You Can’t Find the Sierra Nevada For All the Snow

by Dan Giesin | February 19, 2019

Call it what you like, skiers and snowboarders, but the simple fact is that California’s Sierra Nevada resorts are simply up to their ears — and in most cases well beyond — in snow.
During the first 18 days of February, the mountains were blanketed from anywhere between 14 and 23 feet of snow, depending on elevation and/or location.
Squaw Valley, for instance, has received a record 246 inches (or 20-plus feet) of snow so far this month, breaking the old mark of 196 inches, set in the previous Snowpocalypse Season of 2016-17.
And Mammoth Mountain, which has received 190 inches of snow in February for a season total of 548 inches (the most in the Sierra), already has declared it will stay open until at least the Fourth of July.

A Dire Warning

In fact, the weather got so intense during the last storm cycle of Feb. 13-18, when resorts reported new snowfall totals of between 86 and 119 inches, that local and state officials were asking, nay, almost begging motorists not to drive to the Lake Tahoe area because of the constant, sometimes vain struggle to keep the two main highways to the basin, Interstate 80 and U.S. 50, open.
Said one CHP officer: “Cars are stopped all over the place, and people are unprepared. It’s unacceptable.”
And what does all this mean to your average skier and snowboarder? The mountains above the 8,000-foot level in the Sierra already have matched their seasonal average of snowfall and are 166 percent above their average for this time of year.
Simply put, you’re probably not going to be getting any dingers on your bases any time soon.

The Snow Totals

Here’s a quick look at some of the impressive snow totals picked up at some of the Sierra’s major resorts so far this season:

  • Northstar: 229 inches in February and 444 inches for the season.
  • Squaw Valley: 246 inches in February and 503 inches for the season.
  • Alpine Meadows: 215 inches in February and 419 inches for the season.
  • Sugar Bowl: 203 inches in February and 438 inches for the season.
  • Homewood: 275 inches in February and 472 inches for the season.
  • Mt. Rose: 176 inches in February and 358 inches for the season.
  • Heavenly: 240 inches in February and 362 inches for the season.
  • Sierra-at-Tahoe: 221 inches in February and 407 inches for the season.
  • Kirkwood: 222 inches in February and 432 inches for the season. 
  • Bear Valley: 178 inches in February and 375 inches for the season.
  • Mammoth Mountain: 190 inches in February and 548 inches for the season.

More to Come

For the time being it looks like the atmospheric river that had Northern California in its crosshairs the last three weeks has been reduced to a trickle, with a couple of weak and cold  “storms” passing through midweek and over the weekend and leaving less than a foot of snow in their collective wake.
However, March is on the horizon and that month typically brings another round or two of intense storms.
Oh, boy.

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