Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spring Skiing at Virginia Lakes

Ok, to preface this trip, I have to point out that I grew up in Georgia, so snow is not second nature to me. Rebecca is from Wisconsin, so she is used to snow, but the Sierra in Spring is something we normally experience in a kayak, not on skis. With that out of the way, spring skiing is the bomb. We got a chance to get our first taste of back country corn with some friends up in Virginia Lake, just up the crest from Mono Lake.

Some friends of ours, Dave and Alison, have a family cabin on Virginia Lake - a super-cool, rustic 50 year-old cabin. In the spring, before the lakes thaw, you have haul in water from a nearby creek, but in the summer, they have running water straight from the lake.

During the winter this cabin is covered in snow...

The Virginia lakes area has a sequence of lakes; Blue Lake, Red Lake, Virginia Lake and Little Virginia Lake (probably more too that I did not see). Pretty much everywhere you look you see sick slopes leading down to a lake - one of the prettier places I've ever been.

We started off the first morning headed for twin chutes; the "bunny hill". Since Rebecca and I have never skied spring conditions, we had no idea what sort of adventure we were about to have...

Starting our journey up

and up..

At first, skinning up was not too bad; the soft snow gripped pretty well to the skins and going was pretty fast. After a while though, the top layer got so slushy that you could not really traverse without your skis slushing downhill. That combined with the fact that it was too steep to skin straight up made the going pretty tough.

A short pause for a snack and a view

After a while, we abandoned our skis to hike up the rocks first (hiking on shale in ski boots is not ideal), then resorted to postholeing up the rest of the way.

Still going up...

At this point, I have to admit that I was about as gripped as I have been in a long time. Here we were staring down this steep mountain, with nothing to stop you from sliding all the way to the bottom, on snow conditions I've never even made a turn on before, on three-pin tele bindings. Luckily, Rebecca was brave enough to go first and show me that it could actually be done - and that it also happened to be really fun.
First Turns

Dave is mister super athlete who normally snowboards, but decided to take tele skis since that is what we were all doing. Of course he had no trouble carving down the slope either, leaving me with no option but to point my skis down and hope for a carve or two - Georgian Style!

As it turned out, I did not have to slide down the mountain on my butt like I thought, and everyone had a ball cruising down the soft, but carvable conditions. By the time we got back down to the cabin, it was definately cocktail hour.

Eric with an Epic IPA after an Epic Adventure

Spring in the Sierra - Nice!

Emboldened by a few beers and fun drinks, we embarked on a late afternoon ski on Red Bowl just to the West. Copper and Lucy were psyched to join after their day of napping at the Cabin, so off we went.

Copper in the up-track

Rebecca once again leading the way

Copper and Lucy pulling in just behind Eric

On day two, we decided to head up to the top of Red Bowl and give that a shot. The way up was not quite as difficult as the day before - an earlier start and a slightly different aspect allowed us to skin up a bit farther. Once we hit the last steep ascent though, we got to a point where we couldn't go up anymore; the problem was that the conditions again made it hard to traverse. So after another gripping escapade across another steep slope, we made it to solid ground. Here we resorted to the hiking method again and quickly made it to the top.

Glad to be back on solid ground
At the top, spectacular views awaited. Eating lunch on the warm rocks looking over this spectacular vally was quite the reward - and we still had skiing to do!

Rebecca at the top

Dave and Charlie soaking it in

Once again, we found ourselves on top of the world; the slope even steeper than the day before, even less to arrest your fall. Dave and Allison were back on snowboards and quickly took off, making sweet turns the whole way down. The only problem was the slope was too steep for us to even see them. Rebecca once again probed for the tele crew.

Rebecca headed down
To make a long story short, we made it down; all pretense of style thrown out the window. The final runout of the slope ended up right along Virginia Lake with its ultra-blue waters welcoming us to the end of the run. All in all, when I wasn't pooping in my pants, I was having a great time. Certainly the beauty of the area and the quality of the skiing was plenty of motivation to get better on our skis in time for next spring...

Allison and Rebecca traversing the lake

"Can you believe we skied that!"

No comments: