‘Februburied’ – record snowfall stacks up at Tahoe-area ski resorts

Up on Donner Summit, in the community of Serene Lakes, all the street signs are buried. The front of this sign, indicating directions to Royal Gorge, has been uncovered. Photo: Karen Seaward

The snow began falling in early February and hardly let up until the last day of the month, setting records at local ski resorts and causing havoc across the Sierra Nevada.

From parents scrambling to adjust to several snow days at Tahoe-Truckee schools to local mountain crews spending their mornings digging out chair lifts, this past month has been one for the record books.

This February, dubbed “Februburied” by many on social media, even has local pros on the International Ski Federation World Cup circuit envious they’re not home taking advantage of the conditions.

“I can’t wait to get home in 15 days and enjoy all this snow,” Squaw Valley skier and Olympian Travis Ganong posted to his Instagram page on Wednesday, Feb. 27. “It’s safe to say conditions are all time and I’m sure we will be skiing into July.”

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows had its snowiest month ever at Squaw’s upper mountain, breaking the record of 282 inches set January 2017 by nearly 3 feet.

“We’re up to 313 inches of snowfall for the month, which is just over 26 feet,” said Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Public Relations Coordinator Alex Spychalsky. “Thinking back on the month, that light, powder snow that we had earlier in the month was just fantastic. I heard so many longtime Squaw and Alpine skiers saying that it was all time. People who have been around for a long time don’t give that up easily.

Snow piles up on the way to Squaw Valley. Photo: Ryan Salm

“We’re ending the month, obviously, on a little bit of a wetter note, but that just sets the snow pack up for such a long season. It’ll just make for that great spring skiing that we’re known for.”

MORE RECORDS SMASHED

Northstar California Resort’s snowfall record for February was smashed by nearly 100 inches of snow this past month. February also equaled the snowiest month on record at the resort, tying the January 2017 total of 286 inches. With all the snow, Northstar announced it will continue spinning lifts through April 2019.

“We just broke 500 inches for the season,” said Northstar California Resort Communications Manager Stephanie Myers. “We’ve received so much snow this month alone, that we’re thrilled to be announcing that we’re extending the ski season.”

Sugar Bowl exceeded its February record of 263 inches of snow set in 1993 by more than a foot.

Tahoe Donner was hit with 272 inches of snow this month, setting a February record at the mountain.

Snow removal crews have still been able to keep Truckee trails cleared. Photo: Hannah Jones

Near Donner Pass, Castle Peak has been pounded with more than 35 feet of snow this month, according to the National Weather Service.

Tahoe City piled up more than 133 inches of snow this month, according to the weather service, soaring past the average of 38.8 inches for February. Tahoe City hasn’t seen this much snow in February since the record of 174 inches was set in 1938.

NOT ALL FUN & GAMES

While all the snow is a boon for local resorts, it’s made for a chaotic month for local law enforcement, snow removal crews, and employees at the California Department of Transportation.

Interstate 80 has seen multiple, lengthy closures during the month, as crews have struggled to combat various storms bringing cold, dry snow and wet, heavy snow.

“What’s happening is the snow walls are so tall, they’re having to throw the snow across the freeway, and then that’s triggering a bunch of avalanches, said California Highway Patrol Officer Pete Mann on the most recent storm shutting down Interstate 80. “And so, they have to come back through and cut them again. It’s a big mess … even though it doesn’t feel like it in town, it is absolutely buried up top.”

Though the month has ended, it appears the snow will continue to fall as another storm makes its way into the region this weekend.

Snow levels left residents to clear out feet of snow from their driveways. Photo: Hannah Jones

“(Friday) morning through early afternoon, we’ll have a break between the next system and this system,” said Meteorologist Chris Johnston. “The next system is more directed at Mono County. Tahoe region will still see a decent amount of snow, especially in the upper elevations.”

Higher elevations around the Tahoe basin could see 1-2 feet of snow during the weekend. Up to a foot of snow is forecast for lake level.

“It’s over the eastern Pacific right now,” said Johnston. “It’s pulling up a plume of tropical moisture. It’s nothing extensive like we had this past storm, but it will pull up a little bit of moisture up into the central-southern Sierra. The colder part of that system will be in the Cascades and northern Sierra.”

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