Lake Tahoe, CA The beauty and character of Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin have been well-known since its discovery in 1844. A major factor in that delightful aura, often unnoticed by the casual observer, is one of the world's most enjoyable climates.
Few places on earth can claim a climate of such great variety and year-round enchantment as that which graces the Sierra. The four sharply defined seasons bring to the high country a continual round of variety and change. There is no sameness, except perhaps in the probability of sunny days, for sunshine is a major ingredient of the Tahoe seasons.
In over 50 years of recorded history of the weather in the Basin, 80 percent of the days have had sunshine. Any given year will provide approximately 240 cloudless days and another 75 days when both sunshine and clouds are recorded. The remaining 50 days are the ones that provide the famous Sierra snowpack...and a wee bit of rain.
Sierra snow is unique. It falls in great quantities in relatively short periods from late November to early April, on a ratio of one day of snowfall for every four days of sunshine. The average winter snowpack is 225 inches, or nearly 20 feet, approximately four times the average in Fairbanks, Alaska. Even the crystalline structure of Sierra Snow is rare. It is said to be unusually reflective and capable of withstanding high winter air temperatures to retain its fluffy perfection on the ski slopes. This reflective quality, coupled with the clarity of the Sierra air can be very dangerous to unwary skiers and sunbathers since the sun's intensity is nearly four times that of the brightest day at sea level.
Average daily high temperatures in December, January and February are 40, 37, and 39 degrees respectively. Direct sunlight readings often approach 100 degrees on western exposed snow fields. Therefore, it is not unusual to see spring skiers schussing in cutoff Levi's and tee-shirts, acquiring fantastic tans and hoping they don't fall.
The summer season, like the Tahoe winter, is quite extraordinary. Though easily as dry and sunny as anywhere in the arid desert Southwest, daytime highs rarely exceed 80 degrees. Because of the abundance of heavy pine forests and the moderating influence of the 193 square miles of Lake surface, the evenings do not turn cold.
Spring and fall temperatures are very similar, as are both seasons' rainfall figures, eadh average 13 days.
The surface temperature of the main body of the lake, in the summer, is about 67 degrees. Out in the shallow beaches, it is warmer, varying with the temperature of the air, and swimming is enjoyed by thousands.