Technically, winter arrived on December 21, 2017. In reality, it showed up yesterday. Finally, snow. The mountains have been open, Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar, but with little natural snow. The vast majority of runs are covered with manmade snow.
With the warmer temperatures and dry conditions, other, more spring like activities have been available. The hiking has been great all around the Tahoe Basin. Bike trails have been open. People are fishing. The golf courses are closed, it hasn’t been that nice, but just a 30 minute drive over the hill will take you to any number of golf courses.
And while all those activities are fun filled, it is not the same as snow. Snow definitely has a high fun content but includes more positive aspects for Lake Tahoe and the state of California.
The snow pack is vital in terms of future water for farmers and fish. It’s vital for the people of the central valley, who two years ago after 4 years of drought, ran out of water. The water table had dropped so low they were pulling water out that was 2,000 years old. No kidding. It will take decades of good water years to replenish that.
Snow is vital for the forests. Without the water, the trees are more susceptible to disease, specifically bark beetles. Bark beetles have decimated the Sierra Nevada forest. The U.S Forest Service estimates that more than 102 million trees have died throughout the 7.7 million acres of California due to drought and beetle infestation since 2010. This situation wasn’t helped by years of anti-thinning policies of the federal and regional government agencies.
When the forest is overcrowded, there are less resources, nutrients and water to go around. Tree health is weakened. Any gardener or farmer will tell you that thinning crops or forests ultimately creates healthier plants and trees in the future. Fortunately, forest health policies have changed, but it’s a long, long road back to a healthy forest. We will probably never see the forest we saw one or three decades ago. Climate change presents another wild card. When the forest grows back, what will it look like?
Snow is vital to the economy of the Sierras. The tourist based communities need the dollars that skiers, riders and people who just want to play in the snow bring. Without it, town is pretty quiet.
Snow is vital for winter fun for most of us. Skiing, riding, sledding, snowmobiling, how are we going to have fun at those sports without snow?
But the winter snow is finally here. It’s a bluebird day in Tahoe today but tomorrow brings winter back. According the to forecast, it’s supposed to stick around for awhile. So glad to see it!