The last day of our rail pass, we aimed to make the most of it. We booked a couchette on the overnight luxury train to Sapporo and settled in for a long ride. Saw Mt Fuji at sunset, and the slept through the ride past Fukushima and through the world’s longest undersea tunnel (23km!). Woke in southern Hokkaido, stopped in snowy tracks. We waited for a few hours for a new locomotive, arrived in Sapporo a little late, and eventually made it to Niseko after 25 hours of consecutive travel.
As we got close to the resort, accents and tourists changed, and we felt like we were entering Australia, as apparently a lot of their folks come up here for the winter holidays. Can’t blame them, as the snow is fantastic. Only spending one day at the mountain, but what a day it was. Thigh high light powder, -15C temperatures, and winds gusting hard enough that my beard froze with ice and I had to buy a new pair of goggles. I loved it, but Ruth was less thrilled. Got in 5 or 6 of the best powder runs of my life by following friendly locals into the trees (apparently most Japanese skiers stick to the piste, so the woods were relatively untouched). Will have to come back with my new Megawatts, or at least put them to good use back at home.
Had a super family christmas in the mountains of North Carolina. Got to take Ruth’s dad skiing for the first time on the man-made snow at Appalachian; always fun to ski in jeans.
Had a Spring Break MITOC reunion, with Chris, Greg, Drew, Eric and others. Stayed at a Tahoe “cabin”, really an incredible home we were able to stay in for free. No Camelot for us! There’s more snow here than I’ve ever seen. The moutains got seven-plus feet over the last week. Got up there on Friday night after a long drive, made longer by needing to put on chains, which were entirely unnecessary. I wish CalTrans would let you pass the chain control if you’re a competent winter driver. But the (apparently injury-free) rollover accident we saw indicates that not everyone is…
Went to Alpine on Saturday, which had a tremendous amount of snow, but was incredibly windy. Got stuck at the base of Sherwood when the lift shut down, so we had a nice climb out. Should have gone to Squaw, where our friends had a top ten day. At least we got a comped lift ticket for another day. The walls of the parking lot were 20′ of snow, so there should be plenty left later in the season.
On Sunday we went to Jakes Peak just off Emerald Bay. It’s a classic backcountry run, with a pretty steep skin track right off the bat. I’m a little out of shape, but Chris kept me company in the back. When we got to the top, I was glad to have my new beacon and shovel, as there are several clear avalanche paths. Definitely need that gear out here; and yes Mom, I am going to take a safety course.
Descending was not as epic as you’d think given the amount of snow. The high winds had done their worst, and the surface was pretty slabby for the top third. The middle was quite nice, and then it got a little heavier at the bottom. Took a few tumbles in the soft snow when I couldn’t keep my weight far enough back. Still, I had a better descent than John, whose rented AT gear malfunctioned and so had to walk/shovel ride down 2000 feet. Better luck next time, Gamble.
After one lap, I was too spent to consider another. The boys built a kicker at the side of the road and got some extra vert off the 12 foot drop. Drew called his Mom while sending it, for a thousand extra gnar points .
Got home around 9:30, and launched the new Presente.org site. Not bad for a three day weekend.
Today was one of the top skiing days of my life. Up there with skiing Mt Washington from top to bottom last spring, and the day I skipped school senior year of high school to go to Cannon, and then returned home to find out I had gotten into college.
The last storm dumped 48″, and the resorts and highway 80 were closed on Friday, keeping the good stuff around long enough for us to get up there. The powder was boot-top everywhere, thigh to waist-high in the trees, and the skies were clear and blue. The air was cold by California standards, but the sun was warm. I’m told that in the local vernacular, the conditions were “hella nectar.” I don’t disagree.
Ian and Daniel showed me one of their favorite stashes, just out of bounds on the lake side of Scott mountain. It was less tracked up than the in bounds trails, and held good lines well into the afternoon. My tele technique in the steep and deep is still progressing, but it was hard to look bad in this hero snow. Helped a woman try and find a ski she lost in the trees, but she eventually gave up and said she’d come back and find it in the spring. Returned with John, Boyd and Chris, and did it all over again.
Warning: serious stoke
Ian and Daniel riding
Today was just about perfect. I woke at 5:30 having only slept a few hours, picked up Drew, Greg and Jeff, and headed north. Three hours of driving, and one obligatory stop at Einstein’s later, we were at the Cog Railway base and faced with a crowded parking lot. Seems like other people noticed the recent snowfall and nice weather. No worries, there’s plenty of room on the mountain for everyone.
We ascended the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail, which I hadn’t climbed since I was 12. It’s steeper than I remember, but one of the more direct routes to the summit on the west side. I wasn’t in peak physical condition, thanks to my lack of sleep and thesis belly, but I made it eventually. 3.8 miles, 3700 feet and three hours later, we were at the summit with skis on. Triumphant pictures were taken, and lunch was consumed in the protective windscreen of the oldest building on the summit. We skied the back towards Lakes of the Clouds, harvesting the fresh corn that had softened in the afternoon sun. I stopped to take a nap while the other guys climbed back up for extra laps.
With clouds appearing and shadows starting to creep across our exit path, we decided to pack it in around 3:30. We traversed to Lakes of the Clouds, skiing across the lake surface and down Monroe Brook. We didn’t find the steepest entrance, but the ride was still great. The lower surface was littered with debris from previous avalanches, and I was glad we were here late in the season, when the snow is already condensed. We passed the Nadya Peek memorial brook, where she fell in on this trip last year and noted her absence with a long discussion on PID controls. Got to the car around 5 exhausted, smelly and happy. Three more hours of driving and I was back home, where I collapsed in bed to sleep like the dead. The sign of a day well spent.