Friday, April 18, 2014

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Big Line Spring Window: Get It While It's Open!

Many of our favorite spring ski areas now have road access, including Tioga Pass (120, to the bathrooms), Sonora Pass (108), South Lake (167) and Lassen (89 to the Devastated Area). The low snowpack allowed these roads to open soon, but the sharp edge of the sword means that good skiing will not last as long as we like. The North Peak/Conness zone and Brewer Creek sides of Shasta will be some of the only good May options, barring a final Pacific blast of winter. As awesome as snowboarding North Peak in June or July is (as JimW caught me doing in 2010), those months will be better spent on the rocks, trails, or other ranges.

To keep things rolling into June and onward, the Cascades (Mt. Hood north) and Tetons are going to be the best options.

When on the search for the ultimate corn descent, especially on volcanoes, the following two parameters are of key interest:
  • 700mb winds and temperatures: These can make or break your spring ski run. Too cold and breezy and you better hope you sharpened your edges. Too warm and it's a slush fest complete with wet slides. A volcanic note of importance is that due to their mass ripping into the troposphere, cloud formation can take place very quickly while all other free atmosphere regions at the same level remain clear. This makes for changing conditions (lack of melting, rapid refreezing) and visibility challenges. Always watch the clouds.
  • Overnight lows: If it doesn't get close to 32 (or lower in ideal cases), you are hosed. Slarving slush is fun at the resort but laying globatacular trenches on beautiful stratovolcanoes is poor form. Recently, we have had rather warm overnight temps that have wrecked havoc on the snowpack, as melting was able to occur 24 hours a day instead of during a 10 hour window. 34 or 35F is around the limit for acceptable freezing of the snow surface, but it is far better when a solid freeze takes place with regards to safety and fun.

Yikes! Let's hope for some cooler weather.

Conditions on Tioga have been reported as very good, we skied Lassen's north face with excellent results last week and the Trinity Chutes on Shasta (6400 vertical foot run to the car!) were stellar. Get it while you can!!!!


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