NorCal Ski Fest is looking to add more deals as the snow falls so keep checking back!
Quantities are very limited based on NorCal Ski Festival contract agreements with the respective resorts; buy as a gift or for yourself as we expect to sell out especially with back to back snow storms inbound for Lake Tahoe starting on Christmas day and into the following week – the National Weather Service forecast for the next seven days:
Part 8 – Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series
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.
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.
With the impact of resort closures due to the COVID pandemic from mid-March of this year, can you describe from your observations if there’s an increase in demand for backcountry skiing/boarding/snow-sports?
There’s been a definite uptick in people’s interest in the backcountry ever since COVID shut down lifts back in March, and I expect that this season will be the busiest yet for ski touring in Tahoe. Although the season has barely started, I’ve already seen an increase in demand for maps this year, which I suspect is a decent proxy for the increase in backcountry usage we’re about to see!
How did you get into creating Tahoe/Sierra topographical maps?
I’ve always been a map nerd – you don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent looking at CalTopo and Google Earth. After several years of backcountry skiing in Tahoe, I went up to Whistler and was pleasantly surprised to find that John Baldwin had made some incredible maps for touring in the area. That made me realize that nothing like that existed for Tahoe. There isn’t even a Tahoe-specific guidebook (though there are a few guidebooks which include some descents by the lake), much less anything that you can take out into the field. How were new ski tourers supposed to know where to go?
How many years have you been doing this and what do you find rewarding about it?
I’m in my third year of making maps now, and it’s been a rewarding process from start to finish. The whole undertaking has been a huge learning experience, which I always enjoy, but the biggest reward is when customers reach out to me and tell me how my maps have helped them have their best days in the backcountry. Ski touring has brought me so much joy, and it’s great to be able to help others get that same experience.
In terms of backcountry experience, what types of BC experience do you have? Do you go to the backcountry with a few friends or by yourself?
I don’t know how many hundreds of backcountry days I have under my belt now, but I’ve done everything from traverses to steep couloir skiing, pow days to ski mountaineering descents, and springtime corn runs to early winter bike-to-hike-to-ski days. That’s one of the joys of backcountry skiing – there are so many different ways to do it that it always keeps you interested.
I’ve done a handful of solo days, but I prefer to go out in a group of 2-4 people. I find that makes for the best combination of safety in numbers without causing too much groupthink when considering avalanche conditions.
What do you like about the backcountry?
Skiing pow without the anxiety of beating the lines at the resort certainly comes to mind first! But there’s also something enjoyable about the physical challenge of big days out. And of course getting into proper nature, away from the craziness of the resorts is a huge plus too. When I got into backcountry skiing, it was so that I could ski pow days after the resorts had been skied out, but it turns out that even the uphill is fun!
What was the most challenging part for you in creating these topo maps? How long did it take you to complete one coverage area section?
When I started the project I already had years of GPS data from my watch stored on my computer, so I thought it would be easy to just stick it on a map and go. That turned out not to be the case – there’s a ton of additional work that goes into getting things looking good, and even once the maps are printed and ready to go it takes a lot to maintain the website, find retailers, keep up with customer service, and try to give back to the community by doing things like running fundraisers with the Sierra Avalanche Center (and this winter also the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center). It took me about 8 months of full-time work to get the first map done, but after working on my processes I can now do that in about half the time. That of course doesn’t include the years of backcountry skiing to know where all the lines are – but thankfully that’s the fun part!
Name three favorite backcountry spots you like that’s not crowded?
I’m a huge fan of Herlan Peak (on the Tahoe: Best of the Rest map), for both tree skiing during storms and steep skiing when things are stable. It doesn’t hurt that you stare straight at the lake most of the time that you’re skiing there. The area around Echo and Angora Peaks has always been a favorite of mine too – it’s stacked with little chutes and couloirs, but doesn’t see nearly as much traffic as nearby Tallac or the West Shore peaks. For my last pick I’ll go with Carson Pass – it can get busy early and late season, but there’s so much terrain down there that it’s always easy to get away from the crowds if you know where to go. There are some huge bowls back there, some fun traverses to do, and of course the Crescent Moon Couloir is one of the best around Tahoe.
Final question: what is it about your backcountry ski topo maps that stands out from other maps available on the net?
First off, I don’t think that anything as comprehensive for ski touring exists on paper or on the net. Between the three paper maps (Tahoe: North, Tahoe: Southwest and West Shore, and Tahoe: Carson Pass) and the one digital-only map (Tahoe: The Best of the Rest) there’s something like 300 ski descents, each of which includes an approach (or several different approaches) and distance and elevation gain statistics. Then there’s the self-contained guide photos and text on the back. With about 16-20 of the top descents detailed with descriptions and color photos, the maps make it easy to get into the backcountry without needing to look up additional info elsewhere.
Would you like to add anything else?
If this is your first year in the backcountry, do yourself a favor and get educated before going out. Take an avalanche course, go out with more experienced friends, and always err on the side of caution. And if you’re the kind of heathen that bootpacks or pisses in the skintrack, may Ullr smite you with breakable crusts, sastrugi, and death cookies on all of your backcountry adventures from this day until the end of time!
Get the Inside Scoop on the best spots for skiing, splitboarding Tahoe Sierra backcountry:
Five backcountry topographical maps to choose from:
✔ 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.
✔ 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.
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.
✔ Olympic Valley 2019-20 Ski Lease 3BR, 2 1/2 bath 1960’s vintage cabin with large communal open space, a king bedroom, double, and bunk room. E-Z access, only 10-minute drive to Squaw and Alpine Meadows – details & contact.
Heavenly Ski Run Townhouse Sleeps 6
✔ Heavenly Ski Run 2019-20 ski lease; everything is NEW and modern decor! gourmet kitchen, new appliances, new bathrooms, new washer/dryer, new carpet, new beds and linens. 950 sq feet townhouse with 2 bedrooms 1 1/2 bath: 1 queen bed, 1 full and 2 twin – details & contact.
Lake Tahoe Area Vacation Rentals + Rentals Available for Seasonal Ski Lease
✔ Condo at Village at Squaw Valley. Skip the daily traffic this winter at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. Ski lease available for lovely condo at base of Squaw in The Village at Squaw Valley complex, a two-minute walk to ski lifts. Sleeps six, 1.5 bathrooms. Steps away from fitness center and two outdoor hot tubs. Includes underground parking for one vehicle and two ski lockers. Coin-operated laundry on same floor. One minute walk to free shuttle to Alpine Meadows. Lease term is December 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020. $5,000 per month plus departure cleaning fee – details & contact.
✔ Blue Majestic – Tranquil Tahoe Keys Home$9000
Available to lease is this tranquil, 5 bedroom, 4200 sq. ft., waterfront home, with majestic views of the mountains and the channels, is the perfect location for families and friends to get together for a relaxing visit to South Lake Tahoe. Located just 3 miles from Heavenly, 4.8 miles from the casinos, and 16 miles to Sierra Ski Resort – details & contact.
Snowshoeing is fun, easy and an inexpensive way to get out on the snow around Lake Tahoe to enjoy the great outdoors and partake in nature photography.
How to snowshoe?
Simply attach a pair of snowshoes to your waterproof hiking boots, and you are ready to go. It’s easy; if you can walk, you can snowshoe.
Where to rent or buy snowshoes?
For first timers, rent a pair of snowshoes at REI to try out snowshoeing. If you plan to go often, buy snowshoes at REI’s clearance deals (a quality pair of snowshoes will last you many years) or other sporting goods. Snowshoes are lightweight, easy to put on, and come with claws on the bottom for added hiking traction up and down hills.
Snowshoeing over packed snow is similar to hiking with large feet, but hiking through deep, fresh powder can be a good workout.
What to wear?
Dress in layers with the outer most layer being a waterproof jacket so you can peel off a layer when you warmed up; wear sweat wicking inner shirt, lightweight waterproof gloves, a hat/beanie, and also remember to pack sunglasses, sunblock lotion, water and a snack or lunch. Also bring ski poles to use which will help with stability/balance when trekking up and down hills.
Where to snowshoe in Tahoe? Flume Trail
My favorite spot for snowshoeing where you can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Tahoe is the Flume Trail. The Flume Trail is a 12.9 mile point-to-point trail located near Incline Village, Nevada. A great spot for picnicking is about 1 mile walk in where you can experienced beautiful panoramic views of the lake. Pack and enjoy a picnic lunch while taking in panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. If you are taking your date or significant other, this is as romantic and scenic as you can get for a Tahoe outing. In the off season, mountain biking the Flume trail is a popular activity.
The Flume trailhead starts right behind the Tunnel Creek Cafe at 1115 Tunnel Creek Rd, Incline Village, NV 89451. Follow the blacktop road behind the cafe to the trailhead’s gate. If you eat or buy a drink at the cafe, you can ask to park at the cafe parking free of charge. Otherwise, park across the street for free.
Look for hotels and lodging deals in the vicinity of Incline Village, NV, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, or Crystal Bay. For first time booking, get $25 off Tahoe area hotels.
Good value breakfast deal can be had at the Tahoe Biltmore Lodge, Restaurant, Casino: Bilty’s breakfast goes for $6.25 (served 7 AM to 11 AM) is the best deal which includes three eggs any style with bacon, sausage or ham. Eggs cooked just the way you like, accompanied by hash brown potatoes and your choice of toast. Or stop by on Sundays for their $9.95 all you can eat brunch! After snowshoeing, enjoy Happy Hour 7 days a week 3pm-7pm with $1 Draft Beer $2 Well, $2 Jager shots, and $4 Patron Shots.