Category Archives: Reviews

The Lost Ski Area

Eureka Peak and Eureka Lake.

Eureka Peak and Eureka Lake.

Eureka Peak, located about an hour drive north of Truckee, is home to some of California’s richest ski history and is still a great place to visit today. The gold rush of the late 1800’s brought thousands of eager miners to Plumas County in search of gold. During the winter months, mining operations slowed down and miners looked to winter activities to kill boredom. Longboard skis made from timber were used in the first official ski races in California in which skiers straight ran Eureka Peak reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Mining ore buckets on Gold Mountain (now Eureka Peak) were used by skiers as possibly the first ski lift in the world.

Poma lift and ski lodge at the old Eureka Ski Bowl.

Poma lift and ski lodge at Eureka Ski Bowl.

In the 1950’s Eureka Ski Bowl opened with a rope tow (later replaced by two poma lifts) serving the wide open slopes below Eureka Lake. Eureka Ski Bowl closed some time ago but a new cooperative group has been working to reopen it. They have raised $370,000 so far and have purchased the retired Mainline double chairlift from Squaw Valley. Work has begun on the lower terminal and will continue as funds permit. If the group succeeds, Eureka Ski Bowl will once again be a great place for families and skiers to gather and recreate. The lift will also provide great backcountry access to Eureka Peak proper which has everything from low angle glades to steep, north facing chutes and cliffs.

The north face of Eureka Peak.

The north face of Eureka Peak.

Neighboring Mt. Washtington as seen from the summit of Eureka Peak.  SBDC hopes to explore this zone as conditions permit this winter.

Neighboring Mt. Washington as seen from the summit of Eureka Peak. SBDC hopes to explore this zone in winter as conditions permit.

Stone hut at the foot of Mt. Washington.

Stone hut at the foot of Mt. Washington.

With or without ski lifts, Eureka Peak is a great place for a backcountry adventure. Eureka State Park is located in Plumas County, about four miles west of the town of Graeagle. From Graeagle, take route 506 past Mohawk to the tiny town of Johnsville. About a mile past Johnsville the road dead ends at a parking lot which is a popular starting point for snowshoers, nordic skiers and backcountry enthusiasts of all types. From the parking lot you can skin up Eureka Ski Bowl to Eureka Lake and Eureka Peak. In the summertime you can take a 4 wheel drive road through the old ski bowl to Eureka Lake and the start of a great hike called the Eureka Peak loop trail. Visiting this part of the Sierra feels like discovering a time capsule of Sierra ski history and a way of life long forgotten.

Plumas Ski Club history of Eureka Peak

Fundraising for the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl

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Afterglow. New short film from Sweetgrass Productions

Never ones to rest on their laurels, Nick Waggoner and Mike Brown of Sweetgrass Productions have followed up their stellar two year project Valhalla (2013), with a short film called Afterglow. The movie includes three main chapters, all of which feature night skiing images of intensifying brilliance with each new segment. Chris Benchetler, Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson and Daron Rahlves provide aesthetically perfect shredding to showcase ski cinematography like nothing you have seen before. Philips Ambilight TV helped finance the effort. If corporate funding can allow producers like Waggoner and Brown turn their hyper progressive visions into art we can drool over, bring it on.

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Keeping it real at Grand Targhee

Mark Durgin digs in at Grand Targhee.

Mark Durgin digs in at Grand Targhee.

After nearly three sub-par ski seasons in Tahoe, a couple of friends and I finally decided to join the vagabonds and hit the road in search of powder. The plan was to select a date and leave enough flexibility to pick one of several destinations within a reasonable driving distance of Tahoe. We would study weather and snowpack forecasts at different resorts and hopefully zero in on the one with the best possible conditions at the time. We also wanted to choose a less popular destination which would offer more quality skiing with less competition for fresh tracks. We finally decided on Grand Targhee. Located on the western slope of the Teton Range in Wyoming, Grand Targhee had a reputation for good terrain, lots of snow and few skiers.

Tony's Italian joint in Driggs.

Tony’s Italian joint in Driggs, Idaho.

A twelve hour drive from Truckee landed us in Driggs, Idaho. Driggs is located just across the boarder from Wyoming and 2,000 vertical feet below Grand Targhee. The next morning we drove up the pass to the ski area as rain turned to steady snowfall and the snowbanks grew in height with every switchback. It had snowed twenty eight inches in the week leading up to our trip and eight inches new were reported overnight. We got into line at 8:45 with maybe thirty other skiers. Why were they so relaxed? Where was everyone?

Hucking one of the steeper zones off the Sacajawea chair.

Hucking one of the steeper zones off the Sacajawea chair.

We joined a local contractor called Big Dave on our first chair ride. He told us the dense fog we encountered about half way up was commonplace at Grand “Foghee”. He also said Targhee was notorious for under reporting snowfall amounts. He gave us some directional advice, told us the day was going to be sweet and disappeared into the fog. It took us a few runs to adapt to the snow and wind induced vertigo on the upper mountain but after that followed pure bliss. The upper snowfields were extremely smooth which made the skiing easy once you gained confidence in your lack of vision. As we descended below the clouds, visibility improved allowing us to pick up speed through Targhee’s widely spaced trees, chutes and rollovers. The snow conditions were dense, Tahoe-like powder which allowed for high speed and total control. Sheltered north faces had deep dry snow. Either way, it skied great and we had found what we came for.

Perfect glades accessed from the Dreamcatcher lift.

Perfect glades accessed from the Dreamcatcher lift.

The ski terrain at Grand Targhee is serviced primarily by two high speed quads, Dreamcatcher and Sacajawea. Dreamcatcher runs 2,000 vertical feet to the summit of Fred’s Mountain which offers wide open cruisers and perfectly spaced tree runs ideal for powder skiing. The Sacajawea chair (Sac to the locals) goes about 2/3 of the way up neighboring Peaked Mountain. Sacajawea’s shorter vertical can be advantageous as it’s top station frequently sits below the layer of frozen fog that can hammer the summit of Fred’s. Sacajawea serves plenty of fun cruisers and some of Targhee’s steepest in bounds terrain. When conditions permit, you can hike above Sac to the summit of Peaked Mountain, which offers mellow pow runs to the south and wicked steeps to the north. More great sidecountry can be found on Mary’s Nipple, located between Fred’s and Peaked. If you want to travel back in time, try a few pow laps on the old center pole Blackfoot double chair. Though not the biggest or most challenging ski area, Targhee’s 2,500 acres provides more than enough quality terrain for powder pigs looking to get off the grid.

Shred uncrowded deep powder?  Check!

Ride uncrowded pow? Check!

Perhaps the most alluring part of Grand Targhee is it’s lack of crowds. We were there during a holiday weekend and still pulled into a half empty parking lot each day at 8:30. A few locals mentioned it was the most crowded day of the year despite no line being over five minutes long. More common was the scenario of skating right onto the lift. Apparently midweek days at Targhee can have less than 1,000 skiers at the entire area.

Another hectic weekend at Grand Targhee.

Another hectic weekend at Grand Targhee.

Sometimes the clouds lift and you can actually see the top.

Sometimes the clouds lift and you can actually see the top.

Evening descends on the Targhee Village.

Evening descends on the Targhee Village.

Another key ingredient to Targhee’s mystique is that it always seems to be snowing. Storms hang up on the western slope of the Teton range and dump absurd amounts of snow. Targhee actually receives more snow than it’s legendary neighbor Jackson Hole. It snowed off and on during our entire visit. On our second day the wind kept refreshing tracks so that some of our best runs came after 2pm. After skiing we retreated to the Trap Bar for live music as it continued to snow as hard as it had the entire trip despite nothing being forecasted for that afternoon. A local told us this happens all the time. He had trouble recalling the last half day of sun they had received.

Tailgaiting Targhee style.

Tailgaiting Targhee style.

Still snowing.

Still snowing.

The icing on the cake of our trip was discovering the little things we hadn’t expected. We had one great meal after another. Snorkels deli, located steps from the Dreamcatcher lift, has fresh made breakfast and lunch options. In the town of Driggs we had great Italian food at Tony’s our first night followed by an outstanding meal at Forage Bistro our second night. Apres ski at the Trap Bar featured Shook Twins from Portland who played a dynamic mix of indie rock, folk and even some beat boxing. Targhee locals were beyond friendly everywhere we went. Tailgating in the Targhee parking lot is practically a religion and locals are more likely to offer you a PBR and tell you an insider sidecountry tip than shun you as a tourist.

Stay in the Trap Bar long enough and your skis may get buried.

Stay in the Trap Bar long enough and your skis may get buried.

Shook Twins from Portland rock the Trap Bar Apres scene.

Shook Twins from Portland rock the Trap Bar Apres scene.

Grand Targhee offers a ski experience rarely found today. The terrain and snow quality live up to it’s reputation among hard core ski bums. Cool locals, great food, and the down home charm of Targhee and town of Driggs take it to another level. If you find yourself missing something in your current ski scene or merely want to chase a snowstorm into the wilds of Wyoming, you should check out Grand Targhee.

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Bentley Rolls Deep in Squaw Valley

Skiing-blog founder Susan McCormick takes the new Bentley for a spin in Squaw Valley.

Ski mountaineer Chris Davenport accompanied Bentley CEO Christophe Georges and a few automotive writers as they showcased the new Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible in Squaw Valley last week. The car redefines luxury and performance and with a top speed of 202 miles per hour can boast being the fastest four seat convertible in the world. We had the opportunity to take one for a spin down Squaw Valley road and although we couldn’t really open it up, it wasn’t hard to tell it was capable of some major giddyup. At a retail price of $240,000 we were just glad to get it back unscathed.

Rob McCormick and Chris Davenport with the new Continental GT Speed Convertible.

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Sunscreens

We haven’t seen much snow recently, so it has been a great time to do some “spring” skiing and try out some sunblock. Up at 8,000 feet, the UV intensity is about 40% greater than it is at sea-level. Add the reflection of the snow and a great sunblock becomes even more important. Coppertone and MDSolarSciences each sent us a spray-on product for body protection and a compact, stuff-it-in-your-jacket product for face protection. Both companies offer critical UVA/UVB protection and are designed to stay on while you sweat. Here’s the low-down:

CoppertoneCoppertone Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen (spf 50)
– easy, spray-on application
– water resistant
– stays on while you sweat
– uva/uvb protection
– classic Coppertone scent (reminds you of the beach)

Coppertone Sunscreen Stick (spf 55)
- portable
– spot protection for ears, nose and face
– water resistant
– stays on while you sweat
– uva/uvb protection

MDSolarSciencesMDSolarSciences Mineral Screen Tinted Gel (spf 30+)
– silky smooth, non-greasy
– designed for sensitive skin
– tinted
– water-resistant
– stays on while you sweat
– uva/uvb protection
– fragrance-free
– naturally mineral derived

MDSolarSciences Quick Dry Body Spray (spf 40)
– easy, spray-on application
– water-resistant
– stays on while you sweat
– uva/uvb protection
– fragrance-free
– naturally mineral derived

MDSolarSciences Natural Mineral Sunscreen Stick (spf 40)
– compact
– spot protection for ears, nose and face
– water resistant
– stays on while you sweat
– uva/uvb protection
– contains zinc
– naturally mineral derived 

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Gorilla Glue Expoxy

Need to fix a broken pole strap,  boot liner or ski rack? Gorilla Glue Epoxy is a two-part, water-resistant epoxy that sets in five minutes. Clamp the broken parts together for 30-minutes and the epoxy will fully cure in 24 hours. It dries crystal clear, so there are no glue marks or discoloration. Lightweight, mess-free and easy to use, you can keep it in your pack and have it ready whenever you need it.

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Mt. Lassen in it’s prime

Northeast face of Mt. Lassen.


Northern California’s Mt. Lassen is the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. Frequently overshadowed by more prominent volcanoes such as Mt. Ranier and Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen is an absolute gem. What it lacks in height (10,463), it makes up for in aesthetic with a beautiful approach, inspiring summit, and a plethora of tasty lines.

The popular south side approach to Mt. Lassen allows skiers to park high on the mountain, hike 2,000 feet up and then ski 4,000 vertical feet down the north side. Although this option is convenient, it lacks in overall experience and feel compared to an approach from the northeast. The best way to ski Lassen is to start from the Devastated Area before the road from the south has opened for the summer. If you are lucky/savvy enough to time your venture when the snow line starts at the parking lot, you can simply put on your skis and point them right at the peak. The result is escalator friendly climb that gradually steepens the closer you get to your goal. Eventually you sling your skis and boot up the last 1,000 or so vert to the top.

The summit of Mt Lassen is classic in many ways, starting with the fact that you can ski from the highest point onto the steepest terrain on on the peak. A well defined summit pyramid gives way to broad, sweeping shoulders that extend to the north and east. Skiers can hit any aspect from east to north allowing them to ski whatever’s ripe for corn. Ambitious types may even consider an alpine start and do multiple laps on the top portion. The total vertical drop from the summit through sweeping moraines back to the Devastated Area is 4,300.

Though it’s one of the little guys in the Cascade Range, Mt. Lassen is a worthwhile ski objective. The northeast face in particular is a great tour and ski from start to finish. It’s also the perfect forerunner for an assault on mighty Mt. Shasta to the north. If you have two or three days you can attempt a one two punch out of these two classic California volcanoes.

Mt. Lassen looms large on the approach.


Grant Kaye on the stairmaster.


Grant Kaye drops in off the summit of Mt. Lassen.


Perfect corn!


Devastated Area parking lot.


Mt. Lassen Blows! This was the scene at Mt. Lassen less than a century ago.

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The Lost Weekend

There’s nothing better than a weekend surrounded by friends, except maybe a weekend surrounded by friends in a backcountry palace with a gourmet kitchen, Jacuzzi tubs, sweeping mountain scenery and instant backcountry ski access.

In late April, 25 of us set out into Cold Stream canyon and trekked four miles to spend a weekend at the Lost Trail Lodge. In the winter, the lodge is inaccessible by car and visitors use skis or snowshoes to access it. In the summer, guests can drive most of the way. Visiting near the end of a dry winter, during a 70-degree spell, presented us with an interesting challenge – too wet to drive, and too dry to ski the whole way. We started out towing a sled with skis on our feet and snowshoes our backs. Throughout the trip, we had to remove our skis and walk, dragging the sled over dirt and mud.

Front entrance of Lost Trail Lodge

Lodge owner David Robertson built the majestic lodge from materials that he gathered by hand. On his website, he says that getting there is half the fun. Our crew tends to subscribe to the same notion, but with rapidly-melting snow creating a mixture of snow, dirt and mud, and nine kids in tow, ranging from three months to eight years, getting there and back was maybe 25% of the total fun. The other 75% happened when we kicked off our boots, detached from our sleds and eased into the comfort of our temporary home.

Terrain accessible from Lost Trail Lodge.

The lodge is adorned in “old Tahoe” memorabilia, including a giant buck head, 20-foot river stone hearth, leather couches and bearskin rugs. The hallways are covered with old photos of the area and a host of other interesting and eclectic toys, dolls, games and instruments. The kids played from dawn to nightfall discovering blocks, piano, croquet sets and pint-sized accordion and horns, while the big kids got lost in history through the photos.

Hallways at Lost Trail are filled with stories and nick nacks.

A short trek from the front door offers views of the Pacific Crest Trail, including Anderson Peak and Tinker’s Knob. Though we expected that the warm weather would make for comfortable travel, lounging and sleeping conditions, we were pleasantly surprised at how good the ski conditions were. Cream-cheesy snow lasted until after noon before turning to slush.

Geoff Forcier skiing above Lost Trail Lodge on April 21.

Throughout the days and nights, groups prepared egg breakfasts, chili lunches and pasta dinners in the gourmet kitchen. The kitchen has a six-foot stainless steel Wolf gas stove, a full set of cast iron pots and pans and is stocked with utensils and condiments so we were able to pack light and eat well. Family-style dinners with close friends are something so rare and so special that the warm glow of those warm nights is now a precious memory.

It's not often that you stay at a remote cabin with a cooler kitchen than your own.

Fueled by solar energy, power is guaranteed until midnight so we were able to play music all day and keep the party going well into the night.

After experiencing a magical blend of seclusion, luxury and camaraderie, it was hard to pack up and head home. With much of the snow on the trail having melted during our stay, the return trip took about six hours. Once I recovered from the exhaustion of dragging my pack, skis, snowshoes, cooler and 3-year-old over dirt for three miles, I started planning our next trip – likely during the summer.

The west facing front deck at Lost Trail Lodge is the perfect place to hang out in the afternoon sun.

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Friday the 13th!!! Is Scary Deep!

Three feet high and rising.


Nothing like a couple feet of new snow in the middle of April. Friday was a legit pow day. By late afternoon, lower elevations were cooked but still skiable. Stay high and north for the goods.

4pm Friday the 13th.


Surface slab on wind loaded, northeast facing, 38 degree slope. Ran about 200 feet.


What's next?


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Product Review – Tecnica Cochise Pro Light AT Boot

Tecnica Cochise Pro Light


By Rob McCormick

Now that ski season finally showed up, I have skied my Tecnica Cochise Pro Lights enough to write a proper review. With designs inspired by the late Arnie Backstrom, Tecnica wasted no time jumping into the AT/Sidecountry boot market. First with the Tecnica Cochise Pro and now with it’s lighter cousin the Cochise Pro Light. The Pro Light saves weight in several ways. It replaced the top strap/buckle combo used on the Cochise Pro with just a power strap. The remaining three buckles are made from lighter material, the rubber instep grip has been removed and a lighter Intuition Liner has been used. All said and done the modifications save roughly half pound per boot.

Moving on to performance, the Cochise Pro Light handles better on both the uphill and descent than my previous high performance AT boots. I started off on the right foot (no pun intended) by getting custom footbeds and cooking the liners. From day one they fit like a dream. The transition from walk to ski mode is flawless with a simple pull up on a strap for walk and easy push down for ski. The walk mobility is phenomenal! Tremendous range of motion on the climb and amazingly comfy for post ski walking back to the car or bar. I usually can’t wait to get my boots off after skiing. With the Pro Light, I can transition right into apres ski without wasting valuable time switching out of boots. Last but definitely not least, the Cochise Pro Light skis like a champ. The exceptional hybrid performance can be attributed to the cuff mobility system, which uses metal to metal contact between the cuff and the shell. It goes without saying they are Dynafit compatible and all high wear parts can be replaced. I have an extremely low volume foot so I had to take up some space in the toe box. Beyond that, no blisters, no pressure points, no discomfort, super mobile on the up and rocking on the down. I can’t wait to take these things on longer tours as the spring cycle kicks into gear.

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