Slush Mountain

Though Lake Tahoe seems to have the highest elevation in North America, its latitude doesn't allow visitors to enjoy long seasons of snow sports. What's more, we've been hit this year with a warm March -- this weather pattern apparently occurs every other year -- and snow conditions have been lacking.

KirkwoodAll the same, we meet J & E in Foster City at 530a to begin our long trek to Kirkwood. The journey to Kirkwood is different from that to North Lake Tahoe: we don't get to have McDonald's in Auburn along the I-80. Instead, we eat Burger King around Jackson somewhere on the CA-88. Up to that point, the drive is straight and rather boring, so I got sleepy, having only caught 2 hours the night before. So I snooze in the back while R negotiates the winding curves of the 88 up the mountain.

It's heating up at Kirkwood -- by the time we get our boots on, we're already warm! The lifts open, and we're on the way up. I'm sporting new gear -- Salomon AMP 159, Flow Pro-19, 32 Team-1, Camelbak Snodawg -- and looking forward to seeing how it all performs!

Snow is decent, since there was fresh snowfall just two days earlier. But the sun! Two runs later, J sheds his jacket in favour of a T-shirt. The rest of us are sweating even with our jackets open, thirstily guzzling water and Gatorade from our Camelbak reservoirs.

The WallAfter lunch, the four of us go to tackle the backside, despite warnings that the snow was melting too much. (E was feeling nauseous and stayed behind.) It was so bad that wherever the sun had touched, the snow had turned to slush -- we could feel the "stickiness" of that slush tugging and dragging us down, slowing us down considerably. Shadowed areas still were fine, and while passing through the tree-lined runs where it was dark-light-dark-light, the ride was simply too inconsistent to get any speed up.

So we decide instead to battle the double-blacks at the top of The Wall. Our first run down the Wall had us questioning what we had signed up for, but down to the fourth time on that face, we were feeling pretty good about it! As the sun began to lengthen our shadows, we found that the slopes were holding up better, and actually made for a few more enjoyable runs.

Winding the mountain roads back home gave me a chance to test out my comfort zone in the GTI, while my two passengers slept (struggling to keep their heads from waving back and forth). Traffic on the way back sucked around the CA-99, and in Tracy.

Unless the ski conditions change dramatically in the next month or so -- like if there is a huge snowstorm and the temperatures up top stay under or near freezing -- I think I'm ready to store the board away until the next season. It's not worth a 3-hour drive each way for Slurpee consistencies. I'll tell ya, a one-day Tahoe trip is taxing on the driver, but sure lets you sleep well at night.

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