Thursday, February 24, 2011


Headed up today for Snake, one of my favorite tours, with my friend Kasen. She'd not done this trip before.

I kind of set myself up for a tough day today... I usually wait until I'm in mid-season condition for this one. It's a very enjoyable climb in the scheme of things, but I'm not as young or fast as I used to be and it seems to go better if I have a few weeks of climbing under my belt before I head up this way. Unfortunately, with having been out of the country for six weeks, it's mid-season but I'm in early-season shape. Should think about these things.

With the wind-buffed, icy conditions and the thin snow, the up was pretty onerous. I finally gave up trying to get some sort of purchase with my too-small skins and bootpacked most of the way up.

It was hard to get too annoyed, though, with the gorgeous Great Basin views, sunshine and wind-free day.

As we approached the top, the heli-ski guys came up behind us and crested the ridge right below. I found out later that they'd circled around to get another look at my husband and our friend Tyler, who were ice climbing upcanyon. Clearly everybody was having a great day in the Rubies.

Kasen was enjoying the day. So was I.

The wind had really done a number up there, and had scoured the place right off the top. The trees skiers right, though, were filled with absolutely gorgeous fluff.

I'll be honest, I was really wishing we were on the chopper today so we could have kept that gorgeous line all the way down to their pickup zone. Unfortunately, we had to bail out of it to avoid one of the nastier bushwhacks in the Rubies - at least in my experience - which led to chunky snow. Lots of it. Thick crust breaking into chunks the size of dinner plates in some spots.

Little bit of everything out there today... we put the adventure into adventure skiing. What a blast!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On the road again...

With wind whipping on the ridges but an otherwise beautiful day, I figured I'd break out the XC skis and see how Lamoille Canyon held up for the six weeks I was gone.

No real surprise... it got along just fine without me, thanks. ;)

The road is in reasonable shape for XC skiing... soft-ish snow, not the icy garbage that it can occasionally be. There are plenty of whoops from all the sled traffic, as would be expected this time of year.

The wind and clouds and sunshine made for some dramatic views.

Ice Capades, a semi-regular ice climbing destination. I've often thought I ought to haul skis up there in addition to all of my ice climbing crap. At this point I'm tempted to leave the ice climbing crap at home and just bring the skis.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Powder day at the SnoBowl. Really.

So... when I can't come up with an alibi and the weight of responsibility finally crushes my will to ski uphill, I pick up a day ski patrolling at the Elko SnoBowl. Today was one of those days.

This isn't as onerous a duty as it might sound. And some days it's even an excellently good time.

For those unfamiliar with the Elko SnoBowl, it's a little community ski hill (emphasis on the words "community" and "hill" about five miles north of Elko, in the Adobe Hills. The top elevation is at something like 7500', so you can pretty well assume that there isn't towering vertical to be had. That said, SnoBowl rocks. Why? Because it has more soul than any one of those uber-yuppified bastardizations of somebody's old ski-hill dream will ever have. I mean... Northstar? Are you kidding me? That base area should be razed, pronto, and those six-pack lifts should be ripped out and shipped to Japan.

SnoBowl's base area is a construction trailer-cum-rental shop and a vendor shack (Skip's Snack Shack) that sells lift tickets, Coke and bad hot dogs. Bring your own tailgate party. There's a creaky old double chair lift and a rope tow. The place is staffed by volunteers - people who love skiing, people who love kids, people who love to see kids skiing. Among today's crop of guests, we had three folks who are in town working on a huge pipeline project, two of whom had never been on skis before. They had a blast! And so did we, introducing them to the best sport in the world.

The fact that we had a powder day and I was finding untracked lines as late as 2PM didn't suck much, either.

Sure, the Rubies have the goods. But today's powder stash was at the SnoBowl. I didn't even have to ski uphill to cash in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Me 'N the Beav

I haven't been up Beaver Tail (to ski) for a couple of years, largely because my last trip up there featured crotch-deep breakable crust over sugar (ugh) as well as a misadventure where I ended up standing on top of a waterfall with my edges digging in trying to figure out how to safely exit from where I was standing. We climb that waterfall - called Scout Camp - repeatedly and happily during ice climbing season. I never really figured it to be a favorite ski destination for me.

Anyway, this summer I spent some time up there with friends cleaning out an old trail in an effort to improve access up there. I heard from Mike that it skied well on Monday and figured it was time to see for myself.

Beaver Tail is kind of a west-southwest aspect and so can get pretty cooked. We had about a foot of freshies up top, but lower down it was a couple of inches of new over the hard-as-nails-baked-out-January-hate-garbage... ugh. Skinning up was a real chore in a few places, and I ended up taking off my skis and bootpacking over a couple of particularly ugly spots.

Once up top, though... wow.

So much skiing... so little access. :(

Mt. Gilbert, with Ruby Dome peeking behind a couple of ridgelines.

Self portrait, with my ski partner Cody.

What goes up must come down.

In all honesty, north was the aspect of the day - the shots of north that I enjoyed were absolutely orgasmic, uber-light boot-deep fluff. Unfortunately, today's ski partner didn't have a drivers' license - and never will, so my north aspect shuttle destinations were out of the question. And, (excuses excuses), I really didn't have time for a long tour.

I'm bummed I have to work tomorrow because the skiing is going to be stellar.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Back for seconds...

... because the first serving was so tasty.

Headed up to Tuesday's destination for another shot at bluebird skies and mellow terrain with a sweet serving of freshies. The wind had blown a bit and there was a touch or two of crustiness, easily resolved by minute changes of line.

Beats going to the gym all to hell. Bonus - my dog gets some exercise, too.

Saw some tracks from the heliski... looks like they were up there yesterday. Didn't see them up high, just at the pick-up point.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cold bluebird day in the Rubies

I've taken a few weeks off from updating this blog, but now am back at the computer. I was pretty fed up with having to share snow with way too many snowmobiles, and didn't bother to take pictures of my ski days. And then, of course, I spent a month in Patagonia. My life surely doesn't suck.

Some Patagonia stoke:

But I digress.

Since I'm still not all that interested in competing with motorized yo-yos for snow, I've started thinking in terms of other places to go for my skiing fun. Leaving the sleds behind means long approaches and, in some cases, the need to bring a tent along. Fortunately for me, there are reasonable options if I'm willing to put some uphill time into it.

Today's tour - case in point: three hours up for some absolutely stellar skiing.

I was a little concerned when I got back from Patagonia that the huge January melt-out would have ruined the skiing. I had a couple of reports, though, that that wasn't the case. A couple of days of light snow on top of the warmed-up stuff could have led to some pretty sketch conditions. As it turned out, it was rocking good - well worth the uphill, the cold, and the thin, bitter wind.

Up again with Mike - who is very patient. I'm slow anyway, and a month of hiking at 1000' doesn't help much when your usual playground is at 10K.

This is Mike's photo of the day's destination. Note the spindrift - not a great day to be up on the ridge.

Beautiful beyond belief up there.

After we got through a ridiculous sagebrush traverse that I ended up bootpacking, Mike put in a very sweet uptrack. He got quite a bit ahead of me while I was fighting with the traverse. Of course, he gets quite a bit ahead of me most days.

Still smiling at the top, though. Hell, who WOULDN'T smile on a day like this?

And down. And down, and down, and down...