It happens just about every winter in the Sierra. A sustained period of little snow and warm temperatures. The deep snow pack starts to dwindle around the edges, and the formerly bright white blanket starts to brown, like it too is getting tanned in the warm Sierra sunshine. In the lower elevations, dirt patches start to reveal piles of branches which have fallen from the trees, and some of us begin to have visions of bike riding dancing in our heads. Then just about the time I started teaching cross-country skiing in my shirt sleeves, winter came roaring back.
I went to bed along Tahoe’s west shore with just a dusting of snow in the driveway, and portions of my lawn harboring the coming of spring. In the morning there was a good 10 inches of new snow, and it was snowing heavily. The trees were covered in those thick tufts of white goop which are the symbol of a true storm. It was time to ski.
I headed out from the trailhead at Tahoe Cross Country on my striding skis. Even with a strong wind blowing snow through the trees, the deep snow muffled the sound, and I skied alone in a profound sense of peace. Yes, this is what winter is about.
With the snow coming down hard, Tahoe XC’s groomers knew they would soon have to head out for more, so they skipped a few of the outer trails, including a portion of the Silver Trail which would take me out to the Silver Hut. Determined to savor a cup of hot chocolate inside this tiny little respite from the wind, I plowed through foot deep powder for about a mile. My skis frequently disappering under the white blanket. Sometimes I was more walking then skiing, but the views and the silence made it the highlight of my day.
The hut sat forlornly, surrounded by snow without a sign of any recent human visitor. As I stood inside and sipped my drink, I pondered the now unseeable Lake Tahoe and watched the steady stream of snow roll across the open slope. Winter may take a break for awhile, but often just about the time the crocuses are ready to pop their purple heads, it comes back to say howdy doody at least one more time.