Jun 15 2011

Summer arrives in Tahoe

Well it figures. As soon as I made a big deal about it still being winter in June, summer arrived.

Look familiar? From the best powder day of Ten-11. Aaron Brietbard demonstrates why tele rules.

It’s been sunny and warm for over a week now. There’s still lots of snow at Donner Pass and around Lake Tahoe, even on south facing slopes, but even Donner Ski Ranch is finally giving up the ghost. Old landmarks that had been buried so long I’d forgotten about them are sprouting up on the trade routes from this past season and there is still over ten feet of snow on north-facing slopes.

Not only is Mammoth planning to be open July 4th, so are Sugar Bowl and Squaw here in Tahoe. Given my druthers, I’d recommend Mammoth over anything in Tahoe at that time.

Tahoe is not known for good spring and summer skiing. It’s not bad, it just isn’t known for reliable spring corn snow — it’s too low in elevation for it to get cold once the weather shifts into summer gear. So the snow never freezes, it just goes mushy and stays that way until it has all run down in rivers and creeks to the lakes and valleys below. I don’t mind skiing mush, but can’t see paying to slide in that glop. It’s only bearable as part of a foray into the backcountry, a necessary condition to put up with in exchange for an awesome workout while soaking up an alpine view on the skin up. Yes, I really do like the earn.

Besides, the roads are dry and all the major Eastern Sierra trailheads are open except Tioga Pass but it is scheduled to open this weekend (Tioga Pass opens Jun. 18, 2011). If you can’t satisfy your adrenaline jones any other way than by skiing, by all means get out to the East Side. It should continue to deliver well deserved smiles for another month. And if you can’t afford the gas to the East Side, at least get some place higher, like Carson Pass.

So with the local crystal stash turning to water it’s finally time to switch toys and earn some turns on water for the next few months – harnessing the wind with kites and sails. As the summer rolls along I’ll be shifting most of the gear reviews to more generic stuff that you can use year round, along with an occasional rerun from the Couloir archives. If you have any special requests in the latter department, leave your request in the comments below.

© 2011