The Line of the Week | Donner Summit - Old Highway 40

The Line of the Week | Donner Summit - Old Highway 40

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The Line of the Week | Donner Summit - Old Highway 40

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Photo’s by Ryan Salm
Words by Ryan Salm
Skiers – D Hurls, Keimtime, The Reams Team, Lauren Bobo, Court, Salmbomb & the Buzz Kill
Location – Donner Summit – Old Highway 40

There are moments in your life where you define yourself. There are those perfect plans that you think and rethink, map out and execute with absolute precision. Sometimes it all just makes sense. This was not one of those moments.

With pow day after pow day and piles of fluff in full effect, you would probably think that this week’s, “Line” would be someone forehead deep or blasting off a fifty footer. That was the plan. Me and my crew were raging Squaw last Friday with faces plastered with snow when D Hurls mentioned a party we were hitting up on Donner Summit that evening. It is an annual event at the Cal Lodge and generally a great time. Rusty “the Red Lion” Reams had just rolled into Tahoe with his sister and and we met up at a Keimtime’s pad on the west end of Donner to throw back a few Modelo’s. He lives at the base of Old Highway 40 which as it turned out was closed due to the recent blizzard.

We all wanted to booze it up after a few amazing days on the hill and were trying to figure the best plan of attack to party on the Summit. It was then that the idea fell from the tree of wisdom. “Let’s pile into one car, throw in all our ski gear, rage the party then ski down the Summit, down Old Highway 40 right into Keimtime’s pad. It will take an hour, maybe two…max. Plus it’s a full moon”, says D Hurls.

He hit up the party, partook in the potluck, wiggled to the live bluegrass band, and maybe even tipped back the occasional cold one.

Then, it was like a scene from one of those gangster movies when they look around the room and make eye contact with all the members of the gang and notice that they are all on the same page and all looking at one another. We put on our boots and gear, said our goodbyes and went down to the road.

We looped our ski poles around Frumkin’s ski rack and he towed three of us about 2 miles down the road while the four others squeezed into the back seat. Freshies and face-shots the whole way. Little did we know that that would be the last skiing we would do for the next several hours.

When he dropped us off the snow started to pound. Old 40 dead-ended into a 3-4 foot berm with a “Road Closed” sign. It was the perfect setting to take off on a Tahoe-full moon-blizzard-night ski down a pass known for cannibalism.

We ran into problems instantly when “one” member of our clan couldn’t figure out how to put on her skis. She had a minor binding issue and turning back was out of the question. With a little duck tape, some crazy glue and just a little patience we started walking the streets at night, just trying to get it right. I broke trail for the first section over Rainbow Bridge and down to Snowshed wall. I realized instantly that we were in for a big night. The snow was 3-4 feet deep in most places and there was no downhill. Visibility was low and it was cranking out. We left the lodge at midnight.

We moved at a turtle’s pace. “One” member of our clan began to kvetch constantly which if you don’t speak Yiddish means bitch incessantly. I realized quickly how the Donner Party chose who to eat first. I kept my distance. We slogged onward. The road was easy enough to make out and when it whited out every once in a while we could rely on the plow markers which reflected off our headlamps.

I’m not sure how I became this “Ski Traverser”. I swear I prefer skiing down more then across. We would break trail for 20-30 paces then switch. As long as you weren’t breaking the trail it was easy. Every so often we would come to a sketchy slide path. You could see these ominous faces and you actually had to climb up the downhill road. The snow in these areas was over waist deep. We would try and hurry past these areas but the snow controlled our speed.

Almost every member of our clan was enjoying themselves. It was magical to be on the summit in a blizzard under these conditions. We were joking and cheering on one another for breaking trail. “One” member of our clan kept asking (believe it or not), “Are we almost there?” or saying, “Wow, this is really fun!” in a condescending manner. So, we stoked up the fire, threw in some mesquite charcoal, maybe a little Soy Vay (as a marinade, of course) and ate her.

One thing for sure is after about four hours I was asking myself, “Where the f#%K is Truckee?!” At that point the journey turned into an epic. It really is faster to travel by car. Each step seemed like groundhog day. Then finally, we saw the “Truckee” town sign. “Ah, we are close”. Another hour went by. The only thing at this point that eased my mind was knowing that even if we were somehow lost or couldn’t make it it would be light out soon. Breaking trail became chore. I sang stupid songs to keep myself laughing, I made jokes about eating people in the wilderness. D Hurls broke trail, then Keimtime, then the Red Lion, then his sister, then me. Sometimes the trail breaker would only make it 4 steps then quit. It was ridiculous. It never ended. Am I still there? Did we really eat the poor girl?

We made it to Keimtime’s pad at 5:30am, some 5 1/2 hours after we began. My head pounded like a gong as the hangover really began to kick in. Someone booted in the bathroom sink. We all looked like snowmen. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Maybe it was a little dangerous, maybe a tad idiotic. It looked good on paper. Sometimes the silliest/stupidist plans make the best stories. Besides, have you ever skied down Old 40 on a blizzard full moon?

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