Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Month: June 2011

The Insiders Guide to the Eastside…Sierra Ski Journal

Split Couloir. One of the many fine descents described in the Sierra Ski Journal.

Are you curious about skiing in the Eastern Sierra Range? Perhaps looking for trip reports on some of the more elusive and challenging lines in the Eastside? If so, Sierra Ski Journal may be just what you are looking for. Tahoe resident and ski mountaineer John Morrison has created a ski blog that is full of juicy details on some of the most aesthetic, dramatic and sometimes downright scary lines in the Eastern Sierra. The Journal features well written accounts of John’s exploits from Bridgeport to Lone Pine and everything in between.

Most reports include route descriptions, photographs and video. Morrison highlights descent routes in color allowing readers to easily identify the ski objectives. John’s ski partners include Eastside Veterans Glen Poulsen, Dan Molnar, Nate Greenberg and Christian Pondella among others. These guys have been exploring every nook and cranny in the Eastern Sierra for years and are finally starting to receive recognition in publications such as Powder Magazine and the newly released book, “50 Classic Ski Descents of North America”. The highlight of the blog is coverage of John’s quest to ski all of California’s 14,000 peaks in a single season which he completed successfully in 2010.

The ski descents featured in Sierra Ski Journal are definitely not intended for your average backcountry ski tourer. Many routes feature massive approaches, require technical climbing skills and only come into condition every few years. Vertical gains of 4,000 to 5,000 feet to reach the “start” of the real climb are not uncommon. Some descents drop nearly 10,000 feet, a reminder that you don’t need to leave California to achieve huge vertical relief. The skiing ranges from no fall survival turns to high speed, big mountain free riding. Watching John’s POV footage gave me a wake up call as to how strong and capable these guys are in the backcountry. For example, he documents a January 2011 powder ski descent of the Mendenhall Couloir near Convict Lake. The Mendenhall descends through 4,000 vertical feet of twisting exposed terrain that I figured would be skied slow and low the entire way. This was not the case at all as Morrison’s POV shows him pretty much flashing the entire line in fluid AK style at high speed. And all of this after climbing it first and observing conditions to know it could be skied that way.

The more I learn about ski mountaineering the more impressed I am by the combination of athleticism and intelligence required to perform it at a high level. The Sierra Ski Journal offers a great peek into the sports top performers and the lines they seek in the Eastern Sierra. has added Sierra Ski Journal to it’s list of preferred links.

Sierra Ski Journal

Continental Snowpack from the Air

Northern California wasn’t the only region to get hammered with snow this year. Colorado and Utah also had huge seasons. Here are a couple of photos from a Southwest Airlines flight on June 25 that show tremendous coverage in the Wasatch and Rocky Mountain Ranges.

Wasatch Range west of Salt Lake City on June 25, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park and the Continental Divide on June 25, 2011.

Summer finally arrives! Eastside hoedown goes off!

Many Tahoe skiers migrated to the Eastern Sierra last weekend for a stellar corn session. Familiar faces were spotted from Sonora Pass to Tioga Pass and everything in between. Snowpack is standing tall at about two months behind standard melt schedule. It’s going to be interesting to see how many snowfields make it until new snow starts falling next season. Basically if every snow year was like 2011, new glaciers would begin forming in California.

Sunday's objective: the north face of Black Mountain above Virginia Lakes

This would be fun to drive! Vintage snowcat at gateway to Virginia Lakes.

The perfect Eastside vehicle...the Mackvan!

Still plenty of snow in the Eastern Sierra.

Virginia Lakes Resort with Dunderberg Peak in the background.

Post June 12 corn sesh = satisfied!

Need to re-up on calories after the tour? Why not double down on a half pounder from The Barn in Bridgeport?

June 6 powder report

The closer we get to summer, the farther away it seems. June 6 on Mt. Rose was raging winds and snow. Several car wrecks on Mt. Rose Highway likely from people who removed their snow tires two months ago. Dense, creamy pow covered a slush puppy layer that skied just fine unless it got a bit too steep in which case wet slides were rampant. Gullies were lined with recent avalanche debris so we stayed on spines and ridges and avoided terrain traps.


Just like yesterday, nothing special to report…just more powder skiing blah blah blah… Here’s a short clip from this morning.