This year in November I celebrated my eighth “Tahoe-iversary”, and I realized that I’ll be embarking on my 9th season of snowboarding this winter! Learning to snowboard as an adult was not without its challenges, but I’m at a point where I’m confident with my skills. Over my years of snowboarding, I’ve figured out some of my gear must haves.
I love layering up – you can control exactly how much insulation you’re wearing and can always shed a layer if you overheat. I tend to get really warm when I exercise, so I tend to keep my baselayers on the lighter side. Plus, the weather in Tahoe tends to be warmer than resorts in the rockies or east coast. A good rule of thumb is that you feel a little chilly standing in the parking lot, as you’ll warm up from exertion.
My favorite base layer bottoms are the Stoic Merino Blend ($35 – $70) that you can frequently find on sale on backcountry.com or steepandcheap.com. I tried the more expensive SmartWool Women’s Merino 150 Baselayer, ($80) and while they are high quality and soft, they are way too short for me at 5’11”. If you are under 5’8” or so, you might have better luck.
On top, I start with a really long, fitted tank top that I can tuck into my ski pants, like this one from Athleta ($20). The tank I usually wear is one I found at Marshall’s years ago – it’s a “fashion” tank instead of a workout one (like this one from Amazon $15), but it works just fine. Next I go for a long sleeved baselayer. If it’s a warmer day, I usually wear a SmartWool Women’s Merino 250 Hoody ($130) or the lightweight Patagonia Capilene Zip Neck ($59). Note: Capeline starts smelling really badly when you sweat in it, so that’s something to keep in mind. If it’s colder out, Patagonia R1 fleece is a great heavier baselayer. It comes in a Pullover, Hooded Pullover, and a full zip version. I ended up buying the men’s version, and it actually fits me in arm length, so that’s an option if you have longer arms (I found it’s not too tight in the hips, which is an issue I’ve had with other men’s jackets).
Being dry and a reasonable temperature (not too cold or hot) goes a long way towards a fun day on the mountain. I tend to like having lots of coat options – I haven’t found a coat that can take me from a warm, spring day to a wet, cold and windy day. If it’s snowing or raining, I wear a raincoat (sized up) over a down coat or vest. For a truly waterproof raincoats, I’ve been very happy with my Patagonia Torrentshell ($129). I’ve also had good experience with Marmot raincoats, and the Marmot Phoenix Jacket ($250). For down, I have the Marmot Aruna Down Vest ($140) and the Aruna Hoodie ($150).
Patagonia has an array of nice synthetic options, if you want to avoid down. On really warm days, I’ll often just wear a baselayer and my Aruna vest, but if I’m worried about the wind I’ll grab a softshell. I have an awesome softshell hoody from Icebreaker that they don’t seem to make any more, unfortunately. The Patagonia Adze hoody ($199) is pretty similar, and Greyson loves his Rab softshell more than just about any of his coats (and he has more coats than me!)
I’ve been wearing something similar to the Armada Lenox ($179), which are technically ski pants (as opposed to snowboard pants) for the last five years, and I really like them. Snowboard pants tend to be baggier though, and I think with pants, it’s best to try on a bunch and find the ones that fit you best. Make sure you can move around in them – I’ve had ones that seem to fit fine standing up straight, but get too tight in the thighs in the snowboarder crouch. Another issue I’ve had with ski/snowboard pants is the fastener at the waist – I’ve had pairs that that the button would come undone every time I fell down. That’s not something you want to deal with on the mountain, so try sitting down on the ground in them, like you would be on your board. It seems silly, but it will help you see how they fit when you’re moving around. I like to have thigh vents, especially on insulated pants. If you get overheated, thigh vents let you cool down quickly.
I’m still really happy with my Burton Women’s Feather snowboard (see my detailed review here). It’s been a great board to take me from beginner to advanced terrain, and I don’t see switching out any time soon. I’m still on my entry level Burton bindings – the Burton Custom Snowboard Bindings ($199), which have held up remarkably well for the past seven years. They are starting to wear out, so that will probably be the next upgrade I make. If you’re looking for great value bindings, I’d highly recommend the Custom.
I’ve cycled through a few boots over the years – starting with the cheapest Burton lace ups, nicer K2s with a boa system that I got on last season clearance, before settling on the Ride Hera Boa Snowboard Boots ($260). Despite linking to examples here, my number one tip is DON’T BUY BOOTS ONLINE. Go to a store that is known for bootfitting, try a bunch on, get advice from the bootfitters, get inserts, and then pay full price at the store. There’s no substitute for a good fitting boot, and you can’t do that online, especially since boot designs sometimes change subtly from year to year. Seriously, the number one improvement to my snowboarding ability (besides just time on the board) was getting properly fitted boots with the appropriate stiffness. (If you’re in Truckee or North Lake Tahoe, I had a great experience with boot fitting at Blue Zone Sports).
Much like my biking socks recommendations, you can’t go wrong with Smartwool socks. They come in several thicknesses, including Ultra Light, Light, Medium Socks, and compression ($23 – $50). They also come in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns – from plain black to adorable mountain print.
When I first started snowboarding, my hands were always freezing and the snow gloves that worked for shoveling the driveway didn’t cut it. I first got some mittens with mitten shaped liners, which I would not recommend. The mitten liners didn’t let me do anything I couldn’t do with my mittens on, so I’d have to strip down to bare hands anyway. Plus, the palms didn’t stay waterproof for very long, so I was shortly in the market for my next pair. Next, I bought Dakine Women’s Leather Camino mittens, which I still use and love. The leather palm is tough (no accidentally slicing it on sharp edges) and very waterproof once treated. I only break them out on really cold days, though, because otherwise my hands get sweaty. Most of the season, I wear DaKine Women’s Tahoe Gloves ($50). I’ve been really happy with Dakine brand gloves and mittens and will continue to buy them for the foreseeable future.
I’ve raved before about my Smith Squad MTB goggles for biking, and I like the Smith Squad Snow Goggles equally as much. Smith’s ChromaPop lens technology reduces color confusion that affects typical goggle lenses and helps you see in more detail. I’d recommend having a lens for the sunny, bluebird days (ChromaPop Sun or Sun Black), one that works in a range of conditions (ChromaPop Everyday Green Mirror or Everyday Rose), and a lens for stormy, low light days (ChromaPop Storm). I mostly use the sunny and mid range lenses, but there were some stormy days last winter I wished I had gone with the low light lens.
Helmets are a critical piece of safety equipment, and I ALWAYS wear mine! Get one that is cute and comfortable, and you’re more likely to wear it. I have a small head, and I think that Smith helmets fit me well. I have Smith Sequel, and I love the soft fabric over the ears and the vents, which are essential for comfort on warm days. Greyson has a big head, and POC helmets fit him well. Just try them on until you find one that fits well.
On days that it’s windy and snowing, I have a cheap synthetic buff, like this one from Amazon ($10). This isn’t something I’d spend much money on, but if you run cold consider splurging on a fleece BUFF. My cold blooded friend swears by it. I like to wear boots that are easy to slip on and off and comfortable to wear to the hill. I have an older version of North Face ankle boots, similar to the Yukion. When it’s warm enough for the parking lot to be dry, I wear Minnetonka Cally Slippers or flip flops, which, to be honest, is my favorite time of year for skiing. Other things that are nice to have on the mountain are sunglasses that I don’t mind getting beat up, sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and hair ties.
I hope that these gear recommendations are useful, and make it easier to get out on the mountain, whether it’s your first time or your 500th.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
When I moved to South Lake Tahoe in November 2010, I had been on skis a total of 3 times, and I had never been snowboarding. I’m one of the few people who moved to Tahoe for the job and took up winter sports instead of vice versa. Despite the fact that I’d been skiing a few times, I ended up a snowboarder for a couple of very simple reasons:
- My roommate at the time gave me a free snowboard (Thanks, Carrie!)
- My best friend in Tahoe is a snowboarder, and she offered to teach me (Thanks, Katie!)
My first board was an old Burton, covered in stickers and dings, and it was a great board to learn on because I didn’t have to worry about messing it up. As I started to move from beginner towards intermediate, I decided it was time to buy a new snowboard.
After some research and stalking end of season sales, I ended up buying a 2013 Burton Feather. I’ve ridden on it for a couple of seasons now, and I feel capable of giving it a thorough review.
First, I feel like this board was a perfect board to progress on. Since buying this board, I have moved from low intermediate through solidly intermediate. I’m now moving into advanced territory, and the Feather still works well for me. I’m riding black diamond runs with confidence, take this board into powder (since we actually have some this year!), and I can ride in moderately spaced trees.
Burton described the 2013 board as
“Feather-like float for girls determined to get better. – Jump right into all-mountain fun, whether it’s your first time or 50th day. Laid-back and relaxed, the Feather’s upgrade to V-Rocker™ creates a catch-free, playful feel that’s easier on the muscles. Tapered shaping equals effortless turning and float in fresh snow while the twin flex means it’s good to go, forwards or back. Softer and more forgiving than the Social or Blender, the Feather is for the rider looking for more room to grow than they’ll get with our easiest board, the Genie.”
On the cons’ side, if you are an advanced rider who spends all of your time on steeps and in the powder, the Burton Feather might not be aggressive enough for you. I’ve found that the board sometimes “skips” on the steep sections and sinks into powder more than I like. I also don’t think that the board steers quite as well when you’re riding in switch, but I fully admit that it could be how I have the board set up.
I initially bought this board based on the reviews that touted its ability to take you from a beginner to an intermediate, and that is exactly what I did on this board. I’ll continue to ride this board for the rest of the 2015-16 season, but I am looking to upgrade eventually. It’s a fun board to ride, and I feel stable on groomed terrain. When riding off piste, the Feather handles different snow consistency well, and I rarely feel like I’m being thrown around, unless the snow bumps are large.
Heavenly, one of the resorts I’ve frequently ridden has A LOT of flat, narrow cat tracks that are the bane of snowboarders existence. I really noticed a difference on how much more stable the Feather felt on these flatter areas, allowing me to keep up more speed. I don’t feel like I’m constantly about to catch an edge on this board.
New for 2016: Flat Top –“A flat profile between the feet means stability, better balance, and continuous edge control. The tip and tail kick up with an early rise outside the feet for the catch-free, loose feeling you’d expect from rocker.”
Directional Shape – “The classic snowboard shape, designed to be ridden with a slightly longer nose than tail to concentrate pop in the tail while still giving you plenty of float, flow, and control to rip any terrain or condition.”
Tapered Shape – “A tapered shape means the nose is wider than the tail, promoting smooth turn entry and exit, stability at speed, and enhanced deep snow flotation.”
Flex – “The flex is perfectly symmetrical from tip to tail for a balanced ride that’s equally versatile regular or switch.”
Bottom Line: if you are a beginner who wants to move from the greens to blues and beyond, I highly recommend the Burton Feather.
Are you a snowboarder? What board do you recommend for intermediate riders?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
Heavenly Lake Tahoe is definitely the resort I’ve spent the most time at. It’s where I’ve had a pass most years, it’s where most of my friends ski and ride, it’s where I learned to snowboard, and it is freaking gorgeous!
It is located right in the town of South Lake Tahoe, and while I was living there, it was close enough to my office that we could go and get a couple of runs in over lunch. You can access Heavenly from the California side or a couple places on the Nevada: the Gondola in Heavenly Village and Stagecoach Lodge.
One of the coolest things about Heavenly is that you can ski in both Nevada and California in the same day! You also get a great visualization of the rain shadow effect. Heavenly has a ton of terrain – one of my other favorite aspects.
Here’s a few facts:
- This year is Heavenly’s 60th Anniversary.
- It’s now owned by Vail Resorts which owns and runs a ton of other ski areas in California, Colorado, Utah, and internationally
- Heavenly has 97 trails covering 4,800 skiable acres – the most in Tahoe!
- Heavenly tops out at 10,067 feet and ski down 3,500 vertical feet.
- It’s the only resort in Tahoe that has terrain in California and Nevada.
Here’s my take on Heavenly-
- Like I said earlier, there is a ton of terrain. Even when it is crowded in certain areas, you can usually get away from that and find somewhat solitude.
- There is something for everyone: beginner friendly – to the epic Mott & Killebrew Canyons.
- Did I mention that the views are amazing?
- It’s convenience to South Lake Tahoe can’t be beat. Basically, if you live in South Lake, that’s where you want to have a pass.
- The Tahoe Local/Value Passes are an INCREDIBLE deal. You get 7 day a week access to Heavenly, and either 7 day or Sun – Fri access to Northstar and Kirkwood. (I love Sugar Bowl, but, man, I miss that deal!)
- You can track your vert over the course of the season with Epic Mix. Your pass scans automatically and it will keep track of the lifts you ride at any Vail Resort.
- They have photographers stationed on the mountain through Epic Mix Photo to take pictures of you and your friends. They’ll scan your pass, and the pictures will show up on your account. No more selfies needed.
- It’s convenience means that it can be CROWDED. On a Saturday, there’s often a huge line backing up Powder Bowl and Sky chairs.
- While there’s lots of beginner friendly terrain, the crowds can make things stressful for new riders and skiers. I know other people, especially on narrow trails made me super nervous.
- If you’re on a snowboard, prepare to do a lot of traversing. There are quite a few flat areas that you’ll need to cross in the course of a day at Heavenly. There are places you can keep your speed up, but the crowds often make that impossible in others.
- Heavenly has really embraced the nightlife, Nevada, casino side of things with its after parties and the Heavenly Angels. I guess that could be a pro or con, depending on how you feel, but I’m not a huge fan.
- Food/drinks are expensive! Bring your own.
- Want to access the Nevada side on a busy weekend day? Drive up Kingsbury Grade and park at Stagecoach Lodge. Note: if it’s snowy, only attempt if you feel comfortable with narrow, steep, slick mountain driving and have a proper vehicle.
- If you’re starting on the California side, take Sky chair all the way to the top and go down Ridge Run for a warm up with killer views.
- My favorite runs on the California side are Ellie’s, Liz’s and Powder Bowl Woods. In Nevada, I like everything off of Galaxy chair.
I really enjoy Heavenly, and it will always have a special place in my heart since I learned to snowboard there. It can be crowded and expensive, but its expansive terrain and killer views mean that you can get away from the crowds and really enjoy yourself.
Where to Stay: Basecamp Hotel is adorable! I’ve never stayed there, but I’ve toured the theme rooms during events and hung out at the bar. Plus, there are free s’mores! There are also a ton of vacation rentals and Air BnBs in South Lake Tahoe too.
Happy 2016 everyone! I thought 2015 was pretty great, but I’m looking forward to the new year with my eye on a few goals. I made a Fall Bucket List, but between sickness and business, I didn’t check off too many. Now that the snow has begun to fall (already more than fell ALL of last winter), I have some goals and experiences for my Winter Bucket List.
Join a Gym and Start Swimming: So, I didn’t join a gym, despite it being a goal for the fall. With winter’s early darkness, cold temperatures, and icy trails, it’s definitely time for me to join a gym. I’m going to go along with all of the other January Joiners and start working out after work. Relatedly, I’m going to find a public pool for lap swimming. My trip to Indonesia is coming up (in March!), and I want to be in good swimming shape by then.
Try Out New Winter Activities: I’ve gotten decent at snowboarding over the last five winters, but there are a ton of winter and snow sports I’ve never tried or only done once. Some ideas: cross country skiing, snowshoeing (I actually tried this one last week), fat biking, downhill skiing, ice skating, skijoring, etc.
Snowboard Twice as Much as Last Year: This should be easy – since I was mountain biking at 7,000 feet in February last year.
Take an Avalanche Safety Course: I want to get into backcountry snowboarding, and step one is learning how to stay safe. There are a bunch of avalanche safety courses in the Tahoe area. I just need to pick one and go.
Try Backcountry Snowboarding: After I get educated, I’ll be ready to try backcountry snowboarding! I’ll hopefully be able to borrow most of the gear I need, before I invest a ton of money. I’ve already got a snowboard and snowshoes, so I’m partway there! There’s a ton of great backcountry riding in Tahoe, and I’m excited to start to experience it.
Try Out New Resorts: The last few years, I’ve had a Vail pass that let me ride at Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood. This year my pass is at Sugar Bowl, and comes with a few tickets at Squaw/Alpine Meadows. I’ll hopefully be able to ride with friends at a few new resorts this year – Diamond Peak, Mt. Rose and Homewood.
This is my sixth winter in Tahoe! I can hardly believe it sometimes. It feels like I was just finishing grad school in Santa Barbara, like, last month. Over that past winters, I have been able to snowboard at five of Tahoe’s resorts, and I hope to try a couple of new ones this year.
All of Tahoe’s resorts have their pluses and minuses, and I thought that I could do a Resort Report with a local perspective. I decided to start with my favorite: Sugar Bowl Resort.
I was only introduced to Sugar Bowl a couple of winters ago, when I started dating Greyson, and I started hanging out in Truckee more. It quickly worked its way up to the top of my list! I’ve written before about some of my fun days at Sugar Bowl.
First, a few facts:
- Sugar Bowl is one of the oldest ski resorts in California. It started running its lifts in 1939, and celebrated its 75th Anniversary last year. One of Sugar Bowl’s initial investors was Walt Disney, and Mt. Disney and the Disney lift are named after him.
- California’s first chairlift was built here, and lift tickets were originally $2!
- Sugar Bowl has 4 peaks, 103 trails, 1,650 skiable acres, 1,500 vertical feet, with 17% beginner, 45% intermediate, and 38% advanced terrain.
- Since Sugar Bowl is located on the Western Slope of the Sierra, it often gets hammered by winter storms. It averages ~500 inches a year, the most in the Tahoe Basin (so they claim).
- It’s Godzilla El Nino, and Sugar Bowl has the most snow of any resorts so far. 152″ this season!
- Sugar Bowl also has a cross country ski area, Royal Gorge. Last year, I got to try fat biking there!
Now, here’s my take on Sugar Bowl:
- Sugar Bowl has the shortest lift lines of any of the big resorts! Even on a “busy” powder weekend day, I’ve waited in line a max of ten minutes. Compared to Heavenly, where you can wait in line for an hour+ when things are busy, Sugar Bowl lift lines are amazing.
- Related, Sugar Bowl is not usually crowded. It feels much more like a “locals” resort. Even on busy tourist weekends, Sugar Bowl has a much mellower feel.
- There are incredible views! From the top of Lincoln, you can look towards the Sierra Crest, towards Castle Peak, down on Donner Lake, and, if it’s a clear day, you can even see the Coast Range!
- Sugar Bowl is a great resort if you want to advance from an intermediate to an advanced rider/skier. I found myself getting a lot more comfortable riding off piste once I started riding here.
- I was used to riding at resorts that had mostly two settings: easy to fairly easy groomers and difficult tree & mogul skiing. It’s hard to make that jump! Sugar Bowl has a fair amount of terrain that will ease you in. They don’t groom every run, so there’s plenty of places where you can practice your off-piste technique.
- There’s also a ton of advanced terrain and great access to the backcountry. I haven’t gotten to ride any backcountry yet, but that’s a goal for 2016!
- Sugar Bowl is not usually very crowded, so it’s also a great place to learn. I know that when I was learning, other people stressed me out way more than steep terrain, so Sugar Bowl seems like a great place to learn.
- They have the best Bloody Mary in Tahoe. Sugar Bowl also has their own beer, Sugar Bowl Pale Ale. Their food prices have gone up in the last couple of years. You used to be able to get a beer for $5! It’s still pretty reasonable compared to most resorts.
- Sugar Bowl doesn’t have all the the amenities of the bigger resort chains, so no apres party with Heavenly Angels or EpicMix for tracking vert or free hot chocolate or heated chair lifts.
Obviously, I love Sugar Bowl, and I think there are way more pros than cons. It’s my favorite resort in Tahoe, but I look forward to exploring more to compare.
How to get there: Sugar Bowl is off of old Highway 40. If Highway 40 is closed, you can get there via I80. The resort is about 20 minutes from downtown Truckee, 90 minutes from Sacramento and under 3 hours from San Francisco.
Where to eat: Here are my favorite Truckee restaurants.
“It’s been a thing for a while now, this underrepresentation of women in adventure films. Why?It seems we’re not really making them, or at least not enough of them. And why is that? Well, it’s complicated—but the solution might come down to you and me.”
And concluded with:
“Maybe it’s time for us to simply start telling those stories we see that need to be told—to stop wondering why someone else isn’t doing it, and just do it ourselves.”
The issues of under- and negative representation of women is something that is very important to me, and Hilary’s post inspired me to put together a short list of my favorite adventure films that are made by, feature, and/or star awesome women!
- The Little Things by Marie-France Roy & Darcy Turenne
I mentioned this film in the roundup of my favorite films of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. “Follow professional snowboarders who have chosen to be outspoken and make positive changes towards a sustainable environment. This film is an initiative taken on by one of snowboarding’s most influential riders, Marie-France Roy, in hopes of inspiring others towards sustainability through inspirational speakers, positive ideas, and leading a healthy lifestyle. They keep it positive and showcase some of the little things that people can do to contribute to positive changes for the future of our environment.” The Little Things also happens to be the feature film at the Sierra Nevada Alliance’s 10th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival – South Lake Tahoe. Get your tickets today!
- Push It by Jen Randall
I had a chance to see this film at last year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival (honestly, where I end up seeing most of my adventure movies). I had just signed up for a beginning climbing class, and this film was totally inspiring. Push It flashes between two friends preparing for their first ever big wall climb and the stories of and advice from professional women climbers. “Two women prepare for their first ever big wall – El Capitan in Yosemite, which goes far from smoothly from start to finish. Along the way, we visit climbing heroines for inspiration – and we overcome broken bones, awful weather, a lack of funds and several crisis of confidence.”
- Georgena Terry by Amanda Zackem
This is super short, but well worth watching. A Terry saddle is next on my bike wishlist! “This short documentary is about Georgena Terry, founder of Terry Bicycles. Terry revolutionized the women’s biking industry by creating a frame specific to a woman’s body. This is the story of how she got her start and the challenges within the women’s biking movement.”
- Nobody’s River by Amber Valenti, Skip Armstrong & Wazee Motion Pictures
Photo via nobodysriver.org/
Another film I recommended earlier this year, Nobody’s River combines adventure, gorgeous scenery, female friendship and epic dance offs. “Four women journey down one of the world’s last free flowing rivers of the world and discover raw beauty, industrial wastelands, devastating loss, and unbridled joy.”
- Solstice by Andy Hofman
I like my runs to be well under 5 miles, but I couldn’t help but be inspired by Ashley Lindsey as she runs 100 miles in the Western States Endurance Race. I may even run 6 miles someday! “1 Woman. 1 Day. 100 Miles. And an attempt to prove that “impossible” is just a word. Ashley Lindsey’s mission to finish the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains—the world’s oldest and most prestigious trail race from Squaw Valley to Auburn—is documented in this film where she batters bitter cold, stifling heat, and her own mental and physical limitations along the way.”
These are just a few of the adventure films made by and featuring awesome women that often fly under the radar. What are some of your favorites?