SMG's Snow report is for the snow conditions in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. We report on conditions as we see them, or from reports we get from our friends. This snow report is for snow quality and coverage conditions, not for anything related to stability of the snowpack on backcountry slopes. For the backcountry avalanche advisory please visit the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center website. Be aware that snow conditions can change rapidly. You need to be aware and knowledgeable of factors leading to unstable snow, and perceptive enough to shift gears in poor conditions. We highly recommend taking an avalanche course that focuses on backcountry decision making before entering into avalanche terrain. Contact us with your snow observations!
Wow, not much action on this bc snow conditions report in the last month. Maybe that is because we had one of the weakest Februaries on record in terms of precip. Oh we got our fair share of cold temps and winds though, ensuring that our job finding the goods for our guests was as challenging as possible. As Eastside ski local Jimmy B. said, "It ain't powder... but at least it's firm!" Conditions are wind hammered on all apects above treeline, especially North aspects. Expect up high in the shade to find a mix of smooth edgeable windboard, facet dust on crust, breakable wind crust, and sastrugi fields. On sun exposed high elevation terrain, you will find sun-kissed wind crusts that could ski prety good if the day and the terrain shape are cooperative. If the winds pick up though expect rough conditions. At mid elevations you may still be able to find some variable powder in shady sheltered areas and on steeper slopes below 10,500' or so there is actual corn skiing on the calm sunny days. Still low tide below 9000 feet with a marked decrease in snow coverage due to the high snow levels of our December storms. More storms in the forecast so this could change pretty quickly. Make sure you get it while you can this season because at this rate the spring season could be shorter than usual.
That all said, we were able to take advantage of fleeting windows of skiing bliss in an otherwise uneventful month. Here are some photo highlights (-Howie):
1/29- SMG guide Mark Shelp on Mt. Aggie
2/13- Winter Corn in Bishop Creek
2/18- Ali F. in the Green Creek high ground
2/20- Fern Creek couloir with Marcus T.
2/20- Devil's Slide in rare and pristine form
2/26- Howie on Eocene Peak
2/25- Sawtooths Traverse with Taylor S.
January 19th, 2013
Howdy bc skiers and boarders. It's here, the June-uary thaw we have all been anticipating. Every year we experience a mid-winter drought that averages 19 days in the last 62 years (see interesting reference here). We were almost spoiled by a month of ridiculously cold temps and mostly calm winds that produced the most consistent stretch of some of the best powder conditions many have seen around here. Since the end of that we have seen high winds and a profound warming trend in the past few days that brings us back to our reality. We are now in the phase of the winter where shaded and sheltered terrain will hold excellent boot-top+, faceted powder and exposed slopes and ridges will see a mixed bag of supportable wind and sun crusts, as well as breakable wind and sun crusts. Aim for super sheltered, or super weather exposed for best riding. If you have impeccably clear skies you may get lucky with a classic mid-winter corn run on open, smooth, steep, wind hammered, S facing slopes, especially in bowls or couloirs, up to around 11,000'. At least before the next cold front moves in. Still early season snow conditions predominate. Snow lines above skiable thresholds are near 8,000' to 8500' and expect to hit some reef. Above 9000' the snow depth increases dramitically in the Mammoth and Northern zones, You have to get to more like 9500'+ to get decent coverage south of Rock Creek. South of Big Pine snow coverage is even more sparse.
In general, get your game on for a mixed bag of good to tolerable skiing here on the Eastside and go explore the mountains while avalanche danger is still relatively low. Nothing beats a warm, sunny here is some decent snow to be found, if you know where to look.
January 18th, 2013
January 9th, 2013
Backcountry skiers and snowboarders, greetings to you all. I hope that everyone has been able to take some part in the best early season stretch of high quality powder season that many of us have seen in the Eastern Sierra. Decent coverage is limited to North of around the Big Pine zone and mid to upper elevations. In the Mammoth area there is adequate coverage to the 8k' valley bottom, but below that in the adajcent areas to North and South the coverage is marginal to nada. Down in the Owens Valley count on hitting rocks and shrubs underneath up to at least 9000'. One more valley storm ought to take care of that though.
The amazing thing is how cold and relatively windless it has been for almost a month now. This has brought us the fortune of extremely high quality, consistent, backcountry powder conditions in sheltered areas, especially near and below treeline. Steeper sun exposed slopes below 12k' are starting to see effects of sun from the last couple of days, the warmest in a while. A couple days of recent winds have made upper elevations a mix of supportable and breakable crusts, but more sheltered east facing gullies still hold decent "recycled" (faceted) boot-top powder snow. Amazing the terrain we have been able to ski so far with Low avalanche danger, and it is not even mid-January!
A few light and cold weather events should recharge things a bit this week/weekend. After that we'll hope for a big storm to cover the sage down low, and big enough to clean out the heinous facet gardens at all elevations that are thriving in the cold weather we have been enjoying. - Howie
Here is what Glen Plake had to say about Eastside snow conditions recently:
December 19th, 2012
December 9th, 2012
December 3rd, 2012
November 28th, 2012
Howdy Skiers and Snowboarders! What a long summer. Last year was fully bogus overall, but hopefully you found the goods during the fleeting windows of opportunity which, though few, were of high quality. Life begins anew with every change of season and winter has decided that it misses us. We are in the midstof a 3 wave atmospheric river event aka a Pineapple express. That means that a lot of tropical moiture is going to meet with a storm in the Pacific and send warm, wet precipitation into the High Sierra.
At this time we know that several feet of snow may fall at the crest. What we are unsure of is just how warm this storm will get. IF predictions are correct, which they seldom are, then the snow level could rise as high as 10K'. If that happens then we could see a lot of rain on snow at mid elevations. This could limit snow accumulations there and certainly make for some less than ideal conditions during and shortly after the storm. On the bright side, it's still November and we can't complain about the dense base being laid down over the rugged high country as I write this.
So see you in the BC and have a safe and enjoyable season. We will be keeping this conditions report active for as long as there are snow conditions to be schralped. - Howie
November 27th, 2012
Trailhead Access - updated November 27, 2012:
Soon will change...
-Whitney Portal: open -Onion Valley: open -Big Pine Creek/McMurray Meadows: open -Bishop Creek: ? -Buttermilk/ Mt. Tom: open -Rock Creek: open -McGee Creek: open -Convict Creek: open -Mammoth Lakes Basin: normal winter closure -June Lake Loop: open -Tioga Pass (Hwy 120): normal winter closure -Virginia Lakes: open -Twin Lakes: open