California Record Snowfall brings Blessing and Curse to Sierra Nevada

March 2023 – It all started in November 2022. Early snowfall in the Sierra started the party of snow dances and ski season dreams. Every Ski resort in the Sierra was open for the holidays and locals wondered if this was the year to match 2017. Or would it be a winter like 2022 with early snow and then record drought n the mountains?

Fast forward to March 2023, after an onslaught of atmospheric rivers has plowed into California, communities are buried in hundreds of inches of snow. One after another delivering massive snow dumps on the Sierra. Tahoe recently saw 10 feet over a seven-day window. And Mammoth California has now recorded over 54 feet (640 inches of snow in 2023), with weeks of Winter weather still possible in the Sierra. The record in a Mammoth set in 2010 is sure to fall at 668.5″

Two-and-a-half months later and we can distinctly see the faucet never shut off. According to data from the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR), the Southern Sierras have officially hit a recorded high, currently holding a snowpack 257 percent greater than the annual average by April 1.

However, with the latest wet pattern delivering warmer rains to much of the Sierra this past week, flooding became the villain of this year’s blessed snowpack. As a result, the Kern river in the Southern Sierra is seeing massive runoff from the Sierra, reaching levels it has not seen in over 50 years this past week.

Travel over the sierra Nevada in winter
Travel over the sierra Nevada in winter has been complicated

In Mammoth and the surrounding region, avalanches and floods have closed standard winter travel patterns, and residents can be seen on video tunneling out of their homes and businesses. 

In Lake Tahoe, travelers are advised to stay away as the town streets begin to flood and homeowners deal with concerns of snow loads crushing their homes.

And in Yosemite National Park, park staff still is trying to reopen the park after two weeks of snowfall and avalanche danger forced the closure of the National Park. Snow all crushing several of the campsites at the famed Curry village. In addition, Backcountry rangers in the Tuomumne Medow area are reporting over 140″ of snow in the meadow, essentially unheard of for March. So speculation over the high country and Tioga Pass opening by late June already seems challenging.

Photo by Tiffany Bui:

Spring Skiing

Yet locals of the Sierra Nevada are still stoked for what this winter has promised. Most ski resorts have already announced extended ski seasons well into spring. As a result, local skiers feel resorts like Mammoth will be skiing on the Fourth of July. 

Waterfall chasers are already talking about what is setting up to be an epic waterfall season in the Sierra, even if we have to deal with flooding. 

The California Super bloom is expected to by delayed potentially but vibrant and significant once it appears.

California drought has significantly improved, if not wholly vanished, in much of the state. Now, the focus turns to water management at local reservoirs such as Lake Oroville in the Central Sierra. And with the spring season approaching, we await to see if more snow will pile up in the Sierra or if the rain season will now plow forward and make its mark on 2023.



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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