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Typically, when are the best Tahoe conditions?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

Couple of New England ski buds have been hitting up Utah for the past couple of seasons, decided we're up for a change in 2012. As much as we'd love to try Whistler/Blackcomb, we have heard some horror stories about weather (fog/rain) which is obviously a gamble no matter where you go, plus the overall trip cost we've estimated to be much higher... we've enjoyed Utah so much due to the relatively low cost of having so many different mountains, affordable accomodations, rentals, and just overall convenience.

 

Any northern Tahoe regulars care to comment on when the "typical" season conditions are really good?  I followed the spring 2011 season and know things were unusually good late in the year, but our trips to date have been mid-January, although we'd certainly consider any "low weeks" in February or March as well.  If you were booking something ~4 months in advance, what timeframe would you feel "safe" knowing that conditions would be generally decent and enjoyable?

 

Thanks for any insight! 

 

~Mike from Boston

 

 

post #2 of 32

I've only lived in the Tahoe area for  one year so I may not be the best weather vane  to go by, but we had an incredible snow year in 2010-2011 with a snow drought for 5 weeks, all of January and first week of February.

See Snowfall totals on Northstar's web site here 

http://www.northstarattahoe.com/info/ski/the-mountain/snowfall.asp

 

I've been told by those who've lived here for a long time, that its a typical weather pattern, although the snow totals last season were extraordinary.

Hope this helps.

 

snowfalling.gif

 

It looks like La Nina is going to visit again!

yahoo.gif

post #3 of 32

January thru March are generally pretty safe but it always seems like we have at least one patch where it doesn't snow for 3 weeks...

post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 

Thanks TrekChick and xcSteve!   We were thinking March-ish for a change... January was good and not busy mid-week/mid-month in Utah so if we work around the common holidays and school vacations we should be alright... of course I also saw the EpicSki Get Together for 2/26-3/3 which seems like it might be a fun time and a good date range....  smile.gif

post #5 of 32

Whenever you plan your trip, be sure to post it in the Get Together area.  You'll be sure to have some Bears come out to show you around.  If you plan it during The EpicSki Gathering, you'll meet a whole bunch of bears, and maybe some beers!

 

post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

I've only lived in the Tahoe area for  one year so I may not be the best weather vane  to go by, but we had an incredible snow year in 2010-2011 with a snow drought for 5 weeks, all of January and first week of February.

See Snowfall totals on Northstar's web site here 

http://www.northstarattahoe.com/info/ski/the-mountain/snowfall.asp

 

I've been told by those who've lived here for a long time, that its a typical weather pattern, although the snow totals last season were extraordinary.

Hope this helps.

 

snowfalling.gif

 

It looks like La Nina is going to visit again!

yahoo.gif



Those bones will be GREAT weather vanes this year. 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

Whenever you plan your trip, be sure to post it in the Get Together area.  You'll be sure to have some Bears come out to show you around.  If you plan it during The EpicSki Gathering, you'll meet a whole bunch of bears, and maybe some beers!

 


..at some bars. 

 

post #7 of 32

You're counting on that, eh? tongue.gif

post #8 of 32

Are there any ski areas in western North America where the answer isn't basically March?  

post #9 of 32

I strongly recommend late March or April.  I consider the first half of the season -- through President's Week -- to be warmup.  After that, the crowds disperse, the deals multiply, and the conditions improve.  Starting late March, it's either dumping snow in the 20s or beautiful sunny skies in the 40s and 50s, and you can't go wrong with either.

 

I was literally just in the process of convincing family to come visit us for the first week of April for these very reasons.

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AeroSKI5150 View Post

Couple of New England ski buds have been hitting up Utah for the past couple of seasons, decided we're up for a change in 2012. As much as we'd love to try Whistler/Blackcomb, we have heard some horror stories about weather (fog/rain) which is obviously a gamble no matter where you go, plus the overall trip cost we've estimated to be much higher... we've enjoyed Utah so much due to the relatively low cost of having so many different mountains, affordable accomodations, rentals, and just overall convenience.

 

Any northern Tahoe regulars care to comment on when the "typical" season conditions are really good?  I followed the spring 2011 season and know things were unusually good late in the year, but our trips to date have been mid-January, although we'd certainly consider any "low weeks" in February or March as well.  If you were booking something ~4 months in advance, what timeframe would you feel "safe" knowing that conditions would be generally decent and enjoyable?

 

Thanks for any insight! 

 

~Mike from Boston

 

 



anytime but christmas

 

post #11 of 32

Late February and all of March is a safe bet for Tahoe.  The first half of January is very sketchy - it's not uncommon for there to be no storms whatsoever for a few weeks following New Years.  Historically speaking, and that even happened last year in what was one of the best storm years in a long time.

 

I'll be in Tahoe for a full week at the end of January / early February and I always bring "bad" weather with me, so keep that in mind as well.  wink.gif

post #12 of 32

 

Quote:
Late February and all of March is a safe bet for Tahoe.  The first half of January is very sketchy - it's not uncommon for there to be no storms whatsoever for a few weeks following New Years.

There is absolutely no evidence over the long term that Sierra droughts are more common any given midwinter week.   Early January is riskier because in some low snow years coverage of advanced/expert terrain is not yet adequate, while you're quite safe in that regard by late February.  

Quote:
Are there any ski areas in western North America where the answer isn't basically March?

I won't be naming names on that topic in this thread.rolleyes.gif  But low altitude and sun exposed slopes mean a swift transition to spring conditions in March.  There are degrees of effect here, but at usually it means that some slopes will have pleasant skiing only during certain hours of the day, and if you get cold weather without new snow most ungroomed slopes will not be fun with refrozen surfaces.  Western North America has numerous places with high altitude and north exposure where March is the optimal month.

 

With regard to the Sierra Mammoth is one of the best mountains anywhere in terms of high altitude and north exposure.  Kirkwood, Mt. Rose and the upper half of Heavenly are good too.  Under 8,000 feet be prepared for spring conditions in March if it hasn't snowed recently.

 

post #13 of 32

Hi all,

 

I should preface this post by saying that I'm from Singapore and absolutely unfamiliar with the whole Tahoe area.

 

I'm currently planning my first trip to Tahoe.  I'll probably be there mid December for 3 days (14 - 16 Dec).  I know it will be a big gamble with the snow conditions at that time of the year, but my dates are quite inflexible.

 

I'll be driving in from San Jose so if I read the maps correctly, I'd be closest to the North shore resorts such as Squaw and Alpine Meadows.  I'm very happy to stick around that area and ski those 2 mountains. 

 

Queries:-

 

  1. If you could compare Whistler Blackcomb's difficulty and terrain to both Squaw and AM, what would it be?  I've skied WB and  I manage the intermediate and single black diamond runs on WB comfortably, although I was usually with a ski school program or the mountain hosts.  However, I don't intend on taking ski lessons this trip, and I'm afraid I'll be out of my depth skiing alone, although I do want to try out the 'harder' runs on both mountains.
  2. As I have such a short time there, I hope to pack in as much time on the slopes as possible.  I read that Squaw has night skiing.  However, I couldn't find more on it.  From the trail map, it looks like there is only 1 run that is open?  Is the night skiing worth it?
  3. Any tips on accommodation in the area? I usually stay in the village area and being in walking distance to the lifts.  Do most people stay further away and drive and park to get to the slopes?  It seems that there are limited options for the 'village' accommodation.  I'll be on medium budget of $150 / night (twin share).
  4. As a tourist to not just Tahoe but to the USA, is there anything I should check out in the area? Is the lake/beach still accessible in Winter? 

 

 

Thanks in advance.  This forum has been really informative and helpful so far :)

 

Cheers

post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sannek View Post

I'll be driving in from San Jose so if I read the maps correctly, I'd be closest to the North shore resorts such as Squaw and Alpine Meadows.

 

Not really -- about equidistant to North and South Shore.
 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by sannek View Post

 

Is the night skiing worth it?

 

Probably not.  Also, I don't think it is likely to be available mid-week, and may not be available that early in the season at all.  You'll be able to get a lot of skiing in from 9 to 4.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sannek View Post
Any tips on accommodation in the area? I usually stay in the village area and being in walking distance to the lifts.  Do most people stay further away and drive and park to get to the slopes?  It seems that there are limited options for the 'village' accommodation.  I'll be on medium budget of $150 / night (twin share).

 

In addition to the Village at Squaw, slopeside options at Squaw include the Squaw Valley Lodge (and join their Granite Chief Club for cheaper deals), the Red Wolf Lodge, and the Olympic Village Inn.  At Alpine, the Stanford Alpine Chalet is walking distance from the lifts and reasonably priced.

 

A little further away, at the base of Alpine Meadows Road (almost equidistant between Squaw and Alpine), you can stay at the River Ranch Lodge.  Their fall season rates will still be in effect and fall under your budget.  I've not stayed there, but eat there pretty frequently.

 

post #15 of 32

What he said.

 

Also, consider the SVX program.  It's basically a 3-hour group lesson for level 7+ skiers.  I think it's $70 well spent.  Squaw is a huge mountain and it's hard to find the right stuff alone as a stranger.  Normally, Squaw doesn't differentiate a regular black-diamond from a death-defying line, except for the occasional "cliff" sign.  I often find myself skiing a little timid unless I'm with someone or I've done something before.  I've also heard of cases where lone skiers misjudge danger in the opposite direction.

 

All said, it sounds like a great trip.  It's hard to predict the snow.  I can predict the drive will take a minimum of 4 hours.

post #16 of 32

Of course, they're changing that this season with a new map that includes trail names and I assume black vs. double black distinctions.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post
Normally, Squaw doesn't differentiate a regular black-diamond from a death-defying line, except for the occasional "cliff" sign.


 

post #17 of 32

I'm just waiting to see a big sign on the middle finger stating its name and how many diamonds it is, updated for the current snow level, of course.

post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

I'm just waiting to see a big sign on the middle finger stating its name and how many diamonds it is, updated for the current snow level, of course.



How about a rating like:  "if you have to ask, then you shouldn't be here"

 

post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sannek View Post

  1. If you could compare Whistler Blackcomb's difficulty and terrain to both Squaw and AM, what would it be?  I've skied WB and  I manage the intermediate and single black diamond runs on WB comfortably, although I was usually with a ski school program or the mountain hosts.  However, I don't intend on taking ski lessons this trip, and I'm afraid I'll be out of my depth skiing alone, although I do want to try out the 'harder' runs on both mountains.
  2. As I have such a short time there, I hope to pack in as much time on the slopes as possible.  I read that Squaw has night skiing.  However, I couldn't find more on it.  From the trail map, it looks like there is only 1 run that is open?  Is the night skiing worth it?
  3. Any tips on accommodation in the area? I usually stay in the village area and being in walking distance to the lifts.  Do most people stay further away and drive and park to get to the slopes?  It seems that there are limited options for the 'village' accommodation.  I'll be on medium budget of $150 / night (twin share).
  4. As a tourist to not just Tahoe but to the USA, is there anything I should check out in the area? Is the lake/beach still accessible in Winter? 

 

  1. If you are comfortable on the blacks at WB, you'll find lots to ski at SV or AM.  I'd say that these two Tahoe resorts have gnarlier steeper terrain at their upper levels than WB, so be careful about venturing onto the harder runs.  But you should be fine on the "normal" blacks.
     
  2. My take is that if I'm on the first chair at 9am and ski until the last chair at 4:30, that's enough for any sane person.  So I rarely bother with night skiing.  You'll have to ask someone else.
     
  3. Tahoe is mostly a summer resort, so there are deals to be found if you're willing to drive.  Note, however, that the California Highway Patrol will implement a "chains or 4WD only" policy anytime it's actually snowing (and even if you have 4WD, you're supposed to carry chains too) , so you'll need to rent a 4WD vehicle or carry chains.  I bring my own chains.  Bottom line here is that inexpensive accomodations are out there, but it can be difficult to get around if you're not staying slopeside, especially if you're not comfortable driving in snow.

    You might consider staying in South Lake Tahoe and skiing Heavenly - there are cheap(ish) rooms at the casinos and shuttle service to the lifts.  Note that it's a long drive around the lake from Heavenly to SV or AM - the road along the southwest quadrant of the lake is closed in winter, so you have to go around the long way.
     
  4. In the immediate vicinity, a drive up the Donner pass (perhaps on the way to the Sugar Bowl) is breathtaking, but not for the faint of heart.  Not sure what else, as I go there to ski.  Yes, the lake/beach is accessible in the winter - there are places where you can walk right down to the water.

 

 

post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

Are there any ski areas in western North America where the answer isn't basically March?  


I would say that any of the ski resorts in the British Columbia interior are at their best in February. If you go by high/low season for Cat Skiing rates, the high season usually goes from mid January to mid March.
post #21 of 32

Thanks very much for your quick and helpful replies :) Really appreciate it heaps!! 

 

Just gotta hope for an early season and a decent base!  Will check back often for more updates and advice!

 

Cheers once again

post #22 of 32

What The Dad said. Come in March or April.

post #23 of 32

FYI, it looks like last year, Alpine's spring pass started on April 1, and Squaw's on April 4.  With the ownership change and Easter timing, that may not hold true this season, but it's as good a bet as any.

 

Or you could hedge your bets, especially if you're planning to come in March, and buy the Bronze Tahoe Super Pass for $439 (through end of November) if you're going to ski more than six days, or possibly the "Tahoe Super Six" once they announce that pricing.

post #24 of 32

Squaw is a very steep mountain that needs a lot of coverage.  The odds of having that coverage by Dec. 14-16 are not great.  You need to have a car and not be committed to one mountain this far in advance.  Your best chances for decent cover with natural snow are Kirkwood (which is South Tahoe), Sugar Bowl and Alpine Meadows.  Northstar and Heavenly have the most snowmaking if it comes to that.

 

Quote:
What The Dad said. Come in March or April.

Much truth here. Dealing with spring conditions on a deep base late in the season is infinitely preferable to an inadequate base if you're too early in the season.

post #25 of 32



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

How about a rating like:  "if you have to ask, then you shouldn't be here"

 



 That's what we say when someone asks for directions in Boston!      wink.gif

post #26 of 32

On the OP ... 

 

We skied the Tahoe area this past January not too long after a big dump and it turned out to be the worst trip I've had ... period!  Plenty of snow on the ground, but mid-50's temps during the day coupled with freezing temps at night made the snow (both on-off piste') boiler plate, concrete ICE.  You had to stick to the groomed slopes or else risk chattering your teeth out of the sockets.  It was really a shame as we could definitely see the potential there - especially Heavenly - and how badly we wanted to slip in thru the trees.  But for the week we were there, no soft snow was to be found.  It's always a crap shoot with the weather when you make plans well in advance.

 

We skied 2 days at Heavenly, 2 at Northstar and one day at another place.  Personally we enjoyed Northstar the best and especially skiing off the Martis and Backside Express lifts. 

 

Don't know if you've looked into this but the people we talked with when there this past Jan found it overall cheaper to buy the season pass in lieu of a weeks worth of lift tickets.  Don't know if the deals are still there, but do some checking on this before you go and might save you some coin here. 

post #27 of 32
Thread Starter 



Thanks Dorm57 and everyone else for the helpful input...  already ordered the Six-Packs and we'll be there the late Feb/early March timeframe and hope for the best. Plus get to join up with some of the Gathering which sounds like a great time! 2/25-26ish through 3/5-6ish pending airfare and lodging...  some very attractive (cheap/free) offers from Harrah's/Harveys but then contrast that with the driving and not having a condo where we can at least do SOME cooking.... decisions, decisions...

 

Being from New England, we're all too familiar with the damn ICE - and usually not due to 50' daytime temps although we did run into that in Utah a couple of trips back... I like spring skiing and all, but not when it goes from mush to concrete like you said!   Ah well, we'll be hitting up (at least) Killington and Sunday River between Dec and Feb several times to get warmed up  beercheer.gif

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorm57 View Post

On the OP ... 

 

We skied the Tahoe area this past January not too long after a big dump and it turned out to be the worst trip I've had ... period!  Plenty of snow on the ground, but mid-50's temps during the day coupled with freezing temps at night made the snow (both on-off piste') boiler plate, concrete ICE.  You had to stick to the groomed slopes or else risk chattering your teeth out of the sockets.  It was really a shame as we could definitely see the potential there - especially Heavenly - and how badly we wanted to slip in thru the trees.  But for the week we were there, no soft snow was to be found.  It's always a crap shoot with the weather when you make plans well in advance.

 

We skied 2 days at Heavenly, 2 at Northstar and one day at another place.  Personally we enjoyed Northstar the best and especially skiing off the Martis and Backside Express lifts. 

 

Don't know if you've looked into this but the people we talked with when there this past Jan found it overall cheaper to buy the season pass in lieu of a weeks worth of lift tickets.  Don't know if the deals are still there, but do some checking on this before you go and might save you some coin here. 



 

post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorm57 View Post

On the OP ... 

 

We skied the Tahoe area this past January not too long after a big dump and it turned out to be the worst trip I've had ... period!  Plenty of snow on the ground, but mid-50's temps during the day coupled with freezing temps at night made the snow (both on-off piste') boiler plate, concrete ICE.  You had to stick to the groomed slopes or else risk chattering your teeth out of the sockets.  It was really a shame as we could definitely see the potential there - especially Heavenly - and how badly we wanted to slip in thru the trees.  But for the week we were there, no soft snow was to be found.  It's always a crap shoot with the weather when you make plans well in advance.

 

We skied 2 days at Heavenly, 2 at Northstar and one day at another place.  Personally we enjoyed Northstar the best and especially skiing off the Martis and Backside Express lifts. 

 

Don't know if you've looked into this but the people we talked with when there this past Jan found it overall cheaper to buy the season pass in lieu of a weeks worth of lift tickets.  Don't know if the deals are still there, but do some checking on this before you go and might save you some coin here. 

Yup, We had a 5 week snow drought beginning the first week of January.  In fact, New Years Day was the last day that we could honestly say we had a dump.

Sorry that you hit it wrong. This is really an amazing place.  As for Martis/Lookout......Shhhhhh, as far as the rest of the world knows, Northstar is totally flat and it sucks.  If we let them know about that little jewel, it will be lost to the masses wink.gif
 

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by AeroSKI5150 View Post

Thanks Dorm57 and everyone else for the helpful input...  already ordered the Six-Packs and we'll be there the late Feb/early March timeframe and hope for the best. Plus get to join up with some of the Gathering which sounds like a great time! 2/25-26ish through 3/5-6ish pending airfare and lodging...  some very attractive (cheap/free) offers from Harrah's/Harveys but then contrast that with the driving and not having a condo where we can at least do SOME cooking.... decisions, decisions...

 

Being from New England, we're all too familiar with the damn ICE - and usually not due to 50' daytime temps although we did run into that in Utah a couple of trips back... I like spring skiing and all, but not when it goes from mush to concrete like you said!   Ah well, we'll be hitting up (at least) Killington and Sunday River between Dec and Feb several times to get warmed up  beercheer.gif

 

 

 

Have you looked at EpicSki Gathering thread?  You're likely to meet a whole buncha Bears during that time frame. biggrin.gif

2012 Gathering INFORMATION Thread

post #29 of 32

I did Tahoe late January last year also.  Terrible conditions.  Plenty of snow, but 50 degree days and 30 degree nights.  You had to stick to groomers.

 

That said, Heavenly was beautiful & Kirkwood was great.  The night life was awesome. 

 

The really infuriating part of it is that Utah had several storms in the weeks prior, Tahoe got sun.  While we were there, Salt Lake got more snow, we got 50+ days of sunshine.

 

 

post #30 of 32

Well, only if you enjoy lap after lap of untracked powder.  I can't think of anywhere else I've ever put the first tracks down a trail, got on the lift, and then put the second set down because no one else had hit it yet.  It was a weekday but I still felt like I was in the twilight zone.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post
As for Martis/Lookout......Shhhhhh, as far as the rest of the world knows, Northstar is totally flat and it sucks.


 

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