Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Tele Part II – Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California, United States
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California, United States

It was an all day event. Departing Berkeley at 6am, Mark and I caravaned up with a family he met while doing a newspaper story on Social Security. We were on the snow by 9.30.

We started on the Red Dog chair which departs right from the parking lot. The snow was still cool, but by our third run the lower reaches were getting sloppy.

We then took the gondola to the mountain top, got an amazing view of Lake Tahoe below us and found the snow to be in good condition.

For the second time ever, I was on telemark skis. I was so excited just to be out there on the mountain I basically chose to forget that I didn’t really know how to ski on telemark skis and blindly followed the group up the Granite Chief chair and suddenly found myself trying to sort out how to turn while entrapped in a narrow and steep double black diamond chute.

My body wanted to just ski it alpine style, but practicality kicked in as I remembered these are borrowed skis and I was concerned about putting too much alpine style torque on the tele bindings. Although technology has come around to improve the strength and tolerance of tele bindings, I knew if I tried to ski full alpine style in them, it could well cut my day short with an equipment failure issue.

It wasn’t pretty, but I managed to get down the chute pretty quickly and then promised myself and shared with the group, if I’m going to learn how to tele, I have to put myself in an environment where I have room to grow and don’t have to worry about survival.

I then relegated myself to the benign green circle slope pictured above and really concentrated on my turns. This wasn’t real skiing either. After one run, I was done with that and realized I wanted to be on steeper blue square runs. This was perfect, and I allowed myself to skid out and fall down as I misjudged a turn or carve instead of rescuing myself mid turn by resorting back to an alpine style turn. I had to feel what was happening and where my momentum was going to be able to correct the problem.

By the time I felt like I was starting to get it and my turns were more consistent, it was only early afternoon, but much of the snow had been scraped off of the steeper runs, and the challenge increased as my skis slid along the hard pack snow, then suddenly my momentum was seriously checked by the scraping piles of loose snow like little piles of dust neatly arranged on a large floor that just got swept.

The temperature on the upper mountain was pretty much perfect. Light winds kept the air moving and prevented the direct sun beams from melting out the snow and making it wet like it had lower on the mountain. At times a layer of cloud would swoop above and really cool things down.

In the end, I definitely improved. I was connecting turns and keeping the tails of the skis from over sliding in the turns. My right side picked it up a little faster, but that turned out to be helpful as I could take lessons learned by my right and apply them to my left turns.

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