California has been under a classic dome of high pressure for 17 days with only a couple very light dustings of the tail end of storms that aimed at the Northwest. For a week after the big dumps at the end of December, days were often cloudy to partly cloudy with temps below or at freezing. Thus last weekend while skiing at nearby Sierra-At-Tahoe, snow was excellent packed powder with no icy spots and soft bumps. I'd skied bumpy Horsetail all morning. But since the end of last week have been 5 days with over 50F degree temps with nights dropping back below freezing creating frozen morning snow surfaces. So after skiing once each during the previous 3 weekends to continue building my ski muscles and strength despite the expected, I drove up to Kirkwood where due to higher elevation and exposures I expected conditions to be least affected by the weather of the previous week.
During the early morning drive up from sea level to 8000 feet temps never dropped below 42F degrees. Out on the slopes by 9:30am, no longer was an early groomed snow surface of wonderful soft corduroy I had skied a week before but rather the kind of moderately soft snow that after skiing across rolls into lots of little sticking together globs, chunks. I practiced short and medium radius turns for the first few runs while stopping a couple times to venture out into the woods to some always shaded steep bump gullies. They had an unpleasantly frozen surface I knew would stay that way all day. And visited some mogul areas in morning sun, but they too were frozen smooth ruts beside piles of immobile frozen death cookies I doubted would get enough traffic even by the afternoon to remove the surface ice. Thus kept to yoyoing winch groomed slopes off Cornice like, Upper Zacharys, Look-out Yanek, Monte Wolf, Olympic, getting my exercise. Despite my own limitations, there were modest numbers of all mountain skiers with their more robust planks working the many areas of the steeps, rock bands, and chutes.
For a ML King holiday Saturday, the crowd size was rather low. Never had to wait more than a minute in the singles line of Cornice Lift Chair 6, and Chair 10 was always walkup and empty chair ride. Gave me an excuse to listen to inspiring rock on my tiny mp3 player. Later morning took a ride up Wagon Wheel Lift Chair 10 that climbs to the imfamous corniced The Wall. Often the steep north facing center bowl of The Wall below 9.8k retains excellent snow long after other areas of Tahoe region. Indeed the surface was just a little firm that I guessed another hour or two of skier traffic would remove. Most nights a minor width is winch cat groomed that tends to make steep smooth hardpack slabs that the less skilled just zigzag skid down. Another 10 to 100 feet to skiers left of that grooming at bowl center is where the best snow always surfaces.
So returned to my Subu and made some Mexican-Style Chicken Tortilla soup with my Whisperlite stove then took a half hour nap. Back on the slopes about 1pm, I found snow at center bowl on The Wall utterly superb soft packed powder with small nicely shaped bumps forming. What a joy dropping such soft moguls in a direct bumpers fall line. Thus spent the next couple hours yoyoing chair 10 with mostly non-stoppers. Below the top 600 or so feet at the top of The Wall, on the long 1000 foot intermediate grade Buckboard back to Chair 10, the snow was the more challenging melt-thaw-refrozen groomed snow on the rest of the mountain so rode my DH edges giving my countering lower back muscels a good workout.