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Stories from the valley

Reaping Late-Season Rewards at Round Top Lake

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

With the warmer weather and blossoming of wildflowers, people’s thoughts turn to the joys of spring. However, the late onset of winter this year, coupled with the end-of-season closures of many downhill ski areas, has left many of us in snow deficit. Fortunately, the backcountry of Carson Pass stands ready to provide snow enthusiasts with wonderful spring skiing conditions and outstanding experiences.

My friend and I ventured to one of my favorite spots in the Sierras recently, Round Top Lake, which lies close to Round Top Peak in one of the most popular parts of the Mokelumne Wilderness. Although noted for the beauty of its wildflowers in the summer, the area’s plants are still asleep under six to eight feet of snow that was compacted by the heavy rains. When this dense snow is warmed by the intense springtime sun, the top two to three inches melt, making for some of the best spring skiing I have encountered.

After parking at either the Carson Pass or Meiss Meadows SnoPark, you can follow the tracks on the well-traveled path to Lake Winnemucca. Turn west at Winnemucca, and travel the additional mile while climbing 500 feet to Round Top Lake. You will be rewarded with spectacular views of the area as well as expert skiers and boarders descending from the crests of Round Top Peak and The Sisters. From there, the return trip is almost completely downhill.

The area offers something for those with all levels of experience. Along the way, we encountered snowshoers, expert extreme back country skiers, cross country skiers, a family setting up a spring snow camp, and a mom skiing to Round Top Lake with her ten-year-old snowshoe-clad son, toting his snowboard on her back for the return trip.

So, arm yourself with plenty of snacks and sunscreen, and head up to Carson Pass for a wonderful experience. For more information on the area click here or here.