Squaw Backcountry - Tahoe Ski News
Photo by Grant Kaye
Words by Robb Gaffney

February 26th at Squaw was clearing out nicely after a good storm. I had to drop off my kids at their ski programs so by the time I got to KT at 8:40, the lift-line was massive. I pulled up to the back of the line with friend Grant Kaye and within an instant, two guys did their best pro call out and introduced themselves. Turns out they were from Montreal, had watched GNAR recently, and promptly got plane tickets out here. This was their first day ever at Squaw Valley, and their first day ever skiing out west! The lift loaded and within 10 minutes the finger race was on. The crowd was roaring and I heard one of the guys ask, “am I dreaming?”. I kept a close eye on McConkey’s because having seen the fingers race, the snow looked pasty and perfect and I hoped no-one would take the time to hike it before we got there. On the chair, I had a great time having a first timers experience of Squaw through the eyes of our Canadian comrades. But I kept gazing over to McConkeys to get a good look. The snow was a bit thin and I had been envisioning more stuck to the face. But it definitely went through, not without a few lurkers under the snow though. I said good bye to the Canadians and wished them an awesome day.

While I was hiking up the backside of McConkey’s, a happy voice from down below piped up and said, “ahhh, the old crew is here”. It was Aaron McGovern and I was psyched to ski it with him! He was thinking of straightlining the face and I was planning on turning down Center Line. You could tell from the top that the snow was feathery thin and we were pretty sure we’d be on rock at points. But it looked good enough.

I really wanted to put in a right turn at the top and then a left before the upper knoll, which is 25 feet down from the top. But I didn’t think the snow would support the second turn. So I slid in pointing left, as I have so many times, chickening out on those upper turns. The snow in the landing of the first hop looked good so I didn’t hesitate and it held up well, which is always a relief.  The next turn had some dark areas under the snow so I kept up speed to ski on the snow that was just covering the rocks. I was hoping to put in a right turn before the bottom cliff but I kept falling through the light snow and couldn’t slow down. Pretty soon it was a complete white out and I knew that the cliff was coming. I tried to prepare for the air in the middle of the white room and pressed my right ski down to jump, but I dry docked and was sent forward. Realizing I was going over the bars, I tucked up, landed on my back in a huge cushion of snow, and skied out of it.

I looked back up and cheered on The Gov as he turned in. He picked his way through the rocky maze I left him and then dropped out of view behind the trees. I heard him yell out, “Yeah Robb!” and we parted ways. I think he was heading back to coach his team and I was heading out to the backcountry. I got back that night and my friend Grant Kaye sent me his pictures from his point and shoot camera. In the rush of getting up there and coming down I didn’t know he had taken any. But thanks Grant for memorializing another sweet run at Squaw Valley!

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