Snowshoeing As The Destination ~ by Sebastian Cancino

I was born in Punta Arenas, Chile. It’s so far south, it’s considered part of the Antarctic District of Chile. Naturally, its winters are bitterly cold. I grew up in North Texas, however: the land of the fickle winter. We are accustomed to t-shirts on New Year’s Eve and parkas on New Year’s Day. One full inch of snow or a ¼ inch of ice on the roads sends society into an apocalyptic downward spiral. Now, living on California’s southern coast, I am in the land of the non-winter. But, I knew moving west meant weekends spent in the mountains chasing snow.

I’ve never been inclined to ski or snowboard. I went once in high school as part of our band spring trip (yes, I am a proud former band member/nerd), and I remember being more sore afterwards in more muscle groups I didn’t know existed than any at other occasion in my life. I haven’t the need for speed, nor have I developed it since sophomore year.

As an avid hiker and backpacker, I try to spend at least two nights on the trail and average about 60 miles of hiking per month. So, once I moved to California, I knew I needed to find a fourth-season mode of transportation. Naturally, snowshoeing seemed like the way to go. I didn’t, however, expect the haters.

I encountered some very strong feelings regarding snowshoeing:

“Snowshoeing is good for getting to a backcountry ski/boarding area or for mountaineering only.”

“You actually BOUGHT snowshoes and WANT to go on a trip to SNOWSHOE…?”

“Snowshoeing sucks. A lot.”

Had I made a mistake? Were the beautiful MSR snowshoes my partner bought me the year before doomed to collect dust in my gear closet? Would I be destined to spend the winter lusting after powder from afar?

Nah. Nothing that dramatic. I chose to ignore the peanut gallery, and see for myself. I planned a three day snowshoeing trip to Mammoth Lakes to explore the front country trails in one of the most beautiful portions of the Eastern Sierra.

I camped at the Mammoth Mountain RV Park on the east side of the small community (this place has hot showers, clean restrooms, and reliable WiFi; I highly recommend it for a more DIY lodging option). I had three days to myself to explore the area. Here are some of the highlights:

IMG_1581

Sunrise on the Eastern Sierra from Tuttle Creek Campground: my new favorite base camp for trips up the 395. A great place to layover (only $5/night) if you’re driving from southern California to the Sierras and don’t mind composting toilets.

Day 1: the Inyo Craters off of the Mammoth Scenic Loop. The craters are located off of the snowmobile tracks that are established in the national forest. The tracks are open for hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers. I was able to hoof it to the craters and return via the Blue Diamond trail. The signage is very old and unreadable in certain spots, so take a map, compass, and GPS if you plan on going off trail or along unmarked paths. The road was passable for the first ½ mile or so, but the snow got deep quickly and made turning around very difficult. Park off the paved road and walk in.

IMG_1589

Day 2: I set out for the Lake Mary Loop. Tamarack Lodge and XC Ski Center sells passes, rents gear, and teaches lessons for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. If you have your own snowshoes, you can park at the gate to Lake Mary Road and snowshoe on the left side of the road for free! No passes required.

This was a great option for all-day exploration of the front country. I was one of only two snowshoers out that day. It was a Wednesday, but cross-country skiers were out in droves. It wasn’t crowded at all on the left side of the road.

The view of Mammoth’s craggy horizon from Panorama Dome. This is a super easy hike/snowshoe to the top of a rock dome. The view was phenomenal. This is the first of many destinations along the namesake Mammoth Lakes loop.

IMG_1616

I stopped for lunch and a cup of hot tea on the frost shore of Lake George. I had this little spot to myself for almost an hour. It was a beautiful place to rest.

IMG_1661

 

Look out for the “Hole in the Wall” above Lower Twin Lake – a popular backcountry ski spot for experts only.

 

I coerced a very nice family into taking my picture. I was proud of myself for snowshoeing 10 miles!

IMG_1683
Day 3: I returned to the snowmobile area off of Mammoth Scenic Loop for another loop through the forest. Here is a view of Mammoth Mountain looming over the pines below. The trail was well groomed, but snowshoes definitely gave me better purchase on the icy stuff.

IMG_1694

I ventured off trail a bit after having gained some much-needed confidence. As you can see from my tracks below, the snow was pretty deep in some places. It was fun bounding down slopes of powdery snow! (Sorry for the selfies. It’s hard to get good photos of yourself adventuring when you go out solo as often as I do).

IMG_1705

The verdict: snowshoeing is awesome! It does not suck!

Snowshoeing is a great way to get yourself, your friends, and family out in the snow for exercise, animal watching, and fun. It’s easy to learn and can be inexpensive if you rent gear or buy second-hand shoes and poles.

It’s so exciting to have a new way to travel in winter. I feel like a whole world I never knew has been opened up to me. It sounds cheesy, and it is. But, for this boy from the plains of Texas, it’s gold.

I’ll see you on the snow!

Sebastian Cancino lives and plays in Ventura, California. If he’s not working the sales floor at Patagonia’s retail store in Ventura, he’s backpacking the local wilderness areas in Los Padres National Forest and beyond. He plans to hike the John Muir Trail summer 2016.

Follow his adventures on Instagram: @panchitowalker


How Skiing Kicked “Miedo” To The Curb~ By Graciela Cabello

My goggles were so fogged I could faintly see other people around me or formations on the ground. The wind was strong and blowing me off my tracks while snow pellets were striking the exposed skin on my face. I could not stand up long enough to advance forward without sinking a foot down, and several muscles in my 5’2” frame I didn’t previously know existed, were fatigued from getting up after countless falls.

But I’m a martyr, y de esa manera seguí todo el dia. This is the memory I carry of my first experience snowboarding.

It was not good.

As I awoke the second day, I felt defeated and fearful of the idea that the challenging conditions on the first day, were setting me back from a personal goal I had carried for years — to learn a snow sport. I acknowledged the intention I set years back had manifested in front of me, even if it came with the uneasiness of rolling solo. So I gathered myself, and headed toward the mountain.

At the rental counter I looked at the skiers near me and felt envy. It seemed they had it easier because they are not constrained to one board. I will admit that part of my hang-up with skiing was that I perceived it as less of a “cool” sport. But considering I wasn’t yet fully invested in snowboarding, and given my less than joyful first day experience, I put my judgments aside and booked a ski lesson in the spirit of honoring my curiosity.

My boyfriend at the time was part of the weekend ski-patrol team, which meant I was on my own during these two days and only planned to see him for lunch. The night before we had driven up to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento. I was excited but the weather conditions were putting a damper on our moods. His response to the news alerts to stay off the roads because a record-breaking snow storm was hitting the Sierra Nevada region was, “don’t believe the hype!”

I kept hearing this in my head as we drove that night through a storm and fog so thick we couldn’t see more than 30 feet ahead of us. To our disappointment, the window defroster was also faulty and we were forced to drive with the window open. To make matters more interesting we hadn’t engaged the four-wheel drive and were sliding all over the road, but it was unsafe to stop due to the poor visibility and the risk of getting rear ended and pushed off a cliff. No big deal (Insert winky emoji here).

“Was this ‘hype’ or poor planning?”, I wondered as I sat calmly in the passenger seat. In true Catholic guilt form, I of course, thought of my mother who would probably be furiously asking, “¿Pero porque se fueron en esas condiciones?”, should anything really tragic happen to us.

I still vividly remember the stressed out look on his face while he was driving, and me not being able to contain my nervous laughter as much as I wanted to. Hilarity is usually the coping response my body resorts to in times of stress. I found comfort in texting my sister humorous goodbye love notes to keep my mind off the reality of the situation, and to avoid going into complete panic mode.

Copy of Copy of Tahoe 2-06 004

The road conditions I faced the first morning.

But on that second day, from the minute I stepped on the mountain I felt the slopes welcome me with open arms. Lake Tahoe sat gleaming before me with its glass-like surface, and dazzling backdrops. The sun’s rays provided both warmth and exposed the vivid blue sky for miles. The mountain had also been groomed allowing me to stand without sinking immediately. Within the first hour of the lesson I had learned to make turns while gliding down the mountain (that’s code for I was feeling like a rockstar newbie), and had a basic understanding of the power, but most important SALVATION, of my ski edges. At that moment, everything that had led me to that point over the weekend had been worth it. The feeling was pure ecstasy.

DSCF0742

First Day on Skis Engaging My “Pizza” Pose.

From that day forward, skiing became my gateway drug to recreation in the outdoors. Being on the mountain felt blissful. I had grown up in a beach town and the beauty of snow covered wilderness for miles was something I had never really bonded with. On rare occasions it would snow in the local mountains and my dad would come home to ask “¿Quieren ir a la nieve?” This meant he was prepared to drive us in his truck, 45 minutes up to the local mountains to play in a thin layer of snow. Those experiences were valuable in their own right, but for the first time that weekend, I had just experienced this mystical thing I knew only from the cover of magazines: POWDER.

Tahoe 2-06 131

Digging myself out of the powder.

 

Tahoe 2-06 095

I would stop all the time to stare at the scenery in disbelief.

I continued going often for several seasons. It was an experience where the physical learning led me to a place of spiritual and personal growth as well. Oftentimes the wind or snow falling from the sky would turn up in a matter of minutes. The mountain would clear of people, and the fear, or miedo, of being alone on top of a mountain, in the cold, with only the sound of the wind hissing through the trees would paralyze me. Again, I would hear my mothers voice in my head, “¡Graciela! ¿Porqué tienes que hacer esas cosas?” In other words, she wondered why I insisted on putting myself, in what she considered, dangerous situations.

Tahoe 2-06 061

One of the many times I found myself alone on a ski run during a snowstorm.

After sitting on the snow for a few minutes, I would assure myself I could get down the mountain safely without injury or getting lost. It was during those moments I most intimately connected with the mountain. I was left with no choice but to trust the space I was in as well as my own abilities. Most importantly, I learned to restrain my fear to a place I could use it only to keep me humble, but not to prevent me from growing. Adios Miedo. I no longer feared solitude in the wilderness for I realized I too was born wild. The snow under my feet was the same water I was made from, the sky above me was the same one that had shielded me as a child, and the advantage to playing in the mountains over my backyard, was the mountain had no boundaries. This was the beginning of my journey to becoming a steward of the outdoors.

Graciela Cabello is the National Director of Latino Outdoors. When she’s not dreaming of powder days, she’s enjoying numerous other outdoor spaces and activities that skiing opened the doors to.
Instagram: @Vida_Prana
Twitter: @TweetGraciela


How Skiing Changed My Relationship with the Outdoors ~ By Monique Limón

 

Growing up, I was surrounded by kids in schools who talked about skiing and going to places with snow. I vividly remember coming back from winter break and sitting in a high school geometry course and having all of my tablemates tell me about their visit to Mammoth over the winter vacation.

I didn’t grow up visiting ski resorts but remembered hearing about them and wondering not only what Mammoth was like…but also what snow was like. As a young first-generation Latina from Southern California, snow was not part of my reality. I do remember making it to Santa’s Village in San Bernardino in the early 80’s and seeing some snow used to decorate the place.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I had that one “outdoors friend” who encouraged me to take a trip to Tahoe because she knew someone who could get us discounted tickets to go skiing. I was a working adult who could now afford the ticket to go skiing and to see the snow. So I did.

My trip to Tahoe changed my relationship with the outdoors. I took ski lessons the first half of the morning and skied the rest of the day. I didn’t pick up skiing easily and struggled quite a bit. Nonetheless, it put a genuine smile on my face. I loved being on the mountain and challenging myself to get down while gliding through the snow. I liked the snow and learned how much I liked skiing on powder. In addition to the physical joy it brought to me, it also allowed me to temporarily put aside all other worries, concerns, and distractions and simply focus on the skis, the mountain, and me.

ML2

Feeling joy.

That first experience has led to many others. I must admit that while I’m still not the best of skiers, I continue to enjoy skiing as much as I did day one – that hasn’t changed one bit. That experience also motivated me to try other outdoor experiences. So when that one “outdoor friend” invited me to Yosemite, I was happy to say yes to my very first visit to the national park.

My current professional and community commitments keep me very busy and I don’t get to ski as often as I would like (which could explain why my skills as a skier have plateaued). I do however think about what it means to give people the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a meaningful way for the first time. In my role as a School Board Member, I have been thoughtful about what it means to have students live minutes from the beach yet not ever have the opportunity to visit the ocean and hesitate going into the water because they don’t know how to swim. Or, how for some students in the school district, their sixth grade science camp experience is the first and perhaps only camping experience they will ever have.

Skiing changed my relationship with the outdoors and helped me think differently about outdoor experiences. While I may not ski as much as I’d like and still think about the costs associated with the activity, I don’t hesitate to find ways in my life or the life of others to experience the outdoors.

ML4

Skiing in Big Bear, California.

 

 

ML5

Weekend trips with friends has become a favorite past time.

Monique Limón is a School Board Member for Santa Barbara Unified School District. In this capacity, she is part of a governing body that serves over 15,500 students.

Twitter:
@SMoniqueLimon
https://twitter.com/SMoniqueLimon