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25 Sep 2018
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Fall in Tahoe
How Big A Winter Will It Be in North Lake Tahoe

Yes, sports fans, it’s time once again for Tahoe’s favorite fall activity: Predict how big a winter it will be! Of course while no one knows anything, even the weather forecasters, we still like to come up with rationale for why this winter will be big! This fall the most popular are: A) it wasn’t big last year, so it should be big this year. B) The squirrels around my house are going bonkers collecting more fir cones then I ever, and of course, the most popular reason underlying reason amongst skiers C) Because I want there to be lots of snow for skiing!

One of my go to weather sources, Brian Allegretto from Opensnow recently said this about the coming winter: “The long-range models are not very reliable, less so the further out they go.  The CFSv2 has below average precip for CA through January. Then it has above average precipitation starting in February.” In other words, while meteorologists are getting pretty dang good at predicting weather 10 days out, long term forecasting is still pretty much a crap shoot.

Another thing that people talk about this time of year is: I just want an average winter! Well if you remember from statistics class average precipitation is the total divided by the number of years. So if you have a year with 200 inches and a year with 100 inches the average for the two years is 150 inches. Except getting an “average” amount of snowfall in the Sierra is actually quite rare. If you look at the chart on the back of the dam at Fanny Bridge you will see that the vast majority of years give us way more snow or way less than the average. Over the last hundred years you can count on your two hands how many years were actually pretty close to average. The rest were copious snow and rain producers that made us plead for a break, or winters where we were begging for snow.

So I guess all we can do is hope. Here is what I wish for: A few rainstorms in October and November to wet down the dust. No major snow storms until about Thanksgiving so we don’t waste snow when it will just melt, then a healthy set of storms by early December to set up a nice base for Christmas. Good snow off and on through January and February to continue building up a base, but not so we are shoveling more then skiing. Then springtime melt for good spring skiing and snow melted in time for mountain biking in May.