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2012 Sierra Ski-Orienteering Tour


This is expected to be a low-snow year, which means that we are not expected to have much snow until the middle of January. We schedule our ski-orienteering events at a time when there is enough snow, even in low-snow years, for our events.

SNOW REPORT 17-January-2012: Depending on the conditions that we see on 20- and 21-January, we might change schedules and venues, but these events are happening. The biggest question is whether we start at Bear Valley or do everything at the Tahoe venues. We'll know more by 21-January. Great news — there is a severe winter storm to hit the Sierras on 21- and 22-January — that is expected to bring lots of snow.

Typically, you can expect the following temperatures at our venues:

Winter storms can have severe amounts of snowfall (even in low-snow years). At Bear Valley, you can have 20 inches (51 cm) of snowfall overnight. At Donner Pass, above Truckee, you can have 24 inches (61 cm) of snowfall in a few hours. Highway crews make tremendous efforts to keep the highways (especially Interstate 80 to Truckee) open during storms, but travel often slows to 25 MPH (40 km/hr), which means that you must multiply your driving time by 3 or 4 times.

Unlike many other areas, the icy conditions in the Sierras require that you drive with 4-wheel or all-wheel drive, or that you use chains or cables for your tires. Look out for signs that tell you to put on chains. If the signs or highway workers tell you to put on chains, put on chains. They typically let cars with all-wheel or 4-wheel drive go through checkpoints without chains, but in severe storms chains are required for all cars and trucks. This is not only for your safety, but it also is for the safety of others, and it minimizes the chance of accidents which can close down a highway.

For more information about chain requirements in California, see California Chain Requirements (

Note: If you need to buy chains, we recommend that you buy them at an auto parts store, hardware store, Sears, Walmart, Target, or other large store by the highway in a town before you get to the mountains. Stores in the mountains charge a lot more for chains. Figure in the cost of chains (typically $45 to $60) as part of your transportation expenses if they are not included with your car rental.

Places where you can buy chains or cables before entering snow country include the following:

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