Backcountry skiing still prime |

Backcountry skiing still prime

While rampant sunshine and warm temperatures might have most locals thinking more about cycling, hiking or climbing than skiing, now is the time to seize that backcountry goodness that makes the Tahoe area one of the best places on the planet to own a pair of skis or a snowboard.

Winter sports enthusiasts may be sobbing into their soft-shells at the shallow snowpack and short season we’ve all seen around here. But the wise will take advantage of it while it’s still here.

Much of the popular Mt. Rose backcountry slopes are still fun and well covered.

According to the forecast on the Sierra Avalanche Center’s Web site, avi danger has been hovering around moderate most recently, but during our last warm spell the daily forecast was mostly low, leaving little worry of disaster when traveling.

While some new snow fell with this recent system just south of Tahoe, the North Shore has seen little new snow and many of our favorite North Shore and Donner Summit spots are still relatively safe.

While I’m on the subject of the wondrous backcountry we all seem to have virtually right out our front doors, it seems fitting to touch on an even more important resource than our constant sunshine, unbelievable terrain and decent annual snowfall.

I’m talking about the Sierra Avalanche Center.

Anyone who travels in the local backcountry is familiar with

If not, check out the site. It has detailed daily snow stability forecasts, easy to use links describing terms and characteristics of the snowpack and forums with postings from users about their backcountry experiences.

I mention this site for two reasons.

No. 1, if you are a skier or snowboarder looking to get out beyond your favorite resort’s ropes but aren’t quite sure what your doing, Sierra Avalanche Center is probably the first thing to check out. Read the forecast every day and study the words you don’t know. Not only is it up to date info on conditions, it will educate you with words and graphics on what to look for when you go out.

No. 2, Sierra Avalanche Center is a non-profit organization and currently short of operational costs by nearly $2,000. That means that unless donations pick up, the center will shut down and local backcountry enthusiasts will lose a valuable resource.

The next fundraiser is on Sunday, March 25 at Sugar Bowl, which has donated lift tickets, leaving all proceeds from ticket sales for the Avalanche Center’s operating budget. Go to or directly to to purchase tickets.

And don’t worry if your favorite lift-serviced slopes are melting and becoming monotonous. There’s plenty of fresh lines and new terrain out there to explore.

Get out and get some before it’s all gone for another six months.

Alex Close is the assistant editor of the Tahoe World and a sportswriter for the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at

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