Mt. Shasta Conditions Report and Winter Update

To say that we have received a lot of snow this season is a vast understatement. January alone is 197% of normal so far. California has been absolutely clobbered; Shasta, Tahoe, and Mammoth all received epic amounts of snow which has guaranteed a great ski season and full reservoirs. The snowpack on Mt. Shasta at 7,600′ is measuring close to 10′ and yes, another storm is headed our way this week.

Mt. Shasta West Face January 2017

Mt. Shasta West Face January 2017

A series of potent and wet storms came in with fluctuating snow levels. Fortunately, it all fell as snow above 7,500′ and it’s safe to assume that the upper slopes of Mt. Shasta received over 8′ of snowfall this week. After the warm system on Wednesday, the temps dropped and we received another 2 feet of colder snow to deliver excellent powder skiing conditions.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing

We finally had a break in the weather and fantastic high pressure sunny skies for the weekend as Mt. Shasta is holding excellent skiing from the chairlifts at The Mt. Shasta Ski Park to the earned turns in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry. It has been beautiful with all the winter weather and sky-high ski stoke here in far northern California.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiers

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiers

A deep winter snowpack and regular storms not only benefit the powder skier, but these storms will ensure that the climbing, ski mountaineering, and backpacking trips will have excellent conditions. Without question, Mt. Shasta will be primed for outdoor recreation all year long.

Mt. Shasta West Face and Casaval Ridge 2017

Mt. Shasta West Face and Casaval Ridge 2017

With the abundant snow conditions and growing interest in backcountry skiing; our guides have been busy teaching Avalanche Courses and leading ski tours this winter. Dane Brinkley has been showing guests the charm and unique terrain from the Beyond the Boundaries program hosted with the Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Nick Caselli is our resident split-board guide and ready to share his expertise with snowboarders getting into the backcountry.

Earning a long run on Mt. Shasta

Earning a long run on Mt. Shasta

Backcountry Skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

Backcountry Skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

We’ve been working in partnership with our local Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center this season and are hosting the free monthly Avalanche Awareness presentations at our downtown shop. It’s been a full turnout this year and it’s great to see so many enthusiastic for learning. February 3rd is the next date. Nick Meyers is the Lead Avalanche Forecaster and Climbing Ranger on Mt. Shasta and works tirelessly to educate the public, thanks Nick! I always enjoy the opportunity to tour with Nick and observe him in action. Not a bad office:

Nick Meyers

Nick Meyers Lead Avalanche Forecaster

We are entering into one of the most exciting weeks of our winter season. Not only is there another storm coming with 1-2′ of snow expected, but there is a great weekend of activities planned for the backcountry enthusiast.

Mt. Shasta Ascension Race

Mt. Shasta Ascension Race

Mt. Shasta Snowball!

Mt. Shasta Snowball!

Saturday there will be the annual Mt. Shasta Ascension Backcountry Ski Race, free demo day at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, and Shasta Mountain Guides is offering a free Intro to Backcountry Ski tour. To top it off, Saturday night is the highly anticipated 15th Annual Mt. Shasta Snowball. I’m tired just writing all that, hope to see you here, it’s going to be a blast!

The winter is still early and we have a solid base to guarantee an excellent season. As guides we are a local resource available to answer your specific questions and are happy to share our daily observations. Please be safe out there and always remember to check the daily avalanche advisory:

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Advisory.

Have fun and see you on the mountain!

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 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

Mt. Shasta Conditions Report 3.16.15

It’s currently snowing on the mountain, we love rainy Mondays, and any other days for that matter! Despite the dry winter and unseasonably warm temps, Mt. Shasta has fared quite well this year and we’re grateful to have a fun and enjoyable winter at the top of the state! December and February delivered with significant storm totals to give us a solid base and thus far March has been kind with small systems to refresh and replenish our snowpack. The climbing and skiing have been fabulous!

Matt and Dane enjoy new snow at Lake Helen March 2015

Matt and Dane enjoy new snow at Lake Helen March 2015

The long periods of high pressure have provided for unusually fun climbing and skiing with spring-like conditions. Although it may not be the winter dreams are made of; ski touring in t-shirts, flip flops in the parking lot, and low to no avalanche hazard has made for stress free touring and smiles for miles for backcountry enthusiasts.

db3.12bl

Dane Brinkley drops into the Lake run with fresh powder and a clean slate for 3,500′

Last week we received 4-6″ of new snow on Wednesday. This past weekend delivered more wet weather and although the snow levels are high, this is just what we need to provide a good climbing season on Mt. Shasta. The best news is the long term forecast which is showing a cold and wet trough bringing significant valley rain and mountain snow early next week with snow levels down to 5,000′. After 35+ years guiding on Mt. Shasta, we know one thing is certain, you can never predict what the weather will do, despite what the calendar says.

Shay rips telemark turns in Avalanche Gulch March 2015

Shay rips telemark turns in Avalanche Gulch March 2015

We’ve been skiing some obscure lines as well as touring our old favorites. We have a full calendar of trips this year with something for everyone. Our upcoming Denali Prep Course 4/3-4/7 has just a couple spots left, as well as our new Cascade 2 for 1 for the hardiest mountaineers. Along with day classes and tours, summit climbs, ski descents, glacier seminars and spectacular ridge climbs for the alpinists out there, Mt. Shasta has been the place to be in 2015.

Casaval ridge is a striking feature on Mt. Shasta. Matt descending in good stlye.

Casaval Ridge is a striking feature on Mt. Shasta. Matt descending in good stlye.

Shasta Mountain Guides is your local professional guide service, on the mountain daily and in tune with the ever changing conditions. Call or email for questions or details. We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Upcoming Events

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March 17 REI Saratoga. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation with Chris Carr SMG Director

March 18 REI San Carlos. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation

March 19th REI Berkeley. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation\

April 3-7 Denali Prep Seminar

April 17-20 Mt. Shasta Ski and Snowboard mountaineering seminar. Climb and ski/board both Mt. Shasta and Shastina

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Report 2.11.15

Attention skiers and winter enthusiasts; if you’re looking for your snow fix, Mt. Shasta is the place to be! It’s been a wet and wild week here with some of the heaviest precip ever recorded. We finished with almost 10″ of water falling in town and over 5+ feet of new snow above 8,500′ on the Mountain. Our snowpack is close to 120% of normal and the skiing and riding doesn’t get any better!

ski tracks and avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 2.10.15

ski tracks and avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 2.10.15

Although the snow levels fluctuated quite a bit, for the most part the precip fell as snow on Mt. Shasta except for Sunday which saw some very soggy skiers braving the wet conditions. Fortunately, it cooled off, the snow pack consolidated, and the storm finished with a cool topping for perfect ripping ski conditions. Snow sliders are estatic this week with excellent riding found on many aspects.

Jenn Carr earning her turns in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Jenn Carr earning her turns in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Tuesday morning (2.10.15), the sun broke out and displayed what we were all waiting for, a completely snow cloaked Mt. Shasta. We are thrilled because not only is the snow creating some epic backcountry skiing currently, but this last storm cycle has pretty much guaranteed that we will have excellent conditions this Spring and Summer for climbing and sliding.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing February 2015

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing February 2015

The big concern with all this rapidly accumulating snow is the increased avalanche hazard. The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center issued an Avalanche Watch this past weekend and we did observe some activity in Avalanche Gulch which likely occured during the peak of the storm. We did see some significant settling and consolodation, but I would still avoid runout zones and exposure to slopes above.

Our classroom for the Avalanche Seminar with Dane and Nick our fantastic instructors

The classroom for the Level I Avalanche Seminar with Dane and Nick our course instructors

 

We are in a break in the storms and this weekend is forecasted for nice weather and mild temps. This is excellent for our AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar on Mt. Shasta and we invite you to join us if you have been putting it off. The conditions are perfect for the course and Mt. Shasta will be beautiful under all the Winter snow!

We’re hopefully getting back into storms next week. Be safe and have great fun, we hope to see you on the Mountain!

 

SMG/The Fifth Season Mt. Shasta Backcountry Ski Report 1.30.15

Like much of the West coast, Mt. Shasta has endured yet another mosty dry January. Above averge tempertures and abundant sunshine has at least provided ski conditions in the good to excellent range on Mt. Shasta. It’s hard to complain with mild temps and smooth sun softened corn snow, but this is the time for frozen fingers and raging wood stoves. With our wettest months coming up, we’re still confidant that we’ll see significant addition to our snowpack. Until then, we’ll be enjoying the beautiful spring like weather and winter sun.

January 2015 skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

January 2015 skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

Our last measurable precip was on January 16 with 6″ new snow on Mt. Shasta. This greatly improved the ski conditions and has created a smooth supportive base and good to great skiing on many south to east aspects.

Clouds lift to reveal 6" of new snow while ski touring in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta January 2015

Clouds lift to reveal 6″ of new snow while ski touring in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta January 2015

The alpine climbing has been quite good as well with firm cramponing and low avalanche hazard on the entire mountain. It is still early winter and although mild, above 11,000′ the snowpack is not going through melt freeze cycles, the ski quality generally diminshes at the upper elevations. We discovered this while climbing Shastina and were rewarded with a full value outing.

Skiing Shastina's mighty crater rim in Winter conditions

Skiing Shastina’s mighty crater rim in Winter conditions

Thursday (1/29)  USFS employees were out for their regular snow pack measurements, we’ll report back when we hear what the totals are. I estimate we’re not too far below average, certainly at the upper elevations we’re doing well, and I’ll go so far as to say we may have some of the best skiing currently in California, although that’s really not saying much.

It looks like we may see some new weather patterns early next week. Let’s keep the faith, there is still a lot of winter to go. There are early forecasts for an atmospheric river and general instability in the atmosphere to bring us back into the storm track.

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Upcoming Events

January 31st Truckee, CA Backcountry Basics

Feb 6-7 Avalanche Awareness and companion rescue Mt. Shasta

Feb 14-16 AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar Mt. Shasta