A Prairie Dog Companion: MTB and Ski Adventure Above Lake Tahoe

Aug 8, 2017 at 16:37
by Spencer Paxson  

As the dog days of summer dry the lowland trails, much of last winter's snow still lingers further up in the hills. When such conditions present themselves, some of us mountain bikers are inspired to step out of our comfort zone (or perhaps further into it?) and tackle wacky adventures in the mountains. Here is a laid back account of such a multi-sport outing from Barry Wicks and the Kona Adventure Team.



Slipping into my running shoes, I grab my tepid cup of coffee and head out the door. My van waits patiently, loaded the night before with enough ski, mountain bike and photography gear, despite its size, to overflow into the sparse seating area. I hop in and turn the key. Nothing happens.

The previous two days had been spent racing the Carson City Off-Road, the third and final stop in the Epic Rides Triple Crown $100,000 MTB series. A downtown criterium on Friday night, followed by a 50-mile backcountry race under the hot, Sunday sun had softened our legs, but could not dampen our enthusiasm for the adventure we had planned for the following day.

After futzing around trying to jump-start the van, I finally swapped my house battery into the engine compartment, fired the beast up, and we were underway to our starting point at Tunnel Creek Café in North Lake Tahoe.

I conceived this trip, which we dubbed "The Big MTB-Ski Adventure" during one of the epic snow fall events this past winter. The Tahoe area received 175% of its normal snow fall from November through April, and that snow was not going anywhere anytime soon. With the high mountain trails buried under the crush of white, I figured we might as well use the abundance to our advantage, and do a multimodal assault from the shores of Lake Tahoe up to the summit of Mount Rose and back.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
After fueling up on smoothies and sandwiches at the Tunnel Creek Station, it was time to get a (delayed) start on the day.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
Riding bikes with skis strapped to the top tube isn't as difficult as it might sound (or look), but we got plenty of strange glances and guffaws from other trail users as we sweated our way up from the lakeside into higher altitudes.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
As we gained elevation, the terrain changed from abundant pine trees and granite slabs into a greener fir forest with pockets of snow in the perennially shaded areas. Epic views of Lake Tahoe peeked out from between the towering trees, but we kept our sights pointed upwards.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
We eventually began to encounter patchy snow drifts, swollen creeks, and difficult route finding until reaching the junction of the Tyrolian Traverse trail.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
At around 7,500 feet elevation, the snow had become consistent enough to justify swapping over to ski travel, so we unloaded bikes and strapped on the shuffle sticks.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
Still going up...Looking in from the outside, it is remarkable to consider the patience and laid-back mindset required for human-powered backcountry adventures. For instance, the standard ratio for ski touring is that for every hour of uphill you get about one minute and thirty seconds of down. This trip was not an exception to the rule.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
Reaching the summit was the objective, but with our late start, difficult route finding, and slow progress pushing bikes through snow, we set our sights on a smaller, snow-filled chute above the Mount Rose Highway.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
Awesome views all the way to South Lake Tahoe and buttery creamed corn awaited us as we topped out on the chute, ripped off our skins and cashed in our uphill tickets for some downhill fun!

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
Once back down into the trees, we collected our stashed bikes and buckled up for a wild ride down the Tyrolian DH trail. Hours of climbing rewarded us with nearly two hours of ski and bike descending all the way back to the shores of the lake.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
Rallying trail with a big ski tail hanging off the back of the bikes made for some spicy moments, but we kept it together and chased each other all the way down, laughing at each near catastrophe the entire way down.

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team

Photos by Patrick Means Kona Adventure Team
With perma-grins plastered on our faces, we rolled the final few paved miles back to the Tunnel Creek Station Cafe. We got there just after closing and were in danger of missing out on some cold beers to celebrate our ridiculous ride, but luckily I had stashed a few in my cooler, so all was well.

As the sun set on another spectacular journey, we dove into Lake Tahoe, washing the day's grit and sweat off our bodies, and cementing our journey to the top and back in a single push.

In the immortal words of the Epic Rides series, we had had a "good day on the bike", traveled outside of our comfort zone, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Some notes on packing skis on bikes:

• Protect your frame with padding, ski edges are sharp and can cut into carbon etc.
• Use all the Voile straps you own plus about 10 more to make sure everything is as tight as possible.
• Avoid hooking your ski boots on trees/rocks/other people.
• We had our skins installed on the skis while riding, which seemed like a good idea, but they ended up getting extremely dirty from tire roost and it took me two hours to clean them up afterward. Better to keep them in the pack.
• Bring lots of snacks.
• Don’t poke your eye out.



Adventure Team Members:

Barry Wicks, @wicknasty
Kris Sneddon, @krissneddon
Spencer Paxson, @slaxsonMTB
Cory Wallace, @wallacesworld
Patrick Means (photographer), @patrick_means


MENTIONS: @slaxson



6 Comments

  • + 2
 That was awesome!!! snowshoe's next time and you don't have the huge planks sticking out the back...?
  • + 3
 It's not possible to ski down a slope with a snowshoe...
  • + 1
 @Doublejj: really...? you are so knowledgeable, please continue to amaze us with your other observations...
  • + 1
 The ultimate combo and all the more reason for me to get a split board. Thanks for the inspiration on what I'm sure was an incredible experience!
  • + 4
 Looks like a great time.
  • + 1
 You guys are nuts!

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