The classic Tahoe dump is happening right now. It’s the kind of snowfall that will be recalled for years to come in a litany of tall tales that start with “Do you remember the snow of January 2010?”
A series of winter storms that began during the Martin Luther King holiday on January 17 delivered a couple of feet of snow to Lake Tahoe’s highest peaks and nearly a foot at lake level. But that’s just the beginning. As the week progresses, the storms are expected to become more ferocious, with colder temperatures and more precipitation. By Saturday, the Sierra crest will most likely have 10 feet of fresh snow. Forecasters are expecting this to be the most snow-producing series of storms the Sierra has seen in the last five years. It looks like El Niño is here to stay for the rest of January.
As of Tuesday, January 19, Alpine Meadows, Boreal, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Kirkwood, and Squaw Valley are reporting more than 20 inches of new snow. Sugar Bowl and Sierra-at-Tahoe are reporting 18 inches, and Heavenly has nearly a foot of the fresh stuff. So far this year the Tahoe resorts with the deepest snowpacks-all greater than 80 inches–are Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley, and Sugar Bowl. The southern Sierra is enjoying the benefits of the same weather pattern. Mammoth Mountain reports 33 inches of new snow since the week began, and boasts a base of up to 90 inches. Nearby June Mountain has received a foot of fresh snow. The eastern Sierra above 7,000 feet is expected to have 5 to 7 feet of new snow by late Saturday.
The strongest weather is expected to arrive late today, with heavy precipitation and high winds carrying over into Thursday. After a break on Friday and Saturday, more snow is expected on Sunday. Resorts are taking advantage of this gift from the skies by offering deals to intrepid skiers who are willing to make their way through the whiteout to the mountains. Kirkwood Resort is offering a “book two nights, get one night free” deal through January 28. Sugar Bowl Resort has a $99 midweek special rate at its historic snowbound lodge, accessible only by riding a mile-long gondola, as well as 25 percent off all two-night weekend stays. The locals’ favorite, Homewood Resort, is selling $39 lift tickets Monday through Thursday.
Squaw Valley USA offers an outstanding deal for families: kids 12 and under ski for only $10 every day. Adults who ski at Squaw more than a couple times per season–but not often enough to warrant buying a season pass–will want to join the resort’s Frequent Skier Club. Register online for $5 and after you have purchased four all-day lift tickets, you get a fifth day of skiing free.
Northstar-at-Tahoe is encouraging skiers to stay longer and ski more with its quad pack lift tickets, enabling visitors to ski or ride any four days this season for less than $63 per day. Northstar also has stay-and-ski packages for $108 per person, based on double occupancy in its studio condos. Intermediate to expert adult skiers and riders can also take advantage of free two-hour lessons every weekday at 1:30 p.m.
Local businesses are also getting into the action. The hip Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee is offering an extended weekend deal–guests pay for two nights and get the third night free. The Stanford Alpine Chalet has a midweek ski special Sunday to Thursday nights, with 20 percent off lodging and lift tickets to Alpine Meadows.
If you are driving to the Sierra, don’t forget to carry chains in your car, even if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Chains can be made mandatory at any time at spots like Carson Pass summit, and the highway patrol will turn you away if you don’t have them. For up-to-date chain control and road information in California. And always make sure to call our travel experts at 1.800.SKIRESORTS for any resort info or travel-related questions.