Backcountry skiers and snowboarders,
Happy Friday the 13th! Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention, the Groundhog Day spell has been broken. Today is tomorrow!
We had an atmospheric river weather event that put up to around a foot of snow down at the higher elevations. For such a significant moisture tap this was disappointing but this season we’ll take what we get and like it. The bad news is that most of the precipitation fell as rain in the Eastern Sierra forming rain crusts up to 10,000+ feet. Warmest February storm I have seen. The second system that came through on Sunday evening finished slightly colder so some of the rain/wind crusts up high were covered by a few inches of snow. Below ~9000′ the story was rain for the duration after the first evening that snowed down to 7500′. Before the storm, we have seen unusually warm temperatures like the rest of California and the American West. This stripped sunny aspects of all snow prior to this event. The warm temps continue with the resilient high pressure ridge parked back in it’s Lay-z-Boy recliner for the winter. Let’s hope it gets up to take a pee before the end of the month, but looking at the models it might just fall asleep drooling on it’s shirt instead.
So given that scenario, we will have to accept that the conditions aren’t going to change much for the better for a while. We have a very good base (it’s all about that base) above 10,000′, but below that, with continued warm temps (forecasted highs for the mid 70’s in Bishop for the next few days), and the sun getting stronger later in the season, we can expect the snow to quickly disappear. Shaded steep slopes above 9,000′ may hold, but everything below that will go if we don’t get another storm to add to it in the next week or 2. Where there is snow, it is possible to experience an incredible mix of conditions. Yesterday we experienced: supportive wind, rain, and sun crusts | breakable wind, rain, and sun crusts | dust on crust | shallow recrystallized powder | creamy false corn | corn | and mank. The good conditions are surprisingly good and the bad are exceptionally bad, but it is pretty simple to find the good stuff and avoid the bad with good timing and terrain selection. The best snow right now can be found above 10,000′ on steep due north aspects, on southerly aspects holding enough snow (which are rare), on east facing terrain in the morning when surface crusts soften, and on west facing terrain in the afternoon. You will find more breakable crusts in more sheltered terrain between 9500′ and 10,500′ or near treeline and also in places that have seen some sun and have gone into shade. The next week is the window for being able to access the higher terrain on your boards throughout the range, but soon it will likely go back to late spring type access conditions. Tricky to find the goods right now and more capable skiers and riders will have more fun than intermediates. Hope this beta helps you find yours. Cheers, H