Jul 02 2011

Tahoe Turns in July 2011

That negative stuff I was saying about Tahoe snow conditions not being reliable for spring may usually be true, but right now I’m here to tell you about how amazing the ski conditions are for Summer 2011.

Plenty of snow in Tahoe for July. South side of Castle Peak shown.

Ordinarily there wouldn’t be any skiing in Tahoe once the calendar said it was summer. But the Ten-11 season was a whopper, so we not only have lots of snow still up in the mountains around Tahoe (as well as much of the Sierra and Mt. Shasta) but the quality is good too.

The problem with spring skiing in Tahoe is the snow usually gets mushy early, and stays mushy until it has all melted away. But this year there was so much snow that when it finally turned to summer, it did melt and consolidate but now what remains is as consolidated as any perfect spring melt-freeze snowpack you’ll ever experience. The difference is, it is soooo consolidated that it won’t mush out.

Just because I could I went for a short tour up to Mt. Judah today. I didn’t start until 4pm from Sugar Bowl’s Judah parking lot. I had to walk up to the top of the beginner lift, about 150 vertical feet. Just past there I was able to latch in to a pair of Karhu Guides (Madshus Annum has the same dimensions, construction, and pattern underneath, just a different logo and paint job on top). I brought a pair of skins but didn’t need ‘em. The snow was soft enough and the pattern good enough that I was able to maintain a steady 10° meanderthal track to the top of the Judah lift on a west facing slope with continuous coverage all the way to the top. There were a few places where the options were thin, but the snow was wide enough, and thick enough to keep me above the rocks beneath. Looking behind me, the east face of Disney looked primed for their planned 4th of July ski day.

Watermelon snow is showing up in the Sierra.

The snow was rather dirty, covered in bark, needles, dirt, pollen, and algae (pink snow, aka Chlamydomonas nivalis), but that only improved the grip for the uphill skiing. As soon as I pointed ‘em down, it cruised like perfect spring corn. It was absolutely delightful. There were a few sun cups, but they were shallow thanks to a recent rain and snow event two days ago, and it was butter soft.

So if you still have ski fever and you’re hankering to make turns there are plenty of backcountry options, or if you prefer, the lifts are running at Mammoth all weekend, and at Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl on Monday the 4th of July. Deb and I are going to Sugar Bowl just to say we did, but even that wouldn’t be enough if the conditions weren’t good, but they are.

After that, I think I’ll finally be ready to call it quits for the Ten-11 season. Unless, of course, I decide to go to Shasta.

© 2011

PS: Even the Wall Street Journal knows the score.

  • Toby

    The snow up here is still so amazing. Im still skiing lines that I usually ski in winter. On July first I pushed my bike up High Meadows road at 5:00 AM to 8,500′, where the snow line started. I was able to skin most of the way to the top of Tahoe, Freel Peak (10,881′). The snow was perfect spring conditions, I was able to link about 20 turns together on the upper bowl of freel and skirted through the trees for a few more hundred feet. All together I skied more than 2,200′ ON JULY 1ST!!! Awesome!

    So many people in south lake seem completely over the snow, they all just want to get lazy at the beach. Who could blame them, we had one long winter, and our summer will be over before we know it, Im sure. I may be over skiing everyday at this point, but I am not putting my skis away this year. My goal is to ski at least two days each month for the rest of 2011. Wish me luck. To happy trails and snowy turns.