Crust Cruising the High Country on the Lightest of Skis
It’s always a source of amusement for my skiing friends and I to read about the springtime â€œexploitsâ€ of our cross country ski brethren east of the Rocky Mountains. Their season often doesn’t start until the middle of December, and then by the end of February (or whatever day comes immediately after the American Birkebeiner), internet newsgroups are filled with questions about roller skiing, along with talk of their first 50 kilometer roll in a driving rainstorm.
And yet here in California, the land of the surf-bunny and year-round cycling (not to mention tennis, golf, and more), we’re blessed with a ski season that lasts 6 months and often longer. Just when our Midwest and Eastern friends are hanging up the boards and greasing their wheels, we’re gearing up for our â€œsecondâ€ season of skiing — waiting for the corn snow to develop and checking out maps of the Sierra Nevada high country.
Our last â€œexpeditionâ€ in early May of 2004 was a true epic — a loop tour that had been tried twice before, but the stars weren’t aligned properly during the previous trips so that both attempts were prematurely aborted. Far West Head Coach Jeff Schloss, UNR Coach Tav Streit, UNR athlete Jesse Carlstrom, and I were skiing in the steep mountains above the small town of Bishop, California in the southern Sierra, our goal being to reach a beautiful high mountain area called Evolution Basin. Once over the crest, the truly spectacular part of our trip lay in front of us — the incredibly beautiful Darwin Canyon and Bench, with its cascading hanging valleys of lakes and streams, dropping off precipitously into the Evolution Valley and up to the starkly beautiful Evolution Basin, with its long open valleys filled lakes just ripe for skating across.