Nov 11 2012

Twelve-13: Day 2, Earning ‘em in-bounds


Are all those cars full of backcountry skiers?
Not completely, but a lot were.

The second winter storm of the season left a healthy coat of fresh snow in the Tahoe basin and backcountry skiers were out in force, skinning in-bounds at Sugar Bowl and Alpine Meadows this weekend. In theory there would be fewer obstacles lurking in the shallow snowpack on the groomed runs and everyone would get a great workout in.

At Sugar Bowl’s Judah parking lot it looked like the trailhead to Bunny Flat there were so many cars, at least 120. Most of those cars were seasonal employee’s going through orientation. Even so, I personally saw at least 20 backcountry skiers buckling up, rockin’ out to AC/DC, and heading up from the Judah Lodge over and across to the top of Christmas tree, where the skin track continued on up to the top of Lincoln peak.

It was pretty much all business on the skin track with little conversation apparent between or within groups. At the top however it was all smiles and nods of mutual affirmation that it was great to be out romping in the blower that blanketed the ground with a fresh 15-20 inches. The snow guns were running too but nobody complained about the noisy distraction. Getting a good climb in and some turns to boot was fun enough; the snow guns only meant the lifts might open sooner.

Minutes from the lodge and the race to the top has begun.

My estimate is there were at least 60 people making tracks at Sugar Bowl midday, and there were probably equal sized waves of people earlier and later. Alpine Meadows reportedly had even more. Friends who went to Alpine Meadows report a similar experience, with enough cars in the lot to lure you to think the lifts were open. Bob Yoder managed to start early. When he looked down from the top of Alpine Bowl it looked like a scene out of Europe with a long line of people marching up the skin track below. It sounds like a couple hundred people logged some skin time and turns on Saturday.

Unfortunately I strayed a bit from my professed guidelines and managed to inflict a bit of base damage on the OP skis. Nothing that can’t be sanded down or patched, no core shots, but a bummer nonetheless. In defense I was suckered by existing tracks and forgot how bony that section was to the side of the manicured run. That and the snow was so light you couldn’t help but sink to the bottom. Oh for a layer of Sierra Cement!

In case you’re wondering, Sugar Bowl now has an official in-bounds skinning policy that allows it while Alpine Meadows does not. Skinning in-bounds at AM is okay until the lifts begin regular operations. At Sugar Bowl you can skin up pretty much anywhere pre-season, but once the lifts are running you need to use some common sense and only skin up on the sides of runs around the perimeter of the resort, and stay away from the groomers or other machinery.

And in case you’re feeling like you don’t want to be tempted with early season snow and you just need to crank on work so you can ski later, here’s a taste of what you’re missing from your friendly PowderWhores. Chose Your Adventure is still showing in various places and times in Colorado, Wyoming, Virginia, and Vermont. Go check it out.

Have you gotten out yet? Are you skinning in-bounds to get warmed up for the season? Comment below and share your early season runs.

© 2012