Getting Psyched for the Ski Season with the Descenter EXP 22

JeremyBenson_Psyched5-1In Tahoe, and most of the lower 48, last winter barely happened. Our resorts opened around Thanksgiving, but the complete and utter lack of snow left them limited to 2 groomed runs apiece until the latter part of January. The groomed runs with snowmaking held the only snow in the basin, and there was literally no snow anywhere else. Luckily, our mountain bike trails were completely clear.

While it isn't ideal to ride mountain bikes in January in a ski town, at least it was an option. To make matters worse, I went ahead and blew my knee on the 2nd of January while hitting jumps in the mini-park at Alpine Meadows. I'm generally a big-mountain/backcountry skier, but I was having a great time relearning simple tricks instead of not going skiing at all. After 15 years of virtually injury-free skiing I finally did it, in one of the most ironically terrible ways possible. My knee injury involved a complete tear of my ACL, a partial tear of my LCL, and an incomplete tear of my meniscus. I had surgery in late January and I've been working hard on my recovery ever since.

When it did finally start snowing in Tahoe last season I was completely unable to enjoy it. Even then it didn't snow all that much, but at least my friends finally got to release some of their pent up energy and ski some powder. If there was a season to miss, I'm told that last year was a good one. That being said, there is no good time to blow your knee, and even a crappy winter is way more fun when you can actually go skiing.

After a long year of physical therapy, weight lifting, and mountain biking, I was cleared by my doctor a couple months ago. I couldn't be more excited about skiing this winter and we've been lucky to get several winter storms already this season. The first storm came on October 23rd and dumped 3 feet on the crest of the Sierra. We enjoyed several days of thin but spectacular powder skiing before the temperatures returned to seasonal norms and cooked the snow. My first turns on a new knee were not without anxiety, however. I've never been more nervous about going skiing than I was on that first run. After one of the most tentative powder runs I've ever skied, I was happy to realize that my new knee feels and works just fine.

It has snowed twice since then and the high elevations around lake Tahoe are holding a good bit of snow. I've already skied way more powder in the past 3 weeks than I skied in the past year. The coverage is still thin and rocks and stumps are lurking everywhere, but if you know where to go you can ski safely. For early season skiing with thin coverage I use a Deuter Descentor EXP 22. I find this pack to be ideal for times like these because it features a built-in back protector. While I do attempt to avoid hitting hidden obstacles during the early season, it can happen, and it makes me happy to know that I have a little extra protection built into my backpack.

Our last storm came in warm and fell entirely as rain below 8,000 feet. Above that, 2-3 feet of new snow accumulated and the skiing has been fantastic. This short video is from Nov. 18th in the North Tahoe backcountry during a few of the runs I enjoyed that day. Let's hope the snow continues.

–Jeremy Benson (Outdoor Ambassador).

Get psyched on the season!

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