Sweet Summer Snow: Patch Skiing

29 Jun 2012

Keeping it Real

Photo by Spence Abbott

We’ve all seen them glistening from the summer mountain sides, reminding us of our deep love of winter as we sweat in the hot sun.  Some of the most die hard of us have even grabbed our boards, thrown our boots in our backpacks, braved fighting willows, alders, and altitude, all for a few of those magical turns…or at least thought of it. Well Stev Fargan has officially dubbed this activity “Patch Skiing” and being that June marks his 105th consecutive month patch skiing, he’s become sport’s biggest fan.  In this post, Stev speaks out about his passion.

MRA-How would you describe patch skiing?

SF-Patchskiing is usually post-season skiing, sort of like the “playoffs” of skiing. It is not crowded and there are no lift lines (there are no lifts either.) In the summer I really do enjoy that standing in front of an open freezer door feeling while patchskiing.

Photo by Pat Keane

MRA-How did you get started?

SF-I can thank my wife Michele for getting me started. She worked for the U.S. Forest Service at a fire lookout. When she arrived at Bunker Hill Lookout in 1998 she noticed that there was a lot snow on the north facing slopes. She encouraged me to bring my skis up with me when I visited her there. I was immediately hooked and have been seeking out more snow patches ever since then.

MRA-What is patch snow like?

SF-Often the patch snow is corn snow. Patch snow can be that wonderful top few inches of re-frozen and re-melted snow that skis very smooth. You can even see tracks much in the way you can see tracks made by skiers in fresh powder. Also, sometimes you may encounter suncups. They can be tricky when they get big. However, since I started using Lhasa Pows (Bro Models by PM Gear) suncups are a lot easier to deal with.

MRA-Where are the patches found?

SF-Patches can be found all over high elevations in the mountains. Getting the timing right helps when patchskiing. Ideally going right after a road is open after a winter closure allows for skiing right back to your car or truck. At other times you may need to hike for a few miles just to get to the base of a snow patch before making a climb up, skiing down and hiking all the way back. Some of my favorite places to go patchskiing are areas near Saddlebag Lake, Dunderberg Peak, Sonora Pass, Monitor Pass, Ebbetts Pass, Carson Pass, and Mount Lola.

MRA– What do people say when they see you?

SF-“Are you going skiing?” Where is the snow?”  “How was it?” “That’s cool!” I have even experienced hearing hikers clap and cheer out loud watching me and my friends ski.

One of the best responses was shared by my friend Ben. On an approach some hikers said, “You hike all this way to ski?” He responded, “You hike all this way not to ski?”

MRA-What’s the hardest month to find a patch?

SF-I would say that September or October can be the hardest months. By September there has been a lot of snow melt along with a long time since there has been any new snow. By October there is often less snow unless we get some significant early snow storms.

Photo by Spence Abbott

MRA-Do you ever lose motivation?

SF-No. It is a lot of fun. Even if getting up there to the snow is well over half the fun. (It takes much less time to ski down.) Keeping my consecutive month streak alive adds to the motivation. As of this June I am at 105 consecutive months.

MRA-What’s the strangest thing you have encountered while skiing a patch?

SF-I’m not sure if I would call it the strangest, but I would say that one of the most fun days patch skiing had to be with my friend Spence. Spence has an expansive musical knowledge, a prolific and professional writing background combined with a creative passion for skiing. We did an entire day of skiing patches based on the original members of the Wu-Tang Clan. There is a patch below Roundtop that sometimes forms the shape of a letter ‘W’ which looks a lot like the symbol for the Wu-Tang Clan. We skied nine runs on different patches that all connected with a Wu-Tang Clan theme. We hope to do some more theme-based patch skiing in the future.

Actually, there has been one very memorable strange occurrence. On the drive down from Jack’s Glacier near Dunderberg Peak we were nearly attacked by some giant jackrabbits. They looked much larger than coyotes. They might even be related to jackaloupes as their large ears might have covered their antlers.

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Stev Fargan was born in 1960 in a flat place called Illinois. In 1983 he bought a one-way ticket to the west coast. After a few years he understood the strong desire to be in the mountains, likely inherited from his great-grandparents, who were from Zakopane, Poland.  In 1992 he moved to Nevada to be closer to the mountains and to fulfill his skiing passion.

He recently started a patchskiing website: http://www.patchskiing.com

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