September Skiing at “The Patch,” CA: Washed Out Road to an Absolutely Amazing Time

John Cunningham | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Checking September skiing off of the bucket list. | Image: Author

Report from September 14, 2023

It’s halfway through September, and we’re still skiing and riding just south of Lake Tahoe, California.

We have been dreaming about the heavy snow south of the equator in Patagonia (thanks, Miles), however the realistic option for us was about an hour south of home here in South Lake Tahoe.

We got on the road around 11:30 a.m. with our skis and snowboard, a packed cooler, and so much stoke and excitement. 

Although it was our first time, we knew exactly where we were headed and made it to the pull-out off of Highway 88 in no time.

Navigating the first couple miles of dirt road was relatively easy.

It wasn’t long before the road became washed out, with ridiculously deep ruts and huge boulders protruding everywhere; clear signs of the heavy winter and the rain filled summer.

Washed out Road
The washed out dirt road was a rough match for my low clearance Subaru. | Image: Denise Sylvester

My 2005 Subaru Outback was up for the challenge, and we made it most of the way up through some really gnarly switchbacks.

Since I didn’t know what the road ahead had in stores for us, I made the difficult decision to turn around and retreat.

Suffering from defeat (and some pretty extreme anxiety), I pulled off into a safe spot, got out, and paced a few laps around the car as I gathered my wits.

We made it this far, we knew what needed to be done: we rigged up our gear, loaded our packs and started on the short half-mile or so hike.

Hiking for September skiing
Shovel and poles in hands, a loaded pack, and a short hike ahead. | Image: Denise Sylvester

20 minutes of walking up the treacherous dirt road led us to get our first full visuals of the patch.

A few remnants of a great summer at the patch were still lurking, with a couple home-made rails scattered around the dirt. (Pack it in, pack it out, folks!)

We were both instantly overcome with so much joy, knowing we were about to get some magical September turns in.

The Patch!
We made it! Almost time to boot up and see how the snow feels! | Image: Denise Sylvester 

We found two small shade trees that were the perfect place to set up home base for the afternoon, and took a little breather before booting up.

As we climbed up the snow and approached the peak of the patch, I felt right where I needed to be at that moment.

After almost six weeks since closing weekend at Mammoth Mountain, we were strapped in and ready to get some more glorious summer turns.

So much stoke to be here and ready to drop in. | Image: Author

Dropping in for lap #1, the mid-size sun cups were fast, icy, and tough to dig an edge into, so we both semi-cautiously worked our way down to the dirt. 

However, as soon as I took my skis off, I was instantly itching for more.

I started a quick solo hike back up, so Denise could get some pictures of me ripping down.

While I stood at the top, the quiet sounds of the snow melting and softening below my skis and the stillness in the air filled me with pure bliss.

“Skiing in September,” I thought to myself, “and I am having the time of my life right now.”

I let loose (and lost my hat here) on my second run and hot-dogged down with some speed. | Image: Denise Sylvester

Since I trekked a shovel along with me, I attempted to build a little baby jump, because, y’know, why not?

My short-lived efforts resulted in a small and quite pathetic looking “jump”, but I had a plan and knew I would make the most of it anyway.

Seeing as we were unquestionably the only people crazy enough to be out here today, a run down in my birthday suit complete with a spread eagle off of said jump was basically mandatory.

The experience was liberating, to say the least, and I will always remember the feeling as I flew down the patch with a shit-eating grin in nothing but a ball-cap for my first time ever.

Managed to still get some air on the baby jump, fully clothed. | Image: Author

The snow continued to soften and the stoke stayed all-time as the 70 degree September sun beat down on us.

Six or seven runs later, we were exhausted, satisfied and fulfilled beyond belief.

We had successfully earned our September turns, accounting for 11 consecutive months of skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

Now it’s time to start figuring out October, or we may just be back here in two weeks!


There’s snow down this way, in September, I promise. | Image: Denise Sylvester
The short hike with our gear seemed effortless with how excited we were. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Wildflowers were still blooming as water ran down right beside. | Image: Author
Absolutely captivating and awe-inspiring views. | Image: Denise Sylvester
On our way to check off September turns and 11 months in a row! | Image: Author
Spraying snow like this in September should bring smiles this big. | Image: Denise Sylvester
DniceTahoe cruising down making some flowy turns. | Image: Author
These guys were popping up all over along the snowmelt-line. | Image: Author
Skiing in September
Check September skiing off of the bucket list. | Image: Denise Sylvester
The mountains casting shadows over this incredible view made it that much better. | Image: Author

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