Sunday, March 27, 2011

Snowbank envy

***WARNING: if you don't like shoveling snow, this could be boring***

Some people love snow. It's as if frozen H20 was spawned deep in their gene lines, programming their brain to honor the white fluff. They often obsess over incoming Pacific lows and highs. Late nights are spent in a death stare on SNOTEL sites and webcams, hitting refresh on the hour. ScanninLinkg eyes gaze from the window,searching for signs of an inbound front.

I've got a few friends like this and I might even have some maniacal tendencies towards snow. With much of the West having above average snowfall, I can't help but get excited. As I kept tabs on the epic dump in the Lake Tahoe area, I thought about a good friend of mine. He inspired me back in 1994 when he left our local SoCal mountains for the epicenter of California skiing, Squaw Valley. He lived within walking distance to the base of KT and immersed himself in the Tahoe snow scene. I first visited him during the monster winter of 1994, the highest season snowfall total on record of 662 inches. This record now shattered in 2011, with 691" at the present day. Time passed and his love of snow morphed along with his life and family. But when one has a passion for snow, he can't hide it. Ralph took up a job with the parks and recreation department of a town on the North shore of Tahoe, with snow removal being a primary responsibility.

I'll be the first one to admit I can get a little weird when it comes to plowing, shoveling, and snow-blowing. I have a strange fascination with the process. You get a sense of accomplishment when you move snow. The reward is instant and clean. This winter in Missoula we had the opportunity to shovel quite often. I enjoyed the seemingly daily workouts of clearing the driveway. Sculpting the berms and crafting mini-ski hills for my daughters. I once read somewhere that you can judge a man by the way he shovels his driveway. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but it's something to ponder.

When it comes to sculpted berms and snowbanks I can't hold a shovel to what my friend Ralph has been up against in Tahoe. In some areas they received over 100" in 4 days. Sugar Bowl now has a 303" base!!! I checke in with Ralph the other day and said he was beat down from snowblowing so much and had never seen that much snow. He's having to shovel out around the base of the house to make room for the next storms.
The picture above is from Skier666, taken on the Carson Spur near Kirkwood, CA.

I'm envious of his massive snowbanks, mine have all but disappeared. The relative monster of a snowbank in our drive that stood 5' tall most of the winter is now a mere dirty patch of white. I love seeing those high straight walled banks, stepping back and admiring your work. Heck, I once even asked a friend if I could come out to house and snowblow the 3 feet of new snow off his drive. Yeah I know, I've got problems.

Shoveling is a great way to clear my mind, almost meditative. I dunno.....Maybe we're on the path to enlightenment.

For a great shoveling poem, check out Shoveling Snow With Buddha.

Viva La Nina.

This picture to the right is from Soda Springs, that's a house under all that.

Ralph's tunnel out to his cars

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Skijoring ('skē-jȯr-iŋ) is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning ski driving.

Red Lodge, Montana

Monday, March 14, 2011


I came across the video over on StokeLab, which is a great resource for its namesake. The video shows a couple in their mid-seventies still having fun in "da powder, eh". Truly inspiring to see people that age still out there and having fun. They're not just going through the motions, grinding out groomers, they're actually skiing some challenging terrain. Wow, just wow. Makes me think about where I want to be at that age.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stuck wide open

Lets just say you knew of a place where the powder was deep, the people were few and the price was right. Two guys thought that sounded pretty nice decided to seize the moment and time a potential incoming storm just right. Packing was simple, requiring not much more than your average backcountry ski outing + 3 days worth of food and drink.

Logistical issues showed up early. Before the sleds were even loaded on the trailer, there was already an issue. A sticky throttle on one sled brought the excitement down a few notches. Upon pulling the start rope the sled lurched forward instantly. Some lube, cussing and generally banging on things under the hood seemed to fix the throttle. At least temporarily.

An hour later, the sleds were unloaded and crossed over state-line. Both sleds ran fast along the trail. Silence, deep snow and trail breaking meant the skiers were one step closer to their goal. The gear was dropped in the cozy accommodations and a thigh deep trail breaking session began. Once established, the same track was used over and over the next 3 days. Perfectly spaced old growth giants lent well to the knee to thigh deep untracked powder.

All that was left afterward was to fire up the sleds and rip back to the trucks. Easier said than done. One cannot truly know your ingenuity or MacGyverness until you are stranded 15 miles from nowhere in the middle of winter. That same sticky throttle reared its head and more swearing was directed at the engine compartment. When one guy was about to give up, the other stepped up and pulled a huge trick out of his ass. Who knew that a piece of p-cord duct taped to a throttle cables could control the speed of a snowmobile? Cheers to hanging it out on the line in the name of powder.