Living and vacationing in a ski town like South Lake Tahoe, means that during the winter everyone is constantly checking the snow forecasts. This includes immediate forecasts, and of course the long range winter forecast. After three years of not the best skiing in Tahoe, everyone is hoping that the recent dry pattern will change.
In June, NOAA came out with their winter climate reports. They noted that there was a strong possibility of a building El Nino that could bring needed moisture to Tahoe and the Sierras. The general consensus around South Lake Tahoe was that, yes, it would be amazing to finally have a big winter again. But, after a few years of lackluster snowfall the majority of us remained pessimistic.
The talks of the building El Nino, named the ‘Godzilla El Nino, continued to be everywhere on the news and social media. Then in November we finally started receiving moisture and Tahoe was turned into a snowy winter wonderland once again. But the pessimists surmised that snow in November doesn’t mean anything to predict what our winter will be like.
With cold temperatures, and snow continuing in to December, all of the local mountains opened before their projected opening date. In the past few years when Heavenly Mountain opened, it was only with man-made snow. This year the opening day including the real stuff!
By the middle of December, local forecasters stopped speculating that the El Nino would affect our snow totals and moved to say that we were experiencing it. Tahoe collectively rejoiced over this information!
Now, at the beginning of 2016 most of the pessimists have turned into optimists. Tahoe really just needs to be back at our winter averages, and it will be better than the past few years. The average mountain snowfall at Heavenly ranges from 300 – 500 inches per year. The past few years have been below the average.
What Can We Expect?
According to reporters at OpenSnow.com , a typical El Nino pattern will bring storms in the northern Pacific Ocean but results in the Continental US can vary. If the storms push far enough south and east, the southwestern US can see precipitation. However, if the storms stay too far north and west, we in the Sierra’s might not see much snow at all. This makes it hard to predict longer range forecasts as meteorologists have trouble predicting the tracks of the storms and the impact of the jet stream.
Martin Luther King Weekend Forecast
The storms we just received didn’t hit South Lake Tahoe as hard as many of us would have liked. North Lake on the other hand received most of the snowfall, and Sugar Bowl Mountain reported 33″ from the last storm.
NOAA forecasts are reporting that South Lake Tahoe will see decent snow accumulation this weekend beginning tonight. Next week should also see snow, as a series of weaker storms will hit Tahoe. The storms leading up to MLK weekend are on the weak side, and might not bring much accumulation to the basin.
The good news is that the models are showing multiple systems coming through in the next week (source: OpenSnow.com). At this point, even if we don’t get the colossal six foot storm that we all really want, any snow is better than nothing! Here is our forecast through Tuesday from NOAA.
Snow Totals by Ski Mountain
If you haven’t already, make it your 2016 resolution to make it up to South Lake Tahoe this season. As of the beginning of 2016, this is what the South Shore mountains are all reporting:
Heavenly Mountain Resort
Base Depth: 164″
Season Total: 182″Open Terrain: 100%
Base Depth: 78″
Season Total: 221″
Open Terrain: 100%
Sierra at Tahoe
Base Total: 139″
Open Terrain: 100%
Nothstar California Resort
Base Depth: 50″Season Total: 215″
Open Terrain: 95%