California Off to Record Breaking Season
Since New Year’s day California has been in the midst of one of the wettest Pacific flows in history. It has been snowing non-stop for many of the mountain communities around the state since even before January 1st. This was all capped off this past week with an atmospheric river that pounded much of the state with over 10 feet of snow.
The big winner so far seems to be Mammoth who has reported almost 200” of snow in the month of January alone. This means Mammoth has had more snow and has the deepest base of any ski resort in the country. The Mammoth Times reported this week that the snowfall has been “261% of normal” and puts 2017 on track to be one of the wettest years on record. While we are keeping our fingers crossed the snowfall has already surpassed the entire the snowfall total for the entire year of 2014
Up on Mt. Shasta, the “State of Jefferson”, has received its own record snows. Precipitation up north is 156% of average for the winter season and a whopping 270% of average for January. On the upper mountain, we estimate snow depths to be over 30ft deep in places. We have already seen massive avalanches with crowns over six feet. Incredibly high snowfall totals in nearby Lassen closed the road and forced us to cancel trips this weekend for the first time ever due to extreme avalanche hazards.
This flow of dense pacific storms has brought an impressive amount of moisture. Lake Tahoe has risen over a foot since the New Year and the American and Yuba Rivers have neared or exceed flood stage. The most recent storm closed I-80 and 395 at times due to excessive snow, avalanches, and landslides. Just over the state line in Nevada the storms shut down the Mount Rose Highway (NV 431) for the last three days
To put it in perspective 2016– 2017 winter season has already brought more snow and precipitation to many parts of California than all of last year. For the far Southern Sierra Nevada, it has been more snow than the last two winters combined. Impressive considering we are not even two weeks into January.
For our backcountry friends, it’s been a time to take it slow and cautious. Numerous avalanches have been reported from all three avalanche centers. We have had partial burials in Tahoe and the Eastern Sierra. Homes at Alpine Meadows were even damaged on Tuesday when an avalanche ran past it’s usual course and struck them.
Today a high-pressure system brought blue skies and deep powder to the Mt Shasta area. As this spreads to the rest of the state we should see the snowpack start to settle out and become more stable. Watch for blowing snow as storm slabs and wind slabs are still lurking for the unsuspecting backcountry user. Use caution but get the goods they are there, because the next atmospheric river is already on the horizon.