Knowing Nevada: Towering Snow Walls over Sierra Roads


It's been a year for the record books across Lake Tahoe as snow fall piled up across the Sierra all season long.

Now, however, we're in that sweet spot in-between the snow fall and the snow melt as locals and visitors are all soaking in the sights along Mt. Rose Highway.

Now that the sun is out and snow is starting to melt, the Mt. Rose ski team is on the lookout for chunks that can fall onto the road.

"There's a number of areas where we get some cornices that build up over the road," says Ski Patrol Director Mike Ferrari.

The ski team has been working with the Nevada Department of Transportation since the 1980s, closing down parts of Mt. Rose Highway for 10 to 15 minutes at a time and blowing up dangerous, high snow walls.

"We can have not that much snow but enough wind that it builds the cornices," says Ferrari. "In an average winter, we probably do it four to five times and this year we've done it 10 times."

The walls looking over the highway this season are impressive, but for those who have been carving in the Sierra for decades, it's a familiar site.

Don Snoshu Thompson has been skiing around Lake Tahoe since the 1940s when he joined the University of Nevada ski team.

He was also a ski writer for several newspapers and magazines through 2011.

One of his favorite memories on the slopes happened in the early 1950s when he decided to ski from the resort to Incline Village and found himself on the edge of a snow wall.

"We were watching the snow plow looking down," says Thompson. "I don't know if you know how big a snow plow is, but it was having trouble getting the snow over the drifts. That was a good size year."

As for the walls in 2017, there is only so much more time left before the towers melt away for the season and we have to wait to see what next year holds.

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