March 03, 2005

Lake Tahoe Powder

Last shot from Heavenly. This is Mott Canyon.

This might be a good time for me to describe for you what kind of riders we are so you can decide for yourself how to interpret our "reviews". Dan has been skiing forever; he competed in down hills in his youth (although he was always about 50lbs short of being a contender). He coached downhill and has ski patrolled for eight years. He can ski anything. Additionally he snowboards, and much to my chagrin is also really proficient at that.

I grew up in Ohio, snowboarded for the first time at 16 and that doesn't really count because it was on a blue ice covered, converted, land fill. At 18 I moved to Colorado and started really riding. I am proficient and can make it down anything that Dan drags me out to, my signature move is the double black diamond falling leaf (for those who don't know this is not a good thing, this is a cheaters way down runs that are too steep for them).

Given our choice we would both always ski powder filled bowls and tree runs. We like going into terrain parks on non-powdery days when other runs are hard and unforgiving. Neither of us would draw any ohhs, or ahhs in the half-pipe and rails with kinks in them make my butt hurt just looking at them. But give us a jump with a soft landing and watch us go.

I suppose you could best sum up our style as backcountry like in-bounds skiers. We like natural terrain features, steep powder filled glades and even the occasional balls to the wall groomer race. That ought to do it, now on to the areas.


On Tuesday we drove around the lake to Homewood. Homewood is a fabulous place. It has lots of easily accessed backcountry-like terrain, fun groomers, amazing views and during the week you can get tickets for $22. We went there because a couple of blog readers wrote us to say that it was the best kept secret on the lake, and I'd have to agree with them.

View of the lake from Homewood.

Homewood has some great tree skiing.


Lodging is pricy in North Tahoe so we opted to spend a night at Harrah's Casino in Reno. For $35 we got a four star rated room, not too shabby for the likes of us.

This picture is blurry and I think that about sums up our time in Reno.

In South Lake Tahoe there are plenty of $30-40/ night motels, the campgrounds charge $25 and the showers don't work at the one we chose, so forking over another $5-10 is pretty easy to justify.

Alpine Meadows

Dan really wanted to visit Alpine, it is less known than its neighbor Squaw, but everyone we talked to recommended it, so we had to go. Once again we were not disappointed. We woke up in Reno to learn that Alpine had received 10" of fresh; Dan started twitching, as he is prone to do in anticipation of skiing powder.

Alpine has amazing bowls, cliffs and super craggy faces. It has terrain that could challenge even the most seasoned riders. It is not crowded and we were able to get fresh tracks all day long. Riding all of these different places is so much fun. I feel really challenged and for the first time in years I feel like I am actually getting better at riding.

Dan dropping a chute off of the Sherwood Cliffs.

Here's a picture of our tracks in The Promise Land at Alpine Meadows.

Dan jumping the cornice on Expert Shortcut.

Sierra at Tahoe
First off I must give a big blog shout-out to Brook, Brent and Bonnie for hooking us up with free tickets to Sierra- Thanks you guys. We had a great day. We missed the storm by one day, so the in-bounds terrain was best on groomers and in the north facing trees. Sierra has SIX terrain parks and a half pipe. SIX!! We like it out here because all of the areas designate their parks as small, medium and large, small being our personal favorite.

On our first chair ride, we met a very nice ski Patroller named Mitch, who took us on a backcountry tour just out of bounds. Here's Mitch and a friend picking their lines.

The view from the top of the backcountry bowl. It is a bit intimidating because you have a drop to get into the bowl and you cannot see your landing.

And from the bottom if you look closely you can see Mitch standing in the middle. It was a fantastic run and only about a 20 minute hike.

The lake from the deck of the Grandview Lodge.

Since we went backcountry today, and have some plans to go out of bounds in Colorado next week, we decided to practice with our transceivers. We took turns burying a transceiver while the other one located it. Dan is fantastic at finding the transceivers, I feel very safe. I on the other hand take a bit longer than he does, so if you are my partner you might invest in an avilung :)

For those of you who have no idea what any of that means, I'll break it down. Since there is avalanche danger in some of the places we go, we have avalanche transceivers. We wear them incase one of us should get caught in a slide and buried. The other can use their receiver to locate the buried person. Transceivers take practice to use, so a few times a winter we try to do these drills. Once you have an idea of where the buried person is you use your probe (an 8' rod, a lot like a tent pole) to test the snow for the person, then you use your shovel to dig them out. All of this can be easily carried into the backcountry, in avy-gear specific packs. If I am your partner you might wear a vest with a special air chamber and tube built in to buy you some more air/ time.

Sierra has a fantastic program where for $25 you can get a guided tour back into the area we rode today. You get a backcountry safety lecture, and transceiver lesson. All of the gear is included and your guide is a ski patroller. Avalanche awareness classes can be pricy, but are a must if you intend to ski the backcountry. This is a great way to get introduced to this kind of terrain in a controlled and non-intimidating way.

Dan playing with his transceiver.


For our last day in Cali we skied Kirkwood. We had to because we've heard so many great things about it and because it is the sister resort of Durango Mountain Resort. We weren't super motivated though, so we had a very leisurely morning and hit the slopes promptly at 1pm. Kirkwood is awesome. it has cliffs, chutes, bowls and plenty of scare yourself terrain. The people were all very friendly and the resort is beautiful.

After our afternoon of skiing we met a guy from Berkley who clued us in on the Snow Parks, we keep seeing along the roads. Seems the Snow Parks access backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing etc. For $25 you buy an annual fee and these areas make for excellent boondocking. Wish we'd met him before we paid $25, but such is life.

Top of Kirkwood.

Rachel contemplating her bump line.

Look closely, see the lift in the distance?? It accesses some incredible terrain.

Our time in Cali has been spectacular. Where else can you find the views of Tahoe and a place with so many skiing options? We will be back for sure. But for now Colorado is calling. Time to bonsai it back.


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