Jackson? Utah? Montana, the Pacific Northwest (PNW), Canada? Where’ve you been running off to in order to get your ski fix? While ski conditions in the greater Tahoe area continue to be plagued by drought conditions, California powder seekers have been taking off in droves to search out a deeper taste of winter. While other outdoor activities and seeking out the skiable panels in the Sierra remain options for the adventurously inclined, the current flow for our region has simply been to get out of town.
The photos that accompany this piece were taken over the past couple of weeks chasing a storm to Mt. Baker, a subsequent mission up to Canada, with one more blast of Washington in a fun mission on Mt. Shuksan. The trip was great, and as you can see from some of the Baker photos, Julien Hanna and I are fully stoked that we nailed that leg of the mission. But like all good adventures there were highs and lows. After the storm, a warm wave wreaked havoc on the new PNW fluff running all the way up through our intended destination in the Revelstoke/Golden area of Canada. We faced more than one setback beyond the warming trend and ensuing backcountry instability as a result. However, if I can borrow a phrase, the journey is often the reward.
Now apparently, some of you have a hard time wrapping your collective heads around people that live in such a way, that they can do things like chase a storm to other parts of the country. To that I say just think about it from a planners perspective. Unless you’re of the small percentage in which money is no option, you work. In order to live with the ability to bail out of town and head elsewhere your work must be in alignment with such actions. Beyond work, partners at home, children and other parts of life that keep you rooted in place are a good thing. If you’re lucky enough to have support from those aspects of your life for passionate endeavors like seeking out powder, you’re more than lucky. And if you’re fortunate enough to have planned an existence that caters to a lifestyle that involves spending a little time on the mountain, then chances are you’re set up for at least a few road trips here and there.
The fact of the matter is many of us work really hard to be able to make time available to bail from town, saddle up at another world class ski center, and tap into an experience we wished we were enjoying back home. Maybe you sleep in your car, clip lift tickets or just backcountry ski. If you have time and money for food and gas you too can hit the road and make it happen. Even the weekend warrior can leave California Friday night, blast to Utah, and get two quality days of shredding in before the Monday workday is at hand. A lot of it is the motivation to make it happen, but having work, a work schedule and attachments at home that are keyed into such an existence are just as essential.
I hope that makes sense to the folks that keep wondering out there. It can get complicated as sacrifices are always made in some way, shape and form, but when it all comes together I’m certainly one who feels as though it’s worth it. I know it may seem difficult to those who are uninitiated with such a lifestyle, but it’s really not that unattainable if you want to make it happen. I also know my two storm chases to Southwest Colorado and Mt. Baker have done a lot for me in terms of scratching “the itch” this winter. In reality, minus the Chugach season, I’d rather not leave the Sierra this time of year, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
So with that, I’m looking forward to sniffing out what’s possible to ski until it snows, tapping into the continuous swell that has been absolutely lighting up the California coast for weeks now, and (reluctantly) planning a few non ski adventures. But I won’t rule out another exodus as for me at least, getting out of town tends to recharge my batteries for home, whether during a time like now or in the middle of a fat winter. There’s something about leaving Tahoe for a rad trip, and then flying back into Reno or cruising back into the basin after a long road trip and getting so fired up about our backyard. It’s that good, so much so that even in these so called desperate times all you have to do is get a little creative to recapture your fun factor.
For now let’s hope the pattern does in fact change in the next week-to-ten days and February helps make up for the last few months. Until then there’s a few spots worth exploring if your skin’s thick (stay tuned for the next edition of State of the Backcountry), and if surfing isn’t your thing, head to the east shore for some climbing, Truckee for some mountain biking or have a go at the lake. Go for a road trip if you can, and if you can’t, just enjoy what’s at home. As the greater Tahoe backcountry community continues waiting for the snow to fall remember we live in an incredibly special place, and you’re certainly not the only one looking to have some fun in the backyard.
“State of the Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in Backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.
You can check out more “State of the Backcountry” reports through its Facebook page and website.
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Previous “State of the Backcountry” Reports from the 2013-2014 season: