Snow in Lake Tahoe: When It Starts and When It Stops

Written by Nilani Thiyagarajah
Updated: July 21, 2023
Share on:

Advertisement


There are many places people like to go for vacations. Some may prefer warm beaches, but others might prefer a pristine lake in the mountains. Lake Tahoe is not only a popular tourist attraction but the biggest high-altitude lake in North America. It is located on the borders of Nevada and California, and its elevation is an impressive 6,225 feet above sea level.

Additionally, Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States. There are many ski resorts around this area. But when does it snow in Lake Tahoe? If you want to know about snow in Lake Tahoe, keep reading!

The ancient lake of Lake Tahoe typically experiences heavy snowfall between November and March or April.

When Does It Snow in Lake Tahoe?

It snows throughout most of the year in this area. However, most of the snow falls during the winter season in Lake Tahoe. Typically, this starts in November, although it can start in October.

It isn’t out of the ordinary to see snow anytime between September and April, although there is less snow before October and after March.

January is definitely the month that sees the most snow in Lake Tahoe. The average amount of snowfall is between 43 and 46 inches during this month. Generally, anyone who visits Lake Tahoe can expect fairly heavy snow from December through February, with relatively light snow in October, March, and April.

It also snows a little bit sometimes in the months of May, June, and September, with only July and August having an average of 0 inches of snowfall.

Northstar Resort California - Skiing in California

January is the snowiest month in Lake Tahoe, which houses numerous ski resorts.

©Lance Huntress/Shutterstock.com

When Does It Stop Snowing in Lake Tahoe?

Generally, it stops snowing in Lake Tahoe during the summer months, particularly July and August. Even though this region is mostly known for snow and skiing weather, it’s more like a typical beach during the summer months, with 90% of the days being sunny and warm.

The general pattern is for heavy snowfall to occur between the months of November and March or April, potential light snowfall in May and October, less than an inch in June and September, and no snow in July and August. However, there are deviations from this pattern. You should be prepared for snow in Lake Tahoe during any time of the year.

Lake Tahoe

Most of the snow in Lake Tahoe falls during winter, which typically begins in November, though can start in October.

©Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

How Much Does It Snow in Lake Tahoe?

The average amount of snow in Lake Tahoe is about 210 to 220 inches per year. However, in the upper elevations, it is not uncommon to see closer to 500 inches in a year!

In the winters, there are generally large, ferocious storms that will leave feet of snow around the lake. However, typically this is only the case during about 50 days of the winter. This only adds up to about 25% of the time. Storms can last for days, but once they clear up, the weather is fair and sunny. On average, the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

In March, snowstorms still take place, but they do not last as long, and the sun is quite a bit warmer. During other parts of the year, there is very little snow, and temperatures are around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lake Tahoe

The average amount of snow in Lake Tahoe is about 210 to 220 inches per year.

©Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

What Causes the Weather in Lake Tahoe?

The weather patterns in this area are typical of the Sierra Nevada range. The Pacific Ocean and Sierra barrier work together to create the climate that visitors enjoy at Lake Tahoe.

The diverging air currents of the North Pacific High (high atmospheric pressure zone) eventually subside to create stable, fair weather. The Aleutian-Gulf of Alaska Low (low atmospheric pressure zone) is home to converging airstreams, which lead to cloudiness and snow.

The Pacific High moves eastward, blocking movement of the storms into the Sierra Nevada region, making it clear, warm and dry during the summer. In the winter, this area of blocking will move westward and southward towards Hawaii. Low pressure will move southward from the Gulf of Alaska and create stormy weather, which is characteristic of Lake Tahoe in the winter.

Part of the reason Lake Tahoe gets so much snow is the intensification of these storms. This happens as they move over the Sierra massif. This mountainous region causes a phenomenon known as orographic uplift. Air rises and cools over the mountains, to the point where it creates extra snow.

Even though the area is known for a lot of snow, Lake Tahoe doesn’t experience the heaviest of the precipitation that results from the orographic uplift. Blue Canyon on the west slope of the Sierra averages about twice the precipitation that Tahoe City does. This is because the wind directly hits the west slope before reaching Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe

January is coldest month in Lake Tahoe, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

©Stas Volik/Shutterstock.com

What Are Average Temperatures in Lake Tahoe?

The average temperature range in Lake Tahoe is between 42 and 61 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, the average temperatures are closer to about 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not only is January the month that sees the most snow, but it’s also the coldest month of the year, with a temperature range between 20 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the weather is somewhat unpredictable here. You should be prepared for snow during the summer, as well as warm weather during the winter.

Animals of Lake Tahoe

What Do Porcupines Eat

Porcupines are one of the many animals you will find in Lake Tahoe.

©iStock.com/Carol Gray

Amidst all the snow in Lake Tahoe, you’ll see several animal species in this area. On land, you’ll see many black bears, mule deer, porcupines, coyotes, Sierra red foxes, raccoons, and both tree and ground squirrels. There are also several bird species, including mallards, bald eagles, and chickadees.

Aside from land animals, there are many fish in Lake Tahoe as well. The four main native species include the Mackinaw (Lake Trout), Rainbow Trout, Kokanee Salmon, and German Browns. However, these native fish have largely disappeared due to pollution, logging, water diversions, and the introduction of invasive species.

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface

Rainbow trout are commonly found throughout the United States.

©FedBul/Shutterstock.com

There are many invasive species in the waters of Lake Tahoe as well, including catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and goldfish. These are warm-water species that have disrupted the Lake Tahoe ecosystem, and it is important that people not introduce any more of these non-native animals into the water.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Rcview_cinematography


Share on:

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where is Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is not only a popular tourist attraction but the biggest high-altitude lake in North America. It is located on the borders of Nevada and California, and its elevation is an impressive 6,225 feet above sea level.

What is the average snowfall in Lake Tahoe?

The average amount of snow in Lake Tahoe is about 210 to 220 inches per year. However, in the upper elevations, it is not uncommon to see closer to 500 inches in a year!

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.