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Last week of skiing

Hiking takes over from skiing as resorts close for the season
Hiking takes over from skiing as resorts close for the season
J Ferris

It's time to put the skis and boards away. Most of the Tahoe resorts will close April 20th. Squaw Valley currently plans on an April 27th shutdown. It's doubtful that even a massive snow laden storm would change any of the shut down plans. Economics take over when the skier visits dwindle past a certain point.

We are swinging into a different recreational season, one that has a lot of variation and opportunities for everyone. The mornings are starting off with earlier light, and the stretch of the daylight hours is growing. This simply means there's more time to stay outside. It has nothing to do with what is claimed to be daylight savings time. It's just how the earth tilts on its axis at this time of year.

Of course, it's very possible that cold, wet, weather can, and hopefully will, wing its way in from Alaska. A few mid-pacific storms would be equally welcomed. More water and a wet forest are a helpful combination.

The river sports crowd will have to get their gear out and head out to run the rivers early this year. There may not be a later on some rivers. The snow pack feeds the rivers and right now the snow is melting pretty quickly.

The American River in the Highway 50 canyon east of Pollock Pines is starting to run with some strength. It looks like it's runnable now. Last week it wasn't. The crews that run the river in those small river kayaks have taken notice. It is likely that it will be a short, sweet season in the American River Canyon.

The lower South Fork of the American River should be OK for awhile. The rafting companies in Lotus and Coloma aren't sending out distress signals yet. Still, if you want a rafting trip down the American, complete with adrenaline laced bumps, drops, and rapids, you might do well to book your trip early.

Up in the high country, south facing slopes, especially at lower elevations, are showing rocks and dirt. That line where the snow starts is steadily creeping up the mountain sides. If you've been around here long enough you'll know that this is too early for that kind of sight.

The north facing slopes are the ones with the most snow right now. They aren't exposed to the sun as much, and the cold nights are preserving a lot of the snow on these slopes.

Below about 7,500 feet you can probably hike around relatively easily. What you will find though are north facing areas that are still packed with enough snow to stop you. It's a bad idea to attempt to cross these large patches of snow. Unless you have x-ray vision, there's no telling how deep the patch is, or how much has been eroded by what is known as under-melt.

There is no snow at lake level in Tahoe. Those bike trails around Tahoe, except for perhaps the top of Mr. Toads and a few like that, are once again clear of snow. It's a great time to ride up there as the weather is just about perfect for a roll through the forest. Anderson's, Camp Richardson's, and South Shore Bikes in South Lake Tahoe, Olympic Bike Shop in Tahoe City, and Watta Bike in Meyers are all open for business.

The Crystal Basin is a great place to head for a day hike or just to wander around a bit. The roads are clear, there's enough snow here and there to make for good photos, and at least for the next week, no storms are on the weather menu.

The kayaks, bikes, canoes, and hiking boots are moving to the front of the outdoor recreational possibilities. Take advantage of this early season. One of the constants is that right now there aren't a lot of people out there on the trails, especially during the weekdays. Everything is relatively calm and uncrowded. That will end in June when the true tourist season gets underway, and the schools let out for summer break.

Remember to prepare for wherever you are headed. You still need water, food, a map, and a buddy, at the bare minimum.