Wednesday, December 22, 2010

XC Skiing at Tahoe

Now that school is over for the year, we are on winter break and decided to get into skiing a lot more than we have in the past. We kicked off the skiing season with a trip to Lake Tahoe to go cross country skiing. My goal is to get in shape, and enter and finish the Mammoth Marathon (42 km) on my skis in April at the end of the season! I'll be working towards that goal all winter long. Along the way, I want to participate in a few other XC races, all listed here.

Tahoe XC
One of the warming huts at Tahoe XC, where we took a break and had hot cocoa.


Another nice thing about being on winter break is that we don't have to do all our traveling and fun stuff on the weekends only. Going to Tahoe mid-week is incredibly cheap! We got our motel room for only $30/night! And it had a jacuzzi, free breakfast, and it was only 3 blocks away from the casino area near the Cali-Nevada state line. It was clean and quiet, too. The place we went skiing at, Tahoe XC, had a half-off Tuesday special on trail passes, which made it only $12 to ski on Tuesday! And on Wednesday, they have free skate lessons at 10am. Mid-week is awesome! Oh, and there were less people too.

Tahoe XC
Romy skiing. There is a lot of fresh snow!


We took out our nordic classic skis the first day of skiing at Tahoe XC. The trails snaked their way through a jeffery pine forest which is normally a state park when its not covered in a many feet of snow. The couple of days before we got there, all of the Sierras got a couple feet of fresh snow, and the compacted base beneath our skis was at least 4 feet deep! Some places already had 13 feet, and it's not even Christmas yet! The trails were all groomed, so we looked at the map and decided to take the biggest loop we could. Since it was our first day, we stayed on greens and blues. We also saw on the map 3 warming huts that had a propane stove, water, and a kettle, so you could brew yourself some hot tea or make hot cocoa. We decided to go warming hut hopping!

Tahoe XC
Taking a break from skiing!


We maybe over did it a little on our first day! We skied a total of 16 km (a little more than 1/3 of a marathon) and I felt my muscles getting sore towards the end while we were still skiing. Stopping to have hot cocoa and tea was nice. Cross country skiing uses your whole body, but mostly your quads and inner thighs on your legs, and triceps and shoulders in your arms. You also use your abs for stabilizing and balancing on your skis. The trails are mostly level, so you use your own power to move forward on the skis. Its like jogging. Skating I think is even harder. There were a lot of skaters on the trails. We want to rent out some skate skis and go for the free lesson on Wednesdays to see what its like. Skaters go a lot faster because the motion is more like roller blading on skis.

Tahoe XC
Romy next to the big trail map at the end of our day at Tahoe XC.


When we finished the giant loop, we hopping in the car and drove to our motel in South Lake Tahoe. We drove along the Nevada side, because I think its nicer (not as many towns, and better views). When we finally reached our motel, we were pretty hungry, so we walked to the Stateline Brewery in time for their happy hour, where that were serving $3 pints of their homebrew and also had cheap mini pizzas! After dinner I was totally exhausted! We had plans on going back to Tahoe XC for their free skate lesson the next morning, but instead, we decided to sleep in and take it easy and go find some place to test out our back country XC skis instead.

Tahoe XC
Climbing the hill to try skiing down it with the back country skis.


We drove up to Spooner Summit, which is the top of the mountain pass on Hwy 50 between Stateline and Carson City, NV. There is a plowed parking area for snowmobiles off the side of the highway. In the summer it is one of the trail heads for the Tahoe Rim Trail, a trail that encircles Lake Tahoe. We parked there and got out our back country XC skis, which are a hybrid between downhill skis and cross country skis. They are long and have a fish scale grip bottom like an XC ski, but they are wide (for flotation in deep snow) and have metal edges like a downhill ski. The bindings are a little beefier, and the boots are stiffer and higher, so you can maneuver on downhill turns. We will be using them this winter on our trip to Wyoming to the Tetons, so we needed to try them out (we got them used from craigslist). Plus we've never skied on skis like these before.

Tahoe XC
Romy skiing down the hill near Spooner Summit in Nevada.


We skied down some snowmobile tracks until we found a nice hill that was clear of trees and had fresh powder. It was tough climbing up the hill in skis (I had to climb with my feet and skis spread apart in a V shape) because sometimes I would start sliding backwards down the hill! Eventually we got the hang of it and got to the top, and skied down a few times. We discovered a few things from doing that. First, Romy's skis need to be waxed because they were building up snow at the base, which really hinders motion. And second, I need to tighten my boots because the long skis were really hard to control on the way down! I think we will have to have more practice using these skis on downhill sections, but along the flat terrain, they worked very well as XC skis. We did much better skiing the downhill parts of the hill that had powder vs compacted snow from snowmobile tracks. I think the skis are designed to handle better in ungroomed snow than on groomed snow.


A video of me falling down after hitting snowmobile ruts in the snow.


Romy also decided to take a video of me while I was falling after I hit snowmobile ruts on the way down, near the end of hill. I look so funny! So after a few times of going up and down the hill, we headed back towards the car. We were pretty pooped out! But now we have a couple days of rest before we get out on our skis again in Wyoming. We are planning to go snow camping in the back country with our skis to visit some hot springs near Jackson Hole. Can't wait!!!

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