Saturday, March 01, 2008

Tahoe late-winter thaw - Ski days 31-32

I got back not too long ago from yet another ski trip. The two Tahoe days were an add-on to a trip to California for my cousin's Bar Mitzvah. It had been warm for about a week since the previous snow, so the mountain was well into its freeze/thaw cycle. Since the snow pack is so deep, Sugar Bowl is grooming East Face more regularly, which rocks - East Face is usually a long field of big, icy, uneven moguls - I can, and do, do it, but it's not a whole lot of fun and the exposed shrubs and tree tips make me worry about finding rocks. As a groomed run, it's the longest steep groomer on the mountain, and one of about two that are long enough and have a firm enough surface to reach the top speed for my Mantras and then stay there. Sooner or later I'll get to try my GS skis on it when it's in good shape, and I'm sure that's going to be ridiculous.

Our first day was Sunday. Lots of piste skiing in the morning. In the early afternoon, the mountain looked like it might have softened, so Action Mom and I did some off-piste skiing. It turned out not to be quite warm enough for corn snow, but there was one off-piste route on Mt. Lincoln that had held good snow since the last storm. It was pretty packed, but had never thawed enough to refreeze hard. I'm not saying which route because I pretend people read this and it would defeat the purpose of knowing where the stashes are.

Monday ended up being a better ski day. It got to be much warmer around 11am, so all the lines with sun exposure softened up pretty well. We visited the near gully run in Strawberry Fields, something I don't typically do, and it was quite good. The face run was in pretty good shape too. Usually if I'm in the Strawberry Fields area, I hike Crow's Peak and then do one of the far gullies, so I'm not really in the mindset of hitting one of the near runs if I'm in that area. Our timing was a little off for runs on Disney Nose, which is almost directly north-facing and sometimes doesn't ever soften, but has the exposure to get wind-effected. When the light finally moved on too much and the off-piste runs hardened up again, I'd done enough of my kind of skiing to call it a day, rather than having to lap groomers until the lifts closed as I'd done the day before.

A footnote to that trip is that I've decided I'm happy with a two-ski quiver for most of the season. As my readers know, I broke my Public Enemies in January. When I got the Mantras, my thought was that they were going to be for minimally tracked conditions - powder, crust and wind-effect. The circumstances of my breaking the Enemies were a combination of me choosing to ski a steep, treed piste with tracked crust, which I shouldn't have, and the Enemies not being a burly enough ski to keep in control once I was there. I was concerned that the Mantras might be too stiff, fat and unwieldy for skiing in tracked-out off-piste terrain, which is where you'll find me if it's even marginally skiable and the fresh snow is gone. They're definitely a little slower going through bumps and moguls than the Enemies, but I love it that they're stiff and torsionally rigid enough to stop on a dime on almost any surface I might find myself on, including what I bought them for. I also found that on the two ski days in Tahoe, I only did a handful of runs that I thought I might have enjoyed more on the Enemies, but I did many where the Mantras' greater stiffness and float were big assets and made the descents much safer and more fun. While I initially thought that if K2 sent me a new set I'd mount them and have a three-ski quiver, the Skis of Doom have been fully capable of doing everything in what I'd anticipated to be the PEs' niche. I was pleasantly surprised. K2 did send me a new pair of Enemies, but there's so much overlap between what the Mantras do and what I wanted from the Enemies that I'm trying to sell.

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