The Devil's Half-Dozen: KT-22 Squaw Valley, Calif.
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In 1946, before there were lifts in Squaw Valley, Sandy Poulsen, wife of the resort’s founder, hiked a steep 8,200-foot peak to the left of where Squaw’s gondola now sits. Intimidated, she traversed back and forth to descend, making 22 kick turns (KTs). Hence the name. KT-22 is not a run per se, but an area with its own lift and multiple routes leading in many directions. Powder disappears early after a big dump. “You need a dependable alarm clock and a 4WD with good snow tires if you want to be on the lift at dawn with the locals,” says ski photographer and long-time resident Tom Lippert.
How to ski it : When you’re standing on the hill, KT-22 looks a lot more daunting than it does from the lift. KT-22 is not a run, it’s actually 2,000 vertical feet of cliff bands, chutes, open bowls, glades and moguls-all lift-accessed. Even the easiest way down is considered difficult. A good warm-up would be to go left off the KT-22 quad and traverse along Red Dog Ridge, toward the trees. Fight the temptation to drop in sooner: If you wait, there’s wind deposits of snow in the trees after a storm, visibility is good, and fewer people go there. From the top it’s easy to see what’s going on, and you can pick a perfect line.
Once you drop in, you’re committed. Try to ski the entire run without stopping or you’ll blow your rhythm. The relatively mellow top rolls into a steep pitch in the midsection. It’s wide open between the trees, but speed control is an issue. Don’t even think about straight-lining. Relish as many controlled turns as you can. If the snow is right, each turn will be delicious.
The slope flattens slightly at the end of the glades, and runs into the Champs Elysees cat-track. The transition to the cat-track is easy; there’s no need to slam onto it. Your legs will burn, but you’ll be grinning. Keep your speed up on the track and make GS turns down the Lower Face of Red Dog. Cruise toward the Red Dog chair, veer left and cut back to the KT-22 lift for more.
Make as many as six runs in these trees, and then graduate to other runs such as Chute 75 and West Face. Stay away from cliff bands like the Fingers unless you’re really confident in the air.
KT-22 and Squaw generally require at least an all-mountain midfat. The terrain is radical and snow gets tracked out quickly. For me, 70 mm underfoot is perfect for cruising. But if it’s real deep, I grab a fatter ski-92 mm underfoot.
Lines on KT-22 are steep: You need guts, the ability to control your speed, stamina and the flexibility to handle all kinds of snow. Look out for slough (small surface slides) when there’s new snow. Keep your hands forward, and don?t ever get in the back seat.