As we enter 2012 adapting remains the name of the game for local backcountry enthusiasts. Backcountry skiing, the regular focus of these reports, has been a tough pursuit. There’s just so little snow that even where snow does exist on NW-N-NE aspects it’s patchy, thin, and not very appealing. The Snowbot seen above, housed at PDQ on the West Shore speaks to the real “State” of current Tahoe backcountry ski conditions.
Signs like these are not that uncommon either, no matter where you’re kicking it in Tahoe.
There are patches out there for sure, the Sierra Avalanche Center guys are still keeping tabs on things as we progress into 2012, but the majority of backcountry skiers in our community have taken two main approaches to this ongoing, difficult scenario.
- Seek out what’s good, whether it be found locally, regionally, or far off. Note that “what’s good” doesn’t necessarily have to be skiing.
- Skin and ski early at participating ski resorts to stay in backcountry shape, and earn a few turns in the process.
While some have been heard complaining, for obvious reasons, there’s just no worth in that for the greater cause so these first two approaches will focus the initial State of the Backcountry offering for 2012. What may be surprising to some is that there’s been a bunch of backcountry skiers and riders on the number two program. The Sierra is seriously thin-I think we all know that by now, but the availability to skin and ski before resort operations begin has been on the minds of many.
While it may not seem all that sexy (because it’s not) it has been the choice of many in the community. However, a major blow was put down this week when Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol asked that no one skin the mountain anymore, pre-opening, for fear of liability issues. While the words were handed down in a respectful manner, it’s a clear sign of the times. Smooth snow is a truly scarce resource nowadays. Perhaps lift-serviced skiers were pissed that their groomers were being “tracked up”, or maybe there was fear that more and more would join the ranks of the early morning crew if this weather pattern continues? In reality, I’m not 100% sure, but as far as I know it’s a first for Alpine Meadows to actually tell people not to skin up the mountain.
With that said hopefully the other few resorts that allow uphill travel, mostly those that operate in partnership with the USFS, will still be cool with the few who are trying to stay in backcountry ski shape. If you happen to be one of those who are skinning resorts pre-operation please be as respectful to the employees and operations at your chosen hill, even though I know you already are. In reality, it’s a bit ridiculous that it even has to come to this, but a consistent pitch of snow, whether it’s fake or real, is truly a scarce resource in demand these days.
That brings us to number one on the list, the choice most people I’ve spoken with are employing because there’s always something fun to get into in Tahoe. Unless someone is already in or has plans to head to Western Europe, Japan, AK, Baker, or B.C. anytime soon, alternative activities remains the name of the local game. Mountain Biking and Rock Climbing have been the activities most locals have been fired up on lately. Lots of people have been biking in Auburn, the East Shore, and many have been seeking out south facing crags.
I’ve also seen a few boats and SUP’ers out on Lake Tahoe. With the glassy conditions it seems the opportune time to take advantage. Kayaking conditions have been pretty sweet as well, evidenced by the glassy conditions at sunset most of this past week.
Really people have been trying to get on just about anything that can keep them entertained. Swimming shots have been fun to check out on the site recently, the coast continues to serve up reported great conditions for surf, and I’ve even heard of a few fun adventures where people have been hiking in and around Squaw via the Tram. Why not? The temperatures have gotten a little warm and thus influenced skating and ice climbing conditions, but that’s meant chasing the sun whether to bike, climb, or do whatever has been worthy of pursuit.
The last few shots of this State of the Backcountry come from a super fun recent outing to the Owens River Gorge, which is commonly located as a world-class sport climbing destination. Of course there’s another activity I’d rather be doing on the Eastside right now, but just a few miles north of Bishop, with hot springs, free camping, and good people all a part of the gig, it was a welcome outing from Tahoe as a little something from the Eastside is due right about now.
Enjoy whatever it is that you’re stoked on doing right now, keep it positive and adapt to the continuing weather. Have a great MLK Weekend! Let’s hope this so called shift makes it to us next week and it’s a sign of what’s to come in 2012!