Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Perfect Storm, Tahoe Style

Pyramid Peak in the Crystal Range (southwest of Mt. Tallac)

We're coming around the final turn in our biggest storm of the early season, and it was a great one with lots of high-moisture snow at higher elevations. Yes, that means the wet, heavy stuff, which is exactly what the resorts want in the early season. Why? Because it puts down a base that provides solid cover for slope debris and irregularities. And when we get the inevitable string of hot-sun, postcard days, the higher moisture content means the snow won't easily evaporate away. (Scientists call that sublimation.)
Because this storm had relatively high snow levels, long-term locals were especially pleased. At our house, we had major periods of thick, heavy, slushy flakes, melting as they fell out of the sky. (We call these things slush storms.) As of this writing, it looks like the mountains have gotten two to three feet, while our walk and drive have stayed mostly clear. Perfect.
Early Sunday morning, the snow level is supposed to rise to 9000 feet - ouch - then drop back down to 6500. Perfecter.
It's no small thing that in a storm like this, most of the roads also stay clear, easy for the plow crews, and easy for us and tourists alike to get around town. But just “up there,” not far above the tops of the trees, those flakes stay snow. After the 2010-2011 season when we got something like 700 inches (55 feet) on the West Shore, we don't mind snow that stays "up there."
Echo Summit Highway (lower center) with Steven's Peak left rear and Roundtop Mountain, far right rear

In another three or four weeks, most people will want three feet of fluffy white stuff at lake level for that holiday feel. We will, too. But that can happen in three weeks. Perfecter and perfecter.


  1. Glad you wrote about the snow up there. We're living in the heavy rains in Marin:)

    1. I hope you're not in a flood zone! Our creeks up here are overflowing, so I imagine that those in Marin are, too. Things cleared for a bit this afternoon, and the mountains were spectacularly white. Sun tomorrow, so things will dry a bit before - yikes - more precipitation mid-week!