The plan was to leave by 5:30 p.m. at the latest, but like many good adventures things happen slower than expected. By the time the car was packed it was almost 6:30. We had an idea of where we were headed, but not the exact coordinates. To accelerate the exodus out of town, we quickly grab a few sandwiches at the Beach Hut Deli and point the car in the direction of Patchfest.
On the Road
At this time of day, the parade of cars funneling into South Lake was ridiculous. After about thirty five minutes driving, we turned towards Red Lake. Immediately, there was a choice of two dirt roads. One of us had been here before, so we had an idea of which way to go. Making our selection the road started to climb. Bouncing along we pass several vehicles that had finished and were leaving for the day. A few more switchbacks and then a steep snow covered slope became visible. Stoke was high and we even made it before the sunset!
A Warm Welcome
Directly below the “Patch” we see Jay’s Smokin Snowboards mobile and a speckling of cars and tents in the forest. Looking around we find a perfect spot. It was a little bit away from the crowd and gave us plenty of room. The view of the mountains and the valley were picturesque. With the tents up and sleeping bags prepped we pack a few beers into our cozies and go to take a look at the features built on the snow. Even though there was only enough light to just barely catch a glimpse, we could tell the setup was banger. Eager to have a look the following day, we left it at that for now. It was time to see who all made it. There are several fires glowing through the trees, so we head over to the closest one. We roll up and are instantly greeted and welcomed to the gathering. Fancy and Keith Rutherford were there as well as event organizer Andrew Guddatt. It was like running into old friends as we all shared the highlights from our season.
Adventures ranged from backcountry expeditions, treks into the mountains of Japan and there was even discussion about the best day of the year in Tahoe. That is the best part of the ski/snowboard community. Regardless of your level everyone gets stoked about your exploits. From there it was off to mingle some more at the other campfires. We meet up with some guys named Vega, Matt, and Nick. Just like the other campfire, conversations about our winter escapades were the hot topic. The energy was infectious and all of us couldn’t wait until tomorrow.
Riding and Flying
As the camp slowly awakens we make a big breakfast to keep us energized for the day. Looking up from our camp there is another patch of snow to the left of the event that has our name on it. From our vantage point it looks steeper, longer, and has no tracks. Before anyone else sees it we scramble up the dry face. Others had already begun to ride the patch. Halfway up we heard a roar coming over the crowd as a trick gets stomped. Looking down it was clear to see everyone was getting into it as the music booms over the valley. As we continue to climb, we notice a guy standing at the top of the summit. From where he is standing there isn’t any snow. We watched and tried to figure out what he was doing? Suddenly, he jumps off the face and flies over the crowd with a parachute. He glides over the event landing safely at the bottom. We continue our ascent and finally make it to the top of the snowline. Looking down, the snow looks perfect. Excited to get some turns in we quickly strap into our bindings and drop in. The pitch was steep like we like, the snow was good and the sun was shining. It was one of the best runs of the season and we were psyched to still be riding in June!
At the bottom we quickly pack our gear and head over to where the crowd is. From a down rail to a fun box along with a gap to the infamous iron cross there are obstacles for every level. We sit alongside the course and crack open a few beers. Andrew yells over the gathering to come over and help! The crew built another feature. It was a 12 x 16 foot wallride! The entire crowd gets up and helps with the move. No sooner than we could get snow packed for the takeoff and landing, riders began to fire off tricks. There were huge fails and massive stomps! Unfortunately, any time you push the envelope there are going to be casualties. One rider lacerated an artery on his arm and there were several concussions. It really makes you understand how much passion there is in snowboarding. They were doing this all for the love of the sport. As the session dies down for a bit from the warmth of the sun, nearly everyone is laid out enjoying the atmosphere and each other’s company.
Throughout the day a steady stream of cars arrive. This was expected until one of the trucks that pulls up says El Dorado County Sheriff. Supposedly, we are littering because of the obstacles on the snow. In addition, most cars are parked illegally since they are off the road. Screaming at everyone he says that everything needs to be torn down immediately or tickets will be given. Like many great grass roots shin digs the cops are not happy and try to intimidate people into leaving. Some people chose to go and some chose to stay. Not wanting to test the legal limits we broke down camp and headed home. Patchfest was truly an amazing experience. Awesome people and culture will ensure this event continues to live on year after year. We will definitely be coming back!