Heading up into the mountains and snow country is always an adventure in winter. Even when winter isn’t cooperating, the trek to the snow is still a good one.
In theory, by the time you read this, there will be a bit more snow added to the little we have. While all of us are counting on the weather gods to let loose, soon we hope, there’s actually enough of it on the ground to get out and slide about. True, it’s a diminishing amount, so choosing where to go is important.
Downhill skiers will find most of the resorts recommending the “groomers” to their guests, the best bet for a good day of skiing. Every night the crews, in snow cat grooming machines, head up and down all the groomable slopes to get them ready for the next day.
What you get on the groomed runs is enough cover to avoid running over rocks, sticks, and other obstacles — important for novice skiers — whereas advance skiers will simply go around or jump over small obstacles in their way.
Heading through the trees at the resorts right now is just asking for damage to your skis, you, or both. The other problem with low coverage in the trees is raking the bottom of your skis over a sharp rock. Those kinds of scrapes are difficult to repair.
Downhill skiers should contact their resort of choice, either by phone or on the Internet, to get real time reports on snow coverage. The resorts are continuing to run their snow making machines and the coverage on the groomed slopes is still pretty good.
Cross country and back country skiers will have a bit more of a search to find skiable areas. Snowshoer’s are in the same track. There really isn’t anyone to call to find out if your favorite spot is suitable, unless you like the track skiing at an XC resort.
The XC resorts at Kirkwood, Royal Gorge, Northstar, Tahoe XC, do have websites to check. The staff at the resorts can also match your skill level to the conditions as well as offer lessons of various types.
Back country skiers simply have to go out and look. My first venture into Hope Valley two and a half weeks ago was on snowshoes, just to check the conditions. They were good. A week later, on XC skis, half of the snow was gone and there was running water in the multiple drainage’s there. It was still skiable, but there were plenty of rocks and other debris to steer clear of.
For back country telemark and alpine touring skiers, the conditions around Carson Pass are, according to Monte Hendricks and Rich Platt of the El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol, pretty decent right now. The coverage is good with variable conditions. There are icy spots in the shade, with some powder and some crusty snow along the way.
Loon Lake has around 12” of coverage, maybe more by the time this is printed. Bushes and sticks are poking up through the snow but the XC skiing is decent through the campgrounds and on the Chipmunk Trail. Skiers should exercise caution and be aware of the natural obstacles though.
The Orion Trail at Loon Lake is newly and completely marked as of last weekend, thanks to the efforts of the El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol. Platt told me that they hauled an extension ladder through the snow to put the blue diamonds high up on the trees. They did this while on XC skis. The XC community owes them a few chocolate chip cookies and good coffee, at the least.
The mantra of winter recreation enthusiasts is this: any snow is good snow. Gear up, head out, and use it while it’s here.