Only one word can describe how the skiing has been in the Tahoe backcountry the past few weeks: variable. Depending what aspects and elevations you decide to check out, you can expect to find recycled powder, corn, corny chowder, dirt, firm crusts, and wind blown chalk. Just because it’s variable doesn’t mean it’s bad, however. Given the fact that it’s been a few solid weeks since the last real storm, the skiing is damn fine if you know what you’re looking for and where to look.
On the north and west shores of Tahoe you can currently find recycled powder on north through east aspects in wind-sheltered areas. In general you are going to have to stay in or near the trees to find snow that hasn’t been affected too much by the strong winds that we saw through the holidays. As you descend lower, the recycled pow might turn more into sticky slush, so keep those elevations high. We are also still facing a pathetically shallow to non-existant snowpack below about 7,500 feet, so if you do decide to ski something on the west shore, be prepared to hike on dirt for the first 1,000 feet or so. If you want to keep your boots clean, then stick to the higher trailheads such as Mt. Rose or Donner Pass.
We took a quick trip down to the east side last week in search of bigger lines, but were snuffed out due to a extremely low-tide conditions. That being said, a few classic north through east facing lines on some of the 12-14,000 peaks looked like they were in from a distance. To be safe, I wouldn’t recommend heading down to the east side until we get another big storm or two. It sounds like Sonora Pass and other areas north of Mammoth have better coverage. If bigger terrain is calling your name then that is the direction I would head, if you are set on staying in the Sierras.
Stability-wise things are pretty good right now in the Tahoe area. There has been some significant faceting and surface hoar growth during this damned high-pressure system, so expect things to be a little touchy when (or should I say if) we get our next significant storm.
All in all, if you know where to look there are some sweet turns to be had right now. Hopefully we get back in the storm track soon. Keep those fingers crossed and feet dancing.