This article was originally published by Zeb Blais on Blackbirdmountainguides.com
Tahoe just got completely plastered with snow. Typical of many Tahoe storms, this one began warm and wet and got increasingly colder and deeper by the time the storm clouds significantly cleared yesterday.
The previous base was nil on many aspects prior to this storm, with north aspects above 7,000′ holding onto some snow grains from our last cold front on 10/18/2021. Luckily this storm dropped so much that it didn’t matter whether the base was snow or rock. You weren’t going to hit bottom unless you dropped a cliff or plunged a full pole depth to the ground.
Here are some stats from the storm:
This massive amount of new snow stacked up even more on Mount Rose, where the Mt Rose Snowtel Site had logged over 38″ of accumulated snow by this morning. The snow had stacked up well in most places to make for a “right-side-up” snowpack with density going from 14% on the 24th to 11% on the 25th.
Our Tour: October 25, 2021, Mt Rose Lake Tahoe Backcountry
I met up with fellow Blackbird Guide, Jason Smith, and local ripper Josh Anderson to check out the goods in the Mount Rose backcountry on Monday. Overall, we were blown away by the ski quality, especially for October. Josh, a Turns All Year fanatic for the last 6 years, proclaimed it was the best October turns he’s ever made.
Often times in backcountry skiing, the early bird gets the worm. With this storm, early birds earned a massive amount of wallowing, breaking trail for subsequent skiers to get further and deeper. Often thigh deep, with no supportable base at any depth in the snowpack, the trail breaking was brutal on the 25th.
Our timing was good, with some trail already broken (some by Josh on an earlier run) and we were able to push out as far as Proletariat bowl. The snow stability was surprisingly good for such a huge amount of snow, mostly due to minimal wind transport and slab development. We felt comfortable with terrain into the low 30s after making numerous observations of the snowpack, including mitt pits, skin track stomps, and ski pole penetrometers (ok…go ahead and add your own penetrometer joke here).
We closed out our day with some great turns on Proletariat Bowl, along with some shredders from Reno-based Moment Skis. The weather stayed cold for most of the day maintaining the weak, soft snow surface. Intermittent rays of strong October sun built a light crust on solar aspects, but anything that was sheltered remained cold and deep through the end of the day.
Our Tour: October 26, 2021, Mt Rose Lake Tahoe Backcountry
Too much of a good thing is never enough, so I returned to Rose with @terrainman today, this time to Tamarack area. Winds were light to moderate overnight and the major changes in the snow were settlement…which was a good thing and what we were hoping for. Skinning was much easier and the snow was a little faster since the snow was more supportable.
There were also a lot more tracks. Despite the people, there were plenty of turns to be had, and overall the day was excellent ski quality, cool temps, and stable snow in this area. Evidence of wind transport and a few pockets of wind slab did keep us on our toes.
Wind slabs had formed mostly lower on the slopes and we didn’t notice any avalanche activity or significant slab character in the steeper slopes of Hourglass or Proletariat Bowls. It was obvious there was a wind effect, but nothing like this large avalanche reported near Stevens Peak in South Lake Tahoe.
Snow further out (west) in Hourglass Bowl was a bit slabby mid-slope and a small, unsupported pocket released as I skied above my partner’s tracks. The slab was highly variable and inconsistent across the slope, and we had not observed any significant hard-over soft layering on any avalanche terrain during our tour.
Overall, excellent skiing for October and good snow stability. This is going to change quickly as wind, sun, and temps affect the snow. Keep an eye out for recent observations on the Sierra Avalanche center site and continue making your own pertinent observations in avalanche terrain!