Kirkwood, CA 3/24-25/2017

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Kirkwood, CA 3/24-25/2017

Postby tseeb » Fri Mar 24, 2017 9:44 pm

The answer is always Kirkwood, even if they had to close their good lifts during this day due to too much new snow and wind leading to avalanche danger. I considered going to Diamond Peak as they were having their UnBirthday which gives free skiing to those with birthdays between their closing date of April 23 (a week later than Kirkwood!! - even though they are located in Tahoe's Banana Belt and required snowmaking to be viable when they opened in the 60s) and their scheduled opening of 12/14. But with temps being above freezing at South Lake Tahoe and my other high-altitude choice, Heavenly, reporting 45-55 mph winds with 80 mph gusts and more holds than opens, I drove the 35 miles to Kirkwood. It had started snowing when I left SLT about 8:25 and US-50 already had chain control, but sign said chains were not required on 88 until after Kirkwood. They were required before Kirkwood by the time I got to 8500+' Carson Pass and, after passing one slow car in passing lane, I got stuck behind a snowplow until he turned off at maintenance facility before Caple Lake.

I was on lift at 9:30 and took a couple of laps on Cornice, using the 30+ mph wind to push me across flat to Sentinel. There was 1-2" mostly untracked new on my first run and it was building and blowing in quickly. I took a couple of laps on upper Zachary's, then cut into Janek's for more untracked and took one more Sentinel lap to Timber Creek chair. I moved to Wall chair, where I was rewarded with two semi-long stops and very poor visibility at the top. Once the visibility improved, the snow was very good. My next time up the wind had increased to the point that I hoped a gust did not hit when I went past the last couple of towers, including the one that is over 100' tall. To get down the top, I had to follow the rope line and when I turned I was never sure if I was dropping off a mogul or onto firm snow, but I made it down to where visibility improved. I skied nearly untracked Waterfall and watched a couple of guys come down (very wide this year) Pencil Chute before going in to warm up and dry off from 1130-12 as I was starting to soak through a little. Border then skier in chute that is usually narrower than my skis.
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After break, I went up Reut and skied untracked that was 6" deep in gullies, then 3-4" most of the rest of the way down. I skied over to Cornice, but saw they were not loading and went to Solitude where others said Cornice (and I quickly leaned the Wall) were on snow safety hold as there had been some slides. I skied (long ride for short run) Reut many more times, including one where I followed patroller across Norms Nose before turning into a steep gully where I saw some sluffing. I eventually went to the car to change jackets as the soft-shell I was wearing was getting soaked. I thought about moving to Heavenly to take some late afternoon laps on Canyon but re-checked their texts and saw it was on hold. I ended up with about 10 laps on Reut before they stopped loading it shortly after 3. I finished my day with low angle powder from Solitude and some laps on high-speed but even lower angle Timber Creek.

I quit about 3:50 with 21K. Leaving Kirkwood, they were holding traffic going W over the Carson Spur with estimated opening of 6-6:15 PM for avalanche control. My drive to SLT was almost exactly an hour due to a couple of people stuck on the road, others with 4WD going slow and a couple of people with chains going really slow.
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There was almost nothing on my SUV about 2 pm. First floor of condos hidden by snow.
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There is not much of a hill next to road here, but there are stairs leading to lodge that is hidden behind 30' drift.
(to be continued)
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tseeb
 
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Re: Kirkwood, CA 3/24-25/2017

Postby tseeb » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:34 pm

3/25 I was in short line when they started loading chair 7 a few minutes before 9. I took one lap on 7 and should have stayed there for a few more because after going up it with at_nyc from EpicSki, we skied across to chair 11 which did not start loading until about 9:30. All chairs out of Kirkwood's base, except too flat chair 1 were held for avalanche control. Patrol was still bombing and got some of the 6" reported (only 1" overnight) to slide including the ridge past Sentinel and some of Eagle Bowl and the Backside. From photos of Wall just after it opened, it also slid.
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We skied a couple of laps on chair 11/The Reut, then moved to chair 10/The Wall where we down-climbed about twenty feet into Notch Chute before putting our skis back on. I thought the hike was in pretty good condition and have seen it a lot worse, but it was probably a little more than at_nyc is used to doing, especially without knowing what was below. The snow below the hiking was more crusted that expected, but after watching some very young extreme skiers with instructor brave a cornice, we found better snow approaching and between trees in Wagon Wheel Bowl. The late start had hurt the new snow as sun was very strong. (This girl took too long as we waited a few minutes - previous boy was too fast for me to get him dropping it)
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We did one more lap on The Wall, finding a good entrance to skiers left of main entrance, then we skied some good snow where Eagle Bowl wraps around to more N-facing. We got past most the very long chair 2 line by getting into nearly empty singles line, then skied down and found left side of maze for chair 4 empty. There was lightly tracked and very lightly crusted snow just looker's right of the chair and it got less crusty by going further left into gully less exposed to the sun. Next time up we poled across the top of the Wave, which had a lot of slide debris below the cornice. I did not go far enough past end of cornice as my entrance broke off a 1+' thick piece of it where I entered.
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This is at_nyc skiing past and below the Wave.
1410AprilBelowWave.JPG
Snow below that was lightly tracked but did not ski that deep until we went into trees along right to skiers right where we found a couple of short untracked pitches. Chair 4 had a lot of short stoppages and must have been ending a longer one when we got to the bottom so we bypassed long line and went up chair 3, then did short hike to and went up steep Vista T-bar. The W-facing off the T-bar was still good and may have been the best, nearly untracked and most consistent, run of the day. We went up chair 2 and skied Whiskey Slide, then poled into High Whiskey where lower angle W-facing moderately tracked snow was sun affected, but skied well and then found nearly untracked lower down.

From far away, I looked at independently owned 7800', but deck looked packed so we went into Monte Wolfe's where we found a place to sit, but line to get into cafeteria was out past the cash registers. It finally went down enough for at_nyc to get a soup, but then they closed a cash register so there was a long wait to pay. When we went back out after 2, I put on my sunglasses as it seemed very bright compared to inside (it was my first day skiing without yellow goggles going back to at least Bachelor - 12 ski days ago), but we were surprised that it had clouded over and started to cool enough that at_nyc added a layer. We skied a groomer on The Reut to Cornice and heard band playing between two lodges and I wondered if outside BBQ may have been a better choice for lunch.

We went up Cornice and at some point it began to snow lightly. The untracked snow on Sentinel had all been skied out way earlier, baked by early, hot late-March CA sun and had begun to refreeze and did not ski as well as expected. We also tried skiing the other side of Cornice lift and found Monte Wolfe a little less skied and better, but still difficult until on lower angle groomer.

We next did the direct route to chair 4, using chairs 10 and 2, getting there a little before it closed at 3:30. We skied into Thunder Saddle and besides difficult snow (baked, then skied out, then partially refrozen), visibility was marginal. The main bowl exiting Thunder Saddle was better as it had been packed down by skier traffic. We finished out day with chair 5 to get to where we parked by chair 7 which we loaded after 4 pm for a quick lap. Even though I started before 9 and quit after 4, my watch only counted 18.5K. On the way out we drove by still smoking ruins of a cabin that probably had exploded after a gas leak. Heavenly may have been just a good choice this day and would have saved about 70 miles of driving. Following picture was posted by ski_northamerica in Tahoe thread on EpicSki. I asked for permission to post it and what time they got in line to post picture taken about 9:40.
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Last edited by tseeb on Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kirkwood, CA 3/24-25/2017

Postby tseeb » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:17 am

I meant to include pictures I took of cabin that blew up, evidently from a gas explosion. See http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/priori ... -mountain/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; for a little more info.

I went by it after my friend, whose family has a cabin with similar parking situation (plowed pull-out with 10+' wall to climb to cabin this year) a street or two away texted me about it. We had noticed smoke from that direction earlier, but it looked further away in roadless area between Highway 50 and 88 and we hoped it was not connected to military plane that flew slowly and not much above treetops over Kirkwood in the morning.

The other excitement during the day was helicopter landing in the meadow about 3 PM, which probably meant someone needed a fast ride to hospital.
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3961CabinGone.JPG
3962CabinGone.JPG
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