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Tahoe Backyard Jaunts, December 2003

RandoGerg skinning up a snow laden Silver Creek.  Mt. Pluto and the Northstar Ski Resort are in the distance.

Day One: Touring with RandoGerg

With a few days free for the Christmas break, I headed up to the Tahoepad with Dana and Lauren. We were joined by Dana's mom, Jerry and my pal Greg (a/k/a Gerg, a/k/a OzeGerg, and soon to be known as "RandoGerg"). Lucky for us, we drove up in decent weather, but it started snowing hard just as we crested Donner Summit. The forecast called for much more to come over the next few days. It was to be a very white Christmas. Owing to the weather and family circumstances, no big backcountry outings were planned. Dana is about 8 months pregnant now and Lauren is at that magical age where she has just enough physical ability to grab everything but not enough judgment to refrain from doing so.

So after spending a day watching DVDs and waiting out the storm on Christmas Eve, we woke on Christmas morning to a perfect present: 24-36 inches of fresh, atypically light and dry white stuff at Squaw Valley. We lift whored for the day, and man was it awesome. Face shots all day, and the Christmas holiday kept the crowds away all morning. We started on KT, then hit the steep shots under the squaw creek chair, then moved up to Granite Chief after the avy control was done. A better day of resort skiing I've not had for a long time.

The next morning it was nice and clear, with forecasted clouds and high winds coming in early afternoon. We were too beaten up to do another $59 lift-served day, so instead we motivated for a jaunt behind the house up towards Silver Peak. Gerg had never been backcountry skiing, but he wanted to check it out. I know he was a little reluctant to follow me on my various mountain adventures after our trip to Point Powell last spring, but this time he seemed eager. "Hey, its only going up behind the house, right?" Fortunately, my buddy AT Anonymous loaned Gerg his randonee rig and soon we were off. Breaking trail through the fresh powder was a chore, but skiing through the loaded trees in the crisp air made us feel alive. We gained the ridge above the house and followed it up to the head of Silver Creek. From there, Lake Tahoe came into sight and we had expansive views over the entire basin. We followed the ridge about halfway to Silver Peak and stopped for lunch. While stopped, the winds picked up and we started to freeze our asses off. Clouds were coming in and the ridge ahead -- already a magnet for winds -- looked quite grim. We made an executive decision to forgo the freezing ridge and instead ski powder back to the house, where hot food and big screen college football awaited us. The run back to the house was blower pow for the first 1,500' (NICE!), with 500' of schwacking below that to get back to my backdoor (not so nice...)

Day Two: Solitary Schralp

Woke up the next day to an absolutely perfect day in the mountains. Cold temps, fresh snow, zero clouds and faint winds. Yum. Despite his impressive inaugural showing on backcountry ski gear, Gerg could not be roused from the couch. So after putting Lauren down for her morning nap, I bid farewell to everyone, fired up the iPod, grabbed my sumos and headed back up yesterday's skin track. Travelling alone, and with the trail already broken, progress was swift. I reached the prior day's turnaround point in about 90 minutes. From there, I followed the ridge up past Silver Spire and onto the summit of Silver Peak. The views up here are astounding. Despite being right next to Squaw Valley, this peak isn't bagged much except by local bc skiers from Bradley Hut and maybe a few intrepid summer hikers. But this is a local gem. An airy summit and great powder runs down through the glades. The views take in virtually every major peak in the Tahoe Basin and a few beyond: Castle Peak in the north, Rose in the East, Freel, Stevens and Pyramid in the South, and Granite Chief and Needle Peak to the West. You can also see the Pine Nut Mountains in Nevada and the Ebbets Pass peaks from here. A nice place to spend a cloudless day.

I spent about 15 minutes up top, snapping photos and tinkering with the frozen pivot points on my friggin' hammerhead bindings (grrrr....). Once all was dialed, I bombed down. It was as good, if not better, than the day before. Cold temps overnight had kept the snow light and dry -- a relative rarity for the Tahoe area. Turn after turn, smiles upon smiles. All the way back to the house. What a day!

Click on the link below for photos to see additional photos.


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