State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: VI

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: VI

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State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: VI

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Another week with no precipitation in Tahoe, but for the most part backcountry skiing conditions held tough. This was one of those weeks in Tahoe where you probably didn’t ski the best powder of your life and you probably didn’t ski the best corn of your life either. However, you might have skied quality powder and corn in the same run, on the same mountain, on alternating N and S aspects.

It’s a trade off for sure. I’ve found when conditions like this are present you usually don’t get the highest quality of either snow mediums, but how fun is it to ski good corn and good pow in the same session? Okay, you might not be down with that because you want it to dump. But guess what? So does everyone else, and being the broken record I am it’s all about what the conditions are giving us and taking advantage of them.

After the mini dump last week there was some great cold snow to be found on sheltered north facing aspects where the treacherous winds hadn’t blow it straight to the foothills. I actually found powder to ski most of the past week before the beginning of the weekend when temperatures spiked into the high 50’s. Once this went down even the high elevation stashes got manky. I was told it was in the mid-70’s in Sacramento, which makes sense, because it was downright warm in Tahoe this past weekend and the temperatures showed their effect on the snow.

The pictures that accompany this post were all taken from a nice slog into Desolation Wilderness to see how our great wild big backyard was holding up. The snowpack is still looking pretty good back there, and believe it or not Tahoe is about normal as far as snow depth goes in areas at or around 8,000 feet.

Our objective for the mission was to find some more pow, and search out some corn as well. Reports from a few friends who had been in the area recently, and as far down as the Southern Sierra all confirmed they were scoring great corn and had given up looking for powder. I figured Desolation would offer both with of course the obligatory in-between snow types from frozen melt-freeze surfaces to windboard and sastrugi.  

Thankfully we found more good corn than variable crap. Phipps Peak is a random mountain in the Tahoe backcountry, but sitting at 9,235’ and being one of those zones you look at every time you’re at the top of a line on West Shore Jillian and I figured it was time we gave it a few tracks.

The south side was maybe B+ corn. A beautiful mellow descent with the expanse of Tallac to Dick’s starring at you almost the whole time. Dick’s was looking pretty good on its north side, but the glare meant there was some crust to deal with if one were to descend that face this past weekend.

Still, it’s tough to beat Dick’s down its north or south sides, both offering beautiful descents of one of the bigger Tahoe peaks right in the middle of Desolation; always a worthy tour. On our way out of Desolation we were able to score some powder, barely holding on, off the shadowed shoulder of Crystal Crag.

Skiing B+ corn and B/B+ pow was a great way to spend the weekend, although it’s always helpful to have a mix of skin and ski wax to deal with the impending glop and stick your skis and skins get into when going back and forth between such diverse snow types. Something to remember as it’s the little things like these on longer tours like ones into Desolation that might make or break your day.     

On a side but realted note I’m still testing new food/energy options from OR. I haven’t found the “perfect” combonation yet, but I’m sure I’ll settle on something solid after a few more bigger tours to test products on. For this adventure I used a combo of bars and gels, electrolyte replacement tablets, and some Power To Go trailmix. I need to try some more, but the Jelly Belly Sport Beans were most helpful for a quick boost and were very tasty as well.

New Products from the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City.

 By the time we go out to civilization from Desolation anything that was once powder had turned pretty sloppy and gotten baked. I’m sure there’s still a few pockets here and there, but corn hunting has taken over once again. However, enter the strong W and now E-NE winds and we’re looking pretty firm in Tahoe for the next few days. A cold front is dropping on us this Tuesday, but unfortunately a massive system of precipitation isn’t behind it. The winds haven’t been able to transport that much snow so avalanche danger remains low-surprise, surprise! But seriously, as much as I love to get out and ski whatever’s out there I too agree we need some snow. A serious reset is in order. Looks like maybe a few inches this weekend if we’re lucky, and the weather geeks are still pointing to “massive changes for the West Coast” around mid-month. The trick this next week will be whether things soften up enough with the colder temps (almost a 20 degree swing post cold front) or we get enough precipitation to smooth things out. Happy hunting.

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