Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Month: May 2012

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.

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.

Manitoba Mountain is the Real Deal!

This is just a sliver of the terrain that will be accessible via the Mountain Riders Alliance project at Manitoba Mountain.

The authors of SBDC are very excited about the MRA project at Manitoba Mountain Alaska. We love the concept of a sustainable, low impact ski area that promotes a family vibe and accessible skiing without the glitz. However, the aspect of the project that we are most stoked about is that just beyond the proposed ski area boundary is straight up, slam banging, down to the nitty gritty big mountain backcountry terrain. Huge vertical and the ability to ski just about every aspect and exposure. When the surface lifts are up and running you will be able to cruise to the jumping off point and step into the white room. Manitoba Mountain is going to be a ski touring mecca!

Matt Reardon taste tests the terrain on Manitoba Mountain.