Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Tahoe Ski and Bike Report

Thanks for letting me disappear for a few days to take a break after the end of the academic year.  It was a long one and I needed to reset my sanity.  

The limited snowfall in the Sierra Nevada this year created an unusual opportunity for early May corn skiing and mountain biking in the Tahoe area.  We took off last week and did a couple of days of mountain biking, a day of Alpine skiing, and a day of ski touring.  

After arriving in Truckee and doing and evening ride on the Donner Crest trail, we skied a day at the famous north Tahoe ski resort that has served as the home or base for many great skiers including Tamara McKinney, Julia Mancuso, Shane McConkey, and Cody Townsend.  Given the limited seasonal snowfall, conditions varied some depending on elevation and aspect...

Sadly, KT-22 was closed, so we kept ourselves occupied with laps involving the One Express and Siberia trails, venturing frequently over to the area around Headwall Express (which was closed although the terrain beneath was open) where we found good corn thanks to the dense and well consolidated Sierra spring snowpack.  

Some route finding was required, but continuous lines could be found and it was entertaining for a couple of hours. 

We then hydrated in the car and shifted over to Alpine Meadows until they closed at 2.  This was my first visit to the resort and it quickly made it on to my "little ski areas that rock" list as we pretty much had the Summit Six chair to ourselves and skied every little line that was still in.

Despite the limited snow, the steeper lines were quite good.  I don't know when it last snowed in the north Tahoe area, but the corn was dense, grippy, and confidence inspiring.  The stuff that spring steeps are made of.  The flatter, lower mountain was an ACL-tear waiting to happen, but thankfully we survived.  

The next day, we rode the northern portion of the Flume trail, which is one of the more famous rides in the Tahoe area.  It's an extremely well constructed trail that contours along about 1000 vertical feet above Lake Tahoe.  The portion we rode as an out-and-back was easy riding.

The attractions are the forest, rocks, and views, which are quintessentially east Tahoe and spectacular.  

I suspect the trail is heavily traveled during the summer.  We saw some people, but not many, making the ride more enjoyable.  

We brought our ski touring gear, but struggled deciding where to go for an accessible option not involving miles of approach or bushwhacking given the meager snowpack.  We had an interest in skiing Lassen Peak, but the 6+ hour round trip from where we were staying wasn't inviting.  We ended up driving down to Carson Pass and eventually touring around the Kirkwood ski area, which was closed.  Since neither of us had ever skied there, it was a pretty good option and it went right from the parking lot.  

After skinning up "The Wall," we traversed on bare ground to near the summit of Thimble Peak.

The skiing from here was mighty fine.  Good corn, with a bit of sun-cupped roughness.  

I suspect a week or two ago would have been best, but it was good enough for a 2nd lap.  Tracks from run one to the left.  

The return enabled us to explore some of the chutes beneath the Thunder Saddle.  Having never skied here, this added a bit of fun adventuring since we hadn't scouted the area and needed to poke around a bit to see if a line went given the meager snowpack.  We fortunately chose wisely, passing on one that we couldn't fully assess from the top and would have cliffed out.  The one below was a better choice and skied well.    

In some respects, the lack of snow was a bit of a bummer, but the skiing was good and the mixture of riding and skiing was just what the doctor ordered.  

Now to get those grades in...

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