Thursday, June 30, 2011

Well, the CALENDAR says it's summer...

... however, the mountain says it's not. Quite.

I finally had a chance today to break away from my inhumane schedule and head for the hills. I've been wanting to throw some skis on my pack and see what's been going on for a while now.

What's going on is a lot of snow, a lot of water, and a lot of amazing beauty.

I checked the SnoTel site before I left this AM, and it said that it had gotten down to 42 degrees overnight at 7700'. That puts it at somewhat below freezing up higher, which made it a safe bet for reasonable skiing conditions. I left the trailhead at 6A, which was a pretty good choice timing-wise. The temperatures were enjoyable, the snow was still frozen and easy walking. I didn't even bother to put my skis on, just hiked up the frozen snow.

It was a snow hike just about from the trailhead. I left the trail about 200 yards in - water was running pretty much continuously down the trail and hiking up the snow was both easier and less damaging to the tread.

You could hear the roar of the creek, the singing birds, the silence of the snow. Breathtaking.

There is more than 100cm of snow at the Ruby Mountain Heli-ski snow stake, a few hundred yards above the trailhead.

About a half-mile in, in a flat snowy open space, I came upon an area where somebody had had a fire. Fine, as far as it went... until I looked more closely and realized that somebody had burned a snowmobile up there. They dragged the burnt carcass out but had left lots of little burned-up pieces in their wake. Seriously, it was funny as hell but come on, clean up after yourselves...

But I digress.

After a couple of hours hiking I got to the top of Liberty Peak, which I figured was an appropriate goal for the morning. It's clear that there is going to be decent summer skiing for a few weeks yet. It is just as clear that the Ruby Crest Trail and other high destinations are going to be snow trips for quite a while.

Here are Lake Peak, Wines Peak, Castle Lake, looking south-ish along the Crest Trail.

This is Fitzgerald and the cirque at the top of Box Canyon. Good destination for early risers.

It's not real obvious from below, but there's a huge crack in the ice in Lamoille Lake, the extent of which is very apparent from above. Probably a good idea to stay off the ice. Click on the photo to enlarge it and really see the crack.

The skiing was good for the end of June. The chute I picked to get into the Lake Shot was a little on the crunchy side - should have chosen one farther skier's left - but Sweet Thing really lived up to its name.

All in all, the canyon is going OFF right now. Waterfalls everywhere, a million flowers, new leaves slowly working their way uphill. If you're planning on hiking, though, plan on snow and start early if you're not into postholing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whoop whoop! SnoBowl's officially OPEN for the summer!

It's official - opening day at the (new) SnoBowl Ski & Bike Park was this Saturday, and it'll be open for lift-served mountain biking all summer! Operating hours this first year will be Saturdays, 12N - 4PM.

We tried to keep the opening small so that we could shake things out before things got too busy, and it worked out really well. We had everything from kids with their dad all the way up to some very experienced downhillers out there, and everybody found some good challenges for their skill levels. The feedback from the riders was great - fun trails, and they're ready to spread the word about what we have going up there. It was all VERY good to hear!

The riding this weekend was a lot of fun. It was a major flower show... at one point I felt like I was riding through a flower shop... the lupines smelled that good.

Lots of arrowleaf balsamroot up there, too. I love the juxtaposition of their bright yellows with the lupines.

Here's one of the places that needs some work. This switchback is on the beginner trail, and is one of two switchbacks on that route that need better than beginner bike handling skills to manage. We've got it signed to warn people to slow down - giving beginners a chance to get off and walk - but we need to rebuild this to make it safer for new riders. This won't be a small project as it's in steep terrain. We're working out how to get it done, though, and hope to have it completed before the end of summer.

Dave Todero, our trail designer, is using the Kennedy Ranch backhoe to build terrain park features at the bottom. Folks riding the intermediate trail can finish their run through the park, or can opt to ride straight back down to the lift. One of the really nice parts of this is that the park features are positioned to transition nicely into ski season - won't our snowboarders be happy to see all of these new features come winter time!

Here's the map. SnoBowl sits on a section of land (640 acres) which gives us plenty of room to work with as we develop riding. The downhill trails, obviously, will by and large be routed down the east side, where the skiing happens. Most of the cross-country trails will be built on the back side, although we'll obviously put a trailhead at the base area. The trail grade on the beginner trail averages 9%, so when the lift isn't running it's rideable as an uphill. It's a grunt, but it's rideable. Once we get the XC trails done, that trail will be full time one-way downhill. The intermediate trail averages 16% and is a lot steeper than that in places.

There's plenty more work to be done, of course. Those who are interested in helping get stuff built are invited to show up Saturdays at 9AM for trail work. Those who help build trail on Saturday morning will ride the lift for free that afternoon! Otherwise, lift tickets are a very affordable $15. A bargain at any price!

In case you missed it, the Elko Daily Free Press did a front-page story on the SnoBowl this weekend. Thanks again to them and to the rest of our local media for helping us get the word out. What a great community!

SnoBowl Opens Lift-Served Mountain Biking

Last, and certainly not least - a very, very big shout-out goes to Elko Blacksmith Shop. We'd asked for help all over town getting the bike hooks built that allow us to attach mountain bikes to the chair lift. Folks made some commitments... and then fell through. Somebody suggested at the last minute that we talk to Elko Blacksmith Shop and, even though they were completely booked up, they found a way to get us ten hooks in time for opening day. Seriously - we COULD NOT have opened without their help. We have another 23 hooks coming so that we can have one every three chairs, which is where we need to be with uphill capacity. If you have ANY opportunity to throw some business their way, please do. They will certainly be the first people we call from here on out!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

For those planning a Ruby Crest Trail trip this year...

I notice that quite a few people are finding this site looking for information on the Ruby Crest Trail. Hopefully the beta here has been useful!

Be advised that we have a HUGE snowpack this year... it's hanging on late... and the high passes could be snow covered later than usual. We're supposed to have hot weather next week and may finally see some melt-off, but right now (9 June) the snowpack at the Lamoille Canyon trailhead is still deeper than I am tall.

If you're planning on doing this trip with a horse you might want to consider waiting until mid-to-late July, in order to give the snow a chance to melt off. Otherwise, you risk injuring your horse and tearing the hell out of the trail. Obviously I'm no oracle, but based on my observations from having lived here most of my life I think that's probably your best plan.

I'll keep an eye out for you and will post up as things melt out a bit more.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program...

... to share some AWESOME new developments at the Elko SnoBowl... now the SnoBowl Ski & Bike Park.

The SnoBowl hosted its first National Trails Day event June 4th, with a goal of constructing brand new lift-served mountain bike trails at the resort. For the first 20 years of its existence, SnoBowl depended on natural snowfall to generate skiing fun, and largely sat unused for the rest of the year.

Not any more.

SnoBowl mountain manager Roche Bush invited several long-time SnoBowlers to join the somewhat moribund committee that had operated the SnoBowl for the last couple of decades, and this new shot of energy is changing everything up there.

The first change, and it's a big one - SnoBowl will now open on weekends in the summer so that people with mountain bikes can enjoy lift-served riding just outside of town. This will be one of the first - if not THE first - lift-served trail systems in the state of Nevada.

It's exciting, and that excitement is contagious. More than 50 people showed up for National Trails Day, and worked hard all day to get the beginner trail on the ground.

There's still plenty of work to be done. The beginner trail is going to need more work to be sustainable... the intermediate trail still needs some benching... the advanced trails haven't been started yet. But, oh how fun it is to see what's going on up there! Best of all, while SnoBowl's biggest attraction as a ski area is its funkiness and proximity to town, the terrain is apparently extremely suitable for both downhill and cross-country mountain biking. David Todaro, a former professional downhill mountain bike racer, has been working with the SnoBowl Foundation board to develop this project, and he's beyond enthused about the potential here. He's put in trails all over the country and says we have the means of developing something really special in the hills north of town.

Cool to hear.

Because SnoBowl will be one of very few places in the state where mountain bikers can enjoy lift-accessed terrain, Todaro envisions Elko becoming a stop on the mountain biking race circuit once the trail system is established. Pretty cool plan if you ask me. Elko continues to be blessed by the contributions the mines make to the community, and especially by the incredible talent pool of people like David who move here for good mining jobs.

It's funny,.. people who don't use the SnoBowl often dis it because it isn't one of the towering Western resorts that populate this part of the country. I'm thinking those folks don't spend much time at SnoBowl. I've enjoyed powder days there that would surprise you... good people, good skiing, an excellent vibe. And now SnoBowl is getting even better, with year-round fun and even the potential for snowmaking in the works.

Don't look now, but our little town is starting to get awfully fun for non-motorized recreationists of all stripes.


A few folks deserve a big hearty THANK YOU for making the 2011 National Trails Day event possible:

- First and foremost, the SnoBowl volunteers for putting in so much time and effort
- Greg & Gina Kronenberg, Albertsons, Maggie Morgan and Kennedy Ranch Custom-Fed Beef for sponsoring lunch
- Event Source for providing the tents, tables and chairs
- The Elko Fire Department, Nevada Division of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management for providing trail-building tools
- Elko's media for helping us get the word out about the project

Friday, June 3, 2011

Back at work on the S-L Trail

Another year, another set of kids hard at work...

The GBI crews are back in Lamoille Canyon at work on the Secret-Lamoille Trail. Let's wish them good luck and happy building. They have a long ways to go to get to Talbot Canyon, hopefully they'll make decent progress this year.