News

Unrelenting Winter Storms Smash Snowfall Records in Lake Tahoe

All area ski resorts were closed Monday, with whiteout conditions, high winds, and staff unable to reach the resorts due to road closures.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

December snow totals at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab reached 202 inches today, far exceeding a 1970 record of 179 inches, and making this month likely the third snowiest since then. The snow lab, located at Donner Pass, received 47.3 inches in the past 48 hours with more on the way.

However, despite the holiday snowfall, all area ski resorts were closed Monday, with whiteout conditions, high winds, and staff unable to reach the resorts due to road closures.

Northstar reported 69 inches in the last 48 hours and Kirkwood and Heavenly both reported 43 inches. Northstar now has a base of 252 inches while Kirkwood has a base of 187 inches.

Record snowfall has descended on the Sierra Nevada range in California and Nevada, with more on the way. IMAGE: UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab

All major highways in and out of the Tahoe basin, including Interstate 80 and Highways 88, 50, 89, 431, and 267, are all closed as road crews scramble to keep up with the multiple feet of snow that dumped on the region since late last week. In addition, an avalanche closed part of Highway 89 between Tahoe City and Squaw Valley Road.

As of December 28, Heavenly Ski Resort and Kirkwood Ski Resort remain closed. Palisade Tahoe reopened parts of the mountain today after receiving 7 feet of snow this week. Northstar California and Sugarbowl are open with delays.

Law enforcement and Northstar Ski Patrol are searching the resort for a missing skier, 43-year-old Rory Angelotta of Truckee who hasn’t been seen since Christmas Day when he went skiing. Search efforts are made more difficult due to high avalanche danger, strong winds, whiteout flurries, frigid temperatures, and heavy snow.

Fortunately, the heavy snow is contributing to a “right-side-up snowpack,” meaning earlier storms were wetter with higher elevation snow, then temperatures and snow levels dropped, meaning long-term avalanche risk will be lessened across the Sierra Nevada range.

Although a wet pattern is favored for the remainder of December and drought conditions are forecasted to improve in parts of central and northern California, more precipitation is needed and drought remains region-wide according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. All of California and Nevada is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional Drought, affecting 37,253,956 California residents and 2,700,551 more in Nevada.