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Tahoe Nugget #56:

Is this really a "Miracle March?" (2 Photos )
March 15, 2006

Word on the street and slope is that we've got another "Miracle March" on our hands. It's true that Squaw Valley has received about 13.5 feet of snow in the first 15 days of March (it has snowed everyday so far this month and the next two days will bring more). For skiers and boarders, this month's cold and wet storm pattern is a miracle that has blessed them with bottomless amounts of fluffy snow, often boasting a water to snow ratio between 1:20 to 1:30 (meaning 1 inch of water = 20 to 30 inches of snow), just like Utah's champagne powder.

The buzz about a "Miracle March" is a reference to 16 years ago, when at the peak of the most severe drought since the Dust Bowl, heavy snowfall in March 1991 saved the Tahoe-Truckee region from setting a record for the driest winter ever. It was tough around here in February 1991. The lake was at its lowest level in history and the snowpack down to 19% of normal. Needless to say, ski conditions were terrible. Retail sales at Tahoe ski shops plummeted 33% from the year before, lodging fell 40% in the same time frame, and worst of all, unemployment was up 145%.

Ultimately, the 1991 March storms boosted the meager Tahoe snowpack significantly: fresh snowfalls ranged from 14 feet at Northstar to 20 feet at Sugar Bowl. The runoff gave a much needed hydrologic injection into Lake Tahoe. The long, dry winter quickly morphed into a decent water year and skiers finally had a chance to hit the slopes in conditions they expect here in the High Sierra.

As impressive as it has been so far, by definition, March 2006 could never be a classic "Miracle March." Precipitation this year was already running at 150% of average before the month began. Lake Tahoe is up more than 3 feet this winter to healthy levels and the spring runoff hasn't even started. We need no miracles, we're already blessed with a bountiful harvest.

*Kirkwood is claiming 50 feet of snow so far this winter; the snowpack on the upper slopes there is nearly 24 feet deep.

Photo #1: One of my powder tracks at Homewood today, March 15, 2006
Photo #2: Deferred to eye candy rather than a serious image topic. From Homewood today.

Nugget #56 A Powder tracks Homewood 3-0604

Nugget #56 B snow scene Homewood 3-06 copy

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