From lake tahoe

Mountain Biking The Flume

Mountain biker Flume Trail
Single track & lake views.

An early start to spring means that many of the local mountain bike trails are melting out faster than they typically do.  So last weekend was a perfect time to do some recon on the Flume Trail, one of Tahoe’s mountain biking gems that also happens to be one of my favorite rides.

The Flume Trail sits on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.  The trail, ranging between 7000 and 8000 feet in elevation, boast some truly amazing panoramas of the lake and the surrounding mountains.  While not a super technical trail, it should be noted that the Flume does have some exposure and crosses a few steep sections.  But the views are definitely worth it! Not a mountain biker? The Flume is also open to hikers.

There are a couple of ways to access the Flume Trail, and the surrounding trail network, which includes sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail, means that you can include it in a longer ride.  Most people start from Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, taking the trail out to Marlette Lake and along the singletrack that overlooks the lake.  They either ride it one way, descending via Tunnel Creek Road and catching a shuttle back, or do it as an out and back ride, retracing their tracks.   My friend and I opted for something totally different.  We instead climbed up Tunnel Creek Road, and then rode the Flume around Marlette Lake to the Marlette Creek Trail, a super fun 2.7 mile descent back to the car.

I’ve been on this trail countless times, and I continue to be awed by the scenery, and continue to force friends to stop while I take yet another photo.  It’s that spectacular.

So if you’re looking for some advice from a local, trust me on this – if there’s one trail you mountain bike or hike while here, make it the Flume.

If You Go

The Flume Trail is snow-free, though the neighboring sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail do still have snow.  Shuttles, bike rentals, maps and trail information are available from Flume Trail Mountain Bikes.   It is recommended that mountain bikers carry water, snacks, a bike pump and spare tube, bike repair kit, first aid and sunblock, along with a camera to capture the views.  Plus a helmet (duh).

For general Tahoe area mountain bike trail maps and the latest trail conditions, be sure to visit the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association’s website.

All Tahoe Clothing Swap

all tahoe clothing swap
Better than a thrift store because it’s all free.

The ski season ended on a whimper this year, and that, coupled with a knee issue that cropped up in March, translated into less skiing and more mountain biking the past two months.  It’s also encouraged me to put energy into other activities.  Such as the All Tahoe Clothing Swap which was held last week at the American Legion in South Lake Tahoe.

A quick step back – I’m a founding member of the Tahoe chapter of the Girls Drinking Club (GDC), a loosely organized group of professional women who don’t feel they need to hide their love of wine behind books, or crafts, or whatever.  We get together weekly at various locations in South Lake Tahoe, usually places with Happy Hour specials, simply to hang out and relax over some drinks and snacks.

It was during one such GDC meeting that we came up with the idea of an All Tahoe Clothing Swap.   The concept was simple – take the concept of a clothing swap, where people trade clothes, and put it on steroids.  Throw in an entry donation of few canned goods to help out Christmas Cheer, a local nonprofit that helps the hungry, and voila, it becomes a fun event with a philanthropic twist.

So the clothing donation part was the one wild card for us – would we generate enough clothing to support those that showed up?  We did…in spades.  My friend Lauren offered up her store’s racks for use at the event so the swap felt more like a thrift store and less like a garage sale.    She also sorted and hung most of the items, which made the swap feel more like a pop-up store.

We can safely say the event was a success.  Tons of folks showed up, lots of clothing was taken away, and plenty of canned goods were provided.  In addition, the extra clothing was split between a few local organizations that need clothing donations.

If you missed this year’s event, don’t worry.  We’ll be doing this again next year – definitely.  And if you know of a free space that we could use to organize clothing, please let me know!

Help Tahoe Win a Bell Built Trail Grant!

Corral Trail rider
Me enjoying Corral Trail last fall. Photo: Jeff Glass

Over the years, mountain biking has become as much a passion of mine as skiing. I’m not great at it, but I love climbing local trails in order to enjoy the thrill of the descent. So it should come as no surprise that I am a member of the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA). What you may not know is that thanks to TAMBA’s continued efforts, a South Lake Tahoe trail is now in the running to win a $30,000 grant – and we need your help (and vote) to win it!

The Bell Built program helps communities build sustainable trails, including pump tracks, flow trails, and downhill trails. Of the more than 100 applications submitted from across the country, TAMBA’s submission of the Corral Trail in South Lake Tahoe has been selected as one of the twelve finalists.

The grant includes the construction of 30 jumps and features on Corral Trail, a hugely popular local that has served as a test project by the US Forest Service on how to build and permit mountain bike specific features on public Forest Land. These efforts go back 8 years now and have had many riders give input.

Once all the planned features are built on Corral Trail TAMBA will be able to take this model and apply it elsewhere in the Tahoe basin. The Bell Built grant is for projects that have approved plans and are shovel-ready, meaning they can start building this spring. Corral is just that.

Want to help? It’s easy. Just vote Corral Trail for Flow Trail Projects by April 12 here: http://www.facebook.com/BellBikeHelmets/app_228716427271717

And be sure to share this with your friends, family, mountain biking partner, drinking buddies, etc.

This is a terrific opportunity for mountain bikers who love to ride Lake Tahoe.  It is the only California project, so this honor, along with the hard work to buff out this classic trail, will make it a role model for future progressive trails that can be built on Forest Service lands.

Don’t delay – vote for Corral Trail for Flow Trail projects today!

Praxis Backcountry Ski Review

I really didn’t think I needed another pair of skis, but apparently N saw a hole in my not-insubstantial quiver late last year. One that could be filled with a pair of Praxis Backcountry skis. While I was skeptical at first, I realized that not only did they fill an admittedly small hole in my quiver, they are now replacing some of my other skis.

Praxis is a freeride oriented ski company based here at Lake Tahoe, one that builds their skis in house. While most of what they focus on are powder and freeride skis, the Backcountry model is designed for people who want to earn their turns efficiently, but not necessarily compromise the descent.

Skiing the Praxis Backcountry inbounds
Skiing the Praxis Backcountry inbounds

Coming in at a little over 7 lbs in the 170 length, the Praxis Backcountry ski is a lightweight ski that doesn’t sacrifice weight for performance. Its dimensions (131/106/121), camber underfoot, and rockered tip and tail combine to create a versatile ski design for a wide range of snow conditions. I took the Backcountry with me on a recent ski trip to Canada, and found it skied well on a variety of conditions. But I’m jumping ahead.

This particular model has been around for a few years, but apparently there were some significant changes made this year. The skis have carbon fiber in the construction, which helps reduce the weight. Carbon fiber had been an option in the past, but this year it was included in the Backcountry by default. This allowed Praxis to include maple hardwood around the edge of the ski core. If you think of a tennis racket, where the torsional stiffness comes from the ‘frame’ of maple around the edge and tip / tail areas, that’s what the Backcountry looks like inside. For the tech nerds out there, this core design is enabled by the CNC milling machine at the Praxis factory, and makes it a bit different than the typical ski.

Praxis at Mammoth
Praxis backcountry at work in-resort

While weight tends to correlate to stiffness, these lightweight skis are also stiffer than any other backcountry ski I’ve owned. See the tennis racket analogy above. This is not a bad thing, and was particularly useful when at the ski resorts. I found no chatter at higher speeds, even on firmer snow conditions. It had great edge control on the groomers, and the front rise plus turn radius meant that short turns and bumps, while not my preferred ski style and terrain, were doable.

In the backcountry, these skis really excelled. They climbed easily, and even with the tip rise, my skin tails stayed on. Certainly they ski well in blower pow, but they really shine in variable (read: backcountry) snow conditions. I really noticed the feeling of not being as spent after a longer climb, which translated into me enjoying the descents much more.

That said, there were some growing pains. They were hooky at first, and I had a hell of a time on groomed snow, which I found out later was because they were edge high. But after N, aka the Ski Valet™, spent time detuning the edges in the rocker zone, and put a slight base bevel on the edges underfoot, the issues went away.

Praxis builds its skis in three stiffnesses – medium, medium/stiff and stiff. According to the Ski Valet, my Backcountry’s were medium, which was the standard stiffness for that model. Custom stiffness options are available at no extra charge, which is awesome.

Unlike other skis I’ve been on that are designed for the backcountry, the Praxis is a versatile ski that can hold its own both within resort boundaries and outside them. It was an ideal ski for our recent ski safari.

More importantly, it’s a ski that’s fun to ski on, which, to my mind, is the whole point.

Help Sierra Avalanche Center by saving money on lift tickets

Kirkwood powder skiing

Skiing at Lake Tahoe isn’t just about the ski resorts.  While I’m a huge fan of them, and have spent many memorable days on their respective slopes, I’m also a passionate backcountry skier (who appreciates a good deal).

As such, I’m a donor and supporter of the Sierra Avalanche Center (SAC), a local non-profit that promotes safe backcountry travel through regular avalanche advisories, education and events.  Most importantly, it provides the only daily avalanche forecast in the region, an incredibly valuable resource for backcountry users.

SAC has partnered with many Lake Tahoe area ski resorts this winter to raise money through its SAC Ski & Ride DaysDiscounted lift tickets are available online, with all of the proceeds going directly to support the continued operation of this regional avalanche center.

This season’s fundraisers include the following dates at the Lake Tahoe ski resorts:

•$50 lift tickets to Northstar California valid on, January 29th-31st
•$35 lift tickets to Homewood Mountain Resort valid on February 3rd-8th
•$45 lift tickets to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows valid on February 3rd-8th
•$50 lift tickets to Heavenly Ski Resort valid on February 5-7th
•$35 lift tickets to Mt Rose-Ski Tahoe valid on March 3-10
•$50 lift tickets to Kirkwood Mountain Resort valid on March 5-7th
•$35 lift tickets to Sugar Bowl valid on Sunday, March 17th
•$35 lift tickets to Sierra-at-Tahoe valid on any Sunday-Friday (except holidays)

In addition to lift ticket savings, each SAC Ski & Ride Day will feature Q & A sessions with professional avalanche forecasters. Skiers and snowboarders can demo avalanche safety gear, and learn about avalanche conditions and items related to backcountry travel and recreation.

Support the Sierra Avalanche Center by purchasing SAC Ski & Ride Day lift tickets here. And feel good knowing that your terrific deal is helping sustain this important resource.

Desolation Wilderness Under Snow

Backcountry skier above Lake Tahoe
Not a bad day at all.

I wanted to celebrate my new year with a big day out.  I wanted it to be somewhere new, and ideally involve winter snow.   The latter was of particular importance because my birthday falls in what locals call ‘Juneuary’.  Corn tends to be more plentiful than powder, and typically I have to go elsewhere if I want to get my snow fix.

This year I got both of my wishes.  N and I had been discussing heading back into Desolation Wilderness, and our friend Meghan kindly told us of some lines that hold winter snow weeks after a storm.  Lucky for us, she wanted to play too, so a posse of four telemark skiers set out from the Emerald Bay area early-ish on Saturday.

Skinning above Dicks Lake
The views were well worth the climb.

Our route involved some up, some down, lots of snow, very few people, and plenty of sunshine.  And views.  While I have spent a lot of time in the Desolation Wilderness, it’s been in the summer and fall mostly, so seeing it under snow gave me a whole new perspective.  There are a lot of skiable lines back there!

Backcountry skier above Lake Tahoe
She was right about the snow.

Despite my inherent skepticism, Meghan was right.  You can still find untracked powder, even in Juneuary.  Which we did.

It was a great start to my new year.   Yes, getting older sucks, but when it’s celebrated like this, it’s actually not all that bad.

Skiers crossing lake
Heading back after a fun – and full – day out.

Winter is back – really!

After what could optimistically be described as a disappointing ski season last year, it appears that Mother Nature is trying to win back Lake Tahoe’s affections.  She succeeded this month, with a series of big storms that left up to 94 inches of snow before and after Christmas.  The ski resorts couldn’t be happier, and frankly, neither could I.

The timing has been awesome, as many local’s season passes are blacked out during this holiday period, reducing the bum rush to get the untracked powder.  We’ve enjoyed relaxed days at our favorite ski resorts, lapping areas that typically are tracked out in minutes. Despite the holiday crowds, we also found untracked snow and few people at some of our favorite backcountry stashes as well.

While the snow volume appears to be slowing down for now, cold temperatures are forecast for next week, ensuring great mid-winter snow conditions will stick around.  At least until the next storm shows up.

Need proof of the awesomeness?  See below.
[vimeo 56488410 w=500 h=281]

Trimmer bonus run from TahoeJenn on Vimeo.

Skiing with Badass Women

SAFEAS womens avy clinic
Scenes from the S.A.F.E.A.S. womens avy clinic.

There are a lot of badass women in this part of the world.  I’m talking professional skiers & riders, the types that win the Freeskiing World Tour, guide in Alaska, and that you see onscreen when you watch the latest TGR/Warren Miller/etc. production.  There are also a ton of badass women here who aren’t pros, but simply ski, ride, jump off things and go big in the park because they love it.

This past weekend I had a chance to meet a ton of these badass chicks at two separate events.  And I left both feeling inspired.  Inspired to push myself, to learn more, and most importantly, to have fun, whether on my own or with a posse of friends.

On Saturday, my friend Meghan and I drove up to Squaw Valley for the S.A.F.E.A.S. Women’s Avalanche Clinic.  It was a fundraiser for local non-profit, the High Fives Foundation, and was organized by professional skiers Elyse Saugstad and her friends Ingrid Backstrom, Michelle Parker, Jackie Paaso, Sherry McConkey and Squaw avalanche forecaster and ski guide Lel Tone.   This one day event was designed to provide women with basic avalanche awareness training.  It included a morning in the classroom, with lectures on snow safety, communication and proper travel techniques, and an afternoon on-snow practicing what we’d learned.

I’ve taken avalanche awareness courses in the past, but this felt different – in a very good way. Lel, Elyse and the other women made the concepts accessible, kept the pace moving, and were so supportive of all the women there, regardless of backcountry experience – or the clumsiness of their (read: my) shoveling skills.   While this was an overview course, Lel provided us with lots of additional resources for further follow up, and certainly inspired me to belatedly sign up for my AIAIRE Level 1 certification.  I can say without hesitation that it’s a course I would sign up for again in a heartbeat.

After an inspiring day with badass women, it was fortuitous that Meghan, who is involved with SheJumps, an organization whose mission is to encourage women to get outside, had planned the first ‘Get the Girls Out’ meet up the next day, at both Kirkwood and Squaw Valley.  I hit up the Kirkwood event and ended up skiing around with a group of women that kept growing.  I’ll let Meghan tell the story (and share her fun photos), but I’ll say this much – I love to ski, and I love to ski with my boyfriend, but skiing with a group of women is entirely different in a very good way.  And it’s a standing date I’m already looking forward to next month.  All women are welcome, so if you’re interested, the next one will be on January 13th.  You can find out more on Facebook.

I may never be truly badass (snarky seems to come a whole lot easier to me), but hanging out with such women sure encourages me to give it a go.

Mountain biking inspiration

Corral Trail. 11.24.12. Photo: Jeff Glass
Enjoying the tacky dirt on Corral trail. Photo: Jeff Glass

It may officially be ski season here (7 or so Tahoe resorts are open as of Thanksgiving Day), but mountain biking conditions are currently awesome.   As a result, I’ve spent more time on dirt than snow this holiday weekend.  This is a big deal, because those that know me know that I live for skiing.  So this admission is borderline heretical.

Good trail conditions, just like good snow conditions, encourage me to push myself. I’ve found myself pushing more on the bike this autumn, thanks to intermittent storms that kept the trails tacky.  Yet I don’t actively seek to improve my skills.  I don’t go to workshops, or focus on re-riding a particular ‘problem’ until I master it, as other friends do.  So this video, which I came across today, was inspiring on many levels. It made me think that maybe, just maybe, a clinic (or many) might help me get to the point where jumps and drops are tricks that become part of my repertoire, as opposed to just scaring the crap out of me as they do now.

If she can do it, I can too.  Or so I hope.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tkKqoowfC4?list=UUXFGEqOcKA-fxEBGX3asysQ&hl=en_US]

Early season powder turns

The second real storm of the season moved in on Thursday, bringing over two feet of snow to the Tahoe area. Both N and I took this as a sign that mountain bike season is over, so we spent Friday night digging out the ski gear.

Cold temps meant today’s expedition yielded surprisingly light snow, ensuring the first turns of the 2012/13 ski season were all the more memorable.

With the first Lake Tahoe ski resorts opening next weekend,  I’m definitely ready for winter.
Even if my legs aren’t.

Photos: N Miller