When I’m sitting in traffic, driving the carpool or taking out the mulch I dig deep and try recall the joyous and cleansing feeling I had spending five days in the snowy wilderness of the High Sierra. Between Christmas and New Year’s, my family joined another for a winter adventure that I replay often in my head; it really was just what the doctor ordered.

This is the first year in a long while the snow has been this deep and this good. The drought in California has taken a toll, and although hardly the most important problem caused by low, or no precipitation, the lack of snow has been hard for winter sports enthusiasts.

Thanks to Global Warming and/or El Nino, this year is different! The weather report seemed perfect. Clear skies for travel days, fresh snow upon arrival and one day of flurries. We packed our backpacks, pre-cooked our beef stew, waxed our cross country skis and prayed our old car could manage the mountainous trip.

It was cold, maybe 10-15 degrees when we arrived. The kids donned snowshoes, my husband I the skis and we tried to balance the weight in our packs. Our friend pulled the sled with much of the food. In the summer you can drive in to the house but in the winter the journey is part of the adventure. It’s only about a mile but you feel you’ve really earned it!

Once inside, warming up the place took most of our energy. Because of the house’s kacheloven heating system, it takes 12-15 hours to really be comfortable, so the first night we slept in winter outdoor gear and I think I had seven cups of hot chocolate, coffee or tea and a few shots of whiskey.

The house is on more than 100 acres at about 8000 feet and you feel like you are completely alone, save a plane overhead now and then. The kids started constructing the sled run behind the house and multiple ski/snowshoe tours between meals were exhilarating. The aerobic exercise at altitude really gets the blood pumping.

We climbed the peak, skied down and frolicked on the big meadow. The boys built a snow cave, and card games and fireside reading rounded out our days’ activities. In prior years there was no wi-fi, so you really felt like you were off the grid. I miss that, but it was fun to be able to post photos as each view or moment was more photogenic than the last. The snow was not good for snow person making but snow angels and icicle popsicles were de rigueur.

The day it snowed I took a solo trek up to the peak on snowshoes. I was huffing and puffing so much I kept thinking there might be a bear, although hopefully they were hibernating, all nestled in their dens. The one day of snow added a fresh powder layer and changed the conditions. I always think about how the Inuit have many words for snow, describing the different and changeable qualities, powder to ice, wet, dry and/or slushy. This snow was pristine and perfect.

Every other day, bluebird skies and unfettered views were dramatic and transformative. I get greedy when I’m there. I want to soak it in, harness the power I feel and never let it go. One afternoon I sat on a sliver of granite peeking out from the thick blanket of snow and did some yogic breathing exercises. The whole visit was deeply cathartic and restorative to both mind and body.

Coming back inside at the end of the day was beyond enjoyable with a brandy hot chocolate or even scotch and snow by the fire. Needless to say we slept like logs.

I had been feeling sluggish, unmotivated and a bit overwhelmed by the holidays, and this trip was not only so much fun but really tapped into my deep love of cold weather play. More and more I am struck by the power of being in nature, not just seeing it, in all it’s beauty, but really immersing oneself in the elements. We took our older son to meet friends at Kirkwood to downhill ski one day and the conditions were epic!

With the right gear and plans, this is a season to enjoy the white stuff and it doesn’t mean you have to pay oodles of cash to ski downhill. Even if you detest cold weather and snow, if you live in or visit California this winter, do yourself a favor and head for the hills, it is truly a marquee year.

Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Cross Country Skiing, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Snowboarding, Sports, Uncategorized


Leave a Reply