Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort: Great skiing & boarding for all levels

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Sierra at Tahoe is a resort that covers both ends of the skiing continuum, from beginner to expert and everything in between.

Gentle green runs, a great ski school, over 100 acres of terrain dedicated to beginners, and four beginner-only surface lifts make Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort a popular destination for those just getting started on the hill.

Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Top notch tree skiing and 320 acres of expert level backcountry terrain at Huckleberry Canyon have accomplished riders and skiers heading to the resort with frequency.

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Anything for intermediates? Half the trails are rated blue, with a wide selection of groomers of varying grades and plenty of fresh corduroy.

Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2,000 acres and a 2,212 ft vertical drop, Sierra at Tahoe’s 46 trails cover some ground across the mountain.

Three high-speed quads, five cozy doubles, and one triple whisk skiers and boarders up the mountain, with several separate areas on the mountain primarily defined by how they are accessed: Grandview, Huckleberry Canyon, Backside, Nob Hill and the West Bowl.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grand View

Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

The Grand View Express lift, located behind the ski school, serves the east side of the mountain, delivering skiers and riders to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

At the top of the lift, 360 Smokehouse BBQ is a great spot to grab lunch, head up to the rooftop deck for a photo opp of the lake, and check out Huckleberry Canyon.

360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the front side of the hill, skiers and riders will find a wide variety of terrain including bumps, groomers, and glades.

Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just under the Grand View lift are some nice advanced runs or for a gliding groomer, head off toward the west to tackle the longest run on the mountain, Sugar n’ Spice, a 2.5 mile green run that winds down from the top of Grand View Express all the way to the lodge.

Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n'Spice
Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n’ Spice
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sugar n'Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Sugar n’ Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Huckleberry Gates

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A short hike from the top of the Grandview lift, the Huckleberry Canyon backcountry terrain can be accessed from five gates.

Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 320 acres of Huckleberry Canyon delivers some of the most challenging inbounds backcountry skiing and boarding at Lake Tahoe.

Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With cliff drops, chutes, bowls, glades, and cornices, it’s steep, it’s deep, and it’s definitely an experts-only adventure.

Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

While the extreme riding of Huckleberry Canyon is out of reach for most of us – it’s fabulous to watch some of the best in the sport tackle the incredible terrain. In 2016, Sierra at Tahoe held the inaugural Huck Cup, an IFSA Free World Qualifier event.

Men's skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

For two days, more than 50 of the top freeride skiers and snowboarders from around the world competed for Freeride World Tour qualifying points and a share of $5000 in prize money. It was an awesome display of tricks, thrills, and spills on the natural, rugged terrain. Be sure and mark your calendars for the annual event!

Backside

Heading off the back of the mountain from the Grandview lift, the Backside has some fun trails and is home to Sierra at Tahoe’s boarder cross features. Located on the south side of the mountain, the sunny Backside is best skied in the morning once spring rolls around.

Skiing at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Skiing at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nob Hill

Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Popular with riders of all levels, Nob Hill departs near the base area and delivers skiers and riders to a variety of challenges, including access to the very wide and somewhat steep intermediate run, Lower Main, that ends in the base area.

Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

West Bowl

Moving to the west side of the mountain, West Bowl is a great place for intermediate and advanced skiers to play.

The high speed quad, West Bowl Express, accesses terrain ranging from long, fast cruisers to beautiful glade runs amidst the magnificent Red Fir trees for which Sierra at Tahoe is so well known.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Terrain Parks

Sierra at Tahoe has six terrain parks, the Smokey BoarderX course, and a halfpipe.

Designed with an emphasis on advancing skill levels in appropriate conditions, Sierra’s Burton Progression Park was created with first-timers in mind. From there, freestylers can tackle jumps, boxes, rails and build their trick repertoire at the various parks located throughout the resort.

Adventure Zones

Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The kiddos love Sierra at Tahoe’s on-mountain themed adventure zones. With animated characters, educational signs and pint-sized terrain features, children are entertained as they learn their way around the snow.

Adventure zones at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Adventure zones at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe Ski school

Along with a highly-friendly environment for those just finding their way around the slopes, Sierra at Tahoe has a great ski and snowboard school for riders of all ages and all abilities.

Parents rave about the Wild Mountain children’s program, which both gets kids on skis and entertains them at the same time. Located next to the Main Lodge, programs are grouped by age and ability and are designed to encourage children’s love of the sport and their progression through skill levels.

Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Yoda's Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Yoda’s Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Dining & drinking

Sierra has some tasty options for dining and drinking, both on-mountain and at the lodge…

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the Main Lodge & Solstice Plaza

Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Java Junction – Serving a wide variety of coffee selections, as well as breakfast and lunch items

Mama’s Kitchen – With fare from breakfast burritos to soups, sandwiches, pizza and mac and cheese

Aspen Café – Grilled items and a variety of lunch options served with one hour of free WiFi access

Golden Bear Terrace – Located outside the Main Lodge, specializing in burgers, sandwiches, craft beers and goggle tans

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Solstice Eatery – Specializing in tasty wraps, salads and whole wheat and gluten-free pizzas

Lunch at the Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Lunch at the Sierra Pub and Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra Pub & Deli – Serving sandwiches, nachos, and pizza – a great spot for après with live music, happy hour specials and “local bar” atmosphere.

Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

And perhaps the best beer bargain around – join the Sierra Pub Club and get happy hour prices all day long.

Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

On mountain

Baja Grill – At the foot of the West Bowl Express, the spot for fresh fish tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tacos

360° Smokehouse BBQ – Located at the top of the Grandview lift at 8,852 feet, specializing in soups, BBQ and stunning Tahoe views (they have a veggie burger as well)

360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

A wide variety of hotels and resorts are available in South Lake Tahoe which is about 17 miles from Sierra at Tahoe.

The complimentary South Shore Shuttle provides transportation from South Lake Tahoe to Sierra at Tahoe – shuttle times and information can be found on the Sierra at Tahoe website or by calling 530-659-7453.

Getting to Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe’s address is 1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, CA 95735.

Sierra at Tahoe is located 74 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, from the Reno Tahoe airport. From Sacramento, Sierra at Tahoe is 91 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, on Highway 50.

From the San Francisco airport (SFO), Sierra at Tahoe is 188 miles or about 3 1/2 hours.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

Check on the Sierra at Tahoe website for discounts before you head to Sierra at Tahoe – the resort is known year after year for affordable lift tickets and great discounts on first timer lessons.

Reserve lessons and day care in advance. The kids programs are very popular, so reserve a spot for the little ones in advance. On the day of the lesson, drop off parking is available directly in front of the school.

Check the road conditions before you go. Chains are required frequently on Highway 50 so check the road conditions before heading to the resort at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Plan on traffic on the weekends and holidays. Sierra at Tahoe draws a big Sacramento and Bay area crowd, so arrive early to spend more time on the slopes and less in your car. Or, better yet, come midweek for no lift lines and plenty of untouched pow.

Black Diamond - SIA Snow Show 2015

What caught our eye at SIA15

Black Diamond at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Thousands from the snow sports industry converged in Denver this week to check out the latest gear at the annual SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Snow Show.

According to SIA, U.S. snow sports fans are once again heading to the mountains, with the number of U.S. skier/rider visits increasing to 56.6 million visits during the 2012-2013 season, following a dip in 2011/2012 to 51 million.

US snow visits SIAAnd, they are buying snow sports gear in record numbers. Again, according to the SIA, products purchased at snow sports specialty stores increased by 31% from the 2012/2013 season and, for the same time period, online purchases increased 22%.

What caught our eye at SIA15

With nearly a thousand brands presenting and over 60 seminars & clinics, it takes a while to navigate the products at SIA. So, what caught our eye?

Redfeather snowshoes

Redfeather Snowshoes at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Redfeather Snowshoes at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Redfeather snowshoes’ design and easy entry & exit grabbed our attention but we soon learned more. Redfeather snowshoes are manufactured in LaCrosse, Wisconsin by ORC Industries, a not-for-profit company whose sole organizational mission is to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Redfeather Snowshoes at SIA Snow Show 2015
Redfeather Snowshoes at SIA Snow Show 2015
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Redfeather Snowshoes at SIA Snow Show 2015
Redfeather Snowshoes at SIA Snow Show 2015
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bollé

Bollé helmet - SIA Snow Show 2015
Bollé – SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An integrated goggle and helmet designed to reduce fogging and to optimize ventilation, Bollé’s Osmoz create buzz with attendees and the press alike.

Bollé helmet - SIA Snow Show 2015
Bollé – SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the Osmoz, Bollé’s helmets combine high design with advanced technology, delivering a helmet that looks good while performing well.

Bollé helmet - SIA Snow Show 2015
Bollé – SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hestra

Hestra gloves at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Hestra gloves at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hestra, who has a loyal following in the snow sports community because of their high quality, warm, durable gloves, introduced new glove styles and technologies for 2015/2016 at the show.

Lost Horizons

Lost Horizons at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Lost Horizons at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lost Horizons’ sweaters, hats, and gloves are a beautiful mix of vibrant colors, designs and handcrafted excellence.

A member of the Fair Trade Association of North America, Lost Horizons works directly with women’s handicraft associations in Nepal to import hand-knit goods.

Moment skis

Moment skis at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Moment skis at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Reno-based Moment Skis brought their 2015/16 line of handmade skis, proving functionality and style can coexist with a ski.

KJUS

KJUS at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
KJUS at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always known for their performance and warmth, KJUS continues to advance even further in ski fashion with great design and comfort.

Völkl

I know you aren’t supposed to choose skis based on looks, so it’s a good thing Völkl makes some of the best skis in the industry because their 2015/2016 designs are pretty awesome on the eyes. You can buy them for performance…and have a good time on the lift staring down out them.

Volkl skis at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Volkl skis at SIA Snow Show 2015 in Denver, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Check out Snowlink.com

Be sure and check out SIA’s website – Snowlink.com – a website that connects consumers, media, industry retailers and resorts to one another.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Behind the Scenes with the AFP, Torin Yater Wallace, David Wise and more

Google+ hangout AFP at Copper MountainOn Jan 11, the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) hosted a Google+ Hangout from Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Torin Yater-Wallace, David Wise, Gus Kenworthy, Maddie Bowman, Laurent Favre, and Steele Spence discussed freeskiing topics, the AFP World Tour & Olympic freeskiing.

For any aspiring skier or super fan, this was a great behind the scenes hangout with top athletes and judges discussing topics that normally don’t make the mass media’s 10 second interview.

The highlight reel

Here’s the highlights we selected from the AFP World Tour US Grand Prix Copper Google+ hangout…

3:00 -> Olympic qualifying events, athletes from 30 nations, need for 2 judging panels

6:56 -> Torin Yater Wallace says – well, just watch it

8:00 -> Going big vs technical

9:58 -> Do you know the 5 judging criteria?

1 – Execution
2 – Difficulty
3 – Amplitude
4 – Variety
What’s number 5?

10:40 -> Advice for up and coming skiers

11:25 -> “The top 4 or top 3 guys usually have everything & it’s just how much of everything you had.” – David Wise

14:00 -> Discussion: “Keeping the integrity of the sport – keeping it cool & free” – David Wise

“I think the Olympics are kinda sick.” – Torin Yater Wallace

20:00 -> What is the ideal rail?

22:00 -> Should the Olympics be at a higher level than the X-Games?

23:25 -> Group question: “Do you think Big Air should be an Olympic event?”

25:25 -> Who said, “Having a girls’ Big Air would be embarassing?”

“AFP – Keeping the free in free skiing.” – John Lang

Really behind the scenes

For the Google+ hangouts technology hounds…

Cameras: Logitech C910
Audio: Headphone splitter with iphone headphones and equivalent
Internet: Hardline Ethernet connection with 70Mbps download and 50 Mbps Upload thanks to Copper Mountain’s marketing department

Note: The camera stayed ‘locked’ on the camera outside because of user error.

Hamilton Sports, Aspen

Choosing the right pair of skis

Opening day has a way of turning thoughts towards what’s the newest, latest and best in skis.

Which skis perform the best? Some expert advice could come in handy about this time…

Shopping for a new pair of skis

Hamilton Sports, Aspen
Hamilton Sports, Aspen
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Shopping for a new pair of skis is both exciting and intimidating.

Which brands are best?  Which style suits the type of skiing I do most?  What if I want a good all mountain ski?

Former pro skier and Aspen ski shop owner, Bill Miller, took a few moments to share with us his thoughts on this year’s selection, why he chose the skis he did for his ski shop, Hamilton Sports, and what he skies on…

Kastle Skis & Blizzard Skis Summary

Hamilton Sports, Aspen

  • Both are Austrian ski manufacturers
  • Both Kastle & Blizzard offer superb quality
  • Wide variety of styles & both Kastle & Blizzard have an excellent all-mountain option
  • Hamilton Sports carries one of the largest selections of Kastle in the U.S.
  • What’s the best ski Bill’s ever tested? (The answer is at the end of the video…)

Hamilton Sports

Learn more about Hamilton Sports »

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.


 

Scotts Memorial Cross, Observation Hill

Work Hard, Play Hard: A Cross-Country Ski Guide to McMurdo Station

Scotts Memorial Cross, Observation Hill, Antarctica
Scotts Memorial Cross, Observation Hill, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Scotts Memorial Cross, Observation Hill

“I’m just going outside; I may be away some time” said Captain Oates as he left his tent for certain death. A member of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910, Oats and his three companions, including Admiral Robert Falcon Scott, succumbed to starvation and the unrelenting cold on their return journey from the South Pole.

Antarctica is a harsh continent. It is also a beautiful one.

“The land looks like a fairytale,” wrote famed polar explorer – Roald Amundsen – during the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition that successfully reached and returned from the South Pole the same season as the fatal British Expedition. Unlike Oats and Scott, Amundsen used skis.

Flagged Ski Route on Hut Point Peninsula, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Flagged Ski Route on Hut Point Peninsula, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

Ninety-eight percent of Antarctica is covered in snow and ice, a skiing paradise. And there exist only two practical ways to go skiing there. One involves spending a lot of money, the other earning some. The following is a guide to the later.

The United States Antarctic Program, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs, conducts unique high-quality scientific research, maintains an active and influential American presence in the region, supports the Antarctic Treaty, and encourages international cooperation.

The logistical center of the program is McMurdo Station. Located on Ross Island in McMurdo Sound the station is the southern most harbor on earth and the hub for scientific research and inquiry of a colossal frozen wilderness.

Under the midnight sun of the Austral summer, McMurdo Station and its neighboring New Zealand research station – Scott Base – is home to over a 1,200 scientists and support personal. These hardy “Antarcticans” work 10-hours a day, 6-days a week. Despite long 60-hour work weeks, many further immerse themselves, often by ski, in the surreal landscape of rock, snow, and ice.

A Cross-Country Ski Guide to McMurdo Station, Antarctica
A Cross-Country Ski Guide to McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

A crisp Antarctic breeze, a heightened heart rate, and a dreamlike setting provide the ideal elixir to burn off stress and recharge mind, body, and spirit.

Groomed for wheeled vehicles, a system of nearly 30-miles of ice roads provides access to several airstrips and ski-ways. During the summer season (October-February), several of these roads are open to cross-country skiing and offer world-class skate skiing. Other routes (un-groomed) offer quality opportunities for classic and ski touring. On top of all that, for a few hours each week, downhill and snowboarding are possible at a rope tow operated by New Zealand’s Scott Base.

Recreation Map for McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica
Recreation Map for McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica

Castle Rock Loop

Castle Rock Loop, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Castle Rock Loop, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

A McMurdo classic, the 7-mile Castle Rock Loop is the most ambitious ski tour in the McMurdo area.

The highlight of the route is a medieval looking tower of ancient volcanic magma — Castle Rock.  The backdrop is stellar. Behind this, rocky sentinel Mount Erebus rises 12,440 feet out of the sea and dominates the landscape. To the North, the Erebus Glacier protrudes its phallic blue tongue deep into McMurdo Sound. Beyond, a series of jagged black islands, with names like Inaccessible and Big Razorback, form the outline of an ancient underwater caldera.

Weddell Seal Veterinarian Rachel Berngartt, Castle Rock Loop, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Weddell Seal Veterinarian Rachel Berngartt, Castle Rock Loop, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

In contrast to this pristine landscape, the route starts with a short walk uphill past an industrial zone that includes McMurdo’s Vehicle Maintenance and Waste Management Facilities.

The actual trailhead is marked with a large signpost at the start of the flagged route across a permanent ice field. Along the route are several red emergency shelters known as Apples.

These shelters are equipped with emergency food, a stove, fuel, sleeping bags and pads. The second shelter even houses an emergency phone.

When conditions are right Castle Rock itself may be climbed. The route does require a couple hundred feet of rock scrambling.  A fixed rope offers extra security and keeps climbers on route. The panoramic view from the summit is stupendous.

From Castle Rock, the trail heads down toward the Ross Ice Shelf. The descent requires turning or a strong snowplow. Later in the season this section is often icy and metal edged touring skis are advantageous.

Several crevasses, bridged with snow-covered plywood, cross the route — it’s imperative to stay on the flagged trail. At the bottom is the Antarctica-New Zealand Ski Hill followed by 1.5-miles of flat travel to Scott Base and a gravel road. Another 1.5 miles of walking leads back to McMurdo Station.

Ice Runway Road

The Ice Runway and Road are located on temporary sea-ice covering McMurdo Sound.The route is established every austral spring to accommodate jet service to Antarctica.The Ice Runway Road closes when sea ice conditions deteriorate, normally before Christmas.The route begins on the sea ice in front of the Station.

The ice-road heads west away from the station and swings (depending on the condition of the sea ice) to the south or north.

Skiing on along the Ice Runway Road, The Ross Sea, Antarctica
Skiing on along the Ice Runway Road
The Ross Sea, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

Though the distance can vary year to year, it is typically 3 miles each way. The Ice Runway Galley offers complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

This is a popular evening ski often done solo after work. The surface is typically slick and the skating fast. To the west the impressive Royal Society Range, including 13,205-foot Mount Lister, defines the skyline.

Willy Road

Williams Field Skiway, a.k.a. “Willy Field”, is named for Richard T.Williams, a Navy tractor driver who tragically lost his life in 1956 while operating a D-8 bulldozer that broke through the sea ice.Historically, Williams Field Ski-way was utilized during late summer for ski-equipped aircraft flying to, from, and within Antarctica.

Today, Willy Field is the launching pad for 7-million-cubic-foot super-pressure balloons.

2012 McMurdo Marathon Champion Mike Roberts Ross Island, Antarctica
2012 McMurdo Marathon Champion Mike Roberts
Ross Island, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

Capable of carrying thousands of pounds of scientific equipment, these massive Long Duration Balloons reach altitudes exceeding 111,000 feet for months at a time.

The Willy Road, that provides access to the former ski-way and balloon launching pad, is located on the permanent Ross Ice Shelf.

Glacier in origin, the 300-foot thick ice shelf floats on the surface of the Ross Sea.

From Scott Base, the Willy Road is 5.6 miles each direction. If done as a round trip tour, this is the longest ski route in McMurdo. Groomed regularly for wheeled vehicles, the skate skiing is fantastic.

From Willy Field, all of McMurdo Sound’s highpoints, including Mount Erebus, Terror, Aurora, Discovery and Lister, are visible.

Cape Armitage

Cape Armitage, Antarctica
Cape Armitage, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

Cape Armitage forms the South end of Hut Point Peninsula and the southernmost point on Ross Island.

Cape Armitage Weddell Seals, Antarctica
Cape Armitage Weddell Seals
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

The Cape was discovered in 1901 by the British National Antarctic Expedition.

The Expedition’s leader, Robert Falcon Scott, named it after Lt. Albert B. Armitage, the navigator and second in command of their ship the RSS Discovery.

The popular 4.5–mile Cape Armitage Route can be done as a loop via Scott Base and a 1.5 mile walk along the gravel road to or from McMurdo.

Alternatively, the Armitage Route can be skied as an out and back. Located on sea-ice, the terrain is level and easy, though often bumpy.

Cape Armitage Penguins, Antarctica
Cape Armitage Penguins
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

Established as a short cut for track vehicles traveling to and from New Zealand’s Scott Base, traffic on the route is light.

Solitude, detachment from the hustle and bustle of McMurdo, and large vistas of the Transantarctic Mountains, White Island, Black Island, and the backside of Observation Hill await.

Weddell Seals often lounge nearby. Feel free to take photos, but don’t disturb them. A good rule is to stay at least 25 feet away.

Emperor and Adélie penguins have also been spotted along the Cape Armitage Route.

New Zealand Ski Hill

Antarctic Field Leader Mike Roberts McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Antarctic Field Leader Mike Roberts
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

For those who prefer snowboarding or downhill skiing, Ross Island sports a ski hill complete with an old-school rope tow.

Utilizing an ingenuous and inexpensive system common at New Zealand “club fields,” users attach themselves with a harness and a clamp called a nutcracker.

From the top, there’s rarely any good snow on the gentle terrain. Regardless Antarctica’s first and only ski area is worth a visit.

Fun loving and friendly Kiwis offer a unique outdoor social opportunity. An invitation from Scott Base is required.

McMurdo Marathon

Approximately 18 miles from McMurdo Station on the Ross Ice Shelf is the Pegasus “White Ice” Runway, one of the most unique of the wheeled runways in Antarctica.The airfield sits on an approximately 110-foot thick glaciated shelf with three to four inches of compacted snow on top.

Normally closed to foot travel including skiers, the ice road to Pegasus is the location of the annual McMurdo Marathon.

Mount Lister and the Royal Society Range, Antarctica
Mount Lister and the Royal Society Range, Antarctica
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

Attracting hikers, runners and skiers, this annual event is held near the end of the summer season.

Combined with the Willy Road, the 26.2-mile course offers participants a chance to experience the vastness of Antarctica.

Antarctica Après Ski

Antarctica Après Ski
Antarctica Après Ski
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

No Sunday ski tour is complete without starting or ending at the McMurdo Coffee House.

Staffed with volunteer baristas, McMurdo’s oldest building offers a full service Coffee Bar in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere.

Antarctica Après Ski
Antarctica Après Ski
Photo: © Forrest McCarthy

For something stronger, visit the Southern Exposure Bar or Gallagher’s Pub.

The “Southern” is similar to a local neighborhood bar and a great place to meet up with friends. A local favorite, Gallagher’s hosts many activities including theme parties, bingo, karaoke, and dancing.

McMurdo Station’s ski loaner program offers a variety of quality skating and classic equipment. A small deposit is required. There’s also a ski-tuning bench complete with an iron, wax, and clamps.

Acquiring a McMurdo Ski Pass most often starts with a job application to one of several support companies contracted by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs. The other option is to go to graduate school, become a scientist and pursue a research grant.

Everyone is welcome to apply.

Article & photography by Forrest McCarthy

Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado

Skiing Aspen’s Buttermilk

Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Buttermilk sits three miles outside of Aspen on Highway 82, providing visitors a view of the impressive 22-foot superpipe as they make their way into Aspen.

The smallest of the four Aspen mountains, Buttermilk is primarily known as the home of the ESPN Winter X-Games and, at the other end of the continuum, a beginner’s mountain.

X Games, Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
X Games, Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Skiing & snowboarding for beginners & families

Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Buttermilk’s smooth rolling terrain makes it the Aspen option for new skiers and snowboarders to learn.

Well-groomed and not crowded, West Buttermilk’s gentle greens are the perfect place to build confidence or just enjoy a casual day on the slopes.

To head to West Buttermilk, simply take the Summit Lift to the top and head to the right (west).

West Buttermilk is served by the West Buttermilk lift.

Buttermilk’s ski and snowboard school

Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

The Ski & Snowboard Schools of AspenSnowmass teach on all four mountains, but generally beginner and children’s classes are held at either Buttermilk or Snowmass.

Aspen’s Ski & Snowboard School is exceptional, with skilled, professional instructors that strive to make the most of the experience regardless of age or ability.

And, while they’re in ski school…

If you are dropping off someone at ski school, jump on the Summit Express and head up to the Tiehack (east) side of the mountain.

Tiehack boasts blue and black runs that are generally groomed and are served by the Tiehack high-speed quad, new in 2011.

Racer’s Edge in the morning sun can hand over some nice fast cruising to start your day.

Catch some air at Buttermilk’s terrain parks

From beginner to expert, Buttermilk’s two terrain parks have over 100 features including rollers, jibs, boxes and hidden features in trees.

Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Buttermilk, Aspen, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Buttermilk: Eats

Buttermilk has two restaurants: Bumps at the base of the mountain and The CliffHouse at the top of the Summit Express lift.

Boasting views up the mountain of the half-pipe and terrain park, Bumps serves up burgers, pasta, soups and sandwiches in an energetic atmosphere.

The CilffHouse offers lunch with amazing views of surrounding mountains. Dining options include burgers, soups, sandwiches and the very popular Mongolian grill.

Buttermilk: The Facts

Buttermilk has a base elevation of 7,870 ft (2,399 m) and tops out at 9,900 ft (3,018 ft).

It’s 470 acres (190 hectares) contain 44 trails, served by 3 high-speed quads lifts (plus 4 ski school lifts & the Panda Peak lift).

35% of the trails are green, 39% are blue, 26% black & there are no double black.

The longest run is 3 miles.

For a Buttermilk trail map and more info, visit the AspenSnowmass website.

More Aspen

Aspen Mountain
Aspen Highlands
Snowmass
10 tips for the best Aspen ski vacation

 

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

A majestic ski mountaineering tour across the biggest glaciers of the Alps, the Berner Oberland Traverse in central Switzerland offers some of the most breathtaking views of the European Alps.

You will find yourself surrounded by incredible peaks such as the Jungfrau, the Monch, the Eiger, Finsteraarhorn with many options to ski one of the peaks nearby peaks.

The Berner Oberland Traverse includes skiing over eight glaciers, starting at the Jungfraujoch and finishing in Munster, after enjoying an incredible descent of over 6,000 vertical feet.

Surrounded by glaciers and peaks, the high altitude environment gives a sensation of a different world.

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

Wilhem Paulke traversed the Berner Oberland for the first time in 1897, starting at the Grimsel pass and skiing over Oberaaejoch, Grunhornlucke and down to Belalp via the Alestch glacier.

Today, the Berner Oberland Traverse is very accessible, thanks to the train that brings us to the Jungfraujoch at 3,454 meters in one hour from Interlaken.

I find skiing the Berner Oberland tour in late spring yields perfect conditions.

The comfort of the beautiful alpine huts, combined with the short distances between each hut, makes this tour very enjoyable with so many options.

From easy to extreme, there are many opportunities for alpine climbs and skiing the nearby peaks.

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse: Itinerary

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

There are numerous variations to the Berner Oberland Traverse but a typical itinerary for the ski tour is:

Day 1: Travel from Interlaken to Jungfraujoch via train. Ski up to the Monchjoch Hut (3,630 m/11,906′) and spend the night. There is the possibility of climbing the Monch along the way (4,099 m /13,444′).

Day 2: Ski traverse to the Konkordia Hut (2,850 m/9,348′) via Trugberg Mountain (3,867 m/2,684′). This is a great ski descent with spectacular views of Konkordiaplatz  the glacial ice is ~3,000′ thick!).

Day 3: From the Konkordia Hut, ski to the Finsteraar Hut (3,048 m/9,997′) via Grunhornlucke (3,266 m/10,712′). Ascent of Weissnollen (3,594 m/11,788′) over two glaciers followed by a fantastic ski descent.

Day 4: From Finsteraar Hut, ascend and extraordinaire ski descent of Gross Wannenhorn (93905m/12,886 ft) or Agassihorn at (3,953m/13,044 ft). Return to the Finsteraar Hut.

Day 5: From the Finsteraar Hut, embark on a mellow ski traverse to the Oberaar Hut (3,258 m/10,686′). Ski a peak along the way.

Day 6: From the Oberaar Hut, descend to the town of Munster (1,388 m/4,552′) via Galmilucke (3,293 m/10,801′) or Galmihorn (3,486 m/11,434′). This is a great descent from the white ice and snow of the glacier to the green valley floor (6,134′ vertical). Return to Interlaken.

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse: Difficulty & Preparation

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

The Berner Oberland Traverse is a strenuous tour and requires:

  • A high level of fitness
  • Strong skiing skills with the ability to perform strong stem christies while carrying a pack
  • Skiing in variable snow conditions – powder, hard spring snow, crud and everything in between – while under control.
  • Basic mountaineering skills. Alpine climbs require the use of crampons, rope and climbing skills.

Skiing the Berner Oberland Traverse: A preview

Learn more

Article & photography by Jean Pavillard

Ski Butlers

Ski Butlers

Ski vacations are awesome – whether you ride or ski, swoosh or shred, a week at a new mountain is a fabulous outdoor adventure.

But, what’s not so great is hauling all your stuff on your ski vacation.

Who hasn’t stood at the airport with the kids, staring at the multiple carts of luggage & skis, waiting for the privilege of paying to get it all on the plane, while hoping it all shows up at the other end & thought, there has to be a better way.

Enter Ski Butlers

Ski Butlers
Ski Butlers
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

We’d heard about Ski Butlers and were intrigued, but wanted to learn how it worked.

So, we gave Riley Tippet at Ski Butlers in Aspen a call and asked him to walk us through the ski rental process Ski Butlers style…

Sounds great!

Ski Butlers: How it Works

Ski Butlers
Ski Butlers
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

So, you can leave your ski equipment at home and Ski Butlers shows up when you arrive with everything you need to ski.

Really?

How’s that work?

1. Visit SkiButlers.com to reserve your ski equipment or give them a call at 877-754-7754.

  • Ski Butlers has multiple rental package options including skis, snowboards, boots, helmets & poles.
  • The Powder Line and High Performance ski packages include current year Rossignol skis.
  • All skis are freshly waxed and tuned before every rental.

2. Ski Butlers delivers the ski equipment to you once you arrive. They bring extra boots and a couple of models to make sure it’s a great fit.

Ski Butlers
Ski Butlers
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

See for yourself as Ski Butlers delivers skis to a client at the Hotel Aspen

Ski Butlers
Ski Butlers
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

3. Help. At anytime during your vacation, if you need something – boots aren’t quite working, you want a different size of skis – Ski Butlers will meet you, whether at your hotel, on the mountain or at lunch, and swap it out.

4. When you are ready to leave, (okay, who’s ever ready to leave – when you have to leave)
Ski Butlers picks up the equipment and you are on your way home – hassle free.

Here’s Riley of Ski Butler’s Aspen, telling us a little more…

Cool!  

 Ski Butlers locations, cost & contact info

Ski Butlers was founded in 2004 with locations currently in:

  • Colorado: Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Snowmass, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, Vail
  • British Columbia: Whistler
  • California: Heavenly, North Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley
  • Utah: Park City, Deer Valley, Salt Lake
  • Wyoming: Jackson Hole

Sounds great, but sounds expensive

Nope. The prices are comparable to local ski rental shops.

We checked performance packages at three local rental shops & Ski Butlers & all were within a few dollars/day of each other.

What separates Ski Butlers?

Here’s Riley from Ski Butlers answering our last question, “What separates Ski Butlers?

Learn more

Find out more & reserve online at SkiButlers.com or call 877-754-7754.

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

I skied the Haute Route for the first time when I was 14 and at least once or twice every year since. I’ve skied it with perfect snow; I’ve skied it in stormy conditions.

Regardless, every time I am in awe with the beauty of the tour and can’t wait to do it again.

The Haute Route is one of the best known ski tours in the world – a true traverse moving along the spine of the Alps in France, Switzerland and Italy.

Presenting all the challenges of high alpine ski mountaineering, skiing the Haute Route entails crossing glaciers, scrambling peaks and passes, rappelling and crossing hidden crevasses.

History of the Haute Route

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

The Haute Route starts in Chamonix, the European climbing & skiing Mecca and ends in Zermatt, the most well-known alpine town in the world at the foot of the Matterhorn.

The first ski traverse along the Haute Route was made by a French team in January 1903. The party consisted of Joseph Ravanel, “Le Rouge” Alfred Simon, Dr. Payot, Camille and Jean Ravanel, and Jules Couttet.

Their route took in Col du Chardonnet, Fenetre de Saleinaz, Cabane d’Orny, Orsiere, Val de Bagnes, Cabane de Chanrion, Otemma glacier, Col de L’Eveque and Zermatt (after a detour via les Hauderes due to bad weather).

The Haute Route stretches over 145 km (90 miles), crossing 23 glaciers, with a total ascent and descent of 10,000 vertical m. (33,000 ft).

The entire traverse was completed on skis in 1911. The Haute Route is not the achievement of one person or one team but, the result of many attempts from many different teams.

There are quite few variations: From Orsiere one option goes to Mt. Fort above Verbier, and continues on to Les Dix Hut via Rosa Blanche. Another option goes to Grand Combin, Chanrion Hut, Les Dix. All routes finish via Pigne D’Arolla, Vignette, Col de L’Eveque, Col de Valpelline, Zermatt.

Preparing to Ski the Haute Route

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

Skiers must have a good fitness level – the average day is 6 to 7 hours long with the longest vertical gain of 3,230 ft. and the longest descent of 6,930 ft.

In order to enjoy this ski tour, good technique is required including:

  • Skinning uphill without effort (efficient movement skills) and skinning with ski crampons
  • Performing uphill kick turns
  • Skiing in variable snow conditions – powder, hard spring snow, crud and everything in between – while under control. An efficient technique is best, with no need for aggressive hop turns, but a smoother convergent step turn (like the good old stem Christie).
  • Skiing with a pack carrying basic safety gear (shovel, probe, transceiver on you) crampons (light weight aluminum work well) small ice axe, clothes for ski touring and extra in case of bad weather, a few snacks and a water bottle.
Good preparation for skiing the Haute Route would include working with an instructor focusing on adventure skiing, avalanche safety, and mountain ski tactics.

Skiing the Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

While, as described above, there are numerous variations to the Haute Route, the itinerary for the typical ski tour is:

Day 1: Leave Chamonix to go to Argentière and ascend the Grand Montet by gondola.  From the top, ski down, then skin up to the Argentière Hut (2,771 m / 9,089′)

Day 2: Departing from the Argentière Hut, climb the Chardonnet Pass taking in the spectacular views, before skiing to the Trient Hut.

Day 3: This day sports a descent starting in the high mountains and finishing on the Rhone valley floor via Champex. Following a transfer to Verbier, the day ending at the Mt. Fort Hut.

Day 4: The Rosablanche is the high point for the day, followed by a marvelous alpine descent of this snow and glacier clad mountain, finishing at the Prafleuri hut.

Day 5: Traverse from Prafleuri hut to Les Dix hut via the Col des Roux, Lac des Dix and the Pas du Chat (the cat step)

Day 6: The climb to the top of the Pigne d’Arolla provides splendid views and leaves us, after a pleasant descent, perched at the Vignette Hut

Day 7: After ascending the Tête Blanche via Col Brulé and Col de L’Eveque, a final Haute Route descent into Zermatt.

Skiing the Haute Route: Accommodations

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Photo: © Jean Pavillard

The huts along the Haute Route are great. Perched on top of glaciers, they offer great comfort and spectacular views.

Accommodations are dorm style, with dinner and breakfast provided.

Snacks, wine, coffee and treats like “Rosti” with cheese and eggs are also available.

Skiing the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt: Additional photos

All images courtesy of Jean Pavillard.

Article & photography by Jean Pavillard