Just a few days ago we posted one of these blogs saying we were gearing up for summer. We knew we’d get a bit of snow this week, and wintry conditions returned in full force on Monday. Snow was dumping and winds were howling. While we don’t anticipate that this snow will lead to any lifts re-opening, the Tahoe region desperately needs this moisture. Plus, a fresh coating of snow on the upper mountain will help us to continue to ski & snowboard through May 1st.
Storm Recap: 24 Hours
- On Sunday afternoon, we scheduled the majority of our lifts with “Anticipated Weather Impact.” You can check the Palisades Tahoe Mobile App or our Lift Status page to get this information.
- Snow began falling very early on Monday morning, around 5am. We had about an inch of snow when Patrol first began reporting.
- As expected, several lifts began the day on wind hold. We tried to start the day with some base area lifts at Palisades, but quickly placed everything on wind hold due to deteriorating conditions. By 11am, our ops teams felt we would not reopen. At Alpine, base area lifts lasted a bit longer, but by noon, everything except the big carpet was on hold. Wind speeds topped out at Palisades around 125 miles per hour, and closer to 150 miles per hour at Alpine.
- As of 5am on Tuesday morning, we received 9 inches of snow.
Weather Outlook This Week
We are expecting cold temperatures and snow showers throughout the week. Several nighttime temperatures will fall below 20 degrees, while daytime will hover in the mid-20s. You’ll want to bundle up with multiple layers to stay warm. High wind gusts could oop up throughout the week, and we will mark lifts with “Anticipated Weather Impact” ahead of time as much as possible.
Deep Dive: Wind Hold
Winds topped out at 125 miles per hour yesterday. When our operations staff showed up, they thought we might be able to operate some lower-mountain lifts. Two minutes before 9am, the Funitel got an automatic wind sensor alert that requires it to not run. So we pulled that from the schedule. By 9am, Patrol had already ridden up Red Dog and felt that it was questionable. Then, at 9:04 am, a chair hit a tower, which also triggers an automatic shut-down. The winds did nothing but increase throughout the entire morning, peaking in the mid-to-late afternoon. Winds were so strong that if we had hurricanes here, yesterday would have been a Category 5.
Unlike other resorts in the Tahoe basin, many of our most popular chairlifts are situated directly on the Sierra Crest. We’ve previously described the winds we experience during storm cycles as “prohibitively fierce,” at times preventing us from safely running chairlifts. Here are the 5 factors that Chris Woo, our Director of Lift Maintenance, considers when determining whether we should open or close our chairlifts.
- Anemometer Readings & Physical Testing: “First, we look at anemometers. If it is reporting 120mph we’re not even going to try and move lifts, for obvious reasons. If it’s saying 20-50mph we’re going to go up to the chairlift, run it and see what it looks like.”
- Wind Speed & Direction: “We use wind direction and intensity to determine whether a lift can operate or not.” Check out our lift & wind “vulnerability” chart below.
- Chair Swing: “Majority of the decisions to operate is based on the chair swing. It’s actually the basis of our decision to run a chair. There is an approved “chair swing” by the manufacturer, meaning how much the chair can swing front-to-back and side-to-side to safely operate. We look at how the chair reacts in the wind.”
- Wind Frequency: “Gusty winds are bad because it pushes and creates more turbulence while increasing chair swing. Consistent or steady winds in moderation are typically more predictable and may be sometimes better conditions to operate. Although, even steady consistent high winds will often prevent a safe operating condition.”
- Forecast: “We always look at the forecast provided by the National Weather Service. If we’re at pretty high winds already in the morning and the forecast is calling for winds to increase throughout the day, we might consider closing that lift. However, if we’re at marginal winds and the forecast is showing winds to decrease, we will wait and watch to see if we can open that lift and put it on ‘wind hold’.”
This interview with Chris is from a few years ago, but the way we assess for wind hold has not changed.
Operations FAQs For This Week
Is KT-22 going to re-open? Are Sherwood/Lakeview going to re-open?
Though we are getting some snow this week, it is not likely that we will be able to re-build the access road. We are not planning on re-opening KT, Sherwood, or Lakeview at this time unless we receive several more feet of snow. For KT specifically, we have left hiking terrain open, but we no longer have an access road. We would need a much more significant amount of snow to be able to send a snowcat to the top. The access is crucial for getting personnel and machines to the top in the case of emergency.
Will Cushing Crossing and the Spring Tracks Concert be affected?
We did not want to move Cushing Crossing and Spring Tracks, but the weather looks gloomy on Saturday. Sunday, however, looks much better! We will be moving BOTH Cushing Crossing and Spring Tracks to Sunday, April 17th. Registration for Cushing Crossing will be on Friday, April 15th. Please view full Cushing Crossing details here.
When will terrain parks re-open?
Our terrain parks staff worked overnight to get the parks ready for today. Belmont was rebuilt last week, and we will continue to touch it up/rebuild as necessary. This cold spell is very helpful! Gold Coast park is still partially under construction. We are working on the lower rail sections, which should be ready by Saturday. Expect terrain parks employees to be working every night from now until the end of the season. Big shoutout to the parks employees for ensuring that spring is king around here!