I was debating between soul skiing and sharing this adventure with the world, but ultimately I figured I could still ski soulfully and reflect without weakening the experience. The idea was born at 6:30PM to go ski the 4th of July Chutes that evening. At 7:30PM, the idea was realized. After a grueling 7-mile approach by way of Subaru, Nicolette Howell and I had reached the road summit, and began the second part of the journey on foot. Approximately eight minutes later, we were able to catch a glimpse of the iconic destination, sought after by many Tahoe locals and visitors alike… the 4th of July Chutes.
Or rather, the 4th of July Patch. That’s right, the 4th of July Patch is going off right now. And I suspect it will be at least 20-25 feet long by the time the fourth comes along.
We had mistakenly left our crampons, ice axes, rope, beacons, probes, shovels, helmets, and GoPros at home. Anyone versed in backcountry preparedness would have been quick to call it a doomed mission and return to safety. Against our better judgement, we geared up and pushed onward, booting our way to the top of the patch, which had to have been a searing 15 degrees in pitch and in the vicinity of 20 vertical feet.
With the climb behind us, it was game time. I began plotting my descent, which turned out to be a straightline between my backpack and a softball-sized rock. I’ve seen movies where professional athletes storm down mountains without putting in a single turn, and now I can say I know exactly how they feel, minus the helicopters flying around.
My second descent, I decided to get a little more creative, like the jibbers do. There wasn’t anything really to jib, so I started off with the same backpack straightline, followed by three zipperline mogul turns, and a hocky stop before the rocks. After getting that extreme, most people would call it a day, feeling fortunate to be alive. But, there was more patch to ski, and progression was happening.
The snow was mildly suncupped and semi firm, but pleasingly edgeable, and with an occasional rock. Cookies ‘n Cream in appearance, though freezer burned in texture. I will say this though, I’m a pretty solid blue square skier, and I’m even okay with the occasional black diamond. I’d equate this to the end of the season when the trails that are normally blue squares are flagged as “experts only” due to the potential of unmarked obstacles. The obstacle on this run was of course the bottom which abruptly turns into all rock. A proficient hocky stopper or powerful wedger should be able to avoid injury.
That’s really all there is to say about it. This is the back country… the real deal. The run isn’t going to be manicured to perfection. If you want corduroy, stay home. But if you’re ready for what mother nature lays out, you’re ready for the 4th of July Patch.