Friday, December 31, 2004

White Out

We were starting to feel like we'd never get to go snowboarding. My sister and I drove to Jeff's cabin on wednesday, which took about ten hours. We were making pretty good time until we hit the chain control checkpoint on westbound 50. This was, so to speak, an omen.

Wednesday night a storm blew in and dropped two feet of snow in Jeff's driveway. Thursday morning we spent a couple of hours snowblowing and shoveling the driveway so we could get the cars out, threw our boards in the car, and drove out to find that highway 50 was completely shut down -- white out conditions. We decided to try again tomorrow.

Friday morning we looked out the window to discover that the storm had dropped three more feet on Jeff's street. The only sign of the two cars parked in the driveway were hints of the mirrors and two very large mounds of snow. So, we spent friday morning snowblowing the driveway. Again.

Around 9AM, we checked the Caltrans report and found that highway 50 was closed, but Jeff says that they don't update the status in a timely manner, so we drive down to check it out. We get to 50 and see that traffic is moving, albeit slowly, so we zip back to the house, grab our boards and gear, and drive back to 50, only it find tha it is... stopped.

We check the radio and it mentions that 89 and 88 are closed, but doesn't mention 50. So we take some back roads to get to the head of the line and talk to the Caltrans worker there. He says that it's going to stay closed until noon, so we head back to the cabin to wait it out.

Back in the cabin, the web says that 50 is now closed (thanks), but gives no more information. The radio on the way back continues to fail to mention highway 50 in any way. We snowblow the driveway again, to get my car free (we only cleared the truck the first time), and the sun comes out and starts to melt the remaining snow.

At this point Jeff starts to go nuts. The storm has put down five feet of snow at Jeff's cabin, and probably even more than that at Sierra. The sky is clear, promising a beautiful day of snowboarding on runs of deep, fresh, untouched powder.

If only we can get there.

We get on 89, which feeds into highway 50 just shy of where traffic is stopped. At around 11:30, we get an update that the highway won't open until 1PM. Just after noon, they apparently open the highway to eastbound traffic, taunting us by implying that they'll open the highway soon. At 12:30, they change the sign at chain control from "closed for avalanche control" to "chains required", and everyone scrambles to their cars so they can be ready for the road to open.

This drill is repeated every ten minutes or so for the next half an hour, every time a highway patrol or CDF truck drives by. Finally, they open the road up at a little past one, and we drive up to Sierra behind some really slow cars. We're a little worried that all that fresh powder will be gone by the time we get there, but these fears turn out to be unfounded.

When we get to Sierra, we find that there are a little more than a hundred cars in the parking lots. Not our parking lot. All the parking lots. At 1:30, when we get there, we have the mountain to ourselves.

I spend the day teaching my sister to snowboard, while Jeff cruised down on run after untouched run. The day was probably one of the best days we've had at Sierra ever.

We boarded until close (4PM), then headed back to get ready to go out on New Year's Eve... (to be continued)

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