by Susan McCormick

I had packed away my ski gear in late April and recently passed up opportunities to ski Shasta and Lassen in favor of warmer weather pursuits. And though I am not the most patriotic or symbolic person, something about the chance to ski the 4th of July chutes on the 4th of July was irresistible. I knew if I used the hang over or awful night of sleep as an excuse to stay home, I’d regret it. The skies were warm and cloudless when I woke up. We even had a babysitter. So we loaded up on caffeine and greasy breakfast sandwiches and drove from Truckee through Tahoe City, along the West Shore and into Blackwood Canyon.

At the top of the windy road, we met up with Robb, Scott and Noah Gaffney and some of their friends. We strapped our skis to our packs and began walking along a ridge on the Pacific Crest Trail. No beacon or shovel, no skins or crampons, no jackets or gloves… it felt like freedom to me. Climbing up a short, steep patch of snow, we reached the ridge and spied the chutes ahead. The snow turned to wild flowers once we wrapped around the side of the ridge, with Desolation Wilderness as the sweeping backdrop.

I watched in amazement as Robb Gaffney dropped into an extremely steep, narrow, closeout chute, then stopped once his skis touched the cliff below, strapped on crampons and hiked back up. I was comforted to hear there were easier options. The kids breathed a sigh of relief too.

I dropped into a steepish chute at the far skiers right, which was smooth and corny. It opened up at the bottom providing some scary-fun sun-cup GS turns before the hike back up. Robb and Scott headed skiers left for some more rowdy lines and we all met up on the lunch rocks to bask. Showing off our ex-stream skiing, we wound back down to the road on snow that was just barely covering the creek below it.

A 10-minute walk up the road brought us back to the car. Even the traffic in Tahoe City was bearable after a morning like that. We made it back to Truckee in plenty of time for a leisurely float down the Truckee River, topping off my personal Independence Day.

Blackwood Canyon, July 4, 2010