Tahoe Nugget #220:
Tahoe's Winter of Discontent
January 5, 2012
No doubt about it, winter 2012 is off to a monumentally slow start. Virtually no snow has fallen on the Tahoe Basin since the pittance we received at Thanksgiving, which is giving regional resorts
fits as they try to maintain a good sliding experience with man-made snow. A few ski areas have put their extensive snowmaking systems to good use and have opened a number of trails, but region-wide many
employees have been laid off or never even got a start day.
Closed chairlift at Sierra at Tahoe ski resort on Highway 50 near Echo Summit.
The Wall Street Journal reported that lift ticket sales at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley USA were off by
75 percent compared to last year during the all-important Christmas-New Year's holiday period. And that doesn't count the lost revenues from empty restaurants and bars.
Sierra at Tahoe shows off decent conditions on Dec. 26, 2011.
December 2011 was the second driest twelfth month in the central and northern Sierra since a regional index
was established in 1920. Only December 1989 was drier with zero snowfall measured, but at least in 1989 the resorts had picked up about four feet of snow in November which gave them a minimum base to work with.
Snow surveyors look for snow on Echo Summit Jan. 3, 2012.
State snow surveyors were out in force on January 3 looking for snow to measure. At 7,382 feet in elevation,
Echo Summit is one of the snowiest areas in the Sierra, located just south of Lake Tahoe. Surveyors found
only one seventh of an inch of snow, the lowest amount ever recorded at that site this time of year. Statewide, the snowpack water content is 19 percent of normal for the date.
Heat wave graphic from National Weather Service, Reno office.
A positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation is the likely culprit for the extremely dry weather, but at some point
the blocking high pressure in the eastern Pacific will move and the proverbial storm door will open. On a bright
note, travel has been easy and locals and visitors are hiking, ice skating, riding bikes and playing golf.
Brockway Golf Course on North Shore has reopened.
In addition to the seemingly endless bluebird days with cloudless skies, recently the Lake Tahoe Basin has
been experiencing a slew of record warm temperatures, which has put the kibosh on most snow making. Resorts like Heavenly Valley, Northstar California and Mt. Rose have the best conditions on limited terrain.
Donner Ski Ranch never even fired up a lift.
Skiers are reporting that the snow conditions at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley are starting to get thin.
The only skiable terrain that Homewood Mountain Resort can offer is at its base ($25 adult lift ticket) while Donner Ski Ranch never opened this season.
Homewood Mountain Resort has very little skiing terrain open.