Snow Reporting is a fun job. It’s cool to be “in the know” of mountain operations and what to expect, but what’s most important to us is getting the snow/weather data correct and delivered promptly to you and the rest of our guests. We are constantly tracking weather models and reading predictions from NOAA, OpenSnow, and local forecasters to have an idea of what the day will look like before arriving at 5:30am. There are many days that we “live and die with the snow forecast” which is a friendly reminder of the passion we share for fresh powder and living in the mountains. Needless to say, it’s fun to feel like we are part of each and every storm.
How do you report snow numbers?
At Palisades Tahoe, we are committed to reporting snow conditions honestly, accurately, and with transparency. While the process of measuring and reporting snow is relatively straightforward, we do have 2 base areas, 8 peaks, 14 zones, and 6,000 acres of skiable terrain. Snowfall totals from each storm can vary widely across our 6,000 acres which is why we have been consistently reporting snowfall totals from the same snow plots for many years. Our methodology is outlined below, but we follow a strict process that has been proven to be successful, and we repeat it each and every day to distribute accurate overnight snowfall, 24-hour snowfall, 7-day snowfall, and base depth figures.
Where do you measure snow?
Measurements are taken from dedicated snow plots on both mountains at their base and upper elevation.
- At Palisades Tahoe, the lower mountain snow plot is located outside of the Patrol Shack at 6,200 feet. The upper snow plot is located at the bottom of Belmont Chair just below High Camp.
- At Alpine Meadows, the lower mountain snow plot is located to the east of the bottom Roundhouse terminal (6,950 feet). The upper mountain snow plot is located at approximately 8,000 feet – the bottom of South Perl in Alpine Bowl near the top of Roundhouse Chair.
Why is the snow stake located where it is?
It is critical to measure in a flat area that is not directly exposed to the sun and features some protection from the wind. This should prevent scouring, wind loading, and enhanced melting to allow for a more accurate recording. With vastly different snow totals from top to bottom, it’s wise to have multiple measurements for greater accuracy, and that’s why we report figures for both upper and lower elevations.
What times do you record snow numbers?
The overnight snowfall total is measured from 5pm–5am and the 24-hour total is from 5am-5am. The snow stake is cleared at both 5am and 5pm. The base depth is measured at both intervals.
Who is responsible for reporting the snow numbers?
- At 5am, the on-hill Grooming Supervisors at both Palisades and Alpine send a text message or email with the overnight snowfall total.
- At 5pm, we receive the snowfall total since 5am directly from Ski Patrol at both mountains.
As Groomers are on the hill overnight, they have a unique perspective of what transpired overnight. Likewise, Ski Patrol is on-hill all day and can report what we picked up with great accuracy. Their experience is critical. They have a trained eye that can spot wind loading or scouring, allowing for accurate reporting each and every day.
Where else can these snow numbers be found?
We crosscheck the numbers received from Patrol/Grooming with data that is collected by remote sensors. These sensors track wind speed, temperature, snowfall accumulation, and total liquid collected.
- At Palisades Tahoe, sensors are located at the Palisades Base (6,200 feet), Belmont (8,000 feet), and the top of Siberia (8,700 feet).
- At Alpine Meadows, the sensors are located at the bottom and top of Roundhouse Chair (6,950 feet – 7,880 feet), the bottom and top of Scott Chair (7,075 feet – 8,120 feet), the top of Scott (8,120 feet), and the top of the Summit (8,643 feet).
During storms, particularly if winds or avalanche danger prevent patrol from getting to the upper elevations for a measurement, it’s great to have a resource to see what the snow totals are looking like. Check out NOAA’s remote sensors here and here. It’s important to consider that wind loading/drifting can skew the new snowfall totals on the sensors during a storm, so be sure to take these numbers with a grain of salt before telling your friends how much new pow dropped in overnight. If it seems too good to be true, it could be the result of wind loading along the sensor, making snow totals appear to be more than they truly are, or wind scouring, making totals appear less than they truly are.
What do all the numbers mean?
The information we distribute, like most other resorts in the industry, revolves around base depth, overnight snowfall total, 24-hour snowfall, and 7-day snowfall.
- Base Depth: How deep the snowpack is at a given elevation. Due to settling, melting, and sublimation, the base depth will always be less than the season snowfall total. We report base depths from the base and approximately 8,000 feet at each mountain. While some resorts choose to use a single ‘average’ base depth number, we prefer to provide additional information to further illustrate current conditions and remain transparent.
- Overnight Snowfall: The overnight snowfall total is measured from 5pm when Ski Patrol clears the snow stake until 5am when the Grooming Supervisor clears it off. Experienced skiers and riders appreciate this information because it shows the amount of snow that has yet to be skied, having fallen after the mountain closed the day before.
- 24-Hour Snowfall: Measured from 5am until 5am, this is the combination of two 12-hour measurements. This is a critical figure during an extended storm cycle.
- 7-Day Snowfall: How much snow has fallen in the last week.
What’s your average snowfall?
Palisades Tahoe has an annual average snowfall of 400 inches (1,016 centimeters).