Don’t Miss the Next Storm: Tips and Resources for Tracking Sierra Snow

Last week, I experienced the moment that every skier and snowboarder yearns for during a long summer of BBQs, boardshorts, and warmth: the first turns of the ski season. This season’s first day did not disappoint as there is a lot of fluffy powder to enjoy. In fact, some Tahoe-Truckee region ski resorts already have snowpacks that are 108% of average for this time of year! 

COMM CM Snow blog 2018 12As a snowboarder who loves riding powder above all else, I’ve become a bit of a snow forecasting nerd. Knowing that many other “powder hounds” exist in California and beyond, I thought I’d share some of the resources I use to predict when and where the best fluff is going to fall.

  •   A great one-stop-shop for all near- and long-term forecasting in the Tahoe-Truckee region is the Tahoe OpenSnow report. This site also has forecasts for other mountain areas in the U.S.
  • If you live or play near Mammoth Lakes, the legendary Mammoth local Howard Sheckter often updates a similar resource at (warning – this one gets pretty technical).
  • If you’re wondering what to wear and what conditions you’ll find on the mountain, the best day-before and day-of forecasting resource is the National Weather Service’s Mountain Weather page. Make sure to check out both the Lake Tahoe and Mono County tabs.
  • If you’re heading into the backcountry (or even if you’re skiing at a resort on a big powder day) you gotta check out the Sierra Avalanche Center or Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center avalanche forecasts. I highly recommend taking an avalanche course through a certified provider as well (check out the list here).
  • Are you still with me? If you want to get really technical and get a sneak peak of what might happen up to 16-days from now (“fantasy land” in forecasting terms), check out model output from the American forecasting model, the Global Forecast System (click on “mean SLP/Pcpn”. This model is run every six hours and is likely where your iPhone weather app gets most of its data. COMM CM Snow Blog Erica 2018 12

As we all know, snow is not just a surface to play on, it also serves as the state’s largest reservoir and provides Californians with water well into the summer. Unfortunately, climate change is predicted to wreak havoc on Sierra snowpack by the end of this century. The recently released California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment for the Sierra Nevada region predicts that under the worst emissions scenario, the April snowpack in places under 8,000 ft in elevation will likely not exist for most areas. I can’t help but think of what that means for snowboarding in my favorite place on the planet. However, that statistic’s implications not only for skiing but for Californians everywhere, for me, is the most powerful motivator to work on mitigating and adapting to climate change. 

What the Fourth Climate Assessment is missing, however, is the role of effective snow-dancing in increasing Sierra snowpack. Perhaps my next blog will focus on that important component of the ski season. For now, let’s focus on the snow we have, mitigating climate impacts for the future, and having a fun, safe, and snowy winter!