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Tahoe Nugget #100:

Waiting for Snow
December 3, 2006

Winter is a little slow out of the gate this year, but that's nothing too unusual. Many Tahoe ski areas have recently opened for the season, but all of them have very limited operations and few runs are open. Conditions are better at Utah's Alta Ski Resort which is boasting a 44 inch mid-mountain base, 95 out of 116 runs open, and all 7 chairlifts turning.

Squaw Valley has received 40 inches of snow on its upper mountain so far, just a bit shy of the 47 inches of snow the Central Sierra averages in November. Forty inches ain't bad, but it's nowhere near enough to cover the rugged slopes. By this time last year, Squaw Valley had picked up 66 inches, on its way to an impressive season total of 628 inches (over 52 feet) during the 2005-06 winter season.

A sharp cold wave rolled through the West last week (you may have seen the snow falling during last Sunday night's NFL game in Seattle), which enabled our local resorts to fire up their snow guns. But during the last few days, a deep, persistent inversion has turned the normal atmospheric temperature scheme topsy-turvy. In normal conditions, temperatures cool as you gain altitude, but that profile is reversed during an inversion. Morning lows in Tahoe-Truckee have been in the single digits and low teens, but much warmer in the higher elevations.

On the morning of December 1, the air temperature atop Slide Mountain at over 9,000 feet was in the mid 30s, while at Sacramento (sea level) the thermometer had fallen to a frosty 30 degrees which tied the record low set in 1880. With overnight temperatures in the upper elevations remaining above freezing, the opportunity to make snow has been limited.

The NWS forecast for the next seven days in Tahoe contains no major storms, but it's still too early to panic. If the Storm King doesn't kick some big storms our way before the lucrative Christmas week holidays, however, it will be time to do the Pray for Snow dance.

Photo #1: Sparse snow on Castle Peak across Interstate 80 from the Boreal ski area.

Photo #2: Long line of skiers and boarders today (Sunday afternoon) at Boreal ski area located at Donner Pass. The resort is advertising "top to bottom" skiing, but the mountain still needs a lot more cover.

Photo #3: If you look carefully, you can see the Mountain Run at Squaw Valley. This narrow trail descends from the 8,200 foot level to the parking lot. Man-made snow made it happen this year.

Photo #4: Snowmaking is bringing the Lake View trail to life as it snakes its way down the ridgeline at the Incline Village ski resort of Diamond Peak.

Nugget 100 A Castle Peak Boreal sign copy

Nugget 100 B Boreal ski area 12-3-06 copy

Nugget 100 C Squaw Valley 12-3-06 copy

Nugget 100 D Diamond Peak Incline copy


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