Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Not Quite Kirkwood.

Winter showed up early this year with a enough snow to get us started in October, with a great cold storm gracing us for Veterans day.  Then rain fell across the entire region just before the Thanksgiving Holiday turning the fantastic base into something like a death crust.  Wet storms followed, each seemingly ending with a rain event.  But when a foot or so of cold powder fell along the crest mid week, I knew where I would be headed for the weekend.  Some where that is not quite Kirkwood.  And it was very good.  The day started crisp, if mot very early.  6F at around 9AM was a good start on the skin track.  

Powdork finds the snow to be too his liking.

Nacho, other than a consistent shiver, seemed to be enjoying the cold smoke.


Mike was up for some fast, silent turns.

The snow was decent.  About a foot, maybe more in spots, of light fast powder on top of a supportable crust.  Sure, we felt the bottom more often than not, but the stuff on top was effortless to ski.  And the landings were almost really good.  With ski windows limited, I knew I had to make the most of the day.  With three partners, I was sure to have one out last me.  Good enough.  We got two runs down the front face, before we hatched plans to head a little further up the ridge and check out another bowl.  Turns out it was a pretty decent plan.  Some of the best snow of the day was in the latter half.

Powdork finds a nice slot to jump around in.

Icicle hit.
Lap Two was even better than the first.Add caption

I find a small hit in a rock band that will be gone by Christmas.  Phote: Alex Do

By hiking a little higher up, and trying a different aspect, we found a wide open face, with just a few rocks here and there to launch off of.  Basically, good, old fashion powder bowl turns that were bottomless.  Okay, so not bottomless, but at least we never hit the crust.  Then it was time to make the short end of day slog back to the main ridge so we could ski to the car.  There was a bit of complaining on my part about this work.  Early season muscles, not enough food and a day that peaked at 15F can make a man grumpy.  Nothing good snow can't fix. 

SchralphMachio does his best JMetzler impression.

This is what it looks like just before your skis get run over by a dork.

Finding time to get in the air.

Then I got a turn to play.  Photo: Alex Do

 Hit the final face, found some more great snow, jumped a cliff and lost a ski just as it was getting dark. A cold climb back up, and a little help from a friend, got us heading back down to the car.  Damn it was cold.  Turns out the car battery was dead.  Almost turned in to one of those nightmare moments, but a friendly neighbor got us going in no time.  All in all, a great time, skiing around in one of my favorite little yoyo zones.  More pics of this adventure at Powdork.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Round 2 for the Sierra.

Last winter was a disappointment for many.  It never really even got started until late January.  So, after a year like that, most of us learn to not to expect too much.  But we are still hungry.  So when the weather outlets began forecasting another round of snow, timed right when I had childcare coverage, I knew I was going to go.  In the days right up before the storm, models began backing off and Tahoe Weather Discussion led a post with the phrase, "more cold than snow."  Bummer, I thought, but I knew I could still poke around a little and stack some wood at my friend's cabin.  Plans were laid, and expectations were low.  And then it snowed.  (And I do apologies, as I had some camera issues on day 1, so some fuzziness must be endured).

Court looking at something.

"If we just slide a little snow, into the crux, we might be able to cover up the meat grinder."

Chris, thinking that sounded crazy, opted for a semi blind 15 footer.  Bwhaa!

And scored some powder down below.

The good kind of powder.

Court follows.  But is that as deep as you can go?

Not just a few inches on top of refrozen crust.  Not a foot.  But many, several feet of snow.  And yes, it was cold.  And the snow was best described as white smoke.  It was really hard to say how much has fallen, as this stuff was so light, that it began to settle right away.  It could dump for hours, but the snow depth could remain the same, as more piled up on top, the house of card fell away below.  The result?  A fantastic skiing surface, well bonded to the October layer below, supportable and rip-able.  And that top layer - cold smoke.

That is more like it.

The Paparazzi were out and working.

Long, quiet, deep runs.

jib stoke.  Plenty of stuff to hit.

Time for lap three.  Red Bull gave court wings, but be careful of getting too close to the sun Icarus.

The last run did not blow.  Oh, wait, yes it did.

"Hey buddy, where did you go."

It is a true bromance.  These guys are posing for their Holiday Card.

I met up with Court and Chris on Friday at the Chair 7 base of Kirkwood.  A few Subarus were already in the lot as we arrived, and a skin track had been set.  Great, no trail breaking.  Hiking up the beginner terrain under Chair 7, it quickly became apparent that the day was going to be good.  All three of us had been out a few weeks before and had a good idea of where the first snow of the season had left a base.  We went straight there.  The problem with copious amounts of blower on top of limited base, is that you can easily sink all the way to the bottom.  If you sink to rock, well that is not fun.  But the zone from Oly to Rabbits was well covered and ready to go.  So we went.

Saturday, the tracks from Friday were filled back in as the storm raged.  Tony skins.

Some prefer to wait for the lifts.  Tony prefers deep pow.

White Room.

As you got lower, things tended to be thinner.  Far from dust on crust.


Sentinel Bowl looking tracked.  Imagine if they actually spun the lifts.

Court enjoys this little section.

Waist deep, fluffy and untracked all the way down.

I think it is okay to call this snow "blower."

After three laps, we were ready to call it a day.  My partners needed to get back to South Lake, and I had been up since 4AM.  Back to the cabin to start the fire, drink some beers, stack some wood and rest for the next day.  I laid plans to meet Tony, back at Chair 7, at 8AM.  Lucky for me he was running a few minutes late, and I was able to score a breakfast burrito (albeit, a poorly made, poorly wrapped and expansive one from the General Store - come on KW, pick up the food service game!), fill my gullet and get ready for Day 2.  We went back to Rabbits and Sentinel from lap one, and then headed over to sample Oly and lower Oops form lap 2.  Good stuff.  Tony was not into a lap 3, but that was fine, as I was meeting Court up on the skin track, for another go.  The snow just kept coming, no doubt about that.  Took the third run right down lookers left of the skin track in chest deep snow.  It does not get much better than that.  At the lot, Court turned to me and said, "you really should ski tomorrow."  A quick call home to an understanding wife, and plans were laid for a sunrise hike on Sunday.

"Nacho, get back.  Daddy wants to jump off of this thing."

Looking down into the Kirkwood Valley.

Dropping.  First taste of Jim's for the season.

Down below, it was still pretty good skiing.

All the way to the flats.

Up on the Wall, late in the day, this Bay Area ripper makes some turns.

Well consolidated, and creamy.

And deep.

Back to the car, pick up the pass, down some lunch.  Hanging out in the 6 lot, multiple parties were coming in and heading out on the hill.  With the sky clearing, I follow two groups up Buckboard and toward the top of 10.  Man, it was a shock how tracked out the hill was.  Zachs was basically bumps, as was Buckboard.  And KW was claiming there was not enough snow to open.  Seems like there was not a push to open (BTW, they are now scheduled to open this Friday, November 16th).  The lead group turned around just atop the knoll that separates the Wall from Buckboard, and they surprisingly skied right down through the most tracked out area of the hill.  The middle of the Wall was well loaded, and had three tracks.  the rest of us skinned there.  I took some pics and then I was up.  Of course, clearing weather turned to pea soup.  When visibility let up just a bit, I headed down in some creamy goodness. Then off to the lower nose to sample some more fantastic snow.

From atop Thimble Peak, the views are positively wintery.  Fawn Ridge, Emigrant Basin and the Sisters.

Court had enough sightseeing, and decided it was time to make some turns.

He enjoyed the clean slate.  Break trail up, you get your choice of line down.

Of course, with a crowd of 10, there are plenty of options.

Just make sure you don't cross that skin track.  Finding plenty of room to roam.

The storm broke by 8PM, and the stars were out.  6AM seemed way to close, but I was ready.  Morning temperature was 6F.  The sky was clear.  Light was bending over the hills.  And we hiked up to Eagle Bowl to get what we think were the first turns of the season in there.  As we were skinning up Thunder Saddle, we looked back and saw that at least two other parties had made turns and were on our heels.  The goal was the top of 99 Steps.  The sun was out, the air warming, and the stoke level high as we took turns breaking trail.  Needless, to say it was good.  Very good in fact.  But the real creme de la creme was the snow back in the saddle.  Back in the shade.  The top of Two Man was about as good as powder skiing gets.

Most of the entrances into the Saddle are still thin.  This straight line is usually a rollover bowl.

But it is worth threading the needle when Two Man has so as good as it did.

Deep turns all the way through the bottom.

Even down around 6000 feet, a solid snow cover is found.  Welcome back winter.

What a start to the season.  And more is in the forecast.  BA said we would have a cold, early start to winter, and turn out he was spot on.  If you have been wondering if it would worth heading up to Tahoe for the Thanksgiving Weekend, the answer is a resounding "yes."  While we might not see the 100" storm we had two years ago, this will be the best opener we have had in years.  And at the very least, the drive up on Wednesday looks to be clear.  Welcome Winter, and please, take off your coat and stay for a bit.