Storm clouds over Mt. Tom and other local peaks, early December.

It’s snowing in the Sierra Nevada. Every few days a storm blows in from the Pacific—warm, wet, tropical air mixing with colder air barreling down from the Gulf of Alaska—and depending on the whim of the jet stream, slams into some point along the Cascades or the Sierra.

We’ve pulled the skis out of storage: dusted off spiderwebs and bits of grass, adjusted bindings, smeared hot wax onto neglected ski bases. Gear inventories, not done for a few years, have led to new purchases. Replacing 10-year old avalanche beacons for new ones with improved technology. Ordering a new helmet for peace of mind while tree skiing. Springing for new, lighter-weight bindings. Signing up for an advanced avalanche and snow science course. Building slope maps. And remembering the minutiae, the ins and outs of efficient packing, correct clothing layers, ski touring, hazard assessment and route selection. Learning to deal with cold again.


Mini tour up South Lake Road near Bishop.

The snowpack is a little thin yet. We’re still skiing on snowy, closed roads and will need at least several feet of white stuff to cover the giant talus and huge logs that present no mountain navigation hazard in summer. But it’s coming, with each new storm that heads our way.


Or you can just open a can.

It’s a Christmas gift we hope will keep on giving.