Though with a few resorts slated to open next weekend, I’m guessing this isn’t quite enough yet.
And while my brother’s crowing about Mt. Baker opening with a ridonkulous amount of new snow (50+ inches), I must remind him that I will still get more skiing in this season than he will.   Even with a head start.
So there.

Obnoxious Amounts of Snow

This week Lake Tahoe finally received one of the epic storms that results in snow days, road closures and lots of snow shoveling.  With 3-4 feet in a 24 hour period, and a storm total of around 8 feet, it’s been a huge boon for the ski resorts, tourism industry and water supply.  I’m pretty sure lots of locals called in sick yesterday, based upon the enormous crowd at the base of Heavenly’s Gunbarrel chairlift.  While I did pack my camera yesterday, I didn’t take many photos, as I was too busy skiing the 3 feet of new snow.  A few are below.

Heavenly powder day

Happy skier

We’re off to Mammoth tomorrow for a family ski trip.  Heard that mountain got some snow too, so it should be a continuation of this week’s fun.