Snow job

Tahoe storms

Storm clouds sat low on the mountains west of Reno on Dec. 4, days after several storms dropped feet of snow at ski resorts in the Tahoe Basin.

Storm clouds sat low on the mountains west of Reno on Dec. 4, days after several storms dropped feet of snow at ski resorts in the Tahoe Basin.


A series of storms that rolled through the region last week and into the weekend brought the first significant snowfall ski resorts around Lake Tahoe have seen this season. Some resorts reported more than a foot of snow during the second storm in the series, which tapered off Saturday and was followed by several days of cold, clear weather. Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe reported between eight and 10 inches of snow from the second storm, while Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows reported a full foot.

Before the storms, some resorts had runs open, using entirely manufactured snow. But as of Dec. 2, resorts in the South Lake area were reporting piles of fresh snowfall, including nearly four feet at Kirkwood Mountain Resort and three feet, nine inches at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. Both Heavenly Mountain Resort and Sierra-at-Tahoe reported more than two feet.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service and snowcasters like Open Snow’s Bryan Allegretto are, as of press time, forecasting a dry weekend, with another storm possibly pushing into the region on Dec. 10. According to Allegretto, long-range models show high pressure potentially building off the coast—but storms could hit the region or pass to the north.

There’s no way of knowing how much snow will fall, and stick, in the Sierra this winter. Some years, heavy snows don’t come until late. Last year, the winter snowpack in the Tahoe Basin was at 29 percent of normal until early March, when large storms brought it up to 78 percent. During the winter of 2011-2012, news reports noted it didn’t snow at all until Jan. 20.

Waiting for fresh snow can become tedious in this region, especially for skiers and snowboarders—but with the help of several resources, it’s possible to keep an eye on potential storms and stay up to date on where the freshest flakes have fallen.

Located at Donner Pass, UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab is a research field station that’s been keeping records of precipitation, snowfall, snow depth and air temperature since its construction in 1946. On the lab’s website (, visitors can find not only historical data about storms and snowfall for various years but also real-time weather data.

For those with a greater interest in the region’s weather history than it’s current forecast, Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin’s website is a worthwhile, entertaining resource. There, McLaughlin, who’s lived at Lake Tahoe since 1978, keeps an archive of weather-related stories about topics ranging from individual winter athletes like skier Dick Buek, known as the Mad Dog of Donner Summit; to California’s first mid-summer ski tournament, held at the Sugar Bowl ski resort near Donner Pass on July 4, 1932.

People who care more about learning when the next storm might dump fresh powder at the region’s various ski resorts have several resources to which they can turn for information. Open Snow is a website featuring blogs from snow forecasters in mountain resort regions around the nation. For Tahoe, the forecaster is Bryan Allegretto (See, “Cast a drift,” Tahoe, Oct. 18, 2018). Allegretto’s in-depth snow forecasts come out daily. Find them at

Another resource for current information is a website called On the Snow, where people can find daily snow reports for the Lake Tahoe region, as well as detailed information on specific ski resorts, including operating status, the number of lifts in operation and the total acreage currently open to skiers and boarders. Visit ;