Imagine climbing 3,000 feet up vertical trails for a chance to do some back country skiing. After divvying up the gear, the crew drove up Old Highway 40 to Sugar Bowl, where they bought single lift tickets, signed waivers acknowledging that they were headed out of bounds and rode up the Disney chair for a check-out run skiing with packs. As they descended the snow petered out, so they strapped our skis to our packs for the last time.
- The group then slipped through an exit gate and into an unpatrolled no man’s land to begin a 13-mile, two-day back-country ski trip along the Pacific Crest Trail that included overnight camping and stunning views.
- As part of this early-March traverse to Squaw Valley, we climbed up and skied down slopes, gaining about 3,000 vertical feet while carrying unwieldy 30-pound packs.
- For a rugged guide such as Swartz, who lives in Lake Tahoe, it was no big deal. For someone like me, who lives near sea level in Wisconsin and is lucky to ski in the West a couple of times a year, the outing gave me a new appreciation for chairlifts.
“The next morning a friend and I spent the day skiing numerous slopes off the Disney and Lincoln chairlifts to help me acclimate to the altitude.”