Chris Baus

Tahoe Report Day 1

I unregrettably spent last week in San Francisco, but the talk of the storms moving up to Tahoe had me antsy to get back up to the Sierra. I left SF yesterday in clear conditions slowed down by only a few nervous drivers.

On the way up the hill, I stopped at REI to buy a cheap pair of snowboard bindings (K2 Cinch's) to get my old snowboard turning. I've spent the last few years teaching myself to telemark ski, but last year K and I had some friends in town and I rented a snowboard. In those couple hours I came to question my motives behind telemarking. A old colleague of mine, a die hard telemark skier, wore a sticker on his truck like a badge of honor that read, "If it was easy they would call it snowboarding." But is 'hard' reason enough?

It is fair to say that I attained a better than average skill as a telemark skier, but after a couple runs on the snowboard I felt a freedom motion that I never attained telemarking. I telemarked to make a point with myself, and ultimately telemarking is just a way more physical way of skiing. It is still skiing. Snowboarding is not skiing. Telemarking is so mentally and physically challenging I rarely could get myself out of the moment to just enjoy what I was doing. I was always thinking about the next turn, gasping for breath, and hoping that there wasn't a rock just below the surface of the snow. I enjoy the challenge of telemark skiing, but for me, it lacks the bliss and freedom of the snowboard.

This year I made a pact with myself to not go to the mountain to make a point, but to enjoy what I was doing.

When I arrived at the Shackteau (why I let that domain go I will never know) last night, I was surprised that there was only 6 inches of snow in the drive that my Honda snowblower made short work of.

The weather was warm this morning, and I took my time mounting my new bindings and picking up my pass. Interestingly, Heavenly's passes have RFID technology which allows you to go through the line while your pass is tucked safely in your jacket. I headed up to Stagecoach and found very thin early season base depths. Don't get me wrong, I think Heavenly is an overly maligned mountain, but when they say they are "rocking" the best conditions in Tahoe what the really means is there is a lot of rocks showing and you better bring your rocking rock skis.

So here's the condition summary: very thin bases on the lower mountain to the Stagecoach lift. Slightly more snow up top, but still very early season conditions persist. Snow surface at the top of the mountain was decent machine packed (probably considered pow on the East Coast). The weather was above freezing at lower elevations today, but at the top of the mountain it was snowing and blustery. I'm hoping this next storm system (it is currently raining at 6700' in Tahoe) will bring some dense snow to set up a base at higher elevations.