Jean Peak: East Face

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Driving across the L.A. Basin on Saturday was like being transported to a new and wintery world. Snow levels were down around the 3000' mark across Southern California, putting snow atop nearly all the foothill ranges, and coating the major ranges in vast sheets of gleaming white. I confess I actually felt a bit of anxiety looking at it—so many things to ski, so little time. Routes that are almost never viable are currently in fantastic shape.

To be extra safe, my partner Bill and I decided to take the tram up and ski Jean Peak, in the San Jacinto Mountains. Jean offers moderate slopes in abundance, perfect for making turns on potentially-unstable slopes. To put my new skills into use, I did dig a snow pit, and I ran some compression tests. The results were a bit of a surprise. The snow, as expected, was very dense and water-laden, with a nice graduation of lighter to heavier as I dug deeper. But I didn't expect to find a clean shear around 14" down. Reactivity was pretty much nill, but still, somewhere in the snowpack (at least on Saturday) there was a clearly unstable layer. It definitely made me feel better about choosing conservative terrain, post-Mega Storm.

The video shows the climb up and ski down. Our late start put us on the summit of Jean only about an hour before sunset, making for great photography. Views really were jaw-dropping. This might have been the most beautiful day skiing I've ever enjoyed in SoCal. And the snow was wicked good: dense but completely uncrusted powder. Float, float, float—I can still feel it beneath my toes. :) Shot in HD: for the full effect, switch to 720p, hit pause to let it buffer, then be sure to watch in full-screen. Enjoy!

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents