Big Sun Fun: Spring Skiing in the Sierra

Ah, sunshine!

Springtime backcountry skiing in the Sierra is, well, pretty darn pleasant, all things considered. The snow conditions are unlike the powdery fluff of winter. They change quickly with aspect, elevation, and slope steepness — sometimes, mid-turn, which can be exciting — but the sun is high, the temperatures are mild, and the views can’t be beat.

A snowshoe hare in the Sierra? Who knew?

The tours have been local, close to home in the Mt. Rose Wilderness. Nestled between Lake Tahoe and Reno, Mount Rose encompasses most of the high country of the Carson Range. At almost 11,000′, Mt. Rose itself is the highest point in the wilderness.

We were surprised to see a snowshoe hare one day. Turns out Lepus americanus tahoensis is a subspecies found only between Mt. Lassen to Yosemite. This one is handsome at this time of year in its winter coat.

Iva working the telemark turn through challenging breakable-crust conditions.
Many folks were getting out and about on this fine sunny day. (photo: I. Neveux)
Fresh powder + firm crust beneath = fun turns! I'm starting to figure out my new randonee setup, which requires a different type of turn. (photo: I. Neveux)
Iva near the summit of Mt. Houghton, at approximately 9500', looking south over the mighty Carson Range.

My partner on these tours has been fellow Reno-ite Iva Neveux, whose acquaintance I made through a mutual friend from Fairbanks. She is originally from the Czech Republic and has lived in the U.S. for around 10 years. She works in microbiology at the Desert Research Institute, and is an experienced telemark skier who has fun making turns, no matter what the conditions.

Expansive view north from the summit of Mt. Houghton, near Mt. Rose. We have a very thin snowpack in the Sierra region this year.
On the summit of Mt. Houghton, with Lake Tahoe in the distance on this hazy, breezy day.

We’ve seen hardly anyone, which has been a surprising treat considering that we are less than an hour’s drive from the city. People are probably moving on to biking, gardening, and other springtime activities that don’t involve sliding around on snow. More room for the rest of us!

Slalom telemark turns through the mini trees.

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