Eastern Sierra Backcountry Snow Report – March 3rd, 2018

In Conditions Reports, Eastern Sierra Backcountry Snow Report, From the Range of Light & Fast by Howie Schwartz3 Comments


Greetings riders de la backcountríe,

Last time we said this report would be updated when there is something exciting to talk about. Well, how about the biggest storm of the season doubling our snowpack in the first 3 days of March? Yes!! Thanks for all the snow dances, prayers to Ullr, pagan rituals, toasts, & burning effigies that seem to have done the trick. The animal sacrifices may have been a bit much, but thanks for the efforts anyway. And let’s be honest, doubling our snowpack was not hard given our record drought matching season-to-date. This storm was about half of what we usually consider a big deal here. But whatever, this is a most welcome change of fortune. We Eastern Sierra backcountry recreationists can now finally celebrate the coming of winter… just in time for spring.

After several small inside sliders that graced our tired and limited snow surface with a fresh coat of just enough cold and mostly stable powder, we finally got one with a bit more over water trajectory, which has for the first time this year, measured in feet rather than just inches. 3-5 feet on Mammoth Mountain, to be precise, and another 6″ or so forecast for this evening. It finally feels like we have enough snow to cover a lot of the shallowly buried lurking obstacles in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, June Mountain BC, Virginia Lakes zone, and select couloirs in the area, where the deepest snowpack has been encountered. If you don’t mind said obstacles, then don’t fret. There are plenty more to be found in now marginally skiable places below 9000′, such as the June Lake Loop lower escarpment, the Sherwins, and Lee Vining Canyon. Be prepared for a “mixed” ski/snowboard adventure at the moment in places like, Onion Valley, Big Pine Creek, Bishop Creek, Convict Creek, McGee Creek, etc. If you are planning to head to lay down some powder turns in the High Sierra South, or near Pine Creek, or near Crowley Lake in the coming days, I would suggest reconsidering those plans, but to each their own.

Prior coverage before this storm should still be a major consideration, at least until this new storm settles in over the ground cover. The powder is quite deep and velveteen in texture, particularly in the trees. 5-star quality really. Like, amazing.

The most encouraging thing about this storm, aside from the depth of snow that has accumulated so far, is that the weather forecast is indicating more to come. This Thursday-Saturday has another decent one, that may also tap into a plume of moisture that we in the Sierra have all come to know and love as an ‘atmospheric river.’ Not supposed to be as big of a dump as this current one, but decent. The door looks to remain open for more in the following week, and if we can hold onto this active weather pattern for a few more weeks, we may very well be celebrating a “Miracle March” this year to bring us back from the depths of extreme dessication into, dare we say, an average winter? Oh, how wonderful to be average again! I so wish all seasons were above average (do the math), but near-average snow years tend to be exceptional here in the Eastern Sierra.

The backcountry has been pretty phenomenal this year in spite of the chronically low tide, with great snow and relatively stable conditions, but locals are jonesing to head to some of the other amazing venues here that we were able to play in just last winter and winters seemingly long ago.

That is why it will be very important in the coming days and weeks to check in with the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center advisory for the latest on snow and avalanche risk related conditions. With the current scenario and weather forecast, we are all going to want to be heads up and aware out there. The 3 avalanche forecasters and their team of dedicated observers have been working hard 7 days/week this season to get out incredibly useful information and analysis to us, and they are doing an excellent job. ESAC is 100% community funded as a private center, and if you are reading this with intention to play in the backcountry here, then you are our community! Please support ESAC’s efforts with your observations, your membership, and your tax-exempt donation!

Get out there while you can in this coming window that is sure to be amazing, and please be safe about it. Cheers! ~ Howie



  1. Hey! Any updates on where the best spring skiing is? Is there good coverage around the mammoth crest?

    1. Hi Maxwell, our IFMGA guide, Geoff Unger, said his go to spots right now are the Mammoth Lakes Basin and Rock Creek. Both are at a higher elevation where there’s more snow. Also a reminder now that we are in full Spring mode, to start early. If you make it to the top of your run and the conditions aren’t ready to ski, hangout and take in the view until conditions are good for your descent.

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