And then it snowed

Snowy chairlift ride

So apparently all it took was a blog post.  It started snowing in late February, leaving the Tahoe ski resorts with up to 4 feet by the time the week was up.

Feels like winter

Feels like winter

The first weekend in March attracted every powderhound within a 500 mile radius – or so it seemed.  So after a day at the resorts with 12,000 of my closest friends, I spent the next day going for a stroll with N.  Nice views and great snow for the top half of the descent made for a fun morning.

Nice day for a walk.

Nice day for a walk.

The old man appears to be back for now.  But there’s no harm in continuing to drink for snow, right?

Tahoe Winter Update

telemark skier tilt shift kirkwood

Tiny boyfriend enjoying some fresh snow at Kirkwood over Presidents Day weekend

You might have noticed that I’ve not posted much about this winter.  I’ll be honest – it’s not been an ideal year for crowing about those 2-4 foot Sierra storms that leave nothing but grinning skiers in their wake.  Certainly the ski resorts have been able to make a lot of decent snow to cover the groomers (and I’m grateful they have).  But it’s been the year to travel for backcountry turns, which we have done.  That does get expensive, especially when one has a season pass and a home in what usually is a pretty awesome ski destination.  So we’ve made lemonade out of the situation, skiing the resorts because that’s where the snow has been, enjoying more early afternoon beers with friends than I typically do, and generally trying to chill the F out about things that I cannot control.

But after a few late-in-coming storms, it finally feels like winter, assuming you’re at the ski resorts or up above 7500 feet.  Upper elevations are surprisingly well covered, considering that the lower elevations and lake level have little to no snow left.  I had heard that conditions at Kirkwood were good, and confirmed that over the weekend.   Let’s just say that if you looked carefully you could find chalky snow and ski lines that you didn’t think would be possible this season.

That said, I’d be happy if March lived up to its ‘Miracle’ name of yore, both for my personal desire to have some powder turns as well as the state’s painful need to combat the drought.   The storm that’s forecast to arrive later this week certainly helps, but we need more.

Since this whole snow dancing thing didn’t work to well in my favor (I danced, I swear), I’ve turned to drinking for snow, which is inherently more enjoyable.

Who wants to join me?

Anticipating winter

Snowy trees Oct 2013

Even after all these years of living in the mountains, I’m still so excited by the promise of winter.  This year is no exception.  I returned home from Nashville (post to come) late Sunday night to a storm, including winds, lashing rain and sleet.  When I woke up the next morning and drew back the curtains, I saw this.  And promptly got giddy.

Snowy backyard

This time of year brings out the kid in me.  It’s the only season where the weather can generate both adrenaline and the promise of possibility.  Will it snow tonight? Will it snow a lot? Will I see more powder days this year than last? Ski those lines I’ve dreamed about? Learn how to jump (and land) things more than a few inches high?

To me, the snow and cold weather at this time of year is inspiring.  Walking the dog, not typically a thrilling task, is just that when the air is crisp and there’s snow on the ground.

I know the weather is forecast to change tomorrow, but I’m going to revel in the inherent optimism that the promise of winter brings now.

Time to go practice my jumps.

Winter is back – really!

After what could optimistically be described as a disappointing ski season last year, it appears that Mother Nature is trying to win back Lake Tahoe’s affections.  She succeeded this month, with a series of big storms that left up to 94 inches of snow before and after Christmas.  The ski resorts couldn’t be happier, and frankly, neither could I.

The timing has been awesome, as many local’s season passes are blacked out during this holiday period, reducing the bum rush to get the untracked powder.  We’ve enjoyed relaxed days at our favorite ski resorts, lapping areas that typically are tracked out in minutes. Despite the holiday crowds, we also found untracked snow and few people at some of our favorite backcountry stashes as well.

While the snow volume appears to be slowing down for now, cold temperatures are forecast for next week, ensuring great mid-winter snow conditions will stick around.  At least until the next storm shows up.

Need proof of the awesomeness?  See below.

Trimmer bonus run from TahoeJenn on Vimeo.

Le Retour de Winter

Backyard furniture under snow | Lake Tahoe

Guess it’s time to put away the patio furniture. Photo: N Miller

It’s back.  At least for this week.

(Old Man) Winter made his entrance in grand style this week, leaving a LOT of snow in his wake.  This morning my little Subaru got hood shots as I drove through the untracked snow on my street.  The ski resorts have been excitedly posting photos and updates as the snow totals mount (1-3 feet, if you’re curious).  Heck, one’s even going to open this Thursday for the day, clearly breaking some sort of California record.

Considering Winter didn’t really show up last year, it was good to see him, even if some might argue mid-October is a tad early.  Sure, the mountain bike trails are now covered with up to three feet of new snow, but you know what they say about making tracks while the snow falls, right?  So we did just that today, getting out for some kick ‘n glide in the local meadow and golf course.

Xc skiing near Lake Tahoe

First tracks of the season.

While this may only be a preview for the time being, I’ll take it.  Even if I still can’t locate my car snowscraper.

Dreaming of snow

It’s been a very slow start to the ski season this year.  While this high pressure system isn’t unusual, it’s hard coming off such an amazing winter last year…one that continued well into spring.

So while we pray for snow, dance for it, and hope that it comes soon, we’re consoling ourselves with videos.  Last night N and I went to a friend’s place to watch the Art of Flight and All.I.Can., two exceptionally well done ski & snowboard films.  It made me remember this video that I saw on Facebook last week.  Filmed by a local last month, it captures the awesomeness of Lake Tahoe…even without snow.

So even without the typical blanket of white here at the moment, I’m still very grateful to live here.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop praying for snow anytime soon.

More signs it was a big winter

May...or July?

It may be the last day of July, but given the amount of snow I encountered in two totally different places this weekend, it’s clear that the winter of 2010/11 is still having repercussions.  Typically at this time of year the wildflowers are peaking and trails are mostly melted out.  This year, not so much.

On Saturday, my friend C and I decided to see if one of the higher elevation sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail between Star Lake and Freel Pass was clear enough to ride.  It’s a section of trail that allows you to connect some terrific longer mountain bike rides, either to Armstrong Pass, Saxon Creek (Mr. Toads), or the Big Meadow trail head.  Usually this time of year, there’s few if any patches of snow.

We learned firsthand that this is not a typical year, what with snow patches that started less than a quarter mile from Star Lake.  Patches large enough to require some maneuvering to get a leg up, say nothing for a mountain bike.  Oddly enough we saw few footprints on the snow, and no tire tracks.  Highly unusual for this time of year, but perhaps indicative that it’s not as well traveled a mountain bike trail as, say, Mr. Toad’s.  No matter, for there were still ample trail options, and we decided to descend to High Meadow and then down the Cold Creek trail.  The Forest Service is building single track from High Meadow to Star Lake, but it’s not accessible just yet, so if you do ride down from there as we did, be prepared for some steep and rocky fire road action, interspersed with some fun (read: deeper than normal) stream crossings.   But the newly redone Cold Creek trail more than makes up for the wet feet.

This morning N and I headed to the Mokelumne Wilderness at Carson Pass to get the dog out and check out the snow to wildflowers ratio.

Round Top Carson Pass Snow

Wishing he'd brought the skis

From our starting point at Carson Pass, the hike to Winnemucca Lake isn’t long – 4 miles round trip – but offers great bang for the buck with the proliferation of wildflowers, and is usually very popular at this time of year for that very reason.  The flowers were blooming (though probably won’t peak for few weeks), but despite that, there was still quite a bit of snow.  Definitely enough to ski on, were you so inclined.  We didn’t continue on to Round Top lake, but based on the hikers we saw further on, the trail looked to be more snow than not.  Which means a) that backcountry skiing is still very much on out there right now and b) that the wildflowers up there should peak around Labor Day.

Wildflowers & Snow capped mountains

Skiable lines & summer wildflowers

Oh, and that ratio of snow to flowers? Probably 50-50 right now.

Winter may be over, but La Nina is still having her last laugh.  Which should make for great trail conditions well into October. As well as an extended wildflower season.

My Dream Winter

May snow...and a puzzled dog

…is one where it pretty much stays winter all year round.

Looks like I’m getting my wish.   Squaw reported 13-20 inches of new snow on Monday, and while the sun peeked out briefly, the clouds moved in again and are supposed to stick around a little while longer.

My dawn patrol plans this morning were scuttled, but I’m hoping to get out to product test tomorrow.  After my reconnaissance walk with the dog in a very wet meadow, I realized that it’ll be a long while before the lower trails will be suitable for mountain biking.

So call it my version of making lemonade.

Old Man Winter Returneth…

This week there has been much ado and anticipation about this week’s big storm.  There was a small taste earlier in the week, but not enough to invoke the six-inch rule.

With lots of buzz over its arrival yesterday afternoon, I was beginning to wonder on my drive home from derby practice last night at 10.30.  I saw a few snowflakes, and heard lots of wind, but where was the two inches an hour fury?

Oh little grasshopper.  Your skepticism after all these years in the Tahoe basin?  This is what I woke up to this morning.

Yep.  Over a foot here. I’ve never been so excited about shoveling snow.  There’s another storm expected to hit Thursday night into Friday, which should make for some hilarity with the hordes that are descending upon us for the holiday weekend.