State of the High Sierra Backcountry – March 24, 2015

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

I know it’s been a long hiatus from this report skiers and snowboarders, but we wanted to keep the pictures up as long as possible from the epic 2 days of backcountry powder skiing we had reported on at the end of February. Plus, there just hasn’t been that much to report. I presented “Skiing the California Drought & The State of the Backcountry 2015” in Mammoth Lakes this weekend at an event hosted by Community Skis and will post slides from it here now for your info-tainment.

Skiing California’s Drought & The State of the Backcountry

Then came the glorious 2 days of the season:

IFMGA Ski & Mountain Guide Neil Satterifled in the Virginia Lakes area 2/23. photo: Jed Porter

IFMGA Ski & Mountain Guide Neil Satterifled in the Virginia Lakes area 2/23. photo: Jed Porter



So, now what…

Well, if you want to milk what’s left of the backcountry season then you’ll have to use the Eastside roads to access the high country. June Mountain closed for the season on Sunday, so that is not a great option anymore. Once you get to a high trailhead you’ll want to embrace the adventure mentality. It’s like what my 4-year old learned at preschool, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” On sunny and calm days, the corn is shaping up on E-S-W aspects, wherever you may still find a vertical strip of snow. Best chance of that is near the Sierra crest or, better yet, leeward terrain just west of that ridge. In the absence of more storms, which are not currently even suggested in long range (16 day) models, shaded steeper slopes will hold snow for a while yet and they may ski alright with edgeable windcrust or facets on windcrust. A rogue squall here and there will freshen up the texture, fill in the gaps, smooth out the rough spots, and so forth. You’ll be carrying running shoes and ski boots a lot, so get used to that idea if you are not already from the last 3 drought years. Not the best time to be contemplating a trans-Sierra ski adventure, unless you want to multi-sport it. But keep your bases waxed and your edges honed for that spring system that gives a surprise epic spring powder day or two. Last year we enjoyed some of the best turns of the season in April and early May. If we are lucky in the weeks to come, we can finish off strong if not a bit too early.

This may (to our intense dismay) be the last bc snow report of the season. We’ll plan to update things as they change notably. And we hope they do for the best. Otherwise, we’ll start focusing the discussion more toward alpine climbers and backpackers (check in with our High Sierra Alpine Conditions Report) who are about to enjoy an unusually long and opportune summer.

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