State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: IV

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: IV

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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: IV

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The words from an old Doors song seem most appropriate for this week’s report; “Waiting for the Sun”. That’s the name of the game right now. You know, I know it, and there’s really not all that much to discuss except where one can find the softest turns in our greater area.

Generally you’d be right to think east aspects in the morning, west shots in the afternoon, and anything with south in it should be just fine. Not so much. Tahoe has had a pretty rough go of the soft stuff lately with high winds and a low sun keeping things nice and firm for us corn seekers. Thankfully that’s set the change this week (except the weekend) as good corn is being harvested on SE-S-SW aspects right now. Same goes for the Eastside. Anything else is just not softening up and pretty horrendous to ski. Even east facing shots haven’t gotten all that soft and have started to refreeze before they ever really get soft, so best to search for turns with that definite south in there if you’re looking.

In the past week we went from unconsolidated mush, to full on bullet proof everything, to the beginnings of a corn cycle that took a bit longer than any of us really expected. But at least we’re looking good now with winds decreasing and slopes finally cooking up the corn we’ve been looking for. Anything with North in it is just plain frozen, period. But we’re actually getting enough warmth now that on steeper terrain you may trigger some wet slides and roller ball activity. Definitely always something to be aware of and watch out for, but it’s almost refreshing in a way that we know we can actually ski something soft now.

In the past week, although I must admit I did take a brief journey to score some pow in Utah, I’ve skied some of that unconsolidated stuff where my crew and I sent roller balls down a chute big enough to take people out, as well as some grade A California corn on the Eastside. There was some of that firm stuff in there too, but the good stuff is a much better indicator of what’s skiing the best right now.

The top turns I found locally came on a line I had wanted to ski for years. It never really fills in all that much due to relatively large waterfall at the bottom, and it’s also a line that involves a bit of route finding over some exposed cliffs. But I got a report that it was somewhat in so I rallied a few shredders and headed down to make it happen.

As much as I’d like to share more about this line I’ll leave it to those adventurous souls that can either figure out where we were or have seen this line ridden in the great locally based flick My Own Two Feet.

All you really need to know is the chute looks a lot rowdier than it is, we flushed the whole thing when we skied it, and it was super fun because it gets so much sun and was actually soft. Actually, it’s really more of a SE facing shot, but you get the point, that’s the kind of aspects we need to ski right now in order to get on anything that makes the fun meter rise below zero.  

As much as I was stoked to shred that shot, the absolute best corn turns I’ve had recently, and definitely have had since last spring came down south in the Bridgeport area. On this day I was lucky enough to link up with a ripping splitboarder crew comprised of the Lightcap’s and their buddy Noah.

Seth and I were racking our brains on what would be a worthy corn ski not too far from Tahoe and we both decided that Victoria Peak near the town of Bridgeport would fit the bill. The line itself is about 4500 vertical feet, faces pretty much due south, and is a line we’ve both admired in the past while skiing other objectives in this amazing backcountry skiing location just a few short areas away from the Basin.

We had a casual day out the four of us, taking our time on the approach and also taking advantage of the great skinning conditions that allowed an almost vertical skin track up Victoria’s main avalanche path. Take warning if you ever do plan to go after this one it’s a major avalanche path and sheds its snow regularly.

 There was lots of avalanche debris all around us when we were skinning up, but what we ended up skiing turned out great. Actually, it was near perfect.

The summit proper is a short scramble away from where we dropped in, and from here you can see a few seasons worth of objectives from just about every angle.

The top of our descent was perfect corn. The kind even corn snobs would comment on. The top quarter to half inch was melted on the frozen base and was almost as good as skiing fresh pow…almost. The rest of the run got a bit thicker, but really was only about an inch thick. It was the kind of run we all ripped down in about 3 to 4 pitches of a thousand feet each, making a minimal amount of turns. It was the kind of run you just want to go as fast as humanly possible, surfing each turn like a cut-back section of a wave.

Hopefully that trend continues for us as move into another week with…wait…is there some precipitation in the forecast? Looks like it, but really it’s just a brief nothing disturbance to make sure Sunday is a day that even I might say is a good one to take off. But please, prove me wrong, and look forward to a more reliable corn cycle staring next week. That’s about all we got for another week+ unless you’re heading out of town to where it’s actually snowing, so find your favorite sunny slope and have at it.

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