Skiers and snowboarders enjoying late summer snow
August 26, 2011
There are few places in California where people can see snow year-round, let alone, ride or ski it. But this year, Lake Tahoe might be one of those places.
“I’ve never gone this late in the season,” said Joanna Dzierzawski, a South Lake Tahoe snowboarder. “There was plenty of snow up at the second patch and I’m pretty sure you could just keep finding more and more up higher.”
Last weekend, Dzierzawski and friends took a camping trip near Red Lakes out Highway 88 to catch some late season runs. What they found was a snowpack that has a chance at making into next winter. And conditions weren’t too bad.
“The snow was definitely pretty hard in the morning,” Dzierzawski said. “But it softened up when the sun came over the mountains.”
At the top of the gully where the patch sits, South Shore resident Mike Thomas, who also went on the camping trip, estimated the snow at 25-feet deep and thinning out towards the bottom. With plenty of room, the group set up a handful of terrain park features, from jumps to rails and boxes.
“It was a really good time,” Thomas said. “People were just coming up and enjoying the snow.”
One indicator of how much snow is left in the mountains is to gauge how much water is still flowing in local streams. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the flows from the Sierra are still far above average.
Thursday, Trout Creek was running at 320 percent of average, in a the “much above normal” class. On the West Shore, Blackwood Creek was at 235 percent of average. Through the first 21 days of August, the American River was running at more than 300 percent of average for that time of year, according to the Department of Water Resources.
“Either there was a lot of water coming out of the ground or we’re just starting to see the snow at the highest elevations begin to melt,” said DWR engineer Steve Nemeth.
Pyramid Peak has snow covering about half of its north side. Just below, Lake Aloha is brimming at the top of its dam.
Around the lake, 17 of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s 24 working Tahoe region snow data collectors are still showing some snow depth as of Thursday. Manual measurements of the snowpack stopped in May and few automatic data collectors exist at the higher elevations in the region.
It is a possibility for snow to last year-round in the Sierra, though it’s more likely in the Southern Sierra than the Tahoe region, Nemeth said. But by the looks of things up at “the Patch,” it might be a 365 day ski season.
“I think it’ll get smaller, but I don’t think it’ll melt away,” Thomas said.