Wednesday, May 24, 2006

TTips East Side Gathering: Tobacco Flats

After making skiing my number one priority this winter, my other commitments (school, work, family, etc) finally won out and kept me from doing any skiing during the last 5 weeks. So when I found out about the Telemark Tips gathering taking place this past weekend at Tobacco Flats on the East Side of the Sierras, I was all ready to load up my car and make the journey from San Diego.

After 6.5 hours in the car, we made it to the Tobacco Flats camp site at 1:30 AM. The directions were spot on. I woke up at 6, half surprised that I was the 4th person up. Eventually the rest of the crew up. After a nice leisurely breakfast, a cup of French Roast (thanks Jim), and a motivating bag pipe performance (you the man Charlie!), a group of about 15 of us set out around 7:30. Being my first time there, I was content to follow the rest of the gang. About halfway up, we split into two groups. The Socal group (myself included) went up Old Man Bowl on Little Morrison. The rest of the group headed for the Hippie Chutes (also called Finger Chutes) and Mt Aggie.
During climb up, I was surprised by how much the 5 weeks off had affected my stamina. After only 4 hours, my legs were exhausted and my lungs were gasping for air. By the time we made it to the top of the Old Man Bowl at 11:30, it had already softened up quite a bit. The run down was awesome though. This was my first time skiing corn and it was wonderful. I cranked big GS turns all the way down. As much as I wanted to stop and savor the run, I was having too much fun to stop.
Once we made it to the base of the bowl (~1130), we had a decision to make. We could either keep skiing or we could head back to the campsite and start drinking. I'm embarrassed to say that we were all dead tired and chose option B. We were back at Tobacco Flats drinking cans of PBR by noon. The other group didn't arrive back at the site until 4 pm. They ended up making it up to the top of Aggie and doing several laps on the Hippie Chutes. They reported that the snow on the Hippie Chutes was still excellent as late as 3:45. After hearing how great their day was, we were looking forward to rallying and skiing the Hippie Chutes on Sunday.

As the afternoon went on, more and more people started showing up. By the end, we probably had about 25-30 people there. It was great to get to know all of these other people who share a passion for backcountry skiing. As a couple of us remarked, the gathering was really a testament the power of the internet. Five years ago this gathering would not have been possible. But thanks to the Teletalk forum on Telemark Tips, a group of strangers coming from everywhere from Seattle to San Diego was able to get together for a weekend of skiing. Most of my friends think it's a bit weird to be driving 7 hours to meet a group of strangers I met over the internet. If I were them, I'd think so too. But let's face it, there aren't that many backcountry skiers in Southern California and the internet allows us to all come together. More importantly, if a person is into backcountry skiing, they might be a bit insane (aren’t we all?). But deep down, they’re a good person.

The last weather forecast we saw before driving up said that it wasn’t supposed to start raining until Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, I started hearing drops hit my tent around 1:30 AM. By 3:00 AM, those drops had turned into a downpour and heavy winds. Worse for me, I was too lazy when we set up camp Friday night and too drunk on Saturday to put on the rain fly. So I bailed from the tent around 3 when the tent started leaking like a sieve and finished the night in the front seat of Tyler’s car. Needless to say, we didn’t go out skiing on Sunday. So the Hippie Chutes will have to wait until next year.

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