There’s a group of Nords in the Tahoe area that love to get out and take extended skate tours in the backcountry. As with any other form of skiing, the majority of folks skate ski on a groomed track at a resort, a XC ski area, or Nordic Center. Conditions for good skating, a firm yet edgeable snow base, are most common at a resort, but when conditions are ripe, there is nothing better than a corn snowpack while it is still frozen, or maybe al-dente as it starts to ripen.
At that point you get all the real ingredients of skating, with an icy surface that melts under the pressure of a ski edge, allowing the skater to glide large distances with each pump of the leg. Skaters know the thrill of that gliding sensation, but everyone else does not, including, or especially, alpine skiers for whom the act of skating is necessary on occasion, but laborious at best.
That’s why skinning is the preferred option for traveling with alpine skis in the backcountry. It isn’t fast when climbing, but it is efficient. However, if you get really serious about trimming weight for skiing you end up looking at ultra light Nordic ski boots and toothpick-wide skis. With the right conditions, and the right gear, you can travel mild inclines and flat terrain with speed and style. The following video makes that plain for all to see.
So even while it has been a meager year here in Tahoe, it has not been without praiseworthy conditions, however fleeting. The key, whether you are an alpine or Nordic skier, has been to get away from the limited conditions in-bounds, into the unmarked conditions in the backcountry, but not for those who delay. Carpe diem!