State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: III

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: III


State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: III


Don’t let this photo of Miles fool you. Juneuary is here, and there’s not much you can do about it except adapt to what’s out there and seek out some of the soft stuff. There are no signs of precipitation if our current 10 day forecast, and while that might seem depressing to some, there’s a whole lot of good backcountry skiing and riding to be done in the meantime. It’s going to snow again at some point. When, who knows, but in the meantime give into the high pressure and just go with it or you’ll be one of those jaded locals who keeps talking about how good it was in November and December while the rest of us are harvesting some elusive and pleasurable California corn.

If you’ve been at the ski resorts over the past week or so you know how bulletproof north facing anything is right now. Spots that have been skied out, packed down, and receive little to zero sun this time of year are currently not ideal for snow sliding. Sure, there’s a few north facing gems in the backcountry, as there always are, that are holding some edgeable chalk, or even some old recrystalised powder. But honestly, if the sun’s out, it’s time to be chasing the corn as that’s what looks to be the most plentiful snow type we’ll be seeing for the next several days.

East winds, a low January sun, and temperatures that don’t get above 45 are not that ideal for corn. These conditions make this time of year a tough one for corn hunting, but it’s Juneuary and the window will present itself. With light winds, an objective with some south aspect in it, and a temperature in at least the mid 40’s or higher you’ll be thinking its April in no time.

If you’re really looking for winter snow you’ll need to get something directly north, but with major caution for the reasons mentioned above. Last week Miles Clark, Eric Bryant, Jehren Bohem, and I found winter again.

The Bronco Chutes in the Mt. Rose Wilderness area were holding cold snow and it was good. There’s all sorts of fun to get into back there from big chutes, closeout lines with air, spines, pillows-you name it and it’s out there. Just head up Relay Ridge, drop in, and asses from below. You’re bound to find something that speaks to you.

We definitely scored in the Bronco Chutes, but skiing out at sunset I felt the snow start to turn on south aspects. That’s what got me thinking it was time for the major shift. Into the foreseeable future it’s time for corn skiing. Or I should say in Tahoe its mush skiing until we get a good freeze and some consolidation of the snowpack.

The holiday weekend saw an amazing amount of backcountry skiers at just about every trailhead around the Lake. The snow was soft in the sun, but the mashed potato conditions let us all know the real freeze needed for proper corn wasn’t quite in yet. Still, fun was had in the Emerald Bay Chute area and on Castle Peak. The main Emerald Chute got hit by no less than 10 people on Saturday, and I’m sure many more took their turn at this local gem right after us.

Always fun to ride with some of the best views around this whole zone is a great place to seek out some Juneuary soft snow conditions.

Castle Peak was fun as well, specifically the SW facing couloir to the summit.

Although the couloir is rocky at the bottom and pretty thin, it was still fun for a few technical soft turns and the apron on the way out was glory to lay huge GS tracks down.

More corn exploration will be going down this week. The good thing is the inversion that was sticking around through the weekend that gave us mashed potato conditions has been kicked out of our zone from shifting winds. That might mean some non-ideal ski conditions in the short-term, but it should indicate the solid freeze we need to go into a real corn cycle through the rest of the week is coming. Think snow, but in the meantime, remember it’s Tahoe and we always need to adapt to the changing conditions. There’s some good peaks and lines to hit when we’re in this kind of a cycle, and there’s no better time than the present to tick a few off when you know the weather will be fairly stable and dry for next several days.

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