Sunday, January 31, 2010

And it continues

A little spitter of a storm system rolled through the area the past couple of days. It threatened to drop a good bit of snow, but about 3 inches up high was all that came of it. Just enough to freshen things up a bit. Yesterday I spent the day touring around in Ward Valley with Oscar and Ernie, who was visiting from Seattle. We battled some poor visibility and in and out snow, but we found great skiing conditions in a couple spots and made the most of it.
Today I headed down to Angora and Echo Peaks with Chris Doyle and Ming Poon. On the way we passed the parking areas for several other popular backcountry ski spots and saw the weekend warriors out in force. Pulling into the parking area for our zone we were delighted to find only one other person heading up the same way. We hiked up to the top of the Halls of the Gods and found one of my favorite steep and aesthetic lines completely untouched. While there was some heavy slough, and a little bit of wind hardened snow here and there, it was pretty much perfect. We eyed some cool short lines on the way out and took another lap in our own private ski area, for today anyway. On the way back to the car we enjoyed some fun turns down Echo peak and we skied through part of the burnt forest from the Angora fire.
It was another incredible day in a long run of incredible days. There is nothing like having a couple mountains completely to yourself when the conditions are as good as they are. Ming got to ski the Halls for the first time in his life in near perfect conditions, and that is what it is all about...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great conditions in the backcountry.

While the storm cycle of the century may have come and gone we are still enjoying great conditions in the Lake Tahoe Backcountry. We took advantage of the first completely sunny day in the last 10 and we headed out to find some steep powder in the BC. Today I skied Mt. Tallac for the first time this season and I was delighted to find good coverage and dense powder almost to the bottom. The recent warm spell and wet snow could have ruined the conditions, but by some miracle it has stayed really good out there.
We ventured into some of the more hair-raising lines on Tallac today, and it was my friend Oscar's first time down the babycham, and my friend Mike's first time down the corkscrew. Fortunately we found both lines untracked, but since the first timers got freshies, I got lots of second tracks. Both runs are incredibly steep and falling really isn't an option.
In any event, it was a beautiful sunny day and a great day to spend in the mountains. We had a great time checking out terrain and coverage and skiing around on one of Lake Tahoe most interesting mountains.

Will Wissman is a magician

Utah resident and full-time professional photographer, Will Wissman made a guest appearance in the Lake Tahoe area this past week. While his stay was short lived he found the time to get out and shoot a few pictures with Lynn and me at Alpine Meadows last Friday. He's a magician behind the lens, and its no wonder that he can make a living shooting photos. The snow was great that day, but the light conditions were far from ideal. We did the best with the hand we were dealt, and here's a few of the good ones.

Yesterday at Alpine Meadows

Surprise! Its one of the best days of the season. After skiing on Tuesday no one could have guessed that Wednesday would have been as awesome as it was. Higher elevation terrain was really, really good, and nobody was out skiing. Sure it was difficult to see at times, but having a relaxed no-pressure powder day was a treat. Here's a few helmet cam clips from yesterday at Alpine. Its a little hard to see at times, so you can imagine what it was like out on the hill...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It doesn't get any better

Over the past week we have received around 8 feet of snow in Lake Tahoe. Not record breaking by any means, but we have had one of the best weeks of skiing ever! Not only did it snow 8 feet, but we've had consistently good skiing the whole time, and for the past couple of days we have enjoyed the most stable snowpack that I have ever seen. So stable that I can hardly believe it, yet I have tried to take full advantage of it. With thin cloud cover and consistent light snow for the past two days we have enjoyed all-time powder conditions on south facing terrain. Normally I avoid south faces after storms but this cycle has allowed us to enjoy powder conditions in places that I never thought possible. The Lake Tahoe backcountry has been going off, giving up some of the best conditions in history. Sure I've got sore toes, shin bang, whiplash, and a broken finger, but that's all water under the bridge. I'm not sure how many more of the best days of skiing of my life I can have, but it seems like everyday for the past week has been just that. I'm sure I can find a little room in the old memory bank to store a few more.....
Here's a couple clips from yesterday and today, two of the best days of skiing that I have ever had. These are a couple of the good runs I had, the really, really good ones are safely tucked away in my brain, they're just for me. And, by the way the song, so fresh so clean, is describing the snow, not me...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Welcome to the deep

Its been snowing for days here in Lake Tahoe. The past couple of days have been epic to say the least. Today high winds and heavy snow kept most of the area's lift accesible terrain closed, but there were ample deep untracked powder turns available in the Lake Tahoe Backcountry. The skiing only improved throughout the day as the rate of snowfall and velocity of the winds increased. My new GoPro HD worked flawlessly, and I still can't believe that such a small camera can shoot HD video with such good color. Check out some of my clips from today. It was my first day skiing on some of next years Elan Olympus skis, and I'd have to say that I enjoyed them thoroughly. Sorry if the video is a little long, but hopefully you like Guns and Roses....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Its here.

The big one has arrived. Reportedly bringing as many at 10 feet of new snow to the higher elevations of Tahoe, the storm of the century is upon us. It was an incredible day at Alpine Meadows yesterday, see attached clips of video, and another incredible day of skiing at Squaw Valley today. The winds kept most of Alpine on lock down today, with Summit Chair not even turning all day long. Interestingly, some of the best skiing of the day was in the late afternoon. The high winds and heavy snow combined for some really great wind buffed conditions that improved throughout the day. Anyway, check out these two clips from yesterday. I broke the mount for my POV cam, so here is attempt number one of the camera in the hand...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Here comes the fun

After 4 days away from home, I went backcountry skiing up the street today with Lynn and my buddy Oscar. It hasn't snowed since Wednesday, but the 4 day old dust on crust was alright with me. With a really large storm bearing down on the area things are looking really good for the next seven days, and possibly longer than that. For now I've got my fingers crossed, but it looks like its going to be good. Here's a couple of quick shots from the three runs we took today in the Lake Tahoe backcountry.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Best Donut Ever!

For the past several days I've been in Portland, OR attending the 2010 athlete/design forum for Columbia Sportswear. The forum is a great opportunity to provide feedback to the designers of Columbia outerwear. This is the third year of the design forum and just another example of Columbia's commitment to continuous improvement in their outerwear design and innovation. The designers are usually pretty excited to hear what we have to say since we abuse their gear on a regular basis, something they don't have a chance to do while working in their offices.

The promotions manager at Columbia basically babysits the professional ski team while we are up in Portland, and she also ensures that we have a good time without accidentally burning down the city. This year we got to sample some of Portland's finest cuisine. Portland is a beautiful and culturally diverse city and we ate at a few of its landmark eateries. The Greek food at Alexis greek restaurant was outstanding, the Thai food at Pok Pok was the most authentic I've ever experienced, but the donut I ate from Voodoo donuts was the best donut I have ever had. In the heart of downtown Portland, Voodoo donuts is well known for its extensive menu of gourmet donuts, many with raunchy names. With everything from fruit loops and crumbled oreos to peanut butter on their donuts, their masterpiece donut is the maplebar with bacon. I wish there were words to describe how good this donut was, but I fear that my limited vocabulary would not do it justice.

My trip wasn't just about eating and meetings though. We spent an afternoon up at Mt. Hood Meadows skiing some thin cover dust on crust. Apparently it has been raining a lot recently, and my afternoon on Hood certainly helped to reaffirm my love for skiing in Lake Tahoe. Even though we had a great time ripping around up there, its just not quite the same.... But they sure do have some colorful sunrises.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My prayers have been answered

For a few years now I have hoped that I might eventually have a taller heel riser for my Marker Duke bindings. Finally my prayers have been answered. I recently acquired a set of the new "long" heel risers. The difference is pretty substantial as you can see in the following photos.
The new taller heel riser is on the right, obviously. The difference is truly amazing, taking pressure and strain off my lower back and hips, making skinning uphill easier and more comfortable. Anyone who has felt that the heel risers were too short on their Dukes should get their hands on a set a.s.a.p.
With new and improved Duke heel risers views like these are much easier to come by. This is the view to the south from the summit of Jakes today...


For the past several days the clouds have settled into the Lake Tahoe basin due to inverted temperatures. Thankfully it has been sunny in the mountains, making for incredible views like the ones we got today skiing on the South side of Jakes Peak. After we broke through the cloud layer the views got better and better. Here's my buddy Oscar enjoying the climb and the crazy sea of clouds where the lake usually is.
Since I rarely appear in photos on this blog here's a gratuitous shot of me at the top of Jakes with Emerald Bay and South lake Tahoe hidden in the clouds far below.
And again, I'm checking out the absolutely amazing view of the clouds up against Maggies Peaks and Mt. Tallac with the barren and dramatic peaks of Desolation Wilderness in the background.
And again in black and white, truly amazing views. Amazingly enough we were the only two people hiking around out there today, its too bad no one else got to enjoy the views and great skiing today.
With the warm temperatures and rain that we've had recently our snow has been vanishing at an alarming pace. This was very evident today on our descent. In the short video below you'll see how little snow there actually was. The snow that does remain on the south and east facing slopes in the backcountry is very good, however, and totally worth the effort. I even got to employ the good ol' fashioned technique of bush skiing and walking to connect the patches of snow.
Fortunately, there is significant snow in the forecast. Unfortunately for me, I'll be in Oregon attending design meetings for Columbia Sportswear. While I truly enjoy meeting and talking to the designers of my outerwear it will be hard to drag myself away from the powder...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

And the warm spell continues...

Our unseasonably warm conditions continue, and they have been accompanied by afternoon rain showers for the past 2 days. Our snowpack is holding up surprisingly well, but near lake level, and especially on the south faces, its melting so fast you can almost see it go. No more than 10 days ago we were skiing powder and had been for some time. This short video is from the 2 days before Christmas. My Gopro POV camera was working only intermittently, so I didn't capture all the action, but I sure had a great time.
This video is from the two days leading up to New Years. Again I was having a bit of trouble with my filming equipment, but the skiing was so great that I didn't really care.
Thank goodness for all the snow we got over the holidays or we'd be hurting around here right now, and it was really fun while it lasted.

Friday, January 8, 2010

One of my favorites

With daily threats of scattered rain showers and cloudy skies prevailing, now is a great time to reminisce. On the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, nestled between Emerald Bay and Fallen Leaf lake, sits the mighty Mount Tallac. The highest point on the rim of Lake Tahoe, the summit of Tallac is 9,735 feet. The 3,300 vertical feet of hiking to gain the summit takes between 1:45 to 3:30 hours depending on your route, the snow conditions, and your fitness. Mount Tallac boasts one of the highest concentrations of gnarly lines in the area, and some of my favorite ski runs. The Babycham is one such run, pictured below.
The entrance is somewhat hidden just a couple hundred feet from the summit. While hidden from view the lucky skiers who know of the existence of this line are rewarded with stomach in the throat steeps and heart pounding out of your chest turns. This ski run is unrelentingly steep, with the steepest part being the bottom, also the narrowest part. The exit of this chute is completely hidden from the view of the skier for the entire run, as the pitch seems to just roll away from you the entire way. If you're smart you can ski it in powder, which I think is the preferred condition for a line this steep. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't go anywhere near this thing in firm or less than ideal conditions. With steep powder skiing good slough management is a must, I once saw a dog with poor slough management skills take an unexpected ride top to bottom in here, he was fine. I try to ski this line at least once every season, but with nowhere near enough snow at the moment all I can do is dream about it. In the photo below my good friend Charlie Berg inches his way into the entrance of the Babycham, please note that I am looking straight down while taking this picture. Also, notice how the chute curves away out of sight lower down... I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alpine Meadows Backcountry 1/6/10

With a 30 percent chance of rain after 10 today its no big surprise that it was perfectly sunny all day. The abundant sunshine coupled with above average temperatures made for another beautiful California day. After taking a few runs off Summit Chair my friend Oscar and I ventured out into Ward Valley to see what we could find. Oddly enough we found perfect smooth corn on one of our favorite south-facing zones. A few other adventurous individuals did the same thing the day before, but in such a large area as this, there was more than enough room left for us to enjoy virtually track free skiing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

South Jakes corn laps

Staying on the June-uary theme, today I headed down to Emerald Bay to do a little backcountry skiing in one of the most scenic places on earth. I had the entire South side of Jakes peak to myself for most of the day. South Jakes is one of my go-to spots for spring conditions when there is good enough coverage. The photo below is of the South side of Jakes peak with mediocre coverage from a couple of weeks ago.
Located about 18 miles from my house its a no-brainer to head down there for smooth 2,000 foot corn runs. From the car to the top takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half depending on the conditions. Today I took 2 runs, one on the south facing chute in the middle of the picture and one on the far lookers right skyline. It just so happens that I strapped on my GoPro POV cam for a few turns. Now please be aware that nothing extreme or gnarly occurs in this video, but the skiing was good and smooth, and look at the lake and emerald bay, at times it feels like you might fall into it.

Best of both worlds

The skiing in Lake Tahoe is really good right now. After weeks of snowstorms and powder skiing we've been left high and dry in what I like to call June-uary. June-uary is anytime in January that feels more like June. This condition is not uncommon in Lake Tahoe and has actually become the norm for the past several years. Fortunately for us our dense snow cycles from powder to corn very quickly making for consistently good conditions with very little downtime. Yesterday at Alpine Meadows I found good cold powder and chalky snow in the upper north-facing areas and smooth springy corn-like snow on lower south-facing pitches, pretty much the best of both worlds. Check out this short video that I shot with my GoPro POV camera yesterday morning.

After spending the morning skiing around Alpine I headed over to Squaw to ski with my girlfriend Lynn and her friend Alli Donovan. Much to my surprise the skiing was excellent there as well. Wind-buff laps on Headwall face and the funnel, with skied up powder down Northbowl. Even though Squaw Valley is only about a half mile from Alpine I rarely ski there, and doing the Alpine-Squaw double down is even more rare. I must say that I had a great time and I got to experience the best of both worlds...