Skiers and riders get a splash of spring powder
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Wes Minton forgot his goggles. On most other spring days his sunglasses would’ve been enough. But Monday on top of Mt. Tallac the wind was howling and the torrents of snow were coming in sideways, and goggles, to say the least, were a necessity.
“It was a pretty miserable experience to be honest,” Minton said. “It must’ve been zero degrees on top. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking.”
Minton was caught in the same storm system that shut down the Amgen Tour of California, but also provided a last hurrah for backcountry skiers and snowboarders still smiling after a season that brought more than average amounts of fresh snow.
With rocks and obstacles peppering the steep run just beneath the freshly fallen blanket, it was dangerous enough, but without being able to see, the run down Tallac’s shoulder was almost a death trap, Minton remembered. As he made his way down Corkscrew Trees and into the Northeast Bowl, the wind blasted his exposed face, freezing his features numb.
“I tried to ride with my hands half blocking my face, so I could link turns,” Minton said. “I couldn’t see what was around me. I couldn’t tell what was a cliff.”
He hammered a backside turn and snow shot into his face. He was completely blinded. He pulled off the snow-covered sunglasses and noticed small amounts of snow sliding around him. He stopped and looked up the mountain.
“The windloading was pretty heavy that day,” Minton said. “There was definite possibility of something sliding.”
No avalanche was coming down. As he wound down and deeper into Corkscrew Trees, the run became more and more fun. The wind lessened and the snow sprayed from his turns in genuine powder fashion.
“It was a ton of snow,” Minton said. “I don’t want to guess how much because of all the windloading, but easily a couple feet in some places. It was incredible conditions for May.”
Snowstorms aren’t unusual in May, but this one was especially moist and seemed to hang around for longer than the typical spring squall, said National Weather Service meteorologist Edan Lindaman.
“There was a lot of moisture associated with this storm,” she said. “Because it was so cold, we ended up with such large accumulations.”
“Spring tends to be a pretty tumultuous time of year,” Lindaman added.
Tuesday, South Tahoe resident Dylan Dickie and friend Chase Harriman rode their snowmobiles out to “Hell Hole,” near Grass Lake for one final outing to celebrate the season. They set up snow camping gear and settled in for the night, planning to ski and snowboard in the morning.
“We woke up in the morning and there was a foot of fresh snow,” Dickie said. “We got out there and there was like seven inches of heavy snow so when the foot fell on top of it, it just felt bottomless.”
The trail out to their camp site won’t be good for snowmobiles for too much longer, Dickie said.
“There were definitely some rocks when we snowmobiled up. But for people skinning, it’ll be good for a while,” he said.
Gantt Miller, a South Lake Tahoe telemarker, hopes he’ll be able to get out in the backcountry for another month or so. Minton echoed that sentiment.
“I want to keep going into June,” he said.