Yesterday was a classic Powder Monday. Two old ski buddies were in town and the plan was simple — take a tour somewhere around Lake Tahoe. West Shore beckoned and we took the bait. Russ, Ethan and I rendezvoused at The Back Country then headed south on Hwy. 89.
There were three parking pull-outs possible and we naturally picked the empty one. There was an existing neanderthal slow-shoe track put in from the day before, but it went straight up so we broke a meandering trail for 2600 feet.
First though, I needed to instruct my old friends on the benefits and nit picky details of making a snap-kick turn. During the lower elevation portion of the tour it wasn’t exactly a required skill and they were wondering why I was taking so much time and insisting on their adopting this “new” technique that was giving them trouble.
By the time we were on the steeper, deeper, upper slopes — where it was impossible to do a wide switchback without serious consequences of a mistake, like falling backwards while trying to swing the trailing ski around on the uphill side — they were very clear on the advantages of the snap kick turn. This was made especially obvious with the razor sharp, hairpin switchbacks I set. When you know how to do them, such a change in direction is not only easier, it also takes a lot less energy to execute – IFF you know how to make all the right moves.
Down low it was giving them fits, but by the time we were on the upper slopes they were actually grateful for the mandatory lesson, and occasional coaching. I did have to issue a couple of penalty infractions for making too steep of a track when they offered to take the lead, but on the second lap we were all glad the road had been plowed at a low enough gradient to make easy work of the extra climb. That left enough energy for catching up with conversation that isn’t possible when breaking trail in 12” of deep.
Tired of trying to muscle your way up a classic (read: insanely steep) Tahoe skin track? Stop using those silly climbing pegs and learn how to 1) set a low angle skin track (climbing pegs make them inevitable) and 2) make a snap kick turn.
It’s a lot of work to break trail and set a steep skin track. It’s the same amount of work to follow it, sometimes even more, like when it gets packed down and icy. It’s also a lot of work to break trail and set a low-angle meanderthal track. But it’s a piece of cake to follow it, whether you’re the fifth person in line, or using it for the umpteenth lap of the week.