Monthly Archives: March 2011

Tahoe Skiing in a Huge Storm

I was skiiing in the Tahoe area from March 24th through the 27th. While I was there the various mountains were inundated with some 100 inches of new snow. To say it was an epic ski adventure is to put it mildly. It was epic on a grand scale.

I arrived on Wednesday night after picking up some buddies in the Sacramento airport. We drove over highway 50 through a constant blizzard. The next morning we headed to Homewood ski area, but we had to take the long way around the lake due to highway 89 being closed just South of south lake Tahoe.

We finally arrived at Homewood and started skiing its 30 plus new inches of light cold snow. I have never skied Tahoe and it was quickly apparent I was in for a treat.

Homewood wasn’t actually steep enough for the amount of snow they had, but we were able to maximize our fun by sticking to the steepest runs we could find. It was a good kickoff to the Tahoe trip.

Many beers later and many lost funds at the casinos led us to Squaw Valley ski resort the following day. Squaw had received a paltry 45 inches of new snow over 24 hours! 45 inches? That’s taller than my 8-year-old son!

We got there bright and early. It was still snowing constantly and the wind was whipping around. The sounds of bombs going off for avalanche control made it seem like we were skiing in a combat zone.

Only about one-third of the mountain was open due to the avalanche danger, but it was such incredible snow it didn’t matter. I was very impressed with the terrain that was open. Steep chutes, perfectly spaced trees, awesome cliffs, this place has it all and I didn’t even see the most extreme stuff.

We mostly skied the Red Dog side of the mountain but we also got some nice turns off of KT22. It was simply an awesome day of powder skiing, a day I’ll never forget. I can’t wait to return to Squaw Valley and explore the rest of the mountain, it looks amazing.

The next day we skied Kirkwood, which had received another 20 inches overnight. Once again only about half the mountain was open but once again it didn’t matter. We skied fresh tracks all day long. It was snowing and blowing so hard that our tracks from the previous run would be gone by the time we returned.

We skied our brains out at Kirkwood. We launched off cliffs with abandon, what was gonna happen? It was all soft landing with that much new snow.

This was our third day of skiing and my legs were feeling it. I love the fatigue that comes over a person after a bunch of great ski days. The body feels worked but happy.

Our final day was at Alpine Meadows. Most of the mountain wasn’t open and the day was actually pretty gnarly. It was extremely windy, and getting warmer. By noon the falling snow was taking on a decidedly wet form. The visibility was crap, we were wet and tired.

We ended up leaving around 1pm. I’ll have to ski Alpine again someday because I really didn’t get to this time. The snow was good, but the conditions were miserable.

My first adventure at Tahoe was an awesome one, but I’d like to come back here when the weather isn’t raging just so I can see the whole mountain.

Believe it or not I only got one glimpse of the lake from the mountains. The classic views you see in photos of the Tahoe area, I never saw.

The ‘keep Tahoe blue’ posters you see? As far as I could tell the lake was slate black and covered with fog and blowing snow.

I love Tahoe and can’t wait to return. All in all an awesome trip during an awesome storm.

Illinois River: The Green Wall

Last April we lucked out and hit the Illinois river in Oregon on a weekend of sun and perfect water levels. The gauge at Kerby was reading 1800 CFS and holding steady.

There were ten of us in the group, most in rafts, some in kayaks. It was a mostly uneventful trip (as much as an Illinois trip can be uneventful).

The Green Wall, however was not uneventful but full of excitement and intrigue.

My wife and I hadn’t been down the Illinois since she was pregnant with our first, ten years ago. Now the boys were old enough to be left at the grandparents’ house for a few days while we did the river.

The river hasn’t changed much in ten years with one notable exception…the Green Wall. Oh it’s still nasty and mean looking, you still enter it the same way, push through the holes at the same spots, but the lower section has changed considerably.

It used to be that once you were through the center ledge hole section, you were home free. There were some big jumbled waves below and there was a chance of being pushed into the wall on the bottom right, but there was little chance of flipping.

With this in mind, we scouted the rapid for an hour, exhaustively looking at the different lines and currents, figuring out land marks and spots we needed to be in order to hit the holes just right.

We failed to look at the very bottom section, however, thinking it was still just waves. It looked no different from above than it ever had, so I didn’t scout it.

Melyssa and I were the first to get the guts up to go. We walked back along the slippery trail to our raft, made sure everything was secure, took deep breaths and pushed off.

I was rowing and I hit everything perfectly, right where I wanted to. After I slipped past the center ledge hole I think I even let out a whoop.

I was grinning ear to ear keeping the boat straight for the upcoming lower section waves, when I noticed there was something different. Those weren’t looking like benign waves ahead, it looked like there was a distinct and nasty horizon line approaching hiding something deep and vicious.

green wall oregon
Creative Commons License photo credit: Northwest Rafting Company

I had just a second to straighten the boat and dig my oars in with all I had before I dropped into a massive boat eating hole. Melyssa disappeared in front of me as the bow slammed into the mass of water. I held onto the oars leaning into the mighty river with all I had.

We stalled for an instant in the hole, then finally (it seemed an eternity) we punched through and emerged safely on the other side.

After everyone saw our run they all ran down to the lower section and scouted the hole. It’s not easy to avoid and most of our group hit it. the key is hitting it head on without any angle.

My oldest brother hit it with a slight angle and it nearly corkscrewed him upside down. His raft tipped up to about 70 degrees, dumped his front passenger, then settled back down.

Our most inexperienced oarsman hit it with a bit more angle and his 16 foot Avon whipped around like a boat half its size and he did a 42 second hole ride. His boat looked like a toy as it whipped him back and forth. He lost all his oars, and finally when the river tired of it, spit him out upright.

A group that caught up with us while we were scouting wasn’t so lucky, out of 5 boats 2 flipped in the nasty boat eater.

Were planning another Illinois river trip this year and you can bet I’m going to scout the bottom of the Green wall much more carefully this time.

Rogue Permits Are Out

It’s March which means those boaters who had the foresight to send in Rogue River Permit applications back in January and February will find out whether or not they were chosen.

rogue river
Creative Commons License photo credit: andrea dunlap

It’s March 5th now and lo and behold my wife got one! The happy news came in the mail. We did a happy dance knowing we’d get at least one rogue river trip in this summer. We called all our fellow boaters and filled them in on the great news.

I know it sounds like I’m making a huge deal out of this, but for us it really is. I’ve been putting my name into the lottery since I was eighteen years old and I’ve never gotten a permit. My wife, same thing. We figured there was something conspiring against us, but now the curse is broken; our family actually got a permit.

Our lack of success in the past doesn’t mean we haven’t gone down the permitted section of the Rogue, far from it, we’ve always been able to get on through cancellations, but obtaining a permit is so much easier.

Now we can actually plan our trip down to the last detail. We know in March that the week of August 2nd we’ll be on the river.

We can invite the people we want, plan our meals, our gear, everything. Our friends will have plenty of notice to get time off from work so we’ll have the exact crew we want to enjoy the trip.

We didn’t put permits in for any other rivers, but with our luck changing, maybe next year we’ll apply for some Idaho rivers like the middle fork of the Salmon.

Anyway, we know where we’ll be in August: on the beautiful rogue river.

Good luck to all you other boaters out there…if you haven’t heard from the Rogue lottery yet, you’re probably out of luck. Time to think about cashing in on some cancellations but don’t look at August 2nd, were not giving up our spots for anything.