Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series
Part 5: interview with Carl Hlavenka, ski patroller with Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol and California Winter Search and Rescue Team North
Photo Credit: Carl Hlavenka
Background timeline context
The boom in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and other snow-sports was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as ski resorts started closing down like falling dominoes starting in March of 2020 as state and local counties mandated ‘stay at home’ (SIP) orders as coronavirus outbreaks spiked.
Winter season 2020/21 will likely see similar trends especially pronounced if resorts are unable to implement effective protocols of limiting on-site visitors’ capacity, and social distancing especially indoors in common areas which will result in COVID infection outbreaks resulting in resorts’ closures.
Of particular concern is that finally CDC acknowledges that the coronavirus infection transmission is airborne by aerosols which means it is highly contagious. This fact does not bode well so we’ll see how this flu season and winter months play out.
Back to our topic, our backcountry Q&A feature looks at backcountry from a range of diverse perspectives, from an amateur to expert backcountry skier, from a ski shop small business retailer to backcountry touring guide, these Q&A series provide some key insights and also we’ll list resources to consider for avalanche safety training that is critical to stay safe in the backcountry. Most importantly, we list key resources to connect you with folks who share a passion and love for the backcountry.
Part 5 Q&A interview with interview with Carl Hlavenka, backcountry ski patroller..
Could you tell us a little about yourself, how you got into backcountry (BC) snow sports?
I started backcountry skiing in order to extend my backpacking season. I love exploring the mountains all year round.
My friend Bob created this SF Backcountry Skiers, a FB group, because he loves people and human powered travel in the mountains. The majority of the members are in the Bay Area but I’d guess a not insignificant number are in the rest of CA and the world.
What’s your observations in regards to backcountry snow sports folks from around the world visiting Tahoe/Sierra Nevada?
I’m sure folks from around the world are visiting the BC here but it’s hard to plan ahead of time in California for good snow conditions due to the recent droughts.
Would BC visitors be able to connect with your FB group BC folks to freeski/ride with when they join your group?
Yes and I believe they occasionally do. As long as they have all the proper safety training and everyone communicates their own skills and goals.
How does a newbie get started in BCin three essential steps?
1) Learn to ski/ride a split-board
2) Take avalanche and wilderness first aid training
3) Learn to to read and interpret a topographical map and use a compass and how to be comfortable in all weather conditions, including an emergency overnight in the snow.
What are just the bare essential set-up for BC skiing and for split-boarding?
Avalanche training, backcountry gear: beacon, shovel and probe. Tech or tele bindings, boots and skis.
Your recommended gear and manufacturers with a success track record of building solid skis and or boards?
I love Voile. Good skis, prices, and made in the USA.
Can you recommend avalanche training outfits and mountain guides in your locally/in Tahoe/in Reno?
I highly recommend the small group instruction offered by Richard Bothwell. Super thorough, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and creative teacher.
What is the takeaway message you’d like to get out to newbies about the joy of snow sports and the importance of Avy training, on-going BC education and connecting with mentors, ski buddies for safety?
The training like Avalanche training is most important and, other than maybe whitewater swift water rescue, essential training to enter this sport. It is easy to literally, and accidentally, get in over your head.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Have fun. And don’t boot pack my skin track 😉
What would you like to add your interview Bio/credits/link(s)/share a few photos/video?
I’m a backcountry ski patroller with Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol and California Winter Search and Rescue Team North. I encourage others to join us @ Tbsp.org
Part 1 Backcountry skiing Q&A interview with Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer who got into backcountry skiing and loves it from the start; she has four winters of experience.
Read our Q&A with Greg of California Ski Company, a retail store specializing in ski, backcountry, and touring gear and service based in Berkeley, CA.
Interview with Robert Shattuck, founder of San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (SFBS) Community on Facebook Groups.
Interview with Richard Bothwell, Backcountry Touring Guide and Director of the Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC)
Interview with Shane Robinson Owner & Lead Guide at Graybird Guiding based out of Baker Mt, WA
Backcountry Skiing, Snow-Sports Resources
✔ San Francisco Backcountry Skiers Facebook Group: ‘San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (and Riders) is a resource and inspiration for people in the San Francisco area (and beyond) who are interested in backcountry skiing and riding. SFBS welcomes both experienced and aspiring backcountry skiers and riders.’ Membership type: free, public group. 3.3k members. Visit their FB group page.
✔ SnowPals.org is a non-traditional snow-sports club for busy Bay Area professionals. Join SF Bay Area professionals to expand your circle of ski and ride buddies (resort based and backcountry), btw, that’s how we came up with our name: Snow (Snow-Sports) + Pals. Membership type: one-time paid membership fee of $20; join SnowPals. Read members’ intros to get an idea who joins. Founded in 1999 by a small group of friends; we are now 8,249 members and growing. Celebrating our 21st year of connecting folks to expand their circle of snow sports activity partners.
✔ Sierra Avalanche Center’s education resources where you can get the backcountry safety education and hands on training
✔ Lake Tahoe Backcountry Ski Topographic Maps and Guidebook
✔ California Ski Company in Berkeley is one of the top ski shop retailer for ski gear for sale and rentals, plus boot fitting and equipment service. Cal Ski Co is a ‘specialty ski shop focused on ski equipment sale and rental since 1989. They sell and rent equipment for both Resort and Backcountry Ski Touring. Their team of expert ski boot fitters are the best in the business. They repair and tune about anything that slides on snow. Looking for a job? Cal Ski Co is currently hiring as of October 29, 2020. Full-time and part-time employment available: job openings, ski tech and boot-fitter. Experience is desirable but not necessary. The only criteria is that you are a skier. Interested or know of someone who is? Email resumes to .’
✔ Backcountry and Outback Adventures for Telemark and Randonee Ski Rentals, Fremont, CA and Larkspur, CA – Outback Adventures is a comprehensive outdoor adventure guide service, rental shop, and paddlesports and nordic ski specialty retailer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
✔ Sequoia National Park Lodging WUKSACHI LODGE
Located in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, Wuksachi Lodge is a modern lodge with 102 guestrooms. It offers a cocktail lounge, a full service restaurant and both a retail and ski shop. At an elevation of 7,050 ft. (1,980 m), Wuksachi Lodge is only 4 miles away from the Giant Forest Museum.
Delaware North Parks & Resorts offers multiple services like overnight accommodations, retail, food and beverage, etc. at Kings Canyon National Park in the area of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Limited Internet is available in some areas of the main lodge. Wuksachi Lodge is open throughout all the seasons.
At an elevation of 6,500 ft (1,980 m), the Grant Grove Cabins is located in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It offers 6 types of cabins; some are even opened all year. Main attractions like a sequoia grove, gifts shop, markets and restaurants are half a mile (800m) away from the Grant Grove Cabins. Open: All Year (limited in the winter)
✔ PEAR LAKE WINTER HUT
Managed by the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Pear Lake Winter Hut is a rustic hut of 10 bunk beds that opens during winter and requires reservations but only for wilderness skiers who travel to Pear Lake during the cold season. At an elevation of 9,200 ft. the hut sits high above Lodgepole. This hut includes a wood-pellet stove. To get to it, you need to go through six miles on skis or snowshoes. Reservations can be made online or by phone: 559-565-3759.
Got a key backcountry resource not listed here that you’d like to share? Contact . Advance thanks for sharing.
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