Backcountry Snow Report – April 7 & 8, 2014

In Conditions Reports, Eastern Sierra Backcountry Snow Report, From the Range of Light & Fast by Howie SchwartzLeave a Comment

Get it while you can – Janis Joplin

Skiers and Snowboarders,

The first half of April generally features the maximum snowpack of the season in the Eastern Sierra. This year coverage is thin, but surprisingly adequate if you choose your location thoughtfully. Yesterday on the 7th, SMG ski guide Mark Shelp and I were able to easily ski from and to the truck parked on the upper Buttermilk Road into Birch Creek. Today, we also skied from the Virginia Lakes Road with a group on Dunderberg Peak.

Other possibly useful Eastside access information, and rumor:

  • People have been skiing on the north sides of peaks like Mt. Wood and Mt. Lewis since dirt roads are mostly snow free early.
  • The Tioga Pass Road is apparently plowed almost to Ellery Lake, but the lower gate is still closed.
  • Powerhouse still drops to Lee Vining Canyon, but not much else does.
  • Lower slopes in June Mountain backcountry are close to done, but not entirely.
  • South Lake Road drivable to 9100′
  • Onion Valley Road clear to top.
  • In case you missed the news, the Whitney Portal Road has a new locked gate at the bottom this season.

As for conditions, we coined a new phrase: “hot powder” – defined as dry powder snow with a moist surface, but without the normal deterioration of skiing quality and ice-up conditions. You will find this snow on steep and sun exposed aspects, on warm days, above 11,000′. It skis surprisingly well and is not sticky. For skiers, fatter boards (>95mm waist) generally recommended as worth the extra touring weight. On N-E aspects you will find a mixed bag including smooth facets, supportable and breakable wind and sun crusts, or, you guessed it… “hot powder” by mid day. The synopsis is that the snowpack is in seasonal transition – not exactly spring skiing yet, but skis as well as if it was. Cloudy, cool, or windy days will make it hard to find decent snow conditions at this point, until we get another shot of snow. Looks like there could be a dusting by the weekend.

Prognostication: If we do get another significant snowfall before the end of April and maybe another one in early May, then we could have an excellent spring season for ski and snowboard descents in the Sierra. If the precip does not pan out and the high pressure locks in, then we could  see the backcountry season come to a very abrupt close by the end of May.  Enjoy! – Howie




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