Tahoe Donner XC 1/3/2015 – Open to the summit!

Tahoe Donner XC is open with 35km of trails, including several beginner-intermediate loops in the ”Home Range as well as the intermediate-advanced routes to the viewful Hawk’s Peak-Ridge area.

Coverage and surface quality in the upper areas  from the recent snow sprinkle is still good and the telemarkers are having a blast in Sunrise Bowl.    The Glacier Way trailhead is plowed and there’s free, viewful snowshowing until you reach the groomed TD trails.   A few bare spots are starting to peek through near the base elevation but snow farming should take care of that through next weekend.

Here’s a map of what’s open:

Tahoe Donner SC - 1/3/2015 - Click to enlarge

Tahoe Donner SC – 1/3/2015 – Click to enlarge


Tahoe June Update: NOW is the time to paddle Emerald Bay or Truckee River

Lots of people assume that as of Memorial Day Lake Tahoe is already filled to the brim with tourists and outdoor recreationists.   Actually the real  rush doesn’t come until the high country melts out about the week before July 4.   So now’s the time to do two paddling trips that can be seriously impacted by crowding when they do arrive in force.

Floating the Truckee River:  The float trip operators ARE renting and midweek a few people were floating down despite the drought and somewhat low water levels.   I doubt sufficent water levels  will persist past 4th of July so now’s the time.

Paddling Emerald Bay: Only about a third of the Lake Tahoe  buoys have boats attached so the likelihood  of dealing with a huge power boat armada is sharply reduced.   Stilll plan on an early morning departure from Baldwin Beach SP  or Bliss SP to avoid the wind and the power boat crush.  They usually start to kick up just before noon.   Note that while leaving from Bliss means a longer trip there’s a bald eagle nesting atop a very prominent dead tree near the Rubicon lighthouse to check out.

Tahoe Donner: Tahoe’s easiest ridge/summit hike or bike ride is snow-free.

Tahoe Donner XC  features the Northern Sierra’s easiest hike or bike with panoramic views the entire way along Donner Ridge to Hawks Peak.  It’s about 6 miles out and back with minimal elevation gains on smooth dirt roads and trails.  Make your way to the Glacier Way parking lot off Skislope way.   Pick up a trail map at the kiosk as there are a LOT of trails, roads and junctions on the Tahoe Donner trail system and it’s easy to get confused as to if you’re going exactly the way you want.  Follow the heavy orange line.


Note that at trail marker 21 you have the option to veer onto a section of the Donner Lake Rim Trail (dotted line) which will save a little uphill hiking or provide some variety on the return.

Cyclists who want more of a workout can easily turn this into a loop with a good descent on the return by starting at trailhead 4 and heading up Skislope to Glacier Way and then after reaching Hawk’s Peak come down the single-track connecting trail markers 17,17a, and 38.

By John Reece


Lake Tahoe ballooning – one way to escape the madding crowds.

There’s now a very new and novel way to see Lake Tahoe sights: by a water-launched hot-air balloon.  According to this SF Chronicle piece, Lake Tahoe – far from the crowded shore,  Lake Tahoe is home to the world’s only water-borne balloon launching operation, Lake Tahoe Balloons, and ballon-launching aircraft carrier:



Departing from Tahoe Keys Marina the tethered balloon ride rises to an altitude of 10,000 feet, about 4000 feet above the lake surface.   Cost is $295 per person.



Is KSL really going to pave over Squaw Valley?

I’ve been skiing  Squaw skier since 1980.  I was not at all happy about the original development plan which pretty much eliminated day-use parking and some historical Olympic buildings. However, the revised plan eliminated about 1/3 of the development and is probably what they were shootinfor anyway and looks ok to me.  In fact, if the new retail included, say, a Trader Joes’s (hint,hint) I might even get enthusiastic.   However,  anticipating the usual overblown rhetoric about “development filling the valley” or “paving over the valley” I though a cartographic overview would put things in better perspective.   This is a topo of all of Squaw Valley overlayed with the a map of the proposed new construction overlayed with the new structures in orange:



Note that very little of it is on virgin ground but is essentially redevelopment of the existing, and quite ugly parking lot.

April XC skiing: Royal Gorge, Tahoe Donner open

Update: Tahoe Donner XC is now closed for the season, Royal Gorge is open only for passholders from Sugar Bowl’s Mt. Juday parking lot.

Both Royal Gorge and Tahoe Donner have reopened after the latest series of storms.

Tahoe Donner has several snowmobile-groomed loops in the “Home Range” at the base elevation, and fully snow-cat groomed trails out to the views of Donner Ridge/Drifter Hut/The Far Side for decent day’s worth of skiing.

Royal Gorge has the main loops around Van Norden open, as well as trails to Lola’s Lookout atop Roynton Peak and connecting to Sugar Bowl.

Squaw Update 3-18-2013: Decent spring conditions, U.S. Alpine Championships this week

The US Nationals ski races are on this week at Squaw Wednesday Thru Saturday.    The races are at Red Dog at lower Squaw,starting at 9am and 12pm with live music (and sunny, warm temps)  at the outdoor pub from 1:30-40, so you don’t have to be a skier to have some fun.

The full schedule is at the Squaw Valley website.

Despite all the drought hand-wringing nearly all the  main groomed runs that usually operate in the spring of  good years snow are open with decent coverage.  It’s still getting below freezing at night so snow surface is pretty good though lower Mountain Run turns to mashed potatoes pretty quickly.

How Truckee became a top ski town

Hmmm, Truckee does seem to be getting some buzz in the national media as evidenced in pieces like this Mercury-News item, “How Truckee became a top ski town”.   There have been some pretty swanky restaurants and boutique hotels opening up lately.    Restaurant Trokay, in particular, seems to be going for Michelin star.

Still just adequate on this season’s snow situation, though.  At Squaw and Alpine pretty much all the normally groomed runs are now open with decent coverage, though I’m still using rock skis just in case.

Yosemite National Park drops plans to ban bike and raft rentals

So says the Mercury News.     The plan also provided for eliminating horse rentals, an historic bridge, and the swimming pools and ice rink.  The bridge and pools will remain, the horses will go.   The River campgrounds flooded in 1997 will be partially brought back after a mere 17 years of delay.

This brouhaha came about when two small activist groups sued over the Merced  River Plan and the Wild and Scenic River designation, which was intended to stop dams outside the park, to force the park to restore the river within the valley to their definition of wild pristineness and eliminate some rather minor visitor services and amenities they found aesthetically objectionable.

Curiously, they were most opposed to a plan to build a parking lot in the western part of the valley for a mandatory shuttle system, like at Zion NP, to get cars out of the rest of the valley alltogether.

I guess the public outcry was too much.

Tahoe Donner XC: 2-15-2013 – 30km open with loops and ridge views

Tahoe Donner XC is open for President’s Day weekend with 30km including some big loops and all the way to Donner Ridge. Hawk’s Peak is also reachable with about 200 yards of hiking. Cover IS scanty in some stretches so bring rock skis. Opensnow’s Brian Allegretto is calling for 3-6 inches Saturday night with clearing on Sunday.  Hopefully this timeall the precip will come down as snow not rain.  The current trail map:


Tahoe DOnner XC - open trails