Tahoe is home to “Sierra Cement.” This is referring to the higher density (higher water content) snow we generally receive as a result of our low-ish elevation and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Although some Rocky Mountain skiers may scoff at the idea of high density snow, we Sierra skiers revel in skiing stable snow on steeper terrain, a maritime snowpack that provides relatively safe and more predictable avalanche stability, and where as little as 6” can buff out an entire slope and ski bottomless. But this is just one of the many types of snow we can get in Tahoe. Everything from rain to cold smoke can be found at any point in the season, sometimes all within a short period of time. Usually storms will come in warm, and become colder as the storm progresses. This creates a “regular snowpack” situation, where warmer, denser snow is on the bottom, followed by colder, lighter snow. Sometimes, however, the reverse can occur. This is called an “upside down snowpack,” and the snow will be light on the bottom and dense on top. This situation makes for extremely dangerous avalanche conditions. This, combined with other common factors such as wind loading, persistent weak layers, rapid warming, storm slabs, etc. all contribute to potentially dangerous avalanche conditions. Yes, it is true that maritime snowpacks usually harbor lower relative avalanche danger compared to inter-continental or continental snowpacks, but this is no excuse to let your guard down, and numerous avalanche fatalities in recent years have been a harsh reminder that nowhere is devoid of avalanche danger. Take an avalanche course and stay informed with the snowpack by following the professionals at the Sierra Avalanche Center. Also, get in the habit of following snow conditions and avalanche reports throughout the season, as to make a “mental snowpit profile.”