It’s finally starting to feel like spring in the Sierra, just in time as we head into summer next week with the Solstice. While shorts and flip-flops are moving into the norm at lower elevations the snow coverage up high remains incredibly fat. A prime example of this year’s heavy winter is the terrain encompassing Tioga Pass. The Dana Couloir (lookers left) and Solstice Couloir (lookers right) seen in the above photo are good evidence.

I was starting to think it was going to be July before I got to get up Tioga Pass this year. Snow storms, gale force wind events, rockfall, it seems from the first day crews actually got Tioga open this season for some reason or another something caused it to shut back down. Luckily, this did not happen on Sunday as the access road was open the 12 miles needed to start skinning from the pass.

Not only was it sweet that a crew apparently came in and cleared off what sounded like a pretty solid rockfall, but it was a perfect California spring day. With bluebird weather, unreal coverage, and skiers and riders out in full effect taking advantage of the situation, it was another amazing day to be skiing on the Eastside. Jillian and I got a late start, but we were stoked to arrive at the top of the Solstice Couloir fairly quickly with a relatively swift skin from the pass.

I had seen Solstice from afar recently and knew it was really filled in this year, but it was still pretty amazing to look in it from the top and see just how fat it really is. The break in the over-hanging cornice was also a surprise. It normally forces the rider to perform a sort of technical air/slide in turn. Right now, it’s as smooth as it gets. Still, caution should be advised as you wouldn’t want to rag-doll down this thing, and there’s already been a few accidents up on Tioga this year. Here’s Jillian getting ready to drop in,

and a shot for perspective on how wide the line is at present. It’s also pretty rad to see the tracks of at least 10 (probably more) Tahoe folks who also skied Solstice Sunday afternoon. 

A quick traverse and boot up the Plateau

with great views of Mono Lake (the gash in the Plateau  you see is the top of Cocaine Chute)

brought us the choice to finish off a classic spring “Dana to Plateau” run with a drop into Powerhouse or Ellery Bowl. Having starred adamantly at the Chute Out, which is lookers right from Ellery Bowl proper, as we drove up in the morning we both agreed to head towards Ellery.

We weren’t disappointed with our choice. The entrance was little cruxy, but totally manageable to slide past the rocks and into the line. But the notorious cornice is dripping, HUGE, and not fun to stare at while you’re under it-especially on a relatively warm afternoon. So it’s best to keep moving in the chute once you’re ready to open it up after the top and make turns. The walls are pretty nice in there for a discontinuous chute, aptly accentuated by the smooth corridor of soft snow between them.

We had a great run in the Solstice Couloir and Chute Out on Sunday and there’s no doubt anyone down there or wanting to be there right now should be amped for the current clear forecast and dive in. However, there was some mush skied on Sunday, so the thing to really watch out for down there right now is even at 11,400’ there might not be a solid freeze this week according to NOAA. The earlier the better is what it sounds like to me. Otherwise if you’re down to climb back out Coke Chute or another run the other Plateau lines are still pretty good-to- go, and really everything in the higher elevation Tioga vicinity will be worthy to ski for minimally a few more weeks (with good quality). I’ll get a post up with shots of some of those other ski objectives shortly.

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