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High-Country Snow Still Abounds in the West

Ray Tomlinson of REI's Reno store plans to ski at least 1 day in each month in 2011.

It's a great year to pursue such a goal. The mountains in the West remain stuffed with snow.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Mammoth Mountain ski area in California will remain in operation through July 4, and that for the first time in most people's memories, even some Tahoe-area resorts such as Squaw Valley will be open on July 4. Mammoth's snow total for the season, as of May 20, is 660 inches—close to double its average (342.5 inches).

The Associated Press (via MSNBC) reports that Colorado's statewide snowpack stands at 167% of average. Arapahoe Basin, the state's last resort still operating, will be open weekends through June 17-19.

The Seattle Times reports that Crystal Mountain near Mount Rainier is 5 inches shy of exceeding its record snowfall of 1998-99 (598 inches) and, according to a resort spokesman, "It looks like we'll be skiing into July." Mount Bachelor in Oregon, meanwhile, will be open this weekend as well.

Tomlinson, supervisor of the action sports and camping departments at REI Reno, spent Sunday afternoon (May 22) enjoying a 60 degree day at Secret Cove, a beach on the east shore of Lake Tahoe.

"Looking at the west shore of the lake, it's just amazing to see how much snow is still up in the mountains," he says, estimating that snow around the lake (depending on sun exposure) starts between 5,500 to 7,000 feet. "The mountains in the Desolation Wilderness area are completely covered with snow."

A storm last weekend dropped an estimated 18 inches of snow on the mountains above Reno, prompting Tomlinson, a fan of backcountry skiing using a splitboard, to take in 2 days of making turns last Wednesday and Thursday (May 18 and 19) near Mount Rose (base elevation: 8,260 feet) in Nevada, about a 25-minute drive from Reno.

"One day I skied in the Mt. Rose Wilderness backcountry," Tomlinson says, "and the other day I hiked into the Mt. Rose ski resort and did a run on an area affectionately known as The Chutes. It's got nice pack on it right now."

The conditions? "On Wednesday I was literally in knee-deep powder," Tomlinson says. "Not spring 'spush', but actual powder. It was 30 degrees and lightly snowing. The next day it was 40, and in just one day the snow had settled down and taken on more of a spring-conditions, corn-snow consistency."

Tomlinson is a Reno native, and this snowpack is among the most substantial he can recall. "This is definitely top 5 that I can remember for the amount of snow we have," he says. "I think 1996 was the last time I remember it going this late. That's when it snowed 25 days in March and we had power almost every single day, but I don't remember anything like this between 1996 and now."

REI stores have switched their product mix to more warm-weather pursuits, though is offering some attractive off-season deals on skis and snowboards. "People are more cycle-minded and backpacking-minded at this point," Tomlinson says. "But I still get at least one phone call a day asking if we're still renting snowshoes. We don't have the space in our rental area for both summer and winter gear, so we don't have snowshoes available. But people are still enjoying the snow."

How about you? Do you plan to make some late-season turns on snow this spring? Or are you eager for trails to melt out?

Photo: Mammoth Mountain during the peak of ski season.


Posted on at 6:53 PM

Tagged: REI Reno, Snow, skiing, snowsports and splitboards

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It's snowing again in the Sierra's. Sugarbowl has 6-8" inches already on their deck. There are chain controls on I-80. What a great spring so far......Mother Nature is laying down a great base for June and July.

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