Three resorts still open; Tallac an adventure |

Three resorts still open; Tallac an adventure

Column by Sam Bauman

While it’s all over at Heavenly for the season, there’s still Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley for spring skiing and boarding. Reduced prices, reduced hours but just as much fun as ever. And for the really diehards, Mammoth Mountain is planning to be open through July 4 and they got 6 inches of fresh this week.

Meanwhile, for those very hardy souls, there’s Mount Tallac just down State Route 89. No lifts, but plenty of snow and while a two-hour climb for 10 minutes of skiing/boarding may not be enough reward for all the effort for all of us, for those men and women of the mountains it’s worth the work.

While I am not of the persuasion, my good friend and fellow hiker David Rittenhouse is. David’s a ski/board instructor at Heavenly and he recently made two hikes up Tallac. The first was about two weeks ago, the most recent Wednesday in the wake of that sudden storm that dropped several inches of snow around the lake. Here’s his report:

“When I saw 5 inches of fresh snow on my deck Wednesday morning it didn’t matter that it was mid-May – Mount Tallac was calling!

“Because it was still snowing I opted to take my goggles, a waterproof shell with hood, spring gloves and drinking water. I put on boarding boots, called my dog Annie and headed for Spring Creek Road. At the base parking area two trucks were parked. The drivers had put on telemark gear and headed up the hill, leaving a nice trail for me to follow. As I began walking I noticed much snow had melted since my last trip.

“When I got out of the trees and into the open, I saw the last of the two tele skiers near the top of the first steep pitch.

“I know that when walking it is important to pace yourself and drink water frequently. Tree wells and rock outcroppings are more treacherous now. Even if you don’t get hurt falling into a well or sliding off a rock, it takes a lot of energy to get back on track. Some of the tree wells I saw were 10 feet deep at about 8,500 feet.

“The top of Tallac was wrapped in clouds, so I decided to stop at the rock outcroppings at the top of the ridge which butts into the right tip of the Tallac Cross. Although it was still snowing lightly, Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Keys were visible.

“Because I was alone except for Annie, I picked my descent carefully, playing and having fun on the very nice snow but not letting temptation lead me into anything chancy. I was particularly careful back near the bottom wherever I had to cross a gully. The gullies are almost sure to cradle running streams so I advise to stick to the ridges and high ground when possible.

“I was probably a little overzealous, heading out alone when my phone calls didn’t produce company. I highly recommend NOT going alone on Tallac. And try and find someone who’s done it before.”

David is a very well conditioned outdoorsman and he does not recommend the Tallac hike for anyone not in very good condition. As his son’s girlfriend said on the earlier hike, “Hey, this isn’t a hike. It’s a climb!”


I’m anticipating doing a lot of hiking and biking this summer and will be writing reports on some of the more interesting trails regularly. After all, ski season is just about over and a man has to find something to keep him busy.

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