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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back To The Back Country: Tamarack Snow Park


Dale Matson 

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We loaded two sets of backcountry waxless skis (freshly hot waxed), poles, boots with backcountry bindings and daypacks into the back of the truck. This included water, food, GPS, Satellite Phone, waterproof gloves, cap, hooded rain shell etc. By this time the dogs were already on high alert prancing outside the kitchen door. I put them in the backyard while I was getting the gear into the truck but their doggie radar was up and they knew they were going along. We folded the back seats down giving the dogs a large area to sit inside the cab for the hour and a half drive up to Tamarack Snowpark from Fresno.


























This was the first trip of the season back to the snow. We have had a good season so far with about 30 inches of powdery snow on the ground at 7,000’. We hit the sweet spot for clear roads and powdery snow. Once the snow melts and freezes a few times, it can be crusty or icy. Either way it is no fun to ski on that type of snow. The dogs have problems with it also. What we really like about the snow at this depth is the dogs stay with us and follow in our ski tracks. Otherwise, if they went in front, they would ‘post hole’ up to their chests in snow. Thus, unlike summer hikes, they don’t have to be on a leash.

We got to the snow park and prepared our gear. I turned on the GPS and set a waypoint by the truck. I also turned on my Suunto Ambit II. I let the dogs out and they went running around the parking area as they waited impatiently for us to head down the main trail. Snowmobiles had packed the main trail and the dogs could run up and down it with ease as we skied forward on unseasoned legs. We got to the Raven trail that heads to the Shaver Lake overlook and turned right. This is for Nordic skiing only. Someone had gone out this way before the most recent snowfall so you could see the grooves under the fresh snow. We only had to break trail through about 8 inches of fresher snow. After about half a mile outbound it was obvious the dogs were sinking in way too much as they struggled to follow us. We decided to head back to the main trail and ski further out on that. We let Duke and Susie run ahead of us as we skied on the surface packed by the snowmobiles.

We turned around after about an hour and headed back to the truck. We leashed the dogs back up a couple of hundred yards before we got back. There are often little children and dogs near the parking area and our dogs are a little too rambunctious. We made our usual stop at Norm Kato’s place in Shaver Lake for well-earned treats.

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It’s a good season for this area. The grass is green and the air is clear. The wilderness is wearing her fresh veil of snow and there was a quiet solitude as we pushed through the fresh snow. Hopefully we will have a real winter in the Sierras this year.     

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