It’s 8:30 a.m. on a crisp, spring morning in March and I have set a goal to snowboard down all 16 Chutes at Mt. Rose in a single day. If I get there when the gates open at 9 a.m., I’ll have the best chance of riding all of The Chutes by 3:30 p.m. I park against the snow bank on the Slide Mountain side right under the Chuter chair (the old Zephyr chair), so that I can ride straight to my car at the end of the day.
1,000+ feet of north-facing slopes
40- to 50-degree pitches
advanced to expert runs
In the 2004-05 winter season, advanced skiers and snowboarders were treated to 200-plus acres of new terrain at some of the steepest vertical in North America. Comparable to Squaw Valley’s KT-22 runs, The Chutes are accessible via designated gates dotted along the ridgeline between Slide Mountain and the Rose side.
I grab a coffee and get on the Blazing Zephyr chair on the Slide side. After a warm-up run, I head over to my favorite chute – Miller Time. I love this one because it holds its untracked snow for a while and it’s a good single-diamond, warm-up run. First thing on this morning, Miller Time is in prime conditions.
The lift ride is about 5 minutes or so. It drops me off on a small trail that leads back to the Blazing Zephyr six-pack, high-speed lift. The Blazing Zephyr carries skiers and riders up to the top in about 3.5 minutes. Chutes’ lovers can then head down over toward Silver Dollar, where chute gates are accessible all along the crest. I think it takes me 15 minutes or so to complete a full loop.
Next to Miller Time is Nightmare, a double-black diamond that is more ominous sounding and a bit steeper. The top of this run offers a gorgeous, panoramic view of Reno before it dips into a heart-pumping, 5-minute ride.
Looping back around, I find myself on Chaos, another expert run, which still has fresh pockets of snow despite this spring day. This is also one of Mt. Rose marketing director Mike Pierce’s favorite chutes: “Chaos is somewhat off the beaten path, so to speak, so it tends to get tracked up later than the mainstream chutes. The bottom right trees are nicely spaced, as well.”
I’ve worked up a little bit of a sweat, but manage to knock out Hornet’s Nest, Beehive and Yellow Jacket. Longtime Mt. Rose ski patroller Carl Williams once told me he thinks The Chutes’ names should be “Rainbow” and “Sunshine,” but I think it’s good to know what you’re getting into.
“Next to Miller Time is Nightmare, a double-black diamond that is more ominous sounding and a bit steeper. The top of this run offers a gorgeous, panoramic view of Reno before it dips into a heart-pumping, 5-minute ride.”
The next few chutes are all expert runs, becoming progressively steeper. Charge, Detonator and Fuse are all a blur — a sharp pitch at the top but offering more time to relax while gliding through the Tailings bowl. What I enjoy about this group of chutes is the hidden reserves of snow in the trees and secret mini-chutes that aren’t on the trail map.
It’s now lunchtime and I’m starting to get tired, so I dip into Winters Creek Lodge for a snack. I down a coffee and grab an apple for the chairlift ride. I have 3 hours to finish my Chutes Challenge and six runs left to go.
With a bit more energy, I head into Saddle. I’m glad I got reenergized for this one because it seems more challenging. I remember the first time I went into Saddle with Pierce. I thought that I was a good snowboarder until I looked over the edge. My adrenaline was racing as I dropped into it, as if I was going off a cliff.
Next on the list is El Cap, a local’s favorite due to its straight shot from the top and accessibility from the Northwest Magnum chair. Like Saddle, this is one of the more daunting chutes, but I have seen pros easily land back flips off of rocks in chutes’ competitions.
It’s crucial to pay attention in Jackpot because one tired, careless turn could result in an uncontrolled tumble. Even though I’m not as spritely as I was at 8:30 a.m., I manage to make it down Jackpot in one piece.
Getting to Cardiac Ridge, I take a moment to observe all of The Chutes I’ve completed. Miller Time feels so long ago. After riding down Cardiac Ridge and heading toward Cutthroat, I’m under the Northwest Magnum chairlift when a guy drops his glove.
“Can you get that for me?” he calls out. Completely exhausted, I unstrap my binding and hike up to grab the glove. I take it with me into the chute and sprawl out on the ground next to the Chuter chair glove in hand.
“I’m so close to finishing this self-imposed Chutes Challenge and now I have to take this stupid glove to Guest Services on the Rose side,” I tell the lift operator. Luckily, he offers to return it for me.
By the time I get to Lowball, it feels like I’ve been on the mountain for a month. Knowing that I made it to my last chute gate, I take my time on this one.
I ride down to my car totally beat, drive home and sit in my hot tub for the next three hours.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 edition of Tahoe Powder magazine. Download the free digital issue: TheTahoeWeekly.com or issuu.com/TheTahoeWeekly
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