This past week I felt a little like Dorothy
in the "Wizard Of Oz". No, it was not because I was
wearing ruby red slippers (I know this is So Cal but not all
of us are candidates for Jerry Springer). The past few days I
found out what Dorothy meant by "there's no place like home".
I went home, home to my mountain. The place I learned to telemark,
the place where I taught my son the joy of backcountry powder
skiing and the place where most of my best ski days have taken
Home Mountain is a remarkable spot. When it
goes off, it goes hard. Very hard. This week was one of those
times, zero to epic in two weeks. We had a very tough season
last year, very little snow and only a few local days off-piste,
virtually no true pow days and this season started off even worse.
At our local ski area, where they keep careful track of such
things, the snowfall total, until a few weeks ago, was a big
1 inch (thanks, Ullr, for manmade). Then the Southern Jetstream
became dominant and things went Richter. Home Mountain got blasted
repeatedly and this week the skiing climaxed. The snow level
even dropped for a bit down to 2,000 feet, there was snow in
the hills above Burbank, where I grew up, for the first time
in my memory (40 or so years). Cold temperatures mean dry snow,
and that was what Home Mountain got.
I tried all day Monday to get in touch with
Steve, all the time remembering a time when we skied together
so much that after a while we didn't have to call, we would just
meet up at the spot (see Tele World Turns "In
a Good Year") after a dump. Unsuccessful at reaching
him, I just showed up at his door Tuesday morning, all the regular
bro's had gone off to work and he was just waiting to find somebody
to ski with.
We dropped my car at the bottom, and headed
up the road in his old Subaru, as we had done for so many years.
The first snow gate was open, reaching mid-mountain, the second
gate was closed. No problem, a little climbing is good for the
soul. Rubbing on a bunch of green-blue, the anticipation was
high. Kicking out to North Ridge Bowls was a blast, two years
away from Home Mountain was way too long! In no time we were
standing above the bowls ready to head down when the call of
my old favorite ridge run became too strong to ignore. We traversed
over quickly, tightened the boots and started down, hip deep,
light, floating, soft carving, breathing hard, linking turn after
turn, quads burning joyfully, seeking the fall line and finding
it, floating again, acheiving the white room and total bliss.
1,000 vertical feet of steep, uninterrupted,
powder heaven. Widely spaced Ponderosa Pines highlight the run.
A short climb leads to another bowl, aptly named "Last Chance"
where still more open turning terrain is found.
To skier's right in this picture are open
bowls, but it is hard to beat the snow quality on this run. The
wind does not beat it up so quick and the route is longer.
Only about thirty-five percent of the run
is visible in this shot.
Photo by Mitch Weber
At the bottom our smiles were huge. A little
more climbing and we were at Last Chance Bowl, the turns here
were, again, sweet and satisfying.
Steve throwing a big old roost in Last Chance
Photo by Mitch Weber
Climbing over the ridge, blasting through
the church camp and to the car at the bottom, we were both thinking
the same thing: "we gotta get back up and do it again".
As luck would have it, the second car to go by saw our thumbs
out, stopped and picked us up. They were a couple of guys out
for a snowshoe trip and a little winter camping. When we arrived
at the mid-mountain snow gate we saw the snowplows just finishing
up! The gate was thrown open and minutes later we were on our
way up. Taking the mountain from the top means almost 3,000 vertical
feet of total descent. This time we would take a different route,
destination: Church Camp Bowl.
Arriving back at the car after another epic
run down, my mind was filled with not just the joy of the turns
but also of great memories. Like the time my son, Neil, and I
put our tracks on Signature Bowl and were hitch-hiking back up
when his Kindergarten teacher stopped to pick us up. Or the time
we skied the same bowl at 10:00 PM under a full moon with a foot
of light and dry underneath our skis, and the time we were winter
camping, on top, and Buddy the dog decided it was too cold outside
and tried to get in the tent with us in the middle of the night.
And, of course, the recollection of those first telemark turns,
the discovery of which changed my life.
All of these memories, and of course the great
skiing still to be had, are what make my home mountain so special.
Like Dorothy, I can truly say "there is no place like home!"
Author's Note: I have omitted a detailed description of
Home Mountain, and indeed have even left out it's true name out
of respect for my ski partners, after all, we live in a major
metropolitan area. Still, it is a special place, if any of you
southern California skiers would like to join us, just send me
Or use the drop down menu at the top.