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The Big Kuna (Yosemite Ski Mountaineering)


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Backcountry ski and snowboard gear, camping


Tioga Pass Resort.  January 2006

 

Breaking trail beneath Mount Dana


Up near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park there sits a magical place.  In the summer, Tioga Pass Resort -- or just "TPR" to those who know it -- is a roadside lodge that makes for a fine place to grab a cold brew after an all day climbing sesh in nearby Tuolumne Meadows.  Yet in winter the tourist highway is buried under bottomless drifts of snow and TPR is transformed into a rustic backcountry ski lodge.  Conveniently enough, it also happens to be situated smack dab in the middle of some of the most outrageous ski terrain in the lower 48.

Our trip to TPR was destined to be good; the signs were all there.  Howard the Dweeb, the local "skiers weatherman", was predicting a couple of feet of unusually light powder to fall over Mono County starting Saturday morning.  (And Mammoth-area skiers know that the Dweeb report tells no lies.) 

Another divine signal of our impending powder nirvana revealed itself when we ducked into a little taco joint in the Carson Valley.  Among the murals painted on the walls, one leapt out instantly:  a depiction of the great Snowshoe Thompson ripping tele turns with 10 foot skis and a lurk in hand.  "Of all the taco joints in the world..."  Yep, this was definitely going to rule.

With the storm expected to hit first thing Saturday, we negotiated an earlier than usual pick up time with the folks at TPR.  Ordinarily, it is a long slog up Lee Vining Canyon to the lodge, but another bit of good luck intervened and we got the express treatment -- arriving at the lodge just after 10am.  To our delight, we discovered it had been dumping snow at the pass all night, and around 18" of fresh awaited us.  With avalanche danger high, we stuck to the mellow slopes on the other side of the road and sessioned a perfect north facing tree run.

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