I wrote all these up on the plane ride home. FYI.
Paid: $49 (Reno Sports Authority)
Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 9/10
Weather: Overcast with some eventual light snowfall.
Would Return?: Definitely
I’m probably just a sucker for ski resorts with lake views, but I loved Diamond Peak, despite its shortcomings and quirks. I liked the laid-back vibe. The unpretentiousness caught me off guard (I figured Incline Village’s hill would be more uppity), parking was easy, and the random lift strangers were friendly and engaging. The skiing was also pretty good. Spent most of the day on Crystal Express sampling the diamonds with occasional forays on Lakeview. Snow was chopped powder most places, with some fun in-tree, un-tracked around Eagle Bowl and a few other gladey places elsewhere on the mountain
A little fog at the top of the express lift.
Looking up-run (this was “Lightning”, I think).
View from the ridge.
View from the sort-of untracked.
I took these using my goofy video cam:
- Diamond Peak’s biggest shortcoming was pretty obvious: south-facing and with a lower elevation than some of its competitors, there were a lot of bare spots and some closed runs.
- The views of the lake were fantastic; the lake is more than occasional scenery here, it’s a constant companion.
- Visibility was tough up on the ridge before about noon, but got better during the day. Everything coming down off the ridge offered good visibility (even at the top).
- I bought a sandwich at Wal-Mart in Reno on my way up so I have no idea how the Diamond Peak food is. However, I now know that the sandwiches at the Reno Wal-Mart are bland.
- Crystal Express doesn’t ski as weird as it looked like it would from the map.
- I liked that there was always something easy to bail out onto and something harder to bail back into on just about every run and gladed middle-ground.
- The conveyor belt on-loading on Lakeview (and Lodgepole) was a new experience for me.
The place would probably start feeling small after a couple visits in a season, but I liked Diamond a lot.
Wrap-Up (for the Whole Trip I Guess)
The trip turned out to be phenomenal. I like spring skiing days and I liked getting to experience powder conditions that I haven’t seen since I decided to start skiing again last season. At the risk of igniting an east coast-west coast debate, by Monday afternoon I’d decided my next year’s ski trip destination wouldn’t be Vermont again after all. Even if Squaw wasn’t as transcendent as hoped, the trip overall was generally very nearly euphoric. I was mad when the lifts closed down every day and when I skied my last off Diamond on Friday, it felt like I was, I dunno, being sent back into some sort of dungeon or something.
The National Weather Service described the winds at and around the Tahoe-area ski resorts on Wednesday as “destructive” and chains were required on every road between Reno and the chairlifts. So, after dropping Argosinu (née Telkontar) off at the airport, going back to the room to sleep another couple hours, showering, packing, finding and using a laundromat, and getting a by-then late lunch at Carl’s Jr., I headed over to the National Automobile Museum in downtown Reno.
I didn’t take a picture of the outside. Also, I’ve gone from having never been to a car museum to having gone to two in two months.
Right, so I didn’t know what to take pictures of inside either. I sort of tried to take “artistic” photos. The lighting was tough, a lot of glare. They had a lot of cars, but almost nothing after 1950. A lot of really old cars. The Ferarri was run during the 1952 through 1955 F1 (or whatever it was called then) seasons. It came in second in the 1955 Argentine Grand Prix. Here are photos of old cars:
Here’s the Ferrari. I think the art shot almost works for it.
Also third in the 1955 Buenos Aires Grand Prix.
So that’s pretty much the museum. They tell some good stories, every car has a detailed description plate on it, there’s some significant automotive history described there. Probably worth going, depending. Took me 2.5 hours. Cheap metered parking is right outside the front door.
Mit herzlichem Glückwunsch,
Paid: $49 (weekday full-time student price at window)
Quality of Random Lift Strangers: N/A
Weather: Sunny with high winds at the top.
Would Return?: Probably
Mt. Rose was exactly as advertised: unpretentious, locals-centric, solid vertical and elevation, and windy (although I think everywhere was probably windy that day). In terms of attitude and vibe, Mt. Rose was night-and-day compared to Heavenly (and Squaw) and, ceteris paribus, I preferred Rose’s relative easy-goingness – not that ceteris ever *is* paribus. Conditions were pretty firm (not icy) on-trail and off-trail was cruddy (this included the tree areas unfortunately). Mogul runs were carved deep with pretty inconsistent snow (thanks to the warm weather, lack of recent significant snowfall, and wind I’m sure). Spent all day on Northwest Magnum 6 (heckuva lift name) after hearing that the east-side runs were more scraped.
It was exciting to be able to see our hotel from the top.
- Wish they’d had some better snow, obviously. The chutes looked like they’d be fun, but we saw (from a distance) one person who ventured in there all day and, based on his form, he didn’t look too happy.
- Was also sad that the trees down the lift-line weren’t more skiable (I tried twice).
- Didn’t understand why they wouldn’t run the little triple chair off to the right of us. There’s not a ton of skiing at the very top and the triple looked like it would at least be out of the wind. (I’ve been told by a local, however, that it’s not actually any less windy on the triple, just a lot slower.)
- Not very crowded – we didn’t share a lift ride all day.
- I liked that the ticket booth woman barely even blinked when I requested the student rate (I’m 41; yes, I’m a full-time student with the ID to verify it).
- It’s cool that there’s one resort around Tahoe that offers such intense discounts.
Conditions were definitely a little firm that day. That said, it was hilarious listening to locals complain about how terrible the “ice” was. At Blue Knob that’s called straight-up powder.
Paid: $93 (bought at Sports Authority in Reno the night before)
Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 5/10
Weather: Absolute Bluebird (my bro’s thermometer read 42 degrees on our way up Sky Express the one time)
Would Return?: Definitely
Given the advice I’d read on EpicSki, we chose a side and ended up spending almost the entire day skiing Dipper Express (we took a couple of runs on the California side since it seemed obligatory). No complaints about traverses. I think they’d had some snow the day before, so things weren’t too scraped and, in the trees at least, conditions could be described as soft. Our favorite run was in the trees alongside Big Dipper and Meteor – left us with a long, blue run-out, but I like hard-packed bombing runs, so all was good by me.
View of the lake from the California side.
This is what the snow looked like in the trees (on the Nevada side).
- The pulled pork sandwich at East Peak Lodge was huge, but otherwise merely okay. Barbecue baked beans were generous, but I would have preferred a sweeter sauce with a little more vinegar and somewhat less chili powder. #yelp
- To me, the oddest thing about the layout was that we were kind of “trapped” on the upper mountain. If any of us had left anything down at the car (we parked at Stagecoach), it would have been a blue square-and-slush hassle trying to retrieve it.
- Stopped at the Red Hut (Kingsbury Grade) on the way up the hill. The bacon there is something to write home about.
- Plenty of people there, but the Nevada side was pretty roomy and lift lines were close to non-existent (things were decidedly more crowded California-side).
- People here had a somewhat disturbing penchant for making high-speed, lane-shifting entries into the lift lines. I imagine they learned that on the 880 somewhere around Hayward.
- The ski patrol dude who rode up the lift with us should probably be friendlier toward people who paid $93 just to be there for the day.
In the net, I loved Heavenly. The price is silly, but the views were awesome, the tree-skiing was fun, and there were plenty of places to roam even without entering California. Just for the price, I can’t imagine going there more than once a year, but next time I’m in Tahoe to ski, it will be on the itinerary.
Headed up skiing to Crystal Mountain with my dad yesterday. I’m guessing I hadn’t been there since some time before 2000 (the year). Um.
Here are some facts so that I can list here in order to break up the photos:
- It was a beautiful, sunny day.
- Got up to maybe the mid-30′s, warm enough to soften the snow, cold enough that it never turned to slush.
- Even though it hasn’t snowed up there in a week or whatever.
- It was really clear, no clouds in any direction. You could see Adams, St. Helens, the Olympics, and even Rainier.
It feels like the top of the world up there. It’s also a little windy.
So then I spent most of the day skiing Green Valley. There weren’t crowds anywhere on the mountain, but there were especially no crowds in Green Valley. They have an express lift there now. I don’t know how long it’s been there. I could probably find out on the Internet.
Presumably the caution was due to the presence of snow, a slope, and good visibility.
- It’s sort of funny what constitutes an Intermediate run here vs. Pennsylvania. A lot of Crystal’s blues are steep enough to be double-black at Seven Springs (probably just black at Blue Knob).
- And I sort of forgot how steep Crystal was just in general. Eastern skiing has already Stockholm Syndromed me I guess.
There’s also a gondola there now. It starts at the bottom (by the ticket booths, kind of below the lodge) and ends essentially next to the old #2 (Rainier Express to those living in the now). Here are three photos that include the gondola:
I’ve always been fond of those photos that make the gondola look like it’s flying at 30,000 feet.
The view looking up Middle Ferks.
The gondola seems kind of under-utilized from a skiing perspective. It makes for a very long run, though, going top-to-bottom. Plus it costs an extra $8 on the lift ticket. I dunno. Neither Stowe nor Whiteface charged extra for their gondola. It doesn’t seem like the resorts’ cost-benefit analyses should actually be different.
- I remembered Crystal having a lot more signs telling you what run you were getting on. There aren’t very many of them, which is probably fine, just that there are a few places where a person might get himself in trouble through lack of knowledge.
- It was fun re-visiting sites of childhood trauma (top of 2, middle of Deerfly).
- The walk in from the parking lot is still punishing.
- Not to say that Crystal is some sort of great vlue or anything, but it’s kind of surprising that this place costs so much less than Stowe ($74 w/ gondola vs. $92).
- The pizza slice was pretty small for $4.50 and $6.50 for a cup of chili seemed exorbitant. The $3 fries were a relatively good value though.
That’s probably good enough.
Went to White Pass for the first time in my life on Thursday. Snow was PNW-great, visibility was interesting and variable, with a freezing fog making Couloir Basin kind of useless and about a 60-second sun break in the early afternoon. I didn’t take many photos, but among them were these…
Mach V to the right, Chair straight ahead.
Hourglass, I think.
- Mach V was probably my favorite run of the day.
- Locals were very nice, lifties were politely ambivalent.
- Arrived a little after 9 and the ticket line was a half-hour long.
- The day lodge at the base was way too small, but their chili was excellent.
- The best visibility was on the two middle lifts, which is probably not the optimal place for the best visibility.
- Fresh snow available on or near every run until some time in the afternoon.
- There are some HARDCORE 6-year-olds that ski this place. Absolutely fearless.
- Impressed by how many people apparently own cabins in Packwood.
Really enjoyable day, though. I was envious of the folks from Yakima for whom this is a convenient drive (I’m staying at my parents’ house in NE Tacoma, from where it took 2:40 to get there). Would like to get back some time when conditions were better on Couloir, which looked like it had a lot of potential.
Finally went to West Virginia. It looks like what you would expect.
Pretty much exactly.
Went down there with a dude from school for an overnighter hike. The drive down from Pittsburgh features a lot of scenic valleys and countryside (it was disconcerting how rich Maryland looked in comparison to Pennsylvania), then we stopped at one of the most outlandishly lavish only-open-four-days-a-week National Forest Service visitor’s centers I’ve ever seen, located in Seneca Rocks, W.Va. I used the restroom there. After that, we drove up the eventually gravel road to the Seneca Creek trailhead. It’s the sort of gravel road you can take a first-gen Prius on without concern.
Trailhead parking lot with first-gen Prius.
And from there things generally got easier. Most of the hiking guides suggest starting at the Lumberjack Trail trailhead, then taking that trail up and around past the falls to the campsites along Seneca Creek. Many online reviewers commented that the Lumberjack Trail is awful and boring, however. As such, we opted instead to do the hike as mostly an out-and-back along Seneca Creek. Posterity will want to know this.
So: we headed down-river (-creek). We soon came to a bunch of cool campsites and tidy little cascades. This area has some of the nicest campsites I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing how much better national forests (and recreation areas) are with regard to camp sites as compared to the national parks. This was our site:
The hike eventually brought us to Seneca Falls, which looks very much like the kind of waterfall you would expect to find in West Virginia:
From there, we backtracked back to the campsite and set up shop for the night. Next day we left our gear at the site and hiked up and around the High Meadows (this took us on part of the aforementioned Lumberjack Trail, which was expectedly awful due to its swamp-like condition). There wasn’t a lot to see up there — mostly trees and hillsides covered in trees. It would probably look better when the leaves are changing, but whatever. We looped back around past the falls again, back to the campsite, then picked up our gear and high-tailed it out of WV.
Some other notes:
- As Thomas keenly noted, there was an unsettling lack of birds there.
- There are a bunch of stream crossings on the hike, although the one immediately before the falls was the only one that got over ankle depth.
- Our trip was on a Wednesday-Thursday; we saw no other hikers whatsoever (although there were two other cars at the trailhead when we got back).
- This hike would probably be pretty awesome during peak color season. Might even make the High Meadows component worth hiking.
- While the campsites are great, this would be a very reasonable day-hike if you wanted to work it that way.
- Just to be clear on our route… Day 1: We took the Seneca Creek Trail to Seneca Falls, then backtracked to one of the campsites. Day 2: We backtracked to the Judy Springs Trail (after you cross the bridge from the Seneca Creek Trail, TURN LEFT to continue on the Judy Springs Trail — this was confusing), turned right onto the Huckleberry Trail, then turned left onto the Lumberjack Trail, which turns into the High Meadows trail, which eventually curls around and meets up with the Seneca Creek Trail at the falls; we then took the Seneca Creek Trail back to our campsite to pick up our stuff and then back to the waiting first-gen Prius at the trailhead.
- This is a pretty easy hike.
- The food at Dairy Queen is always a lot better than I think it ought to be.
PS, For some reason this WordPress theme can’t handle the concept of centering photos in a consistent manner.
Some months ago I received visitors from California. During their visit, some photos were taken. I now offer up those photos to this repository. Long may they remain available. Long!
Pgh skyline from the Allegheny shoreline.
A tourist-photographer tests the light before taking a picture of a drain affixed to a wall in an otherwise empty room. There’s probably art here, I’m just not sure where its boundaries are.
Manassas Battlefield in Virginia.
As it turned out, I didn’t really take photos in DC. I did, however, discover that I really resent that place. It’s probably good I didn’t go to UMCP for grad school. Although they have better restaurants there than here.
Also: DLDF’s photos of the same trip are art, e.g., http://denatothepena.blogspot.com/2012/05/may-5-2012.html, http://denatothepena.blogspot.com/2012/05/abe.html, and http://denatothepena.blogspot.com/2012/05/antietam-manassas.html.
This is the last one of these for a while probably.
Mad River Glen kind of takes Smuggler’s Notch’s approach of “mostly locals” and pushes it a little further into something akin to “locals only”. It’s a little odd showing up at a ski resort where everyone else seems to know each other because they’re all part of the collective and you’re not. I spent most of the day feeling like I was doing it wrong. Whatever it was.
They only have four lifts, two of which seem mostly superfluous. The lift going up the big mountain is a single chair (see first photo above). They take significant pride in that anachronism. The resort also keeps the mountain “natural”, which was interesting. Good-interesting. Very little grooming or snow-making, the runs seem to fit the mountain (whatever the means), a couple of creeks running down the hill, and a waterfall adjoining one of the routes down. The natural situation also results in some more challenging terrain than you usually see. A lot of black diamonds, none of which get cat-tracked. At least a couple of the green circle trails had significant mogul fields on them.
All-in-all, it’s a compelling place. Not a lot of people and a very different attitude. I got the impression that the customers there sometimes take turns running the lifts. (It is, seriously, owned and operated by a collective.) I’d like to go back some time if only to see what it’s like when the conditions are better (the night before it had rained for several hours, then froze, then early in the morning it got a couple inches of new snow, then it warmed up into the 30s during the day resulting in a rough mixture of ice and slush with occasional puddles). There was a lot of good-looking terrain here that just needed some snow.
And I only paid $30 for the lift ticket (via Liftopia). So there was that.
(Their tag line is “Ski It If You Can”, which is a pretty good tag line I think although it’s not like they don’t have any beginner or intermediate terrain.)
My hotel was located about six miles away from the Smuggler’s Notch ski resort going by way of Highway 108. The state of Vermont closes Highway 108 between Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch during winter. Ergo, it took me about an hour to get there via the great circle route. Not a bad drive, just a little silly.
From the top of Smuggler’s Notch you can see Mt. Mansfield and some of the runs at the Stowe resort 4 miles or 70 minutes away.
So anyway. As a ski resort, Smuggler’s Notch is kind of a locals-oriented place. Not that I didn’t meet plenty of French-Canadian snowboarders, but still, it doesn’t try to be a big destination resort. Which is sort of a good thing. One of its charms, though, is that it only has old-school, slow double chairs:
On the other hand, at least it’s not a single-chair, right? ‘Cuz nowhere would have one of those any more.
The day I was there was warm (50+ degrees) and sunny. Snow conditions ranged from spotty to slushy, though it should be noted that in the continuum that exists in my mind there’s some decent snow between spotty and slushy. Maybe just not a lot of it.
Also, this is the friendliest resort I’ve ever been to. Maybe it was the weather and the fact that the lifts are slow enough that lines develop at them resulting in no one being allowed to go up the lift solo, but whatever: everyone I sat next to on the lift wanted to talk. I met:
- A guy who sold his landscaping business in Massachusetts to move to Vermont and now works for the parks department somewhere.
- A guy who told his boss, who’s from Tennessee, that he shouldn’t bother trying to keep his car clean in the winter and that he better get used to employees coming in late whenever there’s a decent overnight snowfall.
- A woman whose best friend lives in Pittsburgh and who regrets the fact that USAir no longer flies non-stop from BTV to PIT.
- A French-Canadian teenager who has been to more major league ballparks than I have and who takes joy in hating on the Canadiens.
- A guy whose daughter is big into whitewater kayaking and is taking a month-long trip down the Colorado River this month.
- A guy who denigrates Jay Peak (another ski resort) because it’s too close to Canada and, thus, draws too many Canadians (he refers to it as “Eh Peak”). I’m still not sure as to what the appropriate number of Canadians at a ski resort would be.
- Other people.
It was a fun day. Tried skiing in the glades a little bit, which was kind of different. A few of the decent slopes had enough snow on them to go down. The atmosphere was as laid back as I’ve experienced at a ski resort. Cool place I’d be happy to check out again some time.