Feb 26 2013

How much snow is enough?

Zeke knows when enough is enough.

How much is enough? Does it have to be blower deep to marshal the motivation to get out? If it does, then there are a lot of great days that I’d be missing. Without a doubt, pow is the best, but it doesn’t last, even when you know how to farm it like a good backwoods boy could.

This was underscored while skiing at Sugar Bowl recently. The last Sierra dump was before Christmas and though we received snow a week ago, it was a mere dusting by Tahoe standards. While that doesn’t sound all that encouraging, nonetheless Tahoe delivered the goods anyway because the snow, though manicured and homogenized, was actually in really good shape. It had stayed cold and thus fast.

Which is how and why the snow in the Tahoe region is still so good even though it’s been so long since we received a storm with enough mass to cripple highways and byways. By staying cold, it hasn’t melted and refrozen as ice, at least in the shadow of trees and steep northern faces. Consequently you can find pockets of fresh, dense, untracked windblown fluff if you’re willing to hunt for it.


Admittedly the sun has been able to sear the south sides, but only recently. Thus you can enjoy a crack o’ noon departure and harvest corn on south faces, thanks to mild temps and blues skies under a blazing sun. Don’t forget your buff and zinc oxide though.

Or you can head out early and harvest a spongy yet fluffy ride on an ever narrower sliver of northern snow that remains untouched by direct sunshine. Although the goal is pow, don’t forget your ski crampons for dealing with the crust and refrozen corn on every other aspect on the skin up.

Even walks with the dog on waxless metal edged skis are great. Sure it would be nice if there was more snow but simply being able to glide over the earth is enough. Appreciating the simple pleasure of the stride, bases alternately holding then sliding brings a smile to my soul.

There is never a question as to whether the time could have been better spent doing something else. Once I’m gliding on the snow, heading up to a ridge with a view and a line back down there is no where else I’d rather be. Leaving the city behind is always an exhilarating feeling, to breath deep without the bonds and restrictions of staying between the lines. It is old fashioned freedom, where the only boundaries are those imposed by our own conscience and recognition of nature’s rules, not man’s.

© 2013