Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Skiing With Airedales In The Back Country

Dale Matson

Parking Lot At Tamarack Snow Park

We are blessed in Fresno to be only one and a half hours away from two snow parks along highway 168. In just one and a half hours you can climb from about 300’ above sea level in Fresno to the snow park at about 7,600’ near Tamarack Ridge. We buy a yearly snow park pass for $25.00 but most folks buy a day pass for $5.00.

The trail system at Tamarack and Coyote (on the other side of 168) has intermittent signage and there is a snow trail map available at the U. S. Forest Service Office in Prather CA. We ski during the week because the snow park lots can be overfull on a weekend. Each area has potties.

During this three-year drought, it has been a long wait for snow again this season. Recently we received about two feet of new snow in the Sierras. There is a sweet spot window for backcountry skiing. We usually allow a couple of days for the roads to be plowed and partially melted of snow so the driving is good for our trip up. After that, the roads are better, but the skiing is less powdery. Crusty snow is not fun and will cut the dog’s paws.

This year we purchased a ramp to help us get the dogs into the back of the Tahoe. They are simply too big and we are too old to be lifting them in. They never learned how to jump in like other dogs. They can tell by the sounds in the garage that we are preparing to go skiing and have their noses glued to the door leading to the garage until we finally let them into the garage.

They are antsy all the way up in anticipation of freedom they don’t have the rest of the year. Airedales appear to be stupid but that is only because they are so willful. They are on a leash when we hike in the summer. That is because they would chase after a deer, coyote or whatever and never come back. When the snow is chest deep, they are slowed down enough for us to stay with them and keep track of where they are.

When they are at home, we go for walks and they are pets. In the woods, they are trail companions. I have never seen an Airedale smile but an Airedale on his back making snow angels is about a joyous as a dog can be.

The trails out of Tamarack are both for snowmobiles and Nordic skiers. The Raven Trail cuts off the main trail and is only for Nordic skiers. It can be done as an out and back to the Shaver Lake Overlook or one can do a loop back to the main trail cross county and meet up with it heading inbound. This route is essentially unmarked. The out and back is about 5 miles round trip with a gradual descent followed by an ascent to the overlook. The route back has lots of climb when your legs are a tad fatigued. We usually have a lunch break at the overlook.

Shaver Lake Overlook

One important stop on the way back to Fresno is in Shaver Lake. Norman Kato’s Shaver Lake Deli has good food and hot chocolate.   

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