8 Inches of New Snow Delivers a Bona Fide Sierra Powder Day

After my recent trip to Mammoth Mountain’s opening day, I was anxious to get back on skis. The sore legs had worn off and I was ready to get back into the mountains to lay down some tracks. With forecasts of 3 to 4 feet of new snow on the way to Tahoe, and visions of the prior seasons endless powder days, I loaded up the Subi trying to contain my excitement. Throughout the week, forecasters kept pushing the snow levels up, predicting the storm would be warmer than expected, but I couldn’t help but hope they were wrong.

The Drive to The Lake Tahoe Basin

A steady rain fell from the time I left my house to just below the summit of Donner Pass on highway I-80. At only 7,057 ft. of elevation, Donner is not the tallest Sierra pass, but the fact that it rained to about 6800’ before changing over to snow was not a good omen for the ski day ahead. I could only remind myself that any day on snow, with a pair of planks strapped to my feet is better than a day in the office hammering away at a keyboard and hope for the best.

Opening Day, Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley Opening Day

Overnight snow levels fell to 6600’ (around lake level) and I found the Subi crusted with a layer of wet snow when I woke up. I arrived at the resort to the sounds of avalanche control work echoing throughout the valley as Ski Patrol threw their final shots of the morning. A quick look around the base area left me wondering why avalanche control was even necessary. Due to ongoing snow safety measures and intermittent light snow showers, opening up was delayed 45 minutes and the line at the Funitel backed up with anxious skiers and snowboarders ready to make their first turns of the season.

The Goods

As the Gold Coast Funitel crested the ridge and dropped into the heart of Squaw Valley, I saw what Ski Patrol had been working on all morning. The upper mountain had gotten 8 inches of fresh snow overnight (on top of a foot the day before) and it was beautiful. The Gold Coast Express was the only lift running for the day but the entire upper mountain was blanketed and ready to shred. A short 15 minute hike to Siberia Bowl yielded the best turns of the day. Luckily, the short hike kept enough of the crowd at bay to ensure the rest of us reaped the rewards of earning some turns all day long. Out on the snow there were lots of smiles and cheers as the clouds cleared out and opened up sunny blue skies.

The Season’s First Powder Day

It ended at The Auld Dubliner Irish Pub with a cold beer from Deschutes Brewery, the aptly named Chasin’ Freshies IPA. Despite variable snow levels and a delayed opening, nothing could take away from the simple fact that Squaw Valley had skied like a mid-January day on the 17th of November and I got to be there. Cheers to many more days like this in the season to come.