Welcome to Awesomeness at Alpine Meadows

Finding a new home ski hill like the rest of 'em

This morning I had a moment. Not to say it was anything life affirming or even boastful, just that something clicked.

Some locals will lament sharing a well-known local secret. Most will not mind. I contend if you read POWDER you are privy to this information. With that preamble let me tell you—Alpine Meadows is an awesome place to ski.

Locals, the best and the worst. PHOTO: Courtesy of Squaw Alpine
Locals, the best and the worst. PHOTO: Courtesy of Squaw Alpine

I will never adopt a West Coast sports team. I am from New York. But if you are going to live here, in Lake Tahoe, then you need a new home ski area.

“Why are you not at work?”

Four grown men riding on a chairlift smirked.

“Don’t you have something to do?” asked the Truckee local in his thick Russian accent. He is egging us on. Our eyes drift to a skier wheelie-ing out of a small patch of trees to the left about one-third of the way up the Summit lift. The Truckee Russian hoots. I spot local Kaya Lampa nollie-ing a little Jersey booter out of a freshly tracked line he laid down. I yell to…no. Not today. If I see him, and I likely will in a lift line, then we will ski together. There is no need to scream on a day like today. Keep it cool.

It’s finally good here, one guy says to me. “Yep,” I reply, but it was always good here, I think. Just now it’s better. I often hear that this winter is How It Used To Be, but again my mind says this is how it is now.

“Who are the meanest skiers in the world?” he asks, somewhat randomly, before exiting the chair.

“Locals,” I say. I can see his disappointment in a missed opportunity to shit on Colorado, Utah, or South Lake. “And probably people on forums.” Have a good day, Truckee Russian.

Ohhh look at that powder snow.

I meet Brian on a second lap on Sherwood. It was hard for Brian to get out of bed this morning. Occasionally we all get a little lazy. Brian lives in Tahoe City. We talk about the forecast—El Nino and such.

“I guess the best way to see what the weather is going to do,” he tells me, putting emphasis on this next part, “is to go out and ski after it happens.” That’s a nice philosophy, Brian. Have a nice day out there. I need to remember that one.

South Face is skiing good. Grammar says it is skiing “well,” but screw grammer right now. It’s gooood.

Back at Summit, the lifties write on a whiteboard in magic marker: “Welcome to Awesomeness.” The Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band” blares from a duck-taped speaker. The walls are built of cannonballs, their motto is Don’t Tread on Me. The lyric reminds me of the avalanche bombing echoing the valley.

Couldn't have said it better. PHOTO: Mike Rogge
Couldn’t have said it better. PHOTO: Mike Rogge

I meet John from Reno. He works at a ski shop. Part time, he says, but during the holiday season he thinks he had one day off out of 28, maybe 30. Damn, John. At least he has money in the bank, though, he says. “My biggest problem today,” he says with toothy grin, putting his old Scott goggles on his face, “is where I’m gonna ski. Look at all these options!” He lets out a yooop and skis away. Bye John.

John is right. I am not farming anything today. No, today is the day to be skiing around, popping in here, going over there, skiing like a kook and skiing like a pro and somewhere in between. On the good turns, the weightless, surfy kind, I think of my friend Super G and his Dazed and Confused Wooderson-like vibe. He is not here, but I picture him saying “I just like skiing pow, maaan” as I glide out of a right. Me too. I just like skiing pow, man. I take a left then shoot through the trees, popping out the bottom like I saw Kaya do a little earlier.

They are not here, but in the comfort of a familiar run a lot of friends pop into my head. I see Stifter skiing fast in a Husky jacket, DT shooting a chute, and Reddick riding the contours of the groomer like it’s one big white wave. I jump a little lip and grab a mute grab for J.P. He’s not here either, but he’s here if you know what I mean.

“Getting any good shots?” On Summit lift, the GoPro’d snowboarder says he found a couple cool cliff bands, but now he is going to try and nail a recently filled-in chute. After all, he says, I’m outta here at noon. Me too. Have a good day, bud. So long. I didn’t get his name, but I hope he gets the shot. I do.

Alpine Meadows is a nice place to call home. PHOTO: Courtesy of Squaw Alpine
Alpine Meadows is a nice place to call home. PHOTO: Courtesy of Squaw Alpine

Back on Scott Chair, I holler to a guy in a green jacket. It feels OK to yell now. What a great morning. Green Jacket does not acknowledge my shout with a wave or any kind of gesture. He skis away a little faster, angulating his powder turns a little deeper, exaggerating the pump of his arms.

I do the exact same thing anytime anyone says anything about my skiing. That is probably why, among many reasons, I am not a professional. No, it’s just me and I’m skiing around like an average Joe, like the rest of ’em, out on a Thursday at 10 a.m.

Something clicked this morning. I like the people here. I like the skiing here. Before I leave, I ski over to a place my friend Julie showed me last weekend. It’s called, well, maybe I’ll keep that one a secret for now.

Man, aren’t locals the worst?