Mt. Shasta Fall Update and Winter Preview

This post comes on the cusp of the first winter storm of the season. Mt. Shasta should have a nice coating of snow by this weekend; probably not enough for skiing and sliding yet, but it’s a start. We’re eager for the change of season and to get into winter ski tour mode; but it’s been a beautiful October and fall season in far northern California.

Mt. Shasta November 1, 2017

Mt. Shasta November 1, 2017

We enjoyed the last mild weather day to appreciate the completion of the long awaited Bunny Flat Trailhead Project. With partner support from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, The Sierra Club Foundation, and Marrone Construction; Bunny Flat now sports a beautiful new welcome sign fitting to it’s World-class stature.

New Bunny Flat Trail Sign

New Bunny Flat Trail Sign

This project has spanned many years and we extend a great thanks to Chris Marrone for his dedication and volunteering his time and expertise to construct the new sign. Thanks Chris, Clif Bars and beer are on us!

Bunny Flat Trailhead Mt. Shasta

Bunny Flat Trailhead Mt. Shasta

With the new update and sprucing up of the trailhead, I thought it would be fun to mention the history and origin of the name “Bunny Flat”. In the 1940’s a rope tow was set up on the west side of the flats to shuttle skiers up it’s gentle slopes. Much of the terrain below treeline is ideal for new skiers to enjoy the “bunny slopes” and it’s where our daughter enjoyed her first backcountry ski days. The Siskiyou County road crew plows the Everett Highway to the trailhead but may close during periods of heavy snowfall.

Bunny Flat Backcountry Skiing

Bunny Flat Backcountry Skiing

As we patiently wait for the snowpack to fill in, there’s lots to look forward to for the 2017-2018 season. We are happy to host the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and the monthly FREE Avalanche Awareness Presentations:

Where: SMG Shop 230 N. Mt. Shasta Blvd. Mt. Shasta, CA 96067

When: Fridays starting at 7:00pm. 12/1, 1/5, 2/2, 3/2. 1.5 hours

If you are a backcountry skier or snowboarder, the education never ends. A Level I Avalanche Course is a prerequisite and necessary to be a prepared partner. This year we are very excited that SMG Guide David Reichel will be the Lead Instructor for our AIARE Level I February 16-18, 2018. David is a long time guide and instructor and self-proclaimed snow nerd. He founded the California Avalanche Workshop and Tahoe Backcountry Alliance, he is clearly a passionate and dedicated professional. We look forward to his teaching on Mt. Shasta this year.

Mt. Shasta has potential for many avalanche problems and has very large avalanche paths. Use caution in winter conditions.

Avalanche Gulch with big avalanche debris

Avalanche Gulch with big avalanche debris

What do we expect for this year? It’s going to be hard to beat last year’s near record snowpack which made for exceptional climbing and skiing almost year round. I’m going with NWS Meteorologist and backcountry enthusiast’s Zach Tolby’s prediction: “We have no idea what the winter in the Sierra will be like”.

Mt. Shasta Giving Tuesday Party

Mt. Shasta Giving Tuesday Party

Our shop will be open Tuesday November 28th to host of  North Sate Giving Tuesday. We will throw a party to support the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and Mt. Shasta Nordic Center. Come down for some good vibes supporting great local organizations.

We’ll be posting updates and more information as the season progresses. You’ll find current info, dates, and details on our website at www.shastaguides.com.

Here’s looking forward to a bountiful winter season!

Mt. Shasta Early Spring Update

It’s mid-April in Northern California and the sound of raindrops continue to be the theme for the winter and spring of ’16-’17. We have officially surpassed the mark for the wettest winter on record for the Northern Sierra section of CA, yay! The weather station at 7,600’ on Mt. Shasta is measuring close to 20’ of settled snow, this is truly remarkable and we are going to have excellent alpine conditions on Mt. Shasta this year.

Although it’s Spring per the calendar, there is still plenty of snow falling in Northern California. As the ski resorts are closing, our season is just ramping up and the backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering will be truly epic for the next several months.

Backcountry powder skiing Mt. Shasta

Backcountry powder skiing Mt. Shasta

Today (4.18.17) was yet another perfect day of backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta. We received 4-5″ of cold snow on a soft supportive base with light winds which made for pretty sublime conditions.

West Face Mt. Shasta

West Face Mt. Shasta

Our season is off and running. The last couple weeks have brought amazing snow quality and beyond stoked guests. Several of our guides have been leading ski tours, splitboard seminars, and climbing classes as we wait for the jet stream to bring more seasonal weather and we are able to get onto the upper mountain.

Untracked smooth snow for miles on Mt. Shasta

Untracked smooth snow for miles on Mt. Shasta

Eric Layton, senior guide and splitboard guru just spent 3 days on the mountain and racked up some serious vertical of untouched and butter smooth spring powder. To say they were stoked would be an understatement and they were thrilled by the untouched canvas of volcano ski touring.

Fantastic skiing on Mt. Shasta

Fantastic skiing on Mt. Shasta

The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center has completed their avalanche advisories for the season; that’s not to say that the hazard has diminished, and it’s just the opposite. We have received several more storm systems this week and if the forecast is correct it looks like this weekend could provide the first real spring like weather this year. Sunny skies and mild temps are on tap. With all the new snow, and rapidly warming temperatures, we are very concerned with the possibility of wet slide avalanches this weekend. We strongly recommend caution and to avoid runout zones and gullies, especially below Lake Helen. There is a high probability of south and east slopes to become unstable and for large, destructive wet slides to run a long distance. 

Ski Mountaineering training Mt. Shasta

Ski Mountaineering training Mt. Shasta

Once we have a few cycles of mild days and cold nights, the hazard will diminish and we expect a long and enjoyable season on Mt. Shasta. Our guided climbs and trips are beginning to fill and we recommend contacting us soon to secure your dates.

Upcoming Events:

Guide training with Dave Miller and Rich Meyer 4/21-23. We can’t wait to see our crew back with such epic conditions!

Mt. Shasta Ski Mountaineering Seminar 4/21-24 Senior Guide Dane Brinkley leads 4 days of advanced ski mountaineering with some excellent weather and conditions lined up

The Geology of Mt. Shasta Presentation by Dr. William Hirt Friday April 21 at 7:00pm Sisson Museum

Summit climbs and ski descents each weekend starting now!

Call or email for the latest. Happy Spring!

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Report

It’s November and late fall and early winter can be extremely variable on a Cascade Volcano. At least for us, it has been remarkable in the high quality conditions for ski and splitboard touring. Mt. Shasta received nearly 400% of precipitation (about 12″ of water) for October and with some November storms, our pack is currently measuring 4-6′ above treeline.

Broadway ski tour Mt. Shasta, CA

Broadway ski tour Mt. Shasta, CA

November ushered in our first true powder days of the new season. Ryan Ghelfi, SMG guide and professional runner inspired a dawn patrol ski tour that delivered an all-time powder day on Mt. Shasta. The early storms were warm and created a dense, smooth base. The final storms were much colder with snow levels down to 5,000′ and dropped 16″ of pow, still undisturbed by the wind. We scored!

Green Butte ridge Mt. Shasta, CA

Ryan scores first powder tuns of the new season

We both were amazed at the quality of the snow. The overall depth is still relatively shallow but the dense structure made for mid-winter conditions.

Mt. Shasta backcountrty powder skiing

Mt. Shasta backcountry powder skiing

Our last precip event was last night (11/11) and otherwise it has been a mild and sunny weather pattern. The fair weather and dense snow has created seriously smooth corn conditions between 8-11,000′ and excellent skiing. Although this changes rapidly.

November powder skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

November powder skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

The mild temps have receded the snow level and it’s necessary to walk about 10-15 minutes before being able to skin-up. The approach to treeline and back down is shallow; caution advised to minimize damage to equipment and self. However, the rewards are worth the effort and above 8,200′ is excellent. We have a smooth, consolidated snow pack and with proper timing and aspect awesome skiing and riding conditions can be found.

Taking snow depth measurements while touring to Lake Helen

Taking snow depth measurements while touring to Lake Helen

I’ve seen a surprising number of visiting skiers and climbers and it’s fun to welcome everyone to our area. It has been amazingly beautiful with fall colors, the low sun creates a glowing effect with the snowcapped Mt. Shasta standing majestically over town, and truly epic sun and clouds lately. We are so grateful to live here and share this experience with friends.

It looks like we’ll see some more precipitation next week and long term forecasts are calling for wet ending to November. Once we have 4-5′ of snow at Bunny Flat we will start leading ski tours. We are super excited about the jump start to our season and hope that this is a bountiful winter for all.

Early morning ski tour Green Butte Mt. Shasta, CA

Early morning ski tour Green Butte Mt. Shasta, CA

How much snow did Mt. Shasta receive?

Enough to enjoy the best, earliest, mid winter powder day we’ve ever experienced!

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

Enough to cover the bare volcanic slopes with a mid winter snow surface. The recent Pineapple Express/Atmospheric River delivered between 4-6″ of water and above 8,500′ or so that all fell as snow and it is glorious!

Ski Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 10.18.16

Ski Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 10.18.16

With confidance in the snow pack and ideal structure (dense to light) the skin up and the ski down were excellent with no concern of hitting obstacles and buried boulders, amazing for mid October!

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

My highpoint was Lake Helen 10,400′ and snow depths measured between 5-7′ with an uneven distribution. There were plenty of wide open slopes that offered full coverage and a supportive base (ski pen was only 5-15cm) but also areas that were scoured by the ever present winds. Snow coverage below treeline was significantly less and may not last through the upcoming warm temps (70* by Friday)

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 8,000'

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 8,000′

I was actually quite shocked at the depth and quality of the snow. This was the earliest I’ve ever skied with such excelllent conditions but I’m not making any predictions on what the rest of the winter will bring. We’ll just take it day by day and enjoy the rare early season powder introduction and hope the winter continues with this trend.

Stay tuned for more updates and details from us here at SMG. We are thrilled at the prospect of early season skiing and buliding our snowpack and filling our reservoirs with an abundant winter! Be safe and enjoy the backcountry, Happy Halloween!

Mt. Shasta post monsoon report and storm update

It was a wet and wild week in the north state; rain poured, snow raged and accumulated in impressive amounts. We received 8-10″ of rain and likely over 10′ of new snow above 7,000′ on Mt. Shasta. When I sunk my 8′ snow probe into the pack I was not able to reach the old layer at 9,000′.

Ski touring Broadway, Mt. Shasta, CA

Ski touring Broadway, Mt. Shasta, CA

Currently we’re measuring 175″ at 7,600′; that’s almost 15 FEET of snow on lower Mt. Shasta! Yes, the spring and summer will be spectacular! Snow levels jumped around but generally were above 5,000′ for much of the storm cycles. The weather station reported periods of snowfall of 3″ per hour which is intense snow accumulation.

This is what skiing looked like during the storm Saturday when every turn on the 8,000′ Gray Butte produced blinding face shots. The Swedes drove 2,000 miles on a powder pilgramage and scored on Mt. Shasta. Thanks Joakim for the video and stoke, great to ski with you all!

It’s easy to be excited as climbers and skiers but in the bigger picture we are truly grateful. Shasta Lake, just down the road from us and California’s largest reservoir reached 79 percent capacity — and 108 percent of its historic average — on Monday. With a couple more storms and a healthy spring runoff it may actually be full as we approach summer, something that hasn’t happened in 4 years and a big thumbs up for the fish, farmers, and fire fighters.

Skiing uphill is fun!

Skiing uphill is fun!

The latest series of storms has cleared and the mountain started to poke out from behind the curtains of clouds. Amazingly, the snow consolidated and we enjoyed excellent ski conditions up to about 9,000′ before wind and poor visibility sent us back down to the trees. It looks like today (3/15) will be the first clear weather and mild temps before the next wave of precipitation approachs this weekend. Blue skies and mild temps on tap for the rest of the week.

As always check the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Advisory and get ready for a prolonged ski season on Mt. Shasta!

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Upcoming 

April 22-25 Ski Mountaineering Seminar

Mt. Shasta Winter Backcountry Report

Winter 2016 has delivered on the hope of an abundant snowpack on Mt. Shasta. Storms were consistant in December and January and basically shut off in February with record warm days. Currently our snowpack is 90% of normal and 130% of normal for water, measuring about 116″ at 7,600′. With the outlook of a very wet March, this will only guarantee the prospect of an epic spring and summer on Mt. Shasta. Climbers and skiers are rejoicing!

Mt. Shasta 2016 ph: J.W.

Mt. Shasta 2016 ph: J.W.

The storm track looks to return and the hype is building to a proclamation of massive amounts of water headed to nearly all of California. The QPF totals keep increasing and as of now, the current prediction is anywhere from 6-12″ of water. This can translate to well over 10′ of snow across the Sierra crest and the southern Volcanoes. All we can say is Bring it On!

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

While we wait, we prep our bodies and gear and reflect on what a great winter it has been thus far. The powder has been enjoyed at all the old local zones once again. The spell of high pressure created enjoyable days on the mountain, seeking corn snow and even summits for the enthusiastic. Tall snow banks greet visitors at most trailheads and we anticipate snow to linger well into the summer months.

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Ski touring is perfect training for the upcoming mountaineering season on Mt. Shasta. Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes is greatly enhanced with a deep snowpack and we’re eager for what will be an excellent summit season on the mountain.

Climbing Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta, CA

Climbing Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta, CA

We’re excited for what the next week will bring. The storm total mania has us hoping for the upper limit of the forecast and plotting powder days to come. With storms of this magnitude, be sure to check weather updates and warnings and of course the daily avalanche advisory from the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. Be safe in the backcountry and we’ll see you on the mountain!

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Upcoming Events:

March 5th: Film showing of Dream Line to benefit Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center

March 8: REI Berkeley Mt. Shasta climbing presentation by Chris Carr

March 9: REI San Francisco Mt. Shasta climbing presentation by Chris Carr

 

Mt. Shasta and the art of skiing corn

Winter in Northern California can be hard to define. It could serve up a severe winter storm with cold, blustery deep snow; or you may be slipping into flip flops under bright sunshine after enjoying a pleasant ski tour. Both can be equally enjoyable and one of the highlights of living and playing in and around Mt. Shasta.

We are currently in our mid winter break and seeing dry conditions and above average temps. Although we’re enjoying the spring like weather, it’s hard not to question when we will see a return to winter and regular storm systems. In 2011, the last big el nino year, we had 18 consecutive days of mild, dry conditions. This current pattern is not unusual and there is serious talk of a very wet and wild March. So best to enjoy the sun, tune up your gear, and get ready for the next wave bound for California.

It’s been a pretty festive winter and lots of stoked skiers and boarders again in California. Mt. Shasta has been putting on a quite a show this year and local photographer and dedicated dawn patrol skier Mike Hupp has been mesmorizing us with his stunning photography.

Mike Hupp Dawn Patrol Imags

Mike Hupp Dawn Patrol Imags

We live for the winter storm advisories but if the sun decides to come out and the thermometer climbs up, we’ll take advantage of the break and explore the backcountry looking for corn snow rather than powder. We love powder and here is a great video of what ski mountaineering on Mt. Shasta looks like. Huge props to local student and future SMG guide Owen Stroud.

YouTube Preview Image

It can be said that corn skiing ranks a close second to pure powder as skier’s favorite. It’s hard to argue about powder’s superiority but like many things lusted after; its opportunities are more limited and temporary on a 14,000’ Cascade volcano. What Mt. Shasta may lack in consistent powder days, we certainly make up for with what’s been described as “the best corn on the planet…”

Sean Malee surfs the magic carpet of perfect Mt. Shasta corn snow

Sean Malee surfs the magic carpet of perfect Mt. Shasta corn snow

If you’re unfamiliar; corn snow is the product of a high water content, melt-freeze cycled, snowpack. As the pack metamorphosizes, it consolidates into a singular, cohesive unit that freezes hard at night and the top 2-3 inches melts during the day to create a magic carpet surface that is pure fun to ski and board. Corn snow is often combined with a lower (not eliminated) avalanche hazard and milder temps. Couple this with cold drinks stashed in the snowberm at the trailhead and a pair of the above mentioned flip flops and that adds up to a pretty fine day in the backcountry.

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

With an El Nino like we are experiencing, there is no question there will be many prime corn skiing days this season on Mt. Shasta. We are currently well above normal for both snowpack and water content, so we’re confidant the climbing and skiing will be in the optimal range this year.

There is still plenty of winter remaining and if forecasts are true we could get back to wet weather possibly by next week. There will be a fun event March 5th as a film showing of Dream Line to support the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. Swedish Filmaker Bjarne Salen has recently relocated to Mt. Shasta and judging by his Instagram he is getting after it and enjoying his new backyard playground. Welcome Bjarne, we look forward to seeing the film!

Have a great holiday weekend and stay safe in the backcountry!

Mt. Shasta This Weekend!

The big news is the pineapple express aka atmospheric river headed our way. Two back to back plumes of moisture will bring several inches of water to Northern California. Snow levels start high but could be below town by Sunday morning.  The trailhead at Bunny Flat will see snow and we’ll be measuring multiple feet by the time we’re done; and there’s more next week, stay tuned…

Good time to launch our first course of 2016 with our AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar starting tomorrow, Friday January 29. David Reichel and Dane Brinkley will be leading the training and sharing their skills and experience.

Nick Meyers lead Avalanche Forecaster performs stability tests on Mt. Shasta

Nick Meyers Lead Forecaster at the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center performs snow stability tests on Mt. Shasta

Along with all this winter weather magic is another weekend full of fun activities on the Mountain. Saturday January 30th Mt. Shasta Nordic will host the free Snowschool Workshop. 12-4:00pm at the Nordic Center. As guide partners with Winter Wildland’s Alliance, this will be a great way to introduce our youth to the backcountry.

The Mt. Shasta Ski Park is celebrating 30 years on Saturday with a full day of fun events lined up. Live music, fireworks, and powder skiing Saturday, should be a blast! Congrats to the Ski Park for providing 30 years of fun to Mt. Shasta locals and visitors, it’s a true community asset!

Untracked in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry

Untracked in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry

It’s been a wonderful winter thus far in Northern California, the skiing has been consistantly fun and fresh and the growing depths of our snowpack is ensuring an awesome climbing and ski mountaineering season on Mt. Shasta. Check in if you’re headed this way, we love sharing what we do!

Mt. Shasta upcoming events and news

Mt. Shasta has been on the receiving end of non stop storm cycles and the latest report from the NWS is continued winter weather for the next 4 weeks! The local excitement and powder frenzy has been off the charts and we are all thrilled to be making up for the last several years of drought. Currently there is over 100″ of snow at the Ski Bowl weather station and 72″ at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park.

Our current water total for 2016 is 171% of normal and snowpack about 134% The effects of the El Nino weather pattern are just starting to appear. Although the last storm was warmer with higher snow levels, this ultimately is great for our snowpack and water content. The warmer snow will consolidate potential weak layers and will help our spring and summer climbing season with epic conditions. The next storm arrives today (1/19) and will deliver abother 6-12″ of new snow and lower snow levels. If you’ve been waiting to visit Mt. Shasta, this will be the year with such a robust snow pack.

Mt. Shasta Snowball

Mt. Shasta Snowball

All of this favorable winter weather is perfect for the upcoming week as the Friends of the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center host the annual Snow Ball  and Mt. Shasta Ascension Race. This is one of the best parties of the year and with all of the good vibes it will certainly be a high energy event. We invite you up for some great skiing and good times with friends.

A new addition to this year’s event is a demo day and free intro to backcountry ski tour hosted by The Fifth Season and Shasta Mountain Guides. This year, The Fifth Season, our local gear store, invested in an all new fleet of the highest quality touring equipment for rent and demo. DPS, Volkl, Blizzard, Haagen, G3, K2, will all be available to try before you buy. We will be leading a free ski tour open to the first 12 to sign up. Call or email for details.

With all the weather this year, now is the time to take the avalanche seminar you’ve been wanting to complete. A prerequisite for backcountry skiers, snowboarders, ice climbers, and winter enthusiasts to travel informed in the backcountry. We are holding an AIARE Level I Seminar January 29-31. Led by David Reichel and Dane Brinkley, this will undoubtedly be ideal conditions to learn about safe winter travel in avalanche terrain.

It looks like there will be little break in the storms in the near future. Keep an eye on the weather and check the daily avalanche forecast. Stay safe out there and enjoy the backcountry, these are the good ‘ol days we’ll be talking about!

Mt. Shasta early winter conditions report

There is a distinct air of sheer stoke (and a bit of relief) on and around Mt. Shasta. A steady stream of winter storms has returned snow to California and the ever strengthening el nino weather pattern is poised to continue drenching the state in much needed precipitation. This has brought great joy to locals and visitors as recent backcountry ski conditions have been an all-time great.

Mt. Shasta, CA December 2015

Mt. Shasta, CA December 2015

We currently have close to 5′ of snow at the Old Ski Bowl weather station at 7,600′ on Mt. Shasta. The Mt. Shasta Ski Park is reporting 59″ and the best holiday conditions in years. It has been a fun filled few weeks and forecasts indicate a very wet January ahead. We’ve seen regular snow fall from 3-12″ which is making for very happy skiers and boarders.

Backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta has been excellent

Backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta has been excellent

We hosted our first group of the season when Tim came for a winter seminar with his 2 sons. They arrived just ahead of a winter storm that dumped over a foot of snow on their tents. They made the best of the conditions and enjoyed their first backcountry powder skiing adventure.

Top of Broadway; Mt. Shasta

Top of Broadway; Mt. Shasta

For the climbers, the conditions are very dificult for a summit climb. Deep, unconsolodated snow makes for slow going and severe postholing. High winds and very cold temps recently pose a serious concern for fostbite and cold related complications. Along with white out and avalanche hazard, a winter ascent should only be considered for the prepared and experienced. Don’t forget to check the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center for the daily Avalanche Bulletin.

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta's lower slopes

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta’s lower slopes

We are scheduling day ski tours, overnight winter camps, avalanche seminars, and more this season. With a healthy snowpack once again, it’s going to be an awesome winter on Mt. Shasta; and a normal snowpack will mean excellent climbing in 2016. Plan your trip now!

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Upcoming Events

January 8-9 Avalanche Awareness and companian rescue course. Free

January 23 Snowball Annual fundraiser for the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center