Bay to Breakers Tour

  SF Chronicle Sporting Green
SF Chronicle Sporting Green (Photo Steve Ringman)

  Bob kicking asphalt
Bob kicking asphalt (photo Paul Kitagaki, SF Examiner)
This is a fine ski tour, best done during the San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race in Mid-May each year. The route starts at Howard and Main Streets in Downtown San Francisco. Unlike most ski tours, this tour offers both parking and public transportation at both starting and ending trailheads, with no SnoPark permit required.

Ski westward along Howard St. Watch for miscellaneous trash hazards along the route, and try not to trip or get tripped by the many thousands of racers who actually do this ski tour without skis, on foot. After about 2 miles, turn northward briefly on 9th Street, crossing Market, then turn left onto Hayes Street.

  PSDA Skis Again
PSDA Skis Again (from left: Jon Sundquist, Gary Bard, Bob Akka, Mike Scherer, Steve Huskins)
Hayes Street Hill, just ahead, fails to live up to its infamy. While you may need to shorten your stride, there is sufficient grip that you will not need to herringbone. Also, this hill's low gradient makes it completely safe from avalanches. On the other side of Hayes Street Hill, there is a slight downgrade, permitting some enjoyable double-poling. Watch for the left turn at Divisidaro, followed quickly by a right turn onto Fell.

  Powder Magazine
Powder Magazine (photo James Cassimus)

Soon you reach Golden Gate Park. Although the scenery improves here, the surface conditions deteriorate, due to the fresher asphalt, insufficiently oiled by the less frequent car traffic. Fortunately, the park portion of the tour is slightly downhill. After a few more miles, you reach the Pacific Ocean, the western trailhead of this ski tour.

*     *     *

  Cross Country Skier Magazine
Cross Country Skier Magazine (from left: Mike Scherer, Gary Bard, Steve Huskins, Mark Nadell, Bob Akka, Pati Johnson, Jon Sundquist; photo by Mike Scherer)
We skied the San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race three years in a row, from 1985 through 1987.

Skiing the Bay to Breakers was an offbeat idea that I had while rummaging through some trash skis in the basement of Marmot Mountain Works, where I worked at the time. After work, I mounted up two pairs of the skis, and Mike Scherer and I went for a little test ski tour in the parking lot of the Ashby BART station. Though BART police quickly kicked us out, the skis held up fine. I recruited a few other friends and the Professional Ski Destructors of America was born.

  Fischer Dealer Magazine
Fischer Dealer Magazine
The PSDA quickly gained respectability when Fischer Skis found out about us and became an enthusiastic sponsor. By 1986, we had over 40 skiers on the team, skiing on Fischer warranty returns and factory rejects. Ski racer Dan Hill joined the PSDA, breaking the Bay to Breakers ski record with a time of about 55 minutes (Dan even skated briefly).

  Citysports Magazine
Citysports Magazine (photo Bob Akka)
In 1987, a small group of snowshoers ran past us and said "You guys inspired us!" By that third year, we even had a beer sponsor, Golden Pacific Bittersweet Ale. I personally dragged an icechest full of the brew across the city (nope, no wheels on the icechest either).

After the 1987 race, MTV's special reporter Fee Waybill put us on camera and asked me the question that hundreds of others had asked that day: "So... what kind of wax were you using?" The crowd of skiers behind me screamed, aaaaahhrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhh!" I calmly explained to the camera: "'Wax' was today's secret word."

  Cross Country Skier Magazine
Cross Country Skier Magazine honors us in their end-of-the-80s issue

 Previous Tour  Ski Tour Index  Next Tour

General info and disclaimer about backcountry skiing

Go to Home Page