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.