It was the end of May, Memorial Day weekend, and yet another blast of snow had coated the neighborhood. A solid six inches fell early Saturday evening. Up on Donner Pass that translated to at least 8 inches of light, and if we hit it early enough, dry snow.There wasn’t any reason to do a true dawn patrol, but it was also understood that if we lollygagged around the pow would turn to mush minutes after the sun hit it. So the key was to be early enough that the snow would still have the night’s cold before the sun could warm the day. As luck would have it, clouds continued to swirl around keeping the suns rays at bay. I set a meandering track up to the top of the ridge, we ripped skins and waited for a patch of sun to enhance photos.
First turns off the top of Judah were exactly as expected; smooth, untracked, and light. We cruised out flower ridge and then headed for the ASI chutes. A classic had beckoned on the drive up that neither John nor I had skied in awhile, so that was the line for the day.
As we approached we realized the usual entrance had been sculpted into a new shape with the record setting snow pack of the season. It was now an easy but steep rollover wedged between cliffs and trees that opened like an alluvial fan to the flats 400 feet below. We had noticed that the new snow didn’t bond all that well to the base below while skinning, but the snow was light enough on the first pitch that there was little danger of the snow building up to more than a little sluff while skiing. However, a few recent close calls served to remind me to make my first turn a hard ski cut on the rollover entrance. The snow sluffed below my edges, gathered momentum and refused to stop as it swept the slope clean to the bottom with a small, benign avalanche. It didn’t take off en-masse as a slab, but it didn’t stop either.
It moved slow enough we calculated we could out run it and we set tracks beside it, kicking off two more sluffs that swept the slope clean behind us. From there it was a short cruise back to the cars that would transport us back to the days chores, but they would be easier to bear with such an awesome start to the day.