Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cozy Time

The big storm arrived early last night. Dry snow flurries began around 0100. I viewed the radar images on my iPod around 0300, radioed to the crew that "it looks like another hour, hour and a half in this wave" and marveled that CalTrans had put up chain controls at all.

The hour and a half later came, and Mother Nature turned it up. With plenty of horses on the team, we did some extra trails. Off the ski hill just in time to open, I set about building the bridges on the cross country trails. In spite of the fact that the mercury hadn't been above freezing for two and a half days, the creeks were still running high.

Using the favored dry snow, I pushed in the creeks without actually building any dams...essentially, I narrowed the creeks so the coming snowfall could build natural bridges for us. I bridged several of the smaller watercourses, but when I was plowing the biggest creek, I noticed a "rock" in the snow that looked suspiciously like a wheel. I back bladed it up, and yes it was a snowcat wheel and tire. I jumped out and looked, yes it was mine.

The hub was intact, so I'd lost all the lug nuts. The darn thing was heavy! I wrestled it onto the tracks, and into the passenger side of the cab, then gingerly limped my ol' girl home to the shop.

I took the "low and slow" route home, and I called for an escort for the 400 yards of the active hill that I needed to traverse. I made it back to the shop without incident.

I got back to the DaveCave before noon and fired up the snowblower . I blew the five inches of earlybird snow in time to catch the Noon News weathercasts. One day in, and CBS13's weathergal said she was "already tired of talking about the weather"!

I nodded off before KCRA3's weather segment, and woke up after 7PM.

Reno's NWS forecasters have been updating their AFD all day. Looks like 6-8 inches on my front porch...little wind so far...hey, COMCAST SportsNet is showing Game One of the World Series!

Cozy time until the alarm goes off at 10PM.

More good times!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting Dialed

Good coyote! Watching Boreal's groomers
Funny, my sleep schedule this season is shaping up as a two part affair...fall asleep during the Noon News, wake up for the 5PM News, nap from far it's workin' OK

So between sleep shifts I check the web for weather intel...I read the AFD's, scan the PWS's, watch the weatherman's standup on the TV News...Winter Storm Warnings have been issued for Noon Friday through 4PM Sunday! Today I even received an email newsletter on the forecast deluge. This one gave me pause. It's from The Storm King, Mark McLaughlin our local Tahoe Weather Historian.

Here's the takeaway that might keep me awake:

"Weather watchers like me have been somewhat expecting a potential flood
event this winter, especially in December. The influence of the strong La
Nina event
in the Pacific Ocean trends toward a weather pattern that can tap
a moist subtropical flow known in the West as the “Pineapple Express.”
Virtually all of California’s most destructive floods have occurred during
La Nina-influenced winters, so this approaching potent system should come as
no surprise. Another one is expected next week."

"This winter is off to a strong start; precipitation in October was 253
percent above normal and November dumped all that snow. The saturated soils will be unable to absorb much of the expected rain which increases the flood potential. Interestingly, this winter’s precipitation plot line is closely following the trajectory of 1982-1983, the wettest year on record. During the winter of 1983, nearly 90 inches of precipitation inundated the region,
including 56 feet of snow measured at Donner Pass."

So, maybe we'll be making history this season...O, how well I remember 82-83!

Weather Geeks and History Freaks couldn't do better than subscribing to Mark's Newsletter: Tahoe Nuggets. Mark's always a fascinating read, especially for those of us lucky enough to live in the Tahoe Sierra, with all this history under foot...and at times...falling from the sky.

More good times!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quiet Before the Storms

My local weathersphere is pegging the hyperdrive meter. Anticipation has reached redline status...hearts are palpitating...defibrillation may be called for. Reno's AFD reads like a dime novel today.

A little trip down memory lane may help...just last week, the High Sierra endured a protracted spate of tropical rain storms. Mercifully, my boss asked if I'd like Saturday night off, and I was glad to oblige...four shifts of near non-stop rain were more than enough for one week!

Tuesday evening the rain turned to snow...when I got to work Tuesday night, the snow had moved South, and a few stars were twinkling through the clearing cloud cover. Sadly the clearing came too late to catch the peak of the Geminid Meteor I capped a pic from SpaceWeather

Geminid meteor and Aurora Borealis over Sweden's Abisko Natl Park
I enjoyed my shift more than I can say! Cold, dry snow, with Venus blazing overhead...such a welcome turn of conditions!

Meanwhile back at the forecast offices, NWS forecasters are running their suite of models and have been buzzing about the "Next significant weather event" now forecast to enter my wheelhouse Friday.

I woke up Wednesday afternoon in time to view the afternoon news shows, and every weatherdude and dudette were excitedly touting the coming systems. KCRA3's @MarkFinan called for 3-6 feet above 6000ft

Every Sacramento TV News show featured a story on possible flooding with the next storm system and the local hydrological preparations.

I heard similar stories from my Reno radio stations.

Three to six feet...another 3-6 time for the Christmas Holidays? Awesome!

It's gonna be close, timewise...I need my mountain to "drain" enough so I can build some bridges, i.e. "fill" some creeks, and re-establish the cross-country trails. I committed to Friday, and it looks like we'll have cold temps until the storm system arrives Friday night.

Pretty sure I can cash that check...umm, Mother Nature? A little help?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Last spring I wrote about Alpine Meadows and their snowcat concert stage contraption, the BandWagon.

Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle Travel Section featured a story on Mammoth Mountain getting into the SnowCat Re-purposing sweepstakes...Behold the first "RoachCat"

Food trucks are all the rage these days...gastronomically speaking...Snarky TV Travel Chef Anthony Bourdain has devoted a fair amount of time to the Food Truck Phenomenon in the latest seasons of his Travel Channel Show "No Reservations"

Some of these rolling kitchens look pretty tasty...I'll patronize the SushiCat, and of course the Fresh Dungeness CrabCat, when and if they ever set sail...

Speaking of Sailing...
San Francisco's bid to host the 34th America's Cup Regatta on San Francisco Bay looks to be in big trouble...The City seems to be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I'm not a worry-wart, but I had considered the "shoot yourself in both feet" option for San Francisco's Progressive Pols...the final decision is Friday December 17th...pray for the Cup!

There's been more than enough drama surrounding the City's bid for the Cup this week...I was relieved to see the Board of Supervisors approved the Host City Agreement Resolution Tuesday. Clearly I haven't a clue if the vote will bring the regatta to the Bay...I don't get the whole negotiations deal at this level...still, my fingers are crossed for my dream.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Building Bridges

More fun at the fuel dock Saturday morning! My boss walked up as I was fueling up and asked if I'd take Saturday night off...duh...I'm up for a three day weekend!

With four days of rain and warm temps, there's just not that much to do. He didn't say it, but we find ourselves in Total Conservation Mode until the mercury drops and the skier visits rise.

This season a new set of tasks has been added to our list. We build and maintain cross country trails now...once we've vacated the mountain proper. It's a different sort of grooming to be sure.

This week, on said skinny ski trails, I've been filling in the same four creeks every morning. The thing is, we haven't had the right kind of snow for the application yet...not once since we opened.

We opened on Thanksgiving Eve on 100+ inches of champagne powder...on bare ground...

In a perfect world, those first inches on bare ground would be the much maligned "Sierra Cement"...lousy to ski on, but ideal for spackling granite and dirt...we call it building the Base...

Early season, there's a lot of building to be done...ramps and maze areas are pushed up and groomed, only to be enlarged as the snowpack deepens and the crowds grow. On the hill, creeks are buried...or more accurately, creeks are bridged and trails are reborn. Cat tracks, service roads, snowmobile roads, pedestrian paths...all are constructed with Nature's Miracle Building Material, snow.

There is a "Sweet Spot" in Mother Nature's building material...too dry (like those first 100+ inches of Utah Powder) and the snow won't adhere to itself enough to endure future grooming traffic....too wet, and you're building dams not bridges. Dams and their impoundments have no place on ski hills. You want water skiing? Get a boat not a lift ticket.

Add four days and nights of warm, wet weather and the pack needs conserving and drying out...all the creeks and streams are flowing big time, wetlands are lakes...not a pretty picture...we closed the cross country trails Saturday it what it is: Surrender...

I'm enjoying my first night off so far...I've got a shot at seeing the beginning of the Geminid Meteor Showers, which peak overnight Mon/Tue December 13/14 at a forecast 120 meteors per hour...Tonight, I'll be lucky to see one every two minutes!

I won't be giving any thought to snow, grooming, or building bridges until Tuesday night!