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Tahoe Nugget #210:

Tahoe Skiing July 4
July 7, 2011

The 2011 Independence Day weekend will be remembered for years to come as a ski holiday as several Tahoe-based resorts fired up their chairlifts. Depending on your perspective, it was either the first day of the upcoming 2012 season or the last day for 2011. Being a value-oriented consumer, I counted skiing July 3 at Alpine Meadows as the first day on my 2012 season pass.

I have a correction to make. During the epic 2011 winter, I ran a series of Tahoe Nuggets that summarized where the winter snowfall ranked on the historic scale based on measurements taken near Donner Pass by scientists at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory starting in 1946.

Nugget #210 July 3 Summit Chair  Alpine
Riding the six pack Summit chair at Alpine Meadows ski area on July 3, 2011.

I recently discovered that I erred when converting the metric values for total snowfall for the winter of 2006. In fact , the 709 inches (59 feet) of snow tallied in 2006 exceeded the 643 inches measured in 2011. That adjustment drops the ranking for the winter 2011 to the fourth snowiest since 1946, not the third. It also nudges 2011 down to ninth snowiest since 1878, not the eighth. (I apologize to those fans keeping track at home.)

Water year 2011 continues to climb higher in the historic rankings for precipitation. A recent June 29 downpour added another 1.3 inches to the year's accumulation, pushing 2011 past several more winters to eighth wettest since 1946 with 83.3 inches so far. The Sierra Nevada water year doesn't end until September 30 so it's possible that the historic precipitation rankings may change again. In case you're curious how much precipitation fell in 2006, the 91-inch total made it the fourth wettest season since 1946.

Nugget #210 July 3 Alpine Family  Tahoe
Mom and kids at Alpine Meadows posing for posterity on July 3.

This past weekend Tahoe resorts operated chairlifts for the first time since the mid 1990s, but the first organized July 4 ski competitions in the Sierra occurred nearly 80 years ago at the future site of Sugar Bowl. On July 4, 1932, the Auburn Ski Club sponsored a two-mile co-ed cross-country ski race there. A zany contest, many of the younger women wore "modified ski outfits featuring shorts and bare legs."

Nugget #210 Whittell Lake  Colors
Big July snowpack adds a little magic to this Tahoe summer.

Top ranked jumpers were also invited to hike up the mountain to launch off a recently-constructed ramp. On his last leap, young Wayne Poulsen, future founder of Squaw Valley, slipped just before he got to the takeoff, knocking down a pair of skis standing in the snow and sending one tip-first toward a large group of spectators at the base of the hill. It missed the head of Wendell Robie, President of the Auburn Ski Club and Chief Judge in the competition by just three inches. Needless to say, Poulsen did not win.

Nugget #210 July 4 1932 Sugar  Bowl
On July 4, 1932, U.S. Olympian jumper Roy Mikkelsen shared the limelight with a bathing beauty.

The Sierra's first mid-summer ski competition concluded later that day, after which the sunburned skiers and spectators returned to their lairs for a hearty round of nightcaps and summer revelry in the mountains. Considering the crowds that swarmed Tahoe's bars and restaurants this holiday weekend, it's obvious that some things never change.

Click for 1 minute video: Skiing Tahoe July 3, 2011

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