Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Month: May 2011

Pow days continue to the end of May

It’s beginning to seem like a broken record. Just when you think you must have made your last powder turns of the year, it’s dumping again and time to make a game plan for the following day. Heavy snow Saturday afternoon and evening led to another great day Sunday. A friend of mine reported over the thigh blower early Sunday morning. I had to work during the day but was able to get out in the late afternoon. The snow had warmed up but it still skied like creamy perfection. Wet slides were starting to occur just over 40 degrees but if you kept a few degrees under that it skied great with no slough management necessary.

Squaw Valley was packed! Huge lift lines on KT and Cable Car. Village shops and restaurants were bustling. It felt more like President’s Day Weekend than Memorial Day Weekend.

Many locals are depressed by the continuing trend of winter weather. Mountain biking, jeeping and other high elevation activities are still a long way off. I am ready for summer like everyone else. But at this point I hope we get another storm just to say we rode powder from November through June in what stands as one of the biggest winters in the last 50 years.

Here’s video of the new snow and subsequent riding on May 28th and 29th:

Dawn Patrol Delivers

Another glorious morning (photo by Robb Gaffney)

Another early to rise morning made worthwhile with crisp weather and fresh snow yet again. Conditions were good, not great…but hey it’s May 26th and if it keeps snowing we’re going to keep skiing.

Ripe for the pickin' (photo by Robb Gaffney)

Endless Winter

Old Man Winter doesn’t want to let go of this monster season.  Higher elevations in Tahoe got pounded with more snow this week.  Touring near the Pacific Crest Tuesday evening  felt more like February than May.  Early birds got the worm big time on Wednesday.  Unfortunately Wednesday afternoon warmed up significantly and Thursday was not so good.  Thick crust layer all the way to the top of Squaw.  The flavor of the week has definitely been touring the hell out of closed ski areas.  For those who prefer to hike it’s a treat to ride these zones that we would ski all the time if they were not ski areas. 

Here’s storm skiing the week of May 16.


Donner Peak Snowshed

New culture meets old culture. Modern day graffiti in the same place Chinese laborers built the transcontinental railroad passage through Donner Summit over 140 years ago.

An interesting artifact from US rail history resides just west of Donner Lake adjacent to Old Highway 40.  The tunnels and snowsheds from the original transcontinental railroad passage through Donner Summit create a horizontal line across Donner Peak.  More than a century ago, Chinese workers provided the bulk of the labor in the excruciatingly time consuming and dangerous construction of the railway.   Newly developed nitroglycerine was largely used for nearly two years of blasting required to bore through the mountain. A seventy five foot high retaining wall between two tunnels was built entirely by stacking natural rocks by hand.  The snowsheds were designed to protect the train tracks from avalanches and snow drifts and were originally built with wood and later replaced by concrete.  The four mile stretch was retired in 1993 by the active Union Pacific tunnel which passes through the mountain just south of the original line.  The defunct section of the snowshed no longer contains rails and can be navigated on bike or four wheel drive in the summertime.

The same steep slopes on Donner Peak that created an avalanche hazard to the transcontinental railway provide a variety of nice ski terrain ranging from mellow cruising on the west side to challenging lines on the north face.

Donner Snowshed

Terrain on the west side of Donner Peak above the historic snowsheds.

Horizontal line of snowshed visible on terrain east of Donner Peak.