State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XII

State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XII


State of the Tahoe Backcountry 2011: XII


As I write this report late Friday afternoon it’s still snowing, and most aspects in the Tahoe backcountry are holding quality powder skiing. This is thanks in large part to a quick cold storm that dropped anywhere from 6-16 inches around the Basin coupled with some really cold temperatures.

At the turn of last week we sure weren’t skiing much powder. There were definite pockets of great powder lurking in select locales, but nothing like the super light stuff that feel Wednesday through Friday. Corn skiing was the major draw early in the week, and down on the Eastside I, along with several other Tahoeites found 5 star Grade-A corn on several peaks in the stretch of the Sierra starting at around Tioga Pass and moving on south to Bishop.

Mt. Gibbs was the call for me and my partner Toby at the beginning of last week. We went back-and-forth on a few objectives, but finally settled on this major roadside classic neither us had previously skied. Part of what’s deterred us in the past, beyond the other world class terrain off the nearby Dana Plateau, is the approach has always seemed questionable. Trying to target the perfect time to ski the East Face Gullies of Gibbs is tough because the dirt roads leading in can have snow cover for several miles during the winter, or be nothing but dirt, blocked by a gate that halts vehicle access during the spring. Last Monday we had about 100 feet to walk past the gate before we were on skins almost the whole way to the top. The only time we got off skinning was a short 40 degree section near the top where booting was much more efficient.

Here you can see the many options on the East Face of Gibbs.

Great views of the Eastern Sierra are always a bonus when skiing sizeable peaks off the 395.

Dropping in with Mono Lake off in the distance,

with more than 4 thousand feet of primo California corn skiing below.

Heading home after a high quality 5200 foot descent we savored the views of several great ski objectives begging for some tracks. The Dunderberg to Greek Creek lap was looking especially prime just south of Bridgeport.

As our week progressed we had some high winds and warm temps that made for interesting ski conditions around the Lake. Some aspects stayed soft enough for a good lap or two, but surfing the Lake on Wednesday was a better call until the storm rolled in and brought us a new blanket to play with for the rest of the week and this upcoming weekend.

I was actually quite surprised at how well the snow skied Thursday afternoon after it had enough time to pile up in certain areas. Dust-on-crust conditions did and still do exist, but during the disturbance the snow was extremely explosive as the snow beard and POV shots pay tribute too.

Settling was evident by Friday morning and more often than not lower angled pitches were your best bet for not hitting bottom. But that didn’t stop a lot of local hits from being skied from the West Shore on down to Mt. Tallac. From my vantage near Emerald Bay I saw several beautiful tracks on N-E-SE-S shots showcasing the current availability to bag a few of the more sun affected lines we often skin in corn to be skied in powder thanks to the cold temperatures. Breaking trail was relatively fast and smooth with such light density snow, although traversing steep sections was a little scratchy when new snow was stripped off slope to the base layer.

The major snow instability issue I’ve noticed since this new snow came in has mostly been sluffing. The winds have also been diverse and shifty the past few days so wind loaded areas will continue to carry the potential for failure as some slab development has occurred. We should see snow showers lingering around the Lake through Saturday as temperatures start to climb for the start of next week. This weekend should still be a good opportunity to take advantage of some high quality cold snow on usually warm sun affected slopes. But by early next week, and certainly later in the week we should be back to a full on corn cycle.

All in all it was another great week of skiing in the Sierra. Where else but Tahoe can you get face shots, perfect corn, and even catch a few waves all within the window of a few days? Yeah, I can’t think of anywhere else either.

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