It dumped this December in the Wasatch. Finally.
After two years of subpar snow conditions, Utah had actually substantial, consistent powder days in the early season. I was finishing a five-chapter microsite called Backcountry Travel Guide for Teton Gravity Research, and trying to get out and tour three days a week.
This borderline-convoluted, busy schedule did allow me to be just prepared enough for the first backcountry trip of winter, a four-day stint in Mammoth Lakes, CA.
Almost immediately after I pressed ‘send’ on my project, I was organizing my gear, packing my board bag, and finalizing last-minute logistics for the Mammoth trip. It’s nine hours across Nevada to the Eastern Sierras.
That’s two nearly full days in the car, to and from, after snowboarding the morning. Plus two similarly long days shooting photos in the backcountry. It’s safe to say this was a relatively hurried trip, which followed a relatively hectic month of content creation and early season tours.
The frenzy aside, hiking for lines in Mammoth was unreal.
The terrain is big–really big. Truth be told, I was pretty scared my first day touring there. I didn’t know where we were going. I had just met the guide. I had no idea where my line was. It was intimidating.
After we dropped our first line of the first day, a 30-degree tree run, my anxiety dissipated. We hiked up TJ Bowl, a big, wide-open bowl flanked by cliffs, and rode our second line through untouched powder.
On the second day, we got a one-ride pass at June Mountain and dropped off the ski area’s backside. Literally there may no other place in the U.S. that has better lift-accessed backcountry terrain.
The guide, Howie Schwartz, and I skinned to the base of the Negatives, then started booting. If you have never bootpacked straight up something in waist-deep snow, it’s something to experience.
You kind of have to shut off your brain and ignore what’s happening to your body. Even elite mountain athletes get winded from doing what is essentially 1,000 continuous feet of box steps at 10,000 feet. However, fatigue aside, the turns you earn from bootpacking and skinning up a face in the backcountry fulfill you in a way that’s completely unmatched in regular life.
This day on the Negatives was not an exception. The snow was untracked, and perfect. You could not ask for better conditions, scenery, or weather.
Ironically a few days after this momentous time, I was riding on the East Coast with my family. Being on snow is a bonding experience for the Ryan family.
Unfortunately we didn’t get too much snow. What we did get was a whole lotta rain. Full-on, torrential downpouring. There were about five or six runs open at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, and we rode all of them until literally we needed to pond-skim the runouts near the lifts.