Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

2017-18 Ski Season Kick-off at Crystal Mountain

Big mid-November storms seem to happen every 3 or so years in the Pacific Northwest. This year brought excellent early season cover enabling most of the Cascades ski hills to open. We hit Crystal, ‘coz it’s close and, well,  great.

The weather cooperated too. It’s always nice to be able to see while warming up the legs and body. Steady winds also loaded north facing slopes for most of the weekend, making for some tasty turns, especially in Green Valley.

We took it easy and cruised the groomers off the Forest Queen, and played in the bumps and trees in Green Valley.  It was plenty for our opening weekend.

Next stop Whistler for ThxGiving. The forecast express delivery of pineapples should have blown through by then. At least they have good cover already 🙂

Lots of pics on Google Photos.

Saturday 7200m, Sunday 7300m vert

Season Totals: 2 Days, 14,500m vert

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Ending our season Down Under – A week at Thredbo

When we arrived at Thredbo at the end of July, winter had been pretty kind to the mountain considering less than a metre of snow had fallen all season. Cold temperatures, wind blown snow off the Main Range onto the top 1/3rd of the mountain, and good old gun pow made for some firm if actually quite nice skiing.

It was a bit like East Coast USA skiing really.

With gum trees.

And meat pies.

And good coffee.

Our first day was classic Aussie skiing. Very wet snow at the base, transitioning to soft snow up high, driven by persistent winds at the peaks. Visibility remained ok and hence we poked around the whole mountain, following our local guides Sue and Rob to reacquaint ourselves with the terrain. Not a bad first day at all.

The next day was bluebird and cold-ish. More overnight snow and wind had created some quite fabulous snow up high. We hit the Bluff, and then the T bars, finding powdery goods in abundance around Michaels Mistake. It wasn’t deep but it was sure sweet. The sun hung around for another day, so we kept ripping lines through Bush Ranger and around the Snowgums chair, interspersed with some long fine firm fast groomers.

By the end of our 3rd day, the groomers were hanging in due to gun pow top ups, but off piste was getting a little sketchy. Luckily, it started to snow. light at first, then reasonably, and finally pretty big time. In 3 days we got around 40cms plus considerable wind load up high. This created some classic Thredbo skiing!

Highlights were first tracks on Funnelweb (and about 4th tracks the following day). some great crazy high speed runs through the Snowgums trees, and as the wind kept blowing, soft sweet turns every run on the top of the mountain. It took until 2.30pm Saturday for the winds to get strong enough to close down the high speed lifts. By that time we were happy to call it quits on an 80 day ski season 🙂

Thanks Thredbo for a fine old week!

6 days: 7500m, 8500m, 10500m, 10200m, 10300m, 8200m vert

Final 2016-2017 Season totals: 80 days, 675,100m vert, 20 powder days

Closing weekend at Mt Bachelor 2017

Another year, another crazy fun ski weekend on Memorial weekend at Mt Bachelor. Due to this very belated post, I’ll just summarize below.

Thursday and Friday were perfect, deserted, Spring ski conditions. A solid freeze overnight followed by sun and light winds made for ‘go anywhere’ conditions, as long as you followed the sun from east to west around the mountain. Some truly great skiing.

Friday night we lost the hard freeze. There was still enormous fun to be had for the next two days, especially with us all dressed in ridiculous costumes. We ended the season with the traditional Summit hike, shots on the top, and a rip roaring run down the creamy west side chutes to the top of the Northwest Chair and then on to Old Skyliner and the bar.

‘Til next year … in the North America anyway. We still had one ski trip to go this season 🙂

9500m, 8300m, 6700m, 6300m vert

Season totals: 74 days, 619,900m vert, 18 powder days

 

Blackcomb bump-a-thon

What a fabulous season it has been at Whistler.

We started with crazy deep pow in late November, and finished with the finest Spring conditions that the Gods of Skiing deliver. Great weather, rocking groomers early, massive slushy steep bumps later, and even a runout to mid-station on the Blackcomb gondola that you could straight-line at 75km/h. Ok, it was officially closed. It was also groomed. Vail Resorts please take note. Whistler doesn’t need your Nazi-style CO ski patrol. Please … keep it Canadian and quirky.

Bark Sandwich was also officially beyond the ski boundary. But on Sunday its huge bumps skied like heaven, After a couple of runs, you could pick out a line with monstrous moguls to rail around, skirting trees (and deep deep tree wells) to almost float in slow motion into the next turn.

Heaven.

Combine that with a shot down Gear Jammer, softer and buttery and slower, but still with good cover. And still steep. Not bad for 6 or so laps on a warm Sunday afternoon. Shame we had to end and drive back to Seattle.

Combine that with a shot down Gear Jammer, softer and buttery and slower, but still with good cover. And still steep. Not bad for 6 or so laps on a warm Sunday afternoon. Shame we had to end and drive back to Seattle.

Shame we had to hop off the hill at 2.30pm and drive back to Seattle.

My official stats from the WB+ site for winter are 18 days, 161, 807 vertical meters, and 301 lifts. That’s roughly 40 hours spent riding lifts 🙂 And all for the price of a 5 day Edge Card and Spring Pass, maybe $550 (US). Not bad really.

Best not to think about accommodation and food and drinks costs though.

Until November 2017 …

Saturday 11,100m Sunday 9000m vert

70 days, 589,600m vert, 18 powder days

No shock really – May pow at Mt Bachelor

It’s been a big snow year at Mt Bachelor. This wasn’t the first time we’ve had May pow there, and I suspect it won’t be the last. For mid May, it was pretty delightful, with 3-5 inches each day on an increasingly mid-winter-like snowpack. These took the season total over 600 inches. Not bad.

Luckily the weather didn’t warm up too much each day to totally wreck the new snow. Some mushy clumping happened on the first day in the chopped up pow, but then the wind started loading the traverse towards the (closed) Summit Chair from Skyliner. It was perfect wind blown pow, free refills every run. That kept us busy until the lifts closed at 1.30pm. And smiling.

The wind dropped and the sun came out finally on Sunday. The Summit terrain was pretty scoured, and only really worthy of a couple of runs, including a decent full (top to bottom) Cow Face. While half the mountain’s small crowd waited for the Summit chair to open, we found the powdery, creamy Spring goods off the open Outback terrain. First tracks on Kangaroo, Ed’s trees, and several laps of fresh lines on Downunder were effortless skiing, ripping through soft Spring pow in the sun.

Welcome to Spring ski season at Mt Bachelor. There will be more before closing at Memorial weekend.

6200m, 7300m vert

68 days, 569,500m vert, 18 powder days

 

 

 

Starting off Spring at Blackcomb

I don’t think there’s a better place to be on Earth than Whistler Blackcomb in the first week of May. The village is quiet, accommodation cheap (yes, cheap!), there’s restaurant and bar specials everywhere, and of course, some epic skiing, usually on Blackcomb. The weather – it’s Whistler – can be Springtacular, foggy, damp or full on winter. We had them all in 6 days. A fantastic 6 days, of steeps in packed pow, epic groomers, and Springy corn snow under deep blue skies.

Here’s pics from the (mostly) Springtacular days 🙂

Another luxury is the lift times, from 10-4pm. Lie in, relax, ride until it gets too hot (or damp!), head down the slush to the base, and chill in Blacks or Merlins for an apres beer or two. With no lift lines, the vert can be cranked out without really trying. And all for a $159 Spring Pass. It’s heaven.

Hopefully, Vail won’t fuck up this perfect time of year up for many years to come. It really is impossible to beat.

10,300m, 10,000m, 10,900m, 12,200m, 10,500, 5300m vert

66 days, 556,000m vert, 16 powder days

 

April Riding in the Washington Cascades

Deep snow. No crowds. Generally good weather. Spring skiing in the Cascades in mid-April can be majestic.

Crystal skied beautifully all weekend on their penultimate weekend of the season. There had been lots of snow on the Friday and the remnants were plentiful all over the mountain on Saturday. Sunday a crazy wind hit the high ridges until lunchtime. Crazy as in ‘almost impossible to push off Rex and head down the hill’ crazy. The groomers everywhere were great though, soft and perfect for laying down long carving turns. By noon when the wind dropped, the wind blown off the Green Valley chairs was epic.

A great weekend of steeps and quality snow and groomers.

Mission didn’t disappoint the following weekend either. Sunny clear-ish weather meant for cold nights and warmer days. This delivered classic Spring corn snow by noon. The highlights were laps of The Castle on both afternoons. Perfect corn on a majestic Spring ski weekend.

That wrapped up another superb season at Mission for us. Just 14 days. But with included free days at 49 Degrees and Snoqualmie Pass, that adds up to 20 days on a ~$400 season pass.

We have purchased again for next year 🙂

 

Crystal 10,900m, 8000m vert

Mission Ridge 8000m, 6700m vert

60 days, 496,800m vert, 16 powder days

Steeps and Spring at Stevens Pass

On our occasional visits to Stevens, I’ve always contemplated the ribbon of snow that plunges through the trees from the top of Big Chief Mountain. On this trip I finally discovered its name – Wild Katz. The conditions were good, especially on Sunday. A first descent down the 1400ft vertical Wild Katz was a must.

Wild Kat

A pre-lunch Sunday ride down neighboring Double Diamond confirmed the overnight freeze was softening. Double Diamond is steep, but not scary steep, and apart from a little frozen mid run rubble, it was fine.

About 1.30pm I hopped off the Southern Cross chair and pushed up to the entrance to Wild Katz. From the ridge, the snow and the first pitch looked tasty indeed.

It didn’t take long for the gradient to reach the sort of numbers that are common at Red Mountain. You know it’s steep when you stop to take a pic and your uphill hand touches the snow when down by your side (and I don’t have long arms. Maybe short legs ? :)).

As the run got steeper and narrower, I was quite delighted the snow stayed mostly soft and creamy. What looked like a small cliff band had enough snow on it to hop over easily with a couple of quick kick turns. The trees on the edge offered occasional relief from the fall line, and held tasty remnants of the inch or two of snow from the night before.

Wild Katz

The steepness was more or less unrelenting until the trees finally opened up near the bottom. Phew. What a great run. A Pacific Northwest classic.

The whole weekend held many other highlights. Saturday was weather-wise as weird as an interview with Marshawn Lynch. Calm and sunny one minute. Crazy and puking the next. About 2pm the off-groomed softened and we rollicked around on the back side, lapping the face under the power lines in perfect corn snow. Not a bad way to end a day.

Sunday was finally Spring. We went straight to the sunny back side, and by 10.30am everything was riding beautifully. Corona Bowl was a soft sugary luge run around big bad ass bumps. A run down Polaris Bowl and then into the steep, narrow creek bed that hugs the ski area boundary was truly spectacular.

And then there was Double Diamond and Wild Katz …

A great ski weekend! And another 2 days on our Max Pass. Shame Stevens isn’t on there next year. That’ll probably keep our visits even more occasional.

Saturday 8700m, Sunday 8000m vert

56 days, 463,200m vert, 16 powder days

 

 

 

Spring pow at 49 Degrees North

49 Degrees North is kind of a remarkable place. Here’s some reasons why:

  • Even with slow lifts, it’s by far the quietest  ‘main stream’ ski hill we’ve ever visited. Friday there was maybe a 100 people skiing. At most. Saturday was only a few more. And both were excellent powder days. Sunday almost felt busy in comparison. We skied straight on to every lift all weekend. It makes our regular mountain, Mission Ridge, seem like Vail!
  • The tree skiing is extensive, easily accessed and varies from wide open ‘blue-ish’ trees such as Stockholders to steep, tighter glades on the skiers right of chair 1. With so few peeps, there can be fresh turns in the trees for days after a storm.
  • They are seriously good at grooming. Sunday was a calm weather day after a Saturday warmup, and not a day for clunking around off groomed. But the groomers – manicured with almost Sun Valley-like precision – were as good as we have skied all season. High speed ripping at its very best.
  • The lodge may be unassuming but it serves as a good a burger as you will find on a ski hill. Perfectly cooked, thick and juicy. And there are few better bars to hang out after skiing, chat with friendly locals, and enjoy a local microbrew or two. It’s quirky for sure, but great fun.

On this trip, Friday was a storm day. There was a solid 6 inches in the parking lot at the end of the day. It was heavy stuff down low, but fluffy, getting ever deeper pow up high. The trees were the place to be, giving visibility amongst the storm clouds. And the snow was great.

Saturday morning was even better. Cool, clearing and 6-10 inches of freshies everywhere. We scored first tracks down Tombstone, second tracks down Peacemaker, and in Cy’s Glades there was pow all morning long. Several runs off Chair 4 were left ungroomed, providing soft buttery untracked snow to carve all afternoon as the sun slowly warmed up the mountain.

And on Sunday, there were those groomers ….

8800m, 9600m, 5500m vert

54 days, 446,500m vert, 16 powder days

 

 

 

 

 

Mid March at Mt Bachelor

There actually wasn’t a lot to write home about for the first two days at Bachelor. A weak Pineapple Express had brought in some warm damp weather and yoyoing temperatures. The first morning delivered decent groomers until 11am when NOAA’s forecast of rain/snow mix became rather alarmingly accurate. We hung in until 2pm but it was all a bit soggy.

It was nothing compared to Saturday though, which was completely soggy. Super wet snow started about mid mountain, below that was a deluge. It wasn’t a long day.

The freezing levels slowly crept down overnight, and Sunday dawned clear and cool. Enough snow had fallen to cover the rain damage down low, and  create sublime, silken wind-packed pow on the top 2/3rds of the mountain. It wasn’t deep but man it skied beautifully.

The Summit lift opened for the first time in a solid week, and not surprisingly most of the (surprisingly!) moderate crowd headed up there. You really couldn’t go wrong. Laps down Cow’s Face to Cloudchaser rocked. The backside chutes were quite epic and deserted.

I’ll let the photos tell the story.

I can feel a very fine Spring ski season coming on at Mt Bachelor 😉

9300m, 3200m 8200m vert

51 days, 422,600m vert, 14 powder days