Firm forecast: Riders, skiers undeterred by lack of new snow
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – One of the snowiest Decembers in Sierra Nevada history has been followed by one of the driest Januarys, leading ski patrollers to urge caution to skiers and snowboarders as they head out on the hill.
“We want to let people know to be careful,” said Hugh Ham, assistant patrol director at Sierra-at-Tahoe. “Conditions are hard and firm and fast because we’re in a melt-freeze.”
Ham recommended having sharp edges and staying on groomed runs to avoid firm snow. Off-piste runs are available, but skiers and riders may want to wait for it to soften up a bit before heading off groomed runs, Ham said.
Brian McNulty, 23, said he flew out from Philadelphia expecting “big powder,” but received a streak of Lake Tahoe’s famed 300 days of sunshine and a taste of its infamous “Sierra cement.”
Still, he was undeterred, riding Heavenly Mountain Resort until late in the afternoon Wednesday. He had several more days riding planned before heading home.
“The conditions really weren’t that bad,” McNulty said.
Groomed runs softened up as the day went on, but off-piste areas remained icy, McNulty said.
McNulty’s friend Mike Christy, 24, agreed, saying evaluating conditions, especially the conditions of terrain features and the people skiing or riding around you are the best ways to stay safe.
Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro also recommended taking skis and snowboards in for a tune, but said the resort’s fleet of snowcats has been opening new runs and keeping groomed runs fresh.
“Conditions are awesome,” Pecoraro said.
San Diego snowboarder Mark Carlile, 41, recommended staying out of the trees, but said groomed runs got better and better as Wednesday progressed.
“I was prepared for pretty crappy conditions, but actually it was pleasant,” Carlile said.
Beginner skier Kate Harris, 25, a visitor from Sheffield, England, said snow conditions were variable Wednesday, with some areas being icy, where others were soft. She said she preferred the soft snow a “bit better.”
“But we’re not falling down,” added Harris’ friend Melissa Mee, 25, “And if we’re not, I bet it’s fine for everyone else.”
The National Weather Service in Reno predicts slight chances of snow Saturday night through Sunday night. Clear skiers are predicted through much of next week.
The California Cooperative Snow Survey Program’s second survey of the years is scheduled for Friday at Phillips Station. California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said in a statement this week that he remains optimistic about state water supplies despite a less than precipitous January.
“Our always-changing weather reminds us that we must always practice conservation,” Cowin said. “We’re still optimistic we will have a good water supply year, but we’re only halfway through the winter and still face uncertainty about delivery restrictions as well as the weather.”
– Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Dylan Silver contributed to this story.