Eastern Sierra Backcountry Snow Report – December 31, 2014

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

Howdy backcountry skiers and snowboarders!

May auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind. Goodbye 2014. We hardly knew ye. And frankly – other than a bare handful of backcountry days that were “the. best. ever.” – I’d be happy to delete your pathetic, dry excuse for a backcountry season from my memory. But here we are in virtually the same situation as a year ago – with a meager snowpack of 30-70cm in shaded and sheltered locations above the lofty altitude of ~9500′, with no storms in the forecast-able future. You may recall that the start of 2014 resulted in the loss of December snowpack from winds and the all-too-common January thaw. The backcountry became unrideable for almost a month in prime season, until a storm on February 2nd. Groundhog’s Day. And right now I am starting to feel like Bill Murray, or maybe Punxatawney Phil. Am I going to wake up every year at this time to the same goddamn ski season no matter what??

For anyone interested in good news: the snow may not be deep, but at least it is variable. Ok, right, the silver lining. Keep smiling. Think positive thoughts. There is some good, shallow powder skiing out there. It is located on aspects other than SE to SW, below treeline, and sheltered from the recent northerly winds, and at elevations that have enough snow (basically 9000′ – 9500′). There is also some decent supportable windboard at upper elevations. Some of these hard slabs are resting on a weak base though so do be cautious about where you may choose to trust them. If they fracture, you will get moving very quickly. Temperatures have been incredibly cold the last 2 days. This morning the conditions at the summit of Mammoth Mountain were -11 degrees F with 100+ mph winds (wind chill of at least -56 degrees F). The cold snow was sticking and grabbing hold of ski bases and bindings were squeaky and stiff.  Cold temps may improve ski quality over time through the metamorphic process of faceting, especially if the wind calms down, but really the best thing would be a gigantic Sierra storm like the ones of yesteryear. I believe it was back in the year of 20 and 11 that we last knew the pleasures of deep snow in the Sierra. It would seem that the record 2011 season was given to us on credit and we are still paying for it, with interest. The weather forecasts have just not yet panned out to meet the hype of the prognosticators and pontificators with their Magic 8-ball computer forecast models.

In spite of it all, we really have so much to be thankful for. It’s truly overwhelming. Thanks to our staff and our guides for doing such an amazing job this year. Thanks to our guests for sharing the mountains with us in 2014, in all conditions, and with so much trust and equanimity. Thanks to you for reading this report and allowing us to help connect you to the mountains in any way we can, and for being part of our community of people who love being in high and wild places. Happy New Year!


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