The first strong western pacific storm moved across central California last Wednesday, dumping more than three feet of atypical fluffy powder across the Sierra Mountains from Mammoth to North Lake Tahoe. This first of last week’s one-two punch was only the second significant storm to hit the region yet this season—marking one of the latest resort openings in more than 10 years.
After more than a foot fell in Reno, skiers like 4bi9 Media’s Dave Euler made the trek from Salt Lake City to Tahoe to hit urban features while waiting for the storm cycles to hit. “KC [Deane] called me to come to Tahoe to film a webisode for Moment Skis,” said Euler.
Utah was hurting for snow at the time, and Reno had received about a foot of snow. The original plan was to session a bunch of hand rails, and then scope luxurious casinos. That plan changed when the Tahoe region got dumped on with five feet of snow, so it was off to Northstar and the Tahoe backcountry, he added.
Usual white ribbons of death helped Boreal and other smaller resorts get skiers up the lifts, while larger Kirkwood, Alpine Meadows, Northstar at Tahoe, Heavenly, and Sugar Bowl idly sat for bigger storms. Only Squaw Valley USA had what most skiers would consider a long run—that is until the first dry three feet fell over early-season hardpack only to be followed by more typical Sierra cement.
“A cold storm followed by a warm one is bound to create unstable snow conditions,” said Squaw Valley’s communications manager Amelia Richmond.
This was what happened at Squaw, causing a few minor slides around the mountain. Ski patrol was extremely cautious given the conditions and no one was hurt, she added. All Tahoe-area resorts, are either currently open and running at full capacity or will be for the holidays. Squaw season pass holders are already enjoying more than 90 percent of the mountain and lifts.
“With the second storm now behind us, the snowpack has stabilized and left us with a really incredible base. Our snow tracker doesn't have an exact total from last Wednesday, however we have received 78 inches to our upper elevations since the storm began last Sunday,” said Richmond. “I would say the El Nino predictions have actually been holding up pretty well. The powerful storms we just saw are seeing are indicative of what will come later.”