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Backcountry ski/board on Mt. Tallac

View from Tallac South to Heavenly
The view from Mt. Tallac looking south toward Lake Tahoe (left) and Fallen Leaf Lake (right). Photo / Jim Scripps

With temperatures in the 60s, spring skiing and boarding is in the air in Reno-Tahoe, a good time for the hardier ski-hikers to make a backcountry trek up Mt. Tallac, one the Sierra’s most accessible routes and home to unrivaled views of Lake Tahoe and the eastern Sierra below.

Although Tallac’s approach may be tough for the “fitness-challenged” – it registers 9,735 feet, a 3,255-foot gain to the summit – it’s high vantage point and open, skiable terrain make it well worth the hike. MiketheBike and I escorted a three-man editorial team from Backcountry Magazine up Mt. Tallac on March 6 to give them a taste of spring corn and clear blue skies.

Chilly morning air gave way to warm temperatures as we started up the trailhead around 10 a.m. Mikethebike, Justin and Justin (keeping names straight was also a little tough) sported randonee skis, Mike skinned a split snowboard, and I snowshoed, carrying my snowboard on my back. While the snow started out bulletproof, by the time we reached about 7,500 feet it started to loosen up, a good time for soft turns. I was the first to bail – tired of lugging my board, I strapped it on and ripped a good long run down the canyon. The others would continue toward the summit.

The snow started to harden up by the time my fellow travelers headed down, give them a bone-jarring ride. It turns out the best time to descend was between 2-3 p.m. And regardless of the snow condition, Tallac on a clear sunny day offers one of the best views available for the backcountry enthusiast.

To get to the (winter) Tallac trailhead (map): From Lake Tahoe’s South Shore take Highway 89 toward Emerald Bay. Turn west on Spring Creek Road, the first road after the Baldwin Beach turnoff. The end of the road is the start of the trail. From the trailhead, the summit is approximately 2.2 miles. Climb time varies based on snow conditions … and be prepared for avalanche danger before attempting any backcountry ski trip.

(Check back for a video of backcountry on Tallac…)

- Jim Scripps

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