One bad snow season is enough to make any skier or snowboarder lose a significant portion of their sanity. Two bad snow seasons in a row creates widespread, infectious disillusionment. Three bad seasons in a row may very well cause exodus.
“It just doesn’t snow here anymore.” – Chris, Tahoe local
“I didn’t even get a pass this year. What’s the point? Especially when it’s been so nice here in the Bay.” – Peter in San Francisco
Lake Tahoe, California is teetering on the edge of experiencing it’s third bad winter in a row. We’ve yet to see a big storm this winter and it’s already December 19th. That in itself isn’t shockingly rare. What’s causing locals to fret is the forecast. The current forecast is showing nothing but sun and above average temperatures into the year 2014. Locals know this only too well and you can see the disenchantment on their faces and hear the despair in their voices.
“LOOKING AHEAD, NO END IN SIGHT TO THE DRY PATTERN.” – National Weather Service, December 18th, 2013
This lack of snow problem compounds itself when you realize that Tahoe has only about 3-10 slushy inches of snowpack right now and that it’s going to take a few big storms to fill this place in enough to allow for meaningful off-piste skiing and riding. With zero storms on the horizon, we’ll be fortunate to have a decent base by February.
So, where are we right now, snow-wise, and how bad were the past two winters? I gave Randal Osterhuber, lead scientist at the UC Berkeley Donner Summit Snow Laboratory, a call yesterday to find out.
This Season, as of December 18th, 2013, we’ve received a meager 46 inches of snowfall. The average snowfall total for Dec. 18th is 91 inches. That puts us at only 50% of average snowfall thus far this season. For precipitation, we’re at 41% of average. For snow depth, we’re at only 37% of average currently with only 11 inches on the ground at 6,900 feet at the snow lab and it’s melting fast…
Last winter, was the second least snowy year on record with only 230″ of annual snowfall putting us at 53% of the average annual snowfall. The winter before that, 2011/12, we did a little better with 326 inches of annual snowfall putting us at 80% of our average annual snowfall, but we didn’t get our first storm that year until January 20th.
Expectations for this winter are already low leading us to ask the ugly question: “Is Tahoe Broken?”
Most likely not, but it sure feels that way right now. Tahoe has experience droughts before with extremely dry periods in the 70s and 80s being infamous around here. In 1977, Tahoe had it’s worst snow year on record with only 183″ of snow putting that year at 45% of average annual snowfall.
“Many of the pros around here have already left to find snow or have moved away. The past two years scared them off and what we’re seeing so far isn’t encouraging.” – John, local business owner
So how does one stay positive about the current state of Tahoe snow? We stay positive like we always do around here: We go skiing and riding, we remain thankful that we live in such a gorgeous place, and we playfully tease our minds with the knowledge that at anytime a large, powerful series of storms can form and intensify in the Gulf of Alaska while high pressure sets in over British Columbia dropping the Jet Stream straight down to Northern California sending us our beloved atmospheric rivers along with cold temperatures resulting in copious amounts of snow sending the rest of the skiing and snowboarding world into a frenzied, jealous awe. That’s how.