Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Category: Articles (Page 1 of 5)

Loss of a Legend: Robb Gaffney

Robb Gaffney on my last ski day with him, on my birthday, January 19, 2023.

By Rob McCormick

Beloved Tahoe local, Robb Gaffney, lost his four-year battle with Leukemia on September 22, 2023. Robb was a longtime friend of SBDC contributors, Rob and Susan McCormick, and frequently featured in this blog. Robb was more than an amazing skier, he was an amazing person.

New residents of North Lake Tahoe: Robb Gaffney and Rob McCormick in Olympic Valley, October 1994.

Melissa Siig from Moonshine Ink asked me to write a piece on Robb after his passing.

Rob Gaffney and Rob McCormick

Remembering a Friend: Going High and Deep with Robb Gaffney – Moonshine Ink


Who will get picked up first? Hitchhiking at Berthoud Pass circa 1992.


Robb Gaffney in Granite Chief Wilderness March 2019


I wrote about one of my favorite adventures with Robb, in a zone we call  the Land of the Lost, back in 2013. 


Robb’s celebration of life at Olympic Valley Stables on October 6, 2023.



My signed copy of Squallywood.

The Glass is Half Full

This doesn’t feel like 50% of normal. Rob McCormick in SLT Backcountry.

We are about halfway through a ski season we knew would be strange from the start. Despite the clutch of Covid, NorCal skiers have much to be grateful for. Ski areas have been able to operate with Covid protocol and the lifts have kept spinning. The skiing has been remarkably good considering we have been hovering around 50% of normal snowfall for most of the season. On the downside, coverage below 7K was thin until late January and a persistent weak layer has been lurking for most of the season. Traffic has been insane on big snow weekends and restaurants have only been serving to go food but those are first world problems, right? An atmospheric river that fell entirely (and atypically) as snow kicked us into high gear at the end of January. A few more refills since then have kept the glass half full.

Perfect surface conditions but spooky layers deep in the snowpack between Christmas and New Years.
A persistent weak layer formed on December 11 has required skiers to make wise terrain choices for much of the season.
Feelin’ slabby?
Know before you go.
A cold late January system dropped 4 to 6 feet of snow and opened up the low elevation trailheads.
The late January storm also brought the crowds. Squaw One line on January 29.
Welcome to the pleasure dome.
Grant Kaye enjoys steep, stable pow on Valentine’s Day.
Greg Martin drops into the icebox.
Pow day!
Robb Gaffney slays mid winter corn.
Lawn chairs, cooler, and camp stove in your car at ALL times = pro level tailgate.

SnowFest! Events & Lodging

SnowFest! is North Lake Tahoe’s annual spring snow celebration, and this year is shaping up to be as good as ever. Every spring since 1982, North Lake Tahoe throws this big party, packing 10 full days with parades, special events, races, parties, concerts, and more. If you’re a skier or rider, this is one not to miss.

squaw snowfest sun deck

The Sun Deck at Squaw Valley USA during Snowfest 2013

During SnowFest!, you can enjoy on-snow events at resorts like Squaw Valley USA, Alpine Meadows, Homewood, Diamond Peak, and Northstar-at-Tahoe. There’s plenty of off-snow excitement too, from Tainted Love rocking 80’s hits at the Crystal Bay Casino and the Unimog mobile party unit thumping Squaw’s sun deck, to the polar bear swim and King’s Beach parade. Festivities begin on Thursday, February 27th and go through Sunday, March 9th.


A military design driven 1969 Mercedes Unimog is the foundation for a mobile party unit stacked with high performance sound.

If you’re from out of town, you’ll want to find the best place to stay for SnowFest! There are lots of hotels in the Tahoe area, but if you’re looking for a more private experience, you can look to Zaranga, a marketplace for professionally managed vacation rentals. A friend of the blog works for the company and shared some of its unique advantages with us.

Zaranga works with property managers to offer exclusive discounts for last-minute travel, low season travel, and more. Bookings are confirmed instantly so you don’t have to deal with wait times that come with inquiries, phone calls, emails back and forth, etc. You can call their customer service team at any time with questions or to get help in finding a property.

Zaranga has lots of vacation rentals where the SnowFest! action is, including in Tahoe City, Kings Beach, Carnelian Bay, Tahoe Vista, and Incline Village. Below are some of the most notable houses:

See you at the party!

Tahoe City Lakefront Vacation Rental


Tahoe City

Super Luxurious

Super Unique

Super Gorgeous

Carnelian Bay


Tahoe Vista


Lake View

Attention Bay Area Shredders

A Weekend with the Bay Area Ski Bus
By Rachel Friedman

In my short time living in the Bay Area, I have met my fair share of skiers and snowboarders. Having recently moved from Vail, Colorado, I welcome any conversation that has to do with snow. Transportation to Lake Tahoe comes up often. Living five minutes away from the mountain, transportation was never a problem. But it is a true dilemma for a lot of Bay Area residents. And THIS is where the Bay Area Ski Bus comes into play. For all you skiers and snowboarders who don’t own a car or have a ride for the weekend, the BASB has got your back. With three different trip options, there is something for everyone: the One Day Trip ($109), the 2-Day Hotel Trip ($269), and the 2-Day Ski House Trip ($389). My boyfriend, Mike, and I were lucky enough to spend a recent weekend in North Lake Tahoe, courtesy of the BASB and their hospitable crew. We sampled part of the One Day Trip and part of the 2-Day Ski House Trip.

Since we had to catch the bus at 5am, we dragged ourselves out of sweet slumber to the bus pick up. Riding the BASB let us catch up on the rest of our much-needed sleep. There’s a lot to be said about curling up in a ball to catch some zzzz, knowing that when you awake, the mountain will be waiting for you. An hour out from Squaw, our hosts, Kelly and Loretta, woke us with bagels, Danishes, yogurt, and juice to fuel our adventure for the day. YUM!

The bus parked close to the base area and the hosts swiftly passed out our ski tickets and gave us instructions for the day. Mike and I got in a full day of riding, though the conditions weren’t exactly what we had hoped. Dreams of pow turns will have to wait for another trip. At 3:30pm, the BASB hosts set up an après ski spread with wine, beer, hot chocolate, and snacks. If we had driven ourselves up to Tahoe, having a couple of cocktails after riding all day wouldn’t be ideal, but with the BASB, all we would have to do is get on the bus and watch movies until we got home.

Instead of getting on the bus back to San Francisco, we hopped on the van to the Ski House in Tahoe Donner with our host, Nick. We stopped at the grocery store so we and the other guests could pick up some dinner supplies. The house was cozy, and everyone in our group of eight had a room. It was a great atmosphere for meeting potential new ski buddies. We soaked in the hot tub, played pool, ate dinner, and just hung out. Brad, the caretaker, and our hosts, Nick and Kelly, added a great dynamic to the group. In the morning, they cooked breakfast before we headed out to Sugar Bowl. Because our group was small, our timing was flexible, and we didn’t feel rushed. The van dropped us off right at the base of Sugar Bowl and we spent the day exploring this hidden gem of a mountain.

If you want to go shred the mountains of Tahoe, the Bay Area Ski Bus offers an efficient, organized, and laid-back experience. You’ll feel relaxed and you can get all the days you need on the hill. Check out the Bay Area Ski Bus for dates and prices. Follow me on Twitter @RachShredGnar.

A Rookie Observation

by Geoff Forcier

As we all know the weather finally looks to be changing in Tahoe to more reflect the date on the calendar. This could not come at a better time. I have been in Tahoe almost three weeks and my experience thus far has been a little strange to say the least. Let me explain.
I had spent ten years in Summit County Colorado where I enjoyed life as a typical mountain town dude. Breckenridge to be exact and though life was challenging at times, the lifestyle was excellent. The small community of kindred spirits was truly a great thing to be a part of. From powder days to endless single-track, river trips and hut trips, the life was worth all the challenges.
After many years of braving long cold winters my wife and I felt the calling for warmer climes and a new adventure. We decided to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area and started exploring and enjoying the high quality of life in the Wine Country. The Bay Area (most of it anyway) is fantastic with access to most anything you are looking for. This includes the mountains as I could be in the parking lot of Squaw Valley in three hours from my house. This allowed for a handful of ski days over the last couple of years but the six hour round trip was starting to get old. My wife and I enjoyed the Bay Area but missed the mountain lifestyle and started throwing around the idea of checking out Tahoe. Unlike Breck, Tahoe has this large blue body of water that is a totally new dimension. After a new opportunity presented itself we finally had the impetus to pull the trigger and make the move. We arrived in North Lake Tahoe on December 29th. Needless to say something was a little off.
As a passionate skier I was looking forward to being in close proximity to a multitude of chairlifts, apre ski bars and some of the most accessible backcountry anywhere. I was pumped. I acquired my Squalpine pass, dialed my kit and started soaking in any type of multimedia to get the stoke going. It was actually a small blessing for us that it was a slow start to the season as moving our life in the middle of a Tahoe tempest would have been challenging to say the least. But I thought to myself that as soon as I moved the last box of junk into our Tahoe City rental the skies were welcome to open up and get the party started. Well, as we all know, that has not happened.
I had been here before. We had our slow starts in Breck for sure. But this was different. This was really slow. I didn’t know any different. For all I knew this was normal in Tahoe. It did not take long to realize that this was not normal, at all. So although I was jonesing as hard as anyone for powder skiing, I started to observe the effects of this on the community. There has been the obvious impact on the local economy. It has been tough. No snow, no people, no business, no work. It is felt everywhere. That being said I have been amazed by the POM (positive mental attitude) displayed by most of the people I have met thus far. Confidence that the snow will come has barely waned. People seem to be holding on and making the best of it. From ice skating on perfect glassy ice found on the multitude of small lakes dotting the landscape to cycling and hiking. It is my understanding that backcountry ice skating such as what we have experienced this season happens only every 15 years or so. I feel fortunate to have hit this one dead on. I even observed one die hard playing golf in Kings Beach. I also attended a super fun “pray for snow” car wash. A friend who, upon realizing this was going to be an extended drought, loaded his touring bicycle and put in 1000 miles around the entire Sierra Nevada. He called it making the best of a bad situation.
So here I sit watching every weather forecast known to man and from what I can tell we are about to get things started, hopefully. To be honest I won’t truly believe it until I see the stuff falling from the sky and accumulating on my deck. But I have a POM and am looking forward to putting my truck into four wheel drive for the first time this year. I know we need a lot to really get it going but you have to start somewhere right?
The point I wanted to make was that I do not regret my move, at all. I to have gained confidence that this ski season will be salvaged and we will all get to make powder turns soon. So in the meantime I will be keeping my eye on the sky and waxing my boards. Thank you to everyone who has helped welcome Amy and me to Tahoe and we look forward to experiencing with you everything this amazing place has to offer. We hope to see you at the Chamois. Cheers!

Jamie Pierre Dies in Avalanche

Freeskier Jamie Pierre was killed in an avalanche at Snowbird Utah last Sunday.  Snowbird is not open for skiing yet but touring is accepted because the ski area operates on US Forest service land.  Pierre was largely known for his massive cliff jumping exploits which tended to overshadow his overall prowess in the sport of skiing which included notable first descents in Alaska and impressive freestyle airs.  Ironically, friends reported a conscious effort from Pierre (38) to tone down his aggressive skiing for the sake of his family.

Here are more details on the accident and Jamie Pierre:

International Business Times Report on Accident

Salt Lake Tribune Report on Jamie Pierre

Lone Peak Lookout Report on local Big Sky Ambassador Jamie Pierre

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