Near Record Snow Levels in California May Make For Great Summer Snowball Fights This Summer!

By Eben Conen, ARCC Regional Director

California has long been regarded as the Golden State; not for the historic gold rush that took place from 1848-1855, but due to the scenic “golden” hills that blanket the state’s vast countryside. Over the past several years California has suffered from severe drought resulting in water restrictions, severe fires and hillsides that are a lot more golden than usual. This year however, water has come back to California and in huge amounts!

While a large portion of the state hugs the ocean along the famed Pacific Coast Highway, there is vast amount of land that rises well above sea-level and is capable of literally packing that water on! This year the High Sierra’s received the highest snow levels in over 22 years, bringing over 5 trillion gallons of much needed water to the state! In the month of January alone, storms blanketed the Bay Area and mountains in what weather forecasters call an atmospheric river replenishing almost one third of the state’s “snow-water deficit”. If this is a little hard to comprehend, imagine driving through your neighborhood being surrounded by walls of snow 4-15 ft high blanketing the surrounding forest!

Needless to say it’s been a fantastic ski season but it has also allowed for ample opportunities to play and take advantage of this impressive snow-pack. While on a recent excursion to the area I couldn’t help but release my inner child and dive in, harkening back to my younger days growing up in Upstate New York. With glee I dug my way through layers of packed snow still over 7 ft high to make a tunnel and shelter into the banks behind our house. The biggest challenge was having to displace all the snow, but by the end of our “play-time” our shelter was big enough to pack in 8 full-grown adults and it definitely put most of my childhood snow forts to shame.

Although the snow levels are the highest they’ve been in over 20 years this is only the 7th highest recorded snow levels in history. The highest level ever recorded was on February 1st 1952 when it reached 267% above normal level! While we’re only at 230% the normal snowpack this year, in the Sierra’s that is still over 25 ft of snow in some places, enough to bury a small house or certainly collapse it if you don’t clear your roof!

All this snow means that California can take a brief sigh of relief when it comes to water shortages, but we still have to be conscious. With some of the more arid regions down South we can sometimes forget that our biggest cities are actually occupying low-lying deserts and it’s not a resource to be taken for granted. What we can look forward to however, is a much higher base than usual which should give our students on our California Service and Adventure Program a great chance to throw a snowball while gawking at the Golden State’s hills are a lot greener than normal.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.