Arturo and I took a day off our skiing in Whistler to do Heli Skiing:
You can find more pictures on Google Photos
Outside of 2 little heli jumps across the next ridge at Silverton, I had not had the chance to do heli skiing so far, so when I planned the trip to Whistler with Arturo, the weather made it obvious that we should go heli skiing after the first day where we'd just enjoy the fresh snowfall in the resort.
Whistler Heli Skiing has a good operation and 3 different groups you can select 3, 4, or 6 runs. They are also sorted by experience, the 6 run package being only for experienced power skiiers/snowboarders. Thankfully Arturo and I easily qualified :)
We showed up around 08:30 to be sent to the bus base, and by 10:00 or so, we were done with the pretty extensive avalanche training since avalanches are a real danger there, especially the day we went.
Since I'm a pilot, I took a few heli pictures, sorry :)
Once we arrived, we went for an easy run as a warmup and for our guide (John) to see if any of us sucked, or not :) He also shoveled a big piece of snow so that he could analyse the layers and gauge the risk of avalanche (and report that to the other guides):
the red flag showed the end of the run and landing spot for the heli
We then did more runs, power was good, but sadly the runs were not very steep for the most part. I think we were limited with the overcast layer and general weather that prevented the heli from going to potentially better spots:
We did trigger a huge slide under where we were. It was eery: the ground actually collapsed under us as the entire layer compacted itself. Maybe it was only 10 or 20cm at most, but it was weird. Then we saw a bit slide on the side of the place we were standing on:
After our 5th run, we had lunch in the snow:
And we had just enough time for a 6th run, which was nicer and steeper, but visibility contrast was poor, so you couldn't easily tell the terrain in front of you, whether it was going up or down:
Thanks for Arturo for taking a few pictures for me :)
Despite the non ideal weather conditions and the runs that weren't very steep for an advanced group, it was the best possible for the week we came, so we made the best of it :) (but the runs we did at Silverton were better)
The only lowlight was the second run where I just didn't see (and it's almost invisible on video too) a small ramp in the snow that threw me when I wasn't ready for it, and caused me to land tip first and do a pretty bad tumble forward around my head and my board. Unsurprisingly, my back muscles were hurting that evening from being stretched that far and violently, but enough advil, hot tub and icing mostly took care of it.
My final impressions:
Professional company and excellent guide with a clear emphasis on safety in an avalanche prone terrain
Good Helicopter and pilot
Only 3:30 there, including lunch. I'd have loved double (but the weather sure didn't allow that)
Our rides (except for the last) were too easy. I'm guessing we were restricted in terrain choice by the weather, which is a shame because almost half of each ride was just keeping your speed up while riding in a track so as not to run out of speed in the powder
Although the vertical changes were not great (around 14,000ft for 6 runs, actually almost the same as what I'd get at kirkwood except kirkwood is steeper), the scenery was super pretty
sadly the weather made contrast hard and it was difficult to pick out relief in a sea of white (this made me not see the bump that threw me up in run #2 and cause to crash badly)
Here are the 6 runs in 4K goodness (I crash badly if Run #2, start at offset 2:00 to see Arturo crash, and then me):
Whistler/Blackcomb definitely has a nice village, including a handy bus system to and from the airport or downtown Vancouver. Nice lights, and restaurants:
big bus with wifi
to small shuttle to your door
nice crepe/raclette/fondue/french restaurant
We didn't get to cover that much of the mountain due to the bad weather, but here's what we did:
Our first morning, we got up and went for "fresh tracks", and early gondola up for breakfast up and earlier access to the slopes (albeit it was only two lifts and not the most interesting ones):
literally looks like we're going snowboarding in the middle of the night ;)
maybe not too bright yet, but early :)
sun did rise before we finally got up (30mn line for the early gondola)
Suck on this, Squaw!
they don't count in feet like kirkwood, but 6 inches is still not bad :)
Avalanche control is too easy, they fly a heli an throw dynamite sticks :)
Because they were not going to open the peak chair (kind of lame), we took peak to peak to cross to Blackcomb:
window to look down
By the time we got to Blackcomb, whistler was still going to be closed, WTF? Thankfully Blackcomb had top chairs opened. We started with the glacier to get a powder run there. It was nice, but not that steep:
T-Bar to top
nice fluffy birds :)
angry birds, I mean hungry birds :)
A few videos of powder runs with Arturo:
It was then a long ride down the base, snow got worse as we got lower (due to temperatures being too high):
On the 2nd day, we went Heli Skiing, see that page for details.
The 3rd day shaped up to be good, but really wasn't. It was too warm, it was raining on top of fresh powder, and Whistler, again, couldn't manage to open _any_ top lift with real snow instead of rain. Arturo and I rode it for a while, the top of the ride was ok enough powder that would then run into wet mush while we were getting soaken wet.
oh no, where did he go? :)
After a few runs, it was clear that things were only going to get worse, and Whistler would not bother opening any top chairs, so I gave up and went back to our room while Arturo, a glutton for punishment, went to get more wet :)
One run we did together:
The 4th day, I was supposed to ski a 3rd day and take a bus back late in the afternoon, but I had the foresight to call the ski phone and decode the very very little they tell you into "we're not going to open any top lifts today either". They even said "if you're going to ski, please bring your favourite poncho or trash bag". Whoa, really? Needless to say that I was super disappointed with them for not opening anything at the top the 2nd to 4th day in a row, and leaving people to run the crappy bottom. There was some wind, but it didn't seem like a sufficient reason. Either way, we got 1.5 days of powder, but the rest was just rain and no access to the top (and as a reminder, the peaks are lower than the parking lot elevation of many Tahoe resorts).
Anyway, still, it was pretty with all the lights, food was good, Arturo was a happy camper, and the heli skiing was a great experience :)
After getting my 90D, I looked into how hard it would be to get in my favourite ski resort around Lake Tahoe: Kirkwood. The problem is that there are no superchargers nearby (Truckee is 1.5H in the wrong direction) and no destination charging. Hell, Kirkwood until recently wasn't even connected to a power grid and made its power from on site diesel generators (not very green if you recharge from that).
The challenge was seeing if I could drive from Manteca Supercharger and back in a day trip without plugging in, and basically even with a 90D, I didn't think it's possible unless you have super ideal conditions (nice and warm, clean roads, drive slowly). Of course, the problem is how much you can trust the power usage simulations vs what's going to happen in real time.
So, I'll give the end of the story first: if you are able to plug into a 110V plug to keep the batteries warm and give them a few extra Kwh while you ski, it is possible to make it from Manteca and back if you charge at 100% in Manteca, in either an 85D or a 90D. If you cannot plug in, it should still be possible (barely) but you'd have to be ready for having to stop in Jackson (4KW charger) or beg the Lockeford Inn for power before you hit highway 99 (100A charger but likely 40A for most of you with single inverters) if you hit unexpected conditions.
Either way, I made it from Kirkwood to Sutter Creek, Amador Transit (just north of Jackson) in 7.7Kwh, and that was driving fast in snow (more rolling resistance) and cold weather (-3C), which means that as long as you have 10Kwh left in Kirkwood, you can make it back down to civilization. Keep in mind that you'll only get 16 miles of range per hour in Sutter Creek, and 26 miles of range per hour of charging in Lockeford Inn. Better than walking if unexpected things happened, but making it back to the Manteca supercharger is better for obvious reasons :)
And back to getting power at Kirkwood, there are some 110V plugs here and there in the underground parkings, most are even the 20A type which will give you 16A charging instead of 12A charging if you buy a NEMA 5-20 plug. Mind you, it'll still charge slowly (I arrived 13:30, left 16:30 the next day, so 27H of charging at 16A. This brought my battery back from 19% to 65% (42kWh of charge in 27H, or 1.5kWh of charge per hour, which is consistent with what you'd get from a 110V at 16A).
In my case, that 65% charge on a 90D was just enough to drive back from Kirkwood to hope with 4% battery to spare (and again, not slow driving, in cold weather and with snow, making the drive less efficient: 46Kwh for 183 miles, including 7000ft of downhill).
You don't like reading, you like cliff notes, well there you go :)
if you don't have an 85/90D, it's safer to go through Folsom supercharger, despite the detour. Or, try sleeping at lockeford Inn and charge there.
Manteca to Kirkwood to Manteca with an 85/90D is dicy if you can't plug in at kirkwood. On a nice day without snow and warmer temps, t should be doable though, and if you run short, charge at Sutter or beg at Lockeford Inn (charger is supposed to only be for customers).
Plugging in 8H during a snow day at kirkwood should be enough to keep the batteries warm and allow Manteca-Kirkwood-Manteca.
But getting a plug at kirkwood you're allowed to use in a parking spot you're allowed to use, is problematic if you're not staying the night with an assigned parking spot. If you must plug in, you will manage, but you'll be parked illegally in an underground parking spot that is assigned to someone else potentially, and you risk being towed.
Obviously driving in a snowstorm will increase rolling resistance and decrease battery life due to temperatures, be mindful of that
Heated windshield wipers did not help keep the windshield clear of snow (disappointing). At times I had to waste battery to blast full heat air on the windshield
Distance estimator was very wrong both when I left the Manteca charger and when I left Kirkwood. Both times it over estimated my range significantly, and then adjusted to a better value within just 5 minutes of driving.
Distance estimator does not seem to take temperature changes due to altitude and gave me a lot less range on the drive back than I really got, because I'm sure it assumed the temperature would be -4C the entire drive.
I'm very disappointed that my 90D shows only 76kWh usable from my battery pack from that drive
Regen did a much better job slowing the car down downhill in snow than brakes which engaged ABS almost right away. Plan to never drive fast enough in snow that you'll ever need brakes.
4WD with stock M+S tires, while having not very good traction in the snow, were sufficient for the drive without chains if you drive carefully (basically you cannot brake much downhill and finish all braking before you turn (most important advise, follow that and you'll be ok)).
Kirkwood, without recharging there, the easy and direct way: The Inn at Locke House in Lockeford
I didn't do this, but if your schedule allows, drive the night before to The Inn at Locke House, make sure of their 100A Tesla charger to fill up and leave at 06:00-06:30 (or 07:00 if there isn't snow on the road) the next morning. You'll get to kirkwood before 09:00 with enough power left to drive back to Manteca supercharger for your drive home (if you have an 85-90D).
If you have a 70D, you can drive from Lockeford to Kirkwood, but if you cannot charge in Kirkwood, you may only get back to Jackson/Sutter and you might have to charge there (at a slower speed) since it's not clear you'll make it back to Lockeford, or even less so the Manteca supercharger.
Kirkwood, without recharging there, the easy and longer way: Folsom Supercharger
If you have a 65 or 70, this is likely the only really safe option for you. If the weather is nice, it's not a huge detour (well, still a 1h detour)
Going to Folsom is the obvious thing people mention, but Manteca to Kirkwood is 109 miles, 2h19. Google Maps says going through Folsom is 170 miles, 3h21mn if you cut through SR49 back to SR88, or 182 miles and 3h13 if you go up hwy 50 to south lake and turn back at SR89 to kirkwood when you arrive in Meyers/South Lake Tahoe. Don't be fooled though, during a snow storm, this isn't going to be 1 extra hour, it will be at least 2 extra hours, and often more.
If you are going through Folsom in a snow storm, don't get tricked by little roads that cross from 50 to 88, especially if the snow line is low. Those roads are not plowed and people get stuck on them every year with non one to help them for a while. My recommendation is SR49 from hwy 50 to SR88, it'll be much faster than going to south lake via 50, and back to kirkwood via 89, 88.
Kirkwood, without recharging there, the easy and even longer way: Truckee Supercharger
I'll mention it because it's there, but:
it's really a long detour
during snow storms, i80 is the first road to close (before 50 and 88)
driving SR89 around the lake is scenic, but during a snow storm, not a fun drive or SR89 could just be closed
Bay Area to Kirkwood: 183 miles, 4h50 drive with a 1h supercharger stop in Manteca
If sleeping in Lockeford and charging there isn't an option for you, this is your next option.
I drove in a snow storm and made no attempt to drive slowly to conserve battery (on the contrary). I did however not use cabin heating unless it was required to defog the windshield, or later in the trip to deice the windshield when the heated windshield failed to do its job.
Here's the actual trip:
08:40: Departure with 90%
10:00: Manteca Supercharger with 55%
10:55: Left Manteca Supercharger: 0 miles with 95% (trip router claims I'll arrive with 29% battery)
11:35: Passed by Lockeford Inn: 31 miles with 76% (losing 19% for just 31 miles was both weird and disappointing, by now trip router says I should arrive with 21% battery only)
12:08: Passed by Pine Grove: 67 miles with 57% (by now I'm going uphill a lot in a snowstorm, but thankfully arrival battery estimate has stabilized at 20%)
13:26: Arrived in Kirkwood: 115 miles, with 20% left (this means a 70D wouldn't quite have made it)
Notes from that trip:
the car drove great in the snow despite the M+S tires having limited traction in the snow (as expected). I did have to use my race driving skills not to end up understeering in a snow bank (although driving 25mph only would also have taken care of that, but that option was less appealing).
I'm pretty worried about the car losing 19% charge for only 31 miles that weren't really uphill. Either something is wrong with my batteries, or the percent meter (arrival at Lockeford around 11:35)
Trip router telling me I'll arrive with 29% battery when I'm at the supercharger, and then 22% just 6 miles after I left the supercharger, that's not good.
On the plus side, I drove fast, uphill, in a snow storm (i.e. low temps and severe rolling resistance), and arrived at Kirkwood with 20%. That's much better than I expected. So the trip planner wsa likely conservative, which is good (on the trip back, same thing, I arrived home with more battery than I should have for the driving I did).
Battery went from 95% to 20% means 75% battery gave 57.4Kwh. Mmmh, that means 100% is only 76Kwh, that's not good :-
Charging your car at Kirkwood
I wrote this post because driving to Kirkwood is the worst case scenario of the entire Tahoe area. It's a long drive up a state route with no cell phone coverage for about 1H of driving, and virtually no life until you reach destination, which itself does not have destination charging, and no real publicly accessible 120V plugs. The nearest superchargers are Truckee (72 miles away, but big detour), and Folsom (82-90 miles, 1h+ detour, 2h+ if snowing). You however want to make it back to Manteca if you can (109 miles).
Kirkwood does have some 120V plugs in parking lots, but to use them, you'd have to be illegally parked in reserved parking spots for condos. At this time, there is no proper way to use those spots. If you end up using them during a weekday when the parking lots are near empty and you're going to leave right after 16:00 when the real owners of those spots might arrive, put a note on your windshield with your phone number, and keep in mind that your car can technically be towed for being parked there.
What I did was stay overnight and worked with Pyramid Peak Properties who hooked me up with a parking spot next to a plug. Note that this is not something they officially offer, they just nicely hooked me up when I asked them and they might be able to help you to if you reserve a rental with them (please don't ask them for a plug if you're not staying with them, providing one is already non trivial if you do stay with them).
That said, my trip calculation shows that after just 4H of charging during the day (i.e. finding a plug you're not really supposed to use, and parking somewhere you're not supposed to park), I had enough power to get to Folsom and Manteca. The trip estimator said:
Lockeford: 12% (a backup if you find out that you won't make it to Manteca)
Note that this was just with 4H of charging, and that my actual downhill driving despite being aggressive and in the snow, beat the estimate from the calculator (see below). With 8-9H of charging, you should be better of (but remember that I used a 16A plug NEMA 5-20) that gives 5 miles per hour of charging, if you use a regular 12A plug that only gives 3 miles per hour, adjust accordingly.
As explained above, if you cannot charge at kirkwood, keep in mind that your battery is actually going to lose non trivial charge by trying to stay warm. This means that going from Manteca to Kirkwood back to Manteca without plugging in at kirkwood, is very unlikely to happen. Lockeford to Kirkwood to Lockeford should be possible, and if you are in trouble, you could stop at Sutter Creek (just north of Jackson) which I was able to reach by only using 7.7Kwh while driving fast downhill in the snow.
So if you have an 85 or 90D and cannot charge at Kirkwood, you should be able to drive from Manteca to Kirkwood and back to Sutter Creek to top up if you can't make it to Lockeford (Manteca direct seems unlikely unless there is no snow and it's not cold), but I think you got my point now that finding a plug somewhere is in your interest (not only to keep the batteries warm, but also because regen won't even work when you leave kirkwood if the batteries are cold). There are some around, but probably none of them are really meant for you to use, so I can't recommend that you use any specific one unless you get a parking spot assigned you by Pyramid Peak Properties, or maybe Kirkwood Lodging (but when I asked them, they weren't able to give you a specific parking spot next to a plug if you're not renting that exact numbered condo/room).
Kirkwood back home: 182 miles straight without charging, 3h15 or so
After 27H of charging at 16A, I got my car back up to 65% (from 19%, and that includes doing some four wheel drive drifting and donuts in the snow with slip start turned off when the parking lot was empty the first night :) ). The Router claimed that I would arrive in Manteca with 37% or directly home with 7%. However this dropped to 1% as soon as I got on the road, likely because the car sensed the difference in temperature when I got out of the parking lot.
14 miles into SR88, it then told me I'll arrive home with -8%, and soon after, -18%. My guess is that despite my not using much enegery to drive downhill, it didn't like the temperature (the trip planner should have gotten it from internet weather forecast, and should be computing that it'll get 2C warmer for each 1000ft of altitude I drop, but my guess is that it does not).
I did take a break for food on the way, but I ended up arriving home around 21:00 with a full 4% of battery left :) (it went from 7% to -18% and back to 4% during the drive). Obviously I could have stopped at several superchargers on the way, but since I didn't need to, I didn't.
7.7kWh (11% used): Sutter Creek. Although I didn't need to, I stopped at the Sutter Creek Amador Transit charger (just north of Jackson), to which I arrived with just 7.7Kwh used. I only charged a few minutes to try the charger and find out it was only a 4KW charger (200V, 22A)
13.5kWh (18% used): Lockeford
20kWh (27% used): Manteca Supercharger
46kWh (38.3k+7.7) (61% used): Home (127 miles away)
Be wary of the distance calculcator in trip planner, it was wrong twice in my case by not counting the temperature before I left (from 7% left at destination to -18% left), and then not counting again when temps got warmer (causing the battery left to back from -18% to 4% when I arrived).
On the trip back, I got 61% used (65% to 4%) and the car showed 46.0KWh used. This means 100% capacity is only 75.4Kwh, again strange and disappointing for a 90D if that number is correct.
Picture for posterity
Below, some screenshots/pictures that may be helpful.
Bay Area to Kirkwood: 183 miles, 4h50 drive with a 1h supercharger stop in Manteca (pictures)
Here are a few pictures and notes from the trip up:
25mn of charging, but I was not comfortable with anything but near full
In just 18mn, I alledgely had enough to arrive in Kirkwood, but again, not enough margin or power to get out
Sadly getting close to full power takes a long longer.
52mn after I arrived, I finally got to 95% (didn't want to wait for the last 5%)
Alledgely, I should have 29% when arriving (in real life, I had 19%, so make sure you have a good margin)
Oh boy, just a few minutes later, it now days I'll arrive with 25%
And just 2mn later, it says I'll arrive with 22%. By then I was getting very worried with the trend :(
The router is buggy, why would it pick a longer street over hwy 99?
WTF, why is it insisting to take that slower and longer road?
Pine Grove, climbing in snow at over 600Wh per mile, arrival battery left stabilized at 20%
Projected Range looked correct
Nice weather, the car handled well enough in snow with its stock 19 inch M+S tires
Windshield Wiper heating didn't work well, ice accumulated anyway. I didn't otherwise heat the car
Carson Spur, almost there...
And there we go, made it, 57.4Kwh used from Manteca, 20% left
I arrived way too late for a powder day, but made the best of it :)
Charging your car at Kirkwood (pictures)
A few pictures from the kirkwood parking lots showing charging and estimated ranges:
Found a 20A plug in an underground parking lot
The one issue is access to plugs is only with reserved parking spots allocated to units that rent out
Obviously I'm not going to get a full charge with 2kW
4H later, moved my car to an assigned spot courtesy of Pyramid Peak Properties, got 7% in 4H
Alledgely, I could have made it back to Manteca with nice driving if I were capable of it :)
Thanks to Jon Wehan for hooking me up with this 20A plug
Condensation got inside the headlights, I asked Tesla support and they said it was ok
Kirkwood back home: 182 miles straight without charging, 3h15 or so (pictures)
A few relevant pictures of the drive back, showing estimate changes and the Sutter Creek charger:
This is good, now I have many options
Apparently, I can get home with 7% left if I drive slowly, but I'm not going to :) and also it doesn't account for the snow on the road
Just as I leave kirkwood, I'm now told I'll arrive home with 1%
And a few minutes later, this drops to -8%
And later, it continues to drop to -18%
Using 76Wh/mile downhill, not bad, -3C temperature
Now only using 34Wh/mile downhill, temperature back up to 4C
Arrived in Sutter Creek just to try the charger
my car said bad wiring for that charger, so only 4kW/22A
Arrived in Lockeford with 47% left, or 18% used which was about 13.5kWh used from kirkwood
Home sweet home. 301Wh/mile is high but linked to the temperatures, snow rolling resistance, and speed driven
After missing a powder day with Arturo just before Xmas due to car trouble, when I saw KW was getting another foot+ just as I was flying back from France, I ended up driving my own butt to KW the day after arriving back home, using my Tesla 90D to get there, which was interesting in itself :)
I left late and arrived late as a result (13:30), but still got about 2h30 of snowboarding after a good snowfall.
While the first day was short, it was a good day:
Thanks to my friends at Pyramid Peak Properties, I was able to sleep at kirkwood while recharging my car, and another foot of nice powder fell for the next day:
By noon, the backside got opened, and it wsa sweet:
waiting in line to get to chair 4
This was a very good day+, glad that my Tesla 90D was able to get me there and back in the snow :)