Words: Ryan Dunfee "The Base Grind"
This winter shattered Tahoe's reputation as a utopia for outdoor enthusiasts. I arrived at New Year's and was presented with Squaw Valley resembling more of an East Coast Thanksgiving than a Cali pow paradise, with three stressed ribbons of man-made ice strung between endless stretches of bare, cold dirt. Nights were spent poring over TahoeWeatherDiscussion.com, maintaining hope for the longevity of the next storm, a figment that was usually weeks out. When the snow came, we'd usually get one solid day at the resort, but by the summit of the following day's dawn ski tour, the feet of pow Mother Nature had finally blessed us with would be collapsing faster than an ice cream cake in the microwave.
After a season of frayed nerves, bare slopes, and horrid avalanche cycles, there's something to be said for participating in a sport that is largely conditions-free: mountain biking. Compared to skiing and its summer cousin, surfing, mountain biking is largely unshackled from worries about storm cycles or swell. As soon as the snow melts, the trees are cleared and the trail is ridden in, you're good to go until the snow covers it all up again. There are no pow days, no pow day traffic, no first chairs, or any of that other stressful, this-day-only garbage that comes with the ski experience.
Not to mention that when it comes to summer bike season, Tahoe almost always retains its Edenistic crown. On a busy day, I can squeeze in a 35 minute door-to-door lap with a solid mile of downhill – talk about adrenaline efficiency. It usually takes me that long just to get my ski boots on, pull apart my skins, and complain about how tight my hip is.
After a winter of being largely disappointed by "the search," it's time to take it easy on our collective mental state. Throw your beacon, shovel, probe, layers, snow tires, avalanche and weather report in the closet, turn your bike into the sun and down the trail, and know you'll be pumped at the end. Three cheers for the simple, stress-free stoke—we could use some of it.
(This is The Base Grind, Dunfee's weekly look at the idiosyncrasies and the idiots of the ski industry.)