Friday, January 22, 2016

Early season poking around at Kirkwood.

It has been a while since I've posted here.  Or since we had decent skiing conditions for Thanksgiving.  Kirkwood opened up a few weeks early, to a powder weekend.  I had headed up Sunday, expecting to do a few laps in bounds for good measure, soon get bored, and find myself hiking for something a little more exhilarating.   And while we talked about it a few times, we never did bother putting skins on.  While the open terrain was limited, it did ski very well.  And the legal, low zone hikes were in full effect, with very few folks heading out to explore.  Their loss.  Our gain.  That storm blew out Monday, and the evil east winds blew Tuesday, but by mid week, it was pretty nice in the valley.  So I went back up with my son to knock out a lap or two on Chair 1.

First day of the season - get the jitters out.

Doing a bokeh bum ride.

Lunch breaks are important to keep you going.

Red Cliffs with just a light coating.

Top of Chair 6, with fresh snow falling.

Enough on the road for some XC action.

Always watching and waiting for this line to fill in.

Not a bad Thanksgiving snow pack.

Jim's zone was still thin, but looked fine on MLK.

Backside of the Sisters getting stripped.  Of snow.

Pinner looking pinner.

Cham zone.

Winter arrived in November, and has yet to take a break.

We ended up doing seven.  Snow was good, the weather was better, and the little dude was stoked.  We stopped twice to set up a bench and take a hot cider and snack break.  Best part, is suddenly, he knows how to ski.  We had a blast.  And are planning our next boys trip next week, after these incoming storms.  Chasing the powder.  Anyway, this was all before Thanksgiving.  The weather warmed up a bit, but not too much, and just before the holiday, a cold, Alaskan storm drove south down the coast.  We had a foot of fluff by Wednesday morning.  And it was holiday game on.  Did I mention that it was cold.

Took a walk on Black Friday.

Nothing like enjoying the sunrise from a ridge top.

I love these peaks.

And the colorful rocks.

Looking back toward Kirkwood and Chair 10.

Perfect driving.  Fresh snow.  Off the road.

And when the sun comes up...

Looking at the lines down to Silver Lake.

And toward Desolation.

Along the Spur.

And into the valley.  Perfect uncut cord.

Roundtop and her Sisters.

Holy cow, how the time passes.  I started to write this perhaps a month ago.  Anyway, it has been a great start to the season here in Tahoe.  For a coastal dwelling stay at home dad, I can be happy of my seventeen days on snow.  All with great conditions.  A few strolls into the side country, and only one foray into the back country.  And the riding has been the best it has been in years.  These pics are mostly from November and December, so it is time to get them posted up.  Hopefully I can get out on some real adventures in the coming month and have an actual trip report to post.  Until then, get out there and enjoy this great snow fall.  Perhaps I'll get something after this two footer that is on the way.

ONe of the few bluebird days yet this season.

Chair 10, in the final days of 2015.

Chair 6.

The Wall, top of 6 and Cham.

Chad taking the hard way out to the boundary line.

It does not stay bluebird long these days.

Time to get out of the resort, and earn some turns.

Sunset run.

Chad lays a slash.

Getting close to dark.

Silhouette hits. 

B takes flight.

Creamy goodness down low.

Good night.

More snow is on the way.  Almost been too good to stop and take pictures.  Sunday looks like the sun will be out, so perhaps that will change.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The ups and downs of going up and down.

Some days finish better than others.  Sometimes, you head out from the trail head in the morning expecting to get a few good turns, but really you are just looking for some exercise, and you end up finding a bunch of killer lines.  Other times, you have big plans and expectations, only to be turned back by incoming weather before every reaching your first objective.  You never really know what you will encounter until you get yourself out there.  Or what decisions you will make.  And how that will work out for you.  But that is always part of the adventure.  Part of the reason why we go out there in the first place.  It is part of the reason why I was headed out deep into the side country a good week after we had gotten our last, warm and wet snow fall.  I was not really going out to find powder.  Actually, I was feeling hopeful that the corn would be setting up nicely, and with a little bit of luck, we could find a stash or two of chalky wintery goodness.  I had no idea that legitimate boot deep powder turns would me on the days' menus.

Down low on the apron, Troy found the wintery goodness.

Dylan enjoying the lower slopes.

Out of the alpine, and into the mini golf trees.

Even the last few turns were plenty of fun.

We got a late morning start, after taking about 8 hot laps on chair 6 at Kirkwood.  The steep groomers were skiing pretty damn nice first thing in the morning.  The weather felt like April, other than the sun being much lower in the sky.  Made for some nice inbounds spring conditions with out a terribly firm overnight hard pack forming.  Just firm enough to set things up.  But I had not traveled four hours just to ski some well groomed terrain.  So, after hooking up with a few fellow travelers, we headed out beyond the ropes.  Our plan was not specific, but we all knew we wanted to get to a peak that we always see from the lift, and check out its backside.  After a boot pack, a traverse, and a 40 minute ski around a sub-peak, we found ourselves just under 9800', atop a horseshoe cirque with a variety of sun exposed and shaded chutes.  We chose a sunny aspect.  The top was a steep, creamed corned chute that slowly narrowed to a pinch.  In a normal snow year, a fall line descent to the bottom is possible.  But with our thin snow pack we followed a traverse skiers right into the central bowl, which held an apron of mostly soft, smooth, wintery snow.  I have to say, I kind of was pleased we chose this option as opposed to avoiding sharks in an increasingly thin and narrow, sun banked line.  Corn snow always seems to come around.  These days, powder is a rare treat.

With a few mini hits in the mix.

Bach atop the ridge above Emigrant Lake.  

Sally Alley was the call.  Tracked up, but the snow was cold.

And the line is aesthetic.  

We worked our way a bit further down, through some trees, and mini golfed a few benches, then it was time to make a traverse, and put back on the skins.  We aimed for a spot back up on the same ridge, a few hundred feet lower in elevation.  There was a line up there we planned on skiing back to near the resort.  On our way out, we saw that it had several tracks in it already, but still hoped for the best.  The top is a fairly wide chute, but it only had a narrow strip of good snow.  It was all on the shade, and basically a choice of smooth ice, or skied up powder.  We thought skied up powder sounded nice.  After the top third, we took a left turn, where almost everyone else had taken a right.  We followed that left track into the left chute and scored another pitch of wonderful wintery goodness.  The top few turns were full on boot deep powder, followed by several in a snow best describe as chowder, before finding a section that knew not weather it wanted to be powder or corn.  All fun turns.  On the way down, I even found a third pitch that held some wonderful wintery snow before I had to make the hard left traverse around the lake.  Usually we would ski right down and across the lake, but this winter had been warm, and we were reluctant to cross below our line.

The mid third of the run we were hitting some fresh cold snow.

Out in the sun the powder quickly changed through chowder to some sort of hybrid snow.

And it was well on its way to corn.

With plans to circumnavigate the lake, we left a good five hundred feet untouched.

The next day I was hungry for some more.  Did a few hot laps on 6, and soon was making plans to head out a bit further.  There is an zone we had thought about skiing the day before, but had to turn back due to time constraints.  This time we basically headed straight out there.  Well, actually, we headed in as straight of a manner as possible.  It did require a good amount of elevation loss, but that ended up being a fun ski any way.  It took us a bit of time to get to the top of our first run, but every time we saw the zone, it kept on looking better.  The soft powder had a certain texture to it, and it started to look like our entire face we planned to ski was covered in mostly this texture.  As it turned out, it was.  What a lovely surprise, to get this particular face in not only edgable snow, and not only wintery snow, but in actual powdery snow.  This was neither superbly deep, or super hero, but it was close enough to make both days' efforts well worth this reward.  I was riding on a nice high as we donned our skins and began skinning back up tot the exit ridge.  We had a pretty easy out, and decided to head for a point a but further down the ridge from the prior day.  We were looking for a nice sun exposed corn slope.  And, with a little poking around, we found it.

A look up at Sally Alley.  We did the boogie left slide all the way to the traverse.

Next day we were eyeing the Little AK Face.  

Clay gets started.

And found the hike well worth the effort.

So, here is where things took a turn for the worse.  After two days of fun skiing, and fun snow, I spotted my entrance and stoked to hit the baking corn below, I entered the choke hot.  After quick edging above a rock, and throwing my skis around that rock, I soon found myself acceleration on ice, going across the slope and headed for some rocks.  I am not really sure what happened next.  I thought I was going to be able to pull my tips up and come to a stop.  That did not happen.  Instead, one ski got a hold of some outcropping of rock, and then I was tossed into a rock wall.  Or so I think.  Next thing I know, I am sliding down the slope, through the corn, both skis popped off.  Frantically, I try to grab my skis, but as I do, I accelerate.  Finally I have one, and work hard to put on the breaks, as more rocks are quickly approaching from below.  I stop.  One ski is gone.  My partner said it went off the cliff to our right.  Far below, we see a single ski track going into the wood.  My ass hurt.  My pants were torn.  Slowly, I get a hold of myself and begin boot packing down the slope.  800 vertical feet lost.  There was plenty of good news.  We found my ski rather quickly.  My bindings were not busted.  While there was a nasty core shot on one, my skis were basically okay.  I could basically still ski and walk.  I did not land on my back.  Xrays have shown nothing is broken.  And I learned pretty damn big lesson.  Don't be so damn cavalier.  And will I've spent two days on the couch watching way too many crappy movies instead of making turns, or catching waves, I will be out there again soon enough.  Likely even before the next time it snows.