Sunday, July 3, 2011

Things to do this Fourth of July:
Go skiing in California

That's right, you heard me: Go skiing.

The Sierra Nevada mountains got so much snow this year that it's still possible to go skiing and snowboarding up in Mammoth, not far from Yosemite National Park, where the base is still three to eight feet. I'm still on Oahu, but if I get to California and there's still snow up there, I may consider giving this a shot (though I may stick to sledding if my little relatives come along).


The Sierras have peaks reaching to the 14,500-foot level (Mt Whitney, which is 4500 meters), with lots of car-accessible places at 9000 or 10,000 feet, including the pass that brings you into Yosemite National Park's Tuolumne Meadows from the east. Back in August 2001, when we traveled from Death Valley to Tuolumne Meadows, in thirty-six hours we went from scorching daytime temperatures (122°F, or 50°C) at Badwater to freezing overnight temperatures (30°F, or -1°C) at the Tuolumne Meadows campsite. We were hardly prepared for either. (It was on another trip to Yosemite that on the way down from Glacier Point, at around the 7000- to 6000-foot elevation, we saw it snow on a summer day in June.)

Given their high elevation and their position vis-à-vis typical weather patterns, they tend to capture moisture and let it dump right there. It's hardly a surprise that Sierra Nevada means "snowy mountains." And it's apparently not that rare that the snow pack is till around even in developed parts of the Sierras at this time of year.

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