April Update: Tahoe Donner XC: Tahoe’s easiest summit snowshoe hike/ski tour is still a go

Update: despite the drought and Tahoe Donner XC being closed this very viewful ski tour/snowshoe hike is still a go.   Vestiges of grooming remain along the ridge route and quite a few telemarkers are enjoing spring skiing in Sunrise Bowl itself.   No ski pass required.

Tahoe Donner XC  features the Northern Sierra’s easiest snowshoe hike or ski  with panoramic views along Donner Ridge to Hawks Peak IF one is willing to do about 1/2 mile of trailbreaking from an unofficial trailhead at the uppermost part of Skislope Way to connect to the groomed track system at “The Far Side”.   Make your way to the Glacier Way parking lot off Skislope way.  If the lot hasn’t been plowed then it’s usually OK to park in the Glacier Way cul-de-sac.  Head west along the crest of Donner Ridge for about 1/2 mile  to “The Far Side”.   After linking up with the groomed trail system another 2.5 miles along the ridge brings you to Hawks Peak.   Throw in the return it’s about 6 miles out-and-back, which is just about right.


The Tahoe Donner ridge route.

The Tahoe Donner ridge route. It also works for summertime hiking/biking.

A few caveats:

  • You do need a Tahoe Donner XC trail pass to use the trail system or hike in its immediate vicinity.
  • Skislope Way is a very heavy snow area and bona-fide,  high-clearance 4×4 is usually necessary to get up there unless it’s been clear for a few days.    I’ve generally found it easier to access it, somewhat counterintuitively, from the northern end, as that approach doesn’t have hairpin turns.

By John Reece


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.

Squaw development: a topographical perspective

As a Squaw skier since 1980 I wasn’t happy about the original development plan which pretty much eliminated day-use parking and some historical Olympic buildings. 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.

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

Tahoe snow report 1-31-2014: 6″-14″ fresh snow but…

The good news is Tahoe has 6″-14″ of fresh stuff, with the higher numbers naturally at the higher elevations and is looking prettier. The bad news it doesn’t make much difference as far as additional trails opening up, just making the ones that have been open better (and they’ve been surprisingly decent). Note that that the resorts’ learn-to-ski areas all seem to be in great shape.

Royal Gorge XC and Tahoe Donner XC are still closed.
Nothing new at Sugar Bowl or Squawpine. I was thinking maybe Shirley Lake could open, but guess not.
I haven’t been following the others so I can’t say if new trails have opened up.
Mammoth IS opening up some new stuff. According to the snow report, Dave’s, Cornice Bowl, and Roadrunner off the top are open though I suspect they’re a bit dicey.

KSL revises Squaw development proposal, death of Lake Tahoe still predicted.

KSL has revealed scaled-back development plans for its corner of Squaw Valley.   Buildings have been reduced by about  1/3 and a fair amount of the existing day-use parking, which was going to be virtually eliminated, is retained.    I suspect this was the target all along and the original proposal was simply a posture from which to make a concessionary retreat when the inevitable opposition arises.

This, of course, will not mollify the usual suspects opposing any development proposal.  Note that virtually all construction comes on top of existing paved parking or unpaved dump/storage sites.   The footprint is a tiny fraction of the whole of Squaw Valley and subsantially less than the existing subdivisions occupied by the resident opponents.  In the flatlands this sort of thing is what the Sierra Club refers to as “smart growth”.

Here’s the original plan (click to enlarge, and it’s large):

Original Squaw development proposal.

Original Squaw development proposal.

Here’s the new plan (click to enlarge, and it’s large):

The new proposal

The new proposal

Here’s the new plan (click to enlarge, and it’s large):

Tahoe Donner XC: drought update

Though Royal Gorge has closed for the time being, Tahoe Donner still has a few trails open:

Tahoe Donner drought update: open trail map

Tahoe Donner drought update: open trail map