Tagged la nina

More signs it was a big winter

May...or July?

It may be the last day of July, but given the amount of snow I encountered in two totally different places this weekend, it’s clear that the winter of 2010/11 is still having repercussions.  Typically at this time of year the wildflowers are peaking and trails are mostly melted out.  This year, not so much.

On Saturday, my friend C and I decided to see if one of the higher elevation sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail between Star Lake and Freel Pass was clear enough to ride.  It’s a section of trail that allows you to connect some terrific longer mountain bike rides, either to Armstrong Pass, Saxon Creek (Mr. Toads), or the Big Meadow trail head.  Usually this time of year, there’s few if any patches of snow.

We learned firsthand that this is not a typical year, what with snow patches that started less than a quarter mile from Star Lake.  Patches large enough to require some maneuvering to get a leg up, say nothing for a mountain bike.  Oddly enough we saw few footprints on the snow, and no tire tracks.  Highly unusual for this time of year, but perhaps indicative that it’s not as well traveled a mountain bike trail as, say, Mr. Toad’s.  No matter, for there were still ample trail options, and we decided to descend to High Meadow and then down the Cold Creek trail.  The Forest Service is building single track from High Meadow to Star Lake, but it’s not accessible just yet, so if you do ride down from there as we did, be prepared for some steep and rocky fire road action, interspersed with some fun (read: deeper than normal) stream crossings.   But the newly redone Cold Creek trail more than makes up for the wet feet.

This morning N and I headed to the Mokelumne Wilderness at Carson Pass to get the dog out and check out the snow to wildflowers ratio.

Round Top Carson Pass Snow
Wishing he'd brought the skis

From our starting point at Carson Pass, the hike to Winnemucca Lake isn’t long – 4 miles round trip – but offers great bang for the buck with the proliferation of wildflowers, and is usually very popular at this time of year for that very reason.  The flowers were blooming (though probably won’t peak for few weeks), but despite that, there was still quite a bit of snow.  Definitely enough to ski on, were you so inclined.  We didn’t continue on to Round Top lake, but based on the hikers we saw further on, the trail looked to be more snow than not.  Which means a) that backcountry skiing is still very much on out there right now and b) that the wildflowers up there should peak around Labor Day.

Wildflowers & Snow capped mountains
Skiable lines & summer wildflowers

Oh, and that ratio of snow to flowers? Probably 50-50 right now.

Winter may be over, but La Nina is still having her last laugh.  Which should make for great trail conditions well into October. As well as an extended wildflower season.

Tahoe storm cycle hilarity

Well, the storm is here, and while many folks wish it were a few degrees cooler, it’s definitely snowing if you’re in the sweet spot elevation, which at this exact moment in time could be anywhere between 7000 – 7500 feet.  Apparently there’s a bit of a battle between air currents, and Alaska’s not kicking Hawaii’s butt with the aggression we need.  This explains the Armageddon like warnings about having sandbags, water and an extra side of beef on hand.

That said, we did go skiing today.  For something different, we headed to Heavenly’s Nevada side.  It’s snow report indicated 20 inches in 24 hours, and we knew that its higher elevation meant a lesser chance of encountering rain-soaked snow.  It didn’t rank up there with the best snow of the season, but it was fast snow, it was fun (it was skiing!), and there were very few people there.  That meant no lift lines and limited areas we could access off the 3 open lifts weren’t tracked out right away.

The snow being what it was, with interesting layers and a crust in places, you had to be on your game on your skis.  The slightest hint of imbalance, and well, you were going down, usually with enough speed to induce whiplash.  On every lift ride up, we saw at least one person on their back feebly moving their skis in the air in an effort to clamber out of the snow.  My giggling tempted karma, as it later happened to me after I went over a small rollover faster than I realized.  Wha-BAM.  Because I never to anything halfway, I found myself with a bleeding lip and a dazed expression when I finally untangled myself.  Luckily, Nils did witness the magic as it happened.  Unfortunately, he had no video camera to capture the incident.

But snow is snow, and stormy days are my favorite days, even if I’m required to dress in a silly amount of layers to keep warm.

The battle of the non-contiguous states is expected to continue through Monday, with the potential for a lot of snow, snain or rain.  I’ve got money that Alaska will win out, though the realist in me is wearing my waterproof jacket the next few days.

Timing is everything

Amazing what a cell phone can capture

Mother Nature’s timing has been spot-on this season.  Yesterday’s storm and subsequent bluebird day today happened after  I had finished various larger projects, including a social media workshop I presented at in Carson Valley yesterday, as well as a social media class I just finished teaching at the local community college.

While last night’s drive back from the Carson Valley was a bit spicy, I figured that it was a necessary sacrifice to ski powder.  Ski resorts around Lake Tahoe were crowing about the snowfall this morning, so I knew I had to get out for a few hours in the name of ‘product testing’.  After a wet start yesterday, I was stoked to find very fluffy, very cold powder snow at Heavenly.   Coverage for this time of year is remarkable, and I’m still a bit shocked that I was able to ski multiple runs down Gunbarrel without hitting any major rocks.  I even skied some other areas that I typically don’t attempt until well later in the season, and the light, dry powder snow hid no rocks or other ski-damaging obstacles.  Quelle chance!

Telemarking in powder = fun

It’s unusual for me to bring my camera and actually try to take photos of people skiing, as I’m one that doesn’t have the patience to faff around, especially when there’s powder snow to ski.  However, in an effort to actually provide images both for this blog and for some other projects, I decided to try to remember to take photos.  Given my lack of skill, and the fact that much of the best snow was in the shaded trees, most pictures aren’t worth posting here.  But it’s a start, however small.

There’s a much bigger storm forecast to arrive for the weekend, and I’ve decided that if it actually delivers what forecasters are saying, I’ll be claiming more than a few vacation days next week.

Anyone wanna join me?