Snow Reporter's Blog

03/20/2012 | By Leslie
Staying Safe in the Powder

There sure is a lot of excitement that comes along with big snowfalls of over 6 feet; however, there is also a high level of danger involved – especially with this season’s unusual snowfall.The scary truth is that the odds of surviving a deep snow immersion accident are low, only 10%. Don’t worry, your trusty Sierra snow reporter is here to provide you with all the safety tips needed to have fun and stay safe on the mountain!

Understanding the Dangers of Deep Snow

As a snow sports enthusiast, it is vital to understand the dangers of deep snow and know how to prevent accidents such as NARSID (Non-Avalanche-Related Snow Immersion Death). About 65% of NARSID cases occur in tree wells, while the other 35% take place in deep snow. 

You might be asking yourself, what exactly is tree well?! Great question! A tree well is a depression that forms around the base of a tree. These wells are hidden from view by the tree’s low hanging branches and a light blanket of new snow. There is no easy way to identify if a particular tree has a dangerous tree well by sight, so prevention is the best tip I can give you.

The most important prevention step is to remain on groomed trails and resist the urge to ski or ride through the trees during deep powder conditions, no matter how tempting the untouched goods may appear.  Check out the daily mountain conditions report for up-to-date information on groomed and ungroomed terrain at Sierra. 

Skiing or riding in deep powder-filled tree areas is a choice, so if you go that route ALWAYS REMEMBER:

1. Buddy Up & Keep Them In Sight

It is critical to ski or ride with a partner who remains in visual contact at all times.  In many cases, some of the deaths which have occurred due to tree well incidents may have been avoided had:

  1. the person been with a partner
  2. the partner saw the person fall and
  3. the partner was close enough to assist digging the victim out in a timely manner.

It does NO GOOD for your safety if you are under the snow and your partner is waiting for you at the bottom of the lift. If you have any question about what a “timely manner” is to assist someone in a tree well, hold your breath now as you are reading this and the amount of time until you need air is approximately how much time your partner has to help get you out of danger. Other factors such as creating an air pocket or the nature of how you fall into the well may extend this critical timeframe.

VISUAL CONTACT means stopping and watching your partner descend at all times, then proceeding downhill while he or she watches you at all times. IF YOU LOSE VISUAL SIGHT OF YOUR PARTNER, YOU COULD LOSE YOUR FRIEND.

2. Ski or Ride Defensively

· Choose areas of widely spaced trees. You should be able to ski or ride between the trees so that if you lose control you do not fall into a tree well.

· As you ski or ride, avoid looking at trees, rather look at the areas in between them and your body will usually follow suit.

· If you are a skier, remove your pole straps before heading down a powder slope. Trapped skiers have difficulty removing the pole straps, which can hamper efforts to escape or clear an air space to breathe.

3. Carry Backcountry Gear

Carry the same personal rescue gear as backcountry skiers or snowboarders:

· Transceiver

·  Shovel

·  Probe

·  Whistle 

·  Fully Charged Cell Phone

MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP – What to do if you go down??

· Avoid going down.If you are sliding toward a tree well or a deep snow bank, do everything you can to avoid going down: grab branches, hug the tree, or anything to stay above the surface.

· Resist the urge to struggle violently.The more you struggle, the more snow will fall into the well from the branches and area around the well and compact around you.

· Make a breathing space around your face,instead of panicking. Then move your body carefully in a rocking manner to hollow out the snow and give you space and air.

· Stay calm. Hopefully, your partner will have seen what happened and will come to your rescue within minutes. If not, experts advise staying calm while waiting for assistance. Survival chances are improved if you maintain your air space. Over time, heat generated by your body, combined with your rocking motions, will compact the snow, and you may be able to work your way out


Avalanches are an inherent risk of the sport due to the nature of snow and its application on steep, mountainous terrain. 

When skiing and snowboarding you get to decide what level of risk you want to accept. If you do choose to accept the risks of skiing and snowboarding in deep powder snow or in the trees, you can significantly reduce the risk of a tree well or deep snow accident. Awareness is the key to safety on the slopes so pass this on to all of your friends and family!

Stay safe out there and have fun!

Content by Mt. Baker Ski Area, Inc. 2006
Excerpts from article written by Robert Cadman, PhD

03/15/2012 | By Leslie
Keepin' It Real

Hooray for POW! If you’ve looked outside or tuned into any weather reports lately, then you know what’s up – more than a foot of snow has already dropped at Sierra and there is TONS more heading our way! We’re stoked to see the snow, but there are a lot of strange elements to this storm - including crazy strong winds, centralized precipitation, and high elevation snow levels. You can always rely on your trusty Sierra Snow Reporter to keep it real with you, so I’m bringing you all the honest details on the latest Miracle March storm!

So far this storm has brought in 19 inches of snow. When I came in on Wednesday morning, we had received 5 inches of new snow overnight. To prove that this total was indeed based on real snow, I had a photo shoot that resulted in what I think should be Gatorade’s next advertisement! The freshies we got that night could fill up about ¾ of a 20 oz. Gatorade and Mother Nature was giving out free refills all day long!

This storm came in on Tuesday roaring like a lion, with strong winds and heavy ridge-top gusts reaching 50+ miles per hour. As you all know, Sierra’s runs come directly down the fall line (meaning not much traversing) and the trees surround these trails. With the slopes North-facing, this lines up to allow for less chair exposure compared to other mountains, which means less wind hold. However, when winds start blowing above a certain threshold, we do stop running the chairs for safety reasons. There are many factors that determine chairs going on wind hold, and wind speed is the main factor, but visibility is also considered. Again, with our chairs going directly up fall lines and our trails surrounded by trees, we tend to also have greater visibility than other resorts. We also factor in how sustained the winds are and which direction they come from. If Sierra chairs go on wind hold (as they did this week), that means that the ride up is not safe for skiers/riders, and it is almost guaranteed that all other resorts are on wind hold with the majority of mountains even closed at times.

The winds do bring a certain awesome factor that may not be super obvious right away if you only focus on the downside. First, as the wind gusts around the ridge-tops, it creates stealth powders stashes for powder hounds to seek out. Also, when we’re forced to put chairs on wind hold that means TONS of untouched goods could be waiting for you the next day! For example, when Grandview opened up this morning there was 15” of snow calling my name at the top of Grandview and all the way down Castle!

Mother Nature doesn’t always agree with us, so we respect her wishes and adapt. That doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy it. Let’s face it – with your posse in tow and powder to shred, you’re gonna have a blast! I know these guys were definitely enjoying the snow in West Bowl yesterday!

Thanks to our location on thewestern slope of the Sierra Crest, we typically receive one of the highest natural snowfalls around the lake during storms! This is especially true for this storm system because most of the action coming this weekend is forecasted to drop west of the crest and along the crest while eastern locations will see smaller amounts of snow! Gear up and get pumped for plenty of powder days ahead of us at Sierra!

The most bizarre element to this storm system is the high elevation snow levels and the mixed precipitation. According to NOAA and the Tahoe Weather Discussion, snow levels will remain around 7000-7500 feet today and possible tomorrow. “Stoke level” was on high yesterday at Sierra as our base lodge is sitting right at 7300 feet, catching the brunt of the storm!

Unfortunately, temps got a little too high overnight creating variable mountain conditions with some higher elevation snow along with lower elevation rainfall. This has made for quite a stormy day at Sierra today.

We’re looking forward to tomorrow when a colder storm system should be rollin’ in. Snow elevation levels will drop down to 4000 feet and we could potentially see an estimated 3-5 FEET of fresh powdery deliciousness at Sierra as the storm continues on through Sunday!

 Keep working on your snow dances and I’ll see you on the mountain!

03/10/2012 | By Leslie
Snow Day Superstitions

Miracle March is upon us ladies and gents! Snow is in the forecast for the week ahead, and it will start falling tomorrow! There’s also a BIG STORM brewing next week, with the potential to drop FEET of fresh powdery deliciousness at Sierra! There are so many different rituals we use to inspire the snow gods to deliver all the goods! In case you aren’t hip to these superstitions, it is my duty as Sierra’s Snow Reporter to fill you in so we can have plenty of days like this!

1.       Wash Your Car

After a storm, cars can get pretty dirty around Lake Tahoe. Many people believe as soon as you wash your car, another big storm will roll in to dirty it right back up! I think it’s time for EVERYONE to cruise on over to the car wash and inspire the snow gods.

2.       Wear Your PJ’s Inside Out

Many people swear by this snow-day ritual. The idea is to confuse the snow gods by wearing your pj’s inside out and the result is a down-pour of big n’ fluffy snowflakes! At the very least, this ritual gives you a fun night in with the family!

3.       Break it Down With Your Best Snow Dance

Go outside and bust a move with a snow dance to motivate the snow gods! The more you dance, the more snow they will bring to Sierra and don’t forget to chant, “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

4.       Set a TON of new rails on the Mountain

Our Terrain Park Crew has been working hard all week to premiere our Signature Park on Bashful and they continue to set-up more rails & boxes for you to enjoy. The more rails they place, the more snow the gods will drop – but we don’t mind, its job security for the crew and more fun for all of you!

5.       Put Your Rally Cap On

The easiest snow day ritual to take part in is to wear your beanie or hat inside out! This lets the snow gods know that you are ready to rally, so bring on the snow!!

Even if you don’t believe in superstitions, get out there are do all of these rituals just in case! Start praying this storm brings us FEET of fresh snow to play in and gear up for all the super fun POW DAYS ahead of us!

Team Rider Scottie Hoffman Enjoying a Pow Day at Sierra. Photo Credit Kyle McCoy

I’d love to hear all of your snow day rituals so make sure you share them with us on Facebook!

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

03/03/2012 | By Leslie
The Musical Stylings of The Rice Brothers

Every season, Sierra’s own General Manager, John Rice, takes center stage alongside his brothers to entertain all of our guests in the Sierra Pub. They rock out with old school songs from Johnny Cash, CCR, The Youngbloods, Jimmy Reed, and much more! This is the best après party there is….period!

Have you ever seen a GM of a ski resort playing the guitar and singing with his brothers in the pub?! I’m pretty sure this only happens at Sierra-at-Tahoe and it’s a HUGE part of what makes this place so special!! I have to admit, it’s pretty awesome to have a boss that is not only super down-to-earth, but also very talented! In case you’re wondering, I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss...seriously, how many GM's do you know that can play the guitar and the harmonica this well?!! Mad props!

The music gene runs deep in the Rice family, and this season John Rice’s daughter, Delaney, will be joining in to add a certain feminine touch on the music set. There will be performances today and tomorrow from 2:00-6:00 pm and you are not gonna want to miss out on this! See you in the Sierra Pub!

03/02/2012 | By Leslie
Chair Lift Confessions

My favorite part of being the chief snow reporter here at Sierra is taking my ride breaks each day right around the time the first chair spins. Obviously this is a sweet perk because I get first tracks every day, but what I also love about it is meeting new and interesting people while riding up the chair lift. I know why I love Sierra, but I wanted to get the inside scoop straight from our loyal guests to see what they love about the resort.

To break the ice, I started off by asking where they were from. I wasn’t surprised to find that two people were from South Lake Tahoe, two were from Folsom, and one dedicated rider drove up from San Francisco.

To make each conversation interesting, I asked each person if they could be ANY animal what would they be and why. These answers really told me a lot about each of them and showed me why they ride at Sierra.

When a South Lake Tahoe local told me he would want to be a cow, I couldn't help but laugh at this bizarre response. He explained that he chose a cow because they have “such a chill life” and that his idea of a fun day at Sierra includes taking some turns through west bowl and hanging with his friends.Sounds to me like he’s already got that “chill life” down to a science.

My favorite animal choice came from another Tahoe local who wants to be a leopard so he can be camouflaged and nobody could ever catch him. This leopard wanna-be really enjoys seeking out stealth powder stashes under the Grandview chair line while staying under the radar and far ahead of his friends.

The dedicated rider from San Francisco said he’d love to be a mountain lion so that he could always be the “king” of the mountain. His favorite run at Sierra is Castle, which leads me to believe that riding at Sierra helps him to feel that he is a part of the “royal family.” When I catch a glimpse of this view, I feel like royalty too!

I was pretty stoked when I asked each of them to describe the vibe at Sierra in two words because all of their responses were exactly the way I feel about the mountain as well.  In the words of these guests, Sierra is a super chill, laid-back, home-grown resort that is always the local’s choice.

These chair lift confessions give you a glimpse into the awesomeness that is Sierra-at-Tahoe! With 40+ inches of fresh snow and the best conditions of the season, now is the time to come up and experience our chill, laid-back vibe!