Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ely Daze

Once upon a time, I spent a lot of time skiing in Ely.

I'd ventured down there one winter almost a decade ago to meet a guy who'd been stranded down there talking with his volleyball, and ended up meeting a world of wonderful people, some of whom I came to consider among my best friends.

These folks liked having fun, and most of them liked skiing in the backcountry. Almost everybody was single, and almost everybody had weekends off. There was a fun local bar that had good beer and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Thursday night was good for volleyball and beer. And, so, the mountains and the town beckoned.

I spent a lot of days wandering the Schell Creek Range, the Duck Creeks, and Ward Mountain with Dan and Joshua in particular. They were explorers who weren't afraid of long tours and were savvy and experienced mountain folk, and so we spent a lot of time playing in the snow together. We'd climb all day, do some great turns, have Mexican food back in town, drink and dance ourselves to exhaustion, and then do it again the next day.
Good times.

Times, of course, have a way of changing. People moved away, the bar closed, the good band moved next door. Dan, Joshua and I all got married, bought houses, and generally became respectable. Dan and his new bride moved to the other side of the state, and for some really silly reason I stopped driving to Ely to ski.

I have to wonder - why?

The stars all aligned this weekend and I was able to drive down to Ely again to spend the day skiing with Joshua. We enjoyed amazing and endless terrain, beautiful aspens, a gorgeous day and good company. After it was over, we had dinner with some good friends, and with Josh's wife and new little girl. It reminded me of why I used to make this drive every weekend. And I guarantee - I won't stop skiing in Ely ever again.

Eastern Nevada is, if anything, even more snow-challenged than the Rubies are these days, and the high Schells were about the only place left holding good snow. We opted for a trip up Timber Creek, and really hit the conditions jackpot.

Dreaming about the Dream Line.  Next year, hopefully.

This beautiful apron can be pretty slide-prone earlier in the year, but this trip held beautiful chalky powder covered with a couple of creamy inches of blown-in fluff. Gorgeous turning. There was an old wet slide in there that made us thankful for the somewhat cooler, partially overcast weather. Josh opted for a shorter lap. I figured I'd hike up a little farther.

We hiked up again and over the little ridge to a bunch of fir trees that fed into some chutes.  There was some breakable on the way in, but the powder in the transition area had Joshua grinning in anticipation.

Unfortunately, conditions in the trees looked better than they actually were, and we quickly dove back out into the big sunny slope. And - lucky us - the aspens softened up for some really sweet corn skiing for the trip out. OK, a little mank from time to time. But mostly it was tree sweetness.

What a great weekend. What a great range. What a great reason to drive south for the weekend.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Right Fork

Took a trip up Right Fork with Mike today. A lot of walking for not a lot of turns, but it was beautiful and well worth the time. Our original destination was in Seitz Canyon, but we got word from the heli-guys that they'd hit the line we were going for and, well, that would have been a lot of walking for unexpected moguls. It was very, very cool of them to give us a shout.

Dawn broke on the standard Right Fork bushwhack. There's an old, unmaintained trail up climbers right in that canyon. My husband and the other ice climbers used to keep it brushed out, and it's fairly popular with snowshoers and so it's findable for the most part - at least in daylight. Miserable travel in a few spots, but pretty.

We got to the bench in reasonable time, considering the bushwhack, but it appeared that we'd missed the window for my original objective by a few days. The out on Gilbert was bony and full of moats and breakable crust. Un-fun. We took a pass.

The heli had been up there over the weekend and there were a lot of tracks, but even so it looked like fun could be found in these chutes. It was.

Once we got above about 9400' the snow got pretty nice. Creamy, sun-effected powder. Made for nice skinning and a very mellow climb.

The view down Right Fork.

Lake Peak, Wines Peak, and some of the Ruby Crest Trail route.

The first several hundred feet skied beautifully, and those chutes were short but tasty. There was some nice untracked in there, and some big marshmallow humps downhill.

Unfortunately, once we got below 9400' we were back into the crap snow for a mile-plus of down. We got some bonus turns once we got down to the bench, though. It had turned to sweet corn at that point.

And - if any reminder was needed that this, indeed, spring skiing...

All in all, an excellent day - even though I'm going to get to practice my p-tex skills before I take the Gotbacks out again. At least now I know what they're made of... all the way to the inside...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The thin line between corn and mank

It's corn season here in the Rubies.  There is still cold snow in protected north aspects, but the big east-facing lines are good corn skiing for those willing to drag their asses out of bed well before the crack of dawn - and who can move quickly enough to wrap things up before it gets hot enough for wet slides.

I, of course, got started too late this AM and got to enjoy a couple thousand feet of mank as a reward for making a couple of phone calls before heading up to ski.  In reality, I should have been up on the ridge at 9 - 9:30.  I made it up by 10:45... hell, I wasn't skinning until I should have been up on top.  Silly me.  It was still a beautiful day out, though, as well as good exercise.  Who can complain?

The Lamoille Canyon Road is melting out by the day.  This morning I was able to park my truck and snowmobile trailer at the pullout right below the turnoff to Scout Camp. Yesterday I only made it to the first pullout at the mouth of the canyon.  People will be able to park a truck and trailer at Pete's Corner in the next day or two.

Here are a few more photos of beautiful Lamoille Canyon.  Just because.  Some nice tours recently.

Ran into a couple of kids who'd snowboarded Terminal Cancer this morning.  Some yo-yo had gone up there recently... and sideslipped the whole way down.  Please, if you can't ski it find somewhere else to go.  There are a lot of options here, and honestly a lot better skiing. These kids had done a lot of driving and a lot of hiking to get to a chute full of scraped-off snow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Straight Shots

While I take a brief pause in my BC explorations for some inbounds turns, enjoy this:

 %&!@# Glomming

 Andrew McLean's blog is awesome, and he's again posted up some great info for those of us who like to hike for turns.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More explorations

Recently, when it's been a while between storms, we've been looking for alternative ski terrain to the usual spots we've frequented over the years.  I'm pleased to report that yesterday's explorations turned up some amazing options that will mean some tasty turns in the months and years ahead.

Check this out:  can you say Corn Snow Extravaganza?

Secret Valley with the Rubies in the background.

It was OK skiing this weekend, but with some freshies this is going to be stellar.  Kind of a long ways in... and endless options once you get there.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The difference between pros and rank amateurs

I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a gentleman who had found the blog and who had done a Monday ski trip up Terminal Cancer. As it turns out, two of the members of that party have posted up fantastic on-line accounts of their trip, including an excellent professional write-up on their analysis process for determining whether the trip was a go/no go due to avalanche conditions. I sincerely hope that those who visit this blog looking for TC information follow this link. It could save your life.

And - speaking of pros - one of their group was a professional photographer who took some magnificent photos of their tour. I think I do an OK job with my little pointy-shooty camera. This guy, though - wow. What an eye.

Craig Wolfrom's blog

Here: Just to encourage you to click the link... there are lots more photos where these came from.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Powdah day!

A nice fat winter storm parked itself over my house this weekend, and left us a whole slew of freshies to enjoy. I was forced to be responsible on Saturday, but on Sunday set out to see what the storm had left us with Mike and his 13-year-old daughter. We headed up to Ambrosia, only to find our friend Kevin had beat us there and laid in a nice uptrack.
Conditions were fluffy enough to make a girl giggle. Zoe couldn't believe how sweet the skiing was.
She was tearing it up. Really fun to see.
Of course, she has a good teacher.
A whole SLEW of skiers showed up about the time we started up for our last lap - just about every local skier in town. We *almost* outnumbered the snowmobiles - way cool.
What a great way to celebrate Ruby powder!

Friday, February 8, 2013


Random photos from some random skiing this week:

Mike scopes out lines in the Independence Range.  We skied down into this bowl and ended up bootpacking out. It was a bit aerobic and we decided to call it "CrossFit Bowl". Don't know that the name will catch on but it works for us.

Went looking for new (to me) terrain on Friday. Conditions were pretty marginal - need more snow. This has to be the most craptastic uptrack I've yet "enjoyed" in the Rubies, although that was almost completely due to the conditions. With better snow this'd be a better up. And a better down.

Going to have to come back and check this out during corn season.

Nice view of Ruby Valley from the ridge.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Independence Day

We took a trip up to the Independence Range near Tuscarora on Friday, in search of new (to me) terrain that would offer good skiing and no competition from snowmobiles. Mike and John had been up there a couple of weeks ago and had spotted a drainage that looked to offer some really nice yo-yo skiing. So, we loaded up the sleds, headed up the snowy road and started skinning when we got a snowmobile stuck.  It would wait, the skiing wouldn't.

John on the up track.

Mike topped out and scouting new lines.

The surface hoar made for beautiful skiing this trip, but likely for some sketchy conditions down the road.

Mike drops in.

A few sweet turns.


As it turned out, there was a minimally-covered rock band all the way across the face, pretty much negating any thoughts of yo-yo skiing or even a return trip to this particular spot.  Bummer, because it really seemed to have a lot of potential to become a new favorite destination.

Even with the disappointment, the meadow skipping on the way out was fantastic, and contained a couple of adventurous creek crossings.

Beautiful day, beautiful spot, gorgeous snow, good friends, and a stop at the Taylor Creek bar on the way out - where we got to spend some time with a gal who grew up with me in Lamoille, and who I don't see nearly often enough.  All in all, an awesome day - even with the rock band.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Slowly, slowly

I'm very pleased to report that the Feb. 1 USDA Snow Course report shows that we're at 79% of average at the Lamoille #5 snow course site (at road's end in Lamoille Canyon).

Here, see for yourself:

February, 2013 report

We're starting to catch up.

As they say in Nepal, slowly slowly.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A little bitta beta

So, first - I acknowledge that I've been a slacker about keeping up with this blog. There, I've said it. Second - just to make up for having been MIA for so long, I'll post up a little beta about current conditions up Lamoille Canyon. And, just to sweeten the deal - here. Photo from skiing today.
The road is plowed only to the Ruby Dome Ranch entrance just below the mouth of the canyon. Trucks with snowmobile trailers and folks with 4WD have been getting up to the first pull-out just inside the canyon and parking there. People have occasionally been pushing it beyond that (and tearing up the snow base in the process), but you can't get far in a vehicle other than a snow machine without getting stuck pretty quickly. There are lots of big ruts on the road where people have put that theory to the test. The official road closure is in the usual place just past Pete's Corner, but you aren't going to get there in a truck for a while. Don't know why they've opted against plowing this year, but it's a PIA.

This is pretty limiting for skiers. The snow down low is... not skiable, and it won't be any time soon. And it's a long, long skin up the road before you get to skiable snow. For those gazillion of you looking to this blog for information on skiing Terminal Cancer Couloir - get yourself a tow strap and befriend a snowmobiler. Otherwise, you'll be skinning up the road for more than four and a half miles before you dive OFF the road to start the TC approach.

The skiing up high is pretty nice right now, although there is a lot of natural slide activity up there. My partner dug a pit yesterday on a north aspect 9600', and the approximately 50cm of wind-affected new snow sheared extremely easily from the prior storm surface. There was another easy shear at a rain crust about 10 cm below that. Below the rain crust to the ground was very granular snow - in all, about 2.5m deep where we were. Probably not a recipe for skiing aggressive lines.

We skied an east aspect line today, a little lower angle, about 100 yards off of the looker's left shoulder of Snow Lake Peak. There's an old non-functional SnoTel device up there (Lamoille #7 from back in the day).

Mike on the up.
Looking at Liberty
Snow Lake Peak
Cody made it, too.
The snow was supportive and quite turnable, and micro-aspect adjustments made a big difference in whether it was punchy or buttery. Sorry, no pics of turning, just plain forgot. We were having too much fun.