From a few new feet in the Tahoe backcountry, to the craziness of Kashmir, this eighth State of the Backcountry report for the 2015 ski season is primed with stoke.
It’s no secret that the Sierra is living through a fourth straight poor winter, but with the recent new snow, skiers and riders are rejoicing the return of winter to the region. However, before digging into the fact that Tahoe finally got a break with a storm this season, I just returned from one of the wildest ski trips I’ve ever been on. As a guide for The Adventure Project, I joined Owner/Guide Matt Appleford, along with his clients and a couple of my own, to explore the Kashmiri Himalayan region known as Gulmarg.
For any ski travelers that are interested in venturing into Himalayan regions, your experience varies dramatically depending on your chosen state, mountain region, and alpine objective. Like all locales in this great mountain range Gulmarg is unique. In the distance views into Pakistan showcase 8,000 meter peaks like Nanga Parbat and K2. But most visitors come to Gulmarg for the chance to ski multi-thousand foot runs of incredible powder snow. High alpine adventures are possible, but it is truly special in this corner of the globe to be able to ride such pristine snow from almost 14,000 feet down to below 7,000 feet.
The thing about Gulmarg is it’s far from just a ski destination. First of all you travel through India to get there-which is a trip in and of itself, and second of all, your true destination is Kashmir, arguably the most occupied, militarized, disputed landmass in the world. The area is used to tourists, but that doesn’t mean the reality of seeing convoys of troops, snow monkeys, and barely surviving a car trip across town becomes any less exciting the more time you spend in the area.
I’ll be sharing plenty of stoke from this memorable trip over the coming weeks/months, but in an attempt to move on for now and offer some updated local Tahoe conditions I’ll say a ski trip to Gulmarg is the perfect adventure for the intrepid ski traveler. The food, people, terrain and overall experience is like none other. When you add the ability to ski tour during big storm events in beautifully spaced trees, and couple that with the potential to slay big mountain lines in perfect snow conditions, the result is a recipe that isn’t easily replicated. You don’t want to come here if you need everything to be perfectly planned, or absolute for you to have fun on a ski trip. But you do want to come here if you desire a unique experience framed by Himalayan culture in a special section of the worlds gnarliest mountains. I look forward to heading back to Gulmarg next February. For more information on skiing with The Adventure Project next winter click here or get in touch with me via Facebook.
Tahoe Backcountry Report
What a gift! Finally a storm that actually overproduced for the Tahoe Basin and our nearby backcountry ski terrain. Unfortunately, as of Sunday afternoon NE winds had altered the quality of a host of higher elevation terrain in the area, but as of Monday afternoon it was still snowing over a good portion of our local mountains, and the snow quality on protected N aspects, especially on the North Shore was holding great powder skiing.
Looking ahead weather should stabilize by mid week with precipitation looking unlikely until another week or so if we’re lucky. That’s why there’s no time like the present to get out there and enjoy anywhere from 6″ to 2+’ of new snow in the local backcountry. Temps will be cold for the next few days, and wind slabs are the greatest current stability concern that will be with ski tourers over the next few days. Winds were variable through the most recent storm systems so any aspect you’re skiing on could potentially be of concern. That said, there is also some concern with the bonding of the different storm snow layers that developed over the past few days as well.
Make sure you poke around wherever your are skinning/planning to ski over the next few days to see if you can feel any inconsistencies and/or weakness with how newer snow is layered/bonding to the older snow in your chosen area. Beyond avalanche concerns some N aspects have seemed to consolidate offering a relatively cohesive snowpack, especially on NE facing protected slopes. That’s where I’ve personally found high quality turns. Even though this precipitation was short lived, it’s looking and feeling like winter today so get out there, be safe, and enjoy it!
“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.