Life seems normal again in Lake Tahoe. Snow is falling, all lifts are running, and the surrounding backcountry actually holds a layered snowpack. Which means, after four years of awful drought, skiers have returned to a Tahoe classic: the West Shore backcountry.
Located south of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows off Highway 89 on National Forest land, Tahoe’s West Shore offers, arguably, the best and safest backcountry tree skiing in the area, with 2,000-foot-long descents through massive old-growth conifers. Now that Tahoe backcountry enthusiasts finally have snow to go play in this season (the Sierra Sun reported that local snowpack is 130 percent of normal), it’s allowed them to spread throughout the region, increasing the probability of untracked.
Such was the case this past week when a crew of Tahoe locals, including filmer Jon Rockwood and Jeremy Benson, who is currently writing a guidebook on backcountry skiing in California, set out early for a West Shore tour.
“Early mornings on the West Shore are truly unique, as most of the runs face east and catch early sun. It’s beautiful,” said Rockwood. “This particular storm started warm and slowly got colder and colder. The snow dried out and was relatively ‘blower’ for Tahoe standards. We skied about 12 inches of cold snow with light wind. It was perfect conditions.”