Thursday, January 17, 2013

Carson Pass to Kirkwood. 1/12/13

Beautiful sunny morning for laying down a skin track.

Saturday was the window for me.  While it would make a long day to drive up to the Sierra, take a moderate tour, and then drive back home, it sure seemed like it would be worth it.  In fact, the original plan was to use the lifts at Kirkwood to assist in some side country play, but when I arrived, the air was cold, the sky was clear and the winds were calm.  Seemed like a waste not to go venture out on a real tour.  After multiple calls and texts, Rick and I were in Courts brakeless car, headed out to Carson Pass.    The plan was simple.  Follow the established skin track out toward the saddle between the Sisters and the Saddle.  Problem was, even on a Saturday, with fantastic conditions, and at our late start of 9:45, no one had yet been out.  Amazing.  And that is how we knew the skiing would be.  So off to the top of Life on the Edge we traveled.

And if the weather and snow conditions are not enough to get you stoked, the views will help.

The first few turns off the top were a bit crusty, but once in, they transitioned to buttery.

An entire face, all to ourselves.

Good to the last pitch.

One good pitch skied, and we were back on our skins.  We spied a number of lines we thought about hitting, but time and fatigue sent us toward a closer route home, down Sally Alley.  While the top was pretty disturbed by the wind, once down a hundred feet, the snow started to act more like powder, and by the time we were at the last 800 feet above Emigrant Lake, it was more like blower powder.  Good enough for me to beg for another round.  We headed back toward Kirkwood, grabbed a lift up Sunrise and headed back out for one more short nearby lap.  Good thing we stayed close, as we made it back to Ironhorse (and the way back to the car) at just a few minutes past closing.  Oddly enough, the one run we did inbounds was superb.  Sure, not untracked powder, but really good skiing.  Did we make a mistake working hard on our tour.  Hell no.  I don't get very many all day windows, and there is nothing quite like a hike in the great outdoors.

3, 2 1, dropping.


And for Mike, a stomp, and ski away shot.

Creamy goodness.

And blower to finish off the final 800 feet.

Taking a rest and enjoying the view, before the final push back to the resort.

Late afternoon huck.

And right into a deep carve.

Perhaps the best part of the day was at the end.  I drove Court back to his car, and the sky decided to catch fire.  What a perfect treat, as I turned back west, and watched as blues, turned to oranges, to reds, to pinks and then to a deep cobalt blue.  I was headed home to my family, tired and content.

Late day sky is alight.

The drive back to KW was not too shabby either.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The New Year starts off with a Bang.

 So, while I was having a wonderful time visiting family back east, about a dozen feet of snow fell around Tahoe.  When I returned to visit Kirkwood with my family, I knew I would get out and enjoy a few days in the slack country.  Turns out I hiked for a lot more than ever using the lift serve.  I did not mind much, as the cold temperatures had been keeping the snow in excellent condition.  Who knew Tahoe could hold up so well.  Each adventure out scored better and better snow.  On New Years, I meet up with Jamie and another local for a little hiking.  High winds had shut down Chair 4 and any hopes of Emigrant laps, so we decided to hit something a little closer.  With 6 also on windhold, we decided on a nice mellow pitch coming off the back of the sisters.  Sure, that skiing was not much, but that put us on a short skin up to Thunder Bowl.

Unidentified finds a plush air into Thunder Bow,

Looking back at the line before skinning out to the next objective.  Yes, it is filled in back there.

Dawn Patrol morning views are the best.  

Wind was loading the entrance pretty well, and with step rollovers and no fall zones, we decided to poke around a bit.  A look behind Glove Rock revealed wind scoured bowl skiing.  Not too appealing.  We decided to give it a go into Thunder, with the belief that we could move quickly across the building slab, without the whole thing releasing and stepping down to the PWL.  We were right.  We took our turns carving turns down the bowl to safe spots atop the spines.  In general, the snow was reasonably soft, if a bit grabby.  A warmer day, or a fresh topping, could make all the difference.  He high tailed out of there to the Back 40, which I hit again the next morning at dawn.  As expected, the snow was deep and soft.  Perfect for throwing yourself off something.  So, when it was suggested that I meet up for a quick hike the following dat near the Gulch, I was all yes, yes, yes.

Looking out at the lines that are seldom skied.  The Spur and beyond.

The crew assembles after having a morning safety chat.  It is all downhill from here.

Chris drops his line.

Jaime finds a decent patch.

Court finds some rocks to hop over.

Nacho watches him roll over the point of no return.

The Gulch might be one of my favorite locations near the valley.  The lines near there are super fun, with a good diving board rock near the top, powder turns in between, and a cliff and pillow band down below.  It might be a 500 foot vertical drop, but I doubt it.  But it is steep.  And the bottom of the Gulch is a short side step and traverse from underneath the cliffs.  I think it is actually an extension of the same geological feature, but the Gulch bends into the mountain side.  It is a beautiful place to snow shoe and a fun place to play.  If any of these hits had more than 10 feet of runout, they would be all time.  As it is, they are more than all time.

The Shoulder, the Spine and the Root.  Among others.

The Gulch.

The Pillows and the Stormtrooper.

The Huck.

Mid Air.

 Of course, the day we arrive, Court is right off the first line.  His landing is still a bit flat, as the apron has yet to really fill up the side of the cliff.  So we opt to play around on the starter cliff I've started calling the Bullpen.  It is a perfect place to warm up your jumps before going for the bigger hits in the Gulch.  And some of them get real big.  Anyway, we played for sometime over here.  But we had a little type II fun as well, as Nach had decided to follow Powdork off the spine he launched.  These drops have no escape route, and the in run is well over 50 degrees.  Nacho did not want to jump (smart dog), but was unable to climb back up and out.  After much ado, Jason climbs down the spine in his snowboard boots, gives Nacho a tap on the ass, and the dog races back up to safety.  Not sure how Jason got out of there, as I had to cruise and give my wife a chance to get on the slopes.

Chris warms up in the bullpen.  

Jason gets a grab along the same band.

Jaime takes her turn on the pillowy landing.

Chris looks for a high five as Court leaves in a hurry.

Nacho curls into a tree after following Court down the spine.  Time to climb.

Back in the bullpen, Jaime starts off round two.

As Chris takes the snow skate out for a run.

Separation occurs.

Jason and Chris work out a plan to get Nacho to safety.

After complaining about how I did not climb back up to jump off the Root, I was invited out for another go of it.  Off to Mini Golf land near Carson Pass.  We met up in the very morning hours, as light first broke.  The sky was peak in the east.  The hills were well lit.  The hit was fun, and the skiing was fantastic.  The snow, once off the upper ridge, was very, very fun.  While not the deepest of powder, it was soft, and well supported.  Fun was had.  Hits were hit.  Only time for two and half laps before I needed to head out, but they were well worth it.  If you have yet to get out on the snow this season, head on up.  While the backcountry was super fun, the resorts were skiing very nicely as well.  Top to bottom winter snow, with nice chalky conditions throughout.  And it looks like we should get a fresh dousing tonight.  

Dawn Patrol brings morning light on Red Lakes.

Coming down off the final pillow.


Candy Land.

Pillows galore.


Dropping into the light.

That spine right there...

will launch Court...

...into perfect powder turns with Nacho.

And last, but not least, the best part of the trip were the many outings on the slope with my little guy.  He is a ripper to be for sure.  By his final day, we was actually make good progress on standing on his own, and starting to direct his turns.  Here is to a great start to the season.

Killing it at Kirkwood.