Chris Baus

South Tahoe Ski Conditions , part 1

What a week. On the back end of the huge, but warm storm that blew through the Sierra last weekend was a foot plus of light, dry powder.

I was surprised when I showed up at the tram @heavenly on Monday morning to see folks already ripping up all the snow on the Face. I messed up the opening. The lifts were running holiday hours – 8:30 open – rather than the typical mid week opening of 9:00. Good powder days are fairly rare on the Face because of the low elevation, so this was bummer.

I threw on my boots and ran up to the tram which was already boarding. I couldn’t bring myself to look out the window and watch what was happening to all the new snow.

When I got to the top of the Face, I strapped up and started traversing out in what is now marked on the map as “East Bowl Woods.” It didn’t take long before I above some untracked lines. Recommendation: if you are traversing, and you see a good line, take it. I think there is some sort of grass-is-greener herd mentality that happens on traverses. The longer you traverse the more elevation you lose.

So I nosed down and was ripping up my own lines through the light layer of new snow. As I reached the bottom of East Bowl, I started bottoming out, hitting the now frozen layers of Cement underneath. I cut over to the chair and headed back up to do it again.

The Face is a elevator shaft and classic ski run of near constant pitch top to bottom. It isn’t weak-in-the-knees steep, but it is consistent. The only bump runs that beat it pitch per length in Tahoe are on the West Face of KT-22 @squaw, but let’s stick to its merits on a powder day.

Heavenly gets a bad rap as not being a true skiers mountain, and some of that is deserved. Heavenly doesn’t have the in-your-face, chest-beating expert terrain of Squaw, Kirkwood, and Alpine, but there is some pretty damn respectable terrain if you know where to look.

One of the places to look is climbers right of the Gunbarrel chair. The old lift line used to run higher on the ridge than the current quad. There is a ski patrol hut there now. On a powder day, when everybody is running over themselves to get to the less steep terrain off of Sky Chair, spend ten minutes to climb to the top of the ridge above the Face.

I post holed (sometimes up to my waist) my way to the top of the ridge on Monday (wishing I had my telemark skis). My time was rewarded with foggy goggles and nearly untracked snow. One other boarder went by as I strapped up, and that was the only person I saw up there. So I headed down to the best run of the year which I navigated with dead reckoning as I could hardly see a thing through my steamed up goggles.

At the bottom I headed to the car and called it a day. 3 1800’ powder runs and I made it to the office by 10AM.

Note to Heavenly. I wish the lifts would open at 8:30 everyday.