Earlier this month, the First Ascent Guides and Athletes gathered in Lake Tahoe to critique and test upcoming clothes and gear.
By Zach Crist
Photography by Chris Vestal and Jim Harris
The first winter storm of the season landed in the Sierras just as we arrived on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Conveniently, the foul weather outside kept us focused on the task inside (at least for a couple days). The entire First Ascent ski and snowboard team had come to Tahoe for product development meetings. Rather than gathering in Bellevue, WA, at Eddie Bauer’s headquarters, we’ve been getting together in the mountain towns where First Ascent guides live, work, and play. It allows the in-house team to immerse themselves in mountain culture and the hometown hosts a chance to showcase their stomping grounds.
Every spirited mountain-town local is quick to claim they live in the best place on earth. “More snow, bigger mountains, better lift access, steeper terrain, faster skiers, best après parties, blah, blah, blah.” I remember growing up in Sun Valley as a young ski racing punk who blindly defended my hometown as passionately as an LSU football fan would back the Tigers’ #1 ranking. Not that I’m any less convinced today that Sun Valley is the king of the mountains, but now that I’ve spent the better part of life traveling from one alpine paradise to another, I’ve learned that any place is only as sweet as the people who lead you to the nectar.
Around Lake Tahoe I would bet there are few people who know how to enjoy the Sierras more than First Ascent Guides Tom Wayes and Lel Tone. One peek inside their “garage-mahal” will show you just about every recreational tool known to put a smile on your face. As someone who prides myself in having a vast array of seasonal toys that enable me to blow my hair back, I must say there’s something more to a place that combines incredible mountains and a big beautiful lake with immediate access to both. Not to say that I envy the Sierra cement that hardens a day after each storm nor the lift-lines full of bro-brahs claiming greatness after a run of “extreme skiing” on the fingers under KT-22.
But the lake is something special and perhaps worth putting up with droves of Bay Area visitors who inundate its perimeter during peak seasons. “Squawlywood” will always hold a special place in my heart, as it’s where I first learned to ski, but it’s people like Lel and Tom that unlock the true potential of this place, especially in the off season.
Upon arrival, it is clear Tahoe has some solid grounds worth stomping around in. But first we get to work tomorrow when we talk gear.
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