Alpine Meadows, CA Report: Firm and Fast in the Morning, Spring Conditions in the Afternoon

Galen Carrico | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Skier carving through the shadows at Alpine Meadows. Photo: Galen Carrico

This report is from January 16, 2021, at Alpine Meadows, California. 

Brought to you by Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows

It was a bright, blue morning at Alpine Meadows and I was able to watch the sunrise over Scott Peak on my first chairlift ride. The snow was hard and fast in the morning and the park crew was putting the finishing touches on the terrain park. The snow on the mountain had a shiny glare to it after a hard refreeze the night before. It was 33 degrees Fahrenheit when I parked the car but the high temperatures would get into the high 40s and even low 50s in the afternoon.

A snowboarder enjoying the early-morning groomers. Photo: GC

First thing in the morning, everything off-piste was bulletproof and gnarly but the groomers were firm and fast. It was clear the rain and warmer temperatures from earlier in the week really firmed up everything. On some of the intermediate trails, the grooming crew left a shreddable, chunky surface that made it feel like skiing on a snowcone. You could really slash the snow even though it had not been softened up yet by the sun. It was very different from corduroy and a fun surface to enjoy some early morning turns.

Sunspot was one of the better runs in the morning. Photo: Galen Carrico

The key was following the sun just like on a spring day. The best runs of the morning for me were on “Sunspot”, a run accessible from Summit with an epic view of Lake Tahoe in the distance. Since the run faces South, it softened up early. Wearing only a softshell, I was completely comfortable all day and it felt great to soak up some sun. I overheard someone say it felt like April.

I rode every main open lift on the mountain, including Alpine Bowl for the first time this season. I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned double chair, especially when I’m skiing solo. It was nice to ride up with no lift line and take some mellow rides and take in the sun and views.

Skiers enjoying the firm morning snow. Photo: GC

Like most of the holiday weekends so far this season, the mountain was not very crowded and with all of the terrain open, I only waited a few minutes in line even though I rode single the entire day. Even on Summit, the lines moved quickly. Lodging has also resumed after the announcement that the stay-at-home order has been lifted for the greater Sacramento, California area.

For my final run of the day, I traversed into the upper bowls to the skier’s left of the Summit Chair. The afternoon temperatures had softened up anything in the sun and a lot of people had already left. The off-piste runs that had been bulletproof earlier had finally softened up enough to make it feel like a “Juneuary” spring day.

The view from the top of Alpine Bowl with Lake Tahoe in the background. Photo: GC
Social distancing… Photo: GC

One of the best parts about skiing in the Sierra is that when it is not storming, we can enjoy beautiful, spring-like days like those on tap for this holiday weekend. Cold overnight freezes followed by warm afternoon temperatures make it easy to get out and explore some new terrain while preparing the legs for (hopefully) deeper days ahead. There are some chances for snow in the forecast towards the end of next week so hopefully, the Sierra will be getting a refresh. Firm conditions and obstacles are out there but follow the sun for the next few days and you should be able to carve some nice turns.


Credit: SVAM, 1/17/21.
Credit: NRCS


The crew put in some work to give the terrain park a nice refresh. Photo: GC
Webcam shot of Alpine Meadows on 1/17/21 at 1 pm (PST). Looks gorgeous once again. Photo:

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