Winter is upon us! Here’s a few things to consider
Written by Matthew Beals
Welcome to Winter in October! While I usually loathe to jinx the season with over-optimism, the goods are here and this season has already over-delivered: the storm we just saw had the offshore barometric pressure of a hurricane, delivering record precipitation to some areas and instantly building a base to support October opening dates for Palisades Tahoe and Mammoth.
I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that an epic fire season is coming to a close with a solid dousing of precipitation (8 trillion gallons by some accounts). Weather nerds can’t help but talk about La Niña, while seasoned Sierra residents know not to trust any forecast more than 3 days out. As they say, if you don’t like the weather in the mountains, wait 5 minutes or hike 5 miles. Personally I’m one to stay focused on the present, but I do think there are a few trends worth watching as the season develops. Here’s what’s on my radar:
Okay let’s talk about it. This weather pattern typically predicts a wetter season North of the jetstream, and a dryer season to the South. What’s that mean for Tahoe? Not much. We sit right on the border between wetter and dryer, and La Niña years for our region can still mean anything goes. It can also mean wetter but warmer, delivering as much rain as snow (yuck). It is, however, worth noting that this season is already both colder and wetter, with the La Niña pattern coming in overall colder than expected. So color me cautiously optimistic on this front.
If you’re paying attention at all, you’ve probably noticed some wonkiness this Summer in what goods are available or mysteriously lacking. I think we all supposed this was caused by staffing shortages from Covid impacts or the “Great Resignation,” but recent news seems to indicate that it also has to do with record purchasing. Which dovetails into our next trend….
Interest in Backcountry Skiing/Riding
The joys of human-powered backcountry sports have been discovered. Type 2 fun, it seems, is trending. Coupled with limited supply, this explosion of interest sent gear flying off the shelves last season. Let’s learn from history: get your goods and gear quick, before they run out. If you’re interested in Avy courses, guided skiing/riding, or hut trips, book it now. You’ll earn both good karma and style points for buying from local Tahoe businesses that are recovering from the impacts of recent fires.
Still in crisis, ever deeper in crisis. What’s that got to do with me, you say? The staffing crisis affecting the rest of the world has been doubly impacting mountain towns as we’ve also seen demand for housing ratchet up considerably. When visiting the mountains, be extra kind, be patient, and tip your waiter, shop tech, guide, and anybody else who’s showing up and working hard to make your vacation rad. Chances are they saw their rent go up substantially in the past year, and are probably hurting from a Summer season marred by smokey conditions and cancelled trips.
I’m not talking politics, but get this: in North Tahoe we’ve had four significant power outages in the last two weeks. One took out most of the county for several hours. And every storm so far has resulted in a closure of the I-80 due to wrecked big rigs or trailers. Remember that a big season means big traffic and road hazards. Get some chains for your car and throw them in the trunk along with a roadside kit that will keep you warm and comfortable for a multi-hour layover in cold conditions. If you’re driving up Friday and down Sunday, be prepared to be in the thick of it, especially if there’s a storm hitting.
Get Out There!
It’s still early, but we’re all getting stoked about the potential for a big Winter. Bottom line: be kind, be prepared, always check the forecast (weather and avy danger)… and remember that any time spent sliding on snow is a good time, as long as it’s with good people! Never too early get your crew dialed and up-to-date with their avalanche education.
In addition to our top-notch AIARE courses on a newly refined hybrid platform (also available fully in-person again), I’m excited that we offer a full Intro to Backcountry progression that takes you from bare basics to ski mountaineering. My ticklist includes the Truckee Skyline Traverse and a trip to check out the new backcountry huts at Frog Lake. And although it’s still too early to talk about Spring, it’s hard not to look at recent photos of Shasta and dream about honing our mountaineering skills (while searching for UFOs).
See you out there!