Viva la Sierra Nevada: Range of Light |

Viva la Sierra Nevada: Range of Light

The days are getting longer little by little, separated by what seems like only fractions of a second, like the close finishing times of the top five skiers in a pro downhill race.

In a few weeks the light will begin to snowball, unleashing days upon us like brilliant orbs.

Emerging slowly from the lights of Christmas, morning cuts a small, soft blue arc in the dark sky. The dome of day, that thin veil of space we blend in to, begins to rise. Lingering holiday cheer, hangovers, celebrations of life and death and love, new clothes and old routines, obnoxious displays, failed friendships, unspoken praise and silent appreciation trickles in and out of doorways, leaving behind new toys and games unfinished on the floor, filling streets with a thousand stories and more.

Traveling the shores of Tahoe gracefully, or not so gracefully, we move with strong desire.

On this mountain we cling to, prospecting along the winding Truckee, Alder Creek, Old 40, the North Shore and the Best Shore, winter delivers its unpredictable white delight in its own time, eventually covering wooden eagles and their wooden eggs carved out of pine trunks above a driveway and house numbers mounted on cedar trout hung with brass.

Wild Cherries is brewing with jitters and news, laughter over running out of gas and responsible discussions of land, plans and taxes. It is good to look serious.

Caught on foot in every new dump, resort employees from Lima, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro huddle in groups, braving the long wait for TART, which always comes, eventually, unless the dump is a record breaking blizzard. Even then, a lone TART bus may still be creeping along, picking up the pieces, salvaging the stragglers and defying the odds.

The newcomers have no idea. Winter in the Sierra is a world with new explanations for old inconveniences. No, this is not the city. This is the young, the rambunctious, the rebellious, the remote, uplifting Sierra Nevada.

At the River Grill bar the sinister plot of a Tahoe City parking structure is weighed, eschewed, mourned and scorned. Disagreements are announced. Beyond transparent reflections of families dining on the window, in the obsidian night, coyotes prowl.

Warm yellow glows, domestic gold, illuminate stylish, spacious dining rooms and the close quarters of old apartment kitchens where Spanish songs embrace la familia. Skies of dawn and dusk sigh and yawn over North Lake Tahoe, and hope struggles free. Viva la familia!

On the edge of the Banana Belt, Crystal Bay takes in the odds with its own kind of hope. The cards are laid on the table in the midst of a coalition of royalty and numbers, paupers and princes and the toss of a pair of dice and a little ball comes up high or low, too this or too that, one way or the other, usually the other. The sound of winners is everywhere, pre-programmed, computerized, on the house flim flam, thank you ma’am, sorry, but I gotta jam. Now look where I am. The last bus has long since crossed the line. The silence is not far and the sky is sparkling with precious gems and coins.

Busted on Brockway, a peasant in Kings Beach, you are rich. You will keep your ski boots warm all night. You will greet the morning with sharp edges, waxed boards and, up before the light, full-bellied and stretched to your limits like a good yogi, you will do battle for first tracks on Hidden Bowl and Summit Chute. The climb is steep but the powder is deep. There is nothing worth more than steep and deep.

We pay a huge price to carve out a living on these mountains. The pressures are great and the balancing act between fun and finances requires a good pair of ski boots. The terrain forces you to make your turns on demand sometimes. You are a professional ski bum. Cowboy up. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

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