Winter has really turned herself on here in Tahoe over the last few weeks. The recent storm system dropped anywhere from 12-22 inches up high, and it has made for some awesome skiing conditions.
Prior to this storm system, north aspects over 8,000 feet were still holding good, cold, wintery snow, and things have only gotten better since the last weather event. The skiing on the west shore has really opened up, but is still a little thin down low due to the high snow levels that have accompanied the last few storms.
The coverage in the Mt. Rose area has been sweet because of the 8000+ foot trailheads, but they only picked up a few inches with the last system. It also seems like everyone and their mother has heard about the coverage on Rose, and thus most of the usually popular spots are seeing even more traffic than normal. It’s worth adding some distance to your approach if you want to really feel like you’re skiing in the backcountry rather than feeling like you’re at Squaw on a Saturday.
Stability-wise things have been pretty good. Before this last system, there were worries about the persistent weak layers living at the bottom of our snowpack not being able to handle the new load of snow. This problem layer still exists on localized north and northeast aspects above 8,500 feet, however we have not seen a big slide break down to this layer yet. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen though. Persistent slab avalanches can happen without warning and it can be hard to test these persistent layers due to their depth in the snowpack, so make your terrain decisions accordingly.
The main instability to worry about now are isolated wind slabs that vary from 1-3 feet in depth on north-west through east aspects at and above treeline. These have been stabilizing significantly over the last few days, but breaking off a wind slab is still a possibility.
All in all the skiing in the Tahoe backcountry has been epic the last few weeks, and NOAA is calling for a series of small low pressure systems to move through the area this week, each of which could give us a little taste of powder. Lets hope this El Nino thing is legit and the storm track stays aimed in our direction for the remainder of the season.