Monday, November 22, 2010

November Pow Skiing - Are you kidding me?

November POW Skiing - Are you kidding me? from UnofficialSquaw on Vimeo.

On Nov 20th Squaw got 12-16", on Nov 21st it was 14-18", and today they anounced 10-12" more (and these are just the lower mountain numbers). So, I'll spare you the obvious declarations of how deep, insane, and surreal it was to be skiing pow like this in November because I know you can add up these three sets of numbers and realize: "Goddamit, that's freakin' DEEP!" See, you said, not me.

For the past two days we've been treated very well by Squaw's open terrain. But, today thoroughly blew the past two days out of the water. They got the Squaw Creek & Far East chairs spinning in addition to Red Dog which was the exact combination needed to access 1,350 vertical feet of preposterous powder. If you have any inkling as to the type of terrain that situation opens up, you're one of the few. If not, just image very long, very deep, very untouched powder for more turns than your VO2 Max can handle.

Once all the skiers were completely burnt-out, they opened the Funitel at 2pm and we got to witness first hand what these record storms have been doing to the upper mountain. It was impressive.

Now, as we all lay passed out on the floor after an unexpected November-powder ass-kicking, we read NOAA's latest Winter Storm Warning for tonight and tomorrow and try to smile.





All I can coherently think right now is - bring it.

(Shirley Lake tomorrow afternoon?)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tahoe Truckee aerial Tramway?

An aerial tramway in Tahoe, huh? A tram that goes from Truckee to Tahoe City with branches that reach out to Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. It actually sounds pretty cool. Jeff Sparksworth is considering it a reality. Essentially you'd drive your car to Truckee, park it and jump on the tram. Color coded 6-8 person gondolas would take you and your baggage to your specific destination. The idea of the project would be to eliminate the use of cars on highway 89 along with the traffic and congestion they create. The gondolas would move at 20mph taking you from Truckee to Squaw in 18 minutes and Truckee to Tahoe City in 42 minutes. "I know we’re all in an awful hurry these days and at the extremes these times may seem slow. However, when you factor in bad traffic days, the hassles of parking, and the delays caused by traffic accidents or weather, these times are reasonable." ( Hell, it also just sounds like a fun ride.

Advantages of the Tram system:

No traffic, more environmentally sound then automobiles, cool factor - attractive to tourists and maybe olympics, user cost will be cheap compared to rising automobile user costs and skyrocketing oil prices, minimal snow removal vs. road, and you'll be able to read, work, use the internet (all gondolas will have cell phone coverage & wi-fi) or just hang out vs. driving.

Disadvantages of the Tram system:

Basically the tricky part is getting the resources to build the tramway. The estimated cost of the tram would be around $500 million, which is a pretty chunk of change.

This is a very interesting idea that truly does deserve some serious consideration. has much more information including: costs & revenue projections, comparisons to existing tram systems, tram station details, routes & service areas, benefits of the aerial system, and system capacites.

"If the system could remove 5000 cars for five years, this would be a carbon value of $1,374,000 and an emissions reduction of 55,879,000 lbs." (from

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heli Skiing California Style


Heli skiing in Tahoe. It almost doesn't sound right. How the hell can there be heli skiing in Tahoe? My brain overflows with visions of steep spines, pillows, tight chutes, perfectly spaced trees, and stupid deep pow. California style.

There are always pros and cons to a heli operation in your area, but this one is looking pretty pro for now. The heli terrain is far enough from ski areas and backcountry ski zones in Tahoe that we won't have backcountry skier vs. heli skier competiton nor get that ridiculously annoying helicopter din that is experienced constantly in Utah and Chamonix. There will also be some advantages over Alaska heli skiing with the main one being the weather. We've all heard of or experienced the viscious pissing rain of Souhteastern Alaska. It will serioulsy hurt your feelings. Another added bonus with this Tahoe operation is that they have snowcats to back you up on no-fly days.


Pacific Crest Heli-Guides is the company who will be offering the Tahoe heli skiing. Heli skiing in Tahoe has always been a difficult option due to the prevalence of Public Wilderness Areas that do not allow helicopters to land. The terrain skied will actually be Northwest of Truckee, CA along the the Sierra Nevada's Pacific Crest. The heli operation will be using a checkerboard of private land that will add up to over 100,000 acres of skiable terrain (Squaw Valley, for example, has only 4,000 acres). This is a lot of land which should lead to an impressive variety of terrain. I know we are all anxious to see photos and videos of the topography these guys have access to.

Pacific Crest Heli-Guides also runs a heli operation in Valdez, AK called Alaska Backcountry Adventures that has over 20 years of experience at legendary Thompson Pass.

I was lucky enough to get a quick interview with Dave "Happy" Rintala, the owner of Pacific Crest Heli-Guides, this week. Here's how it went down:

Me: Where are your heli ski zones, elevations, and what does the terrain consist of?

Happy: We have access to 100,000 acres of terrain, which is four times the total terrain of all the ski areas in Tahoe combined. Most of it is between Donner Summit and the Sierra Buttes, along the Pacific Crest. Lots of 8000' landings and everything from open powder bowls to steep chutes.

Me: How much is a day for one person and how much skiing should they expect?

Happy: A day costs 899.00 and includes 1.2 hours of Hobbs time to be used as they wish, either for maximum vertical or for a wide ranging tour of the longest, biggest, or steepest runs. This way the clients desires become our goals.

Me: What's the history of heli skiing in Tahoe?

Happy: It has been 40 years since heli skiing has happened in Tahoe for the general public. A couple of operations began for a couple years each, but the timing was not yet right, and they faded away.


Me: How will your snowcat operation in Tahoe will compliment the heli operation?

Happy: Our snowcat operation is known to be the best expert snowcat terrain in North America and consists of three thousand acres over seven zones. When a person books early, and there are snowcat seats available, we will reserve for them these seats so that if it is snowing on the day they were to fly, we can instantly switch to the snowcat for untracked powder.
Me: Has anyone skied where you guys are going to be skiing?

Happy: Much of the terrain we will be accessing is very remote and probably has never been skied. This season will be a pioneering experience where we will be skiing first descents regularly, and naming runs throughout the day. This is the most exciting thing to happen in the ski industry in a decade.

Damn that sounds fun. Thanks Happy.


Atomic Atlas 2011 Ski Review

182cm length = 140mm(width at tip)-115mm(width underfoot)-122mm(width at tail) / 22m turning radius

192cm length = 150mm(width at tip)-125mm(width underfoot)-132mm(width at tail) / 28m turning radius

Big Mountain/Powder Ski. Stepdown sidewall contruction. Early rise rocker in tip only. Tapering (reverse sidecut) at tip only.

Size tested = 192cm. Number of days on Atomic Atlas 2011 ski = aprrox. 35.

Reviewer = Miles Clark. My height = 6'1", weight = 170 lbs. (special note: I mounted my bindings 1cm forward of the normal mounting point)

You bet that I'm sick of all the hype, BS, and useless buzzwords that come with the typical ski review. A ski review is inherantly subjective and therefore that subjectivity should be embraced, not drowned out by ski industry banter. With this (and menatl images of face shots from last season) in mind, I present to you my humble opinion of the Atomic Atlas 2011 ski:

First off, you'll want a lot of snow before you even strap these on. I recommend that you have at least a foot of fresh snow to take these out. They really start to kick ass when you get into the 2, 2 1/2, & 3 foot deep zones. A huge ski like this is made for floatation. If you take away the deep snow, they don't provide that float, and they'll morph into a large, difficult to maneuver ski that will put you in the backseat.

Once you get them into the deep powder you'll know what they were made for. This ski gives a ton of float with the huge width underfoot and the early rise rocker at the tip. In deep snow they do not have an upper speed limit. The faster you go, the more stable and maneuverable they become.

Landing airs is made considerably easier. It almost feels like cheating. The large surface area gives you a big platform to plop down into the snow and easily stay upright on. The sweet spot on the Atlas is big and this is an advantage when landing airs because it allows you to be a little off and still make it look good.

The Atlas is an Austrian ski, so they have a lot of nose. This means you have got to be leaning way forward. If you get backseat, they'll take off on you and make you look bad. Stay forward on 'em and you'll look like a solid skier should.

Once you're able to trust this ski, you'll be able to open it up and rip the mountain hard. Which is what this ski is really made for.

Here is a one minute video of someone skiing pow and dropping cliffs on the Atomic Atlas 2011 ski.

Silverado Sledgehammer from UnofficialSquaw on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tired? Need some PILLOWS?!?!!

PILLOWS!! Skiing pillows is basically the coolest thing you can do on skis. I'd say it's between pillows and steep spines, but that's just me. This first video is Jackson Hole. But, early season in Tahoe, before we get way too much snow and it drowns them out, we have some beautiful pillow lines here, too. Luckily, my buddy Adam Riscutto knows exactly where they are. Somehow, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa also seems to know where there's a few pillow lines. Check out Sage in pillowland below.

Pillows of fun from sage on Vimeo.

The video below is my buddy Adam Ruscitto crushing some fluffy pillow lines in Tahoe. Personally I think Adam is way sicker than Sage, but that's just me. There's no music on this one - I recommend putting on "Closer" (warning: disturbing video/audio) by Nine Inch Nails, while you watch Adam rip, but again, that's just me.

Trestle Peak Pillows from AdRock on Vimeo.

Global Warming hits Lake Tahoe

If you still don't believe in Global Warming you can just close your eyes, plug your ears, and hum. But, even if you don't believe in it, here are the facts:

#1 - The nightly minimum temperatures recorded at Tahoe City have increased by more than 4 degrees F since 1910 from 28F to just over 32F.

#2 - Days when air temperatures averaged below freezing have generally decreased by 30 days per year since 1910.

#3 - Since 1910, the percent of precipitation that fell in the form of snow decreased from 52 percent to 34 percent.

#4 - Peak snow melt averages 2 1/2 weeks earlier than in the early 1960s.

This information from: UC Davis' 'State of the Lake Report 2010' (If you are interested in Lake Tahoe at all, check out this link. Monthly & yearly percipitation avg.s, temp avg.s, & more)

Another major effect of Global Warming on the lake is the lake's rising water temperature. Warming of Tahoe's water will likey lead to less frequent deep water mixing. The mixing of the lake's water is key to distributing oxygen throught the lake. Without the mixing Tahoe will experience less cold-water native fish, more invasive species, and a general breakdown of Lake Tahoe's food chain. Lake Tahoe has already increased almost one full degree since 1970, from 41.7 degrees F to 42.6 degrees F.

Check out these impressively scary quotes from UC Davis scientist Geoffrey Schladow:

"Anoxia (oxygen depletion) occurs annually in most lakes and reservoirs in California in the summer. But Tahoe has always been special. It's been above and beyond such things."

"A permanently stratified Lake Tahoe becomes just like any other lake or pond. It is no longer this unique, effervescent jewel, the finest example of nature's grandeur."

A recent study done by Schladow and colleagues is predicting that Lake Tahoe could stop mixing entirely as early as the year 2019. That's less than 9 years away.

Luckily, there is tons you can do to fight climate change:

1 - Join an environmental group so you can gang up on politicians and educate people. Try:, and others.

2 - Do whatever you can to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in your own life.

3 - Offset your travel and lifestyle:,

4 - LEARN: - Seriously, read this one. This is literally everything you need to know about Global warming. - This one is simple yet less informational.