Lake Tahoe sits in a unique position to provide one of the best skiing climates in North America. Our lower latitude, mid-level elevations, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean moderate our temperatures and provide copious moisture. And, with 300 days of sun and 400-500” of snowfall annually, there’s huge opportunity for scoring sunny powder days.

The season usually starts off in November or December, when colder temperatures arrive and sporadic storms blanket the region. During this time, the high elevation zones, such as the Mt. Rose Area and Carson Pass, will have the best coverage until strong winter storms drop enough snow to bring skiable coverage down to Lake Level (6,225’). Meteorologists in the area often use the term “Lake Level” when referring to snow levels. If the forecasted storm has a snow level below Lake Level, most all locations in this guide will receive snow (versus rain). Another term meteorologists like to use is the “Sierra Crest.” This refers to the chain of mountains along the western side of Lake Tahoe that divides the American and Truckee River watersheds. Pacific storms on their way to Tahoe encounter the Sierra Crest, and undergo orographic lifting. This forces storms to squeeze out most of their moisture on or near the Sierra Crest. This is why resorts like Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood average over 500”, and Mount Rose averages 400”. During lighter snowfall events, head to locations along the Crest to find the deepest snow.

January is historically the driest winter month, and has earned the nickname “June-uary.” If enough early season storms have hit the area, this can be an amazing period of mild weather and fantastic corn skiing to get in shape before the spring. February, March and April have proven to produce some of our biggest dumps. Cold temperatures, longer days, and more abundant snowfall make this Tahoe’s backcountry skiing primetime. In the famously huge winter of 2010-2011, snowfall at Squaw Valley measured 240” for the month of March alone, with a season total of 800”. However, the next year (2011-2012) had the second lowest snow year on record (350”), and half the year’s snow came in March. In an average winter, this is the time when a lot of the lines requiring a deep snowpack come into play.

Depending on the snowpack, May and June can also provide good skiing, and often Tahoe has one of the longest ski seasons in North America. In 2010-2011, I skied powder at least one day every month from October to June, a 9 month powder skiing season! May and June is also a great time to explore backcountry destinations outside of Tahoe. This is the magic time when highway passes along the Eastern Sierra open, and 7,000’ corn descents can be found on Shasta. We are truly blessed in California!