Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Month: February 2009

Earn Cash by Kicking Friends Off Your Couch

South Lake Tahoe’s 986 Park Hotel is offering a “Lake Tahoe Stimulus Package.”

Lake Tahoe residents can receive $10.00 every time they have someone stay at the environmentally-conscious 968 Park Hotel. Additionally, the guest who stays at the hotel receives 9.68% off their entire stay. There is no limit to how many rooms a Tahoe local can send and how much they can make. “If someone sends us 100 rooms, they will get a check for $1,000,” says Christopher Minnes, General Manager of 968 Park Hotel. To be eligible to receive the $10.00 commission, the referring individual must receive their mail inside the Tahoe Basin or Truckee.

Tahoe locals can pick up a form at 968 Park Hotel or download it from the hotel by visiting the “Lake Tahoe” Page of the website The form looks exactly like an IRS W-2 but upon closer inspection it has fields for the Tahoe residents name and the name of the guest that they have referred.

Despite Low Snow, Tram Face Comp Still On

Tram Face at Squaw Valley USA
From the Tour Organizers:

The Nissan Tram Face will now be comprised of two days of competition in order to provide the best conditions possible to the riders coming from around the world to the second stage of the Freeride World Tour. The first day of competition is now scheduled for Friday, February 27th. There are two faces possible for this stage opening: Silverado and National Geographic Bowl. For now, the weather conditions are good in Squaw Valley USA, however, the predictions show a storm front coming through during the weekend. The organizers have decided to go ahead with a first day of competition leaving a window for a second day on the mythical Tram Face early in the week. For the Freeride World Tour organizers, the snow conditions on the chosen face thus the riders’s security are key. This decision was made by the organizers in cooperation with local mountain guides. More info on Squaw’s Tram Face Comp.

From Good to Bad and Hopefully Back Again

Wet weather started the week before Presidents’ Day, breaking a long dry spell and dumping almost eight feet of snow on Squaw’s upper mountain. The skiing for the next two weeks was insanely good. There was the epic bluebird day on Tuesday, February 17th (which I missed for babysitting duty) and deep backcountry conditions which were irresistible and also dangerous; last Friday these guys witnessed a huge slide in the Cabin Creek area. I got a new video camera, the Flip HD Mino, which is tiny and light and takes great quality video and audio. I made My First Ski Video … now I just need to work on finding the good light and keeping my hand steady. The rain came in yesterday morning and has stuck around melting out and dirtying up the precious snow. Fortunately a winter weather advisory is back in effect and snow is forecast throughout the week. The long-anticipated tram face contest is happening this week at Squaw. It should make for some exciting spectating from the parking lot or one of the higher streets in the Valley. We’re planning on heavy-duty duty tailgating and video-reporting so check back here for updates.

Relay Peak, Mt Rose Wilderness

Relay PeakIf you look east from downtown Truckee you will see a cluster of mountains that comprise the Mt. Rose Wilderness.  With five peaks over 10,000 feet these are the tallest mountains in the North Tahoe Region.  If you gaze toward the southern tip of the range you will see a steep cirque that tops out at the summit of Relay Peak.  I always thought this looked like a great ski descent but was unsure of the accessibility.  This Saturday I decided to check it out with a few friends.  With in-bounds ski conditions deteriorating we figured a cool tour into new territory would be fun regardless of whether we found good snow.

We started from the parking area just above the snowpark on the Mt. Rose Highway and used the Relay Peak access road as our approach route.  This road is a veritable freeway for snow-machiners.  With a steady flow of traffic, this three and a half mile route does not feel like deep backcountry.  It is, however, one of the easiest skin approaches in Tahoe to good ski terrain at high altitude. If you are lucky enough to have a snow machine, this is the perfect place to use it on the approach and stash it before heading into the wilderness area to the west.  Taking slightly different routes, our party of five reconvened at the microwave towers on Relay Ridge.  From there we left snowmobile traffic behind and skinned up the ridge to the summit of Relay Peak proper.  The view from the top is amazing.  You can see Lake Tahoe to the south, the Carson Valley to the east and as far as Mt. Lassen to the north.

Photos by Grant Kaye & Justin Winter

I took a few steps below the summit to survey snow conditions in the cirque we hoped to ski and discovered a crust layer over depth hoar. Poor conditions on that aspect were not necessarily a bad thing as we started super late and would be flirting with darkness if we had to hike back up and out.  We spotted a very enticing northeast facing couloir on the ridgeline past the cirque that would make coming back for a double shot of both very tempting.

We descended the rock-strewn bowl that heads back to the highway.  Grant Kaye skied a steep line through the center of the rocks on good, edgeable snow.  The rest of us picked more gradual north-facing lines and were surprised to find dry powder.  We stuck to the shadowed portion of a gully that kept our skis on good snow for about 1,100 vertical feet before joining up with the access road.  Looking back we realized if we had followed the ridgline south of Relay Peak it would have lead us to a perfect northeast pitch with good snow.  Next time!

Relay Peak is a worthwhile adventure for Tahoe backcountry skiers.  It is especially attractive during lean snow years when lower elevation routes like Jake’s and Tallac are melted out at the bottom.  Although the snowmobile traffic on the approach is heavy, skier traffic in the motor vehicle prohibited wilderness to the west is very light.  This makes for a great combination of easy access and good snow in some of the slightly more intriguing and obscure ski terrain in the area. -Rob McCormick