Many Tahopians were thoroughly disappointed that last week’s storm did not live up to to the hype generated by the media machine. Snowfall totals did not even scratch the low end of the forecast and virtually no snow fell at lake level. That said, there is still plenty to be grateful for. Most of drought stricken California received multiple inches of much needed rain. Higher elevations in Tahoe received a couple of feet of wet snow followed by cold nights and days which created velvety powder conditions.
Eureka Peak, located about an hour drive north of Truckee, is home to some of California’s richest ski history and is still a great place to visit today. The gold rush of the late 1800’s brought thousands of eager miners to Plumas County in search of gold. During the winter months, mining operations slowed down and miners looked to winter activities to kill boredom. Longboard skis made from timber were used in the first official ski races in California in which skiers straight ran Eureka Peak reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Mining ore buckets on Gold Mountain (now Eureka Peak) were used by skiers as possibly the first ski lift in the world.
In the 1950’s Eureka Ski Bowl opened with a rope tow (later replaced by two poma lifts) serving the wide open slopes below Eureka Lake. Eureka Ski Bowl closed some time ago but a new cooperative group has been working to reopen it. They have raised $370,000 so far and have purchased the retired Mainline double chairlift from Squaw Valley. Work has begun on the lower terminal and will continue as funds permit. If the group succeeds, Eureka Ski Bowl will once again be a great place for families and skiers to gather and recreate. The lift will also provide great backcountry access to Eureka Peak proper which has everything from low angle glades to steep, north facing chutes and cliffs.
With or without ski lifts, Eureka Peak is a great place for a backcountry adventure. Eureka State Park is located in Plumas County, about four miles west of the town of Graeagle. From Graeagle, take route 506 past Mohawk to the tiny town of Johnsville. About a mile past Johnsville the road dead ends at a parking lot which is a popular starting point for snowshoers, nordic skiers and backcountry enthusiasts of all types. From the parking lot you can skin up Eureka Ski Bowl to Eureka Lake and Eureka Peak. In the summertime you can take a 4 wheel drive road through the old ski bowl to Eureka Lake and the start of a great hike called the Eureka Peak loop trail. Visiting this part of the Sierra feels like discovering a time capsule of Sierra ski history and a way of life long forgotten.