Earning Turns In Tahoe Basin With The Freerider Pro 30
In spite of a meager snow season, Deuter Ambassador, Jeremy Benson, travels 16 miles and 6,000 vertical feet to score some turns to achieve the perfect day…
Its pretty amazing the difference a year can make. This time last year we had received around 250 inches of snow in Lake Tahoe on our way to an 800 inch winter. As of today, January 16th 2012, there is virtually no natural snow on the ground, and the only skiing to be done in the Tahoe basin is on man-made snow. Quite the contrast from last year to now, and unfortunately there is nothing that be can be done about it but embrace it and make the most of it. The resorts have done their best to make snow and stay open and I applaud their efforts, but there's just nothing like the real thing. Tahoe residents have been enjoying the December and January mountain bike season or traveling to the beach or other mountains in search of something different. As we bide our time and await the eventual arrival of winter I want to take a little time and reminisce about one of the best runs I had last year.
The Red Slate Couloir is one of the most classic ski lines in the Sierra Nevada. Located just south of Mammoth Lakes, Red Slate Mountain is a coveted summit and ski descent for backcountry skiers in California. Skiing Red Slate, however, is no easy task. The closest trailhead is roughly 8 miles and 6,000 vertical feet from the peak's summit. Skiing it in a day is daunting and many who attempt the peak often spend the night out there. A round trip of Red Slate involves 16 miles of travel and just over 6,000 vertical feet of elevation gain. Last winter, during one of the brief breaks in the relentless series of storms, in April I headed down to ski Red Slate with a friend.
We arrived in the Convict Lake parking area around 5 am and hastily got ready in the dark. Our mission was starting out with a little less than a mile of flat dirt trail walking so we started in running shoes and hurried along the shore of Convict Lake until we reached the snow in the lake's northwestern end. We booted up and began our long skinning approach to Red Slate Peak. As we walked up Convict Canyon we passed under a number of formidable ski lines, The Mendenhall, the Pinner, and the Mini-Pinner to name a few. We crossed over numerous old debris piles and through massive Aspen forests as we made our way deeper into the range. A few miles in and our objective came into view heightening our sense of urgency and anticipation. The prominent North Couloir looms high above us, and we get to stare right at it for the rest of the approach. We're delighted to find that the snow looks perfect and no other parties are sniffing out the same line as us. As we gain elevation the new snow gets delightfully deeper. What had been 2 inches where we parked is a foot and half to two feet of non wind-affected Sierra pow up high. The conditions couldn't be better.
Six hours of skinning and trailbreaking later and we're at the top of Red Slate Mountain at 13,163 ft. We take some time to enjoy the view and switch our gear and our minds over into ski mode. We work our way across the exposed eastern face off the summit and down to the top of the Couloir. The snow looked great in the couloir as we approached but nothing had prepared me for how absolutely perfect it was actually going to be. The snow in the High Sierra is often affected by the wind, but thankfully not this time. I dropped in first and enjoyed high speed powder turns about halfway down the couloir where I pulled over and let my slough pass by. At the bottom of the couloir we exchanged high fives and had an unspoken competition for who could be more stoked. I'm not sure who won, but there's no doubt that we both scored big that day. Its not everyday that everything comes together as perfectly as it did for us that day, and my first run down the Red Slate Couloir is something that I will never forget.
For really big days like this in the Sierra I use the Deuter Freerider Pro 30. This pack is the perfect size to hold everything I need, skins, crampons, axe, shovel, probe, extra layers, food, water, etc. The Freerider Pro's vented back system holds a heavy load comfortably on my back while still allowing for air to vent through preventing me from over heating and being covered in sweat. The Freerider Pro's straps make for quick turnaround when switching from skinning to bootpacking, and the zippered back panel allows you to easily access your gear even when you're carrying skis on your pack. This pack is designed and constructed to never let you down, and when you're pushing your limits in the backcountry that is really nice to know...
–Jeremy Benson (Outdoor Ambassador).