Mar 17 2012

TR: Knob Jr, NE Lake Tahoe

Got fresh if you want it, but it's perishable so don't wait too long to get some yourself.

The thought of traveling to Sugar Bowl via the long way around I-80 ‘stead of directly up the switchbacks of Old Hwy. 40 didn’t sound appealing, especially for terrain that was too familiar, and bound to be overrun with too many people on a Saturday. No, with up to four feet at elevation it was time to head for higher ground and lighter traffic. On the drive over to the lake I thought of John, and how the last time we did Knob Jr. together I knew it might be the last time ever. It wasn’t, Holleman and I did get another day in together, but when I thought of it today I missed him and knew it would be a good place to mingle with traces of his spirit. So Knob Jr it was.

I was looking forward to a solo trip, but was agreeable to sharing the climb up too. As the pulloff came in to view there was one truck already there, and legs moving on the other side of it. Turns out it was Dave Polivy, owner of local ski shop Tahoe Mountain Sports who just happened to arrive about five minutes before me.

It looked like he had just put his boots on so I asked, “Mind if I join you?

“No, but I’m only good for one lap,” he replied, “Need to get back to the shop.”

So that became the plan.

My arrival probably cost him an extra 10 minutes, but only 10 and we soon had skins on and were gliding down the first hill before intersecting with the established track. Not long after, I offered to break trail ‘cuz my 85mm straight skins took too much effort to hold on the neanderthal skin track. It wasn’t excessively steep, a standard 20° Tahoe track, but the dog-pawed craters robbed me of essential surface area for grip and breaking trail would be easier. Not a whole lot easier, but easier nonetheless.

So I veered off and enjoyed the soft feel of untracked snow with superb grip on a spongy base. It doesn’t matter if I’m going up or down, if I’m making fresh tracks the world is a better place.

About an hour or so later we broke through the trees to the summit ridge. It seemed to appear suddenly because trees that are normally buried near the top were visible, suckering me in to thinking we were lower than we were. Though we just received four feet, the effects of a low snow pack were still not fully covered.

The blue sky of morning had given way to the next wave of precip falling lightly around us and Lake Tahoe’s gray shoreline was all that was visible beneath the clouds that were filling the basin. We ripped skins and headed down, agreeing that we’d stick to the ridge until we had sussed out the snow.

Turns out that the better snow was on the ridge anyway, and with less than 24 hours since this fresh coat, we didn’t think it prudent to test fate in the center of the slope, treed though it be. We probably could have taken the bolder route but our prudence wasn’t exactly disappointing either as face shots peppered us while we floated down the slope through the spaces in the trees.

We only crossed tracks once from a four-some we met leaving while we were just heading up. True to form, as we blended back in with the skin track to our cars, a lone skier was heading up. And at the trailhead, two new cars sat beside ours, suiting up to head out.

There’s another foot arriving casually over the next 36 hours to the Lake Tahoe region with cold temperatures predicted to continue until Monday afternoon. Come on up and get some.

© 2012