June Lake Backcountry Ski Guides

California Backcountry Report – 03/14/2018

Posted on Posted in Guides' Notebook

California Backcountry Snow Report – 03/14/2018

Is This Miracle March?

Is it really that 2018 has been a poor snow year or is it just living in the shadow of 2017?  I think the truth lies somewhere in between.  December and February showed up with atrocious snow totals but a January and March (thus far) have actually brought good snow and some spectacular ski days.

Snowfall totals at the higher altitudes are actually within striking distance of an average snow year for the Sierra.  I say this to remind everyone that it’s not all doom and gloom like some people would have you believe.  As a whole, I would say personally I haven’t skied as much as I usually do but since mid-January, I have actually had some great skiing and taught some fantastic courses.

So now as we sit on the cusp of our second big storm in as many weeks the question is out there: is this a Miracle March?  So far the signs look positive.  I despise the sensationalism of some of the weather bloggers so I will try to keep the forecast numbers toned down but we should see anywhere from 2-4 feet of snow by Thursday night (obviously depending on altitude and region of the state).

Now that obviously isn’t reminiscent of some of the March snowfall totals of years past. (2011)  Just the same it isn’t over yet.  So far it seems this wetter pattern will stay in place with a wet system moving in again in the middle or end of the next week.  Right now if the snow totals for these storms pan out this could be the Miracle March we have been praying for.


Shasta –Groups on the upper mountain this past weekend reported variable snow conditions above 11,000 feet over the weekend.  “Plenty of rocks were showing in some places and in others, climbers might posthole to their hips.”

snowfall backcountry skiing california
6 – 8 inches of New Snowfall above Bunny Flats

That changed yesterday with the storm snow levels starting out around 6,500ft and dropping into the evening. A group teaching an Avalanche Rescue Course noted new snowfall between 6-8 inches prior to 5 pm just above Bunny Flats.

Between 30-50 inches of snow is expected above 10,000 feet with strong ridge top winds that could enable large wind slabs to develop.

South Lake Tahoe – The Lake Tahoe Area started the latest storm cycle with very warm temps and a rain line up to 9,000ft.  This, of course, is not helping low to no snow levels on sun-exposed slopes or lake level slopes.  A firm melt crust could be found on most aspects up to 10,000ft but late afternoon snow and building storm have started to bury this layer.

Rain up to treeline in many places could cause some scary and unusual wet slides for this time of the year.  There is still a lingering fear of large avalanches still lurking after the last cycle.  Please be cautious.  The Tahoe area could yet again be coming into another big cycle.

24-32 inches of snow is forecasted for the next 48 hours with SW winds gusting up to 35 mph

June Lake – A guided group skied out of the June Lake backcountry yesterday (03/13) A solid melt-freeze crust could be found on all the East and West Facing aspects with sloppy wet snow on South Facing aspects.

June Lake Backcountry Ski Guides
Boot Top Powder and Blowing Snow Above 9,500ft

North Facing treed slopes were still holding good boot top powder snow at the start of the storm.  By 2 pm yesterday the group reported over 2inches of new graupel and snow with the rate of snow increasing. Some whompfing and cracking were noted on North Slopes above 10,000ft.  There is plenty of evidence of recent avalanche activity in the area well large enough to bury or kill a backcountry skier.

Below 8,500 feet all precip came down as rain or sleet.  Tons of natural hazard was exposed and much more stayed hidden just barely under new snow.  Ski carefully.

The forecast is looking for 12-18 inches of new snow above 9,000ft in the next 48 hours as well as moderate to strong South winds.



Disclaimer:  This report is not an avalanche forecast and does not constitute advice or guidance.  This is a selection of observations of ski conditions by both recreational and some professionals.  Take is as such.