The two powerful spring storms that ushered in the month of March have successfully buried the trails and left a heavy flocking on the trees that remains in protected evergreen stands. Some signposts are completely buried by the extraordinary depth that we are seeing this season. The usual characteristic rise and fall of the trail over ground features has given way to new shapes that make familiar sections of trail less recognizable.
Snowbanks along the valley floor are shrinking and receding with the inevitable warming of the earth. South-facing sagebrush slopes are likewise beginning to clear, exposing bare ground which will be the earliest places for us to hike and bike once the ski season is put to rest. On the best of years, these sage-covered hillsides can provide enough snow for making turns, but this year’s snow distribution never did bury these southern aspects deeply, in spite of good snow and cold temperatures. So while there is deep snow up the drainages, keeping some popular trails buried for some time, we may still have some dry local trails at a decent time this spring. Please, for the sake of maintaining trail quality and access, respect closures and stay off muddy trails until they are adequately dry. While XC touring centers are preparing to shutter their doors for the mud season in a few weeks, good skiing is likely to be found for another month or more in the forests, up the side creeks, and at higher elevation. Our land remains buried in white, and will be for some time, while tales of wildflowers and green growth in California burns are already circulating.
Away from the grooming, the well-packed trails are still the fastest route, as off-track snow has yet to establish a firm, fast crust. Once these paths have warmed and softened from the overnight chill, they can be really pleasant for some kick and glide. Powder can still be found on the most shaded north-facing aspects of off-trail slopes, while the open meadows present a crust that softens with high mid-day temperatures. Streams are opening up over longer distances and beginning to trickle, gurgling quietly below the steep, deep banks that have melted into miniature ephemeral canyons.
Forecasts predict a weekend storm bringing more moisture to close out the month, with modest accumulations predicted. Temperatures are not expected to dip any time soon, so we may have to wait for a change in the jet stream to bring us an arctic air mass before the crust gets truly firm.