The Fountain of Youth is one of the more mysterious topics of our natural world; its whereabouts debated for centuries by outdoor enthusiasts and indoor scientists alike.
Some say it’s in Florida. Some say it’s in the Caribbean. But pro skier, co-founder of Arcade Belts and Vin Diesel stunt double Cody Townsend, says it’s 9,000 feet high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. And he’s sure of that because he hiked to, and skied across it this month.
Below, enjoy Townsend’s reflection, complemented by a series of kickass photos.
Words from Townsend:
“Wait, where are you going skiing?” a day hiker asked us nine backpack-toting, ski-and-snowboard-carrying, misfit-looking guys passing by on the trail. “On the snow of course… well, and across some water,” I replied.
If my tone was a little snippy by that point, it’s probably because every single Saturday tourist we passed by had a similar question. “Why do you have skis?” “Is there still snow?” and my personal favorite, “Do you know what you’re doing?” were all uttered as we trudged our 80-pound packs deep into the Sierra Mountains. Although I answered every question confidently, the truth was that none of us truly knew how much snow was left at 9,000 feet, if the famed Fountain of Youth pond crossing was formed—or gone—or if our decision to try to ride snow in July was a stupid one.
The Fountain of Youth, a blue pond formed in an ancient glacial moraine in the Tahoe area mountains, was found by famed backcountry photographer and founder of Splitboard.com Chris Gallardo a decade ago. Its location was held secret—exclusive only to a select few friends. But the will to hike ski and snowboard gear thousands of feet high and many miles into the backcountry in 80-degree summer heat would deter any sort of crowd to ever overpopulate it anyways.
The pond’s formation and evaporation is tenuous; go too early and there won’t be enough snowmelt to fill it. Go too late and the snow the pond lays under melts out and drains quickly through the Sierra granite. Sometimes it forms in May. Sometimes June. We guessed the second week of July would be the time this year.
Brought to my attention by Arcade Belt Co. team riders Gray Thompson and Eric Messier, I finally pestered them enough to join their Warp Wave snowboard crew on their now annual trip. As I lugged my camera gear, rock climbing gear, camping gear and ski gear into the wild, I wondered at times why I chose to go. I mean, my wife was sipping beers on a private lake, water skiing and swimming in luxury. My hips burned and back bent under the weight of the pack. And, lo and behold, as we got higher, the temps dropped precipitously.
As we got to camp, we donned puffy coats and I tucked beneath a knee-high rock to block the raging winds that blew me around on my sleeping pad. “Should’ve brought a tent,” I thought to myself
After surviving through a chilly night in my lightest-weight sleeping bag, we mounted up lighter loads and began the 1,000-foot climb to the Fountain of Youth. Scrambling up the granite, we crested the snowline and I laid my eyes on a cirque filled with snow and a pond filled with water the color of a blue morning sky. Immediately, we all switched out of our hiking shoes, into our ski and snowboard boots, and began the session. Just crossing was priority number one. With more than a month off of skis, I was actually a little nervous.
I pointed my skis, then skipped and bounced over the choppy old snow—braced for the transition. Suddenly I was skimming across the ice water with the wake pouring off my skis and juicing the inside of my legs. Soon, the guys were carving, spraying, nose-buttering and occasionally catching edges and dunking themselves entirely into the blue drink. Beers were had. GORP was snacked on. Laughs and cheers were exchanged. It was a quintessential session with friends.
I looked out over the horizon back toward where we started as the sun began to set after a full session of turns and skims. Sitting on the only snow I could see in the entire Tahoe basin, I thought to myself, “What a damn good way to end the season.”
Like what you’re seeing? See a lot more of it and hop on our limited-time deal that gets you an entire year’s worth of our mags for just $5.