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How to Play in the California Snow Like Jonny Moseley

How to Play in the California Snow Like Jonny Moseley

The Olympic gold medal skier ventured to Plumas County’s Lost Sierra to try two unusual winter sports

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Posted 3 years agoby Matt Jaffe

Been there, shredded that? If you’re looking for alternatives to the usual snowboarding and skiing scene in California, Olympic gold medalist Johnny Moseley experimented with two rather unorthodox winter sports while in the Lost Sierra area of Plumas County.

In the latest California Now Podcast, Olympian Jonny Moseley talks about taking on fresh powder in ways that are new even for him. He tried longboarding, a California tradition that dates back nearly 170 years, and snow moto, a mutant hybrid of snowmobiling, motorcycling, and skiing.

Moseley acknowledges these sports may not be for everyone. But in California, you have plenty of ways to play in the snow, from snowmobiling to snowshoeing. “You don’t need to be an extreme Joe and have some prior skill to really get out there and enjoy it,” he says. “There are a ton of options that don’t involve a lifetime of training.”

Longboarding: it’s not just for surfers

Way back when, before the invention of lightweight carbon fiber and titanium skis, gold miners took leather straps and lashed their feet to heavy wood planks as long as 15 feet. Then, using a pole for balance, they hit the hill.

Dubbed longboarding, the tradition lives on at the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl, where the Plumas Ski Club hosts races the third Sunday of January, February, and March.

“You feel like you’re going back in time and the racing is serious,” says Moseley. “I mean they’re out there doping their skis—that’s what they call waxing…I would try to put the race on the calendar and see if you can hit it. It’s fun. Even if you don’t get on the boards.”

Moseley did and crashed multiple times. “Harder than it looks for a gold medalist,” he concluded.

Rev up with snow moto

In describing snow moto, Moseley says, “It’s like if a snowmobile and a motorcycle had a baby.” That’s an apt description for these machines dubbed timbersleds—dirt bikes in which a snowmobile track replaces the back wheel and a snowmobile ski subs out for the front tire. “It’s just very nimble,” he says. “We were able to get good enough to start cruising up to the top and come down, as if you were skiing or snowboarding through the trees, making bank turns, jumping off little rocks.”

Ready to roll? For rentals, Moseley recommends Tahoe Dirt Bikes and Auburn Motorsports.

...and an après ski recommendation

As owner of Moseley’s Sports Bar in Marin County and a veteran of apres ski scenes around the world, Moseley knows something about finding action away from the slopes. Not far from the ski bowl, he recommends Graeagle’s woodsy Mohawk Tavern. “It’s a classic spot, you don’t want to miss it,” he says.

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