Heed the speed
Following a stretch of blue skies and cold nights, we knew the snow would be hard and fast and got butterflies just thinking about it on the way to Alpine Meadows last week.
Wolverine Bowl, groomed for speed, rolled down the mountain like a big white carpet with corduroy ripples still showing along the outside edges early in the day.
But carving our first turns on snow twice as fast as our previous visits to Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley, our skis tried running away with us and we seemed to forget how to ski fast.
See, every day is different skiing and part of the trick is learning to adjust to changing conditions. But for some reason, like a golf swing or jump shot thatOs working one day then goes south the next, we couldnOt seem to quite get on our skiis.
Knowing that my skiis were on the right feet in the first place, I switched them anyway, trying to break the spell and get the feel.
Then I remembered my first downhill some 20 years ago when it was 50 degrees and slush on training day and a bullet-proof-five-above zero come race day – and a third of the field didn’t finish.
Maybe I was thinking too much and maybe not enough.
After a few runs getting my head straight, I switched my boards back, went back to the basics – stay forward and get on your edges – and just trusted my skis and let them go.
By the end of the day it had all come back to us and we finished up with five consecutive solid non-stops from the top of Summit Six down to the base area, 1,802 feet below.
Aside from the mind games, it turned out to be another great day skiing in the Northern Sierra.
Getting off the Summit Six lift with views of Lake Tahoe to the east was like stepping into a blue and white winter paradise.
“Yaaaaa-Hoooooooo,” hollered a skier busting through the crud off Wolverine Saddle, not far from Ward Peak, which sits at 8,637 feet above sea level.
Skiers trekking the High Traverse toward Idiot’s Delight and beyond cast silhouettes against a sky completely blue except for jet trails and hazy clouds stretched thin across the eastern horizon.
“This day’s perfect,” said Matt Allen from Vacaville, who likes skiing the steeps and off-beats – hidden places and secret chutes only the regulars know about.
“I was expecting hard pack, but this is fabulous,” said Allen of the day’s changing snow conditions which softened up under the afternoon sun.
“And you know we all love powder days,” said Rich Miller, who got a High Five from Allen.
No one has any friends when there’s fresh powder to be skied, the two agreed.
“You don’t wait for nobody,” said a big grinning Miller, who got 36 ski days in last year and is pushing for 50-plus this winter.
“….This is the best place in the world.”
Next week, I’ll be skiing Northstar at Lake Tahoe, a ski resort located six miles from Lake Tahoe’s north shore.
This is a continuing series on skiing in the Northern Sierra by staff writer and former competitive skier Kevin Wiser. The weekly feature appears Thursdays in The Union.
About three miles north of Tahoe City along the Truckee River on State Route 89.
Follow Highway 20 east to Interstate 80, then take the State Route 89-South exit at Truckee, drive 10 miles toward Tahoe City and take a right on Alpine Meadows Road.
Alpine Meadow’s 12 chairs – one six chair, one quad, four triples, five doubles and one Poma – lift skiers and boarders to acres and acres of terrain ranging from easy to most difficult.
Adult lift tickets are $56 for a full day and $44 for a half day. Teens (13-18) pay $42, children (7-12) $10, and kids 6 and under ski for $6. Tickets for seniors (65-69) are $30 and seniors 70 and over pay $8.
With the Alpine Meadows POWDR Card, skiers and boarders ski for $36 on 36 preselected POWDR days. Starting April 7, 2003, until the end of the season, POWDR Card holders ski every day for just $36.
Alpine Meadow’s base lodge restaurants and Mid Mountain Chalet offer food and drink ranging from lattes to microbrews and homemade granola bars to secret recipe barbecue sandwiches.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Another week on the track and another win for Brad Sweet.