Why waste all that snow on winter?
Right now, you’re probably thinking “good riddance” to those last clumps of snow on Peavine, but when the mercury starts careening toward the triple digits in July, nothing’s going to seem as deluxe as a sled under your butt and a cold, icy slope to slide down. Or at least a tightly packed ball of slush in your hand for hurling.
As the tourism marketers say, we live in “America’s Adventure Place.” The slogan is gramatically suspect, perhaps, but it’s accurate. Reno, at 4,498 feet, is practically a springboard to the usually snowcapped peaks of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada.
Summer snow is not necessarily practical snow. You may need to hike to get to it, and, by August, the January powder will be susceptible to “suncupping"—settling unevenly in spots. But if you get a mid-summer hankering for sledding, snowball throwing or even skiing, you live in the right place.
Head to any of the ski areas around Tahoe for chairlift service or gondola rides for high-altitude adventuring and a good chance of reaching snow. Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley and Northstar-at-Tahoe are all open for business during the off-season. Alpine Meadows Ski and Snowboard Resort shuts down its lifts and other amenities, but its trails are open to hikers. The north face of the resort’s Kangaroo Run is one of the surest bets in the area for year-round snow pack.
Here’s a sampling of some other summer snowfields close to Reno.
Remember looking up above the smog and the steaming asphalt last summer and noticing Mount Rose glistening with snow, a mere 22 miles south of town? The forecast looks similar for this year, not just for the 10,776-foot peak (an eight-mile roundtrip hike from the crest of the Mount Rose Highway), but also for more easily accessible points.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest spokesperson Christie Kalkowski reported on May 16, “Right now, the Tahoe Meadows area is under roughly nine feet of snow.” She added, “The Mount Rose campground won’t be open, due to a large amount of snow, till the 4th of July.” Bad news for comfort junkies. Good news for renegade sledding enthusiasts and snowball warriors. Kalkowski predicts it won’t require more than a brief hike from the trailhead to reach snow for the rest of the year.
Truckee, Calif. (530) 587-3558
At an ear-popping 7,239 feet, Donner Peak, about 45 miles west of town and right off I-80, is likely to have snow for a couple more months.
Ann Westling from the Tahoe National Forest office in Nevada City, Calif., says, “It wouldn’t be uncommon to find four or more feet of snow throughout the high country at this time of year. Chances are, snow’s going to last through June, maybe into July.” Westling recommends that snow-seekers park at the Pacific Crest Trailhead off I-80, hike north on the trail that passes under the freeway to the Castle Valley and Round Valley areas and head to the north-facing slopes.
It’s likely your brush with snow at Donner Peak will be even more fun if you pack a copy of Frank Mullen’s book The Donner Party Chronicles or George R. Stewart’s Ordeal By Hunger into your picnic pack and think about how fortunate it is that you’re not a doomed pioneer from Missouri attempting to cross Donner Pass during the record-setting, trip-ruining winter of 1846.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
“Some friends and I tried to see how many months in a row we could get a ski day in,” says Dan Belanger, a tech-support manager from Reno with a year-round tan. He skied 24 months in a row before giving in to the demands of new homeownership, but his friends kept it up for almost 10 years. He lists about 10 places to see snow in the summer, but one stands out as his favorite. As if waterfalls, strange mineral-colored pools and constant volcanic steaming and gurgling weren’t enough, Lassen Volcanic National Park, about three hours from Reno, is also one of the area’s most dependable summer snow sources.
There are two routes into the park, both accessible from I-395. Belanger prefers the Route 44 entrance over the Route 36 approach for the “boom, in-your-face view of snow.”
Belanger reports that he’s never had to hike more than a couple miles to reach snow at any of the hills he’s skied in summer, but you certainly could go farther than that if you wanted to. And Belanger, who never runs out of places to explore, could easily get a job as poster-boy with those “Adventure Place” marketing-slogan folks. As he puts it, “Your imagination and your stamina are the only limiting factors.”